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Storylady

No more Travel Guides/EXC Guides on HAL

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3 minutes ago, mcmarya said:

Sorry, I thought you said you would be sailing soon on the Westerdam and could give some feedback from that experience.

 

It is I that will have sailed on July 14th on the Westerdam and I can assure you that I will provide my opinions of that cruise in comparison to my cruise on Coral Princess.  Please understand that I will not return home until mid-August and I am not online during my vacations.  Whatever I post will be around mid-August.

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Hopefully this thread will still be active.  I look forward to hearing our report.  We did an Alaska cruise on a Princess ship a few years back and were very pleased with the enrichment provided even on a 7 day cruise.

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11 minutes ago, mcmarya said:

Hopefully this thread will still be active. 

 

FYI:  It is probable that I will make a new thread on the HAL and the Princess Board when I return.

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Super.  Maybe if there are enough threads/posts it will catch the attention of someone at HAL.

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11 hours ago, MikeD4134 said:

This service is still advertised as an activity on HAL ships, no one has been on a cruise where this service was not available,, FAKE NEWS.  You either misunderstood the employee, who by the way was losing his job, and maybe was not very happy with HAL and he gave you bad intelligence on purpose, but your information is false.

I certainly did not misunderstand Brett. It was also confirmed by the Guest Relations Manager and quite a few other employees. Brett (on the Prinsendam) was definitely one of the best. I would love for it to be fake news, but it isn’t. I suspect that this is HAL’s way of controlling the info: a canned speech on the ports. Plus, they want to eliminate personal. Also, there were two EXC Guides on the Prinsendam and neither had their contract renewed despite rave reviews from the passengers. It seems to me that they are keeping the ExC Guides on the ships till their contract ends. Only way I found out was I asked Brett which ship he was going to next. Brett was not unhappy with HAL. He was offered the Cruise and Travel Director job, but turned them down! 

 

 

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OK, I am confused.  Since I have only gone of Grand Voyages and VOV the past few years, I am really out of it with EXC CRUISES, but NOT EXC staff.     I was under the impression that EXC cruises were only a very few of all HAL cruises, specially designated and with a more exploratory approach to the ports.  Were the cruises you all are finding so different from what others say their experiences were specifically designated EXC cruises.  That is what I was referring to in the brochure I quoted.  The brochure highlighted about 12 cruises, all in the South Pacific/Australia New Zealand part of the world.   of the approximately 12 cruises only 4 were labeled as EXC cruises, and the info I quoted clearly only applied to the 4 cruises, NOT the other 8 or so cruises.  

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After our last cruise, I wrote a letter to both Orlando Ashford and Stein Kruse complaining about several issues on board - one being the lack of things to do specifically on sailing days.  I attached a copy of a day itinerary and marked all of the activities that had to do with upselling, which was literally 3/4 of the page.  I received a reply back from the Special Advisor to the Office of the President addressing some of our issues, but her comment on that was that they offer cooking and computer classes.  If they take away the Port talks - that's about the only thing that's free and worthwhile to attend.  We keep saying we're done with HAL, but then we get the discounts and specials and get sucked right back in. 

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On 7/4/2019 at 9:38 AM, Ken the cruiser said:

For the best deals on Celebrity pricing, we usually book a cruise as soon as they come out, sometimes up to 2 years in advance, in November and then watch the prices go up. Another idea and I know this may seem like an odd suggestion, but some Crystal cruises only charge solos between 130 - 150%. So, the bottom line might not be so bad and what they offer on their "all inclusive" cruises (except for excursions) is all top notch.

Thanks for the advice re Celebrity. I will try and get a deal on some future cruise. And I get where you are going with the Crystal suggestion as I have been keeping an eye on Azamara for being more cost inclusive and for its new port intensive itineraries. 

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Posted (edited)

EXC cruises are on the Maasdam.  The EXC program has been on all the ships to some extent but appears to be on the way out--even the shore excursions are no longer going to be called EXC tours (this directly from shore excursion staff).  All enrichment offerings related to ports were prominently labeled "EXC" on the daily programs--Guest Speakers, port talks from the EXC Guide, cultural ambassador talks or other experiences (foreign language lessons, playing local instruments, music, etc.).  I've attached the schedule from a recent cruise showing the EXC offerings for that day. 

 

 

 

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-4 copy.jpg

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-3 copy.jpg

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-4.jpg

Edited by mcmarya

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15 minutes ago, mcmarya said:

EXC cruises are on the Maasdam.

That's what's confusing people, it's two different things. Read closely for the "in-depth" part.

 

EXC is the shore excursion program on all ships. https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/onboard-activities/cruise-activities/explorations-central.html Discover the connections that unite us across borders and cultures. Explorations Central™ (EXC™) is immersive onboard programing designed to make your journey more engaging, vivid and meaningful. From EXC Talks,™ to EXC Encounters™ to a chat with your EXC Guide™, you’ll feel the spirit of a region come to life.

 

EXC "in-depth" is the extra enrichment program on Maasdam. https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/news/2018-press-releases/news-20180215-MaasdamItineraries18.html 

Quote "From September 2018 through April 2019, EXC In-Depth Voyages expand on Holland America Line’s exciting Explorations CentralTM (EXCTM) programming by creating a total experience on board and ashore. "

 

I cannot find it now, but one of the contracts I read said that EXC (and the shore excursion they offer) was a separate company not related to HAL.

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1 hour ago, Cruiser Bruiser said:

Thanks for the advice re Celebrity. I will try and get a deal on some future cruise. And I get where you are going with the Crystal suggestion as I have been keeping an eye on Azamara for being more cost inclusive and for its new port intensive itineraries. 

 

I'm also comparing some Crystal and Azamara cruises right now. If you cruise solo, Crystal looks like a much better deal. Azamara rarely charges you less than the full 100% supplement. Both lines offer a Black Sea cruise that I'm considering in 2021, and while I like Azamara's itinerary slightly more, I don't like it $3,000 pp more.

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1 hour ago, mcmarya said:

EXC cruises are on the Maasdam.  The EXC program has been on all the ships to some extent but appears to be on the way out--even the shore excursions are no longer going to be called EXC tours (this directly from shore excursion staff).  All enrichment offerings related to ports were prominently labeled "EXC" on the daily programs--Guest Speakers, port talks from the EXC Guide, cultural ambassador talks or other experiences (foreign language lessons, playing local instruments, music, etc.).  I've attached the schedule from a recent cruise showing the EXC offerings for that day. 

 

 

 

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-4 copy.jpg

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-3 copy.jpg

2019 Mar 25 Zaandam WW-4.jpg

If I might ask, which itinerary is this from and how long is the cruise?

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

I'm also comparing some Crystal and Azamara cruises right now. If you cruise solo, Crystal looks like a much better deal. Azamara rarely charges you less than the full 100% supplement. Both lines offer a Black Sea cruise that I'm considering in 2021, and while I like Azamara's itinerary slightly more, I don't like it $3,000 pp more.

IMHO if the bottom line cost is about the same between similar Crystal and Az itineraries, book the Crystal one. You will not regret it. Their food is great, their guest professional lecturers are top notch, they usually have a ton of things to do on sea days and their evening shows are well worth attending. Plus if you like walking around a full promenade deck, they have one of those too. 

Edited by Ken the cruiser

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Ken the cruiser said:

IMHO if the bottom line cost is about the same between similar Crystal and Az itineraries, book the Crystal one. You will not regret it. Their food is great, their guest professional lecturers are top notch, they usually have a ton of things to do on sea days and their evening shows are well worth attending. Plus if you like walking around a full promenade deck, they have one of those too. 

 

Thanks -- I'm also looking at another Crystal cruise that has more sea days than usual for me. Sounds like a good bet that I wouldn't get bored on Crystal... 

 

I tried Azamara last year and while I liked it and felt happy about the size of the ship, the food was sometimes hit or miss.

Edited by cruisemom42

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OK, the daily program I posted was from a 14 night Zaandam cruise that sailed 3/21/19--South America Passage.  We also did the next cruise, 20 night Inca and Panama Canal Discovery cruise which had similar offerings for enrichment minus the Cultural Ambassador.  On sea days there were 3 or 4 talks by either the EXC Guide or Guest Speakers.

 

I should have written "EXC In Depth Voyages" referring to cruises on the Maasdam instead of EXC cruises. 

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55 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

I'm also comparing some Crystal and Azamara cruises right now. If you cruise solo, Crystal looks like a much better deal. Azamara rarely charges you less than the full 100% supplement. Both lines offer a Black Sea cruise that I'm considering in 2021, and while I like Azamara's itinerary slightly more, I don't like it $3,000 pp more.

Very good to know. Thanks for the tip! As an aside, I loved the Baltic. 

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On 5/7/2019 at 11:48 PM, Storylady said:

We just boarded the Prinsendam in Dover on May 6th. That night we attended the “Port Talk” in the showroom given by one of the best travel guides we have had on HAL ships, Brett. It was a full house despite people just boarding. Since the Prinsendam is being sold, I asked Brett which ship he would be assigned to next. And he told me that HAL will soon no longer have travel guides doing port talks. There is a general country talk given by the EXC Guide on the Maasdam given by the Cruise Director who lucky for those sailing on her happens to have been a travel guide. And there might be a similar program on the World Cruise. But the rest of the HAL ships are out of luck.  I am saddened by this change. The port talks are the ONE program I make a point to go to. I plan to say something on the survey and also write a letter to President Orlando not that it will make HAL change their mind. Talk about dumbing down a cruise line, this really puts HAL in the Carnvial mass market category.

 

To each his/her own - The EXC program is one of the reasons we may not sail on HAL again.

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EXC covers a lot of territory, all of the HAL ships.

It is the  EXC  IN - DEPTH  program that is so good on ms Maasdam.

Barbara

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2 hours ago, The Tsar said:

To each his/her own - The EXC program is one of the reasons we may not sail on HAL again.

I think there is a misunderstanding. I am talking about the persons who talk about each of the ports we are visiting. The Guys and ladies who tell you where the ship docks, what kind of money you need, whether dollars can be used, what attractions you can see on your own, whether you can reach a destination by ferry, bus or train. I am NOT talking about the people who come onboard to give demonstrations of the culture, nor am I talking about the Shore Excursion department. Brett and Heather were Travel Guides/Port Guides. They stood on the dock to help with any last minute information that might be need. They were the best entertainment on HAL. Brett always had a funny photo each time we tendered. He knew the ports extremely well. He never used his monitor. I have been sailing on the Prinsendam for the six years and he has been the main guide during that time. He is the one who gave the scenic commentary. 

 

 

 

 

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On 5/9/2019 at 5:23 PM, josumello said:

This post has really made me stop and think. We were planning on booking a 32 Day Hawaii/Tahiti cruise round trip from San Diego. This would be our first HAL cruise. Over the years we’ve cruised many lines from budget to luxury. Some better than others. 

What worries me about HAL is what appears the lack of activities and the lack of entertainment. The itinerary is excellent. However with a lot of sea days we would like some activities. 

Will have to rethink this cruise. 

 

We returned a few months ago from 26 night on Crown Princess, our first on that line. We were very disappointed with service. What we did notice were all the activities each day and all the evening options. The CD was the best I can remember!  So many shows and venues in the evening. We were looking forward to our next HAL 32 night cruise in Oct but with 13 sea days, I’m concerned we’re going to be unhappy. One of my fav things about HAL has been the lecturers. For So America cruise we had a few professors that were fantastic! As for lectures on ports, we do tons of homework precruise but still have enjoyed the port lectures. 

 

If these rumors are true, HAL is going to lose a lot of loyal customers!

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We were recently on the Maasdam. She had a “Cruise and Travel Director”. For us he was underwhelming as he basically only introduced the evening show and read the Where and When after the Captain’s noonish update. I missed an actual port lecturer and a (visible) real Cruise Director.

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I'm very confused by this thread.

 

A few years ago, we sailed  San Diego to Auckland, NZ.  Along with us for the journey was a fabulous expert on Polynesian cultures, AND a second gentleman who was an astronomer who taught us about the Southern skies.  The talks were really well-attended and made the journey an extraordinary one.

 

Are speakers of this kind discontinued on HAL?  I have very little interest in talks by a shore excursion salesperson showing slides and suggesting what to do in ports.  Is that all that is being offered now?

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That’s what I am afraid of. We head out on the Volendam for Amazon Explorer fur my husbands birthday/bucket list. 30 days super expensive and if minimal entertainment and no professional lectures a great disappointment!

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1 hour ago, AncientWanderer said:

I'm very confused by this thread.

 

A few years ago, we sailed  San Diego to Auckland, NZ.  Along with us for the journey was a fabulous expert on Polynesian cultures, AND a second gentleman who was an astronomer who taught us about the Southern skies.  The talks were really well-attended and made the journey an extraordinary one.

 

Are speakers of this kind discontinued on HAL?  I have very little interest in talks by a shore excursion salesperson showing slides and suggesting what to do in ports.  Is that all that is being offered now?

We were on a Hawaii/Tahiti cruise last March.  There were 2 lecturers onboard.  One was an OK lecturer, the other was a moderately droning voiced, talker with (apparently) no notes as to what order his slides were in and what some of them were.

 

There were also EXC (HAL crew members) who did a short slide show for upcoming ports, reading commentary obviously written by someone else, talking about "isn't that a nice view?" and, "I don't know what kind of fish that is" and telling us where the shopping areas were.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Shmoo here said:

We were on a Hawaii/Tahiti cruise last March.  There were 2 lecturers onboard.  One was an OK lecturer, the other was a moderately droning voiced, talker with (apparently) no notes as to what order his slides were in and what some of them were.

 

There were also EXC (HAL crew members) who did a short slide show for upcoming ports, reading commentary obviously written by someone else, talking about "isn't that a nice view?" and, "I don't know what kind of fish that is" and telling us where the shopping areas were.

 

 

 

H'mmm....sounds about like what we experienced on a long South America journey last year.  We hoped it was a "one off."  

 

Frustrating to spend so much on what should be very enriching trips, and then to be let down.   Really,  all of ours have been good, except South America, and we were told that there was a glitch and a last minute fill-in there.  But, again, I am unclear on what is going on -- what the official policy is -- whether the Maasdam cruises are the only ones getting the high-quality speakers.   I do recognize that on some very port-intensive cruises, there is almost no time to even have the educational talks.  

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