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Shawnino

To HAL and back.

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Just back from a cruise on HAL.

"I was young. I needed the money."

Oh, wait, that's another confession. Never mind.

 

We did want a snap summer vacation and I suffer from O's relative paucity of accessible cabins. (I need flat entry to the bathroom and a proper shower seat.) With nothing accessible available on O, and HAL having what looked like a cracking itinerary (Spitsbergen, Iceland, a stop in Norway proper and Scotland either side) and a suitable cabin, off we went, hoping for at least Oceania-Minus. Oopsie.

 

The food

Pinnacle Grill is even with Polo. In some sense, Pinnacle is better because the service is better/more attentive because few HAL cruisers want to pay the $39 upcharge too often on a long cruise. We ate there six times and every meal was a good one.

The rest of the food on HAL is fit for a King. As in "Here King! Here boy! You're a good boy!" and I'm not even talking about subjective stuff. At the best of times, temperatures were wrong. At the worst, the guy at the next table bit into, um, "hamburger tartare"...yes, a patty totally uncooked.

 

The room

Yes accessible, but the thermostats didn't work and couldn't be sorted. The Lanai-style balcony door (opens onto promenade deck, one-way glass) did not open/close properly and was positioned with a wedge of wood. The "Mariner's Dream" bed was so lumpy perhaps one was dreaming of going to Davy Jones' Locker to avoid the next day's gastro-crimes.

 

The itinerary

Some of this was not well as well thought through as we hoped it was pre-cruise. We missed a port with sucghh a shallow harbour it could only be reached by 35-minute tender on the calmest seas. Seas were not calm so it was very sensibly skipped--but why schedule such a dicey landing at all?

 

The enrichment

Cooking demos great (but no hands-on, and not allowed to taste). The rest was a train wreck. Our regional expert for this most Nordic cruise was a sleepy Aussie who'd never been to the area nbefore. His expertise consisted of having his readings of Wikipedia incessantly blaring on the outside desk. 

 

Did not post this on HAL board, mostly--no desire to rile them up. But there really is no comparison, especially on food.

 

So likely never again.

Trying Azamara this fall (same excuse, accessible cabin availability).

Marina 2020 in one of those two accessible balconies on Deck 7. Giddy-up.

 

 

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We have sampled HAL again (twice) after a 10 year hiatus, but only returned to give it a try because of their new no smoking policy in the casino which only applies to their 5 Vista Class ships. Pretty much agree with you regarding food except we found Pinnacle Grill to be a step below any of the Oceania specialty restaurants. We did enjoy the Billboard on Board piano performances each evening as well as the classical Lincoln Center music concerts. Also liked their Explorations (Barista) Café and BBC nature movie program. So, entertainment wise there is more to do and ship tours are identical to Oceania at a lower price. But, with HAL you are experiencing a modern mainstream cruise line with ever declining quality as the green eye shades continue to lower the quality of the product and the public continues to accept these changes. A whole different world than Oceania quality-wise.

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5 minutes ago, edgee said:

We have sampled HAL again (twice) after a 10 year hiatus, but only returned to give it a try because of their new no smoking policy in the casino which only applies to their 5 Vista Class ships. Pretty much agree with you regarding food except we found Pinnacle Grill to be a step below any of the Oceania specialty restaurants. We did enjoy the Billboard on Board piano performances each evening as well as the classical Lincoln Center music concerts. Also liked their Explorations (Barista) Café and BBC nature movie program. So, entertainment wise there is more to do and ship tours are identical to Oceania at a lower price. But, with HAL you are experiencing a modern mainstream cruise line with ever declining quality as the green eye shades continue to lower the quality of the product and the public continues to accept these changes. A whole different world than Oceania quality-wise.

 

Explorations was even with Baristas, come to think of it, yeah. Good point.

On our cruise the Lincoln Center quintet were probably each fine musicians individually, but were playing over top of one another the two mights we went.

Our ship (Rotterdam) did not have 'Billboard on Board'. And there was smoking in the Casino--one wonders if they'll switch that, as the Casino was dead quiet anytime we passed through.

From what you write, we lucked out with Pinnacle Grill but we found it excellent--if we ever did HAL again we've resolved to factor in the upcharge and eat there every night. 

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Sadly, HAL seems committed to smoking in casinos as both of their newer ships allow smoking...configuration of their "middle age" Vista Class ships is such that too much casino smoke drifted into entertainment venues...thus they ended casino smoking on those ships only. To your point about eating in specialty restaurants every night to "escape" main dining room food or service...problem is that cruise ship specialty restaurants tend to have a rigid menu so, even if good, lack of variety would be a problem for some. We have encountered this issue when we dined frequently in specialty restaurants on both HAL and Princess. On Oceania and actually also on Celebrity there are multiple specialty restaurants...so not a problem. As discussed, Oceania is a different animal in that we find service and quality in all dining venues to be generally good to excellent.

 

 

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We were on the Nieuw Amsterdam last Thanksgiving after a 14 year break (although I did break my foot on board!) from HAL.   It was a pretty typical mainstream cruise experience.  Perhaps the thing that I liked the best was B.B. King's and the talented ladies on the Lincoln Center Stage.  What a nice way to spend the time between dinner and the show by listening to these very talented musicians.

 

Our first Oceania cruise will be this coming October and we're really hoping for a serious step up (at least in food) from what we have been experiencing on HAL, X and RCI the past few years.

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45 minutes ago, Shawnino said:

 

Explorations was even with Baristas, come to think of it, yeah. Good point.

On our cruise the Lincoln Center quintet were probably each fine musicians individually, but were playing over top of one another the two mights we went.

Our ship (Rotterdam) did not have 'Billboard on Board'. And there was smoking in the Casino--one wonders if they'll switch that, as the Casino was dead quiet anytime we passed through.

From what you write, we lucked out with Pinnacle Grill but we found it excellent--if we ever did HAL again we've resolved to factor in the upcharge and eat there every night. 

I so much agree with you!!! That is why we are now doing O! PG is the only place we enjoyed as 4 Stars. With Rotterdam which stateroom did you have? I’m surprised that the room was accessible since they are so small narrow. Your slider didn’t close well? A wood wedge? I would of complained especially the thermostat!! HAL tries to push the envelope!

Thanks for your review 

Denise😊

 

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2 minutes ago, DeeniEncinitas said:

I so much agree with you!!! That is why we are now doing O! PG is the only place we enjoyed as 4 Stars. With Rotterdam which stateroom did you have? I’m surprised that the room was accessible since they are so small narrow. Your slider didn’t close well? A wood wedge? I would of complained especially the thermostat!! HAL tries to push the envelope!

Thanks for your review 

Denise😊

 

 

3331 very spacious. If a person brought a full-size wheelchair/scooter it could easily get in through the door, and the bathroom door, with ample turning radius. (Aside: idiots next door had room identical to ours, guy had a very light, compact folding walker--which he insisted on leaving sprawled unfolded in the hallway so it was difficult for anyone to pass without knocking it over. I cheerfully knocked it over. Surprised Stewards didn't make him take it inside... fire hazard.)

 

Nothing to be done about thermostat (determined to run to 24 celsius = 75F) nor the Lanai door. Ordinarily wouldn't care: opening a balcony door partway while in the Arctic Circle would take care of that nicely thanks. But with Lanai setup we were just a tiny bit apprehensive about leaving a door open lest someone walk in by accident as we slept.

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51 minutes ago, Shawnino said:

 

3331 very spacious. If a person brought a full-size wheelchair/scooter it could easily get in through the door, and the bathroom door, with ample turning radius. (Aside: idiots next door had room identical to ours, guy had a very light, compact folding walker--which he insisted on leaving sprawled unfolded in the hallway so it was difficult for anyone to pass without knocking it over. I cheerfully knocked it over. Surprised Stewards didn't make him take it inside... fire hazard.)

 

Nothing to be done about thermostat (determined to run to 24 celsius = 75F) nor the Lanai door. Ordinarily wouldn't care: opening a balcony door partway while in the Arctic Circle would take care of that nicely thanks. But with Lanai setup we were just a tiny bit apprehensive about leaving a door open lest someone walk in by accident as we slept.

Thanks Shawnino! 

Appreciate your response!

Denise😊

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We did  a couple of Music  charter cruises on HAL

that would be the only way you will get me on a HAL cruise again

JMO

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Shawnino said:

Just back from a cruise on HAL.

"I was young. I needed the money."

Oh, wait, that's another confession. Never mind.

 

We did want a snap summer vacation and I suffer from O's relative paucity of accessible cabins. (I need flat entry to the bathroom and a proper shower seat.) With nothing accessible available on O, and HAL having what looked like a cracking itinerary (Spitsbergen, Iceland, a stop in Norway proper and Scotland either side) and a suitable cabin, off we went, hoping for at least Oceania-Minus. Oopsie.

 

The food

Pinnacle Grill is even with Polo. In some sense, Pinnacle is better because the service is better/more attentive because few HAL cruisers want to pay the $39 upcharge too often on a long cruise. We ate there six times and every meal was a good one.

The rest of the food on HAL is fit for a King. As in "Here King! Here boy! You're a good boy!" and I'm not even talking about subjective stuff. At the best of times, temperatures were wrong. At the worst, the guy at the next table bit into, um, "hamburger tartare"...yes, a patty totally uncooked.

 

The room

Yes accessible, but the thermostats didn't work and couldn't be sorted. The Lanai-style balcony door (opens onto promenade deck, one-way glass) did not open/close properly and was positioned with a wedge of wood. The "Mariner's Dream" bed was so lumpy perhaps one was dreaming of going to Davy Jones' Locker to avoid the next day's gastro-crimes.

 

The itinerary

Some of this was not well as well thought through as we hoped it was pre-cruise. We missed a port with sucghh a shallow harbour it could only be reached by 35-minute tender on the calmest seas. Seas were not calm so it was very sensibly skipped--but why schedule such a dicey landing at all?

 

The enrichment

Cooking demos great (but no hands-on, and not allowed to taste). The rest was a train wreck. Our regional expert for this most Nordic cruise was a sleepy Aussie who'd never been to the area nbefore. His expertise consisted of having his readings of Wikipedia incessantly blaring on the outside desk. 

 

Did not post this on HAL board, mostly--no desire to rile them up. But there really is no comparison, especially on food.

 

So likely never again.

Trying Azamara this fall (same excuse, accessible cabin availability).

Marina 2020 in one of those two accessible balconies on Deck 7. Giddy-up.

 

 

 

Thanks for the wonderful and humorous  insight into HAL.     I am forced to take a HAL cruise next month because its  the only darn ship sailing to Saipan , Iwo Jima , Wewak and Guadalcanal

Thankfully, it will be on their smallest 1300 pax ship as I could not tolerate being on one of their seagoing ant farms.  2000--3000.

Its been 15 years since I left Hal and discovered Regent and Oceania.. settling on Oceania as better.      I expect nothing more than running water and a dry bed.    I expect nothing from their food... even though they gave me a free dinner at their  Chef Boyardee inspired Italian restaurant .    

The one saving grace is I do not now expect anything but  a floating best western and Appleby's/ Golden Corral  dining.     

Maybe after sailing O for almost a decade, it will make me appreciate it more..... when faced with the stark reality of what mass market ships deliver... What  truly amazes me is the overt zeal of the HAL loyalists who flaunt their silly pins and flock to the special functions  like lemmings.waiting with great anticipation... for the  Gala lobster night and  the amazing people ordering multiple plates of everything... 

Does HAL let the passengers serve them selves in the buffet or  have then served?

Thanks.....pray for me     

Edited by Hawaiidan

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4 hours ago, ricka47 said:

 

Our first Oceania cruise will be this coming October and we're really hoping for a serious step up (at least in food) from what we have been experiencing on HAL, X and RCI the past few years.

 

It will be more like a giant step up all around!  Hope you love it as much as we do.  Come back and let us know.

 

Donna

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57 minutes ago, Hawaiidan said:

 

Thanks for the wonderful and humorous  insight into HAL.     I am forced to take a HAL cruise next month because its  the only darn ship sailing to Saipan , Iwo Jima , Wewak and Guadalcanal

Thankfully, it will be on their smallest 1300 pax ship as I could not tolerate being on one of their seagoing ant farms.  2000--3000.

Its been 15 years since I left Hal and discovered Regent and Oceania.. settling on Oceania as better.      I expect nothing more than running water and a dry bed.    I expect nothing from their food... even though they gave me a free dinner at their  Chef Boyardee inspired Italian restaurant .    

The one saving grace is I do not now expect anything but  a floating best western and Appleby's/ Golden Corral  dining.     

Maybe after sailing O for almost a decade, it will make me appreciate it more..... when faced with the stark reality of what mass market ships deliver... What  truly amazes me is the overt zeal of the HAL loyalists who flaunt their silly pins and flock to the special functions  like lemmings.waiting with great anticipation... for the  Gala lobster night and  the amazing people ordering multiple plates of everything... 

Does HAL let the passengers serve them selves in the buffet or  have then served?

Thanks.....pray for me     

 

I believe HAL still serves most of the buffet food. 

I get a kick out of some HAL loyalists who post on. CC.  Let me tell you, those pins and meetings where the pins are awarded mean everything to some.  And they literally rush the doors to get into a loyalty lunch where standard food is served. 

 

You our will be OK since you lowered your expectations.  

Applebee ‘s food is tastier but same cheap ingredients and cheap cuts of meat.  

Olive Garden beats the HAL “Italian restaurant”  which has a surcharge.   Pay the surcharge and you will reek of garlic for at least a day. 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, sammiedawg said:

 

I believe HAL still serves most of the buffet food. 

I get a kick out of some HAL loyalists who post on. CC.  Let me tell you, those pins and meetings where the pins are awarded mean everything to some.  And they literally rush the doors to get into a loyalty lunch where standard food is served. 

 

You our will be OK since you lowered your expectations.  

Applebee ‘s food is tastier but same cheap ingredients and cheap cuts of meat.  

Olive Garden beats the HAL “Italian restaurant”  which has a surcharge.   Pay the surcharge and you will reek of garlic for at least a day. 

 

 

 

Thanks  sam.... I was reading the HAL posts and they are all in an up roar that they might get a $10 charge if they ordered extra entrees, in addition to their multiple appetizers, soups  deserts and so on.....I mean they said thats what cruising is all about,  getting to eat as much as you want.. thats luxury..   

 I left a table one night when they ordered 3-4 lobster tails each , Prime rib, Beef Wellington,  and 2 shrimp cocktails...each.!!..  I was shocked , then turned to just disgust take one bite and then send this  dinner away, then another........just   crude ...   

Sadly that was the sort of demographic I ran into... morbidly obese folks riding around in electric scooters crashing in lines,, one with  a poodle with a Service dog vest... being fed ice cream from a cone....    Just a different  group  beer budget folks wanting champagne  and caviar.  where  quantity is akin to quality.  

 I never would have believed  how people wore their pins, like on a eagle scout merit badge sash,  and introduced themselves as  " I am X a 4 star mariner... what are you"...  Really !   You have to hand it to HAL marketing... there are people totally convinced that the world revolves around HAL and  One even said... Oceania could learn a lot from HAL ships and their quality and service.  .....it is heresy, sacrilege, blasphemy to criticize HAL to these folks.

Thank God  there will be a lot of distractions        I will enjoy the trip and enjoy people watching  ....  I will stick to the buffet ......         

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We totally enjoy BB Kings and the RS Rock room on HAL and will travel them again mostly for that reason!.  I know it's only Rock n Roll but we like it. 

Trying Oceania soon and will draw our first impressions after that cruise is completed.   

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Nymich said:

We totally enjoy BB Kings and the RS Rock room on HAL and will travel them again mostly for that reason!.  I know it's only Rock n Roll but we like it. 

Trying Oceania soon and will draw our first impressions after that cruise is completed.   

 

 

 

I hope you understand that O is not into rock or, blues, ...  rather string quartet and piano stuff.

  No production shows or extravagant  things.. 

 Dining and conversation with ones fellow passengers  after dinner many just filter to a bar for a drink and then enjoy their cabin.    Its a low key crowd , no electric music.. no pool band, no disco..    You will be on a  ship with 1/3 to 1/4 the passengers that you experienced on HAL and NONE of the nickel dime charges.   The ambiance will be striking akin to a  luxury boutique  hotel.    The quality  and variety  of their  all included, no charge , restaurants will astound you  Things like  the Pool Grill  rather than hot dogs and Taco,   serves Lobster, Grilled Tuna and Mahi and  Kobe beef burgers...

Just know that your not going to have the entertainment like you have enjoyed on HAL

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Mass market cruises are good. They attract bookings at a price point that doesn’t break the bank. We sailed mass market many times and enjoyed the cruises. Once we started sailing on more upscale cruises like Oceania, returning to mass market was a left down.  Oceania costs more and is different from mass market. Oceania pays more attention to services and food. Food is very good. Love the specialty restaurants.  Polo and a Red Ginger are my favorites. Watermelon salad and sea bass are outstanding. Polo has meat that melts in your mouth. It is the best steak at sea. Getting hungry just thinking about it.

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11 minutes ago, Hawaiidan said:

 

I hope you understand that O is not into rock or, blues, ...  rather string quartet and piano stuff.

  No production shows or extravagant  things.. 

 Dining and conversation with ones fellow passengers  after dinner many just filter to a bar for a drink and then enjoy their cabin.    Its a low key crowd , no electric music.. no pool band, no disco..    You will be on a  ship with 1/3 to 1/4 the passengers that you experienced on HAL and NONE of the nickel dime charges.   The ambiance will be striking akin to a  luxury boutique  hotel.    The quality  and variety  of their  all included, no charge , restaurants will astound you  Things like  the Pool Grill  rather than hot dogs and Taco,   serves Lobster, Grilled Tuna and Mahi and  Kobe beef burgers...

Just know that your not going to have the entertainment like you have enjoyed on HAL

   Yes we knew it was not that type of entertainment in fact we didn't even think of music being a plus when we booked it.    

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Sounds like you were on a really old ship if it had Lanai cabins.  Would be an interesting comparison on a new ship. 

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5 hours ago, Hawaiidan said:

  I will stick to the buffet ......         

 

Having been on the Eurodam this past March I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. One thing that we liked were the large salads made to order at the buffet. Various types of lettuce, many different toppings including chicken, and a wide assortment of dressings. That area was far less crowded, somewhat off the beaten path.

 

I suspect your HAL cruise will make you appreciate Oceania that much more, as it did us. Bon voyage.

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4 hours ago, Nymich said:

   Yes we knew it was not that type of entertainment in fact we didn't even think of music being a plus when we booked it.    

it is not as dire as some make it out to be 😉

Just depends on your interests  some of the shows are not too bad 

enjoy

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4 hours ago, LHT28 said:

it is not as dire as some make it out to be 😉

Just depends on your interests  some of the shows are not too bad 

enjoy

Because of the same holding company relationship that now has NCL in the same family as Oceania and Regent, one "benefit" for the premium/luxury partners is the same entertainment management.

Of course, however, there are unavoidable limitations on smaller ships. 

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10 hours ago, Cruise Junky said:

Sounds like you were on a really old ship if it had Lanai cabins.  Would be an interesting comparison on a new ship. 

 

Might sort the cabin issues, agreed. These days you really can't spell 'Rotterdam' without 'Rot'.

No idea how being on a newer ship would help the food, the ratty excursion "expertise", etc.

And OTOH I think the newer ships are bigger. Everyone's different but for me the O-class size (1000-1500 pax) is a sweet spot.

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I encountered some of the defensive nature mentioned in some of the posts above on the CC HAL board when we booked a cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam last Thanksgiving.  It was 14 years since we had last been on HAL and I had a few questions. 

 

When I said that it had been so long because our first experience did not blow us away, the defensive walls went up by some. One even suggested that I should just cancel the cruise!  I was grilled about what we didn't like.  I didn't say anything awful - just that we didn't like it enough to go back and found some of the staff less than pleasant.  And that was 14 years ago!

 

I wonder if it it's because the loyal HAL cruisers know that the line is not what it once was and refuse to accept it?  We took our first cruise in 1991 on the Sovereign of the Seas which was one of the first "mega ships."  We've been relatively loyal to Royal since then but have cheated somewhat by going on DCL, HAL, X and Princess as well.

 

But, we've seen the quality slip.  We have sailed the Oasis three times and the first time (2014) was just great.  Each one after that (2017, 2018), we saw a noticeable change in the wrong direction.  Most of that change deals with food.  I know many who sail RCI but buy the packages that let you dine in specialty restaurants and avoid the MDR completely.  Unfortunately, what is now in the specialty restaurants is what we used to get in the MDR.

 

It's a shame and somewhat sad as we've had some great cruises on RCI over the years.  But, we don't put on blinders and pretend that things have not gone downhill.   We’ve been focusing more on X and Aqua class to have a better dining experience in Blu.

 

We're taking our first Oceania cruise in October (Insignia, 11 nights) and while we won't have the loyalty status that we have on other lines, we're looking forward to it very much.   This will be the smallest cruse ship that we’ve ever been on.   We did a Cuba cruise on the Empress which is about 48,500 tons.  So, the 30,000 ton Insignia will be quite a contrast to the 225,000 tons of the Oasis class.  Yet, I have a feeling that we won’t be going mainstream again for quite a while.  I hope that feeling is correct!

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