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Billthekid

No Joy in Mudville - Part 2

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Earlier this year after a holiday cruise I submitted Part 1 which discussed the changes HAL has been making the last couple of years that has us pondering our relationship.  They continue to eliminate things we enjoyed.  And it goes on and on.  Each cruise we have taken some small thing is gone and prices have increased.  I decided to write to HAL about our dislike for what has been happening.  Their reply:

 

hal1.thumb.jpeg.f7f07d2a995c4205ebc6abd5d84c057d.jpeg

 

I see no benefit.  HAL is trying to control the overall cost of their sailings and to remain competitive and in today's world that is important.  When I select a cruise, first is itinerary, than ease of getting to the port and return, number of nights, amenities and activities including excursion, then price.  So HAL is saying more profit for them make them more competitive and not the customer's enjoyment especially the Mariners.  If HAL wants to be competitive, make the cruise line  a desired cruise line.  A cruise line I want to return to over and over.  Not the cruise line it is becoming.

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Posted (edited)

My interpretation of what HAL is saying is that they believe their customers prefer to pay a lower base fare and choose their "add ons" rather than pay a higher fare and have more things included. In their attempts to hold costs to what I consider unreasonably low base fares, all mass market lines have to keep "unbundling" more and more things from that base cost and charge extra for them.

 

While you (and for the most part I) might disagree with this approach, I have read many, many posts on the HAL board and similar posts on other cruise line boards that say the same thing -- people prefer this approach. Everyone thinks they are getting the best deal this way -- whether or not they actually are. 

 

Some have not fully come to terms with the fact that HAL is a mass market line. Their close competitors are Princess and Celebrity, and they need to keep their prices in line with these. Each line can do a few things to distinguish itself, but if HAL were to elevate itself much above the other lines price-wise, then HAL customers might very easily start to think they could simply spend a few more dollars and reach the premium lines such as Azamara and Oceania. 

 

Since you did not include your letter, I have no idea what you wrote about Formal Nights, but I and quite a few others are fine without them. I always dress nicely and appropriately for MDR but see no need to pretend to a formal elegance that has little relevance to modern cruising. However, that doesn't mean I am a fan of "come as you are" either. My point? Passengers should dress to the guidelines and ships should enforce them.

 

Those happiest to sail on HAL are possibly the ones who see through unblinkered eyes what HAL currently offers and are not always comparing it to what HAL previously offered. I compare HAL with a number of other lines and when I book a HAL cruise it is usually because I am happy enough with what HAL has to offer but more importantly I am happy with the itinerary on offer. 

Edited by cruisemom42

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I am one who absolutely prefers it this way.  I don't drink soda. I don't drink coffee at all.  I drink very little alcohol and don't mind one bit buying a drink if I want one.  I don't want the gratuities included in the price because I don't want to insure that. I don't give a rip about a "suite" and would only occupy one if it was free.  I don't care what anyone else wears to dinner. 

In short, I'm good with things the way they are.

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Billythekid and Cruisemom:   Both of you have laid out sensible and intelligent arguments for your points of view.  While I don't take sides on this issue, I appreciate your cordial and intellectual discussion of an interesting topic.

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We still enjoy Hal for the interesting itineraries, good food and wonderful staff.    While we miss some things a lot like the Indonesian teas they are not deal breakers. However, we have found the prices have crept up for some itineraries to the point that Oceania and even Crystal are not that much different by the time you factor in what is included on them.  So while we are closing in on 4 star we will look a little further afield for our upcoming cruises.   Our next one looks like back to Princess.   

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Hal's response is just a bunch of nothing, that's the way Orlando and his cohorts want it, cuts and more cuts, in the meantime the have no problem with polluting the oceans..

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Cruisemom42, as usual, a great well thought out comment.  Nice we can sometimes have rational versus emotional discussions about the positive and negatives of HAL.  

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2 hours ago, Billthekid said:

Earlier this year after a holiday cruise I submitted Part 1 which discussed the changes HAL has been making the last couple of years that has us pondering our relationship.  They continue to eliminate things we enjoyed.  And it goes on and on.  Each cruise we have taken some small thing is gone and prices have increased.  I decided to write to HAL about our dislike for what has been happening.  Their reply:

 

hal1.thumb.jpeg.f7f07d2a995c4205ebc6abd5d84c057d.jpeg

 

I see no benefit.  HAL is trying to control the overall cost of their sailings and to remain competitive and in today's world that is important.  When I select a cruise, first is itinerary, than ease of getting to the port and return, number of nights, amenities and activities including excursion, then price.  So HAL is saying more profit for them make them more competitive and not the customer's enjoyment especially the Mariners.  If HAL wants to be competitive, make the cruise line  a desired cruise line.  A cruise line I want to return to over and over.  Not the cruise line it is becoming.

 

I have less of a problem with having the option to pay for something then just having it taken away.  One exception is Club Orange which I see as an a-front to those who have earned perks through loyalty versus a fee.  I wish HAL would let Princess be the Walmart competitor with X and they can race to the bottom.  HAL could fill a niche between that and Seabourn.  To do so they would have to raise prices but return items that have gone away.  Longer, interesting itineraries and a wonderful crew is all that separates HAL from the masses today. 

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2 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

My interpretation of what HAL is saying is that they believe their customers prefer to pay a lower base fare and choose their "add ons" rather than pay a higher fare and have more things included. In their attempts to hold costs to what I consider unreasonably low base fares, all mass market lines have to keep "unbundling" more and more things from that base cost and charge extra for them.

 

While you (and for the most part I) might disagree with this approach, I have read many, many posts on the HAL board and similar posts on other cruise line boards that say the same thing -- people prefer this approach. Everyone thinks they are getting the best deal this way -- whether or not they actually are. 

 

Some have not fully come to terms with the fact that HAL is a mass market line. Their close competitors are Princess and Celebrity, and they need to keep their prices in line with these. Each line can do a few things to distinguish itself, but if HAL were to elevate itself much above the other lines price-wise, then HAL customers might very easily start to think they could simply spend a few more dollars and reach the premium lines such as Azamara and Oceania. 

 

Since you did not include your letter, I have no idea what you wrote about Formal Nights, but I and quite a few others are fine without them. I always dress nicely and appropriately for MDR but see no need to pretend to a formal elegance that has little relevance to modern cruising. However, that doesn't mean I am a fan of "come as you are" either. My point? Passengers should dress to the guidelines and ships should enforce them.

 

Those happiest to sail on HAL are possibly the ones who see through unblinkered eyes what HAL currently offers and are not always comparing it to what HAL previously offered. I compare HAL with a number of other lines and when I book a HAL cruise it is usually because I am happy enough with what HAL has to offer but more importantly I am happy with the itinerary on offer. 

Also keep in mind that HAL is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to Princess and Celebrity because HAL's avg ship size is still considerably smaller that either Princess or Celebrity.  More passengers per ship means better cost efficiency.  So HAL must be price competitive to their competition, even with the ship size efficiency disadvantage.

 

Just got off of the Eurodam on Saturday.  We like the direction HAL is moving.  As a result we are increasing the number of days on HAL each year.  First sailed them about 12 years ago, then stopped sailing them until 2 years ago.  Only thing we miss from 12 years ago is the freshly squeezed OJ each morning, and live flowers on the tables. 

 

On the other hand we have seen a number of recent changes that we like.

 

The new dance shows are as interesting as the old production shows.  The new approach of combining the CD and the EXC presenter position has seemed to work on the recent HAL cruises I have been on with the CD doing an excellent job doing the EXC presentation (combo lecture/movie presentations). The increased live music with Lincoln Center, BB King, etc.  seems to be very well attended. Compared to some comments we have not found the Crow's nest to have been destroyed.  The coffee bar works.  While there is room for more chairs, people still seemed to find it an attractive place to go during the day. We really enjoyed the Tamarind Restaurant.

 

The average passenger age even seems to be coming down.

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There's no free lunch (or breakfast or dinner).   Every product or service that you consume on the ship costs the cruise line money.  If those services or product are bundled into the cruise fare, it goes up for everybody, and every guest doesn't use all of those products or services.   To keep prices competitive, most products and services are not bundled, but ala-carte.   Obviously this could be taken to a ridiculous end by charging for hot tub and pool usage, charging admittance at BB-KIng's Blues Club, etc.   But to reach a happy medium, things like soda, specialty coffees, bottled water cost the cruise line something, so they mark that up and charge the passenger.   If you want "All-Inclusive", there are lines that provide that, and everyone pays for many services and products they will not use.   But if that is what "floats your boat", then go for it, but be prepared to pay.   However, when "All Inclusive" goes main-stream, then you end up with situations like Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.   The food and beverage managers of many of those "All Inclusive" resorts were getting swamped by guests drinking themselves into oblivion.   So they put out feelers for any beverage distributor who could supply off-brand alcohol at rock bottom prices.  The distributors complied and started cutting the booze with methanol, which is cheaper, but is killing people.   I'm not saying that the free Diet Coke on your next All Inclusive cruise will kill you,  but when the demand for all the free stuff reaches the tipping point, then the quality of the free stuff will suffer.  or the prices will go up even more.   Take your pick.   I am happy the way HAL is marketing their product.

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1 hour ago, npcl said:

Also keep in mind that HAL is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to Princess and Celebrity because HAL's avg ship size is still considerably smaller that either Princess or Celebrity.  More passengers per ship means better cost efficiency.  So HAL must be price competitive to their competition, even with the ship size efficiency disadvantage.

 

 

 

Good point about the smaller ships. I do think it's one of the things that distinguishes HAL a bit from Princess and Celebrity who clearly have gone full hog for the larger ships. But HAL can also sometimes be hard to figure out unless you know the line really well -- so much variation in size and in offerings on various ships.

 

Glad to hear though that you enjoyed some of the more recent innovations onboard.

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Posted (edited)

PI think that there is an argument to be made for both inclusive and pay as you go.  Another line we sail includes more than HAL, but not all those included perks (which are factored into our cost) are of interest to us - for instance excursions. However not worrying about wine/beer/waters, etc at meals is attractive.  We aren’t heavy drinkers but it’s nice not to worry. To others, having those drinks included is a dislike because, like the excursions, they are not free and they are not optional. 

For us, Itinerary is the key driver in our decision, followed closely by ship size. We like smaller ships. If we can sail HAL on one of their great Itineraries , have a promotional package that offers perks that we look for, and not be on a large ship, we are good. We are happy not to worry about a tux, but enjoy dressing nicely. 

We have sailed HAL in the past, but not that OP and others have, so I really can’t comment on what I am going to miss from the past, nor how I would feel if those misses were so apparent to me as they are to the experienced longtime cruisers. Thank you for helping me understand where your disappointments are.

At the end of our May trip, we will decide whether whether HAL still works for us, and I truly hope that it does. 

 

 

Edited by Vineyard View

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1 hour ago, npcl said:

Also keep in mind that HAL is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to Princess and Celebrity because HAL's avg ship size is still considerably smaller that either Princess or Celebrity.  More passengers per ship means better cost efficiency

 

Disadvantage?  I much prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers and higher crew to passenger ratio.  

 

Of course, more passengers mean more cost efficiency.  Just not my cup of tea to be on a mega ship 😉  

 

The world is your oyster you just need to find your pearl and enjoy it 😄 

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Posted (edited)

I didn't see anything about the entertainment onboard addressed in the HAL letter, on our last cruise on the Oosterdam the entertainment was almost pathetic except for BB Kings and Lincoln Center. Billboard had the worst singers I've ever heard while on a cruise ship, shows in the Mainstage were pretty bad, I've had enough of the Planet Earth show.

Edited by MISTER 67

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9 minutes ago, MISTER 67 said:

I didn't see anything about the entertainment onboard addressed in the HAL letter, on our last cruise on the Oosterdam the entertainment was almost pathetic except for BB Kings and Lincoln Center. Billboard had the worst singers I've ever heard while on a cruise ship, shows in the Mainstage were pretty bad, I've had enough of the Planet Earth show.

It's like all the rest, not everyone is interested.   The only entertainment we enjoy is the string players.

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As far as formal nights I just returned from an Alaskan cruise on the Westerdam.  After reading posts on cruise critic I was not expecting high fashion, but I was expecting it to be a bit dressier than it was.  I saw lots of men in jeans and I would estimate 25% or less were wearing ties.  I decided not to wear a tie to the second Gala night because I would have felt overdressed.

 

I'm not sure what the solution is for those who want to return to yesteryears glamour days, but I don't think you are going to talk HAL into refusing to serve the majority of their customers.

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27 minutes ago, kazu said:

 

Disadvantage?  I much prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers and higher crew to passenger ratio.  

 

Of course, more passengers mean more cost efficiency.  Just not my cup of tea to be on a mega ship 😉  

 

The world is your oyster you just need to find your pearl and enjoy it 😄 

I heartily support and agree with this position! 💃👍

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57 minutes ago, kazu said:

 

Disadvantage?  I much prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers and higher crew to passenger ratio.  

 

Of course, more passengers mean more cost efficiency.  Just not my cup of tea to be on a mega ship 😉  

 

The world is your oyster you just need to find your pearl and enjoy it 😄 

If you look at the context of my post, where I was responding to cruisemom42's post where she mentioned HAL having to be price competitive with their main competition of Princess and HAL.  The smaller average ship size and its nature of being less cost effective than the larger average ship of Princess and Celebrity, means that HAL is at a disadvantage when it comes to price competition. Those ships mean higher per passenger capital costs, as well as higher per passenger crew costs, primarily dealing with technical support positions which must be filled on all ships and larger ships do not require similar increases in staff.

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Posted (edited)

We don't really care about what transpired in the past. We are buying today and we judge the cruise lines and the cruise ships by the competitiveness of their current product offerings.  That may sound harsh but that is the reality for many potential customers.

 

We are fine with smaller ships.  Just as long as they are well maintained in public areas and in the cabins.  Old, from our perspective, is not an excuse for a poorly maintained ship  or a ship whose HVAC and plumbing systems are long overdue for complete renewal.  Perhaps HAL could take a few pages out of the Phoenix Reisen book when it comes to upgrading older ships.  Just imagine...HAL could have done this ten years ago to Prinsendam.   They chose not to, instead they let it the ship slide.   Not to mention a few other oldies in their aging fleet.

 

When we shop we view HAL, and our HAL experience, on par with our Celebrity and our Princess experience.   We see the same great level of personal service on all three lines.  We have also had excellent cruises, food, and service on RCI and Carnival.    I realize that some wax poetic about HAL staff and service but we have not experienced any appreciable differences.  At least none that would warrant committing our custom to one cruise line.  We don't pay much attention to reports on food or entertainment. It is so variable in terms of sailings and in terms of personal preferences.

 

I believe HAL is moving into a new era.  I suspect that the percentage of loyalty customers will decrease for a number of reasons.  Other potential cruisers will be comparing all ships, including HAL, in the harsh light of day without any emotional ties.   

Edited by iancal

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29 minutes ago, npcl said:

If you look at the context of my post, where I was responding to cruisemom42's post where she mentioned HAL having to be price competitive with their main competition of Princess and HAL.  The smaller average ship size and its nature of being less cost effective than the larger average ship of Princess and Celebrity, means that HAL is at a disadvantage when it comes to price competition. Those ships mean higher per passenger capital costs, as well as higher per passenger crew costs, primarily dealing with technical support positions which must be filled on all ships and larger ships do not require similar increases in staff.

 

I did read your post and simply responded to the context applicable.

 

I am quite aware of what the smaller ships cost, thanks 😉 

I sailed the smallest one in the HAL fleet (just sold) and it was pricey.

I simply prefer smaller ships.  And I am not alone. Those that choose that know that the prices will be higher.  I’ve sailed Princess and Celebrity btw and a few others so I am aware 😉 of the pros and cons.  

 

Those smaller ships are not competing with Celebrity or Princess (or at least not many of their ships 😉 ) Everyone is going big.

 

They compete with another niche market altogether IMO.

 

 

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When I purchase something be it a cruise, hotel, airline ticket, goods, I expect the purchase price to include everything that was provided previosly to be included this time also.  We are all aware what has happened to airlines and what is happening to hotels.  On previosly HAL cruises we had great cold soups, live music in the ocean bar and throughout the ship, appartizes at the bar, dinner coffee, sea days with activities, chocolate night, etc.  All gone.  

A la carte pricing has some value, but you can,t purchase something that is no longer available.

By taking something away you are in effect raising prices.  And if you take enough away you are no longer competitive. 

 

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56 minutes ago, kazu said:

 

I did read your post and simply responded to the context applicable.

 

I am quite aware of what the smaller ships cost, thanks 😉 

I sailed the smallest one in the HAL fleet (just sold) and it was pricey.

I simply prefer smaller ships.  And I am not alone. Those that choose that know that the prices will be higher.  I’ve sailed Princess and Celebrity btw and a few others so I am aware 😉 of the pros and cons.  

 

Those smaller ships are not competing with Celebrity or Princess (or at least not many of their ships 😉 ) Everyone is going big.

 

They compete with another niche market altogether IMO.

 

 

Based upon the age of HAL's smaller ships (those smaller than the 1900 sized Vista class) and the normal retirement prior to 30 years, the next 10 years will pretty much mean the end of them.  HAL might spring for 1 small ship, if it can pick it up cheap enough such as an internal transfer within the HAL group from Seabourn, but I doubt it will do more than 1. Basically the future of HAL is in the mid size 1900-2800 size ships with more standardization of the brand. Over the next 10 years it is going to be a brand with a somewhat split personality between  the old smaller ships  and the mid size ships 1900-2800. People that like the older ships are going to be disappointed with the size of the new ones, those that like the features and facilities of the newer ships are often disappointed with the smaller ships that do not have many of them. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, npcl said:

Based upon the age of HAL's smaller ships (those smaller than the 1900 sized Vista class) and the normal retirement prior to 30 years, the next 10 years will pretty much mean the end of them.  HAL might spring for 1 small ship, if it can pick it up cheap enough such as an internal transfer within the HAL group from Seabourn, but I doubt it will do more than 1. Basically the future of HAL is in the mid size 1900-2800 size ships with more standardization of the brand. Over the next 10 years it is going to be a brand with a somewhat split personality between  the old smaller ships  and the mid size ships 1900-2800. People that like the older ships are going to be disappointed with the size of the new ones, those that like the features and facilities of the newer ships are often disappointed with the smaller ships that do not have many of them. 

 

 

 

I agree with this.  Orlando said no small ships will be bought or built at his talk on the world cruise.  He said the math did not work (of course it is working for the Germans).  He has also said as smaller ships age out, they will replace them with bigger ships while staying relatively neutral in carrying capacity fleet wide.  This means you lose a couple of R ships and build one Pinnacle ship.   That is the future of HAL ref:  ship size.

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14 minutes ago, KirkNC said:

 

I agree with this.  Orlando said no small ships will be bought or built at his talk on the world cruise.  He said the math did not work (of course it is working for the Germans).  He has also said as smaller ships age out, they will replace them with bigger ships while staying relatively neutral in carrying capacity fleet wide.  This means you lose a couple of R ships and build one Pinnacle ship.   That is the future of HAL ref:  ship size.

Which Germans?  Most of what I have seen with the German lines is the purchase of older ships at a pretty cheap rate, keeping their capital investment cost low. While willing to deal with increased maintenance/inspection costs that come with running older ships and their much more complex inspection requirements. Have not actually looked at their fare structures, but the British lines that run older smaller ships tend to run at a higher per passenger price point than the US mainstream lines. 

 

I wonder if there might be more availability of dry dock facilities available in Europe compared to the US, that might make it easier to deal with the older ships requirements.  Considering that all of the major construction yards are there and the impact the recent accident in the Bahamas had on some dry dock schedules.

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1 hour ago, KirkNC said:

 

I agree with this.  Orlando said no small ships will be bought or built at his talk on the world cruise.  He said the math did not work (of course it is working for the Germans).  He has also said as smaller ships age out, they will replace them with bigger ships while staying relatively neutral in carrying capacity fleet wide.  This means you lose a couple of R ships and build one Pinnacle ship.   That is the future of HAL ref:  ship size.

Orlando is a liar..

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