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Whatever happened to HALs In-depth EXC program??


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To be honest we had moved on awhile back from sailing with HAL as their sea day activities and theater productions were just not as fun as they used to be. Then we heard in 2018 about their new In-Depth EXC program being implemented on the Maasdam while we were on an Antarctica cruise on the Zaandam. We thought what a cool idea and subsequently booked a 40 day cruise around Australia and the New Caledonia islands in Oct 2019. What a great cruise! There were between 4-6 informative lectures on sea days and their evening production shows had definitely improved. On that cruise we also heard the In-depth EXC program was going to lose the "In-depth" designation and be expanded across the fleet on their longer 14+ day cruises. What a great idea we thought! 

 

Of course, the Maasdam has now been sold. So did its revolutionary In-depth EXC program, with the 4-6 lectures on sea days, disappear with the Maasdam or did HAL actually expand the concept, minus the zodiacs, fleetwide on their longer cruises? 

Edited by Ken the cruiser
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Good Question, eyeing a 14 day New Zealand/Australia in 2023, hoping there are lectures onboard having never been to that part of the world before. I've had them previously on a Panama Canal Transit, South America Explorer around the horn and South East Asia Explorer from Singapore to HK. They add something to the experience, especially if the lectures are good.

 

-Paul

Edited by kangforpres
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I found the In-Depth EXC program on the Maasdam's 21-day Alaska cruise to be one of the best things HAL has ever done to improve its cruise experience. I would so love to do that one again. Not only was the itinerary different from any ever offered to Alaska, but the lectures added something extraordinary in exploring The Great Land. 

Who knows, though, what it will be like when cruising resumes. There is a new leader at the helm, money needs to be made, while expenses need to be trimmed---financial problems abound. 
At this point, one can only hope that the program will return someday.  

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1 hour ago, RuthC said:

I found the In-Depth EXC program on the Maasdam's 21-day Alaska cruise to be one of the best things HAL has ever done to improve its cruise experience. I would so love to do that one again. Not only was the itinerary different from any ever offered to Alaska, but the lectures added something extraordinary in exploring The Great Land.

Hear, hear! We were on the first of Maasdam's 21-day Alaska voyages, and enjoyed the EXC lectures, although the speakers were a mixed bag. Gloeta Massie (IIRC) is a marine biologist, and was full of information and insight, and was funny. Other speakers were OK at best.

We were also on the first segment of the South America and Antarctic Grand Voyage last year (Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires), and had several speakers on board. Most were very good, especially Craig Franklin, animal physiologist of extreme species and a professor at U Queensland, and the young man (again, another name not remembered) who spoke about maté (hot Argentine coffee-like beverage) and the tango (and sold a flash drive full of music and videos to accompany his talks). Great stuff!

However, on subsequent voyages, there was nothing like it, but we're hoping that the second segment of the South American Grand Voyage next year will continue the tradition. It may be that only these types of long and unusual itineraries will have dedicated speakers rather than just the standard port shopping claptrap.

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Was on Maasdam exactly one year ago, on an EXC cruise.  The concept was great and we enjoyed some of the lectures.  We also enjoyed the commentary from specialists when cruising the Fjordlands etc.  It did get a bit repetitive and if I'm being honest, a little boring.  The zodiacs were a massive disappointment having all experiences canceled 3 weeks prior to sailing.  

 

I think there's value there, I just hope they improve on the execution.  

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On the Zaandam's Christmas/New Year's Cruise from Chile to Argentina in 2017, visiting Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, the presenters were excellent.  Their presentations covered the natural aspects of our cruise along with sociological and political topics.

 

As long ago as 2002, even though the cultural program was not called EXC or EXC In-Depth, on the Volendam's Asia Pacific Cruise were some outstanding presenters.  An expert on Chinese and Asian history/culture who also accompanied some of the overland tours and added a depth of information in addition to our local guides.  

 

Then, on some other cruises--memorably for me, the Grand World Cruise in 2008--there was the woman who had been a radio "personality" in Hong Kong....so much promise, I thought.  So much disappointment!  Her presentations turned out to be more "name dropping" sessions where the attendance kept getting smaller.  

 

When the presenters are good, they can be, and usually are, often very good.  But, if they "aren't good",....the question then arises:  do I attend or not?  

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We found the inaugural EXC voyage from FLL to Papeete to be the best of the EXC voyages (and we did a number of them.  The Easter Island stop was a definite high point.

 

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I wonder who is really responsible for and who chooses these speakers and entertainers.  Obviously the HAL CEO doesn't make these day to day decisions, although he may have a say on how much funding to allocate to the program.  I used to think that the cruise director had a say in who would entertain us, but I get the impression that the CD's job has been downgraded in the last few years.  When I choose a cruise it is pretty obvious what ports we will stop at, but with our next cruise a year away, I haven't a clue of what the onboard presentations will be like.

Ray

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26 minutes ago, USN59-79 said:

I wonder who is really responsible for and who chooses these speakers and entertainers.  Obviously the HAL CEO doesn't make these day to day decisions, although he may have a say on how much funding to allocate to the program.  I used to think that the cruise director had a say in who would entertain us, but I get the impression that the CD's job has been downgraded in the last few years.  When I choose a cruise it is pretty obvious what ports we will stop at, but with our next cruise a year away, I haven't a clue of what the onboard presentations will be like.

Ray

 

My understanding from talking to some of the comedians was that there is a corporate department that schedules all of the entertainment (guest entertainers/headliners) and they basically travel around from ship to ship sometimes switching ships midway through voyages to do several nights on two-three different ships each week. It seems that the headliners were all done by corporate. Not sure how much power the CD has for the day to day activities & events or if it is all preset with only last minute changes made by the onboard staff. 

 

The absolute best onboard entertainment I ever had was actually on a Princess cruise about 18 years ago where we had a fabulous naturalist on our Alaska cruise who did multiple presentations on wildlife & nature and then was on the PA or on deck whenever we were close to land pointing out wildlife and giving history and information about what we were seeing. He was also always all over the ship talking with passengers in the buffet or on the open decks and it was great to be able to chat with him about the natural beauty of Alaska. I really wish HAL would try something like this, it was by far the best onboard entertainment we have had on a cruise ever. 

 

From our recent trips it seems like they have stock presentations on ports although most of our recent cruises were to the highly frequented ports in Caribbean, Alaska & Panama Canal so it does make sense they would have it more standardized than some of the exotic destinations. 

 

 

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The heart and soul of the EXC In-Depth program was far more than speakers.

The itinerary dictated the spirit of the adventure with specialists to teach their treasured knowledge, hopes, and dreams.

Entertainment was actually downplayed to compliment the theme of the voyage.

Barbara

Edited by bcummin
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Beyond speakers and presentations, one thing that that the EXC program promised, but failed to deliver (as far as I know) was using Zodiac inflatable boats to get to ports where the water was tipi shallow for tenders,  or too sensitive. 

On our Alaska voyage in May '19, the Zodiacs were cancelled at the beginning of the trip, because HAL wasn't able to get permission to use them. They were neatly stored on the forward deck, and there they stayed for the 21 days. (One small port had similar boats, and was able to send them to the ship to pickup and return a very small number passengers fior an excursion.) A sad end to an ambitious program. 

 

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5 hours ago, kwb101 said:

Beyond speakers and presentations, one thing that that the EXC program promised, but failed to deliver (as far as I know) was using Zodiac inflatable boats to get to ports where the water was tipi shallow for tenders,  or too sensitive. 

On our Alaska voyage in May '19, the Zodiacs were cancelled at the beginning of the trip, because HAL wasn't able to get permission to use them. They were neatly stored on the forward deck, and there they stayed for the 21 days. (One small port had similar boats, and was able to send them to the ship to pickup and return a very small number passengers fior an excursion.) A sad end to an ambitious program. 

 

We actually used the Zodiacs in the Maldives to go snorkeling and Captain Arno was our Zodiac driver, but I agree they had very limited use due to challenges in getting permission from the respective countries to use them.  It was a great concept, but the implementation really struggled.  When we last sailed on the Maasdam, I spoke with an onboard officer and he indicated that they were getting ready to purchase American made Zodiacs as the then present ones were built outside the USA and couldn't be used in Alaska.

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31 minutes ago, Btimmer said:

We actually used the Zodiacs in the Maldives to go snorkeling and Captain Arno was our Zodiac driver, but I agree they had very limited use due to challenges in getting permission from the respective countries to use them.  It was a great concept, but the implementation really struggled.  When we last sailed on the Maasdam, I spoke with an onboard officer and he indicated that they were getting ready to purchase American made Zodiacs as the then present ones were built outside the USA and couldn't be used in Alaska.

Just a side note, when we were on our Maasdam Australia circumnavigation cruise in 2019, we heard those zodiacs with their diesel-powered outboard engines cost around $90-100K each!

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6 hours ago, kwb101 said:

Beyond speakers and presentations, one thing that that the EXC program promised, but failed to deliver (as far as I know) was using Zodiac inflatable boats to get to ports where the water was tipi shallow for tenders,  or too sensitive. 

On our Alaska voyage in May '19, the Zodiacs were cancelled at the beginning of the trip, because HAL wasn't able to get permission to use them. They were neatly stored on the forward deck, and there they stayed for the 21 days. (One small port had similar boats, and was able to send them to the ship to pickup and return a very small number passengers fior an excursion.) A sad end to an ambitious program. 

 

We spent 80 days on the Maasdam in 2019 and I think the zodiacs were used twice, both  times the South Pacific.  The excursions consisted of using small funnels to look through while on the zodiac as they floated over reefs.  Kind of like a hand held glass bottom boat.  I think the zodiacs did have a naturalist on board.  The trips were 90 minutes and if I recall correctly,  $100/pp.  The speakers were very good on this trip but the Maasdam needed a lot of TLC.  We had windows fall out, many leaking pipes, missing doors in Lido and the list goes on.  My take on the EXE program (and we were also told it was being rolled out to all the ships) is like much of what HAL does, implementation was somewhat half assed despite good intentions. 

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17 hours ago, Btimmer said:

Based upon my discussions with various CD's over the years, all of HAL's entertainers are scheduled by personnel in Seattle.

 

Your comment ought to be considered to be a FACT.  And, the Executive in charge of that has been in his position for years and years.  Maybe with the RIF that has occurred within the CCL family of brands, this gentleman has chosen to retire or has been RIF'd, never to return would be my hope.  

 

 

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On 2/24/2021 at 9:00 PM, Btimmer said:

We found the inaugural EXC voyage from FLL to Papeete to be the best of the EXC voyages (and we did a number of them.  The Easter Island stop was a definite high point.

 

I was also on that cruise - best one I have ever been on.  Sadly, they have not been able to even come close since.

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What my DW and I can't figure out is what would be the additional cost to HAL to have a lecturer onboard on all of their cruises 10 days or longer, other than maybe room and board and possibly the flight for them and their spouse?

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