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otters92

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About otters92

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Bakersfield, CA (USA)
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    Travel, Wine Tasting
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    Celebrity
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    Europe

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  1. If true this is awesome news. Thank you for the update. As a side note, the lack of a procedure for checking kids in and out of High Score! had nothing to do with the number of kids on the Thanksgiving Cruise. It was that way as well, from what I heard, for the 17 day cruise to Hawaii prior to the Thanksgiving Cruise, albeit with far fewer children. As was stated TiogaCruiser, there’s some serious back peddling going on, but I have no problem with that as long as they heard our complaints and they are, ultimately, making the right decision.
  2. That EXCEPTION is who this thread is intended for. If you're not a family traveling with kids, a change to Club HAL would not have that big of an impact on you. But most families with kids are constrained by work and school schedules and must plan their vacations many months in advance, if not years in advance.
  3. It was a promise to voice my concerns, ones that they shared with me but had gone unheeded by upper management. NONE of my complaints have anything to do with the youth staff. They are great.
  4. Holy non-sequitur, Batman! My original post had nothing to do with paint, rust or overall ship maintenance. That being said, your post gratifies me because it shows that someone on the ship’s crew is reading this board. If you see them, please let the staff in the kid’s club know that I am following through on my promise to them.
  5. An update: I spoke this afternoon with one of the higher-ups from the Office of the President (an extension of HAL Guest Relations, but with some authority.) He was really interested in my feedback and understood many of my concerns. He said that this afternoon there was an emergency management meeting to address the concerns raised by people on last week’s Oosterdam cruise regarding the kids club. (Including some complaints from people traveling without children who were upset at how children were unsupervised on the ship and the chaos that was the main dining room.) But he sounded very much like “High Score!” is what’s coming, and Club Hal is on it’s way out, “Unless,” he said “the management decides (today) to pull the plug and reverse course.” So, I know there are people reading this board who have 4 and 5 star Mariner status. Please call whomever you know at HAL and at the travel agencies you do business with to urge them to reverse course on cancelling Club HAL. (Hopefully some of them are reading the comments on this post.) One other thing. Part of the compensation offer made to my family was for $400 credit towards our next HAL cruise. When he confirmed that our cruise scheduled for this summer is on the Nieuw Amsterdam, he said that that was the next ship scheduled to have High Score! installed, probably by this coming Spring. I confirmed with him that if this were the case, we would be cancelling that cruise.
  6. Actually the games in High Score! were all free. They had pinball machines and Nintendo-style games.
  7. Thank you for the critiques. I agree that I am not going to get a full refund. I like your suggestion of asking for the amount they are offering in future cruise credit as a direct refund. (In my actual response to their offer, I discuss more about the need for assurances in order to go through with any future cruise, but I took that private issue out of my post here.) I consider all of this a negotiation with them. My approach is three-fold: 1) Compensation; 2) Ensuring Club HAL will exist on my planned future cruise; and 3) Get them to realize the error in making this change and to stand up for the front line employees who said that their protestations to upper management go unheard.
  8. The pre-teens and teens seemed to enjoy it. There were some fun games to be played in High Score!. I could envision it as a fantastic additions to Club HAL, possibly made only available to older children.
  9. This was my response to their offer of "Future Cruise Credit." (They just don't seem to get the gravity of the situation.) I recently sailed on the Oosterdam out of San Diego on November 23. Yesterday I received Holland America's offer for remuneration for the fiasco involving Club HAL being closed without prior notification. The offer is woefully inadequate. The biggest problem with the offer is that it in no way recognizes the gravity of the situation. The letter states: "We are very sorry that your clients were disappointed with the Club HAL program offered on this cruise. We attempt to provide a wide variety of activities that will appeal to the majority of our junior cruisers, with positive, professional supervision. Club HAL welcomes children age 1 to age 6; however, this program is not open to children in diapers or pull-ups. Again, we sincerely regret that your clients were not pleased with Club HAL on this sailing, and we will keep their comments in mind as we endeavor to improve the shipboard experience for all of our valued guests." The problem was not a "disappointment" with the Club HAL program. It was the cancellation of the program and the fact that no adequate program was substituted for children from ages 7-17. Your own website still describes Club HAL: "Holland America Line's youth activities program, Club HAL, offers an array of entertaining events for kids and teens ages 3-17, supervised by a full-time, professionally trained staff. They'll have an opportunity to join other kids their age for arts and crafts, sports, video game competitions, scavenger hunts, challenging team games and themed parties. Club HAL is offered on board all ships except for ms Maasdam." The fact that the Club HAL program was canceled without any prior notification to passengers is false advertising. I paid for a product. That product wasn't offered. I am requesting a refund for that deception. (Incidentally, once we found out about the closure of Club HAL subsequent to boarding the Oosterdam but prior to departure, I requested the option of canceling our cruise and deboarding if we could be given a refund. Priscilla Jimenez, the Guest Relations Assistant Manager aboard the ship said that a refund would not be possible at that time since it was beyond the final payment date.) The offered remuneration is a credit towards future cruises on Holland America. Without Club HAL, my family will never again sail on Holland America. (We currently have a 24-day cruise reserved out of Venice on June 15. Without this issue being fixed, we will need to cancel that cruise!) Now let's talk about the problems with the current "High Score!" setup. The biggest problem is safety and security of your cruise passengers. As I stated in my letter posted on CruiseCritic (and soon to be posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) there is no sign-in/sign-out procedure. Kids from 7-17 are free to enter and leave on their own volition. Most 7 year old children are not capable of this type of self-care. In fact, if I were to leave my 7 year old alone at my home alone for an extended period of time, I could be arrested for child endangerment. On an unfamiliar ship thousands of miles from home with thousands of strangers, the dangers much more extreme. Liability-wise, Holland America is setting itself up for a tremendous lawsuit should any child be injured, molested or otherwise harmed after leaving the "care" of the HAL staff in "High Score!" Additionally, Holland America is assuming that all children ages 7-17 share the same interests. That is blatantly not the case. Elementary, middle and high school students are separated in most schools because of this divergence of interests. Boy Scouts separates the elementary school kids from the middle and high schoolers. Club HAL had three different programs for three different age groups because it recognized this variation. The corporate pencil-pushers who invented the "High Score!" program have obviously never dealt extensively with children of different ages. And what about the rest of the cruisers aboard the Oosterdam? There were over 300 children aboard the ship the week of November 23-30. Does your average Holland America passenger without children want hundreds of children running around the ship unsupervised? How about the hundreds of extra children in the main dining room every evening? Our normal procedure on cruises is to take our son to eat in the Lido cafe and then take him to Club HAL at 7pm so that my wife and I can enjoy a nice dinner and possibly a show. That was not a possibility on this cruise, so we were faced with the option of taking our son with us to the main dining room or bypassing the more formal dining for the cafe. (The results of this situation during the first formal night were very apparent: hundreds of people had to wait an hour or longer for a table because so many families were dining with their children during the early seating of dinner. And the dining room was a chaotic mess with bored and impatient children crying and running around their tables.) Or maybe Holland America has made a corporate decision to de-emphasize family cruising in a desire to become more like Virgin or Viking or other cruise lines that don't permit children on board. If this is the path Holland America is taking, that is fine, but you must notify families in advance and offer them refunds. In the end, Holland America's decision to do away with Club HAL was an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately, my family was the victim of this rash and poorly implemented restructuring. My family suffered in multiple ways: 1) My son did not get to enjoy the programmed activities with other children in Club HAL but rather had to spend the entire cruise with his parents; 2) My wife and I had no alone time; 3) We were not able to enjoy our dining experiences or evening shows; 4) Since we could not leave our son onboard while in port, we had to cancel an "Intro to SCUBA diving" excursion planned in Mazatlan through an independent travel company. (Luckily we managed to receive a full refund from that company, but, unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy in the experience.) As I said in the beginning, I am not interested in future cruise credit. I am requesting a refund for a product that was sold to me but not delivered. I also am requesting that Holland America reevaluate the planned elimination of Club HAL fleet-wide. Before my family continues with its planned cruise next summer, we need reassurance that Club HAL will still exist for that cruise. Lastly, my concerns go beyond compensation for our family's poor experience on the cruise last week. To a person, everyone I spoke with from Holland America regarding this issue (from the former Club HAL staff monitoring the door at High Score!, to the on-ship Guest Relations Manager, to the over the phone Guest Relations support provider I spoke with yesterday) have asked me to make sure that my complaints are heard from the highest levels of Holland America. They all said "Nobody will listen to our complaints and concerns, but they will listen to you." So the reason I am fighting so vociferously about this issue is so that the management of Holland America realize what a colossal cluster-f@&! this transition has been and how poorly thought out the plan for implementation was. You are losing good customers, but you are also losing good employees. Someone from upper management needs to take responsibility for this failure and have the guts to admit that it wasn't a well thought out change. (Think "New Coke" level of failure!)
  10. I have. Other CC posters have sent me Orlando Ashford's email address. I have also posted this letter on Twitter to the following accounts: @oashford @HALcruises @HALpartnerSHIPS (Although I am new to Twitter and don't know how effective that will be.)
  11. It was made clear to us that the switch to High Score! was first on the Oosterdam, but that it was a fleet-wide transition that should occur over the coming year. High Score! Brochure.pdf
  12. My family just returned from a Thanksgiving week vacation aboard the Holland America Oosterdam. Prior to departure while attempting to register our 7 year old son for Club HAL, we were notified the Club HAL no longer existed and had been replaced by “High Score!” High Score is a play area with video, arcade-style and board games for children 7-17. It seems at first like an entertaining place, but as a replacement for Club HAL, it is woefully inadequate. First of all, there is no procedure for signing children in and out. We were told that once we gave our permission for our 7 year old to attend, he could enter and go as he pleased. This meant that if we left our son there, he could leave by himself or with any other child up to 17 years old to wonder the ship. (The flyer we received says “Kids and teens are free to come and go from High Score! on their own.” Our only option to prevent our son from leaving on his own was to sign a waiver barring his entry for the duration of the cruise.) We knew right away that this would not work for us. In addition to the lack of security for children, there were no longer any planned activities and projects for children 7-17. Gone was all the “Camp-at-Sea”-types of programming that my son so much looked forward to on a cruise. My son did not form the usual friendships he has on previous cruises. He had to spend the entire cruise with his parents. And while we do cherish time spent as a family, our family vacation was drastically changed. One of the reasons my wife and I enjoy cruising is because it gives us the opportunity to be able to enjoy spending time as a couple, comforted by the knowledge that our son is being well-cared for and is having a good time. The biggest issue, however, was lack of supervision of the children (and adults) in the play area. The High Score! game space was completely understaffed. There were only two staff members assigned to the entire area, and most of their time was spent monitoring the door to make sure that those who entered were authorized to be there. At times there were more than 40 children and adults playing in the game area. (Adults were allowed to visit with their children during “Family Time” between 7 and 10pm.) Additionally, the staff informed us that they were not allowed to intervene if children were being left out or were not treating each other right. We saw multiple instances in which an older kid (usually pre-teen) took over a game and pushed the younger kids out. We also witnessed teenage children commenting on how “good looking” another child was. My child was definitely not prepared for the “survival of the fittest” environment created by the older kids. The older kids were in charge with almost no supervision or guidance in this “Lord of the Flies”-like atmosphere. (We witnessed all these activities during Family Time; who knows what went on during the rest of the day when there were no parents present.) We knew from before the cruise departed that this new setup was not going to work. While the staff and guest relations representatives apologized repeatedly and profusely, they kept reiterating that the decision was out of their control and that corporate (Holland America Lines) was the entity imposing this change. They also said that the Oosterdam was the first ship to make the switch, but that all HAL ships would be making the transition away from Club HAL to High Score! within the coming year. Please contact Holland America and your travel agents prior to going on a cruise with Holland America. The eradication of Club HAL will drastically change the outlook for any family with children. For my part, I will never sail Holland America again with my child unless this decision is reversed. (Please note that there is still a Kids’ Club for children ages 3-6 that requires parents to sign their children in and out. But unlike Club HAL, it is only available from 9am-noon and from 7-10pm. Also, its current iteration is in one of the small conference rooms on deck 3 and, from our perspective, is nothing at all like what Club HAL used to provide.)
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