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  1. Right, this is our second HAL cruise in the last year, but did Celebrity twice and Carnival once. We enjoyed the Dutch Cafe and they do serve pastries and other dutch treats for breakfast and lunch. A few days we had a chocolate filled croissant and they were great. Coffees and alcolohic drinks are extra, but foods are all free of charge.
  2. Sorry for the confusion. "5 star here" meant I give "value" a 5 star rating. We have been on about 5 HAL cruises and we are 2 star mariners.
  3. I didn't ask for the discount. Didn't think it would be necessary to ask, but sounds like it may be. Other than the obvious reason that more things to do gives more options, it also relieves some of the crowding in the entertainment areas. The mainstage theater was full or overfull every first showing of (I believe) every act. More things to do will ease this. The last thing I want on a HAL ship is the overcrowding of a typical Royal Caribbean giant ship. Our ship was at 100% capacity, likely because the Nieuw Amsterdam sailing was cancelled the day before. I think many of them rolled over to our ship.
  4. Hello Valued Cruise Critic Friends, My review of the Koningsdam was just published but I wanted to paste it here so dedicated CC users could review and ask questions. See full review below. Happy Sailing! We are veteran cruisers, especially recently with this being my fifth cruise in the last year. This is our fourth(?) HAL cruise. For the first time in 25 years we cruised with old friends who were also veteran cruisers. There was so much to like about this ship and we had a great time, as did our friends. Wife and I are 52 and 49. EMBARKATION was outstanding. We arrived around 10:50 and there were very few people there that early. It probably took us 10 minutes from walking in to getting our seats waiting for the ship to open. I expect the ship opened around 11:40 and we walked on with friends and headed to the deli for sandwiches and drinks. FOOD - DELI The Reuben at the deli was good but ask for extra meat on the Reuben. We had one with extra and one without and the one without was skimpy. This was our only trip to the deli. LIDO - Food here was a mixed bag. I thought breakfast here was very good with a lot of variety. I got the corned beef hash every morning and it was tasty. Lunch quality was lower than I remember on previous ships. Food in general was bland. The carved lamb I had one day was way overcooked and dry, the server even noted all they had was well done. DINING ROOM - We had six meals in there and all were good or better. Most of mine were fantastic except the Yankee Pot Roast which was too lean. The blackened barramundi was excellent but one part of it had scales and was inedible. A recent trend we have noticed is putting all the great dishes on the menu on the Gala Night, leaving the other nights a little short on really great dishes. Yankee Pot Roast night was one of these. SPECIALTY - We had two lunches in Pinnacle Grill. Both were outstanding and a great value at $15 pp, especially considering the lackluster lunch quality in the Lido. Dishes there included salmon, seafood soup, and tenderloin. Apps and desserts were also outstanding. I requested the key lime pie off the dinner menu and they obliged. It was big and great. We also had an outstanding meal in Tamarind. They went to another bar to get it when they did not have my liquor of choice. I thought there would be a discount for the first night, but it was full price. Keep this in mind if you are seeking a first-night discount. The Dutch Cafe is the best kept secret on the ship. Rarely a line, great food, drink and service. Don't skip this place. SERVICE - I would love to give 5 stars here because it was generally outstanding, but there were a few notable exceptions. Interactions with the staff were always 5 star. They were kind, polite, and interested in you. They would do anything you asked even if it wasn't their job. However, there were a few issues. One night in the dining room we had particularly slow service from both the waiter and wine steward. It seemed as a table for six we were the lowest priority for this crew. I finally spoke to a supervisor when we were there for 70 minutes and still had appetizer dishes on the table. Service in the Crows Nest was also hit and miss. Too often you would try to get the waiter's attention and they seemed to be in their own world, not looking to see if anyone around them needed service. Other than these exceptions, service was outstanding. BARS - Service and quality was generally very good, but again a few drinks came out not quite right. John in the Panorama and Rolling Stone Rock Room served some strong drinks, and we sought out "Double John" for service whenever we could. ENTERTAINMENT - We really enjoy BB Kings and this cruise was no exception. The female lead had a slow start to the week but warmed up as the week went on and was right on by mid-week. Everyone else was top notch start to finish. We also enjoyed the Rolling Stone Rock Room. One of the two comedians was very good, the other good. We enjoyed the dance troupe who made good use of the video technology. We also enjoyed the Planet Earth show. Daytime activities was weak and there was very little live music during the day. We saw two string quintet shows and both were outstanding. Pop-up game show on the unexpected sea day was fun. Would appreciate more entertainment options day and night so the ones offered weren't so crowded all the time. There should be a non-comedian show in the main theater every night, with the comedians in a secondary location. In 2019 it's not too much to ask to have some sort of show in the main theater every evening PLUS live music in other parts of the ship. SHIP - The ship had a good vibe with a mix of younger and older passengers, with most being between the two like us. Weather was windy all week but almost no rain. Our stop at Half Moon Cay was cancelled for high seas and as we sailed away we had the highest seas and ship rocking we have ever experienced on a ship. At one point outside decks were closed because of the high winds. PUBLIC ROOMS - Very well kept up and all set the right mood. The quality and quantity of art throughout seemed a little lacking. As usual I enjoyed the fresh flowers. CABIN - I liked everything about the cabin except the toilet. Our Oceanview had a great layout, space, storage, plugs, USB ports, lighting, bed,, sheets, bathroom, EXCEPT the toilet. While it wasn't terrible, because everything else was so well thought out, this issue with having to sit askew or a knee firmly against the shower window stood out like a sore thumb. I have to think this challenge could have been overcome with some extra thought and engineering in the design. GUEST SERVICES - Prompt, quality service when needed. VALUE - We are bargain hunters and got a great deal on this cruise. 5 star here. EXCURSIONS - We did not take any ship excursions. FITNESS and REC - We did not do the spa or fitness center. DEBARKATION - We had a 1:50 flight so we stayed on the ship until last call and carried our luggage off. I love not packing the night before and having a full, enjoyable evening on the last night without worry of packing or bags. We met friends for dining room breakfast at 8:20, had an enjoyable last meal, then waited in the lounge until last call around 9:40. Fairly short line getting off, but long line at customs. We probably got through customs around 10:10. OVERALL - We all had a very enjoyable week. Four of us had the drinks package and made good use of that with alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coffee, and bottle waters all free. That was a value-added freebie for us and we booked because of it. Highly recommended cruise, especially at less than $100 pp, per day.
  5. We are about 10 years older than yall and had our first HAL cruise two years ago. We have been on two more since then and are leaving in 11 days for another. Obviously we enjoyed our first experience. We felt food and service were a step above other mass market lines. Production shows a step down. "Fun" and daytime activities about two steps down from other lines. Music at night a step above other lines. Value is also a key reason we cruise HAL. We are bargain hunters and get great rates on every cruise, better rates than other mass market lines. Upscale experience + better rates = cruise for us. My main concern for you all would be the kids programs and activities. They have a kids club like all other lines, but with so few children on board it may not be a great experience for your child. As your child gets older this may be a bigger deal. Daytime activities for all ages are another minus. Trivia is common, but not too much else on sea days. If you can make your own fun and enjoyment, you'll be fine. My two cents.
  6. Congrats on the upgrades!!!! We are seeking one for our Dec 15 sailing on the Koningsdam. Did your travel agent (or HAL) contact you about the SS upsell on Nov 25? I was hoping to hear today but have not (at least not yet). I may call my agent.
  7. We used ResortPass a year ago and had a good experience with a beach / pool day at a local hotel.
  8. I should clarify - on the NS and Koningsdam there used to be a dedicated space for America's Test Kitchen. That is now Club Orange.
  9. ATK didn't just disappear - it jumped ship. Gone from NS and Koningsdam, it just reappeared on Carnival Panorama called "Carnival Kitchen". Looks like a more hands-on experience - with a hefty fee. Learn more here: https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/4760/
  10. OP, please tell us how this goes. We are seeking the same thing for our Dec 15 on the Koningsdam. Booked OV at a super rate but really want a Verandah. I expect there are many available.
  11. We started sailing HAL two years ago because of value, and we continue for that very reason. There are certain areas and times of the year where supply exceeds demand by a significant margin, driving down prices. OP, to get a true total cost, don't forget to include tips and taxes, which I expect were not included in your $439 price. Still, you got a great value. We are cruising the Caribbean on HAL for the third December in a row because of the exceptional value. I don't sail to make sure the cruise lines make a profit - that's their job to figure out.
  12. Good question, I am assuming this is the case. I am travelling with two other couples in six weeks and at some point we will call HAL and ask them to "connect" our bookings to make sure we are seated together and any other benefits of which we may not be aware.
  13. I'll share one other shore snorkeling point. If you walk ALL the way down the beach to where it ends and the rocks begin, about a mile or so, there is good snorkeling in that area. I have been down there a few times and saw a 4' barracuda once that scared the crap out of me! It is very shallow in that area so still good for beginners who can walk a long ways.
  14. I'm not certain only my TA is offering, but a few other TA sites I have perused did not show it. It does seem to be a somewhat unique situation - TA making a mistake then providing an upgrade to correct their error.
  15. Our promotion is for OCtober only and likely only offered by our TA. It is a free SBP plus some onboard credit. For our cruise it was supposed to be OV and higher cabins only. However, the TA assured me the inside cabin offer included the SBP. Later that evening after the purchase he emailed me (when I left him a message asking for the fourth time - are you sure?) saying yes - the SBP is included (so at that point I had it in writing). When I followed-up two weeks later, HAL did NOT have the SBP attached to the booking because it did not qualify. In the end, yes, my TA bit the bullet and paid the $300 per person to upgrade me to OV which included the SBP. That cost them less than $362 per person to add the SPB to my inside room.
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