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jaguarstyper

HAL is starting to lose me

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Are you suggesting there is some connection between these events? :rolleyes:

 

Carnival has one of the lowest rates of reportable incidents of norovirus outbreaks among major mass market lines in recent years according to the CDC list. Princess, HAL, and Celebrity far outstrip them.

 

In the past 4 years, the number of outbreaks per major line have been:

 

Princess: 13

HAL: 13

Celebrity: 11

Royal Caribbean: 4

Cunard: 3

Carnival: 2

NCL: 2

 

Regent, P&O, Oceania, Fred Olsen, and Lindblad each had 1 reportable outbreak during that period.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm

 

 

I wonder if this is because of the age groups as much as anything else, as immunity declines with age. Is there a direct correlation?

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Mea culpa for somehow offending you. Obviously you're the type to easily offend.

 

I don't hate any cruise lines. I was merely voicing my opinion that for me HAL is a better deal than Regent even if I have to pay for my espresso. Sorry that opinion offended you so.

 

BTW, re-reading my post, I see that I was directly responding to the portion of your post that I quoted. If you can't handle your own opinions, please don't opine.

 

 

You still don't get it. I AGREE!! How can I say that any other way?? HAL is a better deal even if a person drank like a fish. That is what I said. I am offended when people like you cannot read posts correctly, then have the nerve to be snarky. BTW, I didn't give any opinions other than saying Regent was worth the much higher cost to me. My first sentence to the person I responded to was that I AGREED with him that the HAL price cannot be compared to Regent, as HAL's will be much less per day. Sorry I annoyed you, but you need to read posts before you respond. Where did you possibly get that I was offended that you said HAL was a better deal than Regent? HAL IS and always will be a better deal than Regent, no matter what Regent is trying to say. At this point, I GIVE UP!! You just don't comprehend!! Would you please put me on your ignore list???

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I can only go by a couple of friends who have told me and reports I have read - they reported that these were not much smaller than what we are used to on the mass market lines. One of their big disappointments! Maybe it varies from ship to ship:confused:

 

If they were the size of HAL's Vatican Secrets tour - that would be ideal (8):)

 

All my latest reports from guests just back are that Regent is capping excursion groups in Europe to 16-22 guests depending on the tour. Wherever possible, they are chartering extra buses so that it's around 20 per bus even on the most popular excursions.

 

With no stickers, and no large groups, the feedback I've heard is that the excursions (in Europe at least) were excellent and way above the mass market offerings.

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Here is a comparison that says a lot about HA vs Celebrity (we enjoy both lines). On the 14 day Dec 1 Celebrity Eclipse Caribbean cruise (great itinerary) a balcony cabin ranged from about $4200 up to $6500 (Aqua Class) (total cost for 2)and the cruise was sold-out without any major discounting. Meanwhile, the Westerdam is selling a 14 night (actually a back to back with a lousy itinerary) Dec 2 Caribbean cruise at huge discounts (we got a verandah for about $2450 (total cost for 2 including all fees). This meant that we could cruise on the Westerdam for about half the price as on the Eclipse (both 14 night Caribbean cruises leaving the same weekend). Now one can speculate why Celebrity is able to charge twice the cost as HA (comparable cruises). Having cruised on HA for 62 days this year (not countiing the upcoming 14 on the Westerdam) and 37 days on Celebrity (also this year) we would quickly pay Celebrity an extra $1000 over HA for a comparable cruise....but we decided to "live" with the Westerdam at half the price of Celebrity.

 

Hank

 

Hank - dumb question perhaps - but Aqua class on Celebrity is better than a reglar verana on HAL - no? are we comparing apples to apples here?

 

Just the same - we snagged an SC guarantee on the Westerdam for a ridiculous low price and ended up in SA.

 

Love that we could do it - but when is HAL going to get with the program so to speak and start to offer lower prices for booking early?? (I mean really lower prices - like Oceania and many others). I laugh sometimes when I get their 'sales' - they are no different tha what I have already agreed to pay over a year ago :eek:

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Maybe HAL has taken a look at the amenities and included perks in combination with how many passengers actually use them. While it may be nice for one passenger, it's not really cost effective if only that one passenger takes advantage. HAL is not a charity making your vacation wishes come true, it's a business and every choice has to be judged against the bottom line.

 

I mourn the loss of bar soap -- I complain about it on every cruise I take. At some point HAL judges the complaints about lack of bar soap against the number of requests for shower gel. Based solely on my limited market research at grocery stores, it seems more people use shower gel than bar soap in their own homes. HAL goes where the money is, and it's not in bar soaps. Yes, it is a ridiculous penny pinching measure in my mind, but I'm not an accountant for HAL.

 

HAL could offer the specialty restaurants without a fee, but could mean greater demand than space, and that would result in unhappy passengers. It's better to charge for the specialty restaurants and let people's wallets make the demand reasonable.

 

HAL makes decisions based on the bottom line, not what a select group of passengers think should happen because it always has. Providing nibbles during cocktail hour is more cost effective, and more revenue-generating than providing after-dinner premium coffee.

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I wonder if this is because of the age groups as much as anything else, as immunity declines with age. Is there a direct correlation?

 

I'm quite sure it does. HAL pax look pretty frail even compared to Princess. Then again the HAL cruise was a 15 day TATL vs a 5 day Pacific coastal.

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I wonder if this is because of the age groups as much as anything else, as immunity declines with age. Is there a direct correlation?

 

Average ages of passengers seems to be closely held by the cruise lines; there is very little solid information that one can go on.

 

I suspect it may have more to do with the fact that Carnival, NCL, and Royal tend to run shorter cruises for the most part. It could well be that there just isn't time for a full-blown noro outbreak to develop on a ship that's taking a 4 or 5 day cruise.

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I'm quite sure it does. HAL pax look pretty frail even compared to Princess. Then again the HAL cruise was a 15 day TATL vs a 5 day Pacific coastal.

 

Seriously? I guess in your situation - and the acronym we use here is TA not TATL

 

My first TA was on NCL and I never saw so many wheel chairs and oxygen tanks in my life - that's when DH and I decided that we would cruise when we could (that was in 2000

 

TA's can lead to all kinds of things - from what I have seen of late - the people are very with it - and the roll calls are very active with people doing all kinds of great tours:)

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Seriously? I guess in your situation - and the acronym we use here is TA not TATL

 

My first TA was on NCL and I never saw so many wheel chairs and oxygen tanks in my life - that's when DH and I decided that we would cruise when we could (that was in 2000

 

TA's can lead to all kinds of things - from what I have seen of late - the people are very with it - and the roll calls are very active with people doing all kinds of great tours:)

 

Good post, Jacqui! :)

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To throw the Regent advantage back into the fray-after taking off the airfare and hotel stays, Regent is much cheaper than Prinsendam out of FT lauderdale for next Christmas. Then you add in the level of service,NOT HAVING TO PRODUCE A KEY CARD FOR ANYTHING, the smaller size, BAR SOAP ( and Hermes or L'Occitane at that), no one ever fawning for a tip and larger cabins. Yes we are going on HAL because after my Mother died in August, I was desperate to get a trip ANYWHERE as long as it was out of Florida so that I could have something to look forward to! The Regent trip was the same as we did with her at this time last year and that just was too hard to bear.

HAL has many lovely qualities-but as one poster said, they are now providing service for people who don't know any better or have the expectations based on previous cruisers. For many, HAL is a luxury line is you have sailed on Carnival or NCL. If you know that the MDR service is bad , then do as we do--AVOID IT! ON the last cruise the room service was exceptionally good as were the specialty restaurants. And say something-don't be silent! EVERYTIME I have ever had a complaint with HAL and have written to them a civil letter I have received a pleasant reply with a solution, and if not a solution, a form of compensation from the line. The trick is to be reasonable ,and after reading some of these posts, that may be the issue. Nothing is perfect--if you want perfect, charter your own yacht and make your own plans.

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Hank - dumb question perhaps - but Aqua class on Celebrity is better than a reglar verana on HAL - no? are we comparing apples to apples here?

 

Just the same - we snagged an SC guarantee on the Westerdam for a ridiculous low price and ended up in SA.

 

Love that we could do it - but when is HAL going to get with the program so to speak and start to offer lower prices for booking early?? (I mean really lower prices - like Oceania and many others). I laugh sometimes when I get their 'sales' - they are no different tha what I have already agreed to pay over a year ago :eek:

 

Agree! But we did mention that the lowest cost X balconies were priced at about $4500 (per couple including fees) which is more then $2000 for a similar balcony on the X cruise. Given a choice between HA and X we would usually choose X even at a higher price....but in this case the price difference was ridiculous. The point of my post is simply that X is able to sell-out many of their cruises at much higher price points then on similar HA cruises. One other factor with X is that one can cruise for weeks (we just spent 25 days on the Silhouette) without ever smelling any cigarette smoke. With a large majority of the public being non-smokers (about 80%) many folks are booking X to avoid smokers. X no longer allows smoking inside their ships (including the casino) or on verandas.

 

Hank

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I am very interested in Cruisemom's posts re Swan Hellenic and all the other posts on here. For background we have sailed on SH 7 times over several years and with HAL 7 times over last four or five years - so our experience on HAL was not in the "good old days" so although we have seen some cutbacks obviously not as many as some of you. Our trips on HAL have been between 12 days and 35 days but usually 21 or more. We have also been on other cruiselines - mainly British - Voyage of Discovery, Spirit of Adventure, Saga Rose, Fred Olsen and several P&O ships. Our all time favourite was Marco Polo. DH really prefers smaller ships but happy up to 1200.

 

For our money now there is no longer Marco Polo - well there is but inferior to original product, so HAL is topping the polls for us. We have no interest in the all inclusive alcohol ships because a) we do not drink much, and feel perhaps we might drink more on them and mainly b) because I do not see paying more to fuel other people's drinking habits. Likewise we are not keen on included excursions because where possible we enjoy either private tours with others or doing our own thing. Included tours and alcohol are not free you have paid for them. On a two week tour we probably do two or three excursions with HAL to places unable to reach easily on our own.

 

The more you cruise the more picky we all become because one ships advantages are another ships disadvantages and vice versa. I don't believe any cruiseship will be perfect.

 

On the question of looking elsewhere however, I would ask you to check Swan Hellenic out carefully before committing yourself. Yes an excursion is a coachload of people (similar numbers to HAL) but these days most of their excursions are city walking tours or at most half day tours. They too have cut back as you also used to get a couple of day trips. We found that on many days they only stopped in a port for half a day when you did their excursion but had no time to explore yourself. I think this is probably because Minerva is quite a slow ship so needs short distances or longer hours at sea. You also have to consider whether you are happy with a smaller cabin, less food choice and little entertainment. There are good lectures usually in the daytime but little at night and what there is is sometimes quite heavy - for me anyway. No musical shows, comedians etc, etc. They do have a small band. So you pays your money and you take your choice. If you are going to do all their excursions and do not want time ashore to yourself it is not bad value for money particularly if you have an inside cabin. I think their oceanviews are very expensive. The final straw was to get more balcony cabins they have made most of the promenade deck into balcony cabins. No not lanais - full across the deck. We like promenade decks to sit on - cannot sit is the sun - so this was the final straw.

 

Currently therefore we have found our happy resting place with HAL, do your own thing with an excursion or two here and there, open dining and enough choice of entertainment to suit us personally. We are off on Maasdam next week for 21 nights and hope to enjoy it as much as we have Rotterdam, Prinsendam and Volendam.

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I am very interested in Cruisemom's posts re Swan Hellenic and all the other posts on here. For background we have sailed on SH 7 times over several years and with HAL 7 times over last four or five years - so our experience on HAL was not in the "good old days" so although we have seen some cutbacks obviously not as many as some of you. Our trips on HAL have been between 12 days and 35 days but usually 21 or more. We have also been on other cruiselines - mainly British - Voyage of Discovery, Spirit of Adventure, Saga Rose, Fred Olsen and several P&O ships. Our all time favourite was Marco Polo. DH really prefers smaller ships but happy up to 1200.

 

For our money now there is no longer Marco Polo - well there is but inferior to original product, so HAL is topping the polls for us. We have no interest in the all inclusive alcohol ships because a) we do not drink much, and feel perhaps we might drink more on them and mainly b) because I do not see paying more to fuel other people's drinking habits. Likewise we are not keen on included excursions because where possible we enjoy either private tours with others or doing our own thing. Included tours and alcohol are not free you have paid for them. On a two week tour we probably do two or three excursions with HAL to places unable to reach easily on our own.

 

The more you cruise the more picky we all become because one ships advantages are another ships disadvantages and vice versa. I don't believe any cruiseship will be perfect.

 

On the question of looking elsewhere however, I would ask you to check Swan Hellenic out carefully before committing yourself. Yes an excursion is a coachload of people (similar numbers to HAL) but these days most of their excursions are city walking tours or at most half day tours. They too have cut back as you also used to get a couple of day trips. We found that on many days they only stopped in a port for half a day when you did their excursion but had no time to explore yourself. I think this is probably because Minerva is quite a slow ship so needs short distances or longer hours at sea. You also have to consider whether you are happy with a smaller cabin, less food choice and little entertainment. There are good lectures usually in the daytime but little at night and what there is is sometimes quite heavy - for me anyway. No musical shows, comedians etc, etc. They do have a small band. So you pays your money and you take your choice. If you are going to do all their excursions and do not want time ashore to yourself it is not bad value for money particularly if you have an inside cabin. I think their oceanviews are very expensive. The final straw was to get more balcony cabins they have made most of the promenade deck into balcony cabins. No not lanais - full across the deck. We like promenade decks to sit on - cannot sit is the sun - so this was the final straw.

 

Currently therefore we have found our happy resting place with HAL, do your own thing with an excursion or two here and there, open dining and enough choice of entertainment to suit us personally. We are off on Maasdam next week for 21 nights and hope to enjoy it as much as we have Rotterdam, Prinsendam and Volendam.

 

 

Your comments help put things into perspective -- having not sailed on Swan Hellenic before, I could not lament the loss of things that I hadn't experienced. I do think the food was above HAL's (or any large cruise line -- they simply cannot serve really good food to huge masses of people and have it all work out right).

 

The bus tours on our cruise, as reported, were half the large bus size that HAL and others utilize, at least in the Med. (20-25 passengers, versus 50 on regular tours.)

 

Also, there was some entertainment on our cruise, a quartet of singers who put on four shows ranging from light opera to Broadway classics and older, popular tunes. They did a nice job. As you say, there is also a band, and a nice pianist in the Darwin lounge who I enjoyed listening to while enjoying coffee or an after-dinner drink and reviewing my notes/writing my day's journal. Yes -- it's not really a lively scene; Voyages to Antiquity was a bit more so at night.

 

Finally, we had long port days, and a mix of excursions (both short and long) were offered. For example, we started with an overnight in Naples, then Livorno (8am to 7pm); Civitavecchia (scheduled 7:30 am to 7pm but had to skip due to bad weather, the port was closed); Cagliari (11am to 7pm); Palermo (7am to 11pm); Trapani (7am to 7pm); La Goulette/Tunis (7am to 7pm); Sousse (8am to 2pm); Valletta (scheduled 8am to 2pm but arrived earlier and left earlier due to impending strike in our final port of Piraeus), and Piraeus (arrived 4am, stayed overnight prior to disembarking.

 

At any rate, as you say, horses for courses. I don't gamble and am not a big fan of the cruise-type production show. I thought the food, the lectures, and the itinerary were excellent. (And the library was fantastic.) These are the things I most enjoy, but they aren't everyone's cup of tea. They do remind me more of the earlier days of cruising. That is to say -- before all the oversized atriums, jumbo movie screens, extra-revenue restaurants, art auctions, and so on.

 

An example: one afternoon at sea, the captain announced that anyone who wanted to come up to the bridge for a visit was welcome. No charge, no production, no fuss. The only rules were a) don't touch anything and b) if there was already a crowd on the bridge, come back in a few minutes so as not to crowd the working officers.

 

I remember this on early cruises I took on Sitmar. But it strikes me as something most lines no longer offer, or only offer at a charge or to certain "privileged" guests.

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Cruisemom42

 

Do not think that in any way I was pouring cold water on what you said. You clearly had a good cruise and the fit was right. I just worry on this thread that people say they are going to try something else and do not necessarily follow their research through. I think that probably two thirds of the people on the HAL board would be horrified by the lifestyle on Minerva and I was just trying to make sure they followed it up first. Small ship cruising is definitely not for everyone.

 

In many ways like you we fit the style of Minerva - particularly DH - who tends to be more highbrow than me. The important things are the lectures and library, though I must confess that the lectures can sometimes be a little hard going as the lecturer thinks he is talking to his university students! Some are really excellent however. The library is very well stocked indeed but less pleasant to sit in than HAL where you can curl up and watch the sea whilst browsing. Yes OK, not so good for number of books. The entertainment over the 7 cruises we have found very variable. I hate opera and do not like heavy classical and some of the theatre stuff even DH has not liked. We had a super group called the Shakespeare Review Company (not all Shakespeare) and we both loved that. We do not go to the showroom every night on HAL really only the ship's company nights and perhaps one or two of the soloists but we do also enjoy the cinema and team trivia and the light classical in Explorers. We hate magicians, comedians and ventriloquists but a huge proportion of HAL people love them. Horses for courses.

 

You obviously had a cruise without the half days though of course your distances between ports were not great. You say you had a day in Citavecchia and Livorno and I expect you would get half day excursions to Lucca or Pisa but if you wanted Florence and Rome you would have had to pay as a supplementary.

 

Food is very personal. We actually have thought the food better on HAL and like the better variety but also the timing of meals. I hasten to add we do not eat that much - three meals a day, one of which is either lunch or afternoon tea. We do however, like the fact that you can get food anytime and find the fixed routine on Minerva more difficult. If we have been ashore in the morning we like to be able to get back after 2 pm and go for something to eat. If guess we just like flexibility which also extends to not always being on a fixed shore excursion but doing our own thing some of the time.

 

We loved Spirit of Adventure which now has sadly gone, followed by Quest for Adventure which is also going back to mainstream cruising. This was very like Minerva but with a slightly lighter touch. Sad really - we have now lost Marco Polo and Spirit. So - Hal R and S classes it is now though we may one day try Azamara.

 

Hope this explains better my take on this, and the fact I was hoping to get people to research what they might think would be better for them.

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Cruisemom42

 

I think that probably two thirds of the people on the HAL board would be horrified by the lifestyle on Minerva and I was just trying to make sure they followed it up first. Small ship cruising is definitely not for everyone.

 

quote]

 

"Horrified" Why? We traveled on Minerva to Antarctica and it was one of our top 3 cruise vacations.

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Lots of interesting posts on this thread and lots of interesting options for perople to look into:)

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We switched to HAL years ago after a summer of noro.

 

X treated its passengers poorly - they were told they could cancel their cruises only after reaching the ship and they used bleach to disinfect the ship - ruining the clothing of anyone who touched rails, etc. and creating allergy problems for many. We sailed X to Alaska that summer so we experienced it.

 

I read on the CC boards that HAL contacted passengers before they left home to let them know of the noro and possible refunds and they used a more expensive disinfectant that did not create problems.

 

And that's in part why I'm not anxious to switch lines. I hope that HAL continues to be as trust-worthy as they have been in the past.

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Lots of good comments, agree with so many of them. Still, after all this time, I still get excited about a new cruise. When I first set foot on the ship on boarding day it's as if it's my very first cruise, just get that same feeling that I did way back then.

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Stay away from River Cruising. HORRIBLE! (Just kidding. River cruising is such a pleasure and I didn't want everyone switching over). I'm staying in a Category SZ for $150 pp/day. That,s nothing considering I have a comfortable cabin, a few nice amenities and 3+ square meals a day and then some. I get transportation to some nice ports and nightly entertainment in several venues. My pre-cruise hotel costs more and I get nothing more than a bed. At that bargain price, I won't complain about about paying for a fancy cup of coffee. If they limit me to a carry on bag and charge me for each suitcase, I may complain.

 

Cruising is a bargain and cruise lines have continually lowered the fares to remain competitive. They have to make a profit somewhere. We have been on 24 cruises so far on at least 9 different lines and there are more similarities than differences. And, there is a big difference in the fare on HAL and the all-inclusives. To be fooled by the notion that they include free air, the cost is simply built into the cost structure. There is no argument that Oceania, Seabourn and Regent, to name a few, have better service, better food and are more upscale but you pay a premium. And, Oceania doesn't have free liquor. We paid over $500 pp/day plus very expensive excursions, wine and liquor, gratuities and no air.

 

All of the lines give you your money's worth so no one can really complain. I agree that cruising is not the same as before on the major lines and what was once free is now a charge item. But, what is the same these days?

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I have been a huge fan of HAL for the last 10 years and 11 cruises. But, with the recent trend in charging additional for things and diminishing levels of service are starting to make me second guess them. One of the things I always liked about cruising is the all-inclusive nature of it. I realize HAL still represents a good value considering the fares, but I really am not a fan of all the nickel and diming that they are going to.

 

I have 2 more cruises booked on HAL, but I think the one following that, I'm going to seriously start looking at the competition. Something I have not really done much of over the last 10 years since my first HAL cruise. I do not care much for what HAL appears to becoming. These next two cruises will help me decide where I will be spending my future cruising dollars, and it very well might not be with HAL.

 

Any suggestions?

.

 

We've sailed on all the main lines, and agree that almost all of them are changing. Not the good old days, but then again, what is? We particularly felt RCI appreciated our business and employees appeared MUCH happier than those on HAL. They appeared to be genuine. Food comparable, but I actually preferred RCI since they have a great healthy alternative menu. NONE existed last year on the Noordam. Free booze seemed to flow more freely on HAL; however, we don't drink so a non event for us.

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. We've sailed on all the main lines, and agree that almost all of them are changing. Not the good old days, but then again, what is? We particularly felt RCI appreciated our business and employees appeared MUCH happier than those on HAL. They appeared to be genuine. Food comparable, but I actually preferred RCI since they have a great healthy alternative menu. NONE existed last year on the Noordam. Free booze seemed to flow more freely on HAL; however, we don't drink so a non event for us.

I've been on 5 HAL cruises. I have never been offered "free booze." An occasional sparkly wine for a reception - but that's it. I've never seen "paid for" booze flow freely on HAL, let along free booze. :D

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Ahhhh....free booze....one of the joys of life :). For us its a no brainer (unless you want to cruise on the ultra luxury lines that includes umlimited booze). Currently, we think that Celebrity's Elite Cocktail parties are one of the best perks afloat. They have a 2 hour free cocktail parties nearly everyday (not on embarkation day or when they have the Senior Officers Party which also offers free booze) which offers unlimited drinks (with a pretty decent drink menu) along with hot and cold hors d'oevres. But one must be in the Elite category and there are now some rumors that this may all change in the next year (we hope the rumors are not true). Compare this to HA where a 4 Star Mariner might have 1 or 2 cocktail parties on a cruise (we only had 2 on a 62 day cruise). Some like the free cocktail parties on RCI (for Diamond and Diamond Plus) but we have generally found their offerings a bit limited (no Martinis in the Concierge Lounge).

 

Hank

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Well, this sure has been a spirited debate, and I love that. Thank you to all who contributed.

 

What I originally posted probably sounded like I was considering leaving HAL because they are charging for special coffee in the MDR. That is only one of many, many reasons. I don't even like the special coffee drinks. I like black coffee, and right now, that's still included as far as I know. Its all of the things that HAL used to do and no longer does, taken as a sum if its parts, that has me disappointed. I don't really care about the extra charges. When I go on vacation, I try not to think about what I am spending. Its a vacation, no worries, right? I just miss the cruising experience that used to be HAL. If you have only been on HAL recently, you probably will have a difficult time understanding this, but its very real.

 

But anyway, I think Randyk47 summed it up brilliantly with his post #109. In fact, its so brilliant, I'm going to quote it here so you can all read it again. Please do read it again. :)

 

I remember my first Holland America cruise back in January 1995. We'd gone on a "try it, you'll like it" four day cruise on Carnival the year before and based on what we liked and didn't like about that cruise our TA recommended Holland America as the best match. It was on the then very new Ryndam out of Ft Lauderdale. We didn't know about the "document dance" back then but I remember the excitement of getting that first blue folder with all of our cruise documents and information. It was exciting!

 

When we boarded the ship we entered on the Lower Promenade deck. I clearly remember, at the time almost with a sense of joy and wonder, being greeted by members of the ship's staff and a girl dressed in traditional dress handing each lady a tulip. To our left was the staircase and on every step was a uniformed member of the staff wearing white gloves. As soon as you entered one of them came down and took or at least offered to take your carry-on luggage. They asked for our cabin number and led us off to it.

 

We were cabin 0010, in what today is called a Deluxe Veranda Suite, and it was amazing. Shortly after we arrived in our cabin our cabin steward came by and introduced himself and asked if we had any questions, special requests, etc. Over the next ten days he quietly but very effective took care of our cabin. His service left us with that "is he hiding under the bed?" feeling as it seemed the moment we left the cabin the bed was made, the towels replaced, and the cabin cleaned. He was in a word fantastic.

 

During the rest of the afternoon we explored the Ryndam getting a feel for the layout and marveling how beautiful and welcoming the spaces were on the ship. One place that stood out was the Crow's Nest and we made the decision that we'd go there for cocktails before dinner and did that the whole cruise. Back then there was a four or five piece crew band that played every evening and late into the night. I remember the lighting in the ceiling, the long sweeping couches, and the ever present serving staff. We quickly were served that first night by Donald who became our regular server and who, by the second night, quickly brought us our typical drinks with only asking did we want our regular drinks or something else. I also remember the selection of hors d'oeuvres served from a cart wheeled throughout the Crow's Nest. The Crow's Nest would turn out to be our favorite place for before and after dinner.

 

Dinner for us was late seating . We didn't want to be late that first night so we wandered aft probably some twenty or so minutes before our seating time. We probably had made it as far as the piano bar when we heard the first hints of the dinner chimes. This was an immediate and pleasant flashback for me as the last time I'd heard those was some 40 plus years earlier as a five year old on the SS America coming back from England in 1952. We entered the dining room and were escorted to our table for six by one of the many uniform officers/senior staff stationed at the main entrance. Service was outstanding from night one to the final dinner. After the first night our drinks were waiting for us when we got to the table. Our water glasses were never empty, our food was quickly and accurately delivered as ordered, empty dishes were whisked away within moments, and the food was truly excellent from taste to presentation to temperature. I remember that last night as we were presented with a copy of the final dinner menu signed by our table staff and a few of the officers and senior crew of the dining room. Even the memory today brings a small tug to my heart and a tear to my eye.

 

There are many, many other aspects to the cruise I haven't mentioned. That's not to say they weren't important, just that there were so many that it is hard to capture them all here. Obviously aspects of the cruise were beyond Holland America's control. The weather was perfect; the seas were calm; the ports were new, interesting, and not crowded; and the flights to and from Ft Lauderdale comfortable and on time. It was indeed the perfect vacation.

 

I wrote this as a flashback to what I remember and what attracted us to Holland America so many years ago and kept us coming back year after year for sixteen years. Taken individually I suppose no one aspect means or meant more to us than another. It was the additive effect, the synergy of all taken together, that made cruising our vacation and Holland America our cruise line of choice. Maybe we're dwelling on things that aren't important and really don't mean that much but they were things we loved about cruising and slowly but surely they've disappeared or been somehow reduced over the years. It makes us sad and it makes us look elsewhere to recapture that sense of what cruising came to mean to us.

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AirLine service is nowhere near what it was 20 years ago, but then again the fares have also dropped substantially in real terms.

 

For us, HAL has dropped on our value equation vis a vis a few of their competitors.

 

It is not just price but the combination of price and the attributes that we value that have led us to this conclusion.

 

Not sure where HAL management is taking the company. but two things are for certain. HAL needs to do a much better job at maintaining their ships and they need to drastically improve the way in which they deal with customer concerns.

 

If not, at some point in the future they will no longer enjoy the amount of repetitive business that they apparently have. Their competitors will win it away from them and it will be too late to get it back.

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I've read the comparison of cruise lines to airlines before and its not a valid comparison, in my opinion. A cruise ship is a vacation, a destination, an entertainment venue, a dining establishment, a hotel, a resort of sorts and conveyance to interesting places. An airline provides conveyance and not much else. Not much else is needed nor expected. Its a means of getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, which is all it really needs to be. The same is not true of a cruise ship.

 

That said, I agree, the airlines are a shell of what they used to be in terms of service and amenities. And I now hate to fly and only do it out of necessity. I've never thought, lets take a flight to kick back, relax and enjoy ourselves.

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