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New to Holland America? This is for you...AKA "HAL For Dummies"

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Posted (edited)

This will be my 1st HAL cruise and I'm excited as it will be on the Nieuw Statendam in April for a 2 week transatlantic relaxation trip. I am use to the "Princess" style of cruising but look forward to see the differences. Some newbie questions:

 

(1) Early fixed seating is not available so we were put at the later seating at 8pm (my experience has been fixed seating offers better MDR service). At times when we can't wait til 8pm and we don't want the buffet, can we do anytime dining?

 

(2) Will the main dining room be open for lunch (on Princess, they are on sea days)? Is there a place on the ship where we can see both the lunch and dinner menus ahead of time?

 

(3) On Princess, the serving sizes are small so I usually order 2 to 3 entrees but I specify I don't want some of the sides offered to avoid waste. Will Holland America offer this upon request (when I was on Celebrity, they were reluctant but agreed to when I pushed the issue)?

 

(4) At the buffet, will they honor special requests if the items are available (on Princess, I request papaya and avocado for breakfest each morning and have not been turned down; Celebrity and Norwegian won't honor it)?

 

(5) For those that have been on the Nieuw Statendam, how are the internet speeds (on Princess, it is quite slow)?

 

(6) After midnight, can I get hot tea or water even though the buffet is closed at the beverage stations?

 

(7) Does the NS / Koningdam offer a place to take a shower after exercising besides the cabin?

 

(8) In the cabins, are the thermostats programmable by the passengers?

 

Sorry for the lengthy questions.

 

 

Edited by cheezenip

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1 hour ago, cheezenip said:

This will be my 1st HAL cruise and I'm excited as it will be on the Nieuw Statendam in April for a 2 week transatlantic relaxation trip. I am use to the "Princess" style of cruising but look forward to see the differences. Some newbie questions:

 

(1) Early fixed seating is not available so we were put at the later seating at 8pm (my experience has been fixed seating offers better MDR service). At times when we can't wait til 8pm and we don't want the buffet, can we do anytime dining?

No, you can’t do anytime dining.

 

You can switch once from your assigned dining to the other (ie from fixed to anytime dining) and you can also check when you get on board to see if you can get early fixed seating.  It may/may not be possible.

Quote

 

(2) Will the main dining room be open for lunch (on Princess, they are on sea days)? Is there a place on the ship where we can see both the lunch and dinner menus ahead of time?

Yes, the MDR is usually open on sea days.

 

You can see the dinner menus on the Navigator or on your TV (sounds like you are on the N Statendam).  

 

Menus are also posted outside the dining room.

Quote

 

(3) On Princess, the serving sizes are small so I usually order 2 to 3 entrees but I specify I don't want some of the sides offered to avoid waste. Will Holland America offer this upon request (when I was on Celebrity, they were reluctant but agreed to when I pushed the issue)?

Yes, you can order just the entree.  

 

Caveat - HAL is currently ‘testing’ charging $10 for an additional entree on some of the ships.  No idea if this will move to the rest of the fleet or not.

Quote

 

(4) At the buffet, will they honor special requests if the items are available (on Princess, I request papaya and avocado for breakfest each morning and have not been turned down; Celebrity and Norwegian won't honor it)?

 

(5) For those that have been on the Nieuw Statendam, how are the internet speeds (on Princess, it is quite slow)?

 

(6) After midnight, can I get hot tea or water even though the buffet is closed at the beverage stations?

For 6 - there is hot water available 24/7 in the Lido.

Quote

 

(7) Does the NS / Koningdam offer a place to take a shower after exercising besides the cabin?

 

(8) In the cabins, are the thermostats programmable by the passengers?

 

Sorry for the lengthy questions.

 

 

 For #8 - yes.

 

Tried to answer some of your questions above.

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1 hour ago, *Miss G* said:

I had no problem dropping into Anytime Dining when I couldn’t make my Fixed.

 

Interesting.  It was always my understanding it was one or the other.

 

I did go to Anytime once last cruise because of the timing for a tour.  I asked the asst mgr if we could do it the night before and he agreed.  He did say that it wasn't supposed to be the norm but he had no problem with us doing it the one time.

 

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1 hour ago, kazu said:

 

Interesting.  It was always my understanding it was one or the other.

 

I did go to Anytime once last cruise because of the timing for a tour.  I asked the asst mgr if we could do it the night before and he agreed.  He did say that it wasn't supposed to be the norm but he had no problem with us doing it the one time.

 

 

Yes, mine was a one-time occurrence as well, and I do agree that it is best to get pre-approval.    We weren’t able to make our early dining time so dropped in to the Anytime Dining line and let them know.  

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We are looking forward to our first cruise on HAL from NYC to Quebec City. I have been researching excursions offered by HAL and independent tours. I am leaning towards booking independent based on reviews, price and selection. I have been getting conflicting information about disembarking at tender ports. It appears that passengers booked with the ship excursion are allowed to tender first, then Neptune. Passengers booked with other vendors get off last. I am concerned about meeting our scheduled tour on time. Does anyone have experience with this process?  Do you need a tender ticket? Getting various answers to this question.  Any advice?  What about other ports that are not tendered?  Any tips will be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you. 

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5 hours ago, Jan3 said:

We are looking forward to our first cruise on HAL from NYC to Quebec City. I have been researching excursions offered by HAL and independent tours. I am leaning towards booking independent based on reviews, price and selection. I have been getting conflicting information about disembarking at tender ports. It appears that passengers booked with the ship excursion are allowed to tender first, then Neptune. Passengers booked with other vendors get off last. I am concerned about meeting our scheduled tour on time. Does anyone have experience with this process?  Do you need a tender ticket? Getting various answers to this question.  Any advice?  What about other ports that are not tendered?  Any tips will be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you. 

In ports with tenders HAL with ship excursions and HAL 4 and 5 star Mariners are given priority.  If you are very early you can usually be seated on an early tender before the crowds ensue.  The early tenders are not exclusively for HAL tours, it is simply a priority arrangement.  If you are on one of HAL's smaller vessels (less than 1500) the process is quick anyway, so no worries.  I have been on that cruise a few times and as I recall there aren't that many tender ports, the notable exception being Bar Harbor.  Even there I was able to get ashore very quickly as an independent traveler.

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2 hours ago, Mary229 said:

In ports with tenders HAL with ship excursions and HAL 4 and 5 star Mariners are given priority.  If you are very early you can usually be seated on an early tender before the crowds ensue.  The early tenders are not exclusively for HAL tours, it is simply a priority arrangement.  If you are on one of HAL's smaller vessels (less than 1500) the process is quick anyway, so no worries.  I have been on that cruise a few times and as I recall there aren't that many tender ports, the notable exception being Bar Harbor.  Even there I was able to get ashore very quickly as an independent traveler.

 

The extra problem with Bar Harbor - since you are coming from Boston - you should have no problem. If you were coming from Halifax, Nova Scotia - you would have to go through immigration first and include that in your timing..

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Thank you for the response!  People on Cruise Critic are awesome, so helpful to the newbies. We have booked excursions at two tender ports, Newport and Bar Harbor, with a 9:30  check in. We need to allow time for the tender and finding our way when we arrive at the dock. What time should we arrive at the tender? Would 8:30 be early enough?

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We did this cruise with HAL about ten years ago.  We had booked an excursion (not through HAL) to Arcadia NP for 10am. We were given tender numbers by the ship staff and told to wait in our cabins until our number was called.  By 9:30 our number had not been called and we went to see if we could go straight away as we were going to arrive on shore too late.  They had stopped calling tender numbers goodness how much earlier but we did just make the coach, but only because the driver waited for us for a couple of minutes past 10am.  Just a heads up for you.

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Jan3 said:

Thank you for the response!  People on Cruise Critic are awesome, so helpful to the newbies. We have booked excursions at two tender ports, Newport and Bar Harbor, with a 9:30  check in. We need to allow time for the tender and finding our way when we arrive at the dock. What time should we arrive at the tender? Would 8:30 be early enough?

 

You can  look at the HAL shore excursions to see what time they are starting to gauge traffic times.   Since we are early risers one of us is in line 5 minutes before the start of tender tickets and stay in the lounge area where they are giving tickets.  If the tender ticketing starts at 8 we are there at 7:55.  I have never been to Newport but many times in Bar Harbor and we always like Ollie's Trolley if we are not hiking.

Edited by Mary229

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Speak with your excursion office and see if they can offer any reassurance.  When we were in Bar Harbor, in September, tendering was postponed until the fog lifted.

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Newport is about a 10-minute tender ride. You arrive at a small park, with a Visitors' Center there; they have restrooms. You guide should be able to meet you at the park.

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In Newport we go to the visitor center to catch the trolley and need to be there by 9:30. Do you think we could get on the tender by 8:30?

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6 minutes ago, Jan3 said:

In Newport we go to the visitor center to catch the trolley and need to be there by 9:30. Do you think we could get on the tender by 8:30?

I'm going to presume you are referring to the larger Visitors' Center, not the small one at Perrotti Park. The large Center is about a block up the street from the docking area.
As you come off the tender, and get to the end of the ramps, turn left and walk along the sidewalk. Cross the little side street, walk up to the main street, and keep heading in the same direction. An 8:30 tender should give you plenty of time.

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12 minutes ago, RuthC said:

I'm going to presume you are referring to the larger Visitors' Center, not the small one at Perrotti Park. The large Center is about a block up the street from the docking area.
As you come off the tender, and get to the end of the ramps, turn left and walk along the sidewalk. Cross the little side street, walk up to the main street, and keep heading in the same direction. An 8:30 tender should give you plenty of time.

 

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Yes, it is next to Marriott. Thank you for directions. Someone suggested getting down to the disembarking area at 7:55 if tender ticketing starts at 8:00, another person mentioned fog, something else to worry about! So far I haven’t heard that anyone missed their tour. I guess there is something to be said for the ship excursions but on a previous cruise with Viking we booked private excursions and it worked perfectly. No tendering though. 

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Yes, Newport certainly does get fog. But on a nice day it lifts by 11:00 or noon. The ships still come in, as they don't come up the Bay, nor go under the bridge. I've met many people coming in over the years, and am always amazed at the fog as I head over the bridge, since there is none at home just a short way up the Bay.
Enjoy your time in the smallest state!

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4 hours ago, Jan3 said:

Yes, it is next to Marriott. Thank you for directions. Someone suggested getting down to the disembarking area at 7:55 if tender ticketing starts at 8:00, another person mentioned fog, something else to worry about! So far I haven’t heard that anyone missed their tour. I guess there is something to be said for the ship excursions but on a previous cruise with Viking we booked private excursions and it worked perfectly. No tendering though. 

 One thing to remember is the tour operator lives from cruise traffic and they know when things are delayed.  I would suggest calling them and getting their policy concerning delays.  Most tour operators refund if you are unable to attend because of weather and the ship can't disembark passengers and many will hold the tour in anticipation of ship passengers arriving.  Call them and they will help.

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I must point out that tender ports always have the risk that no tenders will be allowed at all. That’s what just happened to us in Hawaii. We missed both tender ports (plus a non-tender... 3 out of 5 ports were missed because the weather was terrible). If it’s too wavy tenders can start late or you can even miss the port entirely. And you may not find that out until mid-morning day-of. It’s rare, but it absolutely DOES happen to at least several cruises a year. Know your private tour’s cancellation policy and your travel insurance coverage.  And address your risk tolerance accordingly. 

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Many thanks to everyone for the great tips and sharing your experience. We now have an idea about how to handle the tender (no pun intended) issue. We leave NYC on 9/27 so when we return I will do a follow up on our experience. Hoping for great weather and beautiful foliage. 

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We are booked on a TA cruise next October. I was looking at Flight Ease to book our flight to Europe from Montreal. Their flexible price for a flight is much less than the regular economy. The restriction says 

 

  • Prices and Availability are not guaranteed until the cruise and air booking are paid in full. No fees will be charged for changes and cancellations made prior to the cruise final payment due date.

To me it means that until I pay for the flight and cruise together, we are not assured a seat or know what the final price of the flight will be. 

 

Can I pay for the flight only now to guarantee a seat and price and pay for the cruise only when final payment is required? 

 

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1 hour ago, Louise245 said:

We are booked on a TA cruise next October. I was looking at Flight Ease to book our flight to Europe from Montreal. Their flexible price for a flight is much less than the regular economy. The restriction says 

 

  • Prices and Availability are not guaranteed until the cruise and air booking are paid in full. No fees will be charged for changes and cancellations made prior to the cruise final payment due date.

To me it means that until I pay for the flight and cruise together, we are not assured a seat or know what the final price of the flight will be. 

 

Can I pay for the flight only now to guarantee a seat and price and pay for the cruise only when final payment is required? 

 

 

I hear your trepidation but the price will not change - at least none that has been reported here.

 

They have always been honoured.  

 

I stick with what you have and it you don’t like it you just cancel and book on your own or even change it with flight ease.

 

I booked two one way flights last year and another this year.  No issues.

 

On thing though - you can’t book you seat until they ticket you which is after final payment and then a bit. 

 

I asked your question and if I wanted to pay for the flight, I had to pay for the cruise.

 

I wouldn’t do it as you have more flexibility this way.

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Thank you Kazu for the info. So I have nothing to loose by booking it. If I see something more interesting I will just cancel it. 

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