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Storylady

No more Travel Guides/EXC Guides on HAL

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10 hours ago, taxmantoo said:

We still cannot figure out why they spent all that money on the World Stage on the two new ships and then cut back the entertainment budget to a BBC show and a night or two with dancers only.  What a waste of a fantastic facility.   

 

My thoughts exactly!  

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Every interview I read with Orlando Ashford is music walk this, music walk that, music walk blah blah blah. I get it. I like the music walk too. But I don’t like bad, low end main stage entertainment. We didn’t even get the dancers on the 22 night trans Atlantic on the  Koningsdam.

 

Memo to Orlando: If you’re not going to give me any kind of a production show,  then give me something interesting, something different, like the amazing husband and wife acrobatic team we saw on Celebrity. The thing is, I love HA, but I’m not quite as into music everywhere! Can’t we have a little variety?

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On 5/8/2019 at 6:18 PM, 3rdGenCunarder said:

 

On Cunard, the CD is now "Entertainment Director," so perhaps they were trying to get a more modern term. (Maybe getting away from images of Julie McCoy?)  Heaven help us if HAL turns over CD tasks to the Event Planner. The ones I've seen have been pretty bad. At a cooking class, the Event Planner couldn't even give out the recipe cards without a major kerfuffle.

 

 

I looked up Ross McTaggart (who someone said was the CD on Koningsdam in a different thread) on Linkedin and found this. It seems like changed his title to Entertainment Director 2 years ago!

 

  • Title Entertainment Director

    Dates Employed Mar 2017 – Present

    Employment Duration 2 yrs 3 mos

  • Title Cruise Director

    Dates Employed Mar 2011 – Mar 2017

    Employment Duration 6 yrs 1 mo

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At the risk of resurrecting a quiet thread, the HAL website still actively promotes the whole EXC program. Given the investment HAL has made in creating Explorations Central spaces on so many ships, I cannot imagine the program is simply going to disappear. By the way, EXC Guides are listed at the top of the page.

 

Oh, and the AFAR information is baked into the HAL website. If you click on a port in a given itinerary, the information you see is provided by AFAR.

 

image.png.c32409f4345bb6213ff1c465c562634c.png

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3 hours ago, Cruiser Bruiser said:

At the risk of resurrecting a quiet thread, the HAL website still actively promotes the whole EXC program. Given the investment HAL has made in creating Explorations Central spaces on so many ships, I cannot imagine the program is simply going to disappear. By the way, EXC Guides are listed at the top of the page.

 

Oh, and the AFAR information is baked into the HAL website. If you click on a port in a given itinerary, the information you see is provided by AFAR.

 

image.png.c32409f4345bb6213ff1c465c562634c.png

Good points! My wife and I love exploring ports on our own,  and the EXC guides have been indispensable.

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Once again resurrecting this thread, now that this change is a couple of months in, just curious how it is working out in cruiser's experiences--are EXC Guides missed, or not?  Do the Entertainment Directors or their staff provide adequate port information?  Are enrichment presenters also gone?  The EXC Guide, Kevin, was so helpful on our last cruise that it is hard to imagine personalized information such as he provided would not be missed.  Of course, the EXC Guides were focused more on independent experiences so perhaps they were reducing participation in ship's tours?

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On the Volendam sailing of June 12th, there was a person named Cruise and Travel Director. She performed both functions. She gave presentations which appeared to “Canned talks” read from a laptop with slides. Several did not last more than 15 minutes not as extensive as I had heard from EXC guides. I was disappointed. HAL remodeled the Crows Nest on the larger ships for the EXC function and perhaps are taking away the guides who were excellent. Another change which makes no sense to me.

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9 minutes ago, SJSULIBRARIAN said:

On the Volendam sailing of June 12th, there was a person named Cruise and Travel Director. She performed both functions. She gave presentations which appeared to “Canned talks” read from a laptop with slides. Several did not last more than 15 minutes not as extensive as I had heard from EXC guides. I was disappointed. HAL remodeled the Crows Nest on the larger ships for the EXC function and perhaps are taking away the guides who were excellent. Another change which makes no sense to me.

Off Maasdam a couple weeks ago, which has the EXC In-Depth program. My experience with that cruise was very disappointing considering the premium we paid for that cruise and my personal love for Maasdam. I have expressed my displeasure to HAL; might make a full review here, but that's not my purpose right now. As relates to this thread, we did not have a cruise director, we also had a "Cruise and Travel Director" who did the usual CD stuff plus gave port talks that were brief intros to what could be seen in the port and were not shopping based. We had the EXC guest experts to give specialized enrichment talks so Lance wasn't giving any talks beyond the port ones. We also had "Entertainment Director" Matthew, whose function (trivia, djing, bingo, etc.) seems to be more like the former Asst. CD. He told me that he was supposed to be an EXC guide but that HAL was doing away with that position so it was take Entertainment Director or nothing. (Not sure if this is the same Matthew who was referenced earlier in this thread, but I really liked him.) I did also hear, and I believe this came from one of the EXC experts on board but I won't swear to that, that HAL is thinking of expanding the In-Depth program to other ships, perhaps on an itinerary basis rather than designating an additional ship. So maybe if we want any sort of enrichment, we're going to have to pay big bucks for it. 

I will also say here since it did come up in the thread that I really think HAL has lost its way (thinking of hlintner's post in particular). I've only been cruising HAL for three year but I've seen some big changes in that time that are just not good. The line wants to appeal (I guess) to sophisticated and/or active folks in their 40s/50s but don't provide experiences that appeal to that crowd. I don't claim to be sophisticated or active but I am in my 40s and I guess it's just a good thing that I am mostly okay with amusing myself because you are largely on your own for entertainment both day and night unless you're into classical or jazz music. If you were to ask me what really sets HAL apart before, I'd say exceptional service, but even that was uneven and indifferent this time (fortunately not universally so, but still). And the other thing setting them apart has been great itineraries, and looking at the published schedule right now, with the exception of some of the longer voyages that are totally out of my reach, I'm not excited. I'm really starting to feel like under current management, HAL might be in trouble if they don't get their act together soon. It's not necessarily that they're rudderless, it's just that they're steering the ship erratically and will sooner or later wind up running aground on some undesirable and avoidable shoals. 

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I just came across this thread and say it ain't so! We've been fortunate to have Brett as our lecturer (not sure the official title) on two cruises, and I was hoping we'd hit the jackpot and he'd be with us on our next one. We're doing the Viking Saga/Viking Passage cruise in July on the Zuiderdam. I was looking forward to the talks on this new to us part of the world.

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4 hours ago, joekerstef said:

Off Maasdam a couple weeks ago, which has the EXC In-Depth program.  .  .  .

 

Thank you for telling it like it is. 

Matthew sounds like the same fine fellow that we enjoyed in Dec, Jan, & Feb.

I wonder if Dr. Peter Carey rejoined the Maasdam in March or ever?  I really missed getting to meet him after so much had been credited to him.

Sorry that Brett is no longer aboard.:

How can HAL call this abbreviated version "In-Depth" ???

Barbara

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5 hours ago, SJSULIBRARIAN said:

On the Volendam sailing of June 12th, there was a person named Cruise and Travel Director. She performed both functions. She gave presentations which appeared to “Canned talks” read from a laptop with slides. Several did not last more than 15 minutes not as extensive as I had heard from EXC guides. I was disappointed. HAL remodeled the Crows Nest on the larger ships for the EXC function and perhaps are taking away the guides who were excellent. Another change which makes no sense to me.

My impression from your description is that this person had little, if any, knowledge other than what was on the laptop and slides. Certainly no personal in-depth experience with and up-to-date knowledge about the ports.

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4 hours ago, joekerstef said:

Off Maasdam a couple weeks ago, which has the EXC In-Depth program. My experience with that cruise was very disappointing considering the premium we paid for that cruise and my personal love for Maasdam. I have expressed my displeasure to HAL; might make a full review here, but that's not my purpose right now. As relates to this thread, we did not have a cruise director, we also had a "Cruise and Travel Director" who did the usual CD stuff plus gave port talks that were brief intros to what could be seen in the port and were not shopping based. We had the EXC guest experts to give specialized enrichment talks so Lance wasn't giving any talks beyond the port ones. We also had "Entertainment Director" Matthew, whose function (trivia, djing, bingo, etc.) seems to be more like the former Asst. CD. He told me that he was supposed to be an EXC guide but that HAL was doing away with that position so it was take Entertainment Director or nothing. (Not sure if this is the same Matthew who was referenced earlier in this thread, but I really liked him.) I did also hear, and I believe this came from one of the EXC experts on board but I won't swear to that, that HAL is thinking of expanding the In-Depth program to other ships, perhaps on an itinerary basis rather than designating an additional ship. So maybe if we want any sort of enrichment, we're going to have to pay big bucks for it. 

I will also say here since it did come up in the thread that I really think HAL has lost its way (thinking of hlintner's post in particular). I've only been cruising HAL for three year but I've seen some big changes in that time that are just not good. The line wants to appeal (I guess) to sophisticated and/or active folks in their 40s/50s but don't provide experiences that appeal to that crowd. I don't claim to be sophisticated or active but I am in my 40s and I guess it's just a good thing that I am mostly okay with amusing myself because you are largely on your own for entertainment both day and night unless you're into classical or jazz music. If you were to ask me what really sets HAL apart before, I'd say exceptional service, but even that was uneven and indifferent this time (fortunately not universally so, but still). And the other thing setting them apart has been great itineraries, and looking at the published schedule right now, with the exception of some of the longer voyages that are totally out of my reach, I'm not excited. I'm really starting to feel like under current management, HAL might be in trouble if they don't get their act together soon. It's not necessarily that they're rudderless, it's just that they're steering the ship erratically and will sooner or later wind up running aground on some undesirable and avoidable shoals. 

We were on the same cruise and personally were very happy with the EXC in Depth concept, this is our second cruise this way, booked our third one. 

Cruise & Travel Director Lance would be more suited to his former  job, Exc guide and for us was dull in his CD performances. 


Regarding Matthew, he indeed was Exc guide on our last Maasdam cruise in December.


From all of the talks we went to, we have not heard any indication that HAL has the intention to expend the program to other ships. Doings so, they would undermine the unique selling point of Maasdam and shoot in their own foot that way.

I think on this particular sailing out of San Francisco, many took this ship last minute, just because they could travel only a short distance from their backyard and less because of the Exc Voyage concept, not in any way condemning any one going for an attractive bargain, but I think this resulted in a different composition of cruisers, than usually would sail the Exc concept.
 

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We had Brett on our January Maasdam cruise and he was fantastic, much better than the other EXC guides.  I really enjoyed that program and I am very disappointed to hear it is being eliminated or at least downsized.  I have no interest in music walks; I cruise for the destinations and learning.  It's bad enough Ashford eliminated libraries on most of the ships and now this....  I really need to start sticking with the British cruise lines--their ships may be small and basic but they, at least, appreciate learning.

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5 hours ago, bcummin said:

How can HAL call this abbreviated version "In-Depth" ???

Barbara

 

5 hours ago, Alphen said:

We were on the same cruise and personally were very happy with the EXC in Depth concept, this is our second cruise this way, booked our third one. 

Cruise & Travel Director Lance would be more suited to his former  job, Exc guide and for us was dull in his CD performances. 


Regarding Matthew, he indeed was Exc guide on our last Maasdam cruise in December.


From all of the talks we went to, we have not heard any indication that HAL has the intention to expend the program to other ships. Doings so, they would undermine the unique selling point of Maasdam and shoot in their own foot that way.

I think on this particular sailing out of San Francisco, many took this ship last minute, just because they could travel only a short distance from their backyard and less because of the Exc Voyage concept, not in any way condemning any one going for an attractive bargain, but I think this resulted in a different composition of cruisers, than usually would sail the Exc concept.
 

 

The EXC guest experts on the cruise were excellent, and that was the best aspect of the cruise. But that's all the "In Depth" there was on this cruise, and in many ways, especially the price, the 14 day Alaska cruise I took on Maasdam three years ago was better and more special. The excursions in the ports I'd already been to (Ketchikan, Sitka, Homer, Anchorage, Kodiak, Juneau) were pretty much the same as a regular Alaska cruise and in Anchorage there were FAR less than there had been in the past. No real entertainment tie-in with EXC, just the regular assortment of singers and comedians and the like. Ship's zodiaks not used for anything because of permitting issues. Food and service WAY down from my previous Maasdam cruise one year prior. I like Lance, but I agree, he lacks the CD's enthusiasm. Matthew will be leaving the ship after the current cruise ends. I'm pretty sure the expanding the EXC In Depth tidbit came from a personal convo with one of the EXC experts and I think what he meant was bringing people like him, the experts, on board cruises on other ships. I also think if this happens at all, it will not be soon, still trying to see how the program is received. I agree there were a lot of last minute bargain getters on our cruise, many of whom from what I gather had never heard of the EXC In Depth thing. Meanwhile we paid a huge premium for the cruise but for me what we got extra (not much) with reduced regular activities and so-so service was not worth the extra money. Bonus: I was left behind at a stop on a HAL excursion in Port Alberni and HAL's response to that whole experience both during and after was terrible. On the up side of that, I did get a unique cultural exchange with a Canadian police officer....

Edited by joekerstef

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It would be nice to think that someone at HAL pays attention to Cruisecritic but that is probably wishful thinking. My husband is an occasional EXC Guest Speaker and, after a number of assignments in the past 9 months, he has nothing on the horizon.  This made me wonder if, in addition to eliminating the EXC Guides, HAL is going back to the old model of only having Guest Speakers on Grand Voyages or perhaps Transatlantics with lots of sea days.  There was a ramping up of emphasis on EXC for few months, perhaps gauging how extra speakers, lots of talks from expert EXC Guides, etc. would affect the bottom line.  As a passenger, I loved it--lots of interesting information and plenty to do.  The Zaandam EXC Guide on 2 cruises, Kevin, provided wonderful insights and information.  Of course, passengers have no way of knowing in advance what kind of enrichment they might expect except on the Maasdam so a bottom line test would not necessarily reflect passenger satisfaction.  Judging from comments from fellow passengers, there was a lot of satisfaction with the EXC Guide and the plethora of other enrichment opportunities on my recent cruises.

 

I, too, feel like HAL is floundering a bit, trying to figure out what it wants to be.  In the process, it may be losing an important demographic, the older passenger who wants to be enriched more than entertained.

Edited by mcmarya

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On a recent sailing aboard the Nieuw Statendam, our EXC Guide would give a presentation in English and then would give a second in Dutch.  I don’t know how well attended the Dutch talks were, but the English ones I attended in the World Stage were as packed as the evening entertainment, standing room only.

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On 5/8/2019 at 7:54 AM, baggal said:

This is the dumbest move HAL can make.  No evening entertainment besides some questionable musicians in some venues and now this.  Count me out on any future HAL cruises.

 

Don't forget the loss of the "Yi

 

On 5/8/2019 at 7:54 AM, baggal said:

This is the dumbest move HAL can make.  No evening entertainment besides some questionable musicians in some venues and now this.  Count me out on any future HAL cruises.

 

Don't forget the impending loss of the Yum-Yum man!!

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On 5/8/2019 at 1:48 AM, Storylady said:

We just boarded the Prinsendam in Dover on May 6th. That night we attended the “Port Talk” in the showroom given by one of the best travel guides we have had on HAL ships, Brett. It was a full house despite people just boarding. Since the Prinsendam is being sold, I asked Brett which ship he would be assigned to next. And he told me that HAL will soon no longer have travel guides doing port talks. There is a general country talk given by the EXC Guide on the Maasdam given by the Cruise Director who lucky for those sailing on her happens to have been a travel guide. And there might be a similar program on the World Cruise. But the rest of the HAL ships are out of luck.  I am saddened by this change. The port talks are the ONE program I make a point to go to. I plan to say something on the survey and also write a letter to President Orlando not that it will make HAL change their mind. Talk about dumbing down a cruise line, this really puts HAL in the Carnvial mass market category.

 

 I was just on the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Cruise Director is called "the Cruise and Travel Director."

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I don’t know why any of this is surprising.  The company is run by someone who probably does not even have enough sea days to be a two star Mariner.  He is a very nice man but his background is Human Resources with Pepsi.

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My sister and I were on the same May-June cruise to Alaska and we did not find anything exciting or helpful about the EXC feature.  The excursions were not nearly as good as those on our last Alaska trip on the Amsterdam.  The onboard entertainment was truly lacking except for a couple of nights.  We loved Matthew and participated in all his activities.  Mostly, on board we were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves, especially on sea days.  Service was excellent as always.  We found the food lacking, especially on "gala" nights.  Nothing gala about them.  There was certainly NOTHING special about this cruise, especially when we had to anchor out on several occasions when we saw the other HAL ships docked in the middle of town.  We miss the HAL of just a few years ago.

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5 minutes ago, Maureenxx said:

My sister and I were on the same May-June cruise to Alaska and we did not find anything exciting or helpful about the EXC feature.  The excursions were not nearly as good as those on our last Alaska trip on the Amsterdam.  The onboard entertainment was truly lacking except for a couple of nights.  We loved Matthew and participated in all his activities.  Mostly, on board we were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves, especially on sea days.  Service was excellent as always.  We found the food lacking, especially on "gala" nights.  Nothing gala about them.  There was certainly NOTHING special about this cruise, especially when we had to anchor out on several occasions when we saw the other HAL ships docked in the middle of town.  We miss the HAL of just a few years ago.

The tendering in Ketchikan and Juneau (especially Juneau; our tender broke down, and that was after two hours of other problems) was particularly frustrating. I get it, we were the little ship and arriving the latest, but again, on a cruise where you're paying a premium (which I realize many many people on our sailing did not), tendering in a port where it should not be necessary is a big bummer. I wonder if that was a factor of the original itinerary having been changed (at least for Juneau and maybe Port Alberni; no change for Ketchikan). 

I've always found the food lacking on gala night, but it wasn't great most other nights either. Dining room food and service was way down from one year prior, when it was the best I've had. So frustrating.

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I was just on Koningsdam and briefly spoke to Ross McTaggart about this (he was excellent, BTW). He confirmed that there are changes coming later this year and the CD position will go away but we didn't really get into the details. 

 

I guess it's the obvious next step since the CD staff consisted of him and his assistant (and she left the ship at the start of the cruise due to an injury and was not replaced until a week in).

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On 5/9/2019 at 1:17 PM, mcmarya said:

Apparently the shore excursions are not no going to be called EXC Tours going forward.  Sounds like "EXC" is being phased out.

Thank goodness. Call it something easier to  say, like "Shore Excursions".  🙂

  

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