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MouseBerry

Impressions from a HAL first time cruiser

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We finally stopped sailing HAL after 5 cruises when we were very disappointed with the service and food on the Eurodam. Apart from Tamarind, we we thought superb, the food in the main dining room was really poor - one evening meatloaf was on the menu! The beef was poor quality and no lobster was offered during the whole cruise. The service is friendly but when things go wrong - no one is empowered to make the decision to put it right. 

We decided to vote with our feet! 

 

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1 hour ago, cowmilker said:


We have never relied on the ship for information about ports. Ever. We do all the reading and planning ahead of time.  We never board without knowing exactly what we plan to do in every port, down to maps and itineraries and independent excursions if needed, and including having read books/watched movies/whatever for background.  We figure it's up to us to do the learning.

 

As do I. Excursions staff is often of little use to me. However, on some lines I sailed with (not HAL), excursions staff have been helpful when last minute wrinkles (such as a strike or unexpected closure) require a change of plans. 

 

But having expert lecturers onboard can often provide even more context -- when I research I tend to focus on areas I'm interested in (archaeology, architecture, history, art) but I enjoy learning more about things like current political situation, food, culture, etc. from lecturers. I really do appreciate those and feel they give me something meaningful to do on sea days and add to my overall enjoyment/immersion.

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7 hours ago, MouseBerry said:

Hi,

we, a couple in the mid 50 age, are currently on our first HAL cruise. It is the Koningsdam on a 12 nights mediterranean cruise.

 

To give a bit more context we have been on several cruises before with MSC an Oceania and we are from Germany.

 

Here our first impressions.

 

Level of the Cruise: HAL has been considered as premium in the past. Well if that was true it

isn‘t anymore. It is general mass market and even in this segment not on the top edge but rather in the middle.

 

The ship: MS Koningsdam is quite new and fresh. The decor and style is not the shiny bling bling of some other big cruise ships, but it has not the real traditional or country club style. To us it is somewhere lost in the middle, but this is very personal judgement.

 

The service: Service has several aspects. Friendliness, capabilities and organisation. Service people are very friendly on the Koningsdam, but this was the case on any cruise we made so far. The capabilities are a bit limited and below what we experienced with MSC and Oceania was much better. Organisation is poor and sometimes very poor. We did not feel there are to less people in the service. They are just not well organised. We had to talk to 3 sometimes 4 different waiters. There is a lack of training or improving of procedures. I would not blame the people which provide the service, but rather the management. 

 

The food: We used mainly the main dining room and the food in general is good if not very good. Breakfast was good as well, but the poor service kicked in here as well. Why are are all courses served at once? Tablespace does not allow this, and some warm dishes get cold standing on the table. We understand it is difficult to serve course by course a large number of people, but MSC managed it much better even the MDR is packed with people. No lunch at MDR was a real new experience to us and a sad one.

 

The coffee: If you like coffee look for another cruise line. Most coffee and this includes specialty coffee at extra cost is really bad. And bars and lounges do not serve coffee. Sometimes I want a Cappuccino  late evening. Totally unavailable if coffee bars are closed. 

 

The entertainment: We very much like the music walk and Billboard on board in particular. Shows in the big hall (world stage) not impressive at all (so far, 7 nights still to come).

 

We talked to some people which used HAL several times before. They are very much disappointed. They told us in the past HAL was much better. They missed by example the fresh flowers. We cannot make a statement on that. We paid less than 100€ per day for a balcony tax and fees included. This is quite a bargain. Thus we will not complain. I‘m not yet there but DW already said she will not sail again with HAL.

 

regards

MBerry

 

 

Viel danke....du bist richtig auf HAL...   Ich auf Oceania jetz fahren.  .... 

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4 hours ago, Floridiana said:

We are going to be on the Koningsdam in the fall. Hopefully the hotel director will have ironed out inconsistencies in the service by then. We had excellent service on our MS Amsterdam cruise which had experienced staff - except in the Pinnacle Grill. We have been on 15+ different cruise lines and one thing is true for all of them including the luxury segment: If you find a waiter team that is competent and that you like, head to their tables at all times. 

 

It is not quite fair to compare an Oceania ship to a HAL ship. Oceania is a premium line with smaller ships. HAL is middle of the road and the price reflects the difference. 

 

 

I agree  its not a fair comparison as the 2 lines are so different... it is a good comparison, however, of you get what you pay for

You cant  expect  champagne  when you paid for beer..     HAL  is good for what it is.a middle of the road mass market experience.   Most all problems come from expecting more than can be delivered and high expectations one assume.

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6 hours ago, RMLincoln said:

but we feel that organization has been lacking for as long as we have been cruising HAL, it is a systemic issue.  We have seen it over and over and have often asked ourselves, "Haven't they done this before?" 

 

EXACTLY !!   One my 1 cruise eons ago with Carnival, that was exactly what I said out loud when there was some situation of extreme disorganization with how they were handling a situation that affected a lot of passengers.

 

I didn't continue cruising (till my current Alaska booking in August which I'm very excited about!) for that main reason - It just didn't make sense to pay someone else to try to organize travel for me via a cruise when I knew I could create a better overall experience via air, land, etc.

 

 

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10 hours ago, MouseBerry said:

Hi,

we, a couple in the mid 50 age, are currently on our first HAL cruise. It is the Koningsdam on a 12 nights mediterranean cruise.

 

To give a bit more context we have been on several cruises before with MSC an Oceania and we are from Germany.

 

Here our first impressions.

 

Level of the Cruise: HAL has been considered as premium in the past. Well if that was true it

isn‘t anymore. It is general mass market and even in this segment not on the top edge but rather in the middle.

 

The ship: MS Koningsdam is quite new and fresh. The decor and style is not the shiny bling bling of some other big cruise ships, but it has not the real traditional or country club style. To us it is somewhere lost in the middle, but this is very personal judgement.

 

The service: Service has several aspects. Friendliness, capabilities and organisation. Service people are very friendly on the Koningsdam, but this was the case on any cruise we made so far. The capabilities are a bit limited and below what we experienced with MSC and Oceania was much better. Organisation is poor and sometimes very poor. We did not feel there are to less people in the service. They are just not well organised. We had to talk to 3 sometimes 4 different waiters. There is a lack of training or improving of procedures. I would not blame the people which provide the service, but rather the management. 

 

The food: We used mainly the main dining room and the food in general is good if not very good. Breakfast was good as well, but the poor service kicked in here as well. Why are are all courses served at once? Tablespace does not allow this, and some warm dishes get cold standing on the table. We understand it is difficult to serve course by course a large number of people, but MSC managed it much better even the MDR is packed with people. No lunch at MDR was a real new experience to us and a sad one.

 

The coffee: If you like coffee look for another cruise line. Most coffee and this includes specialty coffee at extra cost is really bad. And bars and lounges do not serve coffee. Sometimes I want a Cappuccino  late evening. Totally unavailable if coffee bars are closed. 

 

The entertainment: We very much like the music walk and Billboard on board in particular. Shows in the big hall (world stage) not impressive at all (so far, 7 nights still to come).

 

We talked to some people which used HAL several times before. They are very much disappointed. They told us in the past HAL was much better. They missed by example the fresh flowers. We cannot make a statement on that. We paid less than 100€ per day for a balcony tax and fees included. This is quite a bargain. Thus we will not complain. I‘m not yet there but DW already said she will not sail again with HAL.

 

regards

MBerry

 

 

Isn't it wonderful that there are so many cruise lines/ships to choose from in order to find your "fit"?  I have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Renaissance, and finally Holland America beginning in 2011.  Haven't been on another line since.  I love their outstanding itineraries and service.

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I sailed on the Koningsdam after sailing many other HAL ships and it is a bit more mass market than other ships.  It also tends to do mass market cruises such as the Caribbean and the Med.   I have also sailed other lines including Oceania which I thought was not,  most definitely not, premium.  

 

I think there are better cruise lines than HAL but what HAL does well is the interesting, port intensive,  long cruise.   If you are about in-depth voyaging without spending a fortune with one of the expedition lines HAL is great.  If you want to get away to the beaches with a little sight seeing thrown in, pick some other line at the level of luxury you require 

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I think it is difficult to make general statements about HAL. There is a large difference between larger HAL ships and smaller HAL ships. 

 

Two examples---the smaller ships have self serve laundry, while the larger ones do not. The larger ships have the BB King lounge, while the smaller ships do not.

 

We have found the steward service excellent on both. No comment on food, since it is so subjective.

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We truly thank the OP for posting their thoughts regarding the HAL cruise.  We agree with some of what you say about HAL, although we have yet to cruise on the Koningsdam.  For many years we have considered HAL to be a decent mass market cruise line with the word "Premium" only in their own minds (and the minds of some regular HAL fans).  We still think that HAL competes well with the other mass market lines except with what they offer in their main show room.  As to the HAL MDR situation we have found it hit and miss over more than 500 days of HAL cruising.  

 

Had to smile at the OP's comment that they have previously cruised on MSC.  We have only cruised on MSC one time (21 days on the Divina in their Yacht Club) and found the experience far superior to HAL...as long as we stayed within the YC.  We also find many things to like on Princess when compared to HAL...although Princess also has their problems.

 

Hank

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Just now, Hlitner said:

 We still think that HAL competes well with the other mass market lines except with what they offer in their main show room. 

 

That's the understatement of the day!

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So the question is why are all breakfast courses served at once. It’s because for the vast majority of people breakfast is served and eaten as one course. If you want courses, such as a half grapefruit followed by eggs and ham and finally yogourt with muesli and berries to finish, you could order your courses one at a time. This is what I do at breakfast in the MDR, and also because I never know what I want until after a cup of coffee and some fruit. Bon appétit.  

 

We were on the Koningsdam a year ago January and found the food excellent. We brought good bottles of wine from home and thought the food was up to the quality of the wine we lugged on board. Sorry to hear it’s disappointing. 

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Posted (edited)

Also a first time HAL cruiser here - we were on the cruise before yours! (June 1).  

 

I definitely agree with you about the décor. We are used to the flashier style of RCCL's Allure of the Seas (as that was our last cruise) or even the Independence. The décor on Koningsdam was much more muted. Décor isn't going to make or break a cruise for us, but we did like the fresh flower arrangements. We found the décor nice, but not special or particularly beautiful. 

 

In terms of service, my encounters with staff were for the most part friendly. Had a couple of run-ins with some grumpy staff - though, whether this was due to misunderstandings or them just having a bad day, I'm not sure. We were on fixed dining and found our waitstaff to be good. It wasn't a standout experience, but it wasn't horrific either. Early dining is far too early, especially if you have a port-heavy itinerary like we did.

 

We didn't eat breakfast in the MDR due to concerns that they would be slow, and also miss lunch being served there. Though, the food in the Lido was quite good - lots of variety and options that are cooked to order - and we had only two sea days, so it didn't really matter too much to us. We found the food to be better than Independence of the Seas, and we were always able to find something that we liked, though the food was perhaps not as fine as other lines. One day, they had Southern Fried Chicken on the menu. Probably tasty, but not exactly fine dining! Even the night at De Librije (which is supposed to be like the 3 Michelin Star restaurant on land) wasn't spectacular. It was comparable in quality to other tasting restaurants in my area. Can't comment on coffee because I don't drink it. 

 

The most disappointing part of our experience was the entertainment. In a way, it was a blessing that the shows weren't great, because it meant that we had more time to sleep and unwind, but we miss the entertainment on RCCL. If we're looking at more days at sea, we'll look elsewhere. 

 

Age was like you commented - lots of older folks, but a fair amount of families as well. Actually, I think the kids were all at Club HAL or places where I wasn't because with the exception of the pool being full with kids on the last sea day, I didn't see any of them! Perhaps it has to do with the families on board, but I found the kids to all be very well behaved. If anything, some of the older patients were a bit entitled - but that's not something you can avoid. 

 

I do have to note that the crowd was not very diverse. We were one of few families of colour on board. We noticed maybe a handful other Asian families on their own (there were many as part of a big group and a Japanese tour) and a few black and Latino families. This isn't necessarily a good or a bad thing, it's just something to be aware of. We found the crowd on RCCL to be much more diverse. 

 

Hard selling was very mild, like you said. I noticed a few booths set up advertising dining plans or spa treatments, but no one was in your face. The only hard selling we noticed was the photographers always asking us if we wanted to try Black Label photography and really selling the product. This got rather irritating - our reticence to purchase should not be seen as an invitation to start being more aggressive - but we understood that the photographers were obliged to promote the product. There were fewer shops with smaller selection than RCCL, and the clerks seemed less pushy as well. 

 

I think we'll consider HAL again, but it's not going to be our go-to. If the price, ship, and itinerary are right, we'll bite. I don't think we'll enjoy their smaller or mid-sized ships. 

Edited by simplyrubies

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We sailed with HAL for the first time a few years back on board the Zuiderdam. We really liked the experience- even a tat better then X. We sailed X for many years- and Cunard the past five or so years.

Very well balanced review- thank you Mouse Berry ( great name by the way) ! We are booked on the N.Statendam for the Fjords in July- so you review was extra interessting since those ships a quite similar!

Did you sail in MSC´s Yacht Club? I have heard so many good things about it. We never tried MSC- for i heard it to be similar to Costa- WHICH WE DID NOT LIKE AT ALL!

I returned to X two month ago for a Transatlantic voyage on board Silhouette - even though we had a great time- i found it to be a very loud ship - due to the loud music all over the place. I knew a few S- Class ships- and hoped it to be better- music wise. It just wasn´t! Very hard pressed to find a quite spott to read indoors!

We have high hopes for nice and quite corners - nooks and crannys,  on board N.Statendam!

As mentioined before it is hard to be on a BAD cruise! LOL- so we look forward to the N. Statendam.

Greetings - Grüße aus Ulm

Michael

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If anyone can honestly say that the coffee (excluding specialty) in the MDR or Lido is of high quality on ANY cruise line, I'd like to hear about it. 😉

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Sorry to hear about your experience and that the Koningsdam didn’t live up to your expectations. My experience was the opposite.  I was on a 12 day Mediterranean on the Koningsdam in May and absolutely loved the ship.  I found the staff to be extremely friendly, happy to assist in any way and going far and above my expectations on many different occasions.  I thought the food in club orange was good to very good and the specialty dining to be very good to excellent. I also thought the entertainment was much improved over previous cruises (still not excellent but much improved).  I was in a neptune suite, so I also had access to the neptune lounge and the concierges (who were the best I’ve ever experienced) and club orange so that may skew my view compared to those who did not have access to those venues, but the Koningsdam was by far my favorite HAL ship and I would be very happy sail her again - in fact I would prefer to be on the Koningsdam/NS after my last cruise (having previously been on the Westerdam, Eurodam, and Nieuw Amsterdam several times and the Ryndam once). 

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12 hours ago, Rosmerta said:

So the question is why are all breakfast courses served at once. It’s because for the vast majority of people breakfast is served and eaten as one course. If you want courses, such as a half grapefruit followed by eggs and ham and finally yogourt with muesli and berries to finish, you could order your courses one at a time. This is what I do at breakfast in the MDR, and also because I never know what I want until after a cup of coffee and some fruit. Bon appétit.  

 

This is a useful suggestion. I believe that U.S.-based HAL, which largely caters to American travelers and preferences, has trained their waiters and assistants to follow a specific pattern: immediately pour coffee, offer orange juice, serve sweet rolls, and bring the breakfast order very quickly after it has been given.

 

I suspect that many Americans, who often have plans ashore or on board, perceive fast, complete delivery to be very good breakfast service. For a more leisurely experience, Rosmerta has a good solution. 

 

 

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11 hours ago, KroozNut said:

If anyone can honestly say that the coffee (excluding specialty) in the MDR or Lido is of high quality on ANY cruise line, I'd like to hear about it.

 

The Lavazza coffee served on Celebrity is very good.  I have it on auto-order with Amazon.

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Hi,

here an update on the breakfast service. Today breakfast was served course by course even not explicitly requested. Apparently HAL is different from ship to ship and on one ship service might be different from one waiter-team to the other.

On one side this gives a bit of hope, but on the other side it means inconsistent service. No problem if you not expect consistent service and, as suggested, able to find the table/waiter that fits best to you.

 

As DW has always extreme opinions, either totally like it or totally dislike it, I‘m seeing shades of grey. HAL, and I can only say something about Koningsdam, has some pros. Music walk is very special and in a positive sense. Billboard on board tries to engage the whole audience and if some popular songs are performed all people sing along. Never experienced this. 

 

We noticed that most people on board are from US, Canada, Australia and only the minority is european.  A bit strange as we sailing in european waters.

 

Here is another topic to compare.

 

Beverage cost and alcohol in particular:

Everything with alcohol is very expensive on HAL ships. One guy from Australia really complained to pay 10$ for a shandy (mixed beer and lemonade). A beverage package with alc included cost roughly 50$ a day. At MSC we got the same package on our last cruise for round about 30$. We used the quench package on our current cruise. It is without alc and the price 20$ pp per day is ok. If specialty coffee would be better (e.g. italien brand like illy) it would be a bargain. We tried cocktails with alc during happy hours (and there are happy hours every day even after 10pm) but the quality didn‘t convince us.

 

We are currently checking different cruiselines as a preperation for a maybe much longer cruise. Thus dear fellow readers: if you like good food, ,american style cruising, good music entertainment then look for a good itinerary and a good price and give HAL pinnacle class ship definitely a try and make up your own mind.

 

There was a question regarding MSC Yacht Club. We used that as well and it felt really as a premium cruise. At that time Yacht Club cost was roughly double of a normal balcony. But now it is almost the triple cost. Roughly 300€/pp/day. As Yacht Club is for sure better service and food the cabins are regular ones and not suites.

I would rather invest the money on an Oceania cruise.

 

Btw, has someone experienced the level down effect? Apparently all cruise lines going down in quality. Not nice, but there is another effect that had to be considered. Our first cruise 10 years ago had a cost of roughly 120€ for a balcony pp per day. Now 10 years later you can get still cruises at the same price point. I guess the high competition in the cruise market dictates this. Lower quality to maintain low entry prices. If I invest lets say 200€ pp per day today I could get the same quality as 10 years ago. Maybe cruisers with over 30 years under the belt can tell a much more extreme story.

 

There was a note about my boardname MouseBerry. Well that‘s a non digital translation of my pet name (Mausebär) DW gave me long time before. 

 

regards from Koningsdam lido pool

MBerry

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I appreciate your sharing your observations with us, MouseBerry, it is rare to get a cruise opinion from Germany on Cruise Critic. Your command of English is impressive, I can not tell from your writing that English is not your native tongue. I hope that your Koningsdam cruise improves to the point where even your DW is happy with it.

 

I am surprised at your comment about high priced alcohol on Holland America, I thought HAL had a reputation for low prices, but agree that $10 is too much for a shandy.

 

Does your cruise line search include Phoenix Reisen? Holland America's Prinsendam will soon become their Amera. The Amera's 99 day cruise around South America looks terrific. I noticed that Amera's charge for 0.5 liter bottle of Radler (shandy) is only €2.90 (about US$3.25). I would love to hear your opinion of Phoenix Reisen, although this thread is probably not the place for it. Personally, I am impressed that they publish their prices for drinks, laundry, and internet.

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Maybe the co-cruiser from Australia meant 10 australian dollar.

Cocktail prices actually are comparable to MSC but liquor and beer is more expensive. And beverage packages are more expensive for sure.

 

Sodas and coffee are on a regular level as well.

As a German I very much focussed on beer and beer mix beverages.

Yes, it is really difficult to generalise. We have to go into the details.

And of course everybody has to reflect individual drinking behaviour.

Fortunately the beverage cost can be check with info from the net.

 

regards

MBerry

 

 

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Posted (edited)

We do not view HAL as anything special.  Just another cruise line in the mass market space.  Much the same offering with perhaps the exception of itineraries.

 

Just like all the others in that category we think that the specific ship is more important  than the cruise line.  We believe that your chances have having a great, a mediocre, or a less than positive experience is just as hit and miss on HAL as it is on it’s competitors.

Edited by iancal

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3 hours ago, MouseBerry said:

Everything with alcohol is very expensive on HAL ships. One guy from Australia really complained to pay 10$ for a shandy (mixed beer and lemonade). A beverage package with alc included cost roughly 50$ a day. At MSC we got the same package on our last cruise for round about 30$. We used the quench package on our current cruise. It is without alc and the price 20$ pp per day is ok. If specialty coffee would be better (e.g. italien brand like illy) it would be a bargain. We tried cocktails with alc during happy hours (and there are happy hours every day even after 10pm) but the quality didn‘t convince us.

We are booked on a Viking Ocean cruise next year that goes from Venice to Athens for 10 days. VO includes complimentary house beer and wine with meals. On our cruise the Silver Spirits Beverage package which includes any drinks or glasses of wine up to $15 for only $18pp/per day, which by far is the least I have seen on any cruise line. On VO there is NO daily limits on the number of drinks per day.

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6 hours ago, MouseBerry said:

 

There was a question regarding MSC Yacht Club. We used that as well and it felt really as a premium cruise. At that time Yacht Club cost was roughly double of a normal balcony. But now it is almost the triple cost. Roughly 300€/pp/day. As Yacht Club is for sure better service and food the cabins are regular ones and not suites.

I would rather invest the money on an Oceania cruise.

 

Btw, has someone experienced the level down effect? Apparently all cruise lines going down in quality. Not nice, but there is another effect that had to be considered. Our first cruise 10 years ago had a cost of roughly 120€ for a balcony pp per day. Now 10 years later you can get still cruises at the same price point. I guess the high competition in the cruise market dictates this. Lower quality to maintain low entry prices. If I invest lets say 200€ pp per day today I could get the same quality as 10 years ago. Maybe cruisers with over 30 years under the belt can tell a much more extreme story.

 

There was a note about my boardname MouseBerry. Well that‘s a non digital translation of my pet name (Mausebär) DW gave me long time before. 

 

regards from Koningsdam lido pool

MBerry

 

You have looked at the concept of better cruise experience  correctly.    Trying to get a  top experience from  mass market lines that simply can not produce it.    You can easily spend far more on a lesser line trying to get better cabin/food and service . 

 It is far better . as you suggest, to save your money for a better experience on a better line     No matter how you love any line has its limits as to what value it can deliver.....

As to price  a premium line veranda is around 225 Euro pp/pd  but that includes gratuities, drinks and all  restaurants/specialties  In a mass market thats about 60-70 Euros that you would pay  to get over your fare.

The entry point fares are low on todays mass market because of all the extra fees and charges that you have to pay, and the huge increase in passengers.   Ships 20 years ago carried 600-1000   Today they carry 2500-5000   In order to get quality service and experience  size does matter.... and smaller wins.

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