Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
otters92

Warning to all Families with Children Traveling on Holland America’s Oosterdam

Recommended Posts

My family just returned from a Thanksgiving week vacation aboard the Holland America Oosterdam.

 

Prior to departure while attempting to register our 7 year old son for Club HAL, we were notified the Club HAL no longer existed and had been replaced by “High Score!”

 

High Score is a play area with video, arcade-style and board games for children 7-17. It seems at first like an entertaining place, but as a replacement for Club HAL, it is woefully inadequate.

 

First of all, there is no procedure for signing children in and out. We were told that once we gave our permission for our 7 year old to attend, he could enter and go as he pleased. This meant that if we left our son there, he could leave by himself or with any other child up to 17 years old to wonder the ship.  (The flyer we received says “Kids and teens are free to come and go from High Score! on their own.” Our only option to prevent our son from leaving on his own was to sign a waiver barring his entry for the duration of the cruise.)  We knew right away that this would not work for us.

 

In addition to the lack of security for children, there were no longer any planned activities and projects for children 7-17. Gone was all the “Camp-at-Sea”-types  of programming that my son so much looked forward to on a cruise. My son did not form the usual friendships he has on previous cruises. He had to spend the entire cruise with his parents. And while we do cherish time spent as a family, our family vacation was drastically changed. One of the reasons my wife and I enjoy cruising is because it gives us the opportunity to be able to enjoy spending time as a couple, comforted by the knowledge  that our son is being well-cared for and is having a good time.

 

The biggest issue, however, was lack of supervision of the children (and adults) in the play area. The High Score! game space was completely understaffed. There were only two staff members assigned to the entire area, and most of their time was spent monitoring the door to make sure that those who entered were authorized to be there.  At times there were more than 40 children and adults playing in the game area.  (Adults were allowed to visit with their children during “Family Time” between 7 and 10pm.)  Additionally, the staff informed us that they were not allowed to intervene if children were being left out or were not treating each other right. We saw multiple instances in which an older kid (usually pre-teen) took over a game and pushed the younger kids out. We also witnessed teenage children commenting on how “good looking” another child was.  My child was definitely not prepared for the “survival of the fittest” environment created by the older kids. The older kids were in charge with almost no supervision or guidance in this “Lord of the Flies”-like atmosphere.  (We witnessed all these activities during Family Time; who knows what went on during the rest of the day when there were no parents present.)

 

We knew from before the cruise departed that this new setup was not going to work.  While the staff and guest relations representatives apologized repeatedly and profusely, they kept reiterating that the decision was out of their control and that corporate (Holland America Lines) was the entity imposing this change.  They also said that the Oosterdam was the first ship to make the switch, but that all HAL ships would be making the transition away from Club HAL to High Score! within the coming year.

 

Please contact Holland America and your travel agents prior to going on a cruise with Holland America.  The eradication of Club HAL will drastically change the outlook for any family with children. For my part, I will never sail Holland America again with my child unless this decision is reversed.

 

(Please note that there is still a Kids’ Club for children ages 3-6 that requires parents to sign their children in and out. But unlike Club HAL, it is only available from 9am-noon and from 7-10pm. Also, its current iteration is in one of the small conference rooms on deck 3 and, from our perspective, is nothing at all like what Club HAL used to provide.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

WOW...thanks for the heads up...that may totally change our plans to take our whole family with all the grandkids on a HAL cruise and may look elsewhere. Our grandkids LOVED Club HAL and were eager to return...this is going to change all that...for all of us!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a real shame - Club HAL had such a good reputation.

 

I guess it does not surprise me too much, as most times there are so few kids on HAL (except for holidays of course).  I never could understand why HAL had these programs when there were fewer than 10 children onboard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, woodworker&knitter said:

Just off the Veendam and there was a Club Hal

There's a lot of fleet updates not on Veendam though. My guess is that she's not worth major updating due to her age and that HAL plans on selling her along in the short term. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, woodworker&knitter said:

Just off the Veendam and there was a Club Hal

It was made clear to us that the switch to High Score! was first on the Oosterdam, but that it was a fleet-wide transition that should occur over the coming year.

High Score! Brochure.pdf

Edited by otters92
typo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow.  This is very concerning and I feel terrible that your child had an unhappy experience with this new concept.  I can’t imagine any child would.  It’s catering to the bullies and passing them control.  I do hope that HAL rethinks this change and brings back the very much loved Club HAL.

Edited by *Miss G*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, another out-of-touch, throw some "stuff" at the wall, poorly considered decision by HAL.

 

Thanks for letting us know.  And I feel so badly for you and your son 😞

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is very concerning.  We would love one day to bring our grandkids on HAL but obviously this is a deal breaker.   What is HAL thinking? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, that stinks. Club HAL was always so good. This may end up being a big deal breaker for us too. I am glad to know this though as we have another longer cruise booked now and may need to cancel. I'll call my PCC about this. Thank you for the heads up and so sorry your son had such a hard time. Just inexcusable.

 

7-17 is far too wide a gap for no supervision. And the lack of security for the younger ones in this group is simply asking for trouble. What are they thinking? Obviously the safety of the young ones is compromised but also one bad thing happens and the media and lawyers will eat them alive.

 

Our son wasn't allowed to sign himself out until he was 11 years old.

I can't imagine placing my youngest child in that environment. If HAL is trying to attract families, this is not the way to do it. Does any other cruise line do this?

Edited by fatcat04

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry to hear about this new and disappointing experience on HAL. Would you please consider sharing your experience with HAL HQ in Seattle? They need to be aware of how this new concept plays out in real life and address these issues.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is shocking.    While my 12 year would likely enjoy this environment and the freedom, it would be overwhelming to younger kids.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, HALrunner said:

I'm sorry to hear about this new and disappointing experience on HAL. Would you please consider sharing your experience with HAL HQ in Seattle? They need to be aware of how this new concept plays out in real life and address these issues.

I have.  Other CC posters have sent me Orlando Ashford's email address.  I have also posted this letter on Twitter to the following accounts: 

 (Although I am new to Twitter and don't know how effective that will be.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, HALrunner said:

I'm sorry to hear about this new and disappointing experience on HAL. Would you please consider sharing your experience with HAL HQ in Seattle? They need to be aware of how this new concept plays out in real life and address these issues.

This was my response to their offer of "Future Cruise Credit."  (They just don't seem to get the gravity of the situation.)

 

I recently sailed on the Oosterdam out of San Diego on November 23. Yesterday I received Holland America's offer for remuneration for the fiasco involving Club HAL being closed without prior notification.  The offer is woefully inadequate.

 

The biggest problem with the offer is that it in no way recognizes the gravity of the situation.  The letter states:

 

 "We are very sorry that your clients were disappointed with the Club HAL program offered on this cruise. We attempt to provide a wide variety of activities that will appeal to the majority of our junior cruisers, with positive, professional supervision. Club HAL welcomes children age 1 to age 6; however, this program is not open to children in diapers or pull-ups. Again, we sincerely regret that your clients were not pleased with Club HAL on this sailing, and we will keep their comments in mind as we endeavor to improve the shipboard experience for all of our valued guests."

 

The problem was not a "disappointment" with the Club HAL program.  It was the cancellation of the program and the fact that no adequate program was substituted for children from ages 7-17.  Your own website still describes Club HAL:

 

 "Holland America Line's youth activities program, Club HAL, offers an array of entertaining events for kids and teens ages 3-17, supervised by a full-time, professionally trained staff. They'll have an opportunity to join other kids their age for arts and crafts, sports, video game competitions, scavenger hunts, challenging team games and themed parties. Club HAL is offered on board all ships except for ms Maasdam."


The fact that the Club HAL program was canceled without any prior notification to passengers is false advertising. I paid for a product. That product wasn't offered.  I am requesting a refund for that deception. (Incidentally, once we found out about the closure of Club HAL subsequent to boarding the Oosterdam but prior to departure, I requested the option of canceling our cruise and deboarding if we could be given a refund.  Priscilla Jimenez, the Guest Relations Assistant Manager aboard the ship said that a refund would not be possible at that time since it was beyond the final payment date.)


The offered remuneration is a credit towards future cruises on Holland America.  Without Club HAL, my family will never again sail on Holland America. (We currently have a 24-day cruise reserved out of Venice on June 15. Without this issue being fixed, we will need to cancel that cruise!)


Now let's talk about the problems with the current "High Score!" setup. The biggest problem is safety and security of your cruise passengers. As I stated in my letter posted on CruiseCritic (and soon to be posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) there is no sign-in/sign-out procedure. Kids from 7-17 are free to enter and leave on their own volition. Most 7 year old children are not capable of this type of self-care.  In fact, if I were to leave my 7 year old alone at my home alone for an extended period of time, I could be arrested for child endangerment. On an unfamiliar ship thousands of miles from home with thousands of strangers, the dangers much more extreme. Liability-wise, Holland America is setting itself up for a tremendous lawsuit should any child be injured, molested or otherwise harmed after leaving the "care" of the HAL staff in "High Score!" 


Additionally, Holland America is assuming that all children ages 7-17 share the same interests. That is blatantly not the case. Elementary, middle and high school students are separated in most schools because of this divergence of interests. Boy Scouts separates the elementary school kids from the middle and high schoolers.  Club HAL had three different programs for three different age groups because it recognized this variation. The corporate pencil-pushers who invented the "High Score!" program have obviously never dealt extensively with children of different ages.


And what about the rest of the cruisers aboard the Oosterdam? There were over 300 children aboard the ship the week of November 23-30.  Does your average Holland America passenger without children want hundreds of children running around the ship unsupervised?  How about the hundreds of extra children in the main dining room every evening?  Our normal procedure on cruises is to take our son to eat in the Lido cafe and then take him to Club HAL at 7pm so that my wife and I can enjoy a nice dinner and possibly a show. That was not a possibility on this cruise, so we were faced with the option of taking our son with us to the main dining room or bypassing the more formal dining for the cafe. (The results of this situation during the first formal night were very apparent: hundreds of people had to wait an hour or longer for a table because so many families were dining with their children during the early seating of dinner. And the dining room was a chaotic mess with bored and impatient children crying and running around their tables.)


Or maybe Holland America has made a corporate decision to de-emphasize family cruising in a desire to become more like Virgin or Viking or other cruise lines that don't permit children on board. If this is the path Holland America is taking, that is fine, but you must notify families in advance and offer them refunds.


In the end, Holland America's decision to do away with Club HAL was an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately, my family was the victim of this rash and poorly implemented restructuring. My family suffered in multiple ways: 1) My son did not get to enjoy the programmed activities with other children in Club HAL but rather had to spend the entire cruise with his parents; 2) My wife and I had no alone time; 3) We were not able to enjoy our dining experiences or evening shows; 4) Since we could not leave our son onboard while in port, we had to cancel an "Intro to SCUBA diving" excursion planned in Mazatlan through an independent travel company. (Luckily we managed to receive a full refund from that company, but, unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy in the experience.)


As I said in the beginning, I am not interested in future cruise credit.  I am requesting a refund for a product that was sold to me but not delivered. I also am requesting that Holland America reevaluate the planned elimination of Club HAL fleet-wide. Before my family continues with its planned cruise next summer, we need reassurance that Club HAL will still exist for that cruise.

 

Lastly, my concerns go beyond compensation for our family's poor experience on the cruise last week.  To a person, everyone I spoke with from Holland America regarding this issue (from the former Club HAL staff monitoring the door at High Score!, to the on-ship Guest Relations Manager, to the over the phone Guest Relations support provider I spoke with yesterday) have asked me to make sure that my complaints are heard from the highest levels of Holland America. They all said "Nobody will listen to our complaints and concerns, but they will listen to you."  So the reason I am fighting so vociferously about this issue is so that the management of Holland America realize what a colossal cluster-f@&! this transition has been and how poorly thought out the plan for implementation was. You are losing good customers, but you are also losing good employees. Someone from upper management needs to take responsibility for this failure and have the guts to admit that it wasn't a well thought out change. (Think "New Coke" level of failure!)

Edited by otters92
missing paragraph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holy smokes!  What a terrible decision on HAL's part!  My youngest is now 30, but she basically grew up cruising and the kids clubs on various lines were the highlight of her cruises when she was little.  I would have never left her to her own devices when she was 7, 8, 9, etc. 

 

If HAL is looking for a newer, younger clientele base, then they are definitely going to push families away.  This isn't just penny pinching, this is setting some children up for real, horrific abuse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, parallax said:

This is shocking.    While my 12 year would likely enjoy this environment and the freedom, it would be overwhelming to younger kids.   

The pre-teens and teens seemed to enjoy it.  There were some fun games to be played in High Score!. I could envision it as a fantastic additions to Club HAL, possibly made only available to older children.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two critiques:

 

--They're not going to give you a full refund.  You took the cruise.  It is unreasonable to expect 100% back for this.  Their argument will be that they fulfilled their obligations by offering a program staffed with employees.  Think of a reasonable solution ("rather than the future cruise credit, I would like that offer as a direct refund instead") and negotiate from there.

 

--Telling them you'll never sail with them again is cutting off your nose to spite your face.  They have zero incentive to try anything else if that's you're response.

 

I understand your anger and would be mad, too, but your communications with them will have to change if you want a solution.  What you've posted so far is going to start being ignored because your legitimate complaint is being overshadowed by the over-the-top language you're using and the demands you're making.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am so sorry that your child was disappointed with the changes on the Oosterdam -- no Club HAL but instead a High Score.  Especially since he has sailed on HAL before and was expecting a good experience and a chance to meet new friends.

 

And HAL's response to your letter was atrocious -- it appears they don't even know that a change was made to the children's program.

 

Guess HAL doesn't want children on their ships/cruises.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, bEwAbG said:

Two critiques:

 

--They're not going to give you a full refund.  You took the cruise.  It is unreasonable to expect 100% back for this.  Their argument will be that they fulfilled their obligations by offering a program staffed with employees.  Think of a reasonable solution ("rather than the future cruise credit, I would like that offer as a direct refund instead") and negotiate from there.

 

--Telling them you'll never sail with them again is cutting off your nose to spite your face.  They have zero incentive to try anything else if that's you're response.

 

I understand your anger and would be mad, too, but your communications with them will have to change if you want a solution.  What you've posted so far is going to start being ignored because your legitimate complaint is being overshadowed by the over-the-top language you're using and the demands you're making.

Thank you for the critiques.  I agree that I am not going to get a full refund.  I like your suggestion of asking for the amount they are offering in future cruise credit as a direct refund. (In my actual response to their offer, I discuss more about the need for assurances in order to go through with any future cruise, but I took that private issue out of my post here.)

 

I consider all of this a negotiation with them.  My approach is three-fold: 1) Compensation; 2) Ensuring Club HAL will exist on my planned future cruise; and 3) Get them to realize the error in making this change and to stand up for the front line employees who said that their protestations to upper management go unheard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, canadianbear said:

What is HAL thinking? 

I think most of us loyal HAL cruisers have been asking this question for the last few years. Do these executives and bean counters at HAL even go on cruises with their families on HAL?  If they want to appeal to a younger clientele, this will not work, and they will also lose grandparents who love to take their families on a cruise.  They shell out money for things like Oprah and CO only to see little interest by passengers.  I have been offered CO for $15/day on my upcoming 14-day NA cruise and didn't even consider it. I might have if I was on a Pinnacle ship as it incudes a separate dining room. I'm starting to think that Carnival Corp. wants to get rid of HAL as it perhaps doesn't make as much money as their other brands.  I am confused!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The message to cruisers with children is clear (if indeed this is their hard to fathom direction).

 

Cruise without your children, select other cruise lines that have a proper children's program, or cruise HAL and be prepared to place them in what appears to be an unsupervised video game (and probably revenue generating) arcade.  

 

I know what I would do if I planned to take children or grandchildren on a cruise.

Edited by iancal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You summed it up very well, iancal.  I had booked the PS on the Maasdam for a 14-day Alaska cruise next summer, but when HAL sent a note saying it would be a special "EXC voyage" with no Club HAL (and then subsequently updated the website to say there would no longer be Club HAL on the Maasdam at all), I was able to change my plans.  We're currently booked in the PS on the Veendam for a 14-day European cruise next summer for a not insubstantial chunk of change.

 

If HAL gets rid of Club HAL, I'll be disappointed and will just stop sailing them.  But if I were to find out after boarding, as the OP did, that the Club HAL I was promised (and that, like the OP, is part of the reason for booking HAL in the first place) was gone and replaced with a far inferior option, I would be incensed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yikes, when I first read about High Score, I thought it was an addition to Club Hal, not a replacement. How the heck did a survival-of-the-fittest, Lord of the Flies environment pass review from corporate legal or just parenting common sense?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, vicd1969 said:

Yikes, when I first read about High Score, I thought it was an addition to Club Hal, not a replacement. How the heck did a survival-of-the-fittest, Lord of the Flies environment pass review from corporate legal or just parenting common sense?

That was my assumption as well. i just thought High Score would be in addition to the usual 3 tier Club HAL programming. I would be infuriated had I been anticipating Club HAL being available but then getting on the ship to find it had been eliminated for most of the kids. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While my DH and I are looking forward to our first HAL cruise (in September), it would not be my first (or even second choice) for a 'family cruise' -- for the same reasons that I wouldn't choose Celebrity. Both lines are just more focused on providing a good experience for adults, and children are simply not the focus. When we decided to take our DS and his family on their first cruise, we booked RC's Independence of the Seas -- mainly for its kiddie pool. Actually, Splash-away Bay is more like a water park -- and they even had a life-guard on duty. IMHO, it is truly difficult for HAL (or any mainstream cruise line) to be all things to all people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...