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

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33 minutes ago, iancal said:

be prepared to place them in what appears to be an unsupervised video game (and probably revenue generating) arcade.  

Actually the games in High Score! were all free.  They had pinball machines and Nintendo-style games.

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Perhaps HAL is getting more feedback to follow in Vikings "adults only" cruise ships footsteps? We took a 3 week Viking cruise last Nov out of Miami.  Ancient chess pieces and many artifacts sitting on tables that on other ships with kids would be locked in a glass case. Sitting at the pool, cocktail in hand, jazzy music playing.. No kids jumping, shrieking or playing in the hot tub unattended. Having a quiet, romantic dinner without a child crying..

 

On the other hand, we are grand parents! We enjoy watching young parents with their well behaved children making lifetime memories. Sweet little kids peeking up over their chairs and flirting and waving.. Reading aged children deciphering their menu (I love that) Not having a secure environment must be very unsettling for parents under the new High Score program, and unfair to the parents who were not made aware ahead of their cruise.

 

Perhaps more "adults only preferred" HAL clients are writing more feedback surveys than "children welcome" clients? 

 

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For now.  Don't tell the bean counters or before you know it the change machines will be in there before you can say jack robinson. 

 

 If expense was an issue HAL might have been better to charge a fee for HAL club rather than eliminate it altogether.  As a parent or grandparent I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for this.  But of course, this cost would be taken into account when comparing total cruise costs across the competitive landscape.

Edited by iancal

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15 minutes ago, wwcruisers said:

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.

 

Both Celebrity and HAL have (had?) pretty well-regarded kid programs, though.  Not all children want climbing walls, water parks, or cartoon characters 24/7.   

 

I have always wondered how the brochure promises stack up to reality, though, especially if there aren't a lot of kids on the ship during off-peak times.  On one of my HAL cruises, there was a kids group crawling around the floor in the elevator vestibule outside the club.  They had counselors with them, but it seemed like an odd adventure to be having.  The main point is that it was a wide range of ages, and I suspected that I was seeing the entire group that day as the main room was empty, and there were no more than 10 kids there.  On one of my Celebrity cruises, every time I passed by the entrance to the kids club, there was a sign up saying that hours were curtailed due to lack of participation.  Both were February sailings.  

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23 minutes ago, wwcruisers said:

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.

I understand that thinking and know many families make those choices. Club HAL was perfectly good the way it was for every one of our HAL cruises so far. If in the future our only choice to cruise with our kids is say Disney with Mickey 24/7 or RC etc cruising on a behemoth ship with 4000 or 5000 other people, we just won't cruise. 

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1 hour ago, otters92 said:

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!)


Thank you for such an articulate description of the issues, and the potential ramifications. I hope you receive the attention you deserve. I would appreciate any update you are willing to share.

 

Ann

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This is an unacceptable diminution of the HAL service that is advertised widely within their own brochures.  I had been looking forward to taking our grandchildren on a cruise, but if this is the HAL position, then HAL will not be considered.

 

While it is reasonably acceptable that there are restricted Club Hal services out of season, the full service should be available 'in season' and the 'seasons' need to be clearly delineated on the website/booking.  Even making the service (tolerably) chargeable would be better than this poorly thought out and possibly dangerous change of policy.

 

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What a disappointment, we had our great grand daughter (7) on a past cruise & she loved Club HAL. We're taking her again in July (10) on the Nieuw Statendam, as far as we know Club HAL is still offered on this cruise??? Club HAL was one of the good things about cruising on their ships.  I agree the set up as you describe is not at all acceptable for younger children. Who ever in head office came up with this new program must have rocks in their head, has to be one of the dumber things HAL has come up with.

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This is a major change to make without notice.

 

Just as with other major changes of this kind (for example, when smoking was eliminated on balconies of ships), information should be provided WELL IN ADVANCE and those impacted should be given the opportunity to cancel their cruise without penalty.  

 

Just my opinion, but HAL is shooting itself in the foot by making all these random changes -- some of which are on some ships and some on all ships -- without clear information available to passengers booking those ships. 

 

I no longer have a child of the age that would be impacted, but I can perfectly understand how upsetting it would be to expect something that is clearly promised and to find out it is not available. I would NOT consider the new program to be any sort of reasonable replacement.

 

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Yet another poor, half-cocked, decision of which we have not heard the end for quite some time to come

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Perhaps this is simply indicative of where the HAL management team plans to change the cruise line's direction. .  There are other cruise lines that do not have a children's program just as there are other cruise lines that do. 

 

Thankfully there is lots of choice out there to meet everyone's wants and needs.  Certainly not the end of the free world so to speak!

Edited by iancal

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Wow, OP!

 

Thank you for alerting us all.  This is definitely a bad move for younger children in particular.

 

It nearly seems like children are not a priority for HAL all of a sudden - or, do they think they all just want to play video games?

 

It’s pretty poor to not have proper supervision and letting children sign themselves in and out IMO.

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I have a hard time thinking what market HAL is trying to appeal to - complete changing of the Club HAL is driving away the younger crowd with children and those with grandchildren; elimination of production shows and hiring what some have said is very poor outside comics, singers, dancers, etc.  drives away those who want entertainment at night; Club Orange seems to appeal to very few if the declining charge is any indication; and on and on and on. Who is HAL's market?

 

I read in a recent Travel Weekly article that Mr. Ashford was very proud of his entertainment changes and is now having upper management sales folks report to him rather than a Sales VP. So he will be in charge of sales. 

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This is terrible news. We just returned from a fabulous week on NS, where our 5 year old loved Club HAL— I cannot imagine what Holland America is thinking at this point. As a returning customer, if my son isn’t welcome onboard at a supervised and safe activity, like Club HAL (which btw everyone raves about!) then we will simply look elsewhere for our cruises. 

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5 hours ago, otters92 said:

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.  ...

 

Another nail in the coffin!

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In another thread someone posted that the Nieuw Amsterdam was the next ship to get Club HAL replaced with High Score.  I haven't seen that info posted anywhere else; is it corroborated?  The HAL website only talks about the Oosterdam; nothing about "coming soon to the rest of the fleet" or anything like that.

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Just contacted my TA.  I booked LESS THAN 48 HOURS ago after reading all about Club HAL on the HAL website. I actually booked a non-refundable fare as it was offered as a deal.  If this is true I'll be contacting American Express and dispute the charges.  One and done may be sooner than expected! 

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Yikes. We are sailing on Niew Statendam in February with a 7 and a 10 year old. If there’s no Club HAL, this cruise is going to be considerably less enjoyable thank expected. I was planning on purchasing a week pass for the spa, as well as a dining package for my wife and I, both to be enjoyed while the kids spent some time at Club HAL. I guess that won’t be the case anymore. 
 

Less revenue for HAL, and worse cruise experience for us. I guess nobody wins with this horrendous decision. And it may mark the end of our cruises with HAL, at least for the next 10 years.

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So sad my nieces and nephews loved Club HAL.  They are grown and still to this day always talk abut their experience with Club HAL with fond memories.

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17 minutes ago, iceman93 said:

In another thread someone posted that the Nieuw Amsterdam was the next ship to get Club HAL replaced with High Score.  I haven't seen that info posted anywhere else; is it corroborated?  The HAL website only talks about the Oosterdam; nothing about "coming soon to the rest of the fleet" or anything like that.

Please see post #54 here. We were all so naive about that press release from October about the High Score! :classic_sad:

 

 

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1 hour ago, Dulciana8 said:

This is terrible news. We just returned from a fabulous week on NS, where our 5 year old loved Club HAL— I cannot imagine what Holland America is thinking at this point. As a returning customer, if my son isn’t welcome onboard at a supervised and safe activity, like Club HAL (which btw everyone raves about!) then we will simply look elsewhere for our cruises. 


Agreed. We just reserved the 22 day SA/Antarctic for next year. Going to cancel unless this changes. Bye bye HAL. Was nice knowing you. 

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We have been cruising with our sons, DIL’s, and grandchildren - and started with Carnival..  Granted they were babies when first cruising, but the last Carnival cruise, many moons ago, when the grandchildren were a bit older - they did not like the Carnival kid program.  They attended once, and the rest of the cruise were with us.

 

Fast forward and older son and family booked Bermuda cruise with us on the Veendam many years ago.   The grand-girls LOVED club HAL.   Since, they have taken more HAL cruises, last one being the Koningsdam spring transatlantic.   

 

I hope this loss of club HAL does not come to pass - it could be that this concept goes by the wayside like charging for 2nd entrée ?    Or the not-so popular Club Orange which HAL appears to be haggling with like a Mexican market.

 

I have to shake my head at some of the “changes” and decisions which have recently been made.   Too much focussed on what was working right, and not enough focus on problems.

 

Carol

Edited by CJcruzer

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6 hours ago, otters92 said:

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 92.12 kB · 38 downloads

HAL Shoreside telling me this is a trial only and no other plans.  Asked them to put it in writing or refund my upcoming cruise.  Let's see what they choose 

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I’m sorry potty mouth! “This is really Crappy on HAL’S part!” Too much has changed these last few years on HAL. 
Orlando what the H....! are YOU and your 
upper management thinking!!

Ok I vented but it won’t do any good IMO.

Denise😞

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