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12/28/04


KeithnRita
"Will we sail HAL again? Maybe, we never say never. Will they still be our first choice? No, they will not."

TRIP INFO

Sail Date:12/28/2004
Destination:
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RATINGS

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COMPLETE REVIEW

Our Zaandam New Year cruise Dec 28, 2004 to Jan 8, 2005

We booked this cruise in March, the longest wait for a cruise yet! With the Florida hurricanes playing havoc on some of our scheduled ports, things were a little hectic for a while. As it turned out, the ports ended up almost as when booked. We were both kind of stressed out with the big snowstorm that hit a couple days before we were due to leave and the roof collapse at our family business. We were driving to Orlando first to see Rita's son and we thought that part would have to be put off and we would be driving nonstop to make the ship.

Christmas morning, after having our big family get together with my daughters and all our grand kids on Christmas Eve, we decided the hell with it all and took off anyway. The record 22" snowfall shut down our little city and prevented Rita from getting to her hair and nail appointments before we left. After a visit and overnight stay with Rita's son and his girlfriend in Orlando, we continued our journey to Cape Canaveral to the Radisson for our park and drive stay. We left our auto at the hotel for the duration the cruise. The hotel was good and the shuttle got us to the ship fairly early, about 12:30. The return shuttle at the end of our cruise was another thing. We did not disembark the ship until about 10:00 and the shuttle was not around. We were eager to get on the road, so we took a taxi back to the hotel. The shuttles were there loading passengers for the Carnival and Disney ships in port. We probably would have had to wait at least an hour so taking the taxi was a good move.

We would say the embarkation went very well and the disembarkation was typical for other HAL cruises. There are always paxs not showing up for immigration and delaying the whole procedure.

The first thing Rita did after we boarded the ship was to book her hair and nails for that first sea day. They charged her one arm and both legs but, what the heck, she was happy! After that we had a great time together on our cruise. We refuse to have it any other way! We needed this time together by ourselves!

Now for HAL it self. We have a good comparison as our last HAL cruise before this one was also the Zaandam. We were very disappointed in HAL as they are becoming exactly like their parent--Carnival. Maybe they need to change their name to Halival! As soon as we got aboard they kept trying to sell us the $50 soda cards. You tell one no thanks and they keep coming at you relentlessly. We know they are just doing their jobs and are not blaming the messenger, just the message. We get enough spam at home--we don't need it on a cruise ship! All the little things that made HAL unique that we fell in love with on our first HAL cruise on the old Westerdam are now gone. No more Dutch night, no more afternoon lemonade at the AFT pool. They spoiled us, so they are responsible for our disappointment. We don't except change very well, especially when we have grown accustomed to the way it was. Not that the service was bad, it was not. It was okay, just not quite like it was. It just seemed like they had so much to do they didn't have much time to spend with you. No more making things out of paper and cardboard like the last time on the Zaandam and all the other HAL cruises. Just talking with some of the employees gives us the impression they are not happy with the new auto tipping policy. They claim they now have to pay for all their uniforms. We were shocked they even talked about that. Always before they seemed content. We probably tipped more on this cruise than any we have taken, considering the auto tip of $10 per day per person which equaled $210.00 for our eleven days, and the extra we gave to our great Waiter Ross, his Assistant Felix, the Maitre 'D, Wine Steward, servers in the casino, Rolando and Arlene in the Piano Bar, Bartender in the Dolphin Bar, our Cabin Steward, and a few others who took care of us. We considered having the auto tip removed completely to make sure those who deserved it the most get their share of the tip, however, we choose not to rock the boat!

By the way, we did get a Dutch hat--hand painted from Rolando.

Our wait staff was as good as any cruise we have taken. The service they gave us was outstanding at our 8:30 P.M. seating in the lower level of the Rotterdam. The food, however, was not. It was bland and had a lot of repeats. We were greatly disappointed as we get plenty of bland food here in our local restaurants!

We attended open seating breakfast on four occasions in the Rotterdam, and on three of them the service was, well, it was embarrassedly lousy. They brought us and others the wrong orders and got angry when we tried to correct them. They would bring pancakes without syrup, forget juices, toast, etc., completely and take forever to correct the mistakes they claimed was others. We were shocked. One morning we arrived at a table for six with the women all looking into the sun. They refused to close the curtain, so we got up and closed it ourselves.

The breakfast and lunch buffet in the Lido were okay, with lunch better. Hamburger, etc., at the grill was good, except for the fact that the grill was not working properly and for a few days was not working at all. Could not get a well done burger. Oh well, that's life. One thing we did like was at entrances to all the dining facilities were motion activated automatic hands cleansing stations. They were also at the gangways. It is a great idea if they would enforce everyone using them--they did not. It seemed to be about fifty-fifty.

Our cabin 2626, mid-ship outside main deck port side, was exactly as we expected. Plenty of storage and a Cabin Steward who hides under your bed until you leave. Just kidding! He did a great job except for keeping Rita supplied with fresh bottled water, which they rightly so charge for. I also used it for my bottle of scotch which miraculously showed up in our cabin! Rita called him once for water and he told her we would have to get it from room service. Huh? After that we just picked it up at one of the bars on the way to our cabin.

Showroom entertainment was excellent as far as the singers and dancers. The Hoosier comedian John? Was very funny, of course! The Xylophone performer, well what can I say, was kinda boring. The singer/impressionist, Paul Tanner, whom we have seen on two other cruises, is excellent, as well. The jazz trio in the Ocean Lounge was only so-so. We love to dance and ended up mainly in the Piano Lounge listening and dancing to Sonia Marie. We even showed up for her sing-a-longs and when she played the Tennessee Waltz, well by gosh we got up and did the waltz, by ourselves! The group in the Crows Nest were A+ and we danced up there quite a bit. The showroom band was also A+. They played at most of the port sail-a-ways. Speaking of that the staff was very unimaginable and played the same stupid passenger games each time.

The Rock and Rolldies passenger show was very good and funny. We take special interest in that show since we were in it on the Maasdam. I was Elvis and Rita was one of Bobby Darin's splish-splash girls.

Now for the ship itself--we love it! It is the perfect size and passenger count. It was kept spotless! The crew should be proud.

The only new port for us was the Dominican Republic and we enjoyed going downtown for a little shopping. We bought all the daughters and grand daughters necklaces in Santa Domingo. As far as Cozumel, Caymans, Tortola, St Martin, &St Thomas we have been there down that so we just got off and walked around or took a taxi. We did some shopping, or we just stopped for a drink. We did not book anything. I did find a nice bracelet in St Thomas to match a necklace, ear rings, and ring set I got Rita for our anniversary. At Half Moon Cay I went parasailing for my birthday, and with that and the long walk we always take on the island's beautiful beach, our time was spent. No time for anything else.

We hope nobody gets the impression we did not have a great cruise--we did! We make do with what we have. As we stated above, nobody is going to prevent us from having a great cruise. Will we sail HAL again? Maybe, we never say never. Will they still be our first choice? No, they will not. Would we recommend them to others? Not as adamant as we once did. We would now recommend other lines before them.

We must state that this is only our opinion and is the only opinion we are entitled to have--our own.

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