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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Disappointing cruise to South America (finite)......

Itinerary:   We were supposed to go around Cape Horn, make some stops in Patagonia "at the end of the world" and proceed up the west coast of South America, through the Panama Canal and end in Ft. Lauderdale.  Instead, we entered the Straights of Magellan (which are north of Cape Horn) and maneuvered through the interconnected fjords to the west side of South America. 

 Some of the most interesting stops on the trip (southern Patagonia) were not made.  There was a possibility of stopping at the Falklands, but that did not happen either because of rough seas.

Some shore excursions were very good, but generally they were significantly overpriced.  There was a lack of substance to justify the prices charged.  In one case, the tour operator did not perform the entire tour so HAL gave everyone a partial refund - only after enough people complained.  There was also poor communication regarding the in-progress status of excursions.

When we docked in Ft. Lauderdale, after my departure time was already half an hour behind schedule, they announced they were holding all announcements on departures because the US Customs only had one agent on duty to save money. This is exactly the wording they used.  After the announcement, I left my cabin, walked to the departure exit and parked myself as close to the exit as possible - and waited and waited.  After an hour, they announced that they were trying to get more custom agents. After another hour, nothing had happened.  I started out with about five hours to make my flight, and now was down to about 2 ½ hours.  I told an attendant how much time I had left to make my flight, and she allowed me to leave the ship.  

When I got to the customs area, there were three agents on duty, and it was slow-going. After getting through customs, I went out to the airport buses.  More slow-going once I was on the bus because the bus was not full enough to leave immediately. When I got to the airport, the line for security was long, and when I got to the gate, boarding began two minutes later.  I began with five hours and ended with two minutes.  A lot of people must have missed their flight - I would also have missed mine if I had not done what I did.

So, do I take a chance on HAL and go on another cruise with them?   I am undecided......

Keep on  reading this blog - this cruiser is going on Memories of Mandalay in September, 2014, and we will follow this cruise with him.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Disappointing cruise to South America (cont'd).....

Of the five HAL cruises which I have been on, the food on this cruise rates at the bottom.  I got the impression that HAL was becoming excessively cost conscious, with the result that quality was lower.  They even started charging $1.25 in the dining room for an espresso coffee and more for a cappuccino - this seems so hokey and penny-pinching to me.  We had to request salt, pepper and sugar in the dining room and Lido; then, the stewards would give us packages of the item(s).

I had open seating in the dining room.  On past cruises, I was seated within 30 seconds of giving my room number.  The first night I waited for about 15 minutes before I was seated, and this was repeated every night with a wait of between 5-15 minutes.   I don’t understand why it was taking them so long to seat me, but everything on this cruise seemed strange.

The entertainment was also the lowest of all the HAL cruises.  For a cruise of this length (over 30 days) the entertainment should have been much better.

 Everything that was done on this cruise was done for the convenience of HAL, and nothing for the good of the passengers. 

Tenders are an excellent example.  They consistently seemed to have too few crafts operating.  It seemed like they said to themselves:  “Let them (the passengers) wait.”   It seemed to me that they were frequently pinching pennies.  I wonder if the captain or HAL at higher levels were falling into the money-crazy trap.   All companies have to make money, but sometimes companies can go crazy about pennies at the expense of creating a pleasant experience for travelers.

Thinking about this cruise after I returned home, HAL (at the highest levels), must have known the captain’s personality and inclinations because he was second in command on other HAL ships.

I liked HAL because I thought it was a safe decision.  HAL seemed to be very customer-oriented on past cruises.

Next blog - continuation...