August 2015 - Westerdam to Alaska - Inside Passage
We recently sailed on the Westerdam out of Seattle to Alaska in August of 2015. This trip was a family get together to celebrate my Mom’s 90th birthday. We booked this trip as a group, were assigned a group number, and since this trip was also booked on a prior HAL cruise we were eligible for the Explore 4 promotion. This promotion included a free Pinnacle Grill dinner per person, free beverage service of up to 15 items (alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic) per day, and a 50% booking fee. We had a total of 14 people in 7 cabins. Our problems started shortly after embarkation when we discovered that our daughter and her husband had been removed from our group booking. According to the folks in the front office this happened as a result of her upgrade from a D to a VE cabin. She actually paid additional cash for this upgrade. Surprisingly, my Mom also did this exact same upgrade with no ill effects. I had all the supporting documentation of this error that clearly showed that the error was HAL’s. There was only one individual in the front office that took our side in this fight. She was Ms. Ninka Bakker, but she turned out to have no influence on the main office. She did take photocopies of all my confirmations and sent them to the main office in Seattle. Unfortunately, the other individuals at the front desk were simply rude.
Well, the first night of the cruise was actually my Mom’s birthday and we had the Pinnacle Grill scheduled for that, and it took quite a bit of complaining to get our daughter and son-in-law invited to that dinner as well. I had also ordered a cake for my Mom’s birthday 3 months in advance, and then I was asked to renew this order almost at monthly intervals. Well, when we checked with the restaurant to make sure that they had all the information, they had no clue that they were supposed to have a cake for my Mom. I luckily had all my supporting documents with me including the original cake order and the fax confirmation when I placed this order. They were able to their credit provide a cake at the last minute.
As the oldest daughter, I was responsible for coordinating this group excursion, and had a lot of interaction with the main office in Seattle. You probably wonder why I brought all the documentation with me onboard. It was actually quite a file of papers approximately 2 inches thick of standard computer paper some pages had print on two sides. It was my interactions with the folks at HAL that encouraged me to do this because I could see that there was NO communication between various departments, and the departments also did not know what the policies of the other departments were. In other words, management at HAL stinks. I can also say that my Mom who is a 4 star mariner with HAL was very disappointed and stated that their customer service has deteriorated over the years.
You will probably then ask, how did the rest of the cruise go? It was fair. The food was OK, with lines on the Lido deck, the dining room portions were small, but you could order multiple items if you chose. The ship itself is older, with areas needing extra care, rust was evident. Our bathroom was clean, but showed signs of inexpert caulking. The entertainment was fair, leaving not much to do on sea days, unless you were an aficionado of the casino or bars. There was Wi-Fi, which was dreadfully expensive and VERY slow. The only part of the cruise that was memorable was the shore excursions in Alaska. We had previous experience with an Alaska cruise with Princess, which we will do again.