December 2015 - Zaandam to South America
We have taken 6 cruises before, indeed this cruise was the second in 2015 (the other in July 2015 with P&O, and it was the second with HAL. Therefore we are quite experienced to know what is good or not. Well this HAL cruise was bad - very bad. We had a mid ship outside cabin main deck. Firstly the good points - the navigation crew went out their way to visit places other cruise lines probably would not bother. Indeed against big winds and rough seas we did actually managed to visit the Falkland Islands - which is what most of the other cruise ships failed to do at that time. Now the bad points. No fridges in any room despite 32C degrees temp.The food was dreadful!!! In the buffet was a sign saying FULL BUFFET, well it was neither full nor was it a buffet. Most of the items were served to you - more over the portions were ridiculously small. The first day breakfast we were given a tiddly over cooked sausage one over cooked rasher of bacon, a tiddly amount of baked beans and five mushrooms. We both returned the plate (along with those behind us in the queue) so the plate could be filled correctly. Not that that happened anyway. In any event the food was over cooked and was cold so it hardly made any difference. The mushrooms were off and going toxic. The second day we decided not to return the plate but actually count what was on the plate. Well I had been served 9 baked beans and my wife 14!!!!! The portions were a complete joke. The mushrooms once again were not fit to be served and had gone funny and we never again ordered them. The so called buffet had limited opening times. It was never open outside those times but even during the stipulated times great sections were frequently closed off meaning the limited choice was even more limited. They had other food concealed behind the shutters but would not release it. This even applied to bread rolls on at least three occasions. I could go on, but in short the so called buffet was a complete joke. very very small portions, cold food every day, poor quality food cooked to death, really horrendous. Buffet score 1/100. The main restaurant was little better. we were second sitting as every cruise we do we alternate. Second sitting on this ship on this cruise is a big mistake. The service was dead slow. We would arrive promptly at 8PM and would still be waiting for the third course at 10PM. The shows start at 10PM also. The delay was not the volume of food on the plate, as the portions were only slightly better than the buffet but service was just so slow, Every meal we had was warm at best or cold. A big complaint many had. In the end we got fed up with returning stone cold food. Another problem is that the meals were not structured. You would get one slab of hot meat (which was cold) and a ludicrously small amount of one vegetable. On day one we asked for fries for every day to give the dinner some structure, this was agreed but we were never given any at any time. On one day we noticed 4 or 5 different vegetables were being cooked (only one type of vegetable per meal of course!) so we asked for the different vegetables to be put on our plates. This was agreed but no. What resulted was the vegetable (singular) I should have received was removed to be replaced by a spoon full of cold rice and two slithers of carrot. The two slithers of carrot amounted to about one twentieth of one carrot. On week two we changed (unofficially) to any time dining. So many were changing that they could only agree one night, but in week two we just turned up anyway. The food was just as bad but the service was rapid. One day the prawns in the prawn cocktail (all 5 of them) were hot due to being out in the heat for too long and it was obvious they were going off. They were sent back but obviously no replacement as that would have cost them another 30 pence. On another day peas were included. well we missed that one, but a couple we had met had that meal with the peas, and like us on day two, counted them and they had both been served 9 peas each. And so I could continue. The fact is HAL have got the fine art of stone cold stingy portions off to a fine art. The entertainment was also a joke. The theatre lounge is small and not really large enough. We should not have worried. The entertainment was so poor that in week two the theatre was barely 15% full on most days, something the entertainment staff kept referring to. By week two most passengers had found better entertainment elsewhere in smaller venues but that usually always meant standing. Over all we saw the Falklands which other ships copped out about visiting so that was a good point. Just about everything else was rubbish as direct result of stingy penny pinching. The July P&O cruise was not fantastic but their food and entertainment were both top notch. HAL should go on the P&O Aurora (a ship of similar size) and see for themselves what good entertainment and good food should be about. as for us - Well it is the second but last time ever with HAL unless they have complete re-think.