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Cruises Holland America Line

Carnarvon, Australia
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Cruises Holland America Line

Im doing a cruise in September with the Holland American Line, have a million questions as its our first cruise- can anyone tell me , I was looking into buying Beverage Cards, and also ship board credit cards, also we would like to book shore excursions but arent really sure what ones we want to done I understand that you can book with the ship or go on line and book yourself but if your unsure and wish to wait can you book while on the boat????

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Long Beach...
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1. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

I am a frequent economic-cruiser including Holland America. I almost never book its excursions as there is a 30-40% markup. Read about them and that will let you know what is available. You can go to tripadvisor and each port city and look for things to do / tours, obtain tour web address, and book your own trip with a local guide. Or you can go to www.viator.com, select the city, and book an excursion directly with a local travel company at a lower price. I use both options, but pre-cruise research is key.

Now I order wine packages since I get a 25% discount due to frequent cruising with HA, but HA allows you to bring wine or liquor on board for consumption in your room. The HA credit card may be worth while if you cruise with HA frequently. You should have a credit-card strategy.

Chatham, Ontario
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2. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

One comment/correction. edvonlef. HAL doesn't actually permit you to bring aboard LIQUOR. Wine: yes. Unlimited wine. (Once I brought 4 cases on a hand truck with no trouble. Well, we were throwing this party, see?)

While they do treat passengers as adults, and there is no bag search for booze, it is technically against the rules to bring your own. Room service offers litre bottles at prices I consider moderate (starting around US$33.)

Jan: G'day, we've chatted before. If I remember right, your HAL cruise is Alaska. While edvonlef is NOT wrong that HAL makes a substantial profit on shoreex, in Alaska the pricing is different. IN GENERAL the guides there give the line a bulk discount, and HAL marks up to the same price the public would buy the tour for from the provider. So, no or little actual savings by buying direct. The issues are size of tour=quality, and choice.

But, I am quite bullish about HAL's boat tours in Alaska, and consider them good value, despite the larger boat size. I also think one of the rarely considered advantages of ship's own in Alaska is weather related. More than anywhere else, plans change in the Alaska panhandle due to weather (especially flightseeing). On one nasty day, my plans lay in shreds because I'd booked privately. Those on ship's own tours were set up with alternate plans. Not going to happen on every trip, but worth considering.

HOWEVER....there are a lot of tour possibilities/hidden treasures in the ports which HAL doesn't explore, because they're not suitable for large numbers. Baord regular Frommy should be here to tell you about some of his favourite guides in each town. Locals can help you find those one of a kind views and moments.

If the HAL tour you're interested in is marked "limited", I'd seriously consider making the decision to go/no go RIGHT NOW. If it's NOT so marked....yes, you can wait until you're aboard. However, not all shoreex staff are created equal. If the person you talk to seems clueless, ask to speak to the manager. There should be a shore ex talk on your first sea day by that person, and you can buttonhole them with questions afterwards, if your concerns haven't been answered.

Ship board credit is worth doing, IMO. If by any chance you don't use it by the end of the cruise, the front desk will provide you with a cheque for the balance.

The drinks cards are OK value. IIRC, you pay $45 for a card worth $50, so are getting 10% off - *if you use it all*. If you only spend $42, you will get $3 back. If you only spend $45, you get nothing back - no credit for anything above what you paid. Still, it all helps balance th4e budget.

The soft drink card is a better value, if you're interested. I believe you pay $25 for $50 of soda. HAL only sells Coca-Cola products, so Pepsi-girl-me brings her own soda pop aboard instead (also allowed).

Edited: 10:09 am, June 22, 2012
Carnarvon, Australia
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3. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

Thanks for you reply fannish Yes we have cahtted before I appreciate you advice and will definately look into the cards it gives me an idea of how much Im spending as we also have a 3 wk cruise home going to - Los Angeles,Hilo , Honolulu, Pago Pago,Fiji,Vanuatu, New Caledonia and finishing up in Sydney Aust.. If you have been to any of these place and can advise me on things to do it would be great as some of them have lots of info some dont. On my itenerary on the HAL site says no info on what to do. But also I was thinking by the time we get to Hawaii we might be tired of excursions- but in saying that if there is something that people think was amazing then I would hate to miss it cause unless I win Lotto probably never go back.

Chincoteague...
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4. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

Hello, we just came off the Westerdam after 7 days to Alaska and Victoria, B.C. arriving back in Seattle on June 23. I can say that after cruising with other lines, I probably won't be cruising with HAL again. There are several reasons and I'll try to be brief: First, throughout the entire cruise, I felt we were being "nickel & dimed" at every turn. The shore excursions did seem very expensive for what we received. I saw no mention of soda cards, and none were offered to us or even mentioned at all. One night at dinner my son and I wanted ginger ale. It turned out to be $7.50 for 2 cans of ginger ale. Second, the Westerdam seems like a ship out of time. It was built in 2004 and refurbished in 2010 but the decor looks like something out of the 1960's. Gaudy here and plain there. We were in a "superior verandah suite" on deck 6 "upper verandah" and the room was very plain. The same type of paneling and furniture I've seen in pictures of ocean liners of the 60's and 70's. If that's the look HAL is going for here, great, but if not, there seems to be a design problem. Third: Art auctions at sea. We visited, we did not buy and thank goodness because of the things written about these. Just do an internet search on cruise ship art auctions. Fourth: The chintzy shops in the ports, owned by the cruise lines and promoted by them. There was even a daytime seminar on the cruise line on how to shop when you get there! They give out maps to steer you to the "best" deals which happen to be at cruise line owned stores. Fifth: We aren't allowed to choose the end of cruise gratuity. This is strange to me as I am one who rewards good service but even gives the minimum recommended if it was average or below. Our two cabin stewards were the BEST we have ever known in cruising. Our team was Ari and Dharma and they were simply amazing. I wanted to up the gratuity but was told basically (even by them when I offered more) that it had to go through HAL. HAL charges (on the westerdam at least) $12 per day per person in the cabin, and the passenger has no say in this. It just appears on the bill. Sixth and you should probably know this, the vast majority of my fellow passengers of all ages were the most spoiled, self centered people I have ever run into. I watched a woman push an omelet back at the cook and tell him "throw that away, I'LL teach you how to make an omelet," and another woman (late 50's at least) stomp her feet and have a temper tantrum because a plate of finger food included avocado with salmon on them. She was demanding avocado with no fish and stomped her foot as she yelled at the employees. One man in line behind me in the lunch "Ledo Grill" complained about the long lines for food. He was only 3rd in line and it was moving well. I've never witnessed so many adults having tantrums while on vacation. The children on the ship were better behaved. Seventh and finally, the main dining room, the Vista has an odd problem. Frequently (3 times during our trip) the dish delivered to our table did not match the description on the menu. It may have been similar, for example an order of beef, and beef was delivered, but not the item as listed on the menu. This even extended to desserts which frequently weren't what was billed on the menu. We have cruised NCL and Disney prior to this and perhaps have been spoiled by them but never experienced these things mentioned on prior cruises. I don't like giving bad reviews. I always like to try and find something positive, but I am hard pressed to find something really great about this cruise except for the natural scenery they transported me to view. We won't cruise with them again.

Chatham, Ontario
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5. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

No cruise line suits everyone. I'm sorry you and HAL weren't a good match.

But, some of your problems could have been helped by querying here first.

There is a soda card - cost $25 for face value $50. It is sold online as well as on the ship. Also, you may bring aboard unlimited soda. That's what I do.

Soda is normally $2.24 a can. Don't know what happened. Sorry you were ripped off.

The sponsored shops nonsense is a problem with all mainstream cruise lines. Not owned by the line, but the shops pay the line to be "featured", at least on all mainstream Caribbean and Alaska itineraries. I agree these are shops to avoid!

Ditto art auctions. They were gone from HAL for several years, but now -ugh!- they're back. If neither NCL nor Disney have this annoyance, good for them, but you'll find it on many lines. Only plus is the (bad) free wine.

The info you were given on gratuities was WRONG. As long as you keep the autotip amount in place, you can give whoever you want whatever extra cash you want. Sorry you got bad info. Shame on the front office.

I'm also sorry your voyage dealt you lemons for fellow passengers. That's happened to me once on HAL, and once on another line. Sometimes by joining a roll call you can find like minded people to run with. HAL has a Facebook page for that, but I always stick to Cruise Critic.

I've had your experience with chefs who can't stick to the recipe. It's annoying at best, and dangerous when people have allergies.

If you want to try something other than NCL or Disney, can i suggest Celebrity, or Princess most especially for a return to Alaska? Thanks for your review, and good luck!

Edited: 11:43 pm, June 25, 2012
Greater Sydney...
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6. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

Like fannish above, I find that some of your criticism is unfounded. Had you visited either this or the Alaska destination forum you could have been put in touch with very reliable local excursion providers who may not have been less expensive, but would have provided you with a far more personal experience than the ship booked excursions. Everything in Alaska is expensive. I would be interested to hear which excursions you complain about about. HAL ships are designed for the 'old world' cruise type experience, hence the decor. There has never been any published facts that the in port shops are owned by the cruise line to my knowledge, but if you take an Alaska cruise for the shopping you have taken a cruise for the wrong reason. I also detest the promotion of these shops, but they are very easy to avoid, the same as art auctions. HAL do NOT choose their passengers based on their manners - those types of people were experienced by us on our recent land tour in the US as well. I have no problem with the $12 per day tipping levee, and I am an Ausssie who has an aversion to tipping. It is not just the steward who tidies your cabin that gives you good service, but all of the unseen background people as well who deserve to gain some benefit. I have also just completed a HAL cruise from Montreal to Boston and had no problem tipping extra to the steward who looked after us, over and above the standard levee, despite my aversion to the tipping culture. Information regarding drink cards is openly available on the HAL website. I have also forgotten how to type in paragraphs.

Brisbane
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7. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

Hi Jan

We did a similar trip on the Zaandam last year. We don't like the large groups and prices of ship organised excursions. I think the ports may have changed a little since we did it.

I didn't do enough research - didn't really know what I needed to see. We had 4 stops in Hawaii and I wish I'd organised something. We tried to book an excursion at the dock in Hilo, but waited for a hour for others to sign up before the bus would leave - and gave up. We caught a local free bus into the town but there wasn't a lot to do. See what the ship is offering in Hilo. Honolulu was fine - we bought the HOHO trolley tickets for 2 days.

Pago Pago - we booked an excursion on board as we had learned that these were small places with not a lot to do on your own. It was a bus trip - think it was myths and legends. The buses are very basic local ones but it was fun.

We had a day at Dravuni Island - no excursions offered as far as I remember. Locals had set up stalls near the dock. Most people just enjoyed the beach. Same for Lifou in New Caledonia. There were opportunities to go snorkelling at some places. Lautoka (Fiji) - the ship docked quite a way from the town, but there was a free shuttle provided to one of the local tourist shops in the town. We wandered around the market there - quite interesting. It was hot - appreciated a coffee shop with aircon.

Ile de pins - good beaches/snorkelling. We found a bus stop near the market and after a long wait, managed to get a local tourist bus which took us to see some other parts of the island. This was good as we were a bit 'beached out'. As Queenslanders, we are used to good beaches.

Noumea - the ship docks right in town. It's an expensive city. There are money exchange places at the terminal but they had a high surcharge if I remember correctly. Free wifi there. We wandered about the town - hadn't changed much since we were there 30 years ago. We caught a local bus out to the beaches and walked along the waterfront. I'd go to the local museum and aquarium if you haven't been to Noumea before. You can get there by bus I think - there were helpful information booths at the ship terminal.

You can book excursions on board - don't have to do it before hand unless the excursion is very popular and has limited numbers.

I'd recommend Cruise Critic and signing up for your roll call. We've booked great excursions with others on the ship for other cruises we've done.

It's a very relaxing cruise home. We love HAL, even though I've made some negative comments about the state of the cabin we had on that cruise. Fresh orange juice at breakfast; no charge for proper coffee at dinner; free room service (but we leave a tip); - these cost more on some other lines. Wonderful crew. We haven't used beverage cards.

We take a few bottles of wine on board and often have a drink before dinner in our cabin (on the verandah if we have one). You can get a few snacks from the Lido (cheese platter) or the Terrace Grill (nachos type things till 6.00pm) and bring them back to your room. Sometimes, we've taken a glass of wine up to the pool area and sat at the tables there before dinner. Other times, we have a cocktail - the Crows Nest is lovely and other bars have music. They have happy hours but a bit early - 4.00pm to 5.00pm. You can buy a spirits package for round $33.00 - a litre of spirits and 3 cans of mixer. We've sometimes bought extra mixers while ashore.

You can even buy wine by the glass at dinner. There is also a good value house carafe or bottles if you prefer. If you BYO, there is a $17.00 surcharge and we have always had to pay it.

You'll have port talks and a map for each stop. We had a good guest speaker on board who was a specialist in WW2 and the Pacific - he had some very interesting insights.

Let me know if you have more specific questions - I don't have the wealth of experience of fannish - but will try.

Carnarvon, Australia
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8. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

thank you for your imput the trouble is I dont really know what to ask but have found trip advisor and cruise critic very informative and thanks for you imput. hope you are enjoying retirement.

Brisbane
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9. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

Hi again Jan

I'll just add a few comments/tips as I think of them - problems I stressed over/didn't know about to begin with. I apologise it you already have some of this information.

We use a 28degrees credit card when we travel - there are no conversion fees. (Bank charges can add 3.5% to you bill.) You can check it out on line.

Don't stress too much about formal nights. As most people have long flights/future sightseeing - they tend to take less luggage. People still dressed well for formal nights - but not as much as I have seen on shorter cruises. I travel with a pair of black silk trousers and a few fancy tops for those nights. Men can get by with a coat and tie. You don't need dinner suits. (Or you can skip formal nights and just eat in the Lido).

If you enjoy the cruise, it's worth while buying a future cruise deposit. It costs $100 per person and you can use it as a deposit on a cruise within 4 years. It saves having to pay the huge non-refundable deposits required in Australia. It's best to use it with the HAL office as the other agencies we've used still want to charge cancellation fees if you change your mind. HAL allowed us to move our bookings to other cruises if we found a better deal. That way, you can wait for a bargain to come up and you also get some OBC. There are still 2 different prices for cruises and you cannot pay the often much cheaper US price on board (check it out on the computers - the HAL site is free) unless you paid for the cruise you are on in US dollars.

Adaptors - there are 2 power points - a US one and a European one. With an adaptor, you can only use one at a time. We just take one adaptor for the European point now.

You can use US dollars in most of the ports - but not Noumea. Take a good supply of small notes for tipping on board (if you choose to) and for small purchases on the islands during the cruise.

Have fun with your planning.

Greater Sydney...
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10. Re: Cruises Holland America Line

"Take a good supply of small notes for tipping on board (if you choose to)"

You don't tip on board. There is a $12 per day/person charge added to your shipboard account to cover this. We did tip our cabin steward a bit extra at the end of our cruise.

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