I will do my best to be fair in this review as we had our ups and downs during this cruise. This was our 17 th cruise on a mixture of cruise lines, mainly Celebrity but also MSC and up to Oceania and Aramark.
This cruise did not start well when we discovered at 0430hrs as we climbed into the car to head to the airport that a text has arrived at midnight to say our flight from London to Amsterdam with BA has been cancelled and that we had been booked onto the next available flight at 1800hrs. With the ship leaving at 1700hrs not much use to us, after being on hold for 20 minutes I finally managed to raise somebody from BA who after much more time on hold as she spoke to her manager informed us they could not get us out any earlier, despite there being many flights and us offering to drive to another airport if need be.
By now we were half way to the airport and pulled in so that I could contact HA. Once again on hold for 20 minutes (cost £24) until a kind lady answered who then spent half an hour trying to sort us out. Still no flight even though we offered to go via another city if required. Nope not to be we were told to head home and flights would be arranged to get us out to Bergen on Monday with an overnight stay before joining the ship in Eidfjord on Tue.
Flights went okay and we duly arrived in Bergen to find know body waiting to meet us. I gave it 20 mins and then started the by now dreaded process of trying to ring HA. On hold for half and hour and then my phone decided I had used up to much money and needed to buy more so I gave up with HA and contacted my own TA who I had made aware of our delayed arrival at the ship on Sunday. Once again on hold while they contacted HA who proceeded to tell them that our contact was waiting for us in the Baggage Hall and could we go back in to find them. In all
my years travelling I have never seen this but after some discussion I was able to get somebody to check and lo and behold know body there. Fortunately I was still on the phone so I had to wait whilst our extremely frustrated TA tried to get answers from HA who even at one point claimed to be speaking to me on another phone which at least raised a laugh between me and my TA. Suffice to say after 3 hours a taxi driver turned up with our name on a piece of paper. After a quick discussion he said to me, you are not crew are you I need to call my boss.
Anyhow he walked us across the road to an airport hotel the Comfort Inn and said I will pick you up on Wednesday morning and take you to the ship. I explained that we were supposed to meet the ship on Tue in Eidjord which prompted another round of calls to his boss. Agreed we would be taken to the ship on Tue morning pick up 0700hrs. Great!
The hotel was clean but very basic and in the middle on nowhere (11 miles to Bergen). That evening after forking out a small fortune for 2 x Bergers I receives an email from HA telling us we would not be picked up in the morning as the ship was not stopping in Eidfjord and that we would be picked up on Wed morning and taken to the ship when it arrived in Bergen. I could not raise HA again but did get hold on our TA who was extremely upset at how we were being treated and that we were in a Comfort Hotel way outside the city. Bless her she managed to raise HA and arranged for them to move us the next morning into a hotel in Bergen.
We finally joined the boat on Wednesday morning. That night as we sat in the bar talking to the barman I asked why the ship did not stop in Eidfjord and was not surprised to be told ‘we did for all the day’!
Cue lots of discussion with the front desk and the Services Manager who were all extremely nice and rather horrified with what had happened. Over the next few days we were given money for our expenses and some onboard credit $100 each. I also after some discussion managed to get a refund of for the 3 days of Beverage package that we had been unable to use. The Service manager explained she had sent emails to head office and that she hopped for a response in a couple of days. That never happened and in the end off her own bat she paid us for our telephone bills and gave us some money to cover our lost day on board.
The ship staff I have to say where excellent and kept us up to date with what was happening and in the end I could see how embarrassed they were with the lack on response from the Head Office, where I go from here I am not sure yet as my expenses have been covered but I still missed 3 days of the cruise one of which was entirely the fault of the company. Being dumped outside of Bergen in the crew hotel also needs some explaining.
Onto the ship which is virtually brand new but in some areas is already showing wear and tear eg the Buffet. Design is a personal thing but the lime green and cream colours where horrible and the carpets where already coved in stains which showed up because of the colours. Food was pretty good and there was plenty of variety through all the meals.
The main dining room was pretty hit and miss with some of the food being of pretty poor quality and disappointing. The staff were pretty good although some of the wine waiters were very slow and did not have much knowledge of what they were serving.
We tried all the restaurants which require extra money and enjoyed them all. The steakhouse was very good as was Tamarind.
Our favourite place on the ship was the Dutch coffee bar where we loved the decour and the coffee.
I thought the entertainment was pretty good, the main stage was again a bit hit and miss but still enjoyable. What HA have definitely got right is the music on board walk. The rock band was outstanding as were the two piano players in billboard. Just goes to show that oldies can still enjoy their music without it being a string quartet or a harpist. I hope other lines take note as this made for great nights until quite late. Well done HA for this innovation.
The cruise itself was okay with some interesting ports of call and some quite stunning fjords. I am not sure it was worth the 3 days at sea and a whole day in the very small port at the North Cape. Particularly cheesing off for me was that the point used as the Northern most point is in fact not the most northerly point, a couple of miles west was an obvious point further north. The guide admitted that it was but that it was too difficult to get to so this spot was chosen. Hum bit of a cheat in my view. However, the ship did take a trip out to North Cape and we actually sat quite close to the real point for 10 minutes. It was a lot of sea time for not much really, perhaps heading round to Murmansk would have made the trip more worthwhile. Still we knew that when we booked.
Our favourite port of call was Flaam with the amazing railway, which despite the cost is a must do if only to understand the amazing engineering feat.
So apart from the start of the trip we enjoyed the experience. HA are a middle of the pack when it comes to cruising and are priced as such. Many of the HA crowd who cruise with them regularly did not like the size of the big ship compared with the older smaller ships but it seems that most cruise companies are moving this way. If you want smaller ships be prepared to pay much more. We loved Oceania but they have virtually doubled in price in the last few years making it very expensive and as such just about out of reach.
Would I cruise with HA again, yes if the itinerary is good. It will also depend on if I get some answers as too what went wrong.
Sorry it was so long.