It has been 14 years since we last sailed on Holland America. It was a wonderful experience and we expected nothing less when we booked our southern Caribbean/Panama Canal cruise on the Zuiderdam for Nov 9-19 of this year. Despite a delayed embarkation due to the Norovirus, our spirits were high for a great voyage. Our first hint of problems came when we had lunch in the dining room our first day at sea. No lie, it took 2 full hours to finish our meal. For dinner we signed up for open seating. Our Holland America rep had told us this was something new, and because we enjoyed meeting many new people, she thought we’d like the variety and flexibility. Our first two nights were a disaster. Our meals again took 2+ hours, there did not seem to be enough assistant waiters to even keep our water and iced tea glasses filled, and we constantly had to ask for things. No one ever came by to scrape the crumbs from the table before dessert (just one of those small things you notice), and our used plates often sat for 30 minutes between courses. At the end of our second night we spoke with a white uniformed dining officer, and he set us up for a set table and a set time for the following nights……the service was no better! By night 5 we had enough, but were fortunate to meet up with 2 couples who ate at 8 every night and found a fantastic waiter (Afton). We joined them for the last 5 nights and received excellent service!
We were somewhat appeased after the 5th night, but the Mariner’s brunch on our last day at sea was the last straw. We were served dessert, and then basically deserted by our waiter. We were not offered tea or coffee, and we never received our petit fours at the end. After waiting about 15 minutes, we summoned another waiter who notified an officer, then our waiter came back to offer coffee, but never the petit fours, which were sitting at the serving station. We left the dining room feeling very dejected, thinking “This brunch was for Holland America ALUMNI, and we were treated like this?”
We have never in our many cruises EVER considered tipping less than the recommended rate….because we never received less than excellent service. Unfortunately, Holland America did not even come close to living up to its motto: “A Signature of Excellence”, and we felt it important to make a statement. We deducted 35% from the hotel service charge. Hopefully someone will take notice.
I do not know what the problem was, but we were never offered any explanations. If they were short on staff because of illness or vacation time, they could have told us and maybe we would have understood. The overall morale of the crew was not what we have seen on other ships. The only dining staff member who stood out above the rest was “Hunky Dory,” and if you have been on the Zuiderdam, you know he asks your name and then remembers it for the rest of the cruise.
I will be curious to know if others have had these experiences on the Zuiderdam recently. If so, I think it is important for Holland America to know. I will be contacting my cruise consultant to let her know.
Just to end on a happy note, the quality of the food was great, the entertainment top notch, our canopy zip line adventure in Costa Rica was
outstanding, and the ship's captain was informative and humorous, even when the fire alarms went off at 3 am for a real fire in the engine room.