Dear fellow cruisers,
We just completed a wonderful 10-day cruise from Miami to Costa Rica through the Panama Canal from Dec. 13 to Dec. 23. What should have been a memorable experience was spoiled for us and many others by Holland America's travel arrangements for us on our final day. We had to get up at 4 a.m. to be off the Amsterdam by 6.30 a.m. We were then bussed to the airport in Liberia, a trip of 2 hours and 10 minutes. What greeted us was not only special security measures, but a small airport not equipped for the many bus laoads of passengers leaving there from the ship. At least six hundred people were dropped off there from 9 a.m. on. We all had to sit in a FIELD until take-off time. The airplane was chartered by Holland America from PLANET AIRWAYS AND another plane provided was from FALCON AIRWAYS. And, instead of leaving at 11.30 a.m., our plane, which arrived in time, sat on the tarmac until 1 p.m. There were not enough folding chairs to go around, and many people had to sit on the grass. And there were on a few trees for shade. A good number of the folks were over 65 and it amazed me that some were not felled by heat stroke. No water was provided in all that time; however, one could buy pop or beer. The plane were flew on was old, in poor repair, and the bathrooms were filthy. When we finally arrived in Miami, there was no gate for us to land, and we waited on the plane for the best part of an hour. After deplaning, it took over an hour to get our luggage. Of course, we all missed our connecting flights. After customs, we were met by Holland America reps who had us all take to the Airport Hilton. Our rooms were paid for,but no meal allowance given. We bought sandwiches at $8.50 American funds. (The meal we had been given on the plane could not be eaten..it was theworst one I have ever had on a airplane.Chicken was as dry as a bome.) We got in our rooms around 9.30 p.m., but had to get back up at 3 a.m. as our shuttle bus left for the airport at 4 a.m. To our horror, we learned the next morning that our plane, which was leaving at 7 p.m., was NOT going to TORONTO, but was going to CHICAGO! So we flew to Chicago, waited an hour, then finally flew to Toronto. We arrived home in Brantford, Ontario at 4 pm. There were no meals served on any of the flights. The flight from Costa Rica which was only a little over 2 hours, took us nearly a day. My husband and I and the couple we travel with my never sail with Holland America again, although we are all mariners. The company cannot think very much of its passeengers if it treats them this way. There was no reason we had to leave the ship that early. We think it is because they have cut the staff and it takes longer to do the cabins. I am sending a copy of this letter to Holland America to express my displeasure with it srrangements for us. I will let the message board know if I get an answer. Happy New Year, Carol Ann Westbrook
Sounds like the flight we were on and I described in the HAL board on Cruise Critic. They DID announce a choice between chicken and lasagna for the Planet entree; it's just that they ran out of lasagna less than half way through the cabin. We debarked at 6:30 AM and got there at 9:00; tablemates debarked at 5:30 and must have arrived about 8:00 AM for the first of several Fallon chartered flights; the one scheduled to leave at 10:30 that left just after 12:30.....
We also had problems disembarking from the Amsterdam Panama Canal cruise which we took on November 1. We were fortunate enough to be able to leave from Norfolk, Va, where we could drive to from our home in Richmond, Va. We were told we would have a direct charter flight back to Norfolk from Costa Rica on World Airways. However, the day before our departure from the ship in Costa Rica, we received notification from the cruise line that due to security changes in Norfolk, and the closing of the customs office there, we would have to stop in Sanford, Fla. ( had never heard of it, but found out it was near Orlando, to clear customs, before proceeding to Norfolk). Like you, we endured an early rising, long busing, and crowded airport in San Jose, plus hours of waiting.(at least we did not have to wait in a field, just an unairconditioned airport) Our flight was fine, no problem with World Airways, except there were over 350 of us on the plane, and we were one of the younger ones (in our 50's), most were age 70 plus. The procedure in Sanford was ridiculous, it took 4 hours, and the airport was clearly not prepared for us. They had plenty of customs agents, but only one security gate, which we all had to go through before we could return to the plane we just got off of. We finally got home at 3am. It certainly was not a good ending to what was an otherwise good cruise. I know how tired I was, I not sure how those elderly passengers managed. This probably will not keep us from traveling with Holland America again, but we were certainly make our own air arrangements for any future cruises.
maybe this is why I am seeing more and more of the Panama canal cruises now travelling to Cal. ports or doing round trip FTL, we are planning on taking the Rotterdam 14 day xmas and new years 2002 cruise which does FTL round trip.....jean