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  #1 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 11:35 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4
Default -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

My ENTIRE family took our FIRST EVER cruise with Holland America. from January 3rd to 10th for the Eastern Caribbean with stops at Grand Cayman Islands, Montego Bay, and Puerto Maya, Mexico.

First, the Facts:

SHIP SIZE: Decent, Mid-Range.

~5 passenger decks, 3 public decks, with Top Sports deck (basketball, volleyball, tennis, Table tennis) as well as an Observation Deck.

FOOD: Very Good. Gourmet.

Venues included one formal dining hall (Rotterdam), one casual cafeteria-styled hall (Lido Deck), several small lounges and other service stations. Lox, prosciutto, jumbo shrimps, good soups, sandwiches and pizza made to order ... just for cafeteria styled venue. Formal Dining Hall has 5-star level entrees like venison in red wine sauce, steamed lobster (carefully split for ease of attack), filet mignon (perfectly made to order), prime rib roast, succulent sea bass, Beijing/peking duck .. these were just the entrees! My favorite dish on the cruise was the escargot poached in garlic butter, YUM.

EXCURSIONS: Expensive!

For a family of 5 and at an average of $70pp/day excursion, we ended up adding to our final bill another $200 pp from the three ports of call. The Ship's prices were approximately $30/day more than the SAME TRIP available from the booths at the ports. Also ALL of the Bus Drivers and GUIDES and BUS Storytellers blatantly asked for TIPS at the end. Common practice but on top of $70...Yikes!


Daily Shows with a mix of comedians, circus acts, etc. Packed schedule of events with mix of sports, group walks, dance lessons, games, etc. Worth Noting is the Library full of excellent books (fiction, NF, etc), board games (inc. MahJong, Backgammon, etc.) to check out during the duration of cruise if you did not come prepared or ran out of reading material. Comfy leather-like chairs, too.

WEATHER: Perfect. Sunny or Partly Sunny 60F-80F. EVERYDAY.

PARTICIPANTS: Mostly Seniors.

Some families with older (20+ age) children such as ourselves. Not too many children, but there will be if you cruise during Xmas or New Year's. Offer frequent cruisers incentive to cruise for free if more than 4-5 others reserve together. We were not given the option as first time cruisers (though in a party of five).

SERVICE: Mixed Reviews Some of the staff were ultra friendly, and some were down right rude.

The Good:

Two of the BEST aspects of this HAL (Holland American Line) experience has been 1) the Dining Staff & the 2) Housekeeping Staff's services . The quality of these folks rival that of many fine dining restaurants & 5-star hotels. As someone who routinely dines out (in the NYC area) and loves to travel the world, I recognize excellent serves and work ethics immediately.

The Bad:

It was a complete shock when I realized that THREE of us (in a party of 5) were placed in a 2-people room , and that the HAL GUEST RELATIONS MANAGER, was most RUDE and DEROGATORY in her comments regarding our problem.

Any FINE and REPUTABLE hotel, faced with a similar situation, would IMMEDIATELY and UNDOUBTEDLY offer a bigger room, or another room to accommodate for the mistake. We were NOT treated with courtesy nor respect in the least from their Guest Relations Manager (irony!), and began that cruise, my first and most likely last, on a very SOUR note.

Get this: The Cruise was NOT EVEN FULL! We were offered two choices: a cot in our room or PAY $1300 (1.25x original rate) more for another 2-people room!

The Ugly:

I was even DENIED the option to make a phone call in order to straighten things out before we left shore. Instead, I was recommended to use the $8/min satellite telephone in my (now cramped) room to get to the bottom of the situation.

Because the Guest Relations Manager 'did not want to get involved,' stating that this was not her 'responsibility.' I was bewildered when she said, 'There are 1200 other people on this cruise', and that our problem was 'not significant' compared to them. Jaw dropping.!

Despite excellent service in other departments, the UNWILLINGNESS of the Guest Relations Manager to be of assistance during a GUEST RELATIONS situation, spoiled the enjoyment of the ENTIRE cruise.

A 2-people cabin with a COT leaves no more than ~20sq. ft of free space! The housekeeping staff was sympathetic (they brought out the cot EVERY DAY and put it away EVERY NIGHT. Though the cot stayed in our room the whole time).

Due to disappointing Guest Relations, I WILL NOT recommend this cruise to anyone else. Not my colleagues at work, not my friends, and certainly not to you, an unsuspecting reader, possibly about to go on your first cruise like we did.


We paid Extra $$$ originally to book the THREE of Us in a FOUR people room and they GAVE us a 2-people room!! And then DENIED responsibility! And then offered for us to PAY MORE MONEY to get what we purchased in the first place?!

Blue-Collar Housekeeping Staff and Dining Staff: friendly, worked hard

White-Collar Management unwilling help if you need Customer Related Assistance.

The Bottom Line:

If anything is wrong with your reservation, GOOD LUCK correcting it. You're STUCK on the boat.

CANNOT in GOOD Conscience recommend this cruise. For ANYONE. The looks on my family's faces (and mine as well) when we heard what that lady said to us. Whatta Shame.

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  #2 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 11:54 AM
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Default Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

One queston? Didn't you have a room number on your tickets? Did you check it against the room you reserved? Did you look it up on the HAL site?
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 12:22 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 164
Default Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

No excuse for rudeness, I agree. But did you have a TA when you booked? The cabins are clearly marked on the deck plans as to how many people they accomodate. If your TA booked you a 2 person room planning on a cot for the third, that is her/his mistake, not the ship's. If indeed a 2 person w/ cot room had been paid for there would be an extra charge to upgrade to a larger room.

Again, no excuse for rudeness.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 12:39 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 267
Default Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

I agree - did you not check the deck plans to see what kind of a cabin you were reserving? Who did you book through - a travel agent or an on-line agency?

By the way the port was COSTA Maya, not Puerto Maya.

I just returned from the Veendam and the GRM was excellent. Do you know the GRM's name when you were on the ship? It will be listed on the daily program for the last day of the cruise.

"Offer frequent cruisers incentive to cruise for free if more than 4-5 others reserve together. We were not given the option as first time cruisers (though in a party of five)."

I don't know where you heard this, but I have never heard of such a thing. We have cruised HAL for over 20 years and many times we have had more than 5 people in our group. I believe you misunderstood this. If you book 15 or more passengers you get one free passage, but certainly not with 5 people booking.
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Old February 23rd, 2004, 12:56 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4
Default --(Comments to User Review) Holland America Veendam Caribbea

Hi Fellow Cruisers,

Thank you for the information correction. Re: incentives program and the like.

To be more specific, yes, We know the name of the GRM; I did not mention this originally because it seemed too personal. Her Name is Ms. Donna Prescott.

Also, yes, we booked through a Travel Agent. This is where the problem laid. Ms. Prescott's attitude clearly showed disapproval regarding booking through a TA. After the cruise, we double-checked with the TA and we should have received larger accomodations, as paid. We are still trying to straighten out the details about getting some of our money back.

My comment was specifically regarding the fact that we were not allowed to COMMUNICATE to our TA (besides using the $8/min sat. phone) to check upon this option before leaving Tampa shore, despite our reporting this within minutes of discovering the problem. Being our first cruise, we though the sofa in our room folded out to a sofa-bed (not the case). It was only until the housekeeping staff noted otherwise.

Had we been more experienced, and perhaps checked on sites such as these and e-mailed seasoned cruisers such as yourselves, this problem most likely could have been avoided.

We simply had no idea that a cruise experience can be so disheartening!

And yes, we SHOULD have checked the room number and details. This was a family trip, and all of us MET UP in Tampa just one day before the cruise. We flew in from both the Northeast and also West Coast, and had enough time and evergy at this point to read about excursions and fill in forms and information. There was a room number for the three of us, and since we booked a larger room for three people, did not suspect anything different.

Thank you kind souls again for all the helpful comments. Hopefully someone reading this will be able to avoid the same problems we had and have a much better OVERALL experience.

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  #6 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 01:37 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 267
Default Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

Ah, this was not the GRM we had and knowing her personally, I could not believe that she would treat someone like this. I have no idea who Donna Prescott is.

Please do not let this one employee sour your thoughts of never sailing with HAL again. It's a little late to say it now, but you should have gone to the Hotel Manager and spoken to him. I am sure he would have straightened out the matter.

By the way, what cabin did you book for the 3 of you?
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Old February 23rd, 2004, 08:04 PM
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Posts: 4
Default Re: Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review -

Regarding which cabin we booked, all I know is that it was supposed to be a 4-people room but there would be the three of us. The cabin we were PLACED IN was 357; It was one of those whithout windows.

Our MAJOR GRIPE with what had happened was that we were given virtually no other options: Not even a FREE PHONE CALL!!

We really felt that we were STUCK, with no where to go. At least with Hotels and Restaurants you can LEAVE. We ALREADY paid and could not hop on another Cruise, simply because we had a problem with Holland America.

We tried really hard not to let this one incident get in the way of the week. But to start off like this, and to have to skirt around a cot all week, knowing FULL WELL that you had paid extra (per person) to be so cramped!

The curiseline never expected 3 of us to show up to that room, though we each had a pass/ticket. The beds were pushed together and there were only two life vests in the closet, 2 sets of towels, 2 glasses, 2 chocolates on the pillow.. We had to show up to the Life Boat drill without Vests because there was not enough. Everyone recognized us as the "People Without LifeJackets" all week long. It was EMBARRASING. (we had decided that rather chose the one sister who would 'die' in case of a ship wreck, we'd all go without the vests)

What I did not mention in the original post was that it was also dangerous, and most likely a fire-hazard to have that cot in the stateroom. My sisters and I are fairly slim, but sometimes we would lose our balance squeezing through the ~3inches of space between the cot and the desk to get to the bathroom -- and fall on top of the one stuck in the cot. Sure, we laughed about it, but it was a bitter laugh because we also knew WE WERE CHEATED and no one was going to help us.

Had the same situation happend to others who may not be as LIMBER, it would be a whole other story.

Even now I feel that some of you thinks this happened because it was my fault. That I didn't check and make sure the room we paid for was what we got, didn't reconfirm with the TA before leaving, didn't go to the Cruise Hotel Manager.*

(*we asked to speak to the 'Manager' and got Ms Prescott, only until after our meeting and we had looked her title up did we find our ironically she is the Guest Relations Manager)

I'm very sorry that this had happened to us. We were first time cruisers and didn't realize that taking a cruise would cause so much grief and dissapointment. Even thinking about it now, stirs up a lot of emotions.

What disturbs me the most is the way the situation made us feel: TRAPPED because it was OUR FAULT. If you only saw all the dissappointed faces on my family members. And the FACT that we paid EXTRA, essentially the price of 6 people and 3 rooms.

I posted to this forum to allow others to be aware of similar situations. So THEY will remember to double check their rooms, reconfirm with their TA, and go to the Hotel Manager, not the Guest Relations Manager (or double check and see who is who).

Thank you again to everyone who has read my review and found it somewhat useful.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 08:28 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 267
Default Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review --

I am getting a little skeptical of this. Cabin 357 is a cabin for only 2 people and as stated on HAL's web site Maximum Occupancy is 2. HAL would not have allowed 3 people in a 2 person cabin . I wonder if the TA screwed up and doesn't want to fess up to it.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old February 23rd, 2004, 08:46 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review -

I'm with you Dizy, I'm very skeptical....something just isn't right.......
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  #10 (permalink)  
Old February 24th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4
Default Re: Re: -- Holland America Veendam Caribbean Cruise Review -

I'm skeptical too ... about lots of things you hear about cruiselines nowadays ...

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