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.
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.
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.
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!
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.