This was the worst cruise I've been on by far. Ever since being acquired by Carnival, Holland-America line has been steadily declining. This was my second HAL cruise. 6 years ago, I cruised on the Veendam and had a wonderful experience. ALOT has changed since then.
When Carnival "updated" the ship in 2010, they removed most of the common areas from the 9th deck. The library and internet center were moved to the Crow's nest. The movie theatre was removed entirely and movie showings were in the Queen's Lounge, deck 2, which was very inadequate given the number of people on the ship. All of this was done in order to make room for more staterooms on the 9th deck. So instead of carrying 1500 passengers like the ship used to, it now carried close to 2000. The ship was very crowded.
The first night we went to dinner in the Vista dining room, we were made to wait 45 minutes before being seated. Once seated, I noticed at least half of the tables in the dining room were open, yet hundreds of people were still waiting to be seated. It became very apparent that the ship was understaffed. Lines in the Lido restaurant were ridiculously long.
Service overall was terrible. There simply were not enough staff to take care of the number of passengers. It was very obvious to me that the staff were not happy, probably due to being overworked. When you called room service, it would take at least 45 minutes for someone to show up.
In typical Carnival tradition, I felt like HAL was nickel and diming us the entire cruise. You want popcorn with your in room movie, sure, it will be $5. They even started charging $20 per passenger for carrying your bags off the ship at the end of the cruise. Hotel service charges were tacked onto the bill for each person staying in a cabin (they used to charge one service charge per cabin, regardless of number of guests) Shore excursions were ridiculously overpriced. For example, 6 years ago, we went whale watching in Juneau for $40 per person. It now costs $140 per person to book on the ship. Need internet access? That will be 75 cents per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee. The majority of the ships activities each day were designed around the idea of selling your something(art, jewelry, etc.)
And then there were the little things we noticed. No more ice sculptures. No more fresh fruit in your stateroom basket. No more chocolate extravaganza. I guess those activities were affecting the bottom line.
The food was mediocre at best. The food in the lido was okay if you could tolerate the long lines. The main dining room food was very disappointed, with some nights verging on being edible. One night, I tried 10 different options from the menu in an attempt to find something decent. I gave up and ordered a hamburger from the stateroom. When the hamburger arrived, you could hardly recognize it as such. It was burnt beyond recognition.
We noticed that our time in port was much shorter as compared to six years ago. Then we discovered the cause. HAL has decreased energy consumption by 10 percent in the last 4 years. Now, they will tell you that it is all in the name of "going green" and being environmentally friendly, but in reality it is all about the money. By slowing the ships down, they save alot of money in fuel costs. Also, the shops onboard have to be closed while in port. If the shops are closed, they can't sell you something, and they would rather you spend your money on the ship rather than at the port. So spending more time at sea helps accomplish that goal.
This was our last Holland-America cruise. We will now be trying Celebrity or Reagent. It is sad that Carnival has ruined what was once possibly the finest cruise line around.