We had not been on Holland America in over 10 years and we will definitely never sail with them again. I knew even before we sailed that this cruise was going to be a solid week of being nickel-and-dimed. Rather than sending cruise documents, the passengers must now print their own documents as well as their own luggage tags. This took me a very long time since I was doing it for 5 people. That would have been okay, except for the fact that at the VERY end of this process the passenger is informed that Holland America was putting a $480 PER PERSON hold on our credit card until our bill was paid at the end of the cruise. Did Holland America think that we would try to get off the ship without paying our bill? They had the credit card number! Why insult the passengers by insinuating that we couldn't pay our bill? So, I was annoyed before we even stepped on the ship. We had booked 2 connecting suites for ourselves, 1 adult son and 2 10 year old grandsons. The suites were adequate, nothing special. Storage and closet space was sufficient for a 7 day cruise, but definitely not for a longer trip. The cabin basically just looked tired, in need of a good sprucing up. The bathroom was also adequate, but I would have preferred a glass door on the shower, rather than an old shower curtain that had probably not been cleaned or replaced in years. There were virtually no bathroom amenities either. There were no cotton balls or Q-tips, only 1 small bar of hand soap between the two sinks and rather than bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, etc, there were gallon size products attached to the shower wall, like you would find in a gym. There was no bath soap at all, which I would have preferred to the gel. I am making an issue of this, because it is indicative to me of how everything on Holland America is done "on the cheap."
We had signed up for "open seating" at dinner, which according to the website allowed us to come to the dining room anytime between 5:30-9pm. However, when we boarded the ship we were told that open seating would end at 7 pm and that we had to be seated by then. Apparently, this was because there was a very large group of about 800 people on board who were all doing late seating and had reserved the lower level of the dining room for their group. Shortly after boarding the ship I tried to make dinner reservations for 6:45 every night and was told that no reservations were available, it could only be done 2 days ahead of time and we would have to "take our chances." I believe that this group should not have been able to have the run of the dining room; but, at the very least, our travel agent should have been informed about the limitations to "open dining" on this cruise. The first night on the ship we were finishing our dinner at about 8:20 and the maitre d' came over to our table and told us that we would have to leave because the table was needed for the next group. People at a table near ours were told the same thing and they had not yet even ordered dessert!
The service in the dining room was mediocre and actually improper. Plates were grabbed from the table as soon as a guest put down his fork, often leaving one person still eating while everyone else had nothing in front of them. After 3 days of this I was really furious and spoke to the Maitre d" who, of course, was apologetic, and said that his staff was not trained to do that and that there was no intention of rushing us through our meal. He also asked if there was anything else he could do for us and I said that I would like 6:30 dinner reservations at a specific table for the rest of the cruise. He did agree to that, but only because I had complained and made my expectations very clear. It certainly wasn't out of any real desire to please the guests.
As for the food, I think that "barely edible" covers it. The menus were truly bizarre and five out of the seven nights I ended up requesting a plain grilled chicken breast and a baked potato because there was not a single other thing that I would have eaten. Even at breakfast the food was not fresh or hot and had obviously been sitting out for quite a while. One day when I asked for an omelette I was told that it would take a long time to prepare, an obvious attempt to discourage my special order. We tried the Lido twice and both times it was chaotic, with very long lines and food that was definitely not worth the wait. At the end of the cruise, the gentleman who was the head of the section of the dining room where we usually sat, came over to our table and spent a good ten minutes trying to convince me to give him and our waiters a positive review. Ironically, there was no place on the evaluation form to provide a compliment to a particularly helpful crew member. I wouldn't have done it anyway, since a compliment should be given freely, not because it has been requested.
Holland America's website made it sound as if there would be an interesting, active program for kids. It was, in fact, pathetic. The room where activities were held was small and under equipped. The days listing of activities was uninteresting. My grandsons went twice to play some version of dodgeball and would never go back. Other than the day we were in Glacier Bay, there were no activities geared to Alaska, despite the "Jr. Rangers" program that was advertised. The kids were already so turned off by the whole thing that they decided not to go to hear the Park Ranger speak.
More than anything else, I resented the constant feeling of being nickeled and dimed. There was a $12 per day per person "hotel service charge" added to our bill, which we had never been told about. Virtually everything we did resulted in an additional charge. One very cold afternoon I wanted a cup of tea and had to pay for that. The one bottle of water in our room came with a notice that there was a $2.50 charge for it. Many of the so-called lectures were actually attempts to get us to spend money. There was virtually no place to sit and relax without being assaulted by waiters offering us drinks. I actually counted 15 bars on the ship! I really could go on about all the things we found wrong with Holland America, but I think I have made my point. I should also explain that over the last 10 years we have sailed only on Crystal or Regent (17 on Crystal, 4 on Regent), so I am very well aware of how things should be done. For someone who has only cruised on the mass market lines, the things that bothered me would probably not have been big issues; but for those who are used to the upscale lines, I suggest sticking with those. When all is said and done, the cost of the upscale lines is not that much more than the mass market lines because so much more is included.