My wife and I just love cruising. We've taken a few, some good some great and some not so great. On the heels of a wonderful Alaskan cruise with Holland America we were looking forward to a once-in-a-lifetime "holiday cruise" through the Panama Canal. The ship was the Statendam, a vessel we were not familiar with but trusted the resolve of the crew and Holland America to offer us a great time.
Initially, we boarded in San Diego where the Statendam was gearing up for a return through the Panama Canal and on to Florida. Something that we did not know (but soon found out) this cruise yo-yo'd back and forth on basically the same route for weeks on end. When we sat down to relax in the Lido buffet it was like we had a bad smell. The staff completely ignored us, the food was average at best and the atmosphere was far less than we were used to from this cruise line. It appeared that Holland America was trimming out some service staff and at the same time was training others.
Our stateroom was alive with creeks and rattles, odd smells from the hallways and constant griping from almost everybody throughout the entire voyage. The big "holiday" hoopla was basically a day of the staff donning Santa hats, a big Christmas tree in the main area, and a clever P.A. announcement from the bridge that Santa had been sited. The New year's eve "blow-out" consisted of a one hour "party" that ended exactly at midnight when everyone was shooed out so the staff could "setup" the room for another event. Wahoo.
The shore excursions were another story altogether. Since we have been to Mexico a bunch of times we sort-of had a bead on what to expect. What caught us by surprise was the failure of Holland America to provide for folks who were taken out on a "tour" that did not include a meal, only to return to a ship that had nothing to offer but an overwhelmed room service staff. The shore excursions themselves - at least the ones we took - only slightly matched the description given in the printed material and on the in-room video. We found the Mexican tour provider unable to provide adequate first aide to my wife when she fell from the shabby ATV she was expected to "ride" (I use the word 'ride' loosely - we were expected to race mindlessly along heavily traveled secondary roads with only a thin helmet between you and Jesus). I would have expected Holland America to have checked this stuff our a little before they gave it the green light.
I found broken glass in a desert, my wife bit into an olive pit baked into a loaf of bread.. and on and on. All this couched in the cold, surly (almost put out) attitude of almost all of the service staff.
Here's the kicker. I filled out one of the "comment cards" at the end of the cruise and attached a short note outlining my concerns. When I returned home I contacted my travel agent and asked him to forward a letter that detailed how we felt about the experience. To date no one from Holland America has contacted me regarding any of the issues I brought forward - that speaks volumes.
I have since taken a Celebrity cruise - mainly because we found the passengers flying out of the airport at the same time we were after the Holland America cruise, raving about the service, the ship, the food and practically everything else - so I booked one. They were right.
Skip the Statendam.