The cruise was nice but not up to the standards of other Holland America cruises we have enjoyed. The ship was understaffed and service was very spotty, from very good to very bad. One of the ship's officers admitted (privately over a drink) that Holland America had reduced the staff in order to cut expenses. Translated, that means to increase profits. HA is more and more committed to competing in the mass marketing venue as opposed to providing upper scale service. Personally, I'd rather pay a little more and have better service. This was our 5th HA cruise, and 12th overall. We choose HA because it is one of the few cruise lines that still allows smoking on the private verandas.
FIRST; THE UNACCEPTABLE:
Embarkation in New York was a horror. Passengers waited in the terminal for FOUR hours or more trying to embark. HA did not have nearly enough agents to process the number of passengers that they obviously knew were to board the ship. They alternatively blamed the computers and the fact that the Eurodam had just completed a transatlantic crossing. Huh? Was the transatlantic crossing a sudden, unexpected event? Like HA didn't have knowledge of the Eurodam's schedule years in advance. They were totally unprepared for the number of persons they knew were to board, or simply didn't care about the inconvenience to its customers. The ship's departure from New York was delayed over an hour because of incompetence. What an awful way to begin a vacation.
SECOND. THE BAD:
1. Tender service. We had tender service in the first 3 ports: Newport, RI, Gloucester, MA and Bar Harbor, ME. It was awful. There was about a two hour wait to leave the ship, UNLESS you paid for an expensive Holland America tour. Basically, unless you added to their profit center, you were held hostage until the very end. Cheers erupted as passengers finally had their numbers called so they could leave the ship.
2. Lido Grill (buffet). Service was very bad. Servers often got orders wrong and seemed totally indifferent to the passengers. Inexplicably, HA discontinued
the use of trays several years ago, and the simple act of having breakfast may entail 3 or 4 separate trips to the table to get juice, coffee, water, fruit, breakfast, etc.
Most port stops had return times to the ship about 4:30 in the afternoon, precisely timed to have the Lido Grill shut down all lines with no service or food available. Pizza was available on the outside deck by the pool area, where it was subject to inclement weather.
3. Service in main dining room. We had open seating, which meant that we never sat at the same table twice. Depending on where we sat and when we ate, the service went from quite good to awful. One night we had to get a ship's officer to get water, silverware, etc. and to take an order, after a 20-30 minute wait. The officer actually served us our food. It was not the fault of the individual waiters/busboys, who worked hard. The restaurant was simply understaffed, and unable to serve its passengers adequately.
THIRD. THE GOOD:
1. Cabin service was good. Nothing outstanding, but the stewards did their jobs promptly and efficiently. No complaints at all.
2. Spa. My wife went to the spa and was very pleased. She thought the service and treatment was very nice.
3. Food in main dining room was quite good. As noted above, the service was spotty, but the food was well prepared and well presented.
4. The ship was always clean. Kudos!
5. Main desk service was very good. I had forgotten a medical item and the desk was very helpful in receiving a FEDEX package in our third port.
6. Stability. We had some very high winds and choppy seas, but the ship was exceptionally stable. I'm sure that is due to its size and improved stabilizers, but nonetheless, it was a very smooth ride!
FOURTH. THE EXCELLENT:
1. The Tamarind Dining Room (Asian). Exceptional service and food. If you like Asian food at all, this is a must.
NOTE: There is nothing that the ship's crew can do about this, but I thought I'd comment anyway. I am required to sleep with a CPAP machine, as I am sure were many other passengers. HA even rents CPAP machines in its infirmary, and other medical equipment through a subcontractor that all require electricity. There is no electrical outlet on the entire side of the cabin where the bed is. I had to get a 50 foot long big orange industrial grade extension cord and a power strip from the front desk, and have it draped across the entire room (for my wife to trip over) every night. There are only 2 (!) outlets in the entire cabin, both at the desk. This ship was built in 2008, in an era of cell phones, laptops, tablets, hair dryers, etc. Two outlets is inexcusable, and especially with none at either bedside table. Apparently, the HA architects never have been on a cruise ship.
We still had a very nice time despite the deficiencies noted above. These items are correctable except for the outlet issue, and hopefully HA will address these issues. We took our first HA cruise in 1997, and I do feel that HA is sacrificing service and quality for reduced cost and increased profit, and that is sad. The ships get larger and larger to accommodate more passengers and increase revenues, which is an industry wide trend but still is disconcerting. Still, HA is probably the leader in its price range.
Would we go again? Yes, but preferably on a smaller HA ship.