Living in Florida, we cruise a lot. And mostly on the mass market lines. For this cruise, we decided to return to Holland America after a number of years. We've always appreciated their low key atmosphere, gracious service and better cuisine. Based on our expectations, we were disappointed with this cruise.
The ship was coming off of one week in the yard. When we arrived at the terminal, we were given notice that embarkation would not begin until 2 PM. The notice said we were told about this in an e-mail over a month prior to sailing. This was news to us. Having several hours to kill, and living nearby, we went home. I went on the web and looked. What we had received was a notice of unspecified change referencing a web link. Going to the web link, one had to look long and hard to find the reference to delayed embarkation. To me, better customer service would have been to send a simple e-mail - and a reminder closer to sailing.
We were booked in a Spa Verandah Suite. It was nice in size and layout, but it was tired. The furnishings were beat up. The only places you could tell that there was a pattern to the carpeting was around the edges of the cabin. The TV remote control was filthy. One of the features of a Spa stateroom, according to HAL, was a "countertop water feature in-room." Suffering from tinnitus, I was looking forward to utilizing this to aid sleeping. It wasn't there, and when I inquired about it from the cabin steward, he had no knowledge of such a thing. If you are going to market it, you had better fulfill it.
We had signed up for open seating. The first evening when we arrived at the dining room, it was a mob scene. Total chaos. The computer system was down and the Maitre D's were unable to manage the situation. They kept apologizing, but no one was being seated. There were about 35 parties ahead of us waiting to be seated. We gave up and went to the Lido. The next night, the computers were operating, but the situation was not much better. We went to Canaletto. Good food; poor service.
When we finally made it to the dining room, the service was spotty at best. One should not have to ask for water; one should not have to ask for a basket of rolls. In short, the dining room was very poorly managed.
Worse, there was a sanitation embargo for the first 48 hours of the cruise. What this meant was that you could not help yourself in any of the buffets. You had to be served. You had to be given silverware. The results were unnecessary lines of people waiting to be served, waiting for water, waiting for coffees, etc. There were no salt and pepper shakers; you had to request and then were given paper packets. This was extremely inconvenient and frustrating. I get the point, but there are so many other thousands of places that germs can be spread on a ship(i.e., library, casino, etc.), that the exercise was pointless. This needless drill took up the first 30% of the cruise.
There were other problems, but, net, we were disappointed with this cruise. The service and ambiance were far below the standards we had come to expect from Holland America.