My wife and I just returned from a 7 day cruise to Alaska including the inner passage and glacier bay. Having traveled on Holland America many years back, we had expected the same kind of top notch service, food and entertainment. My only explanation for not coming anywhere near our expectations might be the fact that Holland America is now owned by Carnival. We were very disappointed in many aspects, not the least being the service (in most areas of the ship with the exception of our room steward) and caliber of the food and its presentation. To be fair our last cruise was on Oceania's Marina, and this cruised paled badly in comparison.
Let's start with embarkation. No real problems here except for late delivery of our bags to our rooms. As is custom on most cruises there were tables set up in the embarkation area to make/check dining reservations. This went ok, but there simply weren't enough staff for the number of people waiting to check or set up their dining reservations This is the #1 negative about this cruise...it appeared to us the ship was understaffed. Our overall number two gripe is that EVERYTHING is a profit center. I hope you com on the ship with deep pockets, because your hand will be in them at every turn. I understand cruise lines are in business to make money, but the hawking of goods and drinks that went on in this ship was offensive. At every turn there was someone selling something. I'm surprised that Holland American didn't put pay toilets on their ships! If this doesn't bother you, then you will probably have a good cruise. If it does, it will taunt you from the moment you walk on the ship to the minute you disembark when the cruise is over. It reminded me of a seven day infomercial and flea market.
Some other negatives. The organization of moving passengers on and off the ship at port stops was horrendous. Long lines with apparently no organization to how to get passengers on and off the ship. At one port we waited a half hour in a crowed stairwell to get off the ship. My only thought was what if there were a fire...few would survive. The signage on the ship was also terrible. While there were maps at the elevators, once you wandered from them you had no idea where anything was. Of course after a week on board walking in the wrong direction to get to your destination, all was well. A lot of time was wasted going to the wrong floor and turning the wrong way, and this is a relatively small ship!
Then there was the issue of language. Most of the crew originate from Indonesia and the Philippines. Conversing with many was a definite challenge as it was obvious that English was definitely not very well learned. It because really frustrating asking a question and the person had no idea what you were talking about. This happened many times during the week aboard the ship. There was also the incessant photographer in your face looking to take your photo and selling you the finished product back at outrageous prices. In this age of digital photography, the cost of those photos should have been at least half the price...if you want photos at all. Some other cruise lines have done away with photos altogether. But this goes back to what I said about everything being a profit center. The most offensive were the people who took drink orders. They were constantly asking walking around you if you wanted to purchase a drink. When all we wanted was two glasses of water, there was no one to be found!
Probably the worst service was in the dining room. The brochure and information we received said you had a choice of open seating or a set reservation to dine in the dining room. This turned out to not be the case. There is a two tiered dining room; the top is for people who wanted open seating, the bottom for people who opted for reserved seating. These choices by the way had to be made in advance. This was very inconvenient. My wife and I chose open seating, but more times than not we could not get a table for two and if we wanted to have any dinner at all we had to share a table with other folks. One night in particularly, we were celebrating our anniversary on the ship, and couldn't get a table for two because we did not reserve one ahead of time. There simply were not enough tables for two.
On a positive note (and there are not many of them), our cabin steward was great. The room was always ready and cleaned after we left it. He was very efficient and served us well. The other surprise was the roominess of our stateroom. While we did not have a balcony, the size was certainly more than adequate for the two of us.
Thank goodness we had fantastic weather in all the ports we visited in Alaska. We brought rain gear and warm clothing which we never had to put on. I don't know what I would have done if I couldn't get off the ship for extended periods of time. Our ports were Juneau, Skagway, and Kethikan. We did not have time to journey north on this trip, but would consider it in the future. Alaska is a beautiful state and should be visited.
We will not be cruising with Holland America Line again. For my money and enjoyment, I will stick with Oceania. They have obviously studied the cruising habits and listened to what people want in a cruise and for me have perfected it.