Having just returned home from a 24 day cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam around the Mediterranean I wanted to write a review as to why my family and many others I spoke to, will not be travelling with HAL again, as I’ve spent a lot of money with your company and also spent the large part of 48 hours travelling around the world to join the Nieuw Amsterdam, I just felt that even just to make myself feel better I wanted to write a review and put something in writing – plus it was rammed down our throats almost daily from your cruise director Dave, that “your feedback is important to us,” so hence my review.
It is also the case that I had read many reviews on the Holland America Line (HAL) before I left Australia to get a feel for the Nieuw Amsterdam and to say many, many people were very cutting/negative regarding your company would be an understatement.
To begin let me say the good things about both the ship and company:-
The itinerary was one of the best I’ve seen (MSC also had similar as their ships followed us around the Mediterranean but I choose to travel on a smaller ship thinking it would be better, my first mistake), it was this itinerary that first made me aware of Holland America Line, it’s little wonder that people were coming from all around the world to experience such a wonderful array of ports. As I understand it there were also some 800 Australians on board and filled the ship for both legs of the cruise, my family also signed up for the full 24 days such was the history and features of this wonderful itinerary.
1. Both the Indonesian and Pilipino staff were perfect, always a smile and great service – just very warm and friendly people.
2. Also I’ve never seen such great live production shows in the main theatre, the room was full every night and the artists and production crew were first class, just wonderful. A special mention should go to an Aussie performer Duck Cameron who was the guest magician on board, we loved him, (we’d also seen him 12 months before on the Rhapsody of The Seas (Royal Caribbean Line), and can’t speak high enough of his show.
3. I should also say our stateroom #6058 was very good on the whole, plenty of room, good sized bathroom with separate shower/bath/spa and double vanity – all excellent. I’ll speak on the air conditioning soon.
4. Also a special mention for Tom who advised passengers on the different ports of call each day and was available for questions all the time when you landed at the ports – well done Tom.
Now the reasons why I and many others will never travel onboard another Holland America Line cruise again.
1. From even the moment you woke up in the morning and turn on the TV to get information on the day’s ports and activities we were driven crazy with the HAL “up sell” all the time – cabanas, other restaurants, shop items on special, spa and treatment specials and constantly pushing everyone to sign up for future cruises with HAL, it just drove everyone mad – and that crazy English guy who couldn’t speak properly advertising the dancing with the stars contest all the time was just embarrassing – it really did feel like you were at McDonalds with HAL, the up sell never stopped! (And yes I am very aware that the best form of advertising is in-house). We also received many up sell leaflets in our door mail box as well – it never stopped.
2. To add to that the ship’s shop also never stopped pushing items for sale even in areas that were normally designated for relaxation such as the sun decks and pool areas (it also didn’t leave a lot of room for passengers with those cabanas/tents surrounding public areas as well), and believe it or not even selling in the main Manhattan restaurant! We were also invited to a number of functions such as a Mediterranean night by the pool only again to find it was just another reason to position stands and tables around the pool to sell more items to us – HAL should be well aware that selling and begging is something that never stops when you go ashore, it would be nice to try and escape it when you come back on board to relax. And keep in mind our family brought many items while on board, so why was it always rammed down our throats?
3. You should also know that when the Australians and New Zealanders were invited to a pool area get together when we first came on board (Tuesday 21st May 2013, 5.30pm- 6.30pm), HAL staff then hustled us out with loud hand held hailers to allow another get together of American passengers to come in after us and they were then given “free champagne” – I had one woman who turned around at the table in the Lido restaurant and told us they were disgusted in just that stupid action alone. Only HAL could make passengers angry by having a “happy hour” and then an hour later undo all the good will by moving the Australians out and giving Americans free champagne. HAL would have to be aware of the way people speak to one another about things like this on board ship – it’s what passenger’s do - compare different ships and what they experience on board.
4. Another thing that “really” upset people was the way HAL tried to segregate passengers. Now I’ve read many reviews on the internet about the way HAL tries to up sell cabanas, I’ve worked for P&O for years I know how first and second class ships work but it’s the first time I’ve seen it pushed on a one class ship. WHAT COMPANY WOULD PLACE SILLY TENTS (CABANANS), ALL AROUND THE SHIP BLOCKING OFF PASSENGERS VIEWS OF THE WONDERFUL PORTS OF CALL AND THEN TRY AND UP SELL THESE SPACES TO OTHERS – JUST CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!
The truth is these cabanas were hardly ever used, I was on for 24 days and just saw 6 people in all of them, my wife also said the same thing. These cabanas were not a good look at all. What is the sense of travelling around the world to go on a Mediterranean cruise and then lying in a cabana with the shades drawn when you could do that with a lot more privacy at home or on your private balcony in your own cabin? I lost count of all the TV up sells on these cabanas with private BBQ’s, special solo guitar player and so on. Once again it is a clear case of HAL trying to up sell and segregate people and showing a total disregard for the comfort of the majority of it’s other passengers for the sake of a few. What company would introduce such a silly thing as this? – it also made the Nieuw Amsterdam look even smaller and cheap with these tents set up all around it, you just couldn’t miss them everywhere you walked around the ship.
I believe HAL will eventually get the message and get rid of these cabanas but not until a lot of lost business has occurred. Even while I was waiting for a plane in Venice to go home my family over heard fellow passengers talking about this and also the ridiculous gratuities charge that HAL imposes on its passengers and then spends the rest of the cruise trying to justify the charge to everyone. We all got into a conversation about these things and you should know your company was once again not well received at all. Your cruise director Dave never stopped trying to push HAL’s position on this service charge – it was a huge mistake for HAL taking it upon themselves to try and enforce a gratuities charge for their own staff – if as Dave kept telling us HAL thinks their staff is that good then why don’t HAL pay them more, I heard many passengers say this. It’s also hypocritical that HAL would then impose a $20 a month fee for their staff to use the slow wifi internet on board so they can speak to their families, if the company thinks so highly of their staff why not look after them better. We also observed many staff members using free wifi at the different ports while having a nice cup of coffee. Once again HAL is way out of touch with even its own crew members, let alone its passengers.
I was one of many who went to the front office and signed a waiver and cancelled this gratuities charge and chose to favour the staff that had looked after my family. This is what I’ve done for many many years and resented HAL trying to dictate to me about the way I pay gratuities.
I find it offensive that HAL seeks to control passengers the way they do. Your cruise director Dave started sounding like he was at a Nuremberg rally, same words, same jokes and same HAL position every day driving passengers crazy.
5. HAL should also know due to the negative feedback on the internet I choose to make alterative port tour arrangements for my family at each port rather than use HAL’s port tours, such was the bad feedback I read about HAL’s port tours. I also gave advice to other passengers (which they appreciated), on the best way to see these wonderful ports as well.
6. I was also surprised to find HAL didn’t have any passenger laundry rooms on board and we were forced to use HAL’s laundry service – it once again showed HAL’s way of not allowing passengers to choose what they wanted to do – you either used HAL’s laundry service or had to clean your clothes the hard way in the bathroom. (I choose to use HAL’s laundry service anyway but would have appreciated the right to choose).
7. I also read some internet reviews on this “new” HAL ship (the Nieuw Amsterdam), looking old with reference’s to such things as small walk areas, low ceilings, bad carpet, rust signs and strange paint choices etc. As I mentioned earlier having worked for P&O, I love the old world charm of some cruise ships, HAL changing the elevator mats each day was a lovely touch but yes the reviews were correct in that the Niuew Amsterdam already did seem dated, to me it looked like a 30 year old ship with many problems as well – those cabanas/tents placed around the decks also didn’t help the general appearance of the ship, it looked more like a circus or camping areas. We also had the air conditioning man to our cabin on 6 occasions and also had to change our cabin cards on 3 occasions. A friend of ours (George from Adelaide), had to change his card on 20 occasions and the lights and power in his cabin didn’t work cutting off through the whole cruise – if you think I’m angry you should have spoken to him!
8. Having now mentioned the air conditioning I want to point out that positioning the vents right above our bed head was a disaster. Both my wife and I got very sick half way thru the cruise and had to travel with the balcony door opened to allow fresh air into the cabin – we also had to have the temperature control changed on 3 occasions as it kept breaking down and also padding placed in the ducts to try and minimise the air flow on our faces. Yes to us the Niuew Amsterdam seemed like an old ship.
9. Now I’d like to draw to your attention to the food on the ship. When we recently travelled on the Royal Caribbean Line I understood why they had an up market restaurant on board, that being Luke Mangon’s from Australia and not part of RCL normal operation, but in HAL’s case to have a separate Asian, Steak and Italian restaurant and then promoting better food and service at a price it once again highlighted HAL’s penny pinching and up market selling. A lot of passengers agreed; shouldn’t the food in the main Manhattan and Lido restaurants be as good as that in other restaurants on board? – the truth is my family found the food in the main Manhattan restaurant to be on occasions dry and tasteless – does that mean we should have paid more and eaten in HAL’s other restaurants to enjoy better quality food? At resorts we’ve stayed at around the world such as Club Med they also have different restaurants, but they were there for the variety of their guests not to get more money from them.
10. Also the coffee on board was terrible, the Nieuw Amsterdam is also the first ship I’ve been on that doesn’t have coffee making facilities in the cabin. The reason given was because of safety precautions – it isn’t safe to make coffee? I’ve been doing it now for 50 years, a blind man could see that once again HAL was trying to get passengers to pay extra to drink a good cup of coffee at the coffee shops placed around the ship, yes you could have it delivered to your cabin but it was still the same horrible coffee you served in the restaurants.
11. Just a few extra small points to mention as well that were noted was the $150 ships tour charge advertised on the front desk counter and the lack of an invitation to the Captains cocktail party which my wife was looking forward to, as I was told by American friends only previous HAL passengers were invited to this event. All ships we’ve travelled on in the past have made both of these functions available to all passengers.
May I also suggest that HAL should appoint someone to travel on HAL ships (similar to professional companies having a Field Sales Manager), and see first hand the problems encountered by passengers so you can help to avoid a lot of complaints before they cause long term damage to your company, with the internet now giving people around the world large amounts of information and independent reviews, it would be silly to bury your head in the sand and not react to reviews such as this.
“The ports of call were truly ones to remember, the Nieuw Amsterdam was truly a ship to forget”.