My wife and I have enjoyed cruising for many years, and have always enjoyed the experience -- until now. While the Holland America Statendam ship itself is viable for those wanting a smaller (1200 passenger) ship, the mis-management made the cruise far and away the worst we have taken. For the first time, I didn't feel like tipping the staff -- but I did, because I realized the problems all centered around management, hiring, and lack of training -- the staff TRIED, but were just "not up to speed".
I don't want to just gripe, but want to caution other potential clients of this line that promotes themselves as "A Signature of Excellence". I'll provide DETAILS of the some of the OVER 50 disappointments we encountered -- several major, others "nits".
To sum up my experience with the Philippine/Indonesian STAFF: I felt like I was on a help-line to Asia -- the staff were polite, spoke acceptable English, knew the answers to the "basic questions" (that they had been trained on), and were clueless when you asked them something they didn't expect.
To net out my feeling about ship/line's MANAGEMENT: The corporate staff needs to do some serious MBWA -- Management By Walking Around -- unannounced, so they can see the sort of mis-cues we encountered.
So much for the "general" comments. Here are some of the details:
Food Services (or lack thereof):
1: Restaurant Hours:
We boarded the ship about 2:30 PM -- the only food available was the "hamburger stand". The Lido Cafeteria was already closed.
General Food Service hours were incredibly restrictive:
Main Dining Room:
Closed for breakfast at 9:00 AM
Open for Lunch Noon to 2:00 PM, but ONLY on "sea days", never opened if in port.
Dinner seatings from 6 PM to 8PM -- HOWEVER, our group of 10 was ONLY able to be seated at either opening time, or after 7:45 PM -- when we wanted somewhere in the 6 to 6:30 range.
Lido Restaurant (the cafeteria):
Closed for breakfast at 10:00 AM -- way too early for someone who went to bed at midnight, and wanted to go to the gym and then shower before breakfast.
Only open for lunch from 12 to 2:00 -- after that, it's the "hamburger stand" or room service!
2. Food Quality and Service:
Lido Restaurant: Liked the Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice, "Eggs Benedict Bar". The rest of the food was about the quality of "Hometown Buffet" or "Golden Coral" -- NOT up to the level of other cruise lines. More importantly, except for the Daily Carvery Item, and the Desert bar; for lunch and dinner; 90% of the items remained the same for the entire cruise.
Rotterdam (Main) Dining room: Acceptable for the most part, but NOT up to the quality I've experienced on ANY other cruise. More importantly, the service was mediocre at-best -- "special requests" to avoid items one person was allergic to were all but ignored -- during the course of the cruise, he had to send back dinner items 3 times. Some items were a mystery -- there was something called a "Spruce Hen" -- I asked both the waiter and managing waiter -- neither could tell me if it was a Cornish Game hen, a squab, a pigeon, a quail, or ???? -- and this is only 1 example of an unanswered menu question. 2 "nits" -- they ran out of San Pelligrino on the SECOND day! At an afternoon tea, they ran out of jam for the scones -- until I protested to the maitre'd who then produced some about 5 minutes later (after which we waited another 5 minutes for the clotted cream).
Cananello Dining room -- specialty, extra charge: TOTAL DISASTER: Party of 10 seated as 6 and 4 at 7:00 PM. The party of 6 got their entrees at about 8:30 PM, the party of 4 -- was told at about 9:00 PM that they had run out of Osso Bucco (3 had ordered it), but were making more and it would be out shortly. At 9:30 it still wasn't out, so we ordered an item from the main dining room's menu (which was already closed). It finally arrived at about 10:00 PM -- cold and improperly cooked. The person with allergies had to send his back. We finally left a little after 10:30 PM. The restaurant "comped" the table of 4 for the dinner -- BUT then again, we only got "main restaurant" food -- and beverages, etc. were NOT comped. A note of apology arrived the next day with a small plate of chocolates.
Pinacle Dining room -- specialty, extra charge: Best food and service on the ship -- ate dinner there twice. Enormous portions. Excellent appetizers/deserts, but the entrees were NOT up to the level of specialty restaurants on Princess or Celebrity. Service was the best on the ship, but only to about the level of the main dining room staff on other lines -- not the level of their specialty restaurants.
Coca-Cola in several of the bars had an "off" taste -- maybe too much syrup or an off-brand.
3. CABIN SERVICE (and embarkation/disembarkation):
When we boarded (at about 2:45), NOBODY (other than the photographers) greeted us or directed us to our cabin. We NEVER saw our cabin attendant that day. After waiting 2 hours for luggage to arrive, I called and was told it would be there shortly -- it wasn't, called again 45 min later -- still not there. At 6:20 PM went to the "hotel desk" to complain -- was told it would be delivered by 6 PM -- it was already 6:20! Person finally made 2 phone calls. When I got back to the cabin, it was waiting in the hallway (no other luggage in the hallway) -- nobody had bothered to knock (wife was in the room).
Next day met cabin attendant. We complained about the lack of refrigerator and the size of the ice bucked (we like to keep COLD bottled water), and he provided a larger "wine icer" for the remainder of the cruise. Only saw him twice more (in the hallway) prior to disembarking, and he did greet us by name.
Turndown service was "hap-hazzard", always leaving the exact same chocolates, and refreshing the ice, but sometimes NOT turning down the bed.
On the day of disembarking, he knocked on the door at 7:20 AM while my wife was still getting ready (I was making a "food run"). He wanted to start cleaning the room. My wife said to come back. He insisted on at least stripping the bed (hand luggage was still on it for final packing). My wife threw him out, explaining that he could get to the vacant cabin in about 30 min.
4. Entertainment (or lack thereof):
First, the musicians on the cruise were in general quite good -- WHEN THEY PLAYED. Unfortunately, the only time they seemed to play was in the evening -- NOT during the day. I realize that the "pool area" is not crowded during an Alaska Cruise (especially when they left to "rolling roof" open in low 60's or cooler weather), but they could have certainly had the violinist or others at various parts of the ship during the day.
As far as the resident "troupe" is concerned, I'd compare them to Community College level with "sets" at the high-school level. The Magician and Comedian were bearable, but certainly not memorable. I walked out of the "crew lack-of-talent" show, and didn't even bother with other shows (dancing with the "stars" -- which has been negatively reviewed in posts by others).
5. Other issues:
Only 1 location (other than the gym) where there was a front-facing venue. A lot of people wanted to be there on the day we were going through the "Inside Passage". Unfortunately, they blocked half of the room off for a private party -- dumb, they could have done it elsewhere on the ship.
Lack of decision-making delegation to staff: There was a costume jewelry item we wanted, but it was slightly damaged, and there were no more in stock. We felt we should get a discount, but were told nobody had the authority to do that -- we ended up buying it anyway.
Pretty much a "nit" -- was charged a 15% gratuity for the instructor of a Pilates (gym) class -- it's a group class, not a massage.
Room temperature -- both in the main dining room on one night, and in the room -- where it was VERY slow to react to the thermostat. Shower temperature constantly varied by about 15 degrees (down, up, down, up, etc.) throughout the trip.
Pre-Cruise issues: Web site to pre-register was difficult to use and kept "going down" and/or throwing me off during registration (I tried 3 different times before completion). Tried to pre-reserve Pinnacle Grill for 10 -- after booking my wife and i (and being pre-charged), I found I couldn't make reservations for others without being charged for them too. I called Holland-America and was told they didn't normally take partys that large but I could fill in a special form, if we were willing to accept a "restricted" menu, and they'd "check with the ship". I gave up and handled it on the ship (where it was not a problem -- including the regular menu).
The "print your own and fold" luggage tags are an absolute joke.
I think you can see why I have no desire to cruise with Holland America again. I do NOT think that ANY of the above concerns are unreasonable -- there is NOTHING in any of these areas (except for maybe late luggage delivery) that has been a negative experience on ANY of my past cruises on several other lines.
Management NEEDS to take a good look at their training and policies!
I hope you have found this information to be informative, and "not just a gripe". And, more importantly, I hope that management from Holland America and their parent company, Carnival Cruise Lines takes the comments to heart as constructive criticism -- a copy of this posting is being sent to both of them!