We just returned from a Holland America cruise on the Veendam from Boston to Quebec, Canada (October 5-12, 2013). The cruise was incredibly relaxing, which I really needed after a very hectic and stressful year. What I especially appreciated was that the port cities were small and you could walk around on your own without a tour. I researched the cities on the web and had already downloaded a walking tour for each of the ports. So, we walked miles during the cruise and really appreciated the freedom. We were even able to walk around Acadia National Park although the organized tours to that site were cancelled due to the government shutdown.
The trees were not really showing their fall colors in Canada until Quebec, but the scenery of numerous rocky islands, charming lighthouses, and gorgeous sunny days made it a wonderful trip. The ship has a fabulous library and the "little something” appetizers and wine tastings every day at 5 p.m. were a lot of fun. The food was great and our cabin steward greeted us every time we passed him. I didn’t even mind that we could not enter the port of Sydney due to high winds. What really disappointed me, however, was the food service.
This was our third Holland America cruise (previously Alaska [Rotterdam] and Scandinavia/St. Petersburg [Maasdam]) so we came to this cruise with wonderful experiences and expectations of fabulous food and service. We were really shocked to see how the service had changed. At the Lido "buffet” restaurant, you had to serve yourself EVERYTHING—food and (non-bar) drinks. On previous cruises, there were servers going around the Lido restaurant with coffee, iced tea, etc. This time you had to stand in line with your hot food getting cold while you waited your turn to get yourself coffee, tea, or water. The only beverages for which they had many servers were the bar drinks. I only saw someone serving coffee at breakfast maybe three times. It’s hard to carry a plate of food and maybe a bowl of fruit as well as a hot cup of coffee. I’ve received better beverage service at a Denny’s or Waffle House!
Even in the formal Rotterdam Restaurant we had a bad experience with the service. It was the day we had to skip the port of Sydney, so they offered everyone a glass or champagne with their dessert. When we ordered our dessert, we also asked for the glass of champagne and coffee. Dessert and coffee came and was finished—and still no champagne. We then asked for another cup of coffee, and waited, and waited… After 15 minutes more, the waiter finally came with the cup of coffee. We were in the process of getting up from the table after another 20 minutes when the glass of champagne finally appeared!
Unfortunately, the beverage service was not the only disappointment. My husband had booked the cruise and had specified that the event was my birthday. Since they had asked when the birthday was, he expected a note from the ship on my birthday. We did not receive any acknowledgement of the day. When he inquired, the front desk said they sent a note, but we did not receive anything. In addition, when we received our instructions for disembarkation, we received an envelope with our names on it, but the letter inside was addressed to someone else. I asked at the front desk to make sure that we had the correct time. I was told the information given was correct even though the name on the letter was incorrect, but I now really wonder because we arrived at the Montreal airport only an hour before our flight and got to the gate with barely a few minutes to spare before boarding.
I know these are little things, but they happened just too many times. It created an environment where customer service was not a priority. Unfortunately, it has changed my view of Holland America as a premium cruise line. I realize there is nothing that can change my experiences, but I hope that this review can give the company insight into how disappointing the change in service is for its customers.