Embarkation – HAL staff / Port Everglades personnel need to do a better job of directing incoming passengers to fill out the Medical Condition forms before they get on the escalators. Otherwise, the check in and boarding process went well. However, once across the threshold and onto the ship we were merely directed to the elevators to take us away to our rooms with no real sense of being warmly welcomed aboard. Our experiences boarding both Royal Caribbean and Princess cruises have been a warm welcome reception by ship personnel, making us feel truly welcomed and valued as their passenger. Not the case when boarding the Zuiderdam.
Stateroom 6065 – Not acceptable upon arrival. Desktops were dusty and had rings from the drink glasses of the previous occupants. The verandah was filthy, with clumps of hair and smoking debris. The small table on the verandah had a heavily corroded base and a severely chipped table top surface. We cleaned the desktop surfaces of the dust and glass rings and asked the stateroom attendant to clean the verandah, which he did, albeit inadequately, leaving behind some debris. Later in the day we again asked the attendant to clean the verandah and only with our supervision was it properly cleaned. Later that evening we encountered a housekeeping supervisor in the hallway and invited him into our room to speak with us. We explained to him the condition of the stateroom upon our arrival and he said he would speak to our stateroom attendant. We did not feel that the supervisor was engaged with us and was not empathetic nor apologetic about our concerns. To the best of our knowledge, the supervisor never returned to our stateroom to make his own inspection nor did he ever contact us in person, by phone or by message as a follow up to our concerns. These same stateroom / verandah conditions were experienced by our travel companions in the adjacent stateroom 6063. We asked for, and were provided an ashtray but it was never cleaned or emptied until the 4th or 5th day when we expressly requested the stateroom attendant to clean it. He did not seem to be adequately trained to know that an ashtray needs occasional cleaning. In general, we found the staterooms and the entire ship to be worn and in need of updating.
Service – Dining room service is impeded by cramped quarters. At times, the wait staff was unable to properly serve dishes or replace the table service due to the inability to access the proper side of the customer. On our previous 14 cruises we have never been refused a shrimp cocktail even when ordered off menu. Only after dining in the Pinnacle Grill and arriving at the understanding that shrimp is readily available every evening were we able to coerce our waiter to bring us shrimp cocktail when not on the menu. On the third or fourth evening coffee was not served until after we finished dessert. This was brought to the attention of the assistant Maître d’, who explained that the coffee takes a long time to make and was not started in time to be served with dessert. In our opinion, this is again a training issue as coffee should always be prepared in advance of serving dessert. On a positive note – our Wine Attendant, Anne, displayed superior customer service and was the most engaging and customer focused HAL employee we encountered.
Lido Dining – On the day at sea between Curacao and Cartagena, there was no lemonade available in the Lido dining area. I asked for the head staff member available and he soon presented himself. He explained that there was a refrigeration problem that was preventing them from serving the lemonade but that they were working diligently to resolve the issue and hope to have everything in working order in a short time. A short time later, I observed this manager with a ½ gallon container of lemonade in his hand. Soon he was delivering a glass of lemonade to me, but this left me wondering how a refrigeration issue was preventing them from opening and pouring a container of lemonade into a glass. Further exasperating me, the glass he brought with the lemonade was chipped and cracked. I did not notice until after I had thanked him and he had left. Rather than run him down and bring this to his attention, I left my lemonade untouched, but thinking “shouldn’t he have noticed this?”
Disembarkation - We were last group called off the ship. Should have minimized congestion, we thought. Not so. As we queued up, the deck was so crowded we were backed up on the stairs. Eventually, we made our way down the stairs and were far enough down the stairs to where we could see the point of exit. It was at this time that one of the HAL staff decided that having people on the stairs was a fire hazard and moved our party around to where we were looking down into the atrium. We went from being within site of the exit to being exactly at the back of the line. Once we worked our way back around towards the door we observed people being permitted to queue up on the stairs. Why were we moved? When the opportunity presented itself, I challenged the HAL staff person who had moved us under the premise of being on the stairs as a fire hazard, pointing out that people who had been well behind us on the stairs had just been permitted to leave the ship ahead of us. This HAL employee looked me square in the eye, shrugged her shoulders and walked away. In my estimation, having waited for a relatively short duration on the stairs, moving us around the back of the staircase into the atrium area easily added a half hour to our disembarkation. To describe our disembarkation as a train wreck would be disrespectful to most train wrecks.
In conclusion, we will not be back with Holland America. Our perception of Holland America was that of being a cut above Royal Caribbean and Princess where we have all our other previous cruise experience. We found this to be far from true. Both Royal Caribbean and Princess strive to find a way to say "yes" to customer requests. We heard "no" a lot (read previous comments regarding the shrimp cocktail). Having retired from 43 years of professional employment, I firmly believe that most people want to do a good job and when they fail to do a good job it is most likely due to 2 reasons: I failed to provide them with adequate training or I failed to provide them with proper leadership. Which is it Holland America? Inadequate training or poor leadership? I am positive it is not the people.