This was my first time on Holland America. I should NOT be complaining here just b/c my sister treated me to this cruise. She didn't get any deals on the rate, so she also expected a better product for the $$. I need to get my review out to others who may be currently considering the Mexican Riviera cruise on the ship Veendam.
Where do I start... Ok, this is only my 3rd cruise. First one was on the Tahitian Princess and the second one was with Norwegian. I've never been so miserable with a cruise experience than I was on this cruise on the Veendam. I just got home today and MUST write about my experience. When we arrived in our cabin, I discovered a pair of men's socks (from the previous passenger) beneath one of the gaucho's pillows...yuk. (why were these still there??) One of my bags did not arrive until 5pm and when it did, they had removed my one and only bottle of wine (we were allowed to bring one bottle of wine onboard)...there was a note saying I had "violated" their alchohol policy....what?? So they confiscated it saying they would return it at disembarkation. Guess b/c I had not PHYSICALLY carried the bottle on board, I was in 'violation' of the alchohoI policy. I was quite annoyed by this but after expressing my discontent, they did return my bottle of wine to me the next day. Ironically, I met a couple from Canada who said they managed to check in an entire suitcase filled with the 1500ml bottles of wine, several large bottles of Crowne Royal and a couple bottles of tequila and nothing had been removed from their bags...say WHAT??
The staff I've 'fondly' named the Walking Dead. Either they were simply worn out and exhausted or they were extremely bothered by all us 'annoying' passengers. There were very few staff members who smiled and greeted us--most did not acknowledge the passengers at all. I'm NOT a demanding or picky person, but I found it insulting and sad that many staff walked right past me when I had been trying to order a drink for 30 minutes and a few grumbled to other staff members when I asked a question.
The food was NOT good...at our very first dinner in one of the dining rooms, I ordered antipasto but was given some sort of pate, ordered a steak only to be told they were running 30 minutes behind b/c "everyone was ordering steak" and was given the option of ordering something else...which I did (prime rib), only be served steak 5 minutes later that was so overdone I had a hard time cutting it...so I returned it, only to be served another steak that was so bloody I couldn't eat it (and I like my steak rare)....NOT a great first, dining experience, I must say. This did not just happen to me...two other people at our table either returned their food or left it uneaten on their plates. The remainder of the cruise, the amount, quality and taste of the food varied so much that I never knew what I was getting next. (The grilled burgers & fries on the Lido deck were excellent though). Soft drinks were NOT included... had to order them from the bar and were charged for them. Often the dining room ran out of water glasses and people stood around waiting for clean ones to be brought out. Main areas of the Lido dining room were closed off to passengers at various times throughout the day with only a few tables open adjacent to the main walk-thru path. Food was NOT available at all times. People returning from shore excursions headed for the dining room, only to find it closed. I overheard people complaining to the staff about this.
Another thing that was very concerning was that so many areas of the ship just smelled. I can't explain it except to say that it smelled like a combination of stinky feet, stinky cheese or someone's you-know-what needed a little spritzing. Not sure if these malodorous scents were coming from an unclean kitchen or the carpet or if they were waffing in through the venting system...they just came and went in random places. One of the elevators was notoriously stinky....still can't explain that one but not sure I want to even try.
The layout of the ship was very confusing (i.e. we were in a room starting with 6 but were on level 5)...hallways would end up forcing you to go up one level to get through to the forward portion of the ship. To boot, we were given a map of our ship at check in but could NOT find our room number anywhere on it...I scoured the map 3 times and so did my sister and it was not there...what was up w/ that? Up the hallway from us, a passenger had his large motorized wheelchair parked outside his door. It took up more than half the width of the hallway...don't understand how this was even allowed, given the safety hazard it posed.
I had some 'formal night' photos done--really wanted to buy a couple but at nearly $50 each sheet...no thanks.
Took 3 shore excursions...the beach horseback riding and ziplining excursions were awesome! Then we did the Vallarta Highlights bus tour which was to end w/ shopping in downtown old Vallarta....this was a major rip off. The bus toured several of the city's highlights, starting w/ an opal jewelry store (don't think anyone said they wanted to buy opal on our tour). After driving up and down a few roads and briefly viewing Mismaloya bay, we then stopped at a jewelry store called Jimmyz (uh, not touring the city to buy jewelry...hellooooooo??). The jewelry prices were WAY over-priced and once again, we were supposed to be touring the city, NOT buying jewelry! The next stop was at a restaurant (Papaya's)for 25 minutes...we were told there was no time to eat but we could buy a drink if we wanted...my sisters and I didn't want a drink, we wanted to do some shopping; however, we were NOT in a real 'safe' shopping area if you get my drift. After 25 min, everyone re-boards the bus and then we are told we are going back to the ship....NO time left for stopping in downtown Vallarta like the excursion description said we would do (and guess what? There was nothing in the excursion description that said we would be visiting two jewelry stores either). On our way back from the 'tour', the tour guide asked if anyone had any questions AND....get this, if there were any "comments or complaints"...NO ONE said a thing to her! Then, in thinking she was funny, the tour guide said "And if you have any complaints, we are going to just drop you off right here" (pointing to a random spot on the side of the road)...uh, SO not funny.
There were a high percentage of passengers who needed walkers and wheelchairs...ok, not necessarily unusual except that often the narrow hallways were crowded by walkers and wheelchairs and we could not get around them. Hey, I'm in healthcare and I have nothing 'against' walkers and wheelchairs-- just seemed to be so MANY that I wondered if this would be considered yet another hazard in the event of an emergency...sorry, but I believe it was a valid concern.
Bottom line here folks, I couldn't wait to get off this ship and get home. I have found cruises to be luxurious in the past...feeling taken care of and looking forward to delightful food...on this cruise, I felt like I (the passenger), was a nuisance. I won't be cruising w/ Holland America again--not sure I want to cruise again honestly.