I have been on a total of 10 cruises in the past 10 years (8 of which were in Europe), four on Celebrity, two each on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, one on Princess, and this one. I was under the mistaken belief that HAL would be on a par with Celebrity. Not only was that belief mistaken, but Holland America is far worse than any of the others.
First, the good. Our stateroom accommodations (Superior Verandah Suite on Deck 8) were lovely. The ports of call were excellent, but that was the primary reason we chose this particular cruise. The quality of the food in the main dining room and the Italian specialty restaurant was good. The medical staff was outstanding. Room service was prompt and very good.
Now, for the bad (in no particular order):
The general level of service was abysmal. In the Lido and pool areas, items were not cleared from tables and surfaces. In fact, one Lido employee refused to clear items from our table. This was called to the attention of a supervisor, but his response was unintelligible. The service in the main dining room was hit or miss, depending on the server and the day. Some was excellent, but at other times the staff seemed overwhelmed.
The amount of space in the Lido and pool areas was sometimes insufficient to meet the number of people on the cruise. People were eating on furniture in the elevator lobby area outside the restaurant when they couldn't find tables and were laying all over the deck when they couldn't find lounge chairs.
Besides the aforementioned, the Lido had other problems as well. Lunch hours were insufficient given that many people returned from tours about the time lunch ended. The presentation of some of the items (e.g., salad bar, desserts, juices) was poor. Ice was frequently in short supply and drink dispensers ran out or dispensed the wrong thing (e.g., water instead of lemonade). The ship ran out of lemonade two or three days prior to the end of the cruise and lettuce the day prior to the end of cruise.
The condition of some of the furnishings was in disrepair. For example, I think if I attempted to donate your pool lounge chairs to Goodwill, they would reject them as being not sellable even at Goodwill prices.
The manner in which the Tunis port was cancelled was really unacceptable. Passengers were not advised officially of the cancellation until well after the time that the ship should have docked. Until the captain spoke, no ship employee would confirm anything. Since the decision was supposedly made around midnight, a letter should have been slipped under every cabin door so people would not have found it necessary to rush in the morning to prepare and have breakfast. No real reason was given for the cancellation except for the very vague safety concerns. Given the fact that other sailings had also skipped Tunis, the ship should have been prepared with a contingency plan to call upon another port, if necessary, rather than have a sea day. It was certainly foreseeable that a diversion might occur and alternative arrangements should have been made in advance.
I had occasion to visit the medical staff because of a fall I took on a wet deck. The reason the deck was wet in that area was because an employe was pushing water from the deck above onto the deck below, directly in front of an entry door.
Upon embarkation, we found that the toilet in our cabin was not clean. There was a caked on substance on the bottom of the seat that appeared to be feces. We advised our cabin steward and it was cleaned.
On the last morning of the cruise at about 3:00 AM, there was a fire in the incinerator. The captain made repeated announcements about it, but some people apparently did not understand and donned life jackets and went into the hallways.