We just returned from a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Holland America's Westerdam. Our previous experience with Holland America had been a 2004 Alaska on the Oosterdam. We enjoyed that earlier trip and were looking forward to another venture with HAL.
This cruise was a little different for us as we were with a conference group and scheduled through the agency handling the cruise details. As a treat, my husband decided to upgrade us to a Suite for this cruise. He was a speaker for the conference, and although the 'regular' cabins are always sufficient, he thought the upgraded cabin and its additional space and amenities would make this trip's demands less stressful.
Before our departure, we received some cruise info which I dutifully read through. One item that caught my eye was the option to "upgrade your suite amenities." Please note, that our selected and assigned cabin was 8078 which is a designated "Superior Verandah SUITE." I attempted to find info on these suite upgrades online with HAL without success, so I called HAL for assistance. I spoke with a very nice woman who reviewed the suite options in the different packages for me. She then explained that if we wanted to upgrade our amenities, we should go with the "elite" package, also the higher priced package, because "MOST OF THE AMENITIES IN THE OTHER PACKAGE ARE ALREADY PART OF YOUR SUITE AMENITIES INCLUDED WITH CABIN #8078." I inquired further for clarification and she enumerated the list of amenities included with our cabin. After reviewing the items we would gain by upgrading to the "elite" amenities package compared with the amenities already 'guaranteed' with our cabin assignment, we decided against the "elite" upgrade. In my mind, while I was packing us for the cruise, by far the most fantastic of the 'guaranteed' suite amenities were would enjoy was the complimentary laundry and pressing. Perhaps I am the only person who is outraged by the extravagant charges on shipboard laundry service, but for this cruise I was thrilled with knowing I could pack lighter, and enjoy clean clothing on our trip with the 'complimentary' laundry service.
Fast forward to boarding the ship, finding our cabin, and settling my mother-in-law into her cabin down the hall from us, this was a standard verandah cabin. I began to unpack our bags and settle into the room. Soon a neatly folded-over note card securely sealed closed with a sticker was delivered to our cabin proudly proclaiming to us that a list of the additional amenities that accompany our cabin , could be found in our "Welcome Aboard" book located in our room. I thrilled at once again reviewing the list of amenities I knew we would thoroughly enjoy on this cruise.
Unfortunately, as I looked through the book in our cabin, my concern grew. In fact, the list of "guaranteed" additional amenities to accompany cabin 8078 were NOT what I had been told we would enjoy. Most notably, NO COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY AND PRESSING. My husband consoled me assuring me that this cannot be a complete list of the amenities with our upgraded suite cabin. So, I pushed the ALL IMPORTANT "AT YOUR SERVICE" button on the cabin phone as instructed in our "Welcome Aboard" book (this was one of the amenities outlined in the book and insured of us a RAPID response to any question, query, or need we might have while enjoying our suite aboard the cruise.) I was put on hold and proceeded to wait. Finally, a voice at the other end greeted me and asked what I needed. I outlined how I had called HAL before our cruise to inquire into the upgraded suite amenities packages and had been read a list of the amenities already part of cabin 8078 of which the greatest importance to me and the basis upon which I packed for the cruise was "complimentary laundry and pressing" but did not see this listed on the page outlining "EXTRA AMENITIES" we would enjoy with our Cabin 8078. Shockingly, I was told in a very unsympathetic tone "Complimentary laundry and pressing applies only to DELUXE suites and not Superior suites; I do not know why you were told it was part of your cabin. What was the name of the person who told you this?" AS IF I COULD RECALL THE NAME NOW WEEKS LATER when ever since I had talked with HAL I only focused on the wonderful news of free laundry.
NO APOLOGY. No "I am sorry that you were misinformed." They simply DID NOT CARE.
I wrote a note to the Front Office, certain that the person I talked with on the ship just had a momentary lack in compassion and outlined again, what I had been told, etc. We received a recording message later on our phone saying Complimentary laundry has never been an amenity for Superior Suites. A laundry bag and the cost list can be located in your cabin closet. No "we're sorry."
So, what were the coveted items on our list of automatic amenities with our cabin? Well, I honestly right now cannot recall the list of 5-6 things they listed. But I can tell you this. My mother-in-law had ALL THE ITEMS as standard in her standard verandah cabin. The only one item on my list, not on her cabin list was the opportunity to request a feather pillow. I have to tell you, I am a person who enjoys, actually needs a feather pillow, because of neck and back pain and the feather pillows allow me to position the pillow exactly where I need it to reduce pain when sleeping. We have been on at least 6 cruises before this cruise. Always in standard cabin sometimes with a balcony, sometimes without. I have always been able to simply request a feather pillow on those other cruises. The ONLY other difference between our suite and Mom's standard cabin was on the telephone. Where our 'upgraded suite' telephone had an "AT YOUR SERVICE" button, moms simply said "INFORMATION." I never used the phone in Mom's room but I can tell you that it would have been faster to run down to the front desk to ask most of our questions instead of waiting on HOLD with our "AT YOUR SERVICE" button.
The coffee bar in the Explorations Cafe was nice....very open, full of light with the huge windows. It also served as the computer room. My husband purchased a coffee card. We were in the Explorations Cafe one afternoon early in the cruise, when his mom came up. She wanted just a cup of tap water, and since she was going up to ask for it, my husband gave her his coffee card and asked her to order and iced Cappuccino for him. The barista took her order, we could overhear the entire conversation from where we sat, and said 'you want bottled water', and "no" she corrected, "just a cup of water, regular water." I had requested a cup of water previously without incident. She waited for the iced cappuccino to be made. Momentarily, he handed her the cup of iced tap water, the iced cappuccino and a hot cup of coffee. She refused the hot coffee, saying that was not hers. She was the only person ordering at the time. He took back the hot coffee. Handed her the coffee card and she came to where we were sitting. My husband took the coffee card to put back in his pocket and noted the number of punches on the card. It wasn't right. Again, had this been later in the trip, we likely would not have seen this. He went up to the counter and told the barista that he had punched the card an extra time, that Mom had only ordered one drink and so one new punch, not two, should have been made on the card. He said "yes, two punches because she ordered and then changed her mind." Fortunately, we were within earshot to hear the entire conversation and said, "No, she ordered an iced cappuccino and water." He replied,"She said a cup of coffee" I chime in "no, you asked if she wanted bottled water and she said, no just a cup of water. A cup of coffee was never ordered." He eventually relented and said we could get it later and that he would tell the other workers that we had a wrong punch on the coffee card and the obligatory "no problem" but NEVER an apology for his error. And, again, had we not noted the extra punch, he NEVER WOULD HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED the extra punch he made.
Again, thankfully, my husband made a note of this man's name because later, when he again ordered with someone else and explained the wrong punch on the card the new barista had been told nothing about the problem. Later, we did get the next drink we were owed when the same barista was again at the coffee bar.
In general, these two incidents set the theme for our experience with Holland America. Basically, mistakes happen but not only are they NOT THEIR FAULT; honestly they don't even care and are not even sorry that there was a miscommunication.
One bright spot on the cruise was when I needed to talk to our cabin attendant about an area of cleaning needing attention in our cabin bathroom. Ferdy immediately APOLOGIZED for the problem and said "this is my fault." In truth, it might not have been his responsibility but he took responsibility and corrected the problem immediately and was quite gracious about it. We were thoroughly pleased with Ferdy's attention to our cabin each day and would ask for him by name again if possible.
The food while lackluster in the dining room each evening was graciously and pleasantly served by Tuhu. He made dinner a delight.
This was our second cruise with Holland America the first being about four years ago. There has been a dramatic change in the feel and after this cruise; I doubt we would consider HAL in the future for cruise plans.
My suggestion is that HAL do better on communication with booked passengers BEFORE the cruise and provide accurate information. If incorrect information is given, they should make an attempt to appease the guest or at least say they are sorry. It is admittedly difficult to find accurate, specific information about specific cabins, and level of upgrade, etc. Given the choice again to take HAL, I personally see no reason to pay the extra money for a Superior Suite when it only affords me slightly more room and a button labeled "AT YOUR SERVICE" on the telephone.
We completed a 14 day cruise to Hawaii on Celebrity two months ago. We were thrilled with their exercise area and worked out everyday. We had planned to work out daily on this cruise but the exercise area is too small, too cramped, and uninviting. We never used it all all.