Where to begin. This is my first review and only write it because of how disappointing my experience was while cruising with Holland America (Oosterdam). I realize everyone has a different experience and reserve the right to say my experience could have been a minority (or rare) experience.
The embarkation process was probably the absolute best I have ever experienced. I was truly amazed at how efficiently I boarded the ship. The process (regrettably) elevated my expectations to a level that was unfortunately non-sustainable. No cruise has been without problem but the manner in which the problems were dealt with were vastly different.
When I opened the cabin door, I was blown away by the intense odor of smoke. The steward did his best to deal with the smell (de-ionizer) but even this could not remove the smell. I was able to pin point the smoke odor (it was the curtains) and asked that they be removed. They were not! Instead, the staff just sprayed the room (daily) with some type of spray which did "mostly" remove the smoke odor. Despite the steward's best efforts, the smoke odor remained albeit, tolerable (did I have a choice?). I have to give props to my steward; he busted his butt for me (and was rewarded for his efforts).
The toilet backed up 3 times. This was the first cruise this ever happened to me. Was it me? The crew did "fix" the problem but it was just another blemish on the cruise experience as it took them three attempts to get things right. This was NOT a major blemish rather cumulative.
Here is where it got bad. The GI virus (Norwalk Virus) broke out on the ship. The ship's crew implemented a "code red" (their term) status. I immediately noticed breeches in their own policies and quickly pointed the breeches out to crew. Unfortunately either they did not know how to implement the ship's code red policies or did not care. I continued to complain. I actually called the ship's medical crew and was told by the crew member, "that is not my job". Whether it is or isn't can be debated. However, maintaining proper Hygiene controls is EVERYONE'S job!!! According to the Captain, the crew would serve the passengers from all "common" sources (food, drinks, towels, utensils). For the record, the virus is spread via contact.
After day 5 and several more complaints that the crew were not implementing the Captain's orders, they FINALLY got it! However, how many more people got sick because the crew did not know what to do or did not care to follow orders? All I know is what *I* observed. As a final note, I observed (on day 6) a crew member in a shop lick his fingers while handling a cruise card. Was the passenger sick? Who knows. If they were, then that crew member would have (potentially) spread the disease (virus) to more passengers.
I have not mentioned the food service (well the lack of service) because it is possible many of the crew were infected which would have weakened the wait staff to a point of being unable to properly serve dinner. However, if they were not sick, the service was absolutely unacceptable. Again, this was not my first cruise thus, I had a benchmark to compare HA Oosterdam by.
Finally, the part which put me over the edge was the way in which I was "handled" by the front office when I called to point out the breeches of sanitation. On one of my calls, the first thing out of the staff was "what other safety concerns do you have now Mr. "Smith" not, how may I help you. It was not of a tone of concern rather the tone of OMG, another complaint. I don't know about you, but hygiene is one of the MOST important issues facing a cruise (the boats are otherwise extremely safe).
Will I sail with Holland America again? I understand they are part of a conglomerate or outright own other lines (of which I have sailed with) but will never step foot on one that says Holland America!!!
Peace and happy sailing, Acetylsleeper