This is our second cruise, and last, with Holland America. We did a 10-day Panama Canal Cruise last year (Feb 2009) on the Zuiderdam, and a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise this year (Feb 2010) on the Eurodam.
Sad to say, but for our age group (33-43), while the Zuiderdam was an average of age of about 65, and the Eurodam an average age of about 40, the service was MUCH better on Zuiderdam... but wait, that isn't saying much. The service on Zuiderdam was horrible, and the service on Eurodam was just downright sickening.
The Eurodam, the newest ship in their fleet, while a beautiful ship, shows little change from its earlier class, which the Zuiderdam is a part of, short an extra restaurant up top (Tamarind), an excellent Pan-American Asian Restaurant, and an extra few staterooms on the 11th floor. Any other change was minor, and actually I could have walked both ships blind, and felt I was on the same ship things were so the same.
The casino staff is always nice, the Piano Bar on the Eurodam was excellent, the shows and nightly entertainment on the Eurodam were superb compared to its counterpart on the Zuiderdam... but the food pretty much tasted worse than McDonald's. My highlight was as stated earlier, the Tamarind and not to be crass, but the pizza bar was a delight compared to the Lido, the Terrace Grill, the Rembrandt, or the Pinnacle Grill (although Pinnacle on Eurodam was far better than on Zuiderdam).
The customer service is equally horrible on both ships. They tell you what you want to hear, or think you want to hear, change their stories often, and never seemed to follow-through. It all seems like a shell game to Holland America.
While the cruise itself (meaning destinations) was great on Zuiderdam, they were ok on Eurodam. Why it goes to Turks and Caicos when its still flattened is beyond me. I understand about supporting their economy after Hurricane Hugo hit, but its a bit much to see nothing. Puerto Rico was fabulous... especially the Fajardo Bio Bay Kayak tour, where the water lights up with micro-organisms, as you wave your hands and the paddles in it. Quite the spectacular kayak ride. A great value and a 3-mile kayak ride... the only drawback? The dang bus ride for 2.5 hours there, and 2 hours back... to spend about 90 minutes-2 hours at the bay. Plus the driver of the bus was just downright dangerous (Carlos). The U.S.V.I. at St. Thomas was beautiful, but you are a long ways from the shopping area, US$4 each way, and they drop you off half way back to walk the rest of the way.
While the crew does its best to be nice, they pretty much don't know how to do service. Our food was awful, our room was sub-standard in its upkeep, we never saw our room steward (which was a good thing), except when I had to seek him out to ask for the simplest of items (soap, towels, etc.).
The trip ended with a nightmare. We drug our four-hundred foot anchor for hours, going no where, with no reports from the Captain. We knew we were going no where as we had a GPS unit in our room we brought with us, that clearly showed we were going backwards from our last port at the private island of Holland America... which is an ABSOLUTE joke. If you pay for something here, you are only hurting yourself. We drug that anchor around for hours. How they fixed it I don't know... whether they cut it off, or got it to get back up to where it belonged, we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 5.5 hours late, and nearly everyone had missed their flights... but Holland America didn't care. All they cared about was you get off, so we can get another weeks worth of suckers on.
While I normally don't "go off" on cruise lines... Holland America Line has really got to be the worst of the worst, at least with our two experiences. Unfortunately Carnival Cruise Lines bought Holland America Line and Princess Cruise Lines several years ago, and they have slipped ever since. They treat their staff without regard to human decency, and then tell you that the tipping you do is a "major part of their livelihood." Essentially telling you, "we don't pay them crap, so please tip them so they can send some money home." The expectation of tipping is where I draw the line. One gets tips if deserved, not expected, and especially won't happen for poor service. While Holland America Line places an $11 per day, per person on your bill for an automatic tip, and suggests you tip more to those you found went above the call of duty, I found the tipping policy absurd. I tipped accordingly to how I wanted too... individually and to those who deserved it. Including those in the piano bar, the bar guys, even some of the casino staff. While I don't drink, I got a lot of water from the bar, (yeah, you pay for the water!!!), and I tipped him generously. Our table steward, and waitstaff in the Rembrandt could have licked my feet, and would have gotten nothing. The food was horrible, and the service of it was just bad. Cold, bad food. Nothing worse. Its said one should gain a pound a day on a cruise. I lost weight. The food was just awful on the Eurodam, a bit better on the Zuiderdam, but that's not saying much.
Overall, I suggest leaving Holland America to those who want to have a crappy cruise. We even made constructive criticism from our last years cruise, and took Holland America Line at their word, that our experience last year on the Zuiderdam was not what they expected, nor what they expected of their cruise line, and gave us each a credit of $375.00 on our next cruise booked within one year. We took them up on the offer on the Eurodam, and Holland America Line showed they were worse the second time than the first. Holland America Line just showed us this last trip of ours with them, that they are a first class loser operation. I would go on a three-day party cruise Carnival cruise from Los Angeles to Ensenada before I'd ever go on a Holland America Line cruise again. May I suggest you do the same.