First the positive-
Our cabin was very large and since it could accommodate three people there was lots of closet space and a bathtub in the bathroom. The bar staff in the piano bar were great and my wife brought home a large collection of Origami, which has always been a feature of the Filipino staff. The entertainment was good, the ventriloquist was wonderful. He even did an extra act the morning we did not land in Martha's Vineyard.
Now the negative-
Holland American has gone from a "no tips required" policy to an automatic tip included on the final bill, $10.00 per day per person, which is standard on most cruise lines. Automatic tips are fine since many passengers in the past have "stiffed" the help and it does eliminate the need to bring a great deal of cash on board.
However, instead of distributing it just to the wait staff and room stewards, HAL has decided to distribute it as $4 to the room steward, $3 to the wait staff, and $3 to back of the scene personnel as an "incentive" (the example given by the cruise director was the bakers and cooks). Thus this $3 is by not a TIP, but just a HAL price increase or service charge! Also the HAL wait staff only gets $3 total compared to other lines where recommended amount for the waiter is $3.50 and the assistant waiter is $1.75.
We always tipped a minimum of $10 pp/pd, that most other lines recommended, plus I enjoyed giving the tip envelopes. I particularly enjoyed tipping the bar staff where there was an opportunity to get to know them.
The company has also installed one year contracts for the service people rather than the six to eight month contracts. This has made much of the staff we talked with very unhappy. I do not know whether it is this policy or just a cost cutting measure, but the number of wait staff in the dining room has been reduced. Our waiter had to serve 20 to 24 people at our sitting. This precluded any personal service. Service in the dining room at breakfast and lunch was even worse. We had to wait to be seated, the food delivery was slow, and frequently the order was mixed up. Often at any seating we were asked to leave so the wait staff could set up the tables for the next meal. The food was not up to standard. The soups were watery and the ice cream tasted like ice milk that had be thawed and re-frozen. Our chef was a Mexican who now lives in London. Maybe that explains the food.
The formal Dutch High Tea was a joke. Cookies, cakes, etc. were not served, but you picked them up as you entered the dining room. (It was explained how the Queen started the High Tea, and I am sure she also had her guests go through a buffet line.)
Not wanting to be different, HAL plans to "improve" the coffee bar on the Rotterdam and of course charge for the specialty coffee drinks. How long before they charge for popcorn at the movies or eliminate it?
This is our fifth HAL cruise and they have definitely gone downhill. In the near future, we will confine our cruising to Princess or Celebrity.