If we have just experienced Holland America's Signature of Excellence, then I am unable to understand their Banner Statement as they did not live up to this reputation.
This was our first cruise with this line after being repeat customers of NCL and Celebrity. The boarding process was very easy, the cabin and the early arrival of our luggage was very good. We were very glad to see the unobtrusive measures the crew went to in keeping the dreaded food born virus at bay, including not letting anybody serve themselves at the buffet for the first 48 hours, that was forward thinking.
From that point on, however, everything else was a disappointment. We learned that this was the final leg of a "Round The World Cruise" and the ship was going into dry dock immediately following this leg of the journey. We also learned from the people who had remained on the ship that many of the crew including the galley chefs had left in San Diego and it showed. For the first few days, the chefs in the kitchen and servers in the restaurant appeared to be learning their craft and food always arrived cold at the table and with extremely long wait times. The servers would come and apologize for the slow service, and report that they had gone again to the galley to collect our food. The food left a lot to be desired, quality and quantity were not acceptable. The main problem was that the Menu did not exactly explain what you were going to get. For instance, one main evening meal for me, a small portion of appetizer, less than a quarter cup on a decorated plate, a green salad, followed by the main entrEe, which was a quarter cup of couscous, two large shrimp and some julienne carrots. This would have been acceptable but after watching the show, at nine o'clock, there was nowhere else on the ship to get a small snack or ice cream because everything was being cleaned and closed down. The quality and quantity of the meals were suspect, several at our table complained that their steak never arrived as requested and had to be returned, a couple stated that they asked for steak well done and it was almost raw when it arrived. For example I have never had Pacific Cod before that was so tough, my first thought was that it was uncooked, as the fish didn't flake. Also food was called something on the menu which it wasn't, one example of the misnaming of food was the Black Forrest Gateaux, it didn't have any chocolate cake layers, the only resemblance was the chocolate chips on the top. In fact, the descriptions were so bad, it was part of the evening's entertainment at our table to guess what we were going to eat.
The ship was excessively cold the first few days and one day while waiting in line at the front desk I was approached by a lady who asked that I complain about the temperature as she hadn't been able to get anybody to do anything. In fact, it was so cold, the evening we went to watch a movie in the Wajang theater, the Canadians on board all sat there in their cold weather jackets. Whilst talking to her, I saw a crew man walking by who appeared to be an engineer and approached him direct. He stated that he was the one in charge of the air conditioning and had not be informed about any complaints. He immediately took care of the problem. We also had a problem with our air conditioning, every time we arrived or left port, our cabin was filled with an exhaust smell, hope they are going to clean the air ducts or fix the leak during their dry dock.
I think that we could overlook the above problems as we all turned it into joke and used it part of our cruise conversations. This was not to be so, one final problem was in store on the last sea day when we went to check our bill. There were a half a dozen items charged for that we didn't recognize including one for $32 that turned out to be a carton of cigarettes. We were assured that we purchased this item as it couldn't have been on our account if our Cabin Card had not been swiped and we had signed the receipt. I had purchased items in the shop previously and you did have to use your card and also give your room number to make the purchase. We were then informed that we had to go to the shop and get the receipt, of course, nobody could do anything as the right person was never around. After supper, we went back to the shop and was told that there had been a mistake and it had been taken care of. Well, I wanted proof and was told to go to see Ileana in the jewelery store. There was never any apology from the Staff about the error and in fact, when the final bill arrived at our cabin on disembarkation day, there were four more charges in addition to the ones that were still on the bill. We had been charged again in error for a bottle of wine, and drinks in a couple of the bars. So we had to line up at the front desk and explain that their system had malfunctioned again. Thankfully, we had taken care of the cigarette problem the day before as by then, all the shops were closed and there would have been no way we could have gotten the receipt and credit taken care of that overcharge.
The Cruise Director, apart from his morning review over the loudspeaker system, was absent, this was probably part of the "Round the World" aspect to the cruise where people had already set their daily routine and didn't need the personal contact that usually comes from a Cruise Director. I would like to add that our cabin staff and dining servers, once up to speed, were very personable and gave us great service. The gym was pretty small and weight machines were limited and there never was enough space to stretch after working out. The library and other areas were good, but there is a problem in the Queens lounge. There are two types of chairs to watch a show, some low couches and some high chairs on a pretty flat surface. Unfortunately, the high chairs were placed in front of the couches and it made for poor viewing of the shows. Hopefully, during their dry dock this problem and the theater's poor dEcor will be changed. After all, they did start pulling down the curtains in the Lido on the last day while we were still eating breakfast.