As seasoned Holland America cruisers, we definitely expected better. Having gone to Alaska about 8 years prior, and taken the Oosterdam just 7 months ago (January 2011), we were sadly disappointed by the lack of maintenance in the ship, and the lack of courtesy offered by the crew.
We have been on 10 cruises before this one, 2 on Carnival, 1 on Norwegian, and the rest with Holland. We have grown to love Holland for the courtesy offered by the crew members, the general relaxed and slow-pace of most of the other cruisers, and the satisfaction we generally get from cruising on this line. Unfortunately, this was not a good example of the quality we have come to know and expect.
Emabarkation was a breeze, as usual, there was hardly any waiting at all to get on the ship once you'd arrived at the pier.
Day 1 was at sea, which was fine, we walked around the ship, visited the shops, ate, checked out the movie (which we'd already seen), etc, etc, etc. A typical day at sea.
Day 2 was at Glacier Bay. I don't remember exactly what the bay looked like last time we came to Alaska, but I'm fairly certain it looked nothing like what we saw this time - dirt covered snow. I'm from Calgary, Canada, and well, it just wasn't exciting. It was almost like trying to build a snowman, and ending up with all that grass. (Example here: http://www.geekfill.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/e-vs-r-6.jpg) BUT we did see quite a few whales and some maybe seals/sealions. We were disappointed that the captain/cruise director didn't announce sightings of wildlife over the P.A. like the cruise director from our last trip to Alaska did.
Day 3 was at Juneau. We didn't join any excursions as we'd already seen Mendenhall Glacier, and pretty much all the excursions went to Mendenhall Glacier. We did do some tourist shopping through the town, however, visiting the jewellery boutiques and the T-shirt factory. It was a fairly good day. Warm, fairly sunny.
Day 4 was in Sitka. It was drizzly, but not too bad. We went around on our own again, as the excursions were either a repeat of our last trip or not suited to our interests. Sitka was a quaint little town, quite interesting, and we managed to walk by St. Micheal's Cathedral, as well as tour a Russian Museum, which we'd seen in the excursions. We also found a shop that sold Russian dolls (the kind that comes apart and has lots of 'babies,' which was fairly interesting. We also had to tender to port, but that wasn't a big deal, the system was fairly efficient and worked fairly well.
Day 5 was in Ketchikan, which the crew members had nick-named Catch-it-if-you-can. We had to be back on ship by 12:30 in the afternoon. I would have liked to have a tad more time here, as we felt somewhat rushed, but we visited most of the places we wanted to.
Day 6 was in Victoria. We were allowed off ship around 6 and had to be back on board around midnight. We decided to follow the Walk Victoria signs around to the Fisherman's Wharf, etc, as we'd already been here many times and had visited the Buchart Gardens, etc. on our own. The walk was good, and we noticed that many other people had decided to explore Victoria on their own as well.
Day 7 was disembarkation. This went as it usually does. Nothing special. Except we found it odd that the Cruise Director didn't call out the colors for disembarkation. Usually, the times are listed and the colors are called, but this time it seems it was expected that you would get off at the appropriate time yourself, and there was only an announcement for the first people disembarking, and the last call. Not a big deal, but worth noting.
All of the ports were ok. And if this review ended here, our cruise would have been pretty good. However...
The snowballing of all the incidences which occurred left us wondering if Holland America as a line has truly deteriorated, or if it's only this ship and most of the crew members on it.
1) We returned to our cabin one day to find someone working in the bathroom with both the bathroom door and the cabin door closed. If not for him flushing the toilet, we probably wouldn't have realized he was inside until we had to use the bathroom. We felt that this was unacceptable.
2) The cappuccino machine was broken - all through the trip. Not a huge issue, but when questioning our dining room stewards (Usman and Beng Beng - who were both fantastic) we found out that it was because Holland had decided to install new machines, but fail to provide the ship with adapters for the power source. This seemed a little ridiculous.
3) A toothbrush was misplaced. When we asked our cabin stewards to see if they could find it maybe accidentally grabbed with the towels or something, we were scoffed and told "We don't steal toothbrushes." We were not accusing them, and felt that being snickered at was both inappropriate and rude. Inquiries made to front desk were redirected with a "I'll ask them to look for it." Which was fine, BUT a second question "What if they don't find it?" was answered with "We have toothbrushes for sale in the shops." We found this answer to be unsatisfactory.
4) A 15" stuffed animal (with a gel pack inside) was taken. One of the members of our party is a young adult who is diagnosed with Autism. In order to sleep comfortably, she needs both her Lavender spray and her stuffed animal. At home, we could warm up the gel pack on cool nights, or for whatever reason, and basically, she has it every night (but leaves it in the cabin during the day). She distinctly recalls it being on the bed in the afternoon (day 3) after the beds were made, and gone when she looked for it at bedtime. Other members of our party remember seeing it the previous night, but not in the afternoon after the beds were made. Either way, when we realized it was lost, it was late, and so we tried to make due with more Lavender spray and reassuring words. We inquired with the cabin stewards the next morning. They replied that they would look for it. Then we thoroughly searched the entire cabin, but did not find it. We asked them the next day and the next if they had found it. All replies were negative. Finally, on Day 5 we went to the front desk and notified them of the missing item. They said that they would look for it, contacted the supervisor of our cabin stewards, and said they would let us know whether or not they found it. We received no calls, no messages, nothing. The next day, Day 6, we went to front desk again. No news. They suggested we complete a 'lost item' form. Needless to say, we didn't find it. All involved seemed apathetic and seemed to simply brush aside our frustrations with trained smiles and apologies.
5)The ship, in general, seems to be in disrepair. The seal on our bathroom door was falling off, the glass paneling at the ice cream station was cracked.... Before going on this cruise, we'd read reviews from previous travelers, and it seemed that this ship had gone downhill since April. Having just cruised in January, we doubted it, but were sadly mistaken. This ship has deteriorated, and if this was the first time we'd sailed with Holland, it would probably be the last.
And 6) a minor, but still noteworthy point. The songs and dances (shows) that were presented each night were exactly the same as when we'd been on the ship in January. This was disappointing.