My husband and I had a terrific European cruise with Holland America on the Rotterdam back in 2006. A group of 8 of us cruised together at that time. We decided to arrange another group cruise and this time there were 10 of us. We all looked forward to the Boston-Montreal cruise on the Maasdam (first time for us on this ship). Our experience with Holland America's staff and this cruise ship were so polar-different than what we experienced in Europe. It is almost hard to know where to start in telling you how disappointing this cruise was.
First and foremost, my husband and I had a non-working toilet in our bathroom for most of the cruise. Our bathroom flooded on 3 different occasions. The first night I still had clothes in my duffel bag on the floor, which Holland America had to launder all the soiled clothes. When we spoke to management, there was a vacuum system issue with the plumbing on the ship, which affected many of the public areas too (Lido Deck, Crow's Nest, Showroom areas). The public bathrooms were dirty and smelled. Often times they were closed for repairs. For our stateroom toilet, we had maintenance in our room on multiple occasions with no permanent fix to our flooding problem until late Wednesday (more than ½ through the cruise).
Due to Hurricane Irene, we were out to sea for more days than originally planned. We very much depended on Holland America's planned activities to engage with, as we were all trying to make the most of being out to sea unexpectedly from the onset of the cruise. I was shocked to see that in showing up for events like ping pong and Scattegories, there was no Holland America representative on hand and no one to run the activity. Even worse, the ping pong tables were broken! Holland Americas Lido Deck bartenders brought out the ping pong tables and left them on the floor broken. One cruise ship passenger took it upon himself to fix one of the tables (thankfully!). The 2nd table was never fixed.
Probably the most shocking part of our cruise, was the lack of communication from Holland America that (2) ports were already cancelled due to Hurricane Irene - well before the passengers even started checking in. Holland America stood by their motto that they have the right to change an itinerary at any time without notice. I can appreciate the safety concerns due to Hurricane Irene, but cannot understand why Holland America would not communicate with passengers prior to check in that the Bar Harbor and Halifax ports were already cancelled. For those with trip insurance, we could have used that information to decide if we still wanted to pursue the cruise at that time. Instead of communicating with passengers before check-in, Holland America left a flyer under our door after the ship set sail. Management was unsympathetic and frankly defensive when we tried to discuss their reasoning for the late communication in the itinerary change.
Although 2 ports were substituted (Gaspe and Saguenay), these ports had little to offer of interest. The shore excursions were thrown together. And a 3rd port ended up being cancelled too (Sydney) due to high winds. So, 3 of the 5 ports we planned to visit were ultimately cancelled. We learned during the cruise that Holland America posted the itinerary change on their website prior to our cruise check-in. When I inquired as to why they would update their website but not communicate with passengers directly (either via email or through signage at the cruise check-in point), HAL's home office said that passengers were probably en route to the cruise and may not see an itinerary change email alert from HAL. Which one would think the same reasoning would apply to any passenger accessing the internet while en route to the cruise check-in point. Which reinforces my point of why Holland America did not have some sort of signage at the cruise check-in point that the ports of Bar Harbor & Halifax were cancelled. Why should passengers be expected to access their website for this information when we were all arriving at the cruise check-in point anyway and it would have been easy for HAL to have communicated with all passengers efficiently & easily.
Our expectations of HAL is to tell us as soon as they know that there are safety concerns and if ports are being cancelled due to weather issues. With no communication from HAL during check-in, we assumed passengers were considered safe to travel on this cruise and that no itinerary changes were being made (as of check in time, anyway). Not only our group of 10, but other groups we spoke to aboard the cruise, feel that HAL deliberately withheld that information during the check-in process. In trying to speak with management regarding all of these issues above, they were cold and unsympathetic. We were flat out told that any itinerary change complaints cannot be dealt with aboard the ship.
To really solidify our disappointment, when we returned home, we contacted HAL's home office to discuss our concerns. That is after completing the survey aboard the ship at great length and having the Guest Relations Manager aboard the ship indicate that all of our discussions and concerns aboard the ship were being documented in our file and available for home office to see when we returned home and called our local HAL representative.
Well, the local HAL representative was just as defensive and unsympathetic as the rest of the staff we experienced on our cruise. In summary, I was told that I had to put all of my complaints in writing and submit them. I was told that the on board survey goes to a different department and the notes on our file from our onboard management discussions were not available for her to review. I was also told that I needed to indicate in my written complaint what I propose as a resolution. I told her all I wanted to know if there was something unusual about this cruise for HAL? I was hoping that this was just an "off" cruise experience and that HAL could reassure me that this was not the norm for their level of service. Instead, I was told that as long as my problems had been resolved, there was nothing more that HAL could do, unless I asked for a specific resolution. If HAL is insinuating that I wanted a shipboard credit or a free cruise of some kind, they are sadly mistaken. I was looking for management awareness and reassurance that the next cruise we plan with HAL would have a different outcome and experience. That is all I was looking for!
Vacation time is far too precious these days. My husband and I haven't been on a vacation in years since our companies have downsized. It was challenging for us to go on vacation for 2 weeks, but well worth the effort in our minds. So, our experience with HAL is such a disappointment compared to our Europe cruise with them, as well as our reward for finally getting onto vacation after a few years of working long hours and weekends. My treatment by the home office HAL representative convinced me that passenger satisfaction is not what HAL is concerned about. My husband and I have made the decision (as well as the others in our group) that we would never sail Holland America Cruise Line again.