As a seasoned cruise vacationer, I've come to the sad conclusion that Holland America, a self-proclaimed "Premium" cruiseline, unfortunately falls way short of it's mark. If you're expecting the Hilton, you're likely to receive a Holiday Inn experience.
Although many aspects of our recent cruise experience were delightful, such as the Vista Lounge entertainment, ports of call, shore excursions, and most planned ship-board activities, it is quite apparent that this company runs it's basic operations on a shoe-string budget, and is not considered a good value for the money.
I attended this cruise in October 2011, along with my husband, and my elderly mother, with whom we shared our stateroom. After paying a hefty $3,000.00 for all 3 of us for our 11-day cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America, we found out that the cruise had later been discounted to many other guests at a rate of only $599.00 per person in order to "fill" the ship. Upon further inquiry with the ship's front desk, we were not offered any discounts, upgrades or incentives.
Since there are so many comments to include, I've listed them in condensed bullets as follows:
~ There was a consistent, foul odor of sewage in some interior areas of the ship, which was very offensive. One of the elevators had a strong stench of urine!
~ The ship's architectural details were beautiful and elegant throughout, although age-worn and weather-beaten. The outdoor chaise lounges poolside at rear of ship were very dirty and worn. Upon our first visit to the Sports Bar, the vinyl covering on many chairs and sofas were very worn, cracked and peeling (although they were repaired and spray-painted by a maintenance person on the days following, out in the open public bar area during our cruise)! Other intrusive maintenance duties were also being performed during our cruise, such as power washing and painting, temporarily closing certain main areas of the ship, which annoyed and inconvenienced many guests. These operations should be conducted in-between sailings while the ship is not serving guests!
~ Although some crew members throughout were friendly and informative, many seemed apathetic and/or uninformed. The language barrier of the primarily Indonesian crew was tremendous (the worst I've ever encountered on a cruise), and we could not engage many in any in-depth conversation. In addition, each time we asked a passing staff member for directions to a particular event location on the ship, we received a different answer!
~ Our stateroom was spacious, clean with very comfortable bedding, although the bed for the third guest in our room--my elderly mother--was just a pull-out, cot-style bed. Our stateroom stewards were excellent, very efficient and accomodating as they could possibly be, but they could not provide an in-room clothing iron, and we needed a room fan since the A/C was not cool enough for our liking.
~ Food items in the Lido Buffet were fair-to-good at best, with unimpressive, limited, and repetitive utilization of ingredients and presentation. Instead of a traditional self-service buffet, we endured a demeaning soup-kitchen style of service for our main entrees, with meager portions being slung onto our plates.
~ "Cold" food items, such as seafood appetizers and salads, were served at room temperature. Most desserts were unimpressive and of institutional-quality, as you would find in the freezer section of your local grocer.
~ Guests are forced to traverse the entire Lido Buffet Dining Room, and back and forth to their table, in order to completely gather individual food and drink selections for each meal, as buffet serving trays are not provided! Many of the elderly and handicapped guests were very obviously annoyed with this.
~ Tables were not promptly cleaned between seatings in Lido Buffet Dining Room. Dishes and dirty ashtrays were a constant occurence at outdoor poolside deck tables. There were inadequate air-conditioning levels in the Lido Dining Room.
~ Food quality and presentation in the more formal Vista Dining Room was good-to-very good, but not outstanding. Service was very disorganized, and turned out to be a long, 2-hour ordeal to receive our full meal to it's fruition. In addition, with the Vista Dining Room location at the rear of the ship, we could feel and hear the tremendous rumble of the ship's engines beneath our feet---not very pleasant in a formal "5-Star" dining room setting!
~ Most specialty events were held during late evening hours, 9PM or later, after a long day of shore excursions, when everyone was too exhausted to attend!
~ We, as many other guests, were very disappointed in the quality of just one particular ship-board music venue, Amanda and the HalCats, who sang and performed top-40 style music in a very much off-key and amatuer manner, causing most of us in the audience to cringe!
~ Very limited indoor accomodations for smokers, with none for cigar smokers, except for the rear outdoor deck area.
~ Although many wonderful amenities were included in the cruise price, we've found exorbitant "nickel-and-dime" charges throughout the cruise for "extras" on board, such as a can of soda for $1.95 plus mandatory 15% gratuity, a $40 per day charge for use of the Hydro-Tub, and unreasonable charges for internet and cell phone use.
When weighing the pros and cons of this particular cruise, I would not recommend Holland America Cruiseline if you have high expectations regarding daily operations and services. But, if you are willing to pay a premium price for this cruiseline and look past some or all of what we had endured on-board, then you'd probably enjoy the ports of call and shore excursions.