My husband and I took the 37 day Inca Discovery cruise on the Veendam from New York to Rio from October 16 - November 22,2011.During the last 16 days of the cruise(Valparaiso to Rio)the captain announced an outbreak of GI illness and proceeded to close swimming pools , spas, self serve laundries, library, water fountain in gym and no self service at the Lido.There were not enough servers assigned to the Lido which resulted on long lines and very upset passengers. They had hand wash machines everywhere and ordered everyone to wash their hands constantly ,however, no restrictions were placed on the casino.I have no doubt that their decision not to close the casino contributed to the delay in the containment of the contagion.These restrictions were in placed for 14 days out of the last 16 days of the cruise. At our arrival in Rio no attempts was made to disinfect the ship ,nor pillows or blankets or anything else that came in contact with the affected passengers prior to the embarkation of the new group of passengers.No alternatives were offered to the closings such as discounts on laundry fees or bottled water at the gym.
Top management was basically absent during the entire voyage. Captain frank Van der Hoeven was seen at the captain cocktail hour and getting his morning cup of coffee.After the contagion you only heard him on the PA system. There was a Hotel Manager,David Wood, on board but he made himself scarce when it came to complaints.
Condition of the ship- Thermostats in the rooms never worked, toilets overflowed, windows in public areas were dirty and never cleaned, and the tenders used were dirty, some seats were broken and they leaked when it rained .
Embarkation and Disembarkation- The process was handled by younger staff who did not know how to time the disembarkation from the time they called the groups in the show room to the gangway, leading to long waits and a lot of frustration.
Shore Excursions- A number of them had to be cancelled because of equipment malfunction. Staff did not know how to improvise when something went wrong. In Fuerte Amador passengers had to wait in line up to 3 hours to get the tender back to the boat while standing in the rain. In the meantime, staff was located around the corner ,under a tent, with water and cups, but did not bother to look around the corner and offer it to the passengers.
Cruise Director- We sailed thru some beautiful locations such as the Panama Canal and the Chilean Fjords but there was no announcement either by PA system or in the daily schedule of a naturalist on board.We later came to find out that it only was filtered on the outside. This made no sense when we were sailing thru frigid temperatures near Amelia Glacier and it was pouring outside. Everyone was at the Crows Nest where it would have made sense to listen to the naturalist.Instead ,the cruise director Carlos Mendoza, had scheduled an interview with a comedian.He had to change it to another room.I found him to be totally clueless.
Room Service- For breakfast we could never count on the food arriving within the time frame we had selected.On one occasion we had to leave for a shore excursion without the food arriving, and at our return we found the food had been left in the room,untouched. Sometimes the food arrived semi-warm or cold.
Ports- The port of Santa Marta in Colombia is not ready for prime time . There is really nothing to see there and Cartagena would have been a better choice.
The opinion of a large number of experienced passengers was that the crew,especially, servers ,attendants, kitchen crew and shore excursion personnel did not know what they were doing.This was exacerbated by the fact that top management was absent to supervise them and apparently did not care enough to make sure that passengers were receiving what what was promised to them by Holland America.
We had signed up for 2 cruises on the Prinsendam for next year while were on this cruise .We have now cancelled those cruises and the reason why is because we do not know if what we experienced on the Veendam is a corporate culture that impacts all the Dam ships.