1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Holland America Line
  4. Holland America Line Cruise Reviews

54 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We're experienced cruisers having sailed with Princess (16 times), Royal Caribbean (3 times) and Carnival (once and never again). I had heard good things about HAL and, since I was offered a very good rate, we thought we'd give ... Read More
We're experienced cruisers having sailed with Princess (16 times), Royal Caribbean (3 times) and Carnival (once and never again). I had heard good things about HAL and, since I was offered a very good rate, we thought we'd give it a try. Our mistake was obvious as soon as we arrived at the embarkation terminal. We were handed numbered cards, then herded like cattle into an ugly holding area. After about half an hour, our number was called and we joined a very long, snaking line in a second room in order to check in. That took another half hour. Finally got on the ship and were stunned by the tackiness of the interior. I thought HAL was supposed to be classy!? I couldn't believe the cheesy decoration - everything from the bench seating by the elevators to the lighting in the dining room was laughably ugly. Our fellow passengers were overwhelmingly elderly. The elevators were often so clogged with walkers that we had to use the stairs. I have nothing against older passengers (much prefer them to rowdy 20 somethings) but this was a bit extreme. Sometimes I felt as if I were visiting my 90 year old mother at her retirement home. Our room was quite tasteful, although a little on the shabby side. We moved a chair to the balcony in order to make some space. The bed was comfortable although the sheets were rather rough and scratchy. The bathroom was large but there was no hot water in the jacuzzi tub and the shower was TINY. The food was uniformly excellent, as was the service everywhere. Unlike Princess, the buffet is NOT 24 hour and it always seemed to be closed when we were hungry. Very annoying. The layout of the buffet was terrible; very difficult to see what was available because the stations were spaced so far apart and very little was self service, resulting in long lines for everything. Also unlike Princess, there is no laundromat on the ship and you aren't allowed to have an iron in your room so you're forced to use their laundry service, which was fine but expensive. Entertainment was dreadful! A electronic player piano in the dining room, a string quartet that seemed to play nothing but funeral dirges (the lounge they played in was always empty when we passed by), a pretty lame impressionist (Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Elvis) and a magician who's show we didn't attend. The best public room was the Explorations Cafe - really excellent coffee (at a price) and attractively decorated with a good selection of books and magazines and great views. The internet rates were highway robbery - the same amount of time would have been free on Princess with our Elite status. After we accepted the fact that we got what we paid for, we relaxed and had a good time. I won the slots tournament ($500.00) and my husband won the blackjack tournament (another $500.00) which also helped to cheer us up! Perhaps the Zuiderdam is an anomaly in the HAL fleet, but I doubt we'll take a chance and sail with them again. I don't know why HAL has so many repeat cruisers; their loyalty program is almost nonexistent. We're heading back to Princess and all our Elite benefits. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most ... Read More
I am writing to express my total dissatisfaction with the above cruise. Friday, February 8th marked a week since my husband and I returned from this cruise which we booked to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It was not only the most expensive10-day cruise we've been on but without a doubt the worst cruise experience we've ever encountered even though we did have a few enjoyable experiences. This was our first cruise on Holland America and we were looking forward to the great service and food previous Holland America cruisers had told us about. We had previously considered a Baltic cruise on Holland America but decided to try this one before booking a European cruise with you. We flew down to Ft. Lauderdale a day early to begin our celebration with a Marriott rewards night at the Hollywood Marriott Spa Hotel. We almost paid for a cab ride to the ship even though we had an airport transfer since our travel agent was told by someone in your corporate office that Holland America did not do transfers to the ship from this hotel anymore even though your 2008 brochure indicated otherwise . On the day of the cruise, January 22nd, we were checking out and my husband was arranging a cab to the ship when he noticed a HA representative named Sylvia displaying a Volendam sign on a desk in the lobby. We explained our situation to her and we were able to secure a transfer to board the ship. She told us that since we had already paid for this transfer we should check with the office once on board to get credit. We did receive a credit; however, we should not have had to do this on our vacation since we tried to resolve it before we left. Before boarding the ship, we had to complete a health form assuring that we had no current or previous lower GI illnesses yet 2 days into the cruise, 14 people were quarantined for this illness with no other explanation except that all hot tubs, mineral spas and pools would be closed until further notice. There was no more self-service food service of any kind and everything was served to you. The Lido deck had plastic wrap all around the front of the glass displaying what food was available. The actions taken were understandable; however, the service staff did not offer salt and pepper or any other condiments. You always had to ask for them and the staff made your request seem like an inconvenience to them. There was an update on the status of the illnesses for the remaining 8 days of the cruise. When we booked this cruise, we requested early seating for dinner as we've done on 5 previous cruises. Since you now have half your dinner seating set aside for open seating, we were put on a wait list. When we received our travel documents, we asked our travel agent to verify our dinner seating status. Our travel agent was previously told that early seating was the same as main seating which we later learned was 8 pm and not 6 pm as we had requested. Our agent was told by your corporate office that they could not change our wait list status a month before the cruise and that we would need to speak with the maitre'd once we boarded the ship to request early seating which should be no problem, and it wasn't. However, we were sandwiched in at table for 6 with 5 people already seated the second night of the cruise. Our waiter was a very nice young man, however, our table was the last of his 5 tables to be served and several nights we were "chimed out" which was very insulting. This had never happened to us on any other cruise line because there was always ample staff to wait on our table. While the food in the dining room was acceptable, it was not as good as what we have experienced on other cruise lines. The variety of food offered in the Lido dining room was "lack luster" at best. The last night of the cruise, we had dinner in the Pinnacle Dining Room and that was superb. I'm not sure why your other food service was so poor. The excursions were terrible, especially in Curacao and the Panama Canal. The 2-hour bus ride on the Panama Canal excursion to catch the ferry that took us through the canal was extremely inadequate. Our tour guide, Skip Berger, did not really add to our experiencing the Panama Canal! It was pretty much the same thing on the 2-hour trip back to the ship. For the money, the Curacao excursion was extremely disappointing and both tours were overbooked and very crowded to really appreciate being there. The Costa Rica excursion was very enjoyable. Our stop at your private island, Half Moon Cay, was super. We had our own cabana and my husband surprised me with a Butler service to include a full bar and lunch but we were charged for 2 additional bottles of champagne which should have been part of the package, especially since the package was priced for up to four people and it was only the two of us. Our room steward never introduced himself to us as other stewards have done on all of our previous cruises. He was always late making up our room and when the time changed in Costa Rica, we didn't know because he never turned down our bed that evening. The next morning we got all over the in-room dining staff because we ordered breakfast for 6 am and here it was 6:45 with no breakfast only to learn that the time had moved back an hour and in reality, it was only 5:45 am. You might consider an approach that guests can use to let the room steward know they are out of the room. This will allow the room steward to attend to the room on your guest's schedule. There was no ATM on board and you could not cash a personal check. The only two bright spots during this whole cruise were the beautiful formal pictures taken and the most exceptional meal we ate in the Pinnacle Grill our last night on the cruise. We did pay extra for that meal but it was worth every penny! It's a pity that the dining room food did not have the same quality. The shopping ambassador, Jason Bridge, dining room waiter, Suko, butler at Half Moon Cay and server "Edward" at the cafe bar were the highlights of your staff and service. Holland America will not be a cruise line of choice when we consider future cruises if another line has the itinerary we desire. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
My wife and I are very regular travelers. We are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises. We have been on approx. 20 cruises to date from the Princess to the Crystal cruise line. This is ... Read More
My wife and I are very regular travelers. We are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises. We have been on approx. 20 cruises to date from the Princess to the Crystal cruise line. This is our first time with HAL and this is probably our last time with HAL based on the experiences we had on this 13-days Panama Canal cruise on the Oosterdam. To begin, let us at least say a few positive words about the cruise and the ship. FIRST, our cabin was on 8th deck, one of the SS suite. The cabin was very spacious, with plenty of cabinets and drawer space for clothes and miscellaneous. The cabin steward was nice and quite attentive to our needs. The veranda was large and well-partitioned for privacy. SECOND, the front office staff, especially the pursers, were very friendly and they tried diligently to answer questions and solve problems to the best of their abilities. THIRD, the Pasta Station in the Lido deck made one of the best pasta (cooked to order) better than most cruise ships including the Crystal Harmony and Serenity. FOURTH, embarkation and disembarkation were orderly and swift. We were aboard the ship in less than 1/2 hour after we checked in. Likewise, we were able to get off the ship quickly and early enough to catch an earlier flight home. PRECRUISE: Since we are from the West Coast and bought our own plane tickets, we needed to travel to Ft. Lauderdale one day early to avoid any uncontrollable delays and therefore miss the ship. We took the pre-cruise hotel package from HAL, staying in the Hyatt Regency in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel staff, from the bellman to the coffee shop waitress, were rude, unfriendly, and incompetent. The room was dirty and had stains all over the carpet. The bellman walked off with our luggage without indicating where he was headed towards. The waitress presented us with the wrong check, and when we questioned her, she refused to make any changes until we talked to the coffee shop manager. We realize that HAL has no direct control over the service and room conditions of the hotel, but since this is a pre-cruise hotel package and part of the cruising experience, we paid HAL for arranging the pre-cruise package. Therefore, HAL should shoulder the responsibility for their choice of offered hotel in their pre and post cruise packages. THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE: The layout of the ship is difficult to comprehend. Maybe this is such a large ship and HAL's idea to give the ship and cozy and intimate feel, is to chop up the public rooms, ie the bars and the lounges were divided into myriads of different compartments and tucked into corners and corridors. The atrium and the lobby were so small and uninviting. It is not a place one would like to linger to share a drink and enjoy visiting unless you had business with the front/excursion desks. The hallways were dark and narrow, like going through dark tunnels to no where, ie out of no where there is a stairwell or a lounge or an elevator or a wall blocking your passage. If you wanted to go from the front of the ship to the back of the ship or vice versa, you had to navigate your way through the casino, and or the gift shops with merchandise arranged half hazardly blocking your way. The dinning room is like a large cafeteria with tables back-to-back barely having enough room for the waiters to walk behind the table to serve the food. The music pit is in the middle of the dinning room and was so dark that the musicians were like playing music under a darkened mushroom canopy. FOOD: the quality of the food in the Lido is typical cafeteria food. There were a lot of choices, but the quality and taste needed much improvement. The best was the Pasta Station and the worst was the Asian food station. The rice was not cooked properly and the so called asian menu of Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino food were comparable to the worst of any asian cafeteria in San Francisco. The food in the Vista dinning room is uneven. You have both good and bad meals. Steaks and beef dishes were good, chicken dishes were so-so and the seafood dishes were not fresh. The couple of times that we had lobster dinners, the lobster was slimy and had a rotten taste. The shrimp and the shrimp cocktails were not that much better. The salads were occasionally brown and wilted. The Pinnacle Grill is definitely not worth a visit. We had a free dinner from our nice travel agent, but still I have to say that the Pinnacle Grill is over-rated. The steaks were dry and burnt. The scampi was dry, tough and without any sauce and taste. ENTERTAINMENT: the dance music on this ship is not for dancing. The dance music was to put the passenger to sleep early. The music from all the bands and groups had no rhythm, beat, and energy. This was a Panama Canal, Mexico cruise, you would think the music would be lively and reflect the rhythm of the ports, ie, some mariachi, salsa, folkloric, latin music. The production shows were second rate. The singers and dancers had a lot of energy, but unfortunately the sets and costumes did not give them justice for their efforts. On most 12 days cruises we have been on, there were at least 3 production shows with great sets and complements of talented magicians and comedians. There were only two shows on this long cruise and the singers and comedians were amateurish. SERVICE: service on this ship was not something to brag about either (to my great surprise based on HAL's advertisement of outstanding service). The waiters and assistant waiters in the main dinning room provided adequate service, but when they rotated up to the Lido deck they somehow turned into a different mindset when servicing the guests . For example, when one of the guests on our table asked for tea, the waiter pointed to the tea station and indicated for her to serve herself. Another waiter proudly told us (and I hope he was in jest) that he liked rough seas because the guests would get seasick and not come to dinner and therefore save them a lot of work. Very seldom did I observe a waiter helping a guest with his/her tray, they generally congregated in small groups and chatted with each other. The servers behind the Lido counters were rude and had little patience in serving the food, they tended to just slop the food on the plate and pass the plate to the guest. HAL Oosterdam's Food and Beverage dept. is definitely not up to the standard of a premium cruise line. LAUNDRY SERVICE: Since there were no laundromats on board, you had to send your laundry out to wash every few days. The laundry service was always late in returning your clothes, (supposed to be returned within 48 hrs.). ORGANIZATION: the ship's management is not well organized. The first day after embarkation we waited for more than an hour to see the dinning room head waiter to ensure that we had the correct table and dinner time. The waiting line was so long that it caused frustration amongst the guests, who started to push each other around to try to get closer to the front of the line. This could be prevented if HAL were more organized and attuned to the guests' needs. Likewise, on the first tour day to Cartegena, the waiting line for the city tour was so long, that the guests had to wait for close to an hour just to get a bus ticket/assignment. These incidences were not necessary and could have been avoided by better planning on HAL's part. The ship's crew were also constantly trying to sell spa and related services. Every time you turned around their were crew members, especially spa staff, trying to sell spa packages, soft drinks packages and seminars on board. One of the purpose of taking a vacation is to have temporary reprieve from constant solicitations and hustling. HAL is overdoing their selling products efforts. Based on our experiences during this cruise,( mainly the food, the entertainment, the services and the organization of the ship and its management), we found this cruise was overrated and overpriced for a very mediocre, undistinguishable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2005
We are resubmitting this review because the previous submission on January 2005, after our trip, did not get posted. We are regular travelers and are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or ... Read More
We are resubmitting this review because the previous submission on January 2005, after our trip, did not get posted. We are regular travelers and are in our sixties. We usually take a couple of trips a year either on land tours and/or cruises (20 cruises to date from the Princess to the Crystal cruise line). This is our first time with HAL and this is probably our last time with HAL based on the experiences we had on this 13-days Panama Canal cruise on the Oosterdam. THE SHIP AND THE CRUISE: The layout of the ship is difficult to comprehend. Maybe this is such a large ship and HAL's idea to give the ship a cozy and intimate feel, is to chop up the public rooms, ie the bars and the lounges were divided into myriads of different compartments and tucked into corners and corridors. The atrium and the lobby were so small and uninviting. It is not a place one would like to linger to share a drink and enjoy visiting unless you had business with the front/excursion desks. The hallways were dark and narrow, like going through dark tunnels to no where. If you wanted to go from the front of the ship to the back of the ship or vice versa, you had to navigate your way through the casino, and/ or the gift shops with merchandise arranged half hazardly blocking your way. The dinning room is like a large cafeteria with tables back-to-back barely having enough room for the waiters to walk behind the table to serve the food. The music pit is in the middle of the dinning room and was so dark that the musicians were like playing music under a darkened mushroom canopy. FOOD: the quality of the food in the Lido is typical cafeteria food. There were a lot of choices, but the quality and taste needed much improvement. The best was the Pasta Station and the worst was the Asian food station. The rice was not cooked properly and the so called Asian menu of Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino food were comparable to the worst of any Asian cafeteria in San Francisco. The food in the Vista dinning room is uneven. You have both good and bad meals. Steaks and beef dishes were good, chicken were so-so and the seafood dishes were not fresh. The lobster was slimy and had a rotten taste. The shrimp and the shrimp cocktails were not that much better. The salads were occasionally brown and wilted. The Pinnacle Grill is definitely not worth a visit. We had a free dinner compliments from our travel agent, but still I have to say that the Pinnacle Grills is over-rated. The steaks were dry and burnt. The scampi was dry, tough, and without any sauce and taste. ENTERTAINMENT: The dance music on this ship is not for dancing. The dance music was to put the passengers to sleep early. The music from all the bands and groups had no rhythm, beat, and energy. This was a Panama Canal, Mexico cruise, you would think the music would be lively and reflect the rhythm of the ports, ie, some mariachi, salsa, folkloric, Latin music. The production shows were second rate. The singers and dancers had a lot of energy, but unfortunately the sets and costumes did not give them justice for their efforts. On most 12 days cruises we have been on, there were at least 3 production shows with great sets and complements of talented magicians and comedians. There were only two shows on this long cruise and the singers and comedians were amateurish. SERVICE; service on this ship was not something to brag about either (to my great surprise based on HAL's advertisement of outstanding service). The waiters and assistant waiters in the main dinning room provided adequate service, but when they rotated up to the Lido deck they somehow turned into a different mindset when servicing the guests. For example, when one of the guest on our table asked for tea, the waiter pointed to the tea station and indicated for her to serve herself. Another waiter proudly told us that he liked rough seas because the guests would get seasick and not come to dinner and therefore save them a lot of work. Very seldom did I observe a waiter helping a guest with his/her tray, they generally congregated in small groups and chatted with each other. The servers behind the Lido counters were rude and had little patience in serving the food, they tended to just slop the food on the plate and pass the plate to the guest. HAL Oosterdam's Food and Beverage dept. is definitely not up to the standard of a premium cruise line. Since there were no laundromats on board, you had to send your laundry out to wash every few days. The laundry service was always late in returning your clothes (supposed to be returned within 48 hrs). ORGANIZATION: the ship's management is not well organized. The first day after embarkation we waited for more than an hour to see the dinning room head waiter to ensure that we had the correct table and dinner time. The waiting line was so long that it caused frustration amongst the guests, who started to push each other around to try to get closer to the front of the line. The could be prevented if HAL were more organized and attuned to the guests' needs. Likewise, on the first tour day to Cartegena, the waiting line for the city tour was so long, that the guests had to wait for close to an hour just to get a bus ticket/assignment. These incidences were not necessary and could have been avoided by better planning on HAL's part. The ship's crew were also constantly trying to sell spa and related services. Every time you turned around there were crew members, especially spa staff, trying to sell spa packages, soft drinks packages and seminars on board. One of the purposes of taking a vacation is to have temporary reprieve from constant solicitations and hustling. HAL is overdoing their selling products efforts. Based on our experiences during this cruise (mainly the food, the entertainment, the services and organization of the ship and its management), we found this ship was overrated and overpriced for a very mediocre, undistinguishable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2005
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click