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31 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We have been cruising about 40 times or. Many cruise lines, many ships. With the Holland America Line more that 100 days. Our last cruise with the Rotterdam during the holidays was memorable, unfortunately not in a positive way. Many ... Read More
We have been cruising about 40 times or. Many cruise lines, many ships. With the Holland America Line more that 100 days. Our last cruise with the Rotterdam during the holidays was memorable, unfortunately not in a positive way. Many problems were already mentioned here, and we encountered them too. My biggest problem is that the total experience when cruising with the HAL is deteriorating, your by year. They are small things but they add up, year by year. No entertainment in the dining room, we used to have live music, during the holidays at least. Could be piano or violins and it gave a nice atmosphere. No entertainment in the crows nest. The DJ is a joke. He is just sitting there, playing a tape. We had 2 kids with us, teenagers and the had nothing to do in the evening. After midnight, the DJ just left. There was hardly any holiday decoration on the ship. No holiday atmosphere was tried to create. Just another cruise. Than the itinerary. On paper looked good. In practice it was bad. HAL is choosing new ports, without descent facilities. In my opinion because for the cheap harbour dues. At one time we were docked next to a ship loading facility for coal. It looked awful and it was dusty. In other places you were in the middle of no where, while there was also a docking facility nearby, right in the town. Cheap thinking again. The biggest disappointment is that there is no pool anymore on the aft. It means there is no outside pool anymore. On many occasions, even when the weather is nice, the roof of the pool at midship is partly closed. Also the space on deck has been dramatically reduces because of this "improvement". And you know, HAL has ordered to refurbish many mores hips like this. We will never cruise with HAL again. Think twice before you book. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Well we left the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale on the 16th of December to embark on our honeymoon cruise. We got to the terminal and got the news that they could not board us right away, no reason given, they said a supervisor would ... Read More
Well we left the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale on the 16th of December to embark on our honeymoon cruise. We got to the terminal and got the news that they could not board us right away, no reason given, they said a supervisor would talk to us asap, that really made us feel good. When the supervisor finally got around to talking to us 3 hours later she informed us that our cabin was not ready because the ship had just came out of drydock from getting refurbished in Bermuda and that the pipes had burst on deck 6 (our deck) and they would have to switch us temporarily, they did not say to what or where. I called our travel agent right away as to what was happening and she said that they would have to give us at least what we had or upgrade us. They basically said we would get what they gave us, take it or leave it. We ended up with an ocean view cabin on the Dolphin deck, the lowest floor going. We were to be given an apology letter and a credit of $100 per day each plus the difference between cabin rates would be refunded. We got moved into our veranda cabin that same night actually finally at 9 pm, we finally got our luggage to our cabin the next day. 31 other people were inconvenienced as well this way. Some waited 4 days to get into their cabins. We also waited 3 days for them to find our shore excursion tickets, they never did actually, they just reprinted them all again. We also waited 3 days for the air conditioning to be fixed on deck 6, the phone had not worked properly the whole cruise, the wiring in the room was not even completed and I took pictures of this and sent them to my travel agent who forwarded them to HAL as proff of the shoddy work, why they even let this ship out of drydock in this condition is beyond me and why they did not even offer everyone on board some type of compensation is beyond me as well. So much said for the customer service of Holland America, has it deteriorated this much since our first experience with them aboard the Zandam 9 long years ago.?? Our one bright spot out of this might be that thankfully we were not still on deck one, 3 days into the cruise the toilets backed up and that was not pleasant, the entertainer made a comment that night welcoming everyone aboard the Rooter Routerdam. I told Gail it was not going to spoil our honeymoon cruise, it seemed like everyone still wanted to try though, the indifference displayed showed this, the line ups at the front office of people complaining showed in the shortness of tempers of the staff as well as the customers complaining. On the second last day of the cruise we finally noticed a credit on our shipboard account for $416 aptly named credit for plumbing issues. No letter of apology which I asked again for at the hotel office and almost a month after the cruise still no letter forthcoming. The crew was in and out of our room numerous times to try to fix the tv, the reception was terrible in this part of the ship, they did finally put the light back on the desk area though so at least we would not have to worry about the bare wires there, but they never got around to fixing the bare wires under the end table by the couch, never got the telephone working properly and the temperature control to actually work, air conditioning worked perfectly 24 hours a day, no matter were you set the temperature control at, cold or hot it only blew cold. Gail got phemonia by the time we got home. Overall this ship got a big zero from us as to customer satisfaction, the captain and cruise director Joesph kept on telling everyone to have a good day, with all the problems onboard that was almost like sticking a knife back in and twisting it a bit more. We might only be star mariners but we overheard onboard and see it here as well in the other reviews the 4 and 5 star mariners that have said they will sail no more with HAL. We are waiting to see what happens because our travel agent has lodged our compliant with HAL and as it moves up their corporate ladder, we will see what the outcome is. As a post note I showed the pics I took of the wiring in our suite to a friend of mine who is an electrical inspector for the city and he said if that was a hotel room here the hotel would have been fined. Who inspects HAL's ships Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I were very disappointed with a number of things on our 1 May Panama Canal cruise on the Veendam. Some of the problems were related to the fact that the ship had left dry dock not completely ready; however, many of the ... Read More
My husband and I were very disappointed with a number of things on our 1 May Panama Canal cruise on the Veendam. Some of the problems were related to the fact that the ship had left dry dock not completely ready; however, many of the problems were totally avoidable simply by a bit of thought and good management. Although our room stewards, dinner stewards and many of the bar staff provided very good service, these problems made it difficult at times to enjoy the cruise. When we arrived, after traveling for over 6 hours, there was at least a  3-hour delay in being able to board the ship. Two hot and stuffy terminals filled with people waited for hours until we could board. My husband and I finally boarded just before the lifeboat drill around 4pm. Some of the passengers were clearly seriously tired - in the terminal just before we got on the ship, we saw two seniors being treated by paramedics for heart problems and another being treated for an arm injury from falling on the escalator. After the lifeboat drill we went to find something to eat only to be told that NOTHING was open until 5:30! After such a long day, we were very tired and hungry (I'd had a muffin and a tiny bag of peanuts since we got up at 3am for our flight and there was no food and limited water in the waiting terminals). At 4:30pm there were several people wandering around looking for anything to eat. This was definitely disturbing. As you would expect, the press of people at the 5:30 sittings and in the Lido was overwhelming! Why didn't somebody think ahead and, realizing the boarding was delayed, arrange for at least the grill or part of the Lido to remain open? That was just the beginning. Our suitcases didn't make it to our room for hours after we sailed (we found one ourselves and brought it back to our room). Apparently the elevators on the ship weren't working fully yet so it was very hard for the staff to bring them to the floors. Moreover, the bags weren't marked with stateroom numbers since we weren't informed of our number before the trip. The first night, the stateroom was freezing cold and the power died, leaving us in the cold and dark. They corrected the power problem in an hour or so. There was also an open pipe over our veranda from which spewed dirty brown water over the windows, deck and railings (the railings and deck were crusty with the filth). Essentially we were paying for a veranda we couldn't use and a room that was too cold to stay in. To top it off, we discovered there were no curtains for the windows (we insisted that window coverings be found and they were installed before midnight as was the power). We went to bed in the terribly cold room. On 2 May, we went to the Front Desk to complain again about the freezing temperature in our room and it was repaired. Later in the trip, while we were in Central America , the room became so hot that we could not stay in it (hot air was blowing in from the vent). We went down to the Front Desk and threatened to come down their to sleep. It was fixed again. It never really reached a comfortable temperature in our room either too hot or too cold since the thermostat never functioned at all throughout the trip. Two days into the trip, both engines failed. Luckily the crew got one of the engines back, but the delay meant that the Costa Rico stop had to be cancelled. Since the Mexican stops had also been cancelled due to Swine Flu, that left only one port (Cartagena) before we arrived in San Diego, so the cruiseline added Guatamala and Nicaragua as ports. Unless people came to breakfast early, it was very difficult to use the main dining room for breakfast. This was not a case of our trying to get in to the dining room 5 minutes before it closed either it was clear that the dining room could not handle people who came over half an hour before it closed. For example, on 3 May, the dining room breakfast was scheduled for 8 to 9:30am. We arrived at 9:05 to be told there were no tables ready in fact, the couple before were sent to the Lido . When we acted surprised that they couldn't seat us when seating was open until 9:30, they suddenly found a table for us. This problem though existed throughout the voyage. It was clear that the ship could not handle the full breakfast at a single sitting. Anyone coming at about 8:50am for an 8-9:30am breakfast faced being sent to the Lido, or, if they could seat us, dallying over a two-hour breakfast as food service was terribly slow. We found that we couldn't rely on morning roomservice either. We ordered it once in Cartagena since we had a tour and thought that would make it easier for us to reach the tour on time. However, the roomservice didn't arrive in the timeslot we'd listed, so 10 minutes after the timeslot we had to run up to the Lido to grab something so we would have breakfast before our tour. It seemed a shame to waste that food. We ordered breakfast for the last day of the cruise as well and they phoned us to cancel it since they could not handle the breakfasts since the ship elevators were busy with luggage. Five days after we left port, the pipe on our veranda was repaired. However, the filth remained (the floor and railings were crusted with it) so we still could not use it. We finally offered to clean it ourselves if the ship would provide buckets and scrub brushes. It was cleaned though by our room stewards just before we got to Panama . Throughout the trip the outside windows of most of the public places and bars were smeared with dirt and hard to sea out of. I was very unimpressed with the cruise daily event flyers. I had found them useful on previous Holland America cruises but these had a different format and didn't include all the events or provide enough information about the events that they did list. I discovered at the end of the cruise that there'd been line dancing, wine tasting and karaoke and that there had been a boat making contest. I didn't see these in the magazines. Some events were mentioned quickly over the intercom, but were not easy to hear in all rooms and were not always clear about times and details. It felt as if the cruise events were for a select few, not for us. The main Showroom had incredibly uncomfortable straight backed seats with no back support at all and from many seats it was absolutely impossible to see the stage. I've never seen such a poor showroom. External windows throughout the ship were filthy and hard to see out - though we saw some workmen cleaning windows when we left the ship in Vancouver - we heard that the President of the company was coming on board. I was very unhappy about how the San Diego stop was handled. As Canadians, we received a paper notifying us that we should report to a small showroom on the 7th deck at 6:30am. It wasn't made clear whether or not we had to do so if we weren't getting off the ship. Since we thought perhaps we would disembark briefly we were there on time. It was terribly crowded. The young man who was handling crowd control made it clear that he had no idea about any of the whys or whos or hows in fact, whenever he had a question, he had the crowd chant the answer - "I don't know". The hot stuffy room was incredibly crowded and there were lineups down through the hall to the lobby. Because of the congestion, there was an announcement at 7:30 that the folk scheduled for 7:30 should stay away. It took us a full hour in these conditions before we cleared customs. Moreover, I discovered later that the few Americans that needed to go through customs on the ship (full disembarkations for Americans were handled in the terminal) were seen in the large showroom all two rows of them. It was clear that many of the Canadians never understood that they were required to report to that area to see American customs so disembarkation was greatly delayed as repeated announcements were made to have Canadians report. There was also misinformation regarding Canadians who were fully disembarking at San Diego . Apparently they and their luggage were required to go to that crowded little showroom as well rather than seeing customs in the terminal. Disembarkation was held up as repeated calls were made for missing Canadians. Surely Holland America could have done some research into what was needed for San Diego customs and have shared that information clearly with the passengers. The spectacle of a cruise employee arranging chants of I DON'T KNOW just doesn't jive with Holland America 's image. As a last note, it felt as if Holland America did not feel that the Canadians on board were important although we made up approximately half of the passengers on this voyage. There was a big celebration in the main dining room when the predominantly American passengers left the ship in San Diego . While it was understandable that the ship would not have two full celebrations, a simple announcement at dinner prior to the Canadians leaving in Vancouver would have been nice. Without that, it felt like a mere "good riddance". This was definitely not a cruise we would like to repeat. We will not likely book with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We went on a May 1 cruise to the Panama Canal. The problems started before we even left. We were herded from one building to another in extreme heat. Finally we boarded only to find our room with suitcases, shoes and many personal items in ... Read More
We went on a May 1 cruise to the Panama Canal. The problems started before we even left. We were herded from one building to another in extreme heat. Finally we boarded only to find our room with suitcases, shoes and many personal items in it. Thinking they had given us the wrong room we went back to where they were checking us in.  They told us it was a workmen's room and just remove the stuff.  After 3 hours waiting in heat, it was a little surprising. The problems were just beginning. I asked for them to change the bed but no one ever came.  We weren't sure if they were clean or not. One person passed out in the safety drill.  None of us had eaten or had much to drink all day and it was hot.Is this a holidsay?  The problems just went on and on.  There were rooms flooded.  People would wake up to ankle deep water and they would take forever to come. My sister's room didn't have a working toilet for 2 days and smelt like sewage.  The toilet leaked throughout the whole trip.  They had to run up a floor or down a floor and use a public washroom. It was awful to shower in it as it smelled like sewage. Pretty funny when they were putting on formal nights and they couldn't even shower. Two days into the cruise both engines quit. After leaving late and floating with no power for a few hours we lost our stop in Costa Rica which is why most of us picked that cruise. Of course they didn't tell us that as everyone was already mad by then so they told us bad news a bit at a time. We figured out a day before it was announced we weren't going to Costa Rica.  Mexico was already cancelled so they put Nicaragua and Guatemala in instead. They had some stupid reason they would arrive in Costa Rica at night even though we went through the canal at the exact same time we were supposed to, just a day later due to all their problems.  Nicaragua seemed a little unsafe as their were wires hanging in random places. Our bus hit a power line backing up and they unloaded us, live wires hanging beside us and all. In Guatemala the librarian from our ship came along and acted as an authority(a stupid one,mind you),  but we were to meet after lunch at 1 pm to go through the museum and walk to a market and pick up our bus.  She and two other people weren't at the exit of the museum with our real guide when we got there.  He had to run all the way back and it took 20 minutes. So we didn't get to go to the market as promised due to a typical Holland America employee. It was good I shopped at the museum as I would have not had any souveniers to take home as the stops were few.  This boat was half Canadian and half American but they had a huge farewell in San Diego and nothing in Vancouver except leave the ship quickly as they have a quick turn around. I am thinking Holland America has never been to San Diego as we all signed up for a tour and behold the night before we got a letter saying customs was coming aboard and our excursion was cancelled. They didn't know this when they printed their excursion book thatr customs comes on board????  So 600 of us lined up in a room that holds 100 and we moved up row by row.  The lineup outside went half the way around the ship. You couldn't even get on the elevator and it was up the stairs. Of course the Americans who were leaving got to go to the much larger showroom and there weren't many of them.  The employee in the theatre answered all our questions with "I don't know", as did all the staff on the whole boat.  It was front office's fault.  If you approached them, it was the captain's fault.  If you approached him, it was Seattle's fault and of course you couldn't get ahold of them. I got stuck in the elevator  -  car # 9.  None of the buttons would light up, the doors wouldn't open and there it sat.  I opened the emergency phone and IT WAS AN EMPTY BOX!!!  All of a sudden it went from 4th floor to the 11th and thank god the doors opened there.  I ran down and reported it to the desk and THEY WROTE IT IN A BOOK!  Two days later people were still getting stuck in the elevator and front office were still writing it in a book. I talked to one person who had been taken down to the engine room. Then came a virus so we went from self serve to no service.  You stood in lineups forever. Some bright person got the idea we shouldn't have trays.  A cafeteria with no trays.  You got your meal and if you wanted salt and pepper you then had to stand in the coffee lineup for it.  Sometimes that lineup took 10-15 minutes.  They had one person and he poured each cup individually as you asked instead of having one person pouring and another handing it out or at least pour a few cups of coffee at one time. If you just wanted salt and pepper they would ignore you until you got in the coffee lineup and waited 10 minutes.  The cafeteria bosses wandered around in white uniforms doing nothing. We all started eating salad instead of hot food that was as cold as salad by the time you got to eat it. They treated us like little children squirting our hands with sanitizer before you went in the dining room.What was really funny was that the waiter would take everyon's dirty dishes and sort them all.  Then they would sort the dirty cutlery and then they would bring us the dessert menu and cups of tea and coffee.  There was no hand washing or sanitizing going on with the staff. No wonder it spread. It was so disgusting to watch and so annoying for them to pretend they were using sanitary methods. They had the band leader, the guy from the gym (he was pretty useless there anyways) and all the staff doing double duty serving food.  They all were exhausted with no days off and 18 hour double duty days. Now I will have to take another trip to see what I thought I was going to see on this trip. It won't be with Holland America again.  On top of a terrible holiday, I didn't feel safe or felt that they cared if we were safe. The only thing that kept most of us sane was the computer classes and the techspert Ryan.  Way to go Ryan! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I traveled with a friend and co-worker. We made our reservations through a friend of a friend of hers. The travel agent could not tell us anything about our flight arrangements until three weeks or so before we were scheduled to leave. We ... Read More
I traveled with a friend and co-worker. We made our reservations through a friend of a friend of hers. The travel agent could not tell us anything about our flight arrangements until three weeks or so before we were scheduled to leave. We had chosen the no child left behind route of booking through Holland America. Then she (the travel agent) slept through our opportunity to up-grade. Marsha called us at 10am when the last up-grade was taken at 8am. I was appalled by the fact our flight was not scheduled to leave until 6:30 pm on our return(the ship was scheduled to dock at 7am). Silly us, thinking that Holland America was a service friendly line, tried to change our flight reservations, They referred us back to our lazy Travel agent. She referred us back to Holland America. Bottom Line is they did not care if our flights suited our needs or not...pay up 300 more each and we can talk change. We actually saw our cabin steward on the first day and the last day. The bonvoyage bottle of wine sent to us took three days to get opened. The stop at the private island was lovely until I stopped at the post office to send post-cards to my grandchildren, I waited in line 30 minutes to see what was available, got a pen without ink to write them and then when another passenger gave me a pen was able to write them out. I bought postage from the most unfriendly soul and yet to this day; almost a week after returning, they have yet to get them, the same for all the others I mailed from the ship. The buffet on the Island was mediocre and after being directed through three different lines we finally had our lunch, in order to get a drink one had to juggle many plates to sign for a 50 cent can of coke which would translate later into 2.95 plus 15 percent gratuity. If you are into Asian cuisine the food was plentiful. I am not. Each morning going to the lido deck for breakfast was a chore, by the time one got through the line and found a scarce open seat, the food was cold. Dinner at the late seating puts all evening entertainment except the poor offerings at 10pm beyond one's grasp. The ports of Call were nothing short of disillusioning..........The pictures and descriptions are of island magic. The true scene is of poverty, that the cruise line cautions against mentioning to the locals. We would not want to offend them. It is ok to charge me an exorbitant fee to see it, but heaven forbid if I mention I don't want to see their garbage. Holland America also sponsors a shopping advice seminar..........If you see it and you like it, buy it. Who are they kidding? There are no bargains there, only inflated prices for profit margins to the cruise consultant and line. If you want lots to do, take lots of money. If you just want to spend your day down under taking a history or cooking lesson, go the local community college. Would I spend this much again for this less? NEVER. We ended up purchasing an excursion in Fort Lauderdale to kill time between when we disembarked and when our flight left...........By the way, If you are unfortunate enough to have a transfer to Miami for a flight home, E stands for everyone.....You will have to struggle on your own to the concourse your flight leaves. Ours was at the far end of the airport. No I did not tip the driver!! The experience gets two thumbs down. I had far more fun in Myrtle Beach for far less money. If I did not care for the restaurant, I went down the street to the next one. On Holland America you are a captive audience, and no one really cares if you are happy or not. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
we just returned from our 1st cruise from LA down the mexican Riviera through the panama canal ending in ft lauderdale. for first time cruisers we were totally disappointed. first of all there was NO briefing on ship. we didn't know ... Read More
we just returned from our 1st cruise from LA down the mexican Riviera through the panama canal ending in ft lauderdale. for first time cruisers we were totally disappointed. first of all there was NO briefing on ship. we didn't know when we got off ship where it was safe in mexico, where not safe, where to eat, where not to eat, do we need pecos or dollars, etc...... so no briefing on a 17 day cruise is unacceptable!! have to say the food was good both on lido deck and dining room and service great. hired help works hard for money. however, our main complaint was the lack of entertainment!! the daily program was awful. nothing to do. my husband and i are in our 50's and wanted activities that kept us busy, not bingo, or cards, or the casino. we were totally bored!! AND worst even was the nightly entertainment. they had a piano bar upstairs (can't dance to) a piano bar downstairs (can't dance to) and one small nightclub with a band that was geared towards the elderly with tango's , foxtrot, etc.. definitely not for us. the dj on board is a total waste. nobody was in northern lights. the dj starts at 10-11 at night instead of 7 pm when you want to dance. who dances that time of night and then gets up for excursion. nobody , that is who. we were the only ones in there. we asked him to play us country and he could not or would not. literally, nobody was in there. instead of them making it a country lounge where you can hear some george strait or alan jackson (whom most people that age bracket like) they prefer to not use the lounge at all. it was just awful. also note, most piano players take one hour long breaks so when you sit down to order a drink and plan on listening awhile they usually disappear and your left with no music at all. what horrible entertainment. also have to say shows on stage at night fell far below expectations!! JUST awful - two bad nights of bad comedians where people walked out. another night of a hypnotist that was god awful. people called up to stage actually walked off stage. nobody was hypnotized. that show belonged in a elementary school, not on a stage. singers just ok. have seen much better. entertainment fell so far below our expectations, we hated cruise. this cruise cost quite a bit of money since it was 17 nights and not worth it at all. also note, there is no washer/dryer on ship so for 18 days your stuck unless you want to pay expensive price for a small bag of laundry. also ship very very cold! everyone complaining and nothing was done so result was everyone got sick on board!! WE'RE home sick now. store had no meds. ran out. dr only works 2 hrs a day even when 3/4 of ship is sick i guess!! that's a disgrace. excursion desk very unfriendly and not helpful. when asked about a excursion i wanted to book which was $240 for hubby and i and said 7 1/2 hrs i asked about lunch if included. she said no just fruit. the trip said it would take 1-1/2 hr drive to and1-1/2 hr drive back and 45 mins at site i questioned what were we doing rest or time since it said 7 1/2 hrs i was told "we don't know"!!!!! CROWD is older 70's and 80's hubby and i are in 50's so we were totally bored between no music and no entertainment. will never cruise holland american again. the cost of the trip was much too high for what you rec'd. first excursion we went on was pirate ship and snorkeling. we went out to ocean , all got snorkel gear on , went into water and all got stung!! most likely jelly fish. some really bad. no refund was offered. it was not worth the money. think long and hard before booking this ship unless you enjoy sitting around and just eating and gambling and drinking!!! PRETTY much all there is to do on this ship and i'm sure that is where HA wants you, in the casino or the bar!!! never again. diane Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
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