We were invited to join some friends on this itinerary. My husband wanted to revisit Vietnam, and I had previous enjoyable trips to Hong Kong and Japan. For us, the shipboard experience is as important and enjoyable as the ... Read More
We were invited to join some friends on this itinerary. My husband wanted to revisit Vietnam, and I had previous enjoyable trips to Hong Kong and Japan. For us, the shipboard experience is as important and enjoyable as the destinations/excursions. Our previous experiences include a recent Mediterranean cruise on the new Viking Ocean Sea, as well as shorter cruises with Royal Caribbean, NCL, the point being we are not Holland long-time cruisers. In fact, this was our first Holland cruise and we were very interested in joining the apparently loyal Holland community onboard.
Overall, the experience with Holland was good. The front desk staff was always pleasant and helpful. The cabin stewards provided prompt and excellent cabin service. In-room dining service was prompt and the servers reviewed each meal delivered before leaving the cabin. Shipboard entertainment was somewhat varied, but it did repeat over the 28-days. We enjoyed afternoon team trivia the most, and the various evening music venues (Adagio and Barry from Boston - depending on our moods). However, Adagio was located in an open lounge, adjacent to a main thoroughfare and near the rowdier piano bar, resulting in comments from the Adagio crowd. (??) Admittedly, we enjoyed Barry from Boston, as he controlled his show and audience skillfully and was talented. My friend attended most of the Test Kitchen sessions and was very impressed by them. We took in a few of the movies, but the more interesting of them had subtitles which were difficult to read (flashed across the screen too rapidly). The main entertainment venue was okay, with the multi-talented singers/dancers.
The fitness center was bright and open, but I will comment about the fitness instructor and fitness lectures. The young instructor was very dictatorial and insulting as he lead us through the exercise programs. I went twice and did not return. The fitness lectures - don't go. I spent nearly an hour, hoping to absorb important information from the fitness instructor about body fat, cleansing the system, etc., until I realized it was a sales effort to buy products. The same day, I googled the same lecture, and found multiple comments of the same. I guess I didn't expect this from Holland, as a more refined cruise experience. Just in general, there seemed to be a smorgasbord of shipboard sales pitches.
We had enjoyed the buffet service with Viking Sea, able to serve ourselves at the hot food line, and it was first rate, not rushed, with the seating areas well maintained and well organized. The experience on Holland in the Lido (buffet) was less than acceptable. (1) Not enough serving staff at the food counter, (2) not enough waitstaff at the tables to clean and reset. The serving staff were unhelpful and overworked, unfriendly. The waitstaff were more friendly but also understaffed and overworked. And there was a definite decline in the Lido food service between the first 14 days of the cruise and the second 14 days of the cruise. So much more chaos in the Lido that we started taking in-room dining and attending main room dining instead. The service in the main dining room was acceptable and professional. Shore excursions - expensive at best. Cambodia should be dropped as an excursion. We felt embarrassed showing up at the local fishing village, sort of the "circus has come to town" while the local residents just stared. It was such a poverty stricken, garbage-strewn environment, that we didn't understand how to take it all in to appreciate it one way or another. In retrospect, I would have preferred to have given the residents our excursion money spent.
We did select our own tour online from Viator for Beijing and found values online to be much more reasonable than the costs of those tours provided by Holland. The ship's excursions were organized well enough, just much more expensive. Now, for the comparison between Holland and Viking... given, the Holland Volendam is a much older ship and the Viking Sea was only 6 months at the tiime of our sailing. Dollar for dollar and shipboard experience, Viking comes out on top in value. No 'nickel and diming' to enjoy other ship's restaurants, at least one free excursion offered at each port, wine/beer offered free of charge each meal, restaurant service better managed on the V. Sea. Cabin/bathroom space was similar, although V. Sea had bedside outlets and USB ports since it was newer. Other comparisons with H. Volendam and V. Sea would be unfair, due to the age difference of the ships. We noticed differences in service levels and dollar value (extras charged for standard services provided on Holland that were included gratis on Viking). Bottled water was free as we left on every excursion and in the room. We enjoyed our overall experience with Holland and hoped to provided a realistic critique for future cruisers. Read Less