Our experience was so bad, we disembarked in wellington after 4 days of the cruise.
It was a floating nursing home and everything about the ship and it's itinerary of entertainment reflected that.
The real 'rub of salt in the wounds' came with the reply from Holland America:
Thank you for the email regarding your ms Volendam . We truly appreciate the valuable feedback you have provided us.
Please be advised that when guests do wish to personally disembark it is often for an emergency. Thus our front desk staff wills not inquire the reason unless it is volunteered. In addition, if none of your concerns were brought to our attention, we are unable to remedy them.
In addition, we are very sorry that you were not pleased with the scope of activities available on your recent sailing. Holland America Line strives to offer a spectrum of activities and events, keeping in mind a wide range of age, interest, and ability, and we regularly update our choices. Many of our newer activities are enrichment-based, such as cooking classes, digital workshops, wine tastings, and in-depth presentations about ports of call. Plus, we retain the more traditional choices, such as movies and games, volleyball and tennis, and disco or ballroom dancing. In this way, we try to ensure that a balance of activities is available to all of our guests. Some of our travelers may choose to participate in onboard activities, while others will prefer to simply relax, lounge by the pool, or curl up in a quiet spot with a good book. We do regret your dissatisfaction with the activities offered, and assure you that your input on any cruise aspect is always welcome.
Thank you again for contacting our office and bringing your issues to our attention. We assure you that we appreciate your comments, and hope that you will give us another opportunity to create the positive experience we know our sailings can offer.
This was my reply:
I'm somewhat bemused at your comment that I provided you with valuable feedback, because in my previous emails I gave little indication as to why we were so dissatisfied that we left the cruise after four days.
You mention 'remedy'. It would have been fruitless gesture to mention at the front desk that we didn't want to travel on a floating nursing home.
The atmosphere on-board was certainly indicative of a nursing home and my suspicions were confirmed with the ambulance crew dragging their stretcher on-board at Tauranga.
I have nothing against the elderly. I spend a lot of my working life in their company, but if I had the information to hand at the age group that the cruise was pitched at, then we would have looked elsewhere.
However the information that would have been extremely useful was the itinerary of events.
Needless to say those activities are planned in advance, as those that deliver the events or presentations have to be booked on-board.
That information available to view on the website for the ship and the cruise would have been very useful and as such we would have looked elsewhere for something more appropriate for us. As for making any other comments, I doubt they would have been actioned.
We had to listen to the inane babble of Jeremy the cruise director, which was inescapable where ever we we're on the ship. There was a tannoy right outside our cabin. At one point he was asking us to count the holes in the face of an offshore rock which had been partially eroded by the wind.
That was day one, and already the alarm bells were ringing for us.
At meal times we were given a napkin roll with cutlery. However the minute we left our seat to get another dish the staff would clean away.
We would then have to get another napkin roll and find a different seat. That somewhat flies in the face of intended green credentials.
I also found it somewhat strange that we were drinking long-life milk, when we were on the doorstep of one of the top dairy producers of the world.
The Costa Concordia has dominated the news for all the wrong reasons, and I would mention that whilst on-board the Volendam and attending the, very brief, lifeboat drill the concept of making our way back to the cabin (with it's partial delay electronic key entry system), to retrieve our lifejackets was somewhat of a daunting prospect in the event of a real emergency. It was also noticeable that there was no escape panel fitted to the cabin doors for use in the event of a collision.
Seriously, someone needs to look at that. It may make the difference between someone being to escape from their cabin when the ship's sinking or being condemned to death by drowning in a box.
Anyway, Caitlin, again thanks for getting back to me. Your scripted response wasn't the best fob-off I've ever read, but nonetheless a reasonable effort.
On closing please try to make information more readily available to potential customers, after all this is the age of information technology.
It really isn't that difficult to get the information out.
On closing, we will never book a cruise with Holland and America. There will be no return to try the experience again.
It was without question the worst holiday experience ever and had little to recommend it for anyone under the age of 65.