We were informed this voyage was the 2nd voyage for the ship since coming out of dry dock for restoration and refresh. While the company certainly did a brilliant job with the refit of the ship, they appear to have fallen far short of expectations in terms of customer service and dining. We had a truly awful experience on our cruise from Venice in early May, and based on this experience would not choose Holland America again.
Embarkation was quite easy in Venice. However, I should point out that we had a baby with us, and we were therefore expedited through and placed within boarding group 1, so we boarded rather quickly and without issue. From what we heard from other fellow passengers, our experience was not the "norm" for that day, as many folks stated their experience in the groups behind us was truly disorganized, slow, and painful. It should be noted that it was unclear as to whether Holland America or the local authorities were responsible for that pain, but what is clear is that Holland America clearly wasn't front and center to assist.
The fun began the instant we walked onto the ship. With our stateroom keys in-hand, we went straight to our cabin so that we could drop our carry-on bags and start to get settled. Unfortunately, we discovered our stateroom keys were not functional, and when we went to the Customer Services desk, we asked if they could re-issue our keys since they weren't working. To my amazement, the person at the desk rudely snapped back and stated: "well, I don't know what is wrong with your keys. They should be working. Please go back and try again." Astonished at this response, I stayed put and reminded her that we had just been "trying again" at the door for over 10 minutes, and they needed to fix the situation. FYI, this theme of Customer Service not taking responsibility will be consistent throughout this review. The woman then decided to take my keys and attempt to reprint them, only to find that her machine at the desk was not working and could not print new keys. She then told me to sit in the lounge area while she tried to fix the situation. Over the course of 30 minutes, several other cruisers came to the desk with the same situation, and once the desk realized this was a systematic issue, they clearly started a triage type arrangement to deal with it. Unfortunately this meant that all of us had to hang around the lounge for over an hour until Customer Service realized they could start letting people into their rooms via the master key cards the Stewards have, at least allowing one-time access to the rooms for everyone. It ended up that 75% of the people on that cruise suffered from the systematic problem with the keys, and it took over 5 hours for it to be completely resolved, with people being forced to hang around the lounge area to receive keys in lieu of enjoying the amenities of the ship. Not once did we get an apology for the situation, only stressed out Customer Service agents literally tossing the keys to us when they were ready.
Surprisingly spacious and well appointed. The beds and bedding were very comfortable. A sizable sofa (with bed), coffee table, flat screen tv, in-room safe, ample closet space, drop-down bunk (if needed), full size tub/shower, Elemis bathroom products, plush robes. Room Stewards were fantastic. Storage in each night stand, two large drawers under the front of the bed, and plenty of storage for the empty bags under the rear of the bed. Location on Deck 1-center ship was nice for the rough day at sea, as we felt nearly no ship movement, and it was fun to see the water going by each time we opened the curtains.
Stunningly beautiful city. Recommend walking the old city wall and exploring the side alleys for food and shops. For 12 Euros, you can join daily Game Of Thrones tours which meet at the main fountain just inside the old city gate, and the tour is pretty solid. Good seafood restaurants in the marina area. Safe, friendly locals, and something to see everywhere. Photographers dream destination.
Amazing scenery as you enter and leave the area through the fjord. The scale of the scenery is stunning. The old city is small, but there is just enough to see with a partial day on shore. Fun little squares with lots of watering holes and eateries. The hike up to the old fortress is strenuous, but worth the effort. 1500 steps each way. Photographers will have a blast.