This has taken much too long to complete because of the lack of response from Holland America subsequent to the cruise. But it is too important not to complete it, so that potential customers know what they are getting into with Holland America.
First let me say that the overall Antarctica/South America experience was unique and fulfilling. The scenery and educational experience in Antarctica were spectacular. The South America ports of call were less than fulfilling. Shopping did not cater to tourists, and merchants were only open at limited times. The shore excursions – I did white water rafting, a winery tour, a gaucho farm, and a park with a waterfall and a whisky sour and dance celebration afterwards – were all excellent! Onboard entertainment catered to the elderly, but that is what 99% of the people onboard were.
Unfortunately, the Holland America experience was extremely disappointing. I have sailed with Holland America on 3 prior occasions and had always been favorably impressed. This sailing was surprisingly different from what I had always remembered. The ship was Ms. Zaandam. I believe there are newer, more luxurious ships, and perhaps they concentrate more on a luxurious experience. However, I can only speak to the Zaandam in this review, which exhibited extremely poor customer treatment before, during and after the cruise, from booking to onboard and onward to the President’s Office post-cruise.
My first encounter in booking this cruise was with a cruise consultant in the Seattle, Washington office, who did not return phone calls or emails. After a month of trying, I went to a non-affiliated cruise company from whom I received quality customer service and was able to book the cruise.
The stateroom was less than impressive. The room stewards were very pleasant and helpful, unlike the majority of the rest of the crew.
Very surprisingly, the food on the Lido Deck was bland and sometimes awful. This was the cafeteria type food onboard. In addition, the servers were somber and sometimes rude. The food improved in the Rotterdam Dining Room. However, the customer service was terrible. My recollections of customer service on prior Holland America Cruises was that of consistently friendly and caring personnel. It was not so on this cruise. The servers in the dining room were miserable. And the service was painfully slow, even for alcohol. If you wanted good food with excellent customer service you had to go to the Canneletto Restaurant or the Pinnacle, and of course, these were not free.
The onboard movie offerings and live presentations regarding Antarctica were excellent. They offered Microsoft classes, which were worthwhile. The jewelry was a big push onboard, sometimes with pushy salespersons. There were absolutely no Antarctica items for sale onboard, and since there is no port of call in Antarctica, such items were hard to come by. We found this odd for an Antarctica Cruise.
There was an offering for a $15 Beer Tasting onboard. Guests were probably expecting exotic beers, but were given small cups including Miller Light, Molson, Becks, and Grolsch. This is one of many examples of cutting corners and having customers pay extra for nothing that is evident throughout the ship.
I am not proud to say that I am a smoker, so only a limited number of people may be interested to know what I am about to say. But it is not about the smoking that this is so crucially important, so please try and understand the point. The smoking policy prior to sailing was that smoking was permitted outside on the Lido Deck in the Sea View Bar, in the Casino (only if you were gambling) and on Stateroom Verandahs. This cruise embarked on January 10, 2017. On January 10, 2017 Holland America changed its policy and no longer allowed smoking on the Verandahs without informing people of the change prior to the cruise. For those who paid a premium for a stateroom with a Verandah so that they could smoke, this was very shocking and upsetting. The new smoking policy allowed for smoking outside of the Crows Nest Bar.
There was a group of us that all smoked together outside on the Lido Deck. On several occasions, an abrupt and discourteous crewmember told us that we must leave immediately so that they could clean the deck. Although smoking was supposed to be permitted outside of the Crow’s Nest, no such smoking was allowed. Therefore, there was no place to go to smoke at that point.
I visited the Front Desk about all of this on two occasions, and neither of the persons that I spoke with, one of whom was a supervisor, properly addressed the issues. The Front Desk customer service was courteous but completely ineffective. They failed to address the inconsistently handled smoking issue, as well as the discourteous crew who demanded we leave the Sea View Bar immediately.
When I returned home, I wrote to the President’s Office at Holland America to address the aforementioned issues. I have corresponded with the office on two occasions. Having received no satisfactory response, other than a coupon for a discount on a future cruise, I write this less than flattering review.
Something is radically wrong at Holland America. It is evident from the experience with the cruise consultant who did not answer calls or emails, to the rude onboard crew, to the ineffective Front Desk, to the President’s Office who does not address any of the issues, that there are severe morale issues that result in poor customer service and relations. The food reflects a severe deterioration of what Holland America has offered on prior cruises. I am not alone in these opinions, as several of the people I met on the ship have also written to Holland America with similar outcomes.