Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was ... Read More
Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was spreading on our cruise and hundreds of passengers became ill. The extensive but belated efforts to encourage hand washing should have been initiated the first day we boarded and passengers should have been IMMEDIATELY informed of the virus danger. Being sick or weak from the illness for nearly one-third of the cruise took much of the enjoyment out of our trip. And it was insulting to hear the repeated announcements that such shipboard virus outbreaks are common. They are not, and this was the first cruise we have been on where there was such an outbreak. It was amusing that we were diverted from our scheduled port stop at Half Moon Cay because another Holland America ship was there, and instead docked at Nassau, where four or five cruise ships from other cruise lines were docked. Apparently infecting them was of no concern.
Food: inconsistent quality. Sometimes the beef was wonderful, other times it was so tough it couldn't be cut with a knife. The veal would be good one time and awful the next. The baked goods (as cookies) were only fair. The dining room food often arrived cold (as did the room service coffee) and service was very slow. Overall the food quality was not nearly as good as on our previous cruises.
Passengers: there were more poorly dressed passengers than we have ever seen before (such as one man wearing a tee-shirt in the dining room on formal night). Perhaps because of airline luggage restrictions cruise ships may have to entirely give up on any dress code. There seemed to be less courtesy among the passengers than usual, perhaps because of the virus.
Entertainment: very good variety and quality.
Embarkation/Debarkation: Both were very poorly organized. Hurriedly dumping 1,800 passengers into a processing building which had only two immigration inspectors to handle us was ridiculous. Apparently Holland America wanted to begin a belated thorough disinfecting process ASAP before the next cruise passengers boarded. One report was that their scheduled morning boarding was delayed until 11 p.m.! (I wonder if the cleaning helped?)
Laundry service: slow, and my $80 shirt had a hole punched in it. The cost for unlimited service was $120! But with no self-service laundry, there is not much alternative (unless you enjoy wearing dirty clothing or spending a lot of time washing in your cabin).
On-board shops: average. Prices of course are almost always better for the same items in the ports, if you can find them.
Cabin: The heating/cooling vent in the ceiling blows directly in your face, and if you have sinus problems this can be very uncomfortable. We taped it partially shut to divert the airflow. Our cabin was on the Navigation Deck, immediately below the Lido Deck swimming pool and outside bar dining area at the stern of the ship. The deck of our balcony was constantly soaked with water, apparently from the crew washing the deck immediately above us. The noise from the cleaning crew moving tables and chairs on the Lido Deck woke us up daily between 5 and 7 a.m. I would not recommend this cabin location, and wave motion would have been less felt on a lower deck. The cabin furnishings were worn, dirty and needed replacing. The bed was very comfortable. The day before we docked two crew members (not our room steward) knocked very briefly and then barged in on my wife in bed before she could reply, to empty the refrigerator.
Interior stairways: They only have about a 10.5 inch horizontal surface, and can often cause mis-steps/falls. Poor design.
Port stops: Average; it would have been nice to have visited Mykonos, Rhodes or Santorini. But of course we knew the itinerary in advance. Venice was great as always.
Crew courtesy: excellent, under difficult circumstances. Both the cabin and dining room stewards are greatly overworked, probably another sign of cost-cutting by Holland America. Our hard-working cabin steward, for example, was responsible for about 30 cabins.
Summary: Will we cruise Holland America again? Doubtful; probably back to Cunard. Read Less