Unfortunately, this isn't an announcement that the Queen of England has awarded me a knighthood (although I do think I'm worthy of the honor). However, our recent cruise aboard Holland America Lines' MS Amsterdam led me to believe that scenario might be a possibility.
As with most cruises, on this Amsterdam sailing we had many experiences we felt were outstanding, and found a few areas we felt could use improvement.
But from my experience, Holland America has one singular strength: its Filipino and Indonesian service staff--especially the bar and deck staff. They truly take the effort to please a step further than other cruise lines. In fact, their efforts can make up for shortcomings in other areas. On day one of our cruise, every staff member I ran into approached me in a friendly manner and introduced him or herself. During the conversation, each one made it a point to ask my name. Even those with some language barriers took extra time and made an extra effort to be certain they were pronouncing my name properly before moving on.
The next time they saw me, they would greet me by name: "Sir Kuki," they called me for some reason (perhaps sensing my inherent nobility). This was typical of every one of them, whether they were providing me with some kind of service, or just greeting me when our paths crossed. Significantly, none seemed to care if they were selling me a drink, offering me a glass of water, or placing towels on my poolside lounger. Their interest in serving came across as genuine.
I'm not na�ve enough to think the staff acts like this without some hope of a gratuity, but with HAL's "no tipping required policy," there are certainly no guarantees for them. This desire to provide outstanding service might have been easier to understand if I had been tipping a dollar or two as I went, but that was not the case. It appears to be simply a miracle of Holland America's training process, combined with the natural personality of the individuals they hire.
By the second day of the cruise, all the service staffers were referring to me as "Sir Kuki" or "Sir MO." Even more impressive was the fact that they didn't limit themselves to a casual greeting. Each exchange consisted of some friendly conversation, and an offer to assist. I really began to feel like any request I made would be carried out, as if it were a direct order from their monarch.
I told Mrs. Kuki that I really liked the sound of "Sir Kuki." I suggested that I could easily get used to coming home from work every day and hearing her greet me, "Welcome home, Sir Kuki! Can I get you anything?" Her reaction, however, led me to believe that this isn't likely to happen.