I documented everything listed below with photographs but can't post them on the bulletin board. Feel free to email me if you would like the docment below WITH photos! firstname.lastname@example.org
After taking eight previous 7-day cruises, all aboard Carnival and Royal Caribbean, we decided to give the Western Caribbean a try with Holland American on March 4th, 2012. To understate it; it was a very poor cruise experience. But instead of writing an emotion clouded rant I’ll simply pass along the problems we experienced in a fact sheet format.
Problem: Captain Mark Rowden
1. During the first moments aboard ship while attending the mandatory life boat drill two occupants from one cabin did not appear for roll call as required. Over the PA system for all aboard to hear Captain Rowden identified the occupants by name and cabin number, and then proceeded to publically dress them down for “inconveniencing all of the passengers and the crew”. It was beyond surprising; simply shocking.
Conduct yourself in a manner commensurate with the dignity of a ship’s captain.
2. As problems continued with our cruise throughout the week customer service reps repeatedly informed us that nobody aboard the vessel had the authority to make any concession or refund of any kind “either partial or complete” and that such authority resided only with the corporate office.
The captain and his command staff have absolute authority over a multi-million dollar vessel and the lives of over a thousand persons. If between them they truly don’t have the authority to refund the cost of a latte then the captain should speak with the corporate office and get it.
3. Captain Rowden encouraged all passengers to complete their cruise satisfaction survey and he assured everyone over the public address system that he “would personally read each and every comment.” So we simply left the captain a note in the comments section indicating we were dissatisfied and that there was not enough space to articulate our concerns. We left our email address and asked that he send us an email address where we might be able to forward our comments in a more complete manner. Haven’t heard from him.
Don’t tell people you read these things if you really don’t…….creates the appearance of being a liar.
Problem: General Condition of the Ship
Unlike my previous experiences aboard beautiful ships with elegant appointments, the MS Ryndam was tacky and poorly maintained.
1. The lido poolside deck chairs were ripped, soiled, and stained. Here’s a shot of one. Note the staff has rolled up a towel and ever so carefully placed it on the chair so it is all ready to go for the first passenger of the morning. Even in this small photograph it is possible to see the stains and tears.
2. The elevators were in a state of poor repair. One aft elevator shuddered and screeched with every trip. Inside they were filthy, scratched and marred, and with brass finishes worn off in numerous large sections. The problem was not confined to a single elevator but to the entire bank both fore and aft. The general problem created by inadequate maintenance was pervasive. In other words, it wasn’t confined to the elevators. The carpeting in the elevator lobbies was stained and terrible looking on every floor I visited. Some carpeted areas had permanent large yellowish brown stain bands dividing them. Each day a new rug was placed in each elevator interior denoting the current day of the week. This is actually very helpful as the days seem to melt together at sea and it is easy to lose track. Of course, it would be much nicer if those rugs were not stained and aesthetically contrary. Do you think you would find these images at a land based luxury resort or even on another cruise ship?
3. The self-service laundry ground to a halt. Two of the three dryers on our floor were out of service. So we went to the deck above to use their dryer and the place was packed. I guess everyone else had the same idea. Plus, half of the dryers on that floor were also out of service! To do laundry we bought quarters from a beautiful front desk staffer from Belgium. We waited for service while she made idle chit chat with two attractive young men she was encouraging to visit her in Belgium, the “land of 300 beers.” Once she finally attended to us she gave us only $5 in quarters instead of the $7 we had paid for. I guess she was better at counting beers than change. This is the short version - I could have spent far more time documenting the state of disrepair.
Spend a little money to maintain the ship.
1. One entire wall of our cabin was sprayed with a glistening sticky substance. It appeared as though a carbonated beverage had been shaken and discharged across the wall. It was difficult to photograph but I tried. It was also difficult to understand why this was would not have been cleaned between occupants. It certainly was not difficult to see. But it was even more difficult to understand why, after reporting it immediately, I had to go out and find a room steward myself 48 hours later to wipe it down. Two full days was about my limit for looking at it. We had two pillow cases that were heavily stained with disgusting yellowish brown stains in multiple places. We had another two pillow cases riddled with holes. We had a white bath mat with a black stain larger than your hand. We had a full length mirror that opened from a closet door that was covered with the hand prints of a small child. Our room was very cold, so cold we incrementally turned the thermostat all the way to max over a period of six hours before visiting the front desk to report the problem. Customer Service rep Carola Swinkles responded by bringing a thermometer down to our cabin to show us the temperature was fine. Yes, I know……I understand that I’m not freezing anymore……not the point. The point is that the thermostat is operating at the full high setting in order to achieve comfort. She didn’t see the problem. But she did see that an extra blanket was delivered to our room. That blanket was encrusted on both sides with numerous large stains and a material that looked like dried vomit. We had to take it back to her. We’d rather take our chances with the cold. My only regret is that I didn’t take photos of that truly sickening blanket. I have no idea how any service person could bring that to a room. But it was only the first day and I didn’t realize it was to become part of a pattern.
Clean the cabin between occupants. Remove from service items that are permanently soiled or heavily worn. Take something less than two days to clean up your mistakes. Take some
pride in what you do.
Problem: Food Services
On our previous cruises the food was superb. Simply stated; they were eating vacations. But not on the Ryndam. There was a MUCH smaller food selection at the Lido buffet including both the warm foods and the salad bar than I have experienced on other cruise lines. The quality of the food was also significantly lower and included cold mashed potatoes, cold vegetables, tough flank steak, and mushy lasagna noodles. They had a prime rib that was a wonderful flavor filled cut of meat but was served cold. The service was often poor and there was a lack of attention to detail evident at virtually every meal. Food preparation personnel and table staff seemed incapable of smiling.
1. Every meal included some mystery foods. Inexplicably, they just couldn’t be bothered with labeling dishes as is typical at buffets the world over. The words, “what’s that?” echoed through the buffet line constantly.
Solution: Make some labels, customers really appreciate it.
Seating was difficult. We found as many as twelve consecutive tables dirty at a time. In this series of photos you can see that every table is occupied or dirty in both directions and a gentleman is standing with a plate full of food looking for a place to sit. Yet, on the opposite side of the ship there is plenty of available seating – but it is reserved for officers and staff! We heard others comment that it was difficult to determine who the customer was, and I must agree with them. And this problem was not simply a one-time occurrence. It was so persistent that it was actually quite easy to bring my camera to a meal and photograph it! We were very disappointed with the ongoing inconveniences created by the lack of customer service and we were frankly shocked that it would occur on a cruise ship where our previous experiences had not just been uniformly positive, but impressive. On the Ryndam they just don’t clean tables very often. Lamb was served in the Lido buffet one evening and someone took their plate out by the pool. Here are the distinctive remains of leg of lamb I photographed over three hours after the buffet closed. These problems were made worse by the fact they are so simple to correct if someone, anyone, would get in touch with customer service basics. And just to be perfectly clear about the timeline: the photo of the vast open seating in the staff area was taken within 60 seconds of the sequence showing the lack of passenger seating.
Bus dirty tables more quickly. Ask your table staff to smile and engage customers like they care. Briefly move your “staff only” sign if it is necessary to allow your customers, many of whom are elderly, to sit down promptly. Or alternatively, keep up with demand. It’s not an open event like a New York sidewalk cafe’ where it is inevitable you will be occasionally overwhelmed………….you know who is coming to dinner.