Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
I have cruised 8 times on Holland America, starting with the days before the cruise line was bought by Carnival. These were the days when tipping on the cruise was "optional" and Holland America was classier than the competition.
This time, several offerings were notably missing: no Captain Reception with champagne, no midnight buffet with beautiful carved statues, no Baked Alaska processions after dinner, and no delicacies on the dinner menus, like lobster.
Instead, we were bombarded constantly with "buy buy buy" announcements and leaflets on our beds. We were automatically charged "prepaid gratuities" every night ($12.50 per person per night) and service fees whenever we ordered a drink (15%). In addition we were overcharged for a drink we didn't order and didn't receive. Since Holland America does not now require the purchaser's signature when delivering the drink, we could not prove that it was not us who ordered the overcharged drink.
A comprehensive review of our 09/28/16 Oosterdam 12nt Mediterranean Dreams cruise experience follows.
Part 1 - Petri Dish Experiment
We gave ample monetary consideration in the form of time off, airfare, transfers, excursions and the cruise itself, only to be subjected to a lack of hygienic common sense or a virus known as stupidity on the part of HAL ship side management.
To be clear, in 34 cruises taken over a 50 year span, I have never been exposed to such unsanitary conditions and unhygienic practices. In 34 cruises, 31 ships, 9 lines, 122 ports, this was the first time I have contracted any type of illness on a cruise. Many were afflicted as witnessed by multiple conversations with passengers and crew who were impacted and aware of the situation.
Outbreaks of diarrhea and influenza were brought to my attention by several crew and passengers in the know. Two passengers made the unsolicited comment which I cannot take credit for, "this ship is a floating petri dish". Some of HAL's guests suffered, my wife and I to the tune of 14 days of downtime (including the last 6 days of the cruise), misery andinconvenience from influenza. HAL may have violated CDC health regs, but most importantly, common sense which violated their guests trust.
The cause? In the prior 33 cruises, I have never seen beverages or ice dispensed in such a haphazard fashion. From the beginning of the cruise, the non touch ice beverage dispensers in the Lido buffet were occasionally non functional, i.e. did not dispense ice or water. When they were functional, unprotected pitchers were often positioned on the drip tray blocking their usage, forcing unnecessary manual usage of make shift ice chests and pitchers.
Rather than no touch, the process required a minimum of eight full hand to surface contacts on three different surfaces; chest lid; ice scoop; pitcher. In addition, the ice chest was compromised by the complete insertion of a hand during the scooping process. These conditions were mysteriously allowed to persist for the duration of the 12 night cruise. An email to the Office of the President at HAL, solicited the following response.
"Interestingly enough we had our public health specialist on board this cruise. Non-touch beverage/ice machines were functional during the cruise and not disabled as suggested. There was no outbreak of influenza or diarrhea as suggested. We are not in a position to provide you with a monetary refund."
HAL's Office of the President shot a clear message across my bow regarding the complaint. Their response was nothing more than a complete denial of circumstance and refutation of my on board experience. The response left my family feeling cheated, deceived and lacking future trust in the HAL brand.
If you think that's the end of this story, sadly it only gets worse. I thought paying to unsuspectingly participate in a covert infectious disease or immunization program, was hitting rock bottom for HAL. Not even close, after reading below, plunging to new depths with U-boat Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Das Boot) will seem like a step up from HAL.
Part 2 - Terrorized Guests
We also had the extreme displeasure of witnessing a family of six with toddler, having their twelve night vacation completely ruined by HAL's front office and immigration administration. Some one in HAL's shipboard administrative office spotted a clerical error on a Visa, measured in mere hours and decided to flex their authoritative muscle in threatening to throw the mother of the toddler off the ship.
Shortly into the cruise, HAL staff informed the family that the mother must debark the ship, a night prior to the cruises termination in Rome. HAL claimed that the mothers Schengen zone visa would terminate during the family's privately arranged post cruise transit to the Rome airport. The following day, HAL claimed the administrative error or visa oversight had been resolved.
The next day, HAL staff reversed course again and like Schettino's Costa Concordia ran aground, insisting that the mother would have to debark in Naples. The husband made continued attempts to appeal to common sense. After a long weekend, the husband finally put his foot down and informed HAL staff that they would have to "physically remove" the whole family from the ship, along with their possessions. Magically, HAL staff finally "resolved" the administrative "problem" with "port authorities" and said all was well.
The emotionally wrought disruption of this families vacation by HAL was unconscionable. Worse yet, for nine out of twelve nights, we watched this poor family being held hostage and terrorized by HAL's administrative Yo-Yo's (not ok, ok, not ok, ok) as they whimsically waved the sword of Damocle's over this poor families heads. Sailing with distemperate Captain Queeg (The Caine Mutiny) would be a step up from HAL.
Bottom line, HAL administrative staff exhibited a complete lack of common sense and misguided application of policy and authority. Paying to be a guest, then being held emotional hostage, replete with psychological torture, redefines hospitality and service as well as taking it to new depths.
This is how HAL treat their paying guests? Perhaps HAL should change their name to SSC or Stockholm Syndrome Cruises? Being Christian Fletcher and suffering the harsh punishment, criticism and abuse of Captain Bligh (Mutiny on the Bounty) would be a better fate.
HAL is in the hospitality service business, at least that is the rumor which their hygienic practices, shipboard administration and post cruise customer service rapidly dispels. In hospitality and service, misrepresentation should not be rife and "caveat emptor" should not be the maxim of the day, but HAL sure seems to have taken it to heart.
HAL's upper management attitude and level of customer satisfaction for problem resolution, during and post cruise, has left this formerly satisfied customer feeling like, sailing with Capt. Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl (Pirates of the Caribbean), would be an upgrade from HAL.
In an effort to deny reality and just recompense, I shudder to imagine what HAL's professional deflection tactics and denial system aka "wall of non stick voodoo teflon" at the Office of The President, will cook up and attempt to serve these poor victims. And of late, that is exactly what the HAL experience leaves you feeling like.
Large Inside Cabin 1067 - Positive, tons of room and storage, nice 40 inch LED TV and free on demand movies.
Negative, you can't hear the BB King band, but you can hear the late night deejay with his techno beat coming from above.
NA = Not Applicable
Cabin: Excellent - attached review
Dining: Lido Buffet - Very Good; Main Dining - NA
Embarkation: Poor - slow, long queues.
Disembarkation: Poor - swift and merciless. Fastest we have ever been given the bums rush. Hundreds were awaiting shuttles and cabs, many with reservations for a hour later.
Enrichment Activities: NA
Entertainment: Average - The BAND is GONE. BBKing and Ventriloquist Magician were excellent; Piano Bar dueling pianos, meh. Sing around single piano was better; Shows, not good.
Family and Children: NA
Fitness and Recreation: Average; Free men's locker shower, gym and dry sauna
Onboard Experience: Terrible - attached review
Public Rooms: Average
Rates: Terrible - Overpriced
Service: Excellent - Cabin stewards, Bar and Lido staff.
Shore Excursions: NA
Ports: Average - attached review
Value for Money: Terrible - attached review
Venice: Romantic, but expensive. Buy a vaporetto pass and validate it before riding. Visit Venice, stay and eat on the Lido.
Sarande (Albania): Quaint beachfront esplanade. The best and least expensive "greek" food (15E for two) on this cruise.
Kerkira (Corfu): Scenic historic city center and park walks await.
Katakolon (Greece): Waterfront, two streets, four blocks of shops. Olympia ruins and Giorgio's Bike Bar ride await.
Nafplion: Trendy beach front, downtown and exhausting bay fortress walk await.
Athens: Best Duty Free, Parthenon and Acropolis ruins await. It's a big city.
Mykonos: Quaint is now over commercialized, Big money bought out the independent's.
Iraklion (Crete): Historic city center now glorified brand name outlet mall. Knossos Palace ruins await, big AM queues, empty after 1PM.
Santorini: Take the funicular, beware of queues, avoid donkeys. Overrun with small shops.
Naples: Capri, Sorrento, train to Pompeii, Herculaneum ruins await. You must be cautious, a young couple was victimized. Do not get on a bus or train without a validated ticket and announce the fact. You will be legitimately fined or caught in the typical Napoletano "we are the police" scam. Pick pockets, purse, phone, camera and jewelry snatchers galore. If you value it don't bring it ashore. As for your bank card and getting cash, do not use the ATM's. Theft of cash, identity, card eating ATM's and non dispensation of cash, while debiting your account are common here.
Rome: Nice beach at port of Civitavecchia. Take train to Termini station, see the Colosseum first. Like Naples, it's the big city, beware.
We booked our first Holland America cruise with high expectations. We had heard so much about the quality of food on the ship and the Holland experience that we just had to try them. To say the least, I was very disappointed with the cruise! The food was some of the worst I have had at sea and the overall experience was somewhat lacking.
Embarkation was a breeze and hats off to Holland for making it a easy enjoyable experience! Debarkation was another thing though and seemed to take forever as only 2 lines were open at Customs which bottle necked the process. We had a balcony cabin, room 5133, which had some nice features to it, Wicker furniture on the balcony and a actual bathtub in the restroom. Quality liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower was another added bonus. I expected the room to be a little bigger then it was but was actually the same size as any other cruise line. Our cabin steward barely spoke English and only did a O.K. job keeping the room clean. Room service was nice as the items on the menuwere better then most cruise lines and were delivered on time every time.
The decor of the ship was pretty bland with nothing really exceptional to speak of. The overall layout of the ship was good and easy to maneuver front to back.
The food overall was fair! The buffet was the worst I have seen on a cruise ship. It felt more like going through a restaurant at work where you went along and everything is put on your plate by the employees. The selections were not very good and were mostly tasteless. The one place Holland excelled were the deserts, which were the highlight of every meal. The main dining room, the Vista dining room was 2 story and very well organized. We had the anytime dining and never had to wait to be seated. The menu had less selections to choose from then other cruises we had taken. There was normally 4 main entrees each day as well as 3 selections that were every day menu items. The appetizers list was small and mostly consisted of salads and soups and portions were very small. We also ate at the "Dive In" burger and dog place on the lido deck and was not impressed with their food at all.
The afternoons on sea days were very boring. I guess they think everyone likes to sun bath during the afternoons. Most event took place in the mornings and the scheduling was very sad. Many times there were things we wanted to do but they were all scheduled to happen at the same time. One would think that they would like to spread out the different things their customers most like to attend to include the afternoon, but they didn't. One example of bad scheduling was having bar trivia at the crows nest at 7pm. 7 pm is right in the middle of eating or getting ready to eat diner so the turn out wasn't very good.
Entertainment was good if not light. The shows the singers and dancers put on were very good but basically the same as you see on every cruise ship. The group in the BB King Blues club was very good and we really enjoyed their performance. Other then that they had a duo who played classical music in one bar, the Piano bar guy who didn't start performing till 9pm and a lady who played the steel drum during the afternoon on the Lido deck. The sports bar is right next to the casino and the only bar that serves the casino. Trying to watch sports was rough there because of all the noise the casino put out.
As a smoker, it was a joy to be able to sit on my balcony and smoke! Smoking in other parts of the ship was a big problem though. The only 2 areas to smoke were small areas fore and aft that were covered with tarps. The fore area never seemed to have ashtrays and the crew themselves used that area a lot to smoke also. The area in the back, near the rear pool was always filled with people and finding a seat to smoke during the day was next to impossible. The casino only offered a small area of machines to smoke at and when you asked a waitress for a ashtray it seemed like it would take her all day to find one for you.
Holland America will not be high on my list of cruiselines to book again. While everyone is different, this line just doesn't fit me and the way I like to cruise.
I would not rate Holland America to high when it comes to its casinos. I sailed onboard the Prinsendam on Oct 21, 2104 and was told that I would be rated by my playing habits and that I would receive casino credit from the Players 21 club on my next cruise onboard the Prinsendam on July 29, 2015. This was not to be as promised. When I emailed the players club manager and talked with the casino manager on board, I got no answers. Why does Holland America try to entice people to gamble onboard its ships and not fulfill its obligations? I spent a lot of money on both cruises with Holland America. I was taken far better care of with Royal Caribbean when comes to casino perks. In the future, I will have to reconsider gambling onboard all Holland American ships.
Prospective customers of Holland America Line should be forewarned that simply because you have paid for the transfer service which is advertised by HAL that takes customers and their bags to/from airports and to/from cruise ships, that they cannot be relied up to provide the services as represented. In my situation, I paid for this service on their ship Zaandam between Buenos Aires on 2/22/16 and Valparaiso, Chile on 3/6/16. Notwithstanding full notice to HAL of my air flight arrangements (and the flight being on schedule), no representative met us at the Buenos Aires airport, and we were left to fend for ourselves to get to the cruise ship with our luggage.
At the conclusion of the trip, I discovered that my suitcase, which had been entrusted to HAL as they had directed, was not delivered to the ship terminal in Valparaiso, so I had to return home without knowing what had happened to it. This negligence by HAL was compounded by an absolute lack of responsiveness to my numerous requests for assistance. I finally received my suitcase on 3/31/16%u201425 days after I left Chile. I then discovered that numerous items had beenstolen from my suitcase, and HAL has not been responsive to reimbursing me for this theft, acknowledging some of my inquiries, or even apologizing for their negligence.
Holland America was chosen by me for its long reputation, one that is now a disappointment. We began our seven day cruise with our luggage being loaded on the wrong ship by Holland America baggage handlers. After trying to blame it on the airline, the most the ship's Guest Services would do was loan (emphasis on "loan") me three blue work shirts and one white t-shirt to last the seven day, humid journey. I was left to wear the same pair of dirty slacks and smelly socks for the seven days.
The eating in the main dining room was excellent, but trying to eat at the other venues on the ship was a challenge. One could fill their plate with food from the cafeteria, for example, but then had to stand and wait (with multiple other passengers) for a table to clear--at which time there was a rush for the vacancy. This kind of crowding held true for other areas like the pool area and even the deck chairs--when Holland America says their ship holds 2,100 passengers, that's there goal, to fill every space to capacity. The entertainment was, overall, goodbut, again, crowded. One had to arrive a good hour early to insure a seat.
At Half Moon Cay, a beach owned by Holland America, we paid for and reserved an umbrella but found that the staff didn't show up that day. It was every man for himself to find a spot and, by the time we finally found one, it was almost time to turn around and get back on the ship. There was no place to eat or drink. Montego Bay was no better--the disembarkation was poorly managed and it was a rush of stressed, often panicky passengers fighting for shuttles and buses for tours. The tour itself, once underway, was pleasant and enjoyable. Key West was better managed and the tour, while crowded, was also enjoyable.
At the end of the cruise I was told I would be reunited with my luggage and was told to simply go into the terminal to "Shore Operations." I was told it was "right off the ship" and easy to find--wrong. Once again we were herded in a stampede, told not to stop or ask questions, and hustled onto a (paid) bus for transportation to the airport. The luggage mysteriously appeared at our home airport.
For those choosing to risk Holland America, I recommend more than the usual extra clothing and medications in your carry-on luggage (three other passengers, I might note, on the same ship, had their luggage lost as well). I also recommend a supply of Xanax.
It had been a few years since I last sailed on Holland America. My cruise from Barcelona this Fall was a supreme disappointment. I won't go into the "acts of Nature" or the "scary incident" on board. I'll keep to the cruise experience itself. Dinner is much too long. Indonesian staff worked so hard and are so pleasant but have too many tables. Food was a complete disappointment and that filet was a tough flank steak! Lido was out of control with people milling about and menu was practically the same each day. Everyone was "saving" seats so getting seatd was always a hassle. I am a Senior Citizen but this cruise was too OLD for me. It was downright boring. No dancing. No fun. Music hard to come by. It was just not the same high quality cruise line I had traveled on previously.
We recently sailed on the Westerdam out of Seattle to Alaska in August of 2015. This trip was a family get together to celebrate my Mom’s 90th birthday. We booked this trip as a group, were assigned a group number, and since this trip was also booked on a prior HAL cruise we were eligible for the Explore 4 promotion. This promotion included a free Pinnacle Grill dinner per person, free beverage service of up to 15 items (alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic) per day, and a 50% booking fee. We had a total of 14 people in 7 cabins. Our problems started shortly after embarkation when we discovered that our daughter and her husband had been removed from our group booking. According to the folks in the front office this happened as a result of her upgrade from a D to a VE cabin. She actually paid additional cash for this upgrade. Surprisingly, my Mom also did this exact same upgrade with no ill effects. I had all the supporting documentation of this error that clearly showed that the error was HAL’s. There was only one individual in the frontoffice that took our side in this fight. She was Ms. Ninka Bakker, but she turned out to have no influence on the main office. She did take photocopies of all my confirmations and sent them to the main office in Seattle. Unfortunately, the other individuals at the front desk were simply rude.
Well, the first night of the cruise was actually my Mom’s birthday and we had the Pinnacle Grill scheduled for that, and it took quite a bit of complaining to get our daughter and son-in-law invited to that dinner as well. I had also ordered a cake for my Mom’s birthday 3 months in advance, and then I was asked to renew this order almost at monthly intervals. Well, when we checked with the restaurant to make sure that they had all the information, they had no clue that they were supposed to have a cake for my Mom. I luckily had all my supporting documents with me including the original cake order and the fax confirmation when I placed this order. They were able to their credit provide a cake at the last minute.
As the oldest daughter, I was responsible for coordinating this group excursion, and had a lot of interaction with the main office in Seattle. You probably wonder why I brought all the documentation with me onboard. It was actually quite a file of papers approximately 2 inches thick of standard computer paper some pages had print on two sides. It was my interactions with the folks at HAL that encouraged me to do this because I could see that there was NO communication between various departments, and the departments also did not know what the policies of the other departments were. In other words, management at HAL stinks. I can also say that my Mom who is a 4 star mariner with HAL was very disappointed and stated that their customer service has deteriorated over the years.
You will probably then ask, how did the rest of the cruise go? It was fair. The food was OK, with lines on the Lido deck, the dining room portions were small, but you could order multiple items if you chose. The ship itself is older, with areas needing extra care, rust was evident. Our bathroom was clean, but showed signs of inexpert caulking. The entertainment was fair, leaving not much to do on sea days, unless you were an aficionado of the casino or bars. There was Wi-Fi, which was dreadfully expensive and VERY slow. The only part of the cruise that was memorable was the shore excursions in Alaska. We had previous experience with an Alaska cruise with Princess, which we will do again.
I also sent complaint letters and emails to HAL in Seattle after the cruise and have NOT received any kind of reply, other than a confirmation that my email did arrive at the HAL main office.
This was the “South America Passage.”
First, the up-side.
Holland America Line (HAL) delivered on its itinerary. We embarked in Valparaiso, Chile. We disembarked two weeks later in Buenos Aires having sailed around the Horn. There were two ports along the way where we were supposed to stop, but didn’t. The Captain probably made the right decisions in the interest of safety. One was weather-related. The other due to a forest fire and a lot of smoke.
The food was great, plentiful, and available just about every minute of the day.
The cabin was clean and everything worked well. The boat is getting a little old, but it is well maintained. Our cabin steward was excellent. He was incredibly cooperative, conscientious, and attentive.
Now, for the downside.
HAL maximizes its revenue by selling use of limited boat space to vendors who make good use of a captive audience. There’s a wrist watch shop, a jewelry store, people bugging you all day long to buy photos of yourself, a place that sells clothing, and a smoky casino. Pardon me, but if I want to buy a watch, some earrings, or a sweatshirt, then I’ll do it onland before I leave for the trip. And I won’t pay an inflated price. We would like for HAL to use all that vendor space for something more productive - like a place to sit and look out the window at the fantastic scenery. The most amazing hustle of all is the Park West Gallery art “auction,” complete with the “auctioneer’s” confederates circling behind you, telling you when to raise your card. It was offensive.
HAL seems to be a generation behind in the areas of on-board entertainment, restaurant décor, and mid-ship sculpture. The comedy and dance presentations could compete for the Lawrence Welk audience. The fancy restaurants looked like 19th century brothels, complete with servers sporting costumes and a level of fake formality calculated to encourage heavy drinking. A hideous, organ-shaped sculpture consumes the middle of the ship, unavoidable on decks three through five. HAL would make more friends if it traded the artificial opulence for brighter, more contemporary furnishings and service.
In short HAL, as an independent company, was a first-class cruise line for the first nine decades of the last century. Carnival bought it in 1989, and has now fully effected the culture shift. Today HAL is a reflection of the lowest common denominator.
Boarding the ship went smoothly. Our luggage arrived one hour after we boarded.
Our stateroom was small but our bathroom had a bath tub. The stateroom carpet was well worn, it needed to be replaced. We had a balcony but I couldn't us it at my leisure. The guy next to us was a smoker. Every time he went out to his balcony, I went back to my cabin. You could argue the wind blows the smoke away but not always. I paid for a balcony I should be able to use it without breathing someone's cigarette smoke. I did enjoy the balcony some of the time.
The meals served in the dining areas were excellent. I did have a problem with the long lines in the buffet style areas. The beverage line moved slowly. People were taking three glasses, filling them with ice and then filling them with soda, juice, etc. The glasses were very small so three glasses equaled one good serving. Spoons were kept at the food counter not in the rolled up napkins. So when you sat down with your cereal, you had to get up again, toget a spoon. Then, you had to wait in another line for coffee. Servers were not pouring coffee or juice. They were extremely busy clearing tables. There should have been more servers for the amount of passengers on-board.
Grand Turk was fun. We went up in a helicopter and flew around for 15 minutes. It's a beautiful island. The stage shows were geared to a younger crowd but I enjoyed half of them. The actors,dancers and singers were very talented.
I did enjoy the cruise but I won't take Holland America (Eurodam) again. It's was too crowded. I would be happier with a smaller ship with less people on-board.