CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line Ryndam Alaska May 15, 2005

By the end of the first evening my wife and I were very disappointed at the decline in everything we had experienced since boarding. We had decided we would probably try another shipping line in future. The probably soon became absolute certainty and you will soon understand why. Virtually everything which once gave Holland America an edge over other cruise lines, has deteriorated to the extent that nothing is really special anymore. Ice sculptures are limited to one in the Dining Room on formal evenings. It used to be one or two every night and at least two in the Lido cafeteria. The beautiful large floral displays at the elevators are no more. No Ice Sculpting or melon carving demonstrations, no Salmon Barbecue, juice etc. only at breakfast. The Chocolate Extravaganza was replaced by a Dessert Extravaganza, a very poor substitute and the list goes on. The standard of cleanliness has deteriorated to a disgusting extent and we always had to look around to find a reasonably clean chair to sit on in the Lido Cafeteria. Almost all of the seats had filthy stains all over them.

Despite the above and what follows, the Captain always ended his announcements by referring to "the beautiful and elegant ship." What a crock that was. The first evening our toilet broke down and this was the forerunner for 12 days of continuing problems which usually took from a very poor best of 2 hours to over six hours for someone to arrive just to check that there really was a problem.

On two occasions we had filthy brown feces laden water swilling around our bathroom floor. A third occurrence was avoided when I realised that the overflow problem was due to instructions received from a steward sent to check that the toilet really was not working. There was almost no vacuum so he demonstrated a "fix" by rapidly pumping the knob four or five times which, at that time and a couple of others, did work. However when it did not work the water kept filling the pan and eventually overflowed. Fortunately the third time, I held the seat partially up and discovered how this procedure was causing the overflow and stopped just in time.

It soon became obvious that the "plumbers" were totally incompetent when repairs lasted only a few hours. This carried on and our frustration kept mounting. After a few days we requested another stateroom but were told that nothing was available. I queried the competence of the "plumbers" and asked for an engineer. I might as well have talked to the wall.

We both have health problems and the stress was becoming too much for us so we asked to leave the ship at Sitka with Holland America to arrange and pay for our trip home. This was met with an immediate sharply spoken outright refusal.

In desperation I decided to make two signs. One to hang on my chest and the other on my back then parade around the ship.

I told the Guest Relations Manager of my intentions and that I would go ashore at Sitka to purchase the material, which I did. I also advised her that the signs would read :-


,HAS YOUR TOILET, LIKE MINE, BROKEN DOWN AT LEAST ONCE EVERY DAY? CONTACT CABIN C328 Suddenly all the things which had been impossible were now possible. Another stateroom was available, two bona fide engineers plus "plumbers" miraculously appeared to fix the toilet. While working on the signs I was disturbed numerous times with engineers and/or "plumbers" who were in and out of the stateroom. The offer of another stateroom was turned down since I foolishly assumed that with engineers on the job our problems would soon be over so why go to the trouble of packing up and moving. That turned out to be a huge mistake, incompetence reigned supreme. The efforts of four or five of the best available workers, like other efforts, lasted only a few hours.

Within two hours of mentioning the stained chair seats, newly reupholstered seats were being installed in the Lido cafeteria chairs.

An insulting offer of $250 each on board credit was made and rejected. Another offer was made to return our fare if we left the ship at Sitka and found and paid our own way home. Since we had no wish to be abandoned in a foreign country with no idea of the cost of transportation and accommodation this offer was also turned down.

These miracles occurred before the signs were even finished.

.After leaving Sitka I walked around with the signs for about half an hour before being accosted by the Hotel Manager and another officer.

The upshot of this was that we were offered the return of the full fare on condition that we left the ship at Juneau and paid our own way home. This was countered with us asking for a full refund of fare plus out of pocket expenses for travel to and from the ship. This would only be accepted by Holland America Line if we left the ship at Juneau and paid our own way home. If I did not accept that offer I would have to sign a letter stating that I would stop my disruptive actions blah, blah, blah and if I did not sign that we would be thrown off the ship in Juneau.

I had not caused any trouble. Not one person was inconvenienced in any way. Nobody even had to step aside since I got out of everyone's way and some people enjoyed taking photographs, so I refused to sign anything. I was then told that I must leave the ship. I had no intention of leaving the ship but when my wife heard about this she was terrified and started packing.

At this stage, having previously refused to speak with the Captain, the Hotel Manager and "Corporate" in Seattle in a conference call, I was asked to meet with the Captain and the Guest Relations Manager and refused. After some consideration I thought it may be advisable to accede to the request so I told the Guest Relations Manager that I would meet with her and the Captain.

As I expected the meeting was a complete waste of time and, when I got fed up being interrupted by the Captain, I said there was no point in continuing, the meeting was over. The threats were repeated and I told him that, although my wife was terrified and would leave voluntarily, I would have to be forcibly removed from the ship. There was an inference that I was a complete fool and I should think of our state of health and what would happen if I should have a heart attack.

Since there was no effort to negotiate anything it became obvious that the meeting was merely a useless effort to bully, terrorize and intimidate me.

I was really worried that my wife would have an episode of irregular heartbeats and, to calm her down I promised that I would not use the signs again. My intention was really to use the signs again on the last leg to Vancouver when the threats would be pointless.

While speaking to a woman in the Lido cafeteria she told me there were numerous toilet problems on the Verandah Deck. She also told me about the cruise review websites where I could reach the world instead of just 1200 passengers with the signs so I was able to keep the promise to my wife.

There were also problems on the Lido Deck. The men's toilet at the pool on the Lido deck was out of order every time I tried to use it and the shower to rinse off before entering the pools was also out of order. See pictures. Why were the pools open when there was a notice posted that one of the rules for using the pools was to shower before entering? The women's toilet was usually out of order when my wife tried to use it. With both male and female toilets inoperative this made me wonder how many people would urinate in the pools rather than go searching for a toilet which worked and what the increase in the e coli bacteria count would be with no showering before entering the pools. Rather than take a huge gamble on the competence of the staff to keep the pools safe I decided to forego the pleasures of the pool and hot tubs.

The toilet problems were widespread. At various times my wife had problems with those outside the Vermeer Lounge and outside the Piano Bar.

The escalators between decks 5 and 6 were never working properly. Occasionally I could use the down escalator but never once was I able to use the up side which is of course the most needed..

I think that all these problems are due to lack of scheduled maintenance. This is a dangerous policy which can cause a domino effect resulting in dangerous breakdowns and/or in a flood of breakdowns which can swamp even competent staff. I think this is the reason for six hour waits.

The signs are obvious. A proper maintenance schedule requires attention to detail. This is obviously sadly lacking. A good example is the elevator indicator lights. Many of the external up/down indicator arrow lights were dead. Similarly many of the call button indicator lights were dead and you had to look around at the other doors to see if your call had registered and of course the filthy seats in the Lido cafeteria. See pictures

Worst of all was disastrous advice given by unqualified staff which twice resulted in the filth on our bathroom floor.

With so many visible problems we worried about what we could not see.

There is a serious lack in both quantity and quality of maintenance staff.

The quantity is obviously lacking when it can take over six hours to have someone just look at a problem. The incompetence is obvious when, until the twelfth day, no repair lasted more than a few hours. Also a review by J Higgins mentions a "punch list" of 300 items to be fixed throughout the ship on his voyage. I would love to know what the "punch list" was on our trip. The evidence that our toilet had recently been giving trouble was still there when we boarded and that cabin should not have been in use until the toilet was properly repaired. When you read through other reviews it appears that our problems were much less than others. Just looking back to October 2004 there are numerous reviews with complaints regarding sewage problems. These range from "like living for a week in a sewer in a major city" to "for periods up to five hours, no toilets at all, in cabins or public areas, were working. I cannot understand why HAL allows this ship to sail at all with the health hazard it presents. Is it any wonder that there have been two outbreaks of Norwalk virus on this vessel.

In a letter I received from HAL corporate in Seattle they had the gall to claim, and I quote, "Holland America is a leader in the implementation of state-of-the-art sanitation programs. We have stringent procedures and standards in place to ensure the health and safety of our passengers and crew." What a crock of "sanitation material" that is and an outright insult to any one with an IQ over 1.

It's a pity that they don't have any competent staff to carry out the implementation of their state-of-the-art programs."

I will welcome any email to regarding problems with the Ryndam, particularly those concerning sewage problems.

Recommended Articles