I felt it was necessary to write this email, because there was not enough room on the cruise card that we received on the last day. I have just finished a year of fighting cancer and was given the all clear. My husband thought we should get away and relax, and rejuvenate. As we have cruised before and found it a very relaxing and a very luxurious way to see the Caribbean. We perused the internet for a holiday that would fit into our short time frame. We have never been on a Holland American ship before, but have always heard they were one of the top lines. We did not hesitate to call our travel agent to book us on this 10 day cruise starting April 8th 2003, from Ft.Lauderdale.
We arrived at our outside stateroom and we very pleased with the accommodations. The bathroom was larger than the one on our last cruise, which we found a pleasant surprise. We quickly unpacked, changed and went upstairs to the Lido buffet for lunch. As on our previous cruise we took our food outside to enjoy the fresh air and at this time, Port Everglades. The food was very good. After which we toured the ship to acquaint ourselves with all the nooks and crannies. Arriving back at our cabin my husband asked what I had got all over the back of my shorts. Dirt! Dirt from the chairs on the deck. Day Two outside for breakfast it happened again. This never happened on the other ship, first of all; the bus boys never let you walk with a tray of food, and they always carried them for you. (These young chaps would rather converse with each other than help the guests.) Secondly, there was always staff on the deck cleaning off the tables and chairs so nobody ended up with dirty shorts/pants etc. Thirdly, they seem to have a better understanding of the English language, so that when you asked then for a common type of food, they knew what you were talking about. Fourthly, they were always courteous to the tourists, they didn't just grunt at you. The first evening, we were seated at a table and were the first to arrive, joined shortly by one couple and then another, after the introductions we found out where everyone was from and if they had cruised before. Both couples had cruised many times, and they had cruised on Holland American before, but not the Volendam. This was a valuable benchmark. I am going to list and explain the problems that we faced on this cruise, but more importantly the problems you face from this ship in your fleet. 1) The Captain - my new friend from the dining table and I were all alone in the hallway waiting for a tender, when the captain started to walk towards us, as we were about to say good morning to him he quickly turned his head and started to whistle. I found that extremely rude of him, and very pompous. My friend said what a difference from the H.A. cruise they had been on just weeks before, there the captain was always friendly and treated the passengers with respect. 2) The Cabin Steward - some mornings we would be gone for 2 hours or more before we wandered back to our room to change and found our bed had not been made. The last cruise within 10 minutes the room would be completely ready for our occupancy. Are you short staffed? 3) Hotel/Restaurant Manager - not sure which one let down his end of the bargain but 6 days into the cruise we ran out of lemons for our tea. Then, Oranges for freshly squeezed juice for breakfast. Yogurt for breakfast. And when I asked for Brown Toast the second last morning in the dinning room, I was told there was no more and that they only had white toast, I said okay, but I was never brought any. 4) Bar steward/deck server - one departure party on deck the ship was serving breaded shrimp and something else, so we stood in a line and waited our turn to be served these items. When arriving at the server he placed one shrimp on the plate. Expecting more, was told "that's all you get, come back later" Four of us in shock shared the one shrimp. 5) Wine steward - in the dinning room the wine steward never showed up at our table till well into the main course, who in there right mind would order any wine at that time. Once we managed to get his attention and had wine with our meal. 6) Waitresses - In the Explorers lounge, waiting our turn for dinner and anticipating a nice casual drink before hand, we sat down and waited and waited but were never approached. The captain had two tables reserved for him and some guests and when they arrived the waitresses were all over them, they seemed to come out of the woodwork. On delivering the drinks to the captain and his guests my husband asked if they could serve us. (We had been there at least half an hour) We were told we would have to wait as they had to go over to another area to give out drinks. We never got served in that lounge. 7) Pool side servers - I was amazed at the lack of interest these servers took in their job, there were drinks glasses rolling around the deck under tables and finished glasses on tables, and these servers just walked past them. Plus I was never asked if I would like a drink. Cleanliness is obviously not stressed on this ship. And a sense of pride in the employees is greatly missing. 8) Internet - We paid for the privilege of using the internet once on the Volendam and then the bloody thing was down until the last day. When we arrived at a port we found an internet café to retrieve our emails and the scores of the hockey games. These expenses were never refunded. 9) Newspaper - not available for 3 days...? 10) Crew - in a discussion with working members of the Volendam on shore, they eluded to excess drinking and partying by the white suit members of the ship. This, we never saw, but arrogance was very prevalent among most of the male members of this group.
Something is amiss on the Volendam; it needs your prompt attention.
Now you have asked for suggestions on how to improve the voyage. Any voyage.
I would like to suggest that there are special points of interest in every port of call and that they should be mentioned in the daily newspaper along with what the port of call is noted for, (shopping, produce, export etc). This would help all, but especially the older, frailer passengers that just can't take the length of the tours but wouldn't mind seeing some of the points of interest. It would give them something to ask the taxi driver about instead of leaving it up to the driver himself.
Another suggestion I have is about the elite dinning room. Talking to passengers, who dinned in there for the additional cost, stated they were disappointed, the food was the same as in the main dinning room. It would be nice if it wasn't at an additional cost but that a reservation was all that was needed. Also the television stations that are aired on the cruise are brutal, since we are cruising in the western hemisphere why are we subjected to CNN Europe? And CNN financial? Surely you can receive CNN North America and maybe the CNN that gives sports highlights and financial high lights.
We enjoyed our cruise. We needed to relax and we did. The previously mentioned items were an annoyance to us, but I believe they are a much bigger problem to your company as people were talking and not everyone is as honest in their remarks as we are. People who like to cruise do it often. In the state of the economies around the world today you need to keep these people coming back to Holland America, shake-up the Volendam crew before they send all your patrons to your competitors,