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Scott Frank

Age: 28

Occupation:Financial Consultant

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: November 11, 2002

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean 10 day

Cruise Line: Holland
Sailing Date: November 11th, 2002

This was our first cruise on Holland America. We went on the Southern Carribean Wayfarer, a 10 day cruise. This was my first cruise and my wife’s third cruise and also, more importantly our honeymoon. We had heard so many good things about Holland but unfortunately the cruise did not live up to it. I should mention that we were told that the average age is older on a Holland America cruise. We did not know that this was a sold-out big band cruise, in which the average age seemed close to 80…. There were only a few people under the age of 40, and very few under 60, so we would not recommend this cruise to anyone under 40, or on their honeymoon. We noted that most service issues we are going to discuss may have to do with the audience that the ship was catering to, but some had nothing to do with it. We were on the 4th voyage of the Amsterdam in which the Norwalk Virus was being spread. We were not told of the virus before arriving in Ft Lauderdale, and only when we were in line to board were we told about it.

Embarkation:
We arrived at the Port around 1pm, and the ticket said we could begin boarding at 3pm. We were told that arriving early should ensure us to be one of the first people on. When we checked in, we were handed a letter that basically gave us a very slight idea of what was going on, that there was a virus onboard and gave us no options or mention of not going. The letter basically said to wash your hands, and be careful, but made no mention of the virus on previous voyages, and that over 400 people had gotten sick. We were given a number (15) and told to wait- there were about 1000 of the 1300 people waiting when we entered the waiting area, we waited until about 4pm until they called our number, we heard others waited until 6pm… most people had to sit due to their age, we stood as there were not enough seats for everyone. We believe the long wait was due to the virus, and them attempting to sanitize the boat. In our opinion we should have certainly been told about the virus prior to the cruise as the ship and cruise line knew about it weeks before and wanted to run this theme cruise to full capacity. We were told others were offered free cruises and upgrades to suites just to switch ships due to this cruise being overbooked. We boarded and went to our room. All luggage was there and we didn’t see our cabin steward until the next day- this was the beginning of the ongoing service issues aboard.

We attended dinner in the dining room, most staff was wearing plastic gloves, and the passengers could touch nothing. No handshakes, and our waiter came by to take the order, no welcome or anything nice to say, just asked for the order. The food was not very good, my wife ordered fish and would not order again since it had a fish smell and did not taste good. I ordered the fish also, and did the same the second night hoping it would get better. It was clearly frozen fish and most things served looked like they were part of a TV dinner. We were delightfully surprised on formal nights though, since they seemed to have much better food.

I should mention that there were 3 formal nights, 3 informal nights (jacket still required) and 4 casual nights. The food ranged from poor to good (formal nights). The ship overall was in very good condition, very clean, and organized in an easy to find manner.

AT SEA (2 DAYS):
Our cabin was a minisuite on the center of the verandah deck. We visited some much less expensive cabins on the lower decks to find they were nearly the same size as ours, but we did have a Jacuzzi tub (only large enough for my wife) and we had the verandah, which made it worth it. The hot tubs on the boat were closed the entire time, several people were upset but we assumed they were closed because of the virus. There were signs all over to “wash your hands” and we were not able to touch anything without fear of getting sick. By the second night there was luggage in the hallway and we knew people were going to be sent home when we arrived in the first port. Many people stopped coming to dinner for fear of getting sick. At lunch, in the Lido dining room, we had to be served by the staff (wearing gloves), who gave VERY small portions, we do not eat much and are not large people, but to have to ask 3 or 4 times just to get a regular serving was ridiculous.

There were two pools on the upper deck (one is basically enclosed, so it is just a hot sunny area that most of the seniors seemed to stay in. The other pool is on the back and was not very busy as it has full sun. We stayed out there most of the time. Very few drinks (meaning water/iced tea) were ever brought around. They seemed to just be looking for drink orders and when people asked for water, it seemed to be a bother. Both pools closed at 7pm, which we could not understand… as the sun was just setting then. At about 5pm they would clean the deck and move all the chairs away. The first day at sea we were swimming with some other people when this happened- they told us we basically had to move all our stuff (because they wanted to clean the deck early). This was a major inconvenience and seemed to be unheard of on other cruise lines. Basically you could only use the pool until 5pm… people who wanted to watch the sunset, had to just stand on the deck and be inconvienced by the cleaning (which had nothing to do with the virus).

Day 3- Curacao

We arrived in Curacao on Thursday morning, the 14th. About 20-30 people were going home at that time. I called the front desk only to be told that they know nothing about it and basically tried to cover up the virus. This was done the entire cruise. Curacao was a great port- we swam with dolphins, visited the Oceanariam and toured the city, which was a short walk from the boat. We had a full day there and when we left there were fireworks on the pier. We went to dinner that night, which I am not going to go into detail, just another experience of food that was not so great. I should mention that our family had seen some information on the news about the virus. They had called the ship only to be brushed aside. We later found out through email that they called and the ship never even passed on the information. We confronted the staff at the front desk that said, “we thought they were the press”. The service at the front desk was the worst we had seen. Later that night I attempted to call room service to order food, only to be put on hold for almost 20 minutes, we then fell asleep.

Day 4- LaGuarra- Venezuela

We arrived and had a full day in Venezuela. As we had heard many stories about the danger level in Caracas we decided to leave the jewelry in the room, and also decided to take a tour. We took the Mt. Avila summit expedition, which involves a one-hour drive to Caracas, and then a cable car lift to Mt Avila and a two-hour hike of the mountain. The guide neglects to mention that this is a VERY strenuous hike, even for two 27 year old people, and wearing long pants should be done also. The path is not maintained at all, and climbing under and over trees on a steep incline is most of the hike. Several of people from the ship came with, including some people who were in there 70’s and 80’s- they had a very difficult time and fell several times. The guide was luckily able and willing to help them for most of the time. I would definitely recommend this for people who are active, as long as you wear the right clothes and expect a rough hike. We arrived back on the ship to get lunch only to find the dining area (Lido) had closed early once again, and there were very options to eat.

Day 5- Trinidad

Another beautiful day in a good port. We decided to take a taxi for a two-hour city tour- there did not seem to be too much to see there, but there were several interesting tours we could have taken. We should say there were many good tours in each port to take; we just decided to do some on our own. We came back in time for lunch (1:30pm) or so we thought, only to find that both Lido restaurants had again closed early, and the only food could be obtained at the “grill”. The food at the grill was not very good, quality of meat was very low, and this was another disappointment. I again tried room service late that night to find a busy signal and then a continuous hold. I called the front desk before bed (at about midnight) only to not get an answer.

Day 6- Martinique

This was another beautiful island and we decided to take another tour. We took a calypso cruise around the island and to a beach on the southern portion of the island. It was a place I would come back and visits and the tour was great. The only issue was that we were there on a Sunday, so unfortunately there was no stores opened and many people who were going to spend the day shopping just stayed on the ship. When we returned to the boat around 2pm we again found the restaurants were closed. We just decided to get some ice cream, which was not very good as it was more like ice milk and there was a long line for it as no other food was available. I again tried room service late that night only to be put on hold and was not able to order anything again.

Day 7- St Thomas

It was another beautiful port, we had an entire day there and decided to take another boat tour of the island and over to St. John. This was by far our favorite day trip. We went to Truck Bay and were on a beautiful beach for a few hours and then went back to St Thomas for the rest of the afternoon to shop. When we returned to the boat we were approached by Inside Edition and CNN to give a statement about the virus. We knew more people were sick but we did not want to be on TV so we decided not to. We returned to the boat and had dinner with a couple friends of ours in the Odyssey restaurant. The food there was much better than the dining room, the only problem was that they only let you eat there once. If we could have, we would have dined there again.

Day 8- At Sea

Spent the day at the pool, ate at the Lido restaurant as we were finally around during its open hours. The food ranged from poor quality to mediocre and was not worth waiting for. The items, which were OK, were served in such small portions we felt bad just asking for more. Ordered room service that evening as someone answered and it finally came.

Day 9- Half Moon Cay – Private Island

This was another beautiful island. We tendered to the island, rented rafts and spent the entire day there. Everything was perfect about it. Came back to the ship and encountered the same issues.

Day 10- Disembarkation

We were told we had to vacate the room by 7am and also heard rumors about the ship not going on its next voyage. We waited until about 9am in the bar and then disembarked. Customs and luggage were done in a flash, and we were off the boat. About every major newspaper, television station, and network were there and wanted photos, video and statements. We just wanted to get home.

To summarize… the itinerary, excursions, and ports made the cruise a good one. The ship staff, service, food, and the virus made us chose never to take Holland again, and to our knowledge they are not doing anything about the problems and not trying to rectify the situation. We will cruise again though…

Please feel free to email if we can give you any more information or answer any questions.

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