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Janis Hatcher

Age: 48

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Amsterdam

Sailing Date: 2012-01-6

Itinerary: Around the world

I booked an around the world cruise through Vacations to Go as my retirement gift after 27 years of military service. I boarded the Amsterdam in Florida on Jan 6 and returned to Florida on Apr 28, 2012. My overall experience at the ports were awesome; however, my experience on the ship for most of the cruise was less than desirable. Needless to say, due to lack of customer service, my family nor I will ever cruise Holland American Line again. Note: The daily service charge of $13.50 is not mandatory even though they tell you it is. After two weeks, I learned from my table mate that all I had to do was go to the front desk and ask for the form to opt out and then I could bless those that I wanted to bless personally such as the room stewards and servers.

The food was plentiful and in all varieties. I loved the buffet on the 8th deck as the hours varied and you didn't have to dress up unlike the nightly dinners. I initially was at the 8 pm seating and many times our food was cold or dried out. I liked the fact that depending on our location, the chef would serve food that was authentic to the area. The best part was having a huge selection in case you were very hungry or if you just wanted to eat light. We had many choices even fast food was served from poolside. Tons of ice cream, cookies, every kind of dessert along with diet and low sugar items. There were restaurants were you could pay to have private dinners or the Italian restaurant which was free and a change from the regular meals in case you wanted a romantic dinner.

After three weeks of complaining that my toilet was backing up and then it would not flush, I was finally moved to another room. This was the beginning of my nightmares. I was given (left over) rooms because as the clerk said, all the good rooms had been taken. Rooms were dusty, carpet dirty, cracked sink, moldy shower curtains, and noisy. On the 3rd deck, the maintenance crew clean the deck at 4 am by spraying your window and the side of the ship with a high pressured water hose. What kind of vacation causes you to jump up every morning due to the chattering,singing, and noise? I moved four times and slept in over seven rooms living out of my suitcase. After discussing my concerns with the hotel manager, I later find out he is husband to the front desk supervisor. I was humiliated, accused of wanting an upgrade, and told I was lying. I was given three pairs of ear plugs as my neighbor had a nasal problem which she said the coughing even kept her awake. My conjoining door was even taped up with ugly black masking tape and I was told no one else complained about the coughing neighbor.

I really loved playing ping pong, working out daily, sitting in the sauna and the hot tub. I engaged in learning to play bridge as well as water color painting. I experienced the steam room and hot rocks just for fun. I also played some of the daily competitive games for bucks to cash in for prizes, but ended up giving my bucks to my friend as it takes a lot of them to win a decent prize. They also had basketball and tennis. I did not engage in gambling nor the club or bars/drinking. I attended a few of the cultural shows in the evening, but I was too young to enjoy most of the musicians.

I did not purchase excursions from the ship. I would go and listen to the presentation that was given about the countries on the ship before we arrived at the port. I liked this because it highlighted things to do and see while in the port. It also addressed transportation options to a certain extent. They usually only tell you which ones they recommend and have used before. I liked using the tuk tuks (3 wheel vehicle) when possible or the hop on hop off bus if we had limited time in a port. I would also get books from the library on board the ship on each country and do my homework regarding public transportation, things that are recommended to see and do, etc based on my interests. This was great as I was able to find 2-day train/bus tickets in Barcelona for a low price. I would get off the ship and find an excursion booking place and get my tickets for 1/3 of the price of what it cost on the ship. Also, keep your hop on hop off ticket as you will get a discount in the next country if you choose to use them.

We docked at a few ports that were 2 hours away and HAL did not have any transportation set up so we stayed on the ship all day just waiting to leave. One in Vietnam and there was nothing close by except a few vendors who set up near the dock.

We were able to get onto Easter Island, Rapa Nui, which was usually bypassed due to weather I'm told.

You must go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reefs in Australia. It was awesome! I had fun in all the ports; but Barcelona was the most beautiful and there were tons of things to do.

This was my first cruise; however, It was not my first time out of the country. I have been to Germany, France, Japan, Hawaii, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Africa, and Italy before. I enjoyed seeing how other people live in other countries. I did not want to only see the nice side of the city so I ventured out to see some of the unbelievable areas. I took over 5,000 photos and truly enjoyed the adventure. The people were very nice and helpful. One guy loaned me his coat because the weather changed and I did not have time to go back and get my coat before the tour left to see the penguins. It was a memorable experience which I will never forget!

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