Number of Cruises: 15
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: February 7th, 2004
Itinerary: Mexican RIveria
This cruise was a special celebration for my sister and myself to celebrate our birthdays. I have been on 15 cruises, primarily Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. This was my first Holland America Cruise.
We were very happy with the ship and amenities the first two days of our trip. Then we received the notice that there was a Norwalk Virus outbreak on board. The notice was very vague, and no other information was forthcoming for the remainder of the cruise. We found out later, that this ship had a previous outbreak of the Norwalk Virus. One would have thought that they would have a contingency plan in place to insure that passengers were not so inconvenienced.
We heard from many of the other passengers who felt the same way we did. Other passengers had even more complaints of the service, staff and lack of information than we did.
HOT TUB: On the first day, we were a little concerned that there was only one Hot Tub available, one was roped over and the other had a platform built atop it for the musicians, but we fully expected the other tubs would be open the next day. But instead, all of the hot tubs were closed for the remainder of the cruise. No explanation given. Since we were looking forward to using the Hot Tubs every day it was very disappointing. We assumed later, that it was somehow virus-related although the swimming pools remained open.
LIDO DECK DINING: After the outbreak guests were not allowed to serve themselves at any station. Ropes barred the food line, salad bar and beverage stations. At the very long, very slow buffet line you had to point at an item and were served the smallest portion imaginable. If you wanted a roll, your were not given butter unless you specifically asked for the butter and then only one pat. The food was mostly passable except for the driest, hardest inedible pork chop I have ever tried to eat. We decided to go to the Dining room for lunch after the first miserable experience, but no lunch was served in the dining room for days, so we had no choice. The most irritating thing was to get salt or pepper for your food. Finding the sole staff member, who was supposed to walk around the deck with condiments, before your food got cold, was quite a trick. When I was lucky enough to finally find such a person, he over-salted my food rendering it inedible. Salt and pepper packets were so scarce, salt became a precious commodity.
COFFEE STATION/SERVICE: After the virus outbreak an attendant poured the coffee which was understandable due to the circumstances. However, in light of the precautions that were instituted after the virus outbreak, it did not make sense that guests were allowed to bring their original cup to get a refill. The server would handle the used coffee cup, then serve new guests after handling a possibly infected cup handle.
It was difficult to get an acceptable cup of coffee. When I requested cream in my coffee, I would get a cup of Very light coffee, usually undrinkable. I asked many times for an additional cup with cream so that I could put it in my own coffee but the attendant either did not understand or chose not to respond. In frustration I finally gave up asking
On all other cruise ships there has been excellent coffee service. A service cart and server in attendance to provide warm-ups or coffee and tea. No such luck, on this ship, the coffee service was virtually non-existent. On this seven-day cruise I saw the coffee service one time only and could not act fast enough before it disappeared.
HIGH TEA: We were told not to miss the one special High Tea that was served in the dining room. What a joke! We had a light breakfast and skipped lunch in anticipation of this special event. We lined up with all of the other passengers. The doors opened, and I was given a very small plate (size of a bread plate). I expected to be seated and served in courses as in my past experiences. The food was buffet style, very prettily laid out near the entrance. Guests had to point to an item they wanted and the server would put it on the plate. However, with the slow long line, and a little plate, and being hurried along, I received one tiny tea sandwich, cookies I didn’t want and one strawberry. I was rushed to a table to wait for the hot tea that was poured some time later. No one could return to the buffet because the line was so long. This was the worst tea I have ever experienced on any cruise.
FOOD: Overall rating B-, Good food, some hits and some misses. We enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill but the food was very similar to what was being served in the dining room. The dessert at the Pinnacle was outstanding.
SERVICE: Our Room Steward was wonderful and efficient, score A. The dining room wait staff was not as efficient but pleasant, score B-. General staff around the other dining areas, score C-.
We assumed the service staff was not as pleasant or efficient as we expected because they may have had extra duty because of other staff being ill with the virus. Whatever the reasons it negatively impacted the enjoyment of our vacation.
ENTERTAINMENT: B There were two “Broadway” type shows which were ok, a show with a solo guitarist whose was good and a comedian which we did not see.
PORTS: Loreto was a lovely little town and we strolled through many little shops and enjoyed the music in the courtyard. Not much else to do in this port, but we enjoyed the day there. We did not leave the ship in LaPaz because we did not feel like taking a 40-minute roundtrip to the city and decided we would spend the day in Cabo San Lucas instead. Unfortunately, Cabo was closed to passengers after the Mexican authorities learned of the virus outbreak. Many passengers were very upset at not being let off the ship.
SUMMARY: This was a very unpleasant first experience with Holland America. We are not alone in this assessment; many fellow passengers expressed the same feelings. We were not offered any compensation for the inconveniences. We believe much could have been avoided with appropriate planning and was within Holland America’s control.
Earlier this year, a cruise I was on was redirected due to bad weather (hurricanes) and guests were given a cabin credit of $300 and 50% off the next cruise. This was done for something that was entirely out of their control and much appreciated.