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Danny McGee

Age: 52

Occupation:Painting contractor

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Veendam

Sailing Date: 2009-11-5

Itinerary: Alaskan Cruisetour

My wife and I took our third cruise in late August, 2009. I was told by everyone since my wife and I started doing the cruise scene three years ago, that Holland America was the cream of the crop, the best for your money. They told us that the issues we experienced on Princess and Royal Caribbean, would not be found on HAL. So, when we booked our second trip to Alaska, we chose HAL partly because we knew that they went into Glacier Bay, which was something we wanted to see again. We decided to book a cruise-tour and go southbound this time, instead of traveling northbound like before. I must say that the land portion of the tour was more than we could have ever expected. Everything about it, from our Host, to our lodging, was top shelf all the way.

We discussed on numerous occasions, if this was any indication of what the cruise part was going to be like, then we were in for a great time aboard the ship. But then there was the ship. We were to meet three family members on board in Seward, we arrived around 3:00 pm, ready to start the second half of our long anticipated vacation. Shortly after boarding we were contacted by our family and informed that HAL had offered them a train ride from Anchorage instead of the customary motor-coach ride. As we toured the ship waiting for our travel companions to arrive, we learned that a pool side BBQ was to be held that evening. The pool side BBQ looked as though it was indeed going to be a great send off on our trip. However the train was late arriving in Seward which forced us to delay dinner at the BBQ, which was to be around 6:00. At the moment that the train finished unloading, the ship called for its mandatory Muster, that took some time to complete, which is understandable.

Once we were released by the crew, we scurried to our cabins to stow our life vests and headed to the BBQ. Only to find that it was over and we had missed it at no fault of our own. Keep it mind that it was only 8:00 pm and due to no fault of ours we couldn't possibly got there any sooner. We decided to make lemonade out of lemons and headed to the Lido deck for the buffet. Wrong the Lido deck was also shut down. Not to be discouraged, off to the fine dining we traipsed, only to be informed by the maitre'd that our dining time was during the 6:00 hour, and 8:00 dining was beginning. After some wrangling they chose to seat us. Three evenings out of the seven, we were on board that ship. The Lido deck buffet had one side shut off to paying customers . The signs read ships crew only, leaving a very long line for the travelers to endure so they could have a meal, all the while the other side was wide open with no line what so ever.

Another issue we found inconvenient was the soft drink card system. On the other cruise lines we had used we could purchase a sticker that allowed us to have as many drinks as we wanted, no questions asked. On HAL however, we bought a card that permitted us to have 20 glasses for $18.00, which was fine by us. The problem was getting those drinks in hand, it became a real ordeal to have a soda pop with our meal if we so chose. The wait staff almost never came by and asked if we needed a refill of our coffee cups little lone ask if they could get us a pop, even if we ventured out of the dining area to get a drink to begin with. Like everyone else on ship we took to getting two cups of coffee at a time, so that we could get a good start on breakfast. This left the coffee station short on cups most mornings. Two members of our group never drink anything except sodas, making it very inconvenient having to chase down a drink for dining. Same could be said about the fine dining venue, only the wine steward could get us a pop and he was less than interested in accommodating us. While moving about the ship, it was some what more readily available to get a soda, but not in any of the venues.

I felt the food was less than it could or should have been. If I had to give it a grade, I would say maybe C- over all. Breakfast was a better experience than dinner at the buffet. The fine dining was good enough for my standards, pampered dining is not my kind of thing. I found that the buffet was a poor substitute, for just about any buffet I had eaten at, in any city in America. My traveling group found ourselves getting a hamburger and fries at the grill, and having to stand in line. So it wasn't just us that found the menu unappealing at the Lido buffet. One lady stated that she felt as though she was eating at a public school cafeteria.

We could of done without the incessant hammering coming from the kitchen above us at 3:00pm (nap time) and again at 8:00am the next morning. Other than that, we have no other issues with the room or cabin steward, Sat. His performance was very professional.

I'm still not sure why we were given such a small amount of time to enjoy Juneau, especially since we had so much time in Haines - all day! I felt that stopping in Haines was just a waste of time and we should have gone on in to Skagway since most everybody is going there to begin with. I'm sure that Haines is proud of it little community but I saw nothing there that warranted a stop over.

With all the gripes I have, I must say that the staff was excellent to my mother-n-law who had to be off loaded due to a medical emergency. They treated her and us with the utmost respect and care. I do not think they could have performed any more admirably. Job well done.

I feel that the entire staff conducted themselves with complete professionalism, and at its best . Having said that I feel that HAL at the Corp level needs to rethink their systems it was not up to the high standard that I was hoping for and had been led to believe existed. Our HAL experience was less than we had hoped it would be, and at the price we paid. We honored our 3 parents with this vacation and thought that we were really treating them to a great experience in the twilight of their lives only to be saddened by the turn of events. We have made the decision that our cruising in the future will be done on either Princess or Royal and that HAL will have to make great stride forward for us to ever consider them in the future.

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