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Henry Chmielnicki

Age: 62

Occupation:Health and Nutrition Consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Veendam

Sailing Date: 2011-03-11

Itinerary: Buenos Aires - Rio de Janeiro

Together with a group of our friends we took a Holland America cruise on the Veendam from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro. This was our first cruise with Holland America. We have taken cruises in the past on Royal Caribean, NCL and Costa. Prior to taking the cruise we were under an impression that Holland America is an upscale cruise company and we expected an upscale experience. Unfortunately our expectations were not met. I need to stress that the stewards and the dining room staff tried their best and under the circumstances they did the best they could. Where the cruise line fell short was in their management style. Holland America is a nickle and dime operation. They charge passengers for bottled water, for soft drinks, and for coffee outside of the dining room. Their charge for the use of the Internet is $0.75 per minute. That's $45 per hour. Even if you have your own laptop, they still charge you the same $0.75 per minute. In the dining room they charge you an $18 corking fee to open a bottle of wine. Their fees for land excursions are outrageous.

This brings us to the subject of ports of call. The ports of call chosen by the cruise line on our voyage were small and shallow ports. Veendam was not able to come into the port and had to ferry the passengers between the ship and the ports by smaller boats. The management failed to arrange for the ferry service and had to resort to using the ship's lifeboats. This created long lines and long transit times as in one of the ports it took 45 minutes to ride the lifeboat to town. We were not impressed by the fact that some of the lifeboats were leaking water and required crew members to bail water while we were riding it. The ship had to skip Punta del Este in Urugway, the most interesting port of call of the entire voyage, because the conditions for operating the boats between the ship and the town were considered to be unsafe.

The management also fell short in their food service planning. The buffet restaurant on the Lido deck had the tendency to close just as people were coming back from their trips to the shore. It took several days for the ship management to adjust the operation of the buffet restaurant to accommodate the passengers returning from the shore.

Overall impression was of a poor management and downscale experience.

Food in the main dining room was good. I would not mind having a wider choice of fruits and vegetables, but overall quality was good. Food in the Lido deck buffet restaurant was average. The ship also provided a hamburger station and a pizza station. These stations were used when all other restaurants were closed. Even though hamburger and pizza are not exactly what I have in mind when I buy a cruise ticket, it was good to have this option upon return from the shore when all the other food choices were closed. Hamburgers were of decent quality, while pizza could have used a major improvement.

The steward was excellent. The nickle and dime policy of Holland America showed itself in their linens policy. During the week we were on board the linens were never changed.

The only activities were ping pong and a very loud band that took away from the pleasure of sitting at the pool.

Extremely expensive.

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