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Irene Steinman

Age: 40s

Occupation:teacher

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Volendam

Sailing Date: December 27th, 2003

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

The cruise was especially disappointing since we planned it at least 6 months in advance and ordered A minisuites. My mother, husband, 12 year old son and I traveled together. We had two minisuites-one for grandma/grandson. The cruise had an inauspicious start. AS we waited to embark we were handed a letter stating embarkation would take a while as people on the last cruise had been taken ill with the dreaded stomach virus. Well, they weren't kidding--over two hours later, after standing for three hours (not nearly enough chairs available) we were let on, just in time for the buffet to close. The roses and champagne my husband had ordered and paid for months in advance for a bon voyage party were not in the room--in fact they never came. No, sorry, no roses available. Then later on , ten hours later, they sent the bottle of champagne. The next day they sent some treated carnations sprayed with last for ever spray. If that was the extent of my disappointment, so what. But the trip was actually boring, boring, boring. At sea, there weren't any activities unless you were addicted to Bingo or a heavy drinker. The music was downright amateurish--it was the worst live music I had ever been exposed to in a supposedly quality environment. The New Years party was not a party but a waiting around for nothing gathering. They didn't even release the balloons they had heaped into the pool under a net. I don't know why--it was just the most boring gathering in a splendid arena. The crew cleaned but the ship didn't sparkle and on top of that everyone was constantly reminded that they may become sick at any moment. In fact many people were sick, sea sick. The ship rocked and rolled at one point so intensely that we observed people falling down! Apparently we had bad luck cruising in rough seas, but no one offered us Dramamine. When I did get sick it was when I was scrunched in the whirlpool tub in my cabin--the water had turned brown swirling so vigorously and the jets had popped out into the muck--I wondered if it was because the tub had not been scrubbed in ages, or was I just so dirty. When I stood up I was so dizzy that I nearly passed out. I spent the rest of the next 24 hours at sea lying in bed not eating, feeling miserable, afraid to complain because they might quarantine my family, who were basically ok. They played ping pong for hours while I was ill. There was nothing else to do. The cruise director did not exist. There were absolutely no real attempts to entertain people. The feeble group activities were limited to bingo. And let me not forget to mention the occasional faint smell of sewage which threatened to intensify, but then disappeared.

The ship-arranged shore activities were awful. Half Moon Cay was nice, but crowded and overpriced for snorkeling equipment. And there weren't too many fish where they directed us. We had to wait two hours to disembark at Puerto Rico because passengers refused to report to immigration. The security chief reminded me of Inspector Cleusauu (misspelled I'm sure). His ineptness was distressing to say the least. When we finally got on our tour two hours late, it was boring and amateurish--don't take any ship arranged trips to the rainforest or you'll be sorry. On top of that, we felt in danger as the driver sped up and down the mountains, nearly crashing into other tourist busses filled with equally unimpressed and sorry passengers. The "rain forest" was les impressive than the flora and fauna of the Catskill Mountains two hours drive from New York. However, later in the afternoon, on our own walk through Old San Juan, we had the best meal of the trip, in a Chinese takeout on a side street in old San Juan, followed by an ice cream at a truly distinctive Ben & Jerry's. Our best meal by far. St. Martin was closed when we arrived on New Year's Day, so it was a bust, too. The sailing on an America's Cup Regatta ship held promise, but we were scared to death as the ship sped perpendicular to the water--I watched in horror as my son slid down the side and only at the last moment was he able to cling onto a piece of the ship. By the way we were goaded into not wearing life jackets by the crew--so uncool. I wonder if their insurance company knows that. Tortola was gorgeous but the caves were as crowded as a subway in Manhattan at rush hour. The transportation to Virgin Gorda was seedier than any transportation available in New York.

Suffice it to say I thought we wasted our money and time and what should have been a memorable trip was memorable for all the wrong reasons. So the staff was nice at times, why shouldn't they be...so there was a lot of food--it was fairly repetitive and boring, except for the alternative restaurant which charged extra. The linens on the bed were dowdy and worn, even the toilet seat had a crack in it. No, the next time I travel I'm staying on land in a first rate hotel, unless someone can convince me it was just the Volendam, or Holland America experiences in general, which are substandard or boring. I have stayed at the Waldorf Towers, the Manor Richelu, Frontanac and Queen Elizabeth in Canada, at Kingsmill Resort and at several Disney properties, to name a few. All were better than this experience.

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