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Pierre Parent

Age: 65

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Volendam

Sailing Date: 01-19-2009

Itinerary: New Zealand - Australia

We boarded our cruise with great expectations and the efficiency used during the check in process was impressive. We handed our luggage over, filled in the paperwork and wandered up to our state room in very short order. Then we opened the door to a very pungent disinfectant smell. My wife being a neat freak looked at me and from that, I gathered that this was not a good sign. However, we went in and immediately opened the balcony door (contrary to the sign) to let in fresh air and proceeded to unpack. Opening up the first drawer, we saw all the paperwork left over from the previous occupants and we had to clean that out. On closer look, we noted the many stains on the carpet and specifically a major one near the bed that was very sticky. An examination of the bathroom did reveal fresh towels but the ring around the bathtub prompted my wife to state that there was no way she was going to get in there. The more we stayed in there, the more we noticed that the previous occupant was a smoker and that the blankets and furniture did indeed smell like stale smoke. Hence the need for disinfectants. I must add that since the crew has so little time to prepare for the next trip, such happenings may be expected. Smoking seems to be such an issue these days and I wondered if the company might consider adopting the same approach many hotels have by designating smoking sections on the ship. If you break the rule and smoke anyway, an added hefty charge would be added to your final invoice when you leave. But after a nineteen hour flight, our only objective was to catch up on our sleep. The ship got underway and the following day, we started to explore our new environment. They say that first impressions always last and the first thing we noted is that the ship looked tired. Most of the carpeting reflected excessive traffic wear and much of the woodwork showed years of over polishing. Walls would definitely need a new covering with all the luggage marks rubbed off at least. Our next areas of concern were the costs of the tours offered. I worked out the averages of all tours offered for this cruise to be $150 USD per person or $300 USD per couple. With fourteen days to go, this would amount to a fair bit of change for those who would want to see everything. A few days into the trip, word got around that the same service was available from the downtown tourist bureau at roughly half the cost and in the local currency. The exchange rate being much more favorable, would amount to a much better deal. The excellent downtown shuttle service offered at all ports of call was an attractive option available to those who wanted to see the sights at their own pace. Tourist information services were excellent and the local volunteers who manned these positions were always an terrific source of information. We also appreciated the attention to virus controls used throughout the ship. The provision of what seemed like hundreds of hand wash stations all over the ship became a norm for people to use.

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