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Joe Revelette

Age: 40

Occupation:Teacher

Number of Cruises: 10

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zaandam

Sailing Date: April 12th, 2003

Itinerary: Bahamas

This is the letter that I wrote to the company but never received any response. I felt we were very fair. We are a couple that very rarely complains and to be honest is not comfortable but after thinking about it for two weeks my fiancé and I decided to write the company. To be frank, there is no comparison when in comes to personal attention like Princess. There are some clear differences in attitude, visibility of officers and most of all attention to detail. The Zandaam was a nice ship and to be honest maybe we just caught them off guard but nevertheless, we were looking forward to this vacation and it seemed throughout the cruise that we were the ones bothering the crew.

To: Customer Relation department of Holland America
From: Joe Revelette and Vickie Hall
Subject: April 12-16 cruise from Port Canaveral

To whom it may concern: My name is Joe Revelette and my fiancé’s name is Vickie Hall and we are writing you in regards to the cruise that we took from Port Canaveral on April 12. I want you to know that we truly are appreciative of the opportunity to have taken the cruise and even though we would not be cruise experts, we have taken a total of ten during our relationship and we had a few items that we wanted to discuss with your company as well as your policies.

First, we loved the Zaandam. It was a nice ship with a good crew. Also, there is truly no other island like Half Moon Cay. It was clearly the highlight of the cruise as it was everything as advertised. However, Vickie and I are teachers here in Ohio and although we love to cruise we don’t want to just throw away our money. We have cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean in the past and also have had positive experiences. We kept hearing from our friends what a great cruise line Holland America was. Last year when we were in Skagway, Alaska we walked by a Holland America ship and we decided to take a cruise during spring break of this year. I could go on about the positives of your company but I would like to share some concerns with you about the cruise we took and maybe you can tell us what some of your policies are and what happened on our cruise.

First of all price. When the cruise was originally advertised we bought it through a company called Cruise.Com. The price was listed as $525. We went ahead and booked and put the flyer in our monthly pamphlet distributed to the teachers throughout the district. Two months before the cruise we saw a trip on your new ship called the Zuiderdam that was a seven-day Caribbean. We asked if we could change to that ship. We were told by the company that under your policy that since it was another port other than Canaveral it would not be possible and that if we wanted to take that cruise we would forfeit all of our money (which we paid ALL upfront) and that Holland America would charge us an extra 15% for the cancellation plus the new fare. Naturally, we decided to keep the cruise that was originally booked. The question I would have is the policy that was stated to us correct? Why were we not allowed to change to the Zuiderdam? Last, the week before the cruise we saw that the cruise was listed on Travelocity at $299 and some of those people ended up with a window. We were told that since we booked in advance we were assigned an inside cabin early and that could not be changed. In a nutshell, we had the feeling of being seriously overcharged for the value of the cruise. Nevertheless, we were happy to go and have a great time.

Second, above all else was the professionalism of the crew. The other two couples who came with us stressed this to us the entire cruise. I was told by one of the crewmembers that they were preparing for a Panama Canal trip and that there were major preparations that had to be made prior to the trip. What we saw was a lot of skeleton crews. For instance, a continuous sore spot was the buffet lines on the top floor. Every time we went to eat at the buffet there was one line for the passengers and one for the officers. I have never seen this on any other ship and to be frank we found it odd because of the very long lines on the passenger side. This is not a major problem unless there are huge lines in one and not the other. This was clearly the case. There was a line for breakfast on that Sunday morning that went out the door all the way back to the elevator. When I walked over to the officer’s line we were told that it was not for passengers. There were about ten uniformed men that seemed to be very relaxed and there was no one in line. This seemed to happen the entire time. On the other cruise lines, both buffet lines were always open to passengers 24 hours a day.

It just seemed throughout the cruise that this was a cruise where the crew was not interested in the passengers. On Sunday evening, my fiancée and I went to the crow’s nest for a drink because the pool closed at 7:00. There were only six to ten people in the lounge, 4 of which were uniformed officers. It took us forty minutes to get a drink. The officers were served first and often before us. What bothered us the most was a remark that a waitress said to another about one of the crew parties the night before. Her remark was very unprofessional and to be honest was something we really didn’t need to hear. Also, the pools were closed every evening at 7:00. I didn’t know if this is policy. This is unheard of on other ships. On Tuesday, there was a sign that stated the pool was closed at 7:00. At 7:15 many of the crew showed up and swam until 9:00. On Monday night we went to the back of the boat to watch the sun go down and the officers were out lounging in the chairs and so the best seats were taken. Again, there were some rumblings about who was on vacation and who was working.

Visibility of officers on duty was a huge issue. There seemed as if there was little accountability anywhere. We never saw the captain once. Now to be fair we did not sit during the evening seating but on Princess we saw officers on duty everywhere and the captain at least once a day. We could not even tell you what the captain looked like.

On the tender to Half Moon Cay, we were literally run over by the crew that had the day off. We were set to go on the first tender and were waiting in the lounge. When we went down to get on the tender we were asked to step aside so that about ten members could get on board before us. We didn’t think much about it at first because we thought they were working on the island but when we got there we saw a mad scramble for some of the best shaded beach chairs and it became obvious they were there for the same reason we were. What made my fiancée very upset was how she was bumped from the first excursion to go snorkeling by a crewmember. This is unheard of and in my opinion unacceptable! When she asked the excursion director why, she was told that the crewmember was scheduled to work clean up and she needed to get her snorkeling in beforehand. Naturally, I decided to go with my wife the second excursion but by the time we got back to our beach chair it was taken by another crewmember.

In writing this I have to tell you I hate complaining. We do not expect red carpet treatment and we are not those who expect to be pampered but I have to tell you we were really looking forward to this trip. When we spoke to a few passengers who had cruised Holland America they assured us that it was a great cruise line but that this was just one that did not go off well. We believe them and we do intend to cruise with your company once again. The ship, entertainment, workout facility, excursions (especially Half Moon Cay which my fiancée is writing about in next month’s column) were too nice. We really don’t like to threaten or complain but I have to admit we have some concerns about what your on board customer priority policies are. I feel a little embarrassed because our group paid a lot more than others did. We were not able to switch to the seven day Zuiderdam cruise and one of the couples that we talked into going with us because they were recovering from the death of their daughter at Christmas put us and especially my fiancée in a credibility tight spot. We work in the best school district in the state of Ohio and many people depend on us to tell them the truth about the vacation packages that we research and take. In the last two years, our social committee has generated $110,000 of revenue for cruise lines from a pool of 1,375 teachers. This may not be very much in your eyes but for teachers, it is. We have to be smart with our money. Contrary to popular belief, we too look forward to spring and Christmas break. We hope to hear back from you about our concerns and we look forward to cruising Holland America once again. Our home e-mail is jrevelette@cinci.rr.com. Thank you for your time.

Joe Revelette
Vickie Hall

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