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Carol & Fabian Contreras

Age: 62

Occupation:retired

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Zuiderdam

Sailing Date: September 10th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

We just returned from our cruise to the Western Caribbean aboard Holland's Zuiderdam. We were rather disappointed in a few things, delighted with others. So let's start with the disappointments.

1) Service...it was not as good as last year. Our bed was left unmade more than a few times. I had to remove our room-service trays after no one came for them, even with a phone call requesting their removal. I sat them on the floor in the hallway, only to be told it was a hazard and I shouldn't be doing that! If they weren't going to come retrieve them, they were going in the hall, especially when we waited over 4 hours for them to come get them! I also was in the Lido pool when I decided I wanted some iced tea. I went over to where you normally get it. Yes, there was iced tea, but no clean glasses. When I asked someone for one, they said go to the bar. I walked over to the bar, and they refused to give me one. They said go to the Lido and get one. I replied that you can't go in there in a wet suit and they just shrugged and said, "Oh go on in." So I went over there...the air conditioning was freezing me standing there in a dripping wet suit, and I suddenly was very uncomfortable with the notion of just walking into the Lido dressed like that. I asked a waiter if he would bring me some iced tea. He said he would so I waited there by the entrance for him to return. It took a while, but eventually I returned to the pool area with 2 iced teas. My husband wanted to know where in the world I had been! When I explained to him, he was amazed that I had been treated like that. I wasn't too happy with it myself.

2) Dinner: again, service. Our courses were served so far apart that we usually were looking around wondering where things were! The other people at our table agreed...service was very poor. I remember reading here that someone told their waiter to bring shrimp cocktails for 6 every night and they got it. So I tried that and was simply told, "We can't do that." I coaxed but to no avail. In fact, when I asked for french dressing, which is very easy to whip up in any kitchen, I was told if it wasn't on the menu, I couldn't have it.

3) Front Desk: I requested, in writing, that they adjust our tips amount. When it wasn't done on the preliminary bill, I went to the front desk and complained. She politely explained that it would be done on the final bill. I received that just before disembarkation and it had not been done, however there was no longer enough time to go back again to the front desk.

4) Children misbehaving: There were several children at the pool who just had no manners! Of course this is in no way the fault of Holland, but I hope it serves as a wake-up call to parents of ill-behaved children. ADULTS DO NO APPRECIATE CHILDREN WHO REPEATEDLY JUMP FROM THE STATUARY, SPLASHING EVERYONE NEARBY. I found it to be extremely rude of them to not consider those who were lounging in the pool, having conversations, when these kids began their wild romp. Immediately after jumping from the polar bear statue, they would climb out, walk to the statue and repeat it again. Very annoying...

5) Stained sheets: We prepared to get in bed one night, only to find the sheet had blood stains on it! Very disconcerting, to say the least.

6) Flight plans made through Holland: Holland got us the earliest flight available..6:30 am..which left us in a scramble to make the 1 1/2 hr trip to the airport! I was so exhausted but figured I could sleep on the plane, plus get a nap in the early afternoon onboard the Zuiderdam. Not to be...Delta shooed us inside after getting off the small plane, saying our 2 carry-on bags was too far back in the plane and that we would have to retrieve them at baggage claim. So we found our way to the Ft Lauderdale baggage claim and the Holland rep. We waited and waited for our bags to arrive but they never did! So I hiked down to Delta and they found that my 2 carry-on bags were on their way to Raleigh, North Carolina! I was so horrified because my pills for the week were in that bag! (The plane was too small to allow very many carry-ons to be inside the cabin.) We spent the entire afternoon in the airport, holding our breath in the hopes that our bags would make it back to Florida in time for the 5pm sailing. Otherwise, we couldn't go! I was so annoyed with Holland for putting us on such a flight. We finally got our bags back, rushed off to the ship just in time to sail. I got neither any rest or anything in compensation.

7) Foul Odor: I awoke one night because of a foul odor in our cabin. I couldn't sleep because of it. It smelled like sewage gases. I called the front desk and reported it, but they never did anything about it, to my knowledge.

Now to what we did like:
1) We loved going to Costa Maya, Grand Cayman Island, Key West and Half Moon Cay. They were all wonderful. We would have gotten up earlier for Half Moon Cay if we had realized how great it was! We missed out on it last year because of hurricane weather. But now we know how wonderful it is so we'd be very disappointed any subsequent trips on Holland to miss it. (Yes, I guess I will give Holland another try..but they will not get a 4th trip from me if it hasn't improved)

2) The food: I found most of the food to be very delightful. My husband has a broader range of food tastes than I, but I still found things I liked. Often at dinner, I would choose one side dish from one dinner and combine it with another. The waiter accepted that and didn't seem to think it was a problem. I still missed those shrimp cocktails though!

3) Those lovely thick robes: it saves quite a bit of room in the ol suitcase when you don't have to pack a bathrobe! And they are quite nice robes too. Very roomy and soft.

4) Pina Coladas: Mmmmmmmmm...what can I say except Yummy!
5) The shows: excellent, talented singing and dancing. Very entertaining!

6) Dinner companions: We lucked out with a couple who was very friendly and likeable. We had a lot in common, which makes us wonder if that was on purpose by those who decide who sits where?

7) Verandah: I would never cruise again without getting one. They make the trip so much nicer. What can match going out on your verandah at midnight, looking out at the ocean and enjoying the solitude? Makes for a very nice few moments to just think quietly.

Well, that's my thoughts for this cruise. I hope everyone who cruises gets to have more pleasant moments than unpleasant! This trip didn't have the charm that last years had, but then again, we were 1st timers last year!

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