Archive for April, 2015


April 27, 2015 5 comments

Dishonest, Misleading, Dismissive.

I want to tell you about our cruise on the Holland-American ship the ZUIDERDAM, this last April 2015. We booked a 22 day cruise in the Mediterranean. After forty years of hard work and Garda looking forward to a leisurely retirement we booked the cruise. Sadly, and to the eternal discredit of HOLLAND-AMERICA cruises, it turned out to be less than fun.

We are not normally complainers, life is too precious to spend one’s time BEING precious, so we kicked back and decided to enjoy the trip. Our cabin was to be looked after by Gus and Toro, two friendly, open and delightful men.

We purchased an unlimited wifi internet package for $249, which, the paperwork pointed out, finished at midnight on the 11th day of the cruise. Ok. Fine. No problem. We could understand that. On the first day we found we could not log in. On the second day we found that we could not log in because the “Explorers Lounge” was not yet ready for use and was still being renovated. Third day, fourth day. Still no facility to log in. The Explorers Lounge was still being renovated. When we made a comment to the front desk we were told that we could log on ONLY from the two terminals in their front office ‘at the moment’. Given that all our material required was on our own computers this was not acceptable. Then our time ‘ran out’. Total log in time? UNDER three hours to be VERY kind to them. When we made our views known we were told by the front desk that they were very sorry but there was nothing they could do. So we paid $249 for three hours wifi internet that made a wet weekend seem a hundred times longer!. Three complaints. Intractable and with complete disregard to our need and wishes.

Oh! I forgot! Remember I said that we booked a 22 day cruise? Yes, 22 days as advertised in all the literature. But no. This 22 day cruise was ACTUALLY according to the front office, TWO ELEVEN DAY CRUISES. Therefore the UNLIMITED laundry for which we paid $99 lasted only for the first eleven days of the cruise, and then had to be renewed for another $99. Our assumption of course was that as we had booked a 22 day cruise, we could pay for unlimited laundry for the 22 days. Wouldn’t you?

The dishonesty did not finish there. There was the small matter of GRATUITIES. Automatically charged to your stateroom at the rate of $11.50 PER PERSON per day for the entire length of the cruise. Fortunately a couple of fellow passengers let the cat out of the bag for us and informed us that we could OPT OUT of this impost so long as we did it one day before the end of the cruise. Not the 22 day cruise of course. The 11 day cruise, of which we had inadvertently booked two. We opted out in time and managed to save our gratuities for the people who we felt had actually looked after us. After all, isn’t that what a gratuity is?

Now to the other poor passengers. The ship sailed with the claim that it was newly renovated. NO! Not only was work continuing up on the Explorer’s Lounge and the Crows Nest, (which was not opened until the last day of the first 11 day period,) but quite a number of the staterooms were without flushing toilets, showers, or basic facilities. I met passengers who had been showering in other passengers staterooms for almost a week of their trip. Passengers who complained with
slightly raised voices were told by the front office that they would be put off the ship if they continued to complain.

Oh there is much more, but what is the point? HOLLAND-AMERICA were dishonest, misleading, and dismissive when the mass of complaints were launched at the poor people who had to deal with the front desks. All THEY could do was turn their backs on us all and IGNORE all complaints that they believed to be too difficult for them. Company Policy Rules apparently!

The last straw for us came on April 26th when we were due in Greece. The collection of ALL passengers passports, due to the fact that we would be leaving the EU for one day to visit Turkey. Passports to be returned to us on May 1st. The requirement for almost 2000 passengers to relinquish their MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT to a cruise company which obviously had little or no regard for these people. When we pointed out that we would NOT be surrendering our passports for FIVE DAYS, we were first told that we must. When we stood our ground we were then told that we would be able to stand in line for immigration to view our passports at 0745 and that they only collected our passports for our convenience! What! Five days! NO WAY! Never, ever give over your passport to any company. If they wish to photocopy pages, as many hotels do, then fine, but I want to tell you that if you surrender your passport to any company for FIVE DAYS you either have rocks in your head, or you are entirely too trusting. Identity theft and fraud are massive these days, and while I do not suggest here that HOLLAND-AMERICA are guilty of any kind of truly criminal behaviour, where your passport goes after collection by them is not worth the risk. Take the time to go through passport control as you would at any airport or port. It’s not such an inconvenience.

Oh! Just one more little thing. If you go on a HOLLAND-AMERICA cruise expecting to have a period of duty free and tax free drinks and cigarettes, forget it. A small miniature bottle of liquour will cost you $5.95. Beer $5.25, Wine, (small bottle) $8.00 Sparking wine, (small) $9.50. If you want a coke or a soft drink expect to pay $1.95 for a can. PLUS 15% SURCHARGE AUTOMATICALLY ADDED.

This was not exactly the cruise from hell, because there were many things we did love about the friendly crew.
The dishonesty of the company and misleading literature, added to the exorbitant charges for UNLIMITED services and products, the advertising of a 22 day cruise which was actually two 11 day cruises, the inability of the company to provide these services and products due to unfinished renovations BUT STILL CHARGING FOR THEM, left a very bad taste in the mouths of many passengers.

If you were on this cruise on the ZUIDERDAM from April 14th to May 6th, please feel free to comment. I look forward to hearing from you friends, and readers.
Graham Whittaker,
Author, The Girl From Kosovo.

PS: Don’t forget to take your own Universal Power Adapters. The renovations did not cover we poor non-Americans. Nor will you be able to borrow a portable printer to print those important documents. This luxury cruise ship does not have any!