Archive for April, 2017


April 27, 2017 1 comment


On Tuesday 11th April The Daily Navigator stated on the front cover “Happy Passover”. That evening they had a Passover Dinner. The Cantor did his thing. Our Jewish friends were all very complimentary about it.
After dinner that evening I sat outside and listened to their chat. There were cigars and laughter all around. The cuisine was apparently excellent.
Today, Friday 14th April, Good Friday, the cover of The Daily Navigator was little more than simply crass. “Friday April 14th 2017. Good Friday. AT SEA. Tonights dress. Gala attire”
Gala attire? This is the day our Christ was crucified. There was no mention in the Daily Navigator for those of the passengers who were Roman Catholic. They have mass EVERY Sunday. There was no other mention of any other service for our Catholic friends.
Nor was there any mention of any kind of service for our interdenominational friends. (Which includes ourselves.)
This, in spite of the statement in the WELCOME brochure that “An Interdenominational service is conducted each Sunday and on appropriate religious holidays.”
What did we get? We got “Tonights Dress, Gala Attire”.
There was mention of some kind of ‘Bible Study’ at 2.30pm. Not a single mention of any kind of service to commemorate the crucifixion of Our Lord.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m personally a Buddhist, but there are many many quite aged people on this ship who are not. They deserve better.
I took it upon myself to go to the front desk to issue a complaint on behalf of the many on this ship who commemorate Good Friday in contemplation and prayer. Could the company not have suggested instead of “Gala Dress” which is entirely offensive, “Formal Dress”. Crass is company policy on this shipping line.
I have to say that the young Filipino gentleman on the front desk, as I made my complaint made no attempt to hide his own shock and singular offense at this utterly crass attitude. He was a young Catholic, and fully understood my quiet ire at the company.
The Zaandam had a Rabbi/Cantor on board. A Volunteer and unpaid. There is a Chaplain. (Volunteers.) What is the problem? Can’t they even begin to understand that many many of the older people on board this ship commemorate the crucifixion or Our Lord?
It will be interesting to see what happens on Easter Sunday, when He was resurrected!
I will keep you posted.

This afternoon we sat and watched the lines of traditional C of E and ‘other’ traditionalists trying to find something to eat. There were some rather floppy fish fillets that looked entirely unappetizing. There were few takers. Most settled for an egg and lettuce sandwich and a bowl of fruit salad.
And so…. Bible studies at 2.30 in the Wajang Theatre on deck 4. Our Chaplains, Nathan and Cindy were nice people. Dedicated, but evangelical. Not the traditionalists we had hoped for. We stayed around and listened to a very interesting talk from Nathan, followed by prayers. It wasn’t what we needed, and there was a sense of emptiness even after talking for a good twenty minutes with Nathan. Cindy helped. Oh! Look! They were nice people. Very nice people, and completely dedicated. But tradition was not a part of their way. They were very Texan. Very American. Very evangelical.
We made our point. They apologized, but honestly there was really nothing they could do. Holland America has cut their staff numbers. There is no longer a traditional Chaplain on board to hold services.  Holland America has cut more than these simple services. The crew have been cut to the bone, and there is no longer any cohesion. Cindy and Nathan too, were shocked to hear that the C of E, Methodist, and Calathumpians were trotting from one side of the servery to the other in a constant line dance, looking for some worthy sustenance.
The problem now with Holland America is that crew are deserting a ‘sinking ship,’ pun intended, and going to the better quality cruise lines like Crystal etc. (Thirty six days on the Zaandam became Hell itself after day fourteen.)  It makes sense to them. They don’t have to work so hard because they are short-handed. (Some work a full seven days, though this would not be admitted officially.) The ships are smaller and this makes for smaller gratuities. Many of the other lines do not charge gratuities extra, but include them in the price of the cruise. Holland America charge for beverages, alcohol (expensive) and don’t forget the twelve dollars a day per person gratuities. (You can opt out and pay the people you want to later.) They charge a service charge for your wine in the restaurant. But that’s another blog!
On the whole, Good Friday was a dreadful disappointment. We looked forward to a few rousing choruses of “Immortal Invisible God Only Wise” and “He Who Would Valiant Be.” Finishing with a swaying “For Those In Peril On The Sea.” That, after a quiet sermon from Mark 23. (Look it up! Stop asking me to give you chapter and verse!)
Oh well, let’s just see what Easter Sunday brings.

Good Friday April 14th 2017 Graham Whittaker.

Categories: an eclection



I’ll keep this short I promise. It’s not often that I advertise any company more than once (or twice maybe) in my blog. BUT. (Oh! Here we go again with another BUT…)
Here’s the rub. We are currently in Peru. Yesterday, before cruising overnight to Lima, we had a day at another port. The Daily Navigator, the information paper about what is going on and where we are going, was delivered the day before and it said we were going to a place called PISCO.
Come the morning, the first shuttle bus arrived, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, fifth and sixth. People were heading ashore from as early as 8am. We tend to be late wanderers. Being independent travellers we tend to wait until the markets and cafes are open, so it was about about 10.30am when we sauntered into the Ocean Lounge to get our shuttle tickets.
We sat waiting patiently and quietly until an American lady came to the counter and asked why we were being told we were heading for El Chaco, a twenty five minute drive away over stunning desert scenery. Then a second person, an Australian said “Look, you advertise that we are going to Pisco, and we are going to somewhere else. What’s the score?”
Fascinated, we watched the interchange and the increasing ire of the passengers, who mostly believed that they would be ferried by bus to Pisco. “Oh..” Said one of the girls, with a blithe wave of her arm. “We are going to El Chaco. If you want to go to Pisco, you will have to take a taxi from El Chaco. It’s about another thirty five minutes. It costs about twenty five dollars.” (US.)
OK, hey, that’s not right! I stood for the American and the Australian. “You advertise Pisco. You’ve said nothing to all those people who have already gone ashore, and now you say, when you are questioned about it that you are not going to Pisco. Not on!”
Things got a bit restless. Passengers began to drop their shuttle tickets on the counter in anger and decide not to go ashore.
Eventually a small mutiny was beginning, and the word quickly got around that no, we were not going to go to Pisco, but only to El Chaco. To be told that we would have to negotiate a taxi ride to Pisco was salt in the wound.
Some people (me included) were not going to let this little piece of misrepresentation go away easily.
Down came Ryan the location guide who tried to placate the muttering crowd, and doing a bad job of it. Our number, 27 was going to be another 40 minutes or so and the American lady with number 20 offered up her ticket and refused to go ashore. She had her heart set on Pisco, and already her day was ruined.
Ryan, glib as usual tried cover up. Holland America do a lot of covering up apparently. “Our shuttle schedule was changed this morning without us being informed.” He said. I laughed a little sarcastically. This cruise is booked many months ahead. The shuttle should have been locked in. But no, they made it even worse. Over the PA system dear little Mario the cruise director, his over happy Canadian DJ voice booming decided to make things worse. “ There is a need to provide some clarification.” He prattled. “Our shuttle bus will only be going to El Chaco today. This is because of Palm Sunday being a very busy day….” (It was Saturday, not Sunday.)
Oh dear, things went from bad to worse. There was much grumbling and many folk walked away from their expected run ashore. It seemed a bit late to be telling people now that the destination was being changed. Several hundred people had already been ferried ashore with nothing said! It took a multi-national mini mutiny to get any information from Holland America, and when they were questioned about the printed material being quite different from the destination, they were not very good at thinking on their feet.
Why do people lie and obfuscate? I don’t know the answer. Let me know in your comments. All Holland America staff needed to do was to say that there had been an error in the printing of the Daily Navigator and that the destination would in fact be a lovely little place called El Chaco. Simples!

El Chaco main street

People would have easily accepted that. The fact that they had hoped to just get away with it is a typical Holland America ruse. They did it on the MS Zuiderdam, and they did it on the MS Zaandam. It’s in their DNA to obfuscate and mislead and expect to get away with it.
OK. Let’s leave that. It’s over and done. The bus ride into El Chaco was over the most beautiful and desolate landscape, the desert changing hue, the massive dunes and ridges. Lots of adventurous cyclists riding the bumpy road.
The thing about deserts is that many folk would think that there is nothing there. Wrong! Not only is it hurtingly beautiful, but there is an abundance of life.El Chaco candleabra2 But so little time for us. We had to be back on board before 5pm, and it would have been nice to get into the desert and take some photographs. It was positively stunning.
As we came into the town it was a delightful surprise. Full of backpackers and visitors, the many cafes and bars were overflowing along the sea shore, and the fishing fleet a blaze of colour.El Chaco1 Pelicans,El Chaco solo Pelican Inca terns and masses of birdlife buzzing the silky seals. Boys and girls swimming. And every place connected to wifi!
El Chaco is reminiscent of an old style gold town. Higgldy Piggeldy buildings made from adobe bricks and sticks and rushes. Stalls full of fantastic fossils and rocks and crystals brought in from the desert. For anyone interested in collecting such things, there is a magnificent variety of geological and biological fossils and stone. Giant sharks teeth millions of years old, turquoise, iron pyritees, quartz of all colours and shapes. Big pieces of beautiful pink quartz, all this taken from that magnificent arid desert.
Anyone who has not yet discovered El Chaco should put this on their ‘to do’ list. Already thousands of backpackers and casual tourists have discovered this amazing little town, that seems to have grown and spread from the seashore into the arid land.El Chaco backpacker2
It was one of the jewels we will never forget. Thanks to the lady who gave us her number 20 and got us on an early bus!
Eating is cheap, and the local Cristal beer comes in a big bottle. It’s a deceptively strong beer and two bottles will be enough to give any casual drinker the wobbles.
We wandered the markets, took pictures, and simply marvelled at the gorgeous ‘Hippiness’ of the place. The only difference between the hippies of my day and the new-age backpacking hippies is the fact that they are connected! Everywhere has wifi! And it’s cheap! Very cheap. We sat for an hour or two in a strange and ramshackle but busy little eatery on the shore. Two bottles of beer, a large plate of mixed seafood, and a sparkling mineral water later, we got change from twenty USD. A number of people, like us, wandered around El Chaco and sampled the famous Pisco Sour, a drink famous in the area. They ended up walking as if they were still on a rocking vessel!
Put El Chaco on your list before it gets too commercial. (Like Lima!)
And a little message to Holland America. We came on this cruise for the destinations. They have been well worth the problems caused by the shipping line. Under-crewed, obfuscating and misleading, but you can’t fault the destinations on this South American cruise. If only they would serve hot food, keep an eye out for the huge amount of chipped crocery, and just stop telling porkies to the passengers! People are basically very understanding of things. They don’t need to be treated like mushrooms… and if you don’t know the reference it is about being kept in the dark and fed bullshit!
El Chaco may not have been the expected destination, but if the company had been honest early in the morning and corrected their stuff up, there would be a lot more happy campers and a lot less mumbling and grumbling about being shafted!
Oh and just one more thing. If you are thinking of coming on a cruise with Holland America be prepared to suffer the indignity of being ‘sold to’ every minute of every day you spend on board. NO opportunity to sell you something at inflated prices, from art work to shore excursions is missed. It’s really annoying to pay twenty six dollars for a ten dollar bottle of wine and then a three dollar service charge on top. But (there is that big BUT again) that’s another blog.


Categories: an eclection



So you had a bad experience on a cruise? Never again, you say, will you book a cruise on that cruise line. Well, it’s not as easy as you might imagine to NOT put the money into the pockets of the people that upset you the first time.

Let’s have a look at ownership of the various brands, and build a ‘family tree’.

In a world where the watchword is ‘competition’ you would expect just that. Sadly, as in most things competition is little more than smoke and mirrors. Not just in cruise ships, but in most multi-billion dollar enterprises. Airlines have shares or full ownership of other airlines. Genuine competition is a rare bird indeed. Mining, banking, retail, insurance, entertainment, you name it, companies are so intertwined and part or wholly owned by a single entity that no matter what you do to try to extricate yourself from any one, you may find that your second, third or subsequent choice is simply another company owned and operated by some corporate monster.

It’s really no different with Holland America. So, for your edification here is a list of the cruise lines now owned by the great conglomerate.

It’s a fascinating industry with conglomerates owning a number of cruise lines and subsidiary companies shooting off in all directions. (I can see a loophole here for some enormous tax dodges!) Anyway, that’s not my business. They can do what they like so long as they don’t bilk the customers. In my opinion Holland America are doing entirely the wrong thing insomuch as they

  1. Have institutionalised the menu’s across their fleet, so even if you are paying twice as much to travel on the Prinsendam as you would on the Zaandam, you still get the same old stodge not fit for a one star hospital!

  2. They work on the standard of “sell, sell, sell” with shore excursions costing an arm and two legs against what you could arrange for yourself when you go ashore.

  3. While they claim that (say) between the Prinsendam and the Zaandam, there is a difference in crew ratio. (Crew on the Prinsendam is they say almost one to one), the cost for a 28 day cruise we enquired about was being sold to us on board for $16,000 per person by the cruise consultant on board the Zaandam, the same cruise had been offered to another passenger by being sent a flyer, for half that amount!

  4. The crew on the Zaandam, and, we are told, on other Holland America cruise ships have been cut brutally. It’s all just too much!

  5. Forget any kind of half way decent entertainment! There are talks given by volunteers who are given some perks for being there. The “Chaplain” on the Zaandam was a lovely couple who were sent by their evangelical ministry (volunteers again!) Cindy and Nathan. Neither had any real idea of traditional religion or traditional services.

  6. On our particular cruise around South America it slowly dawned upon many of the passengers that we seemed to be always berthed in CONTAINER PORTS and bussed quite long distances into small towns. Cruise ship ports were available, but oh no! NOT another container port and a long trip to the nearest town! Cost cutting again. All in all this was a most unsatisfactory research trip around South America. By the time we all reached Vancouver the mutterings among the passengers were getting louder, but with no one to listen we grumbled and groaned amongt ourselves.

Glad to be off the Zaandam, and not planning on using ANY Holland America, OR Carnival Cruise ships again for at least a very long time! Most passengers spoken to agreed.

Here is another website to give you a guide for your next cruise.—who-owns-the-various-cruise-lines.html Don’t be fooled by price when you make do your research. Look for a cruise which includes gratuities or at least most of the things you might expect in a long cruise. Otherwise you will find a hefty bill at the end of the trip!

Categories: an eclection