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Holland America Line NoordamNoordam Cruise Review
Southern Caribbean
January 2013

by Paul Murray

We were very disappointed with our most recent voyage on the Noordam. There were some very good points about the ship as well, but the overall impression I/we had with the Noordam and Holland America was negative.

I would like to start with the GOOD – Ray and Vincent at the front desk/Purser’s desk were excellent, providing as much assistance as possible with a smile. The Ship it self was clean and in good repair and well handled, both in our cabin and the public areas. The Spa/Gym staff were excellent, especially Saundra the leader of the morning Stretch and exercise class!! (and having these two sessions each morning from 7:00-7:30 and 7:30-8:00 as free classes was GREAT) The dining room food was excellent as was the dining room staff. The Lido food was also good. The dancers were wonderful, both on stage and in the dance classes (In the past we know the dance classes can be hit or miss, but Jason, and all the others did a wonderful job of teaching jibe, Tango, Waltz and Foxtrot!) The Assistant Dining room manager was pleasant and for the 1st time I can remember in a long time, turned away inappropriately dressed would be diners (shorts and t-shirts on “smart casual” nights and gentlemen without jackets on “formal night”) in accordance with published standards and policy – Bravo!

However, our vacation was overshadowed by several events starting even before we boarded:

The first being our dining room seating. When we booked initially, we were unable to get first seating (5:45) and were wait listed. Our travel agent suggested we try back on the day the final portion of the fare was due, which we did. We were able to obtain first seating (and it was reflected on the web site.) When we did the original submission of our documents to check in, 1st seating was displayed. About five days before sailing we went to print more luggage tags and noticed we had been re-assigned to open seating for dinner. We called Holland America Line and were told there was nothing they could do and we would have to call our travel agent, which we did. After spending close to an hour on the phone with our travel agent, we were able to again have 1st seating in the dining room. (And again, we checked the next day to be sure it was on our reservation on the web site and it was.) When we came to board and were issued our ID cards, printed on the face of the card was open seating for dining. We immediately brought this to the attention of the agent that was checking us in. She, rather curtly said there was nothing she could do and we would have to handle it ‘ship board’ by talking with the dining room manager. (In the past we have had to do this to get early seating and it always involves a “gratuity” of around $50.00 and since we worked at getting first seating before the cruise we had no intention giving anyone a gratuity for this again.)

At my insistence, the manager on duty came over and I explained the problem. He also said there was nothing he could do and the only way to fix it was to do it on board. I was surprised that a member of management was not empowered to resolve issues of this nature in a better way. He said my only alternative would be to call the 800 customer service number, which he provided. I did so ASAP right there and then (I think to the manager’s surprise). I talked with a gentleman who claimed he was in the President’s office. He also said that we should just go and talk with the dining room manager. I again explained that fixing it with the dining room manager would involve cash payments and about 1-2 hours of time. I pressed him with “if you are in the president’s office, you mean you can’t solve a simple customer’s issue like dining room seating?” he then put me on hold to “check something” and after a few minutes he came back and said that we should check with “Annie”, the guest relation’s manager on the ship and she would resolve our issue. I thanked him, boarded the ship, and went straight to the front desk/purser’s office and asked for Annie. After a 10-15 minute wait, Annie came out and introduced herself. We explained our issue and she called the Dining room, and after some discussion, we were granted 1st seating and had our ID cards re-issued, but not before Annie informed us that it was not the ship’s fault that we did not have 1st seating. In all of this, we managed to miss the Mariner’s Lunch in the dining room. We were the 7th, 8th and 9th people at a table for eight, so it was crowded, but our dinner companions were great and we all enjoyed each other’s company each night at dinner (there were always empty tables in the dining room and we heard from many others that they also wanted early seating and could not get it, but this has been an ongoing issue, since anytime dining was introduced and a different matter all together.) In all of this, the overall attitude that we encountered, both on the phone before the cruise, at check in and on board was:

• It’s not my fault
• There is nothing I can do about it
• It’s not my issue

Where I was expecting the attitude of “How can I fix/resolve your problem.” Which to me would be a signature of excellence.

• The 1st night of the cruise, we received to notes about the deep sea fishing excursion we booked for a member of our group. One of the notes said the boat was out of commission and the other said here is your ticket for the excursion. Neither were date/time stamped so we did not know which to believe. We called and were not able to reach the excursion’s desk (they were closed) We went down to the front desk to ask. They did not have a clue on which was correct, had no information other than the schedule for the next day with a mark next to the deep sea fishing and said there was no way to contact the excursion people to ask. (Where they were very nice and trying to be helpful, apparently they were not empowered to call/page/locate the excursion people to get an answer to our question.) They suggested that we plan on the excursion, just in case it was “on”, which we did and it was (thank god we did plan) We also noticed that there were several people signed up for Deep Sea Fishing that did not show up at the boat, and we wondered if they had the same issues we did. Again we had the attitude of “there is nothing I can do/that I am allowed to do, to resolve the issue.”
• One night we ordered an in-room movie to be delivered. After the phone hold wait of 3-4 minutes they came on the line, took our order and said the movie would be there in 10-15 minutes, even though we offered to pick it up. After waiting over an hour for the movie, we called again (same 3-4 minute hold) they were surprised that we did not have the movie, then put us on hold trying to find out what happened, then we were told they thought the movie had been delivered asking us to be sure (we checked the outside bin, even though we were in the room the whole time, it was not there) then waited while they tried to figure out what happened. We never got the movie.
• The times and locations of the ship board activities were poorly thought out – nothing scheduled then several things scheduled at the same time. Locations and times of things like team trivia, and shipboard movies were greatly varied, even thought it was always well attended (when we could locate it) The quantity of the activities was very low. The late night Dessert event was held in the atrium, which was way too small. It was cramped, on three levels, and the A/C could not keep up. We left quickly, without sampling much. We almost felt like the venue was chosen so people would leave quickly without partaking in the dessert buffet.
• The movies around the pool on the Lido deck could not be heard/understood, ruining the movie. This is a BAD place to present movies and we declined to view any other movies on the pool deck. When we mentioned it to the Cruise Director, he said he knew and there was nothing that could be done. (Notice the theme of “not my fault, nothing I can do...”)

The following items are just notes/comments about other things we think you should be aware of that normally we would not bother to write about, but since I am already writing, I am including them as well:

• The Cruise Director, (Sean Michaels?) was the poorest dressed Cruise Director I can remember, who told very old, poor jokes to an audience that clearly, after the first couple of times he spoke, didn’t what to hear them. I may be an old fogey, but on formal night, I would expect the Cruise Director to be turned out in a well fitting Tuxedo, complete with bow tie, cummerbund/vest studs and cuff links. This was not the case and it was noticed by many of the guests.
• In the past, participation in trivia, game shows... yielded some nice mementos of the trip. This time, either they were not given or they were so poor as to be not wanted – who really wants another pin... We can remember the days of the Dam Dollars and ending up with a “dam ships” sweat shirt, hat or t-shirt and we miss them.
• Room service was prompt in the morning, delivering our wake up coffee. However, it took them forever to retrieve the tray (sometimes as late as 4:00 pm, even though we called early to to have them picked up) We honored the request not to put them in the hallways, but we were tempted to several times because of the delay in getting them.
• Calling anyone on the ship’s telephone resulted in always being put on hold for 1-5 minutes, regardless of who we were trying to reach.
• The tenders on Half Moon Cay were some of the worst boat handlers I have ever encountered. They struck both the dock and the ship very hard, jarring the passengers and alarming some of them. The weather was not particularly rough or windy, just poor drivers. When the Ship’s tenders were used at Samana, they were smooth and gentle, in worse conditions. Where this did not affect our enjoyment much, I thought I would note this.

This was my 3rd cruise on a Holland America ship in the past five years and each one has been a step down in customer service from the one before. This is an alarming trend and feel that as a loyal customer, I need to make you aware of them. If this trend continues, Holland America will no longer be my cruise line of choice.

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