Horrible Zuiderdam experience - HAL will not respond
I have been waiting for nearly 25 days for ANY kind of response from Holland America regarding the long terrible problems on the Zuiderdam last month (July 2008) - so far EVERY response was "oh, who cares - we'll be in touch when we're ready" - what a terrible way to treat and lose a repeat customer.
1. HAL Reservations:
Our entire group was to fly out of SFO to Venice and then return August 31 from Barcelona back to SFO.
And this is where the problems seriously began. Upon getting the travel documents, it was clear that something was wrong with the reservations. The HAL/Delta reservation person kept booking the various members of our party on different planes and it took extensive time to get them to accept four people traveling together did NOT want to be on separate planes. Yet upon their "final" version of reservations, it was clear there were serious errors. On the departure, we 4 were traveling together, BUT we could not secure seat reservations for me, John or Brian. Answer was that somehow we were booked as if the departing flight 150 went direct to Venice when in fact it stopped in JFK, required a change of planes and a transition to a new flight 150. Four separate supervisors and nearly 2 hours at JFK finally got this issue handled, but with NONE of us flying in adjacent seats, as we had long requested, during that long stretch. No apologies, no explanation, merely that HAL's representative got it wrong and the impression that it was our fault for working with an incompetent booking agent.
The madness around reservations was even worsened at departure out of Barcelona . Three of us, me, John and Brian were routed out of Barcelona to Atlanta and then to SFO. Georgie was forced into a much earlier flight sending her alone to JFK and then to SFO. At no time would anyone at HAL or Delta correct this problem, the entire attitude is that "oops, gee we're sorry, can't fix this one either".
There were also many problems with Delta professionalism and staff, but that is something we'll take up with Delta in separate correspondence with them. But know that the total non-concern from HAL on this area PLUS the "shut up and do what we say" attitude from Delta make a very poor impression and became a major problem for all of us during this time.
3. Arriving on the Zuiderdam:
While hampered a bit by the inability of the Venice transport team to really speak English, we finally arrived at the terminal with luggage intact. Your check in process was the first smooth and easy part of the trip and it gave us fresh hope things were finally going to turn around. Yet, upon arrival at rooms 4130 and 4132, it was a new struggle. Compared to the rooms we had experienced on the Volendam earlier, these rooms were cramped, smelled old and clearly had furnishings that were tired, broken and scuffed so much that I was shocked to see them on a HAL ship. Room 4132 was the true disaster. The walls had multiple wide scars and scrapes and the wall near the bathroom had wide broken sections. I felt as if I had arrived at a low end Motel 6, NOT a high end luxury cruiseship.
Immediately I went down to the front desk and asked for assistance on correcting this either by shifting rooms or at least having someone look at the room to suggest other steps. Despite many assurances, and a note being taken down NOT ONE person followed up to this problem, and no one ever responded to my urgent request for assistance. You will hear this result many times Gary during the write up unfortunately.
4. Cruising Issues
We wedged into these rooms somehow, and waited for the professional response I assured my group would of course be coming from HAL (based on past experiences) - response that never occurred.
Upon returning from Catania , my son has purchased a faux samurai sword. Security said they needed to keep this, but would return it to us on the night prior to departure. What no one mentioned is that security ripped away the wrapping and dismantled the entire sword, breaking it and leaving it entirely unusable. What is even more astounding- when I picked up the sword, not one person told me about the damage or even referenced it when returning the sword to me. It was only upon returning to the room that the destroyed state of the sword was obvious - Christine of the Guest Relations team was contacted and she wrote a voucher for the cost of the sword. But cannot understand, why a team with X-Ray technology needed to destroy this item and knowing it had been destroyed give it to me without a single word of comment â leaving it for me to discover on my own. It is not possible to replace and my son's disappointment colored the rest of the cruise.
Shore Excursion - ROME
We set up four shore excursions with you in this trip (plus had arranged four in our previous Volendam tour) but nothing prepared us for the terrible experience of the Panoramic Rome tour. The entire tour party (not just our group) was astounded to learn only upon arrival at St. Peter's that the tour would NOT include the Sistine Chapel- my whole life I understood the chapel is just off the main Basilica - yet due to some gerrymandering it was not included at all. This serious lack of information (as that the Chapel being excluded was never mentioned in any of the literature) was increased by the disappointing news that the tour was taking us to an unknown, isolated restaurant, where for nearly two hours we were forced to sit in a hot, steaming underground "C" level restaurant where plates of warm, brown salad with green ringed egg yolks were followed by cool, dry lasagna (only pasta and sauce) accompanied by stale bread and warmish wine that caused immediate headaches. One member of our group became seriously ill and vomited multiple times on the bus immediately leaving the restaurant.
The day worsened when the guide blithely said "no, we will not be stopping at any of well known sites during our drive by of the city" YET unannounced we were forced to stop for 45-50 minutes at an unknown church outside of the city walls. Surely if we had this time, more interesting locations might have been able to be viewed?
Furious about the massive misrepresentation and the horrible dining conditions, I filed an immediate complaint with Shore Excursion staff, at the direction of the front desk personnel. I was assured that someone would be in touch that day, yet day after day passed and NO ONE ever responded to this until I spoke to Christine on another matter. Even then, the response was so condescending and dismissive; it made the situation far worse rather than better. I am attaching the letter for the file, as I consider it one of the worse professional responses to a client that I've ever seen. When you have a valid set of issues and concerns someone sending a generic letter stating, "that tour is what we say - sorry you didn't like it" that in no way addresses any of the serious problems and concerns, shows all too clearly that guests don't matter and their concerns are not of interest.
In this area, we strongly felt and asked the entire excursion fee should have been refunded and we still are asking that this refund be issued as the only fair response to this major problem.
Room Condition - worsens
As we entered the last few days of the cruise, we found the air conditioning in 4132 was not working effectively, but given the total non-response from the crew, we just endured rather than asking for help. However, when the shower drains in the handicapped room totally clogged - resulting in soapy water flowing into the room, we did need to ask for assistance. At this time, I went again to the front desk and insisted on speaking to a senior staff member. Christine appeared and told me, as guest relations on board, she had never been told about any of our problems. Within an hour four execs were in our room, and each one was shocked at the conditions of the room in general, the state of the shower drain and especially the pronounced stink of mildew coming from the room.
The room continued to be uninhabitable for the remainder of the cruise. We were given access to room 8105 but any chance to truly enjoy the cruise had been destroyed by this point. While Christine did waive the fee for dinner at the Pinnacle our last night - it in no way replaced the vacation that the crew, staff and ship conditions combined to destroy for us on multiple levels.
What is most sad about this account is that these are only the MAJOR issues, and that at this moment we have no faith that anyone at Holland American truly cares about our ruined holiday or any of the issues raised above.
5. Departure - Major Problems
As mentioned earlier, the fact that the four of us were not allowed to travel home together was a major issue. This was compounded by many Delta staff and scheduling problems that we will address separately to that company, but of course even further lowered our opinion of your company, since YOU selected Delta as our flight carrier.
Lastly, and still a major problem, when the final three of us (myself, John and Brian) left the Zuiderdam to make our flight at BCN, we had seven items of checked luggage. Six suitcases and one white box (about 36" x 22 wide) that had my home address, cell number, Zuiderdam room # and our Blue 5 departure tag clearly visible). We collected all seven items at the terminal, and I personally escorted the cart to the bus and watched all items loaded onto the bus. YET upon arrival at BCN only the luggage was removed and the box was not delivered. Ground staff promised to contact the bus, yet that never happened in the hour we waited with the bus line representative. We filed claim 50904 (scanned copy attached) and have also spoken to staff at the Personal Property Claims Dept in Seattle . So far despite repeated calls all I get is "we have not heard back from Barcelona ".