Holland America Cruises Complaint - Sold Alaska got Canada
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON -- I wrote the letter below to the President of Holland it tells the whole story--The response--TOO BAD!
April 30, 2006
Mr. Stein Kruse
President and Chief Executive Officer
Holland America Line
PO Box 34985
Seattle, Wa. 98214
Dear Mr. Kruse
I am writing to share my experience and impression of the cruise to “Alaska” my wife and I took on Holland America’s ship Oosterdam that departed Seattle on May 20, 2005. I am sure you are asking yourself, why did they wait this long? I will provide some background information so the rest of my letter will be in context. The main reason we chose Holland America Line was for the ports of call. We had heard such good things from other travelers, AAA as well as AARP. Holland America’s Reputation for being the top of the line was the original draw because “they always get it right”.
We had wanted to make this trip for 30 years. We saved for quite some time to pre-pay due to the expense. It required sacrifices and not being able to do other things with our expendable income. This was an East Coast to West Coast trip of a lifetime. I have to plan vacation trips 6 months ahead of time. We had limited available time in our schedule to travel this distance. I am a manager in customer service at a phone center.
Since we were to celebrate our 25th Anniversary (May 24th) during the dates of this cruise, we were excited to think we would enjoy it while onboard the Oosterdam. With a trip of a lifetime to Alaska. I still think we had expectations that were attainable for Holland America, just not on our Anniversary. We chose this itinerary from Seattle to Seattle in an attempt to maximize our exposure to the wild life and to see as much as we could of “Alaska” in the short time we had.
It was not long after our departure from Seattle that the announcement was made that due to inclement weather (30-foot seas) we would have to go the Inside Passage to make our trip more safe and smooth. I can only applaud the Captain’s choice to do so; it was a wise decision. I was profoundly disappointed to hear we would have to shorten our time in Juneau, due to the late arrival. We spent ½ the time we were supposed to be able to visit Juneau (we had five hours) a short time for a port call in Alaska. That meant our excursion tour was canceled for Juneau. We were unable to take our Helicopter tour of the glaciers and did not get to go on the dog sled adventure. I understand port clearances, port calls, schedules, travel time and sea conditions. I am okay with change and adapt to it daily at work, but while on vacation, I don’t appreciate the hype of excursions being offered, then excuses for the cancellations.
Our next day at sea was enjoyable, the service and food were both very good. We were taken to Hubbard Glacier and given a spectacular view by the captain. It was so nice to experience the “real ” Alaska that day.
We next visited Sitka, which turned out to be beautiful and a whole lot more than you could have seen in several visits. We especially enjoyed a Wild Otter tour and trip to the Raptor center. Realizing that we had to be back timely for the afternoon sailing, we did not attempt other excursions. The time in the Sitka port was extended (by the Captain) but we were not allowed off the ship again, as you now know; when it came (the scheduled hour) we should sail the anchor chain was jammed in the windless mechanism and kept us from sailing. So we sat onboard the ship looking at Sitka from the deck unable to get back ashore, in preparation for getting under way. The next announcement from the Captain was “We were each offered a glass of champagne as an apology for our schedule change due to the anchor problem”. He also subsequently announced we would not get our time in Ketchican at all, due to the lack of birthing availability. When we heard Ketchican was off the schedule my wife based on the news became physically ill.
The next day when we arrived in Victoria, Canada and the Captain as a gesture of apology provided a free shuttle bus into town. I told my wife “I would not have booked the trip if Canada was scheduled in print for more than ½ a day. This was a port I could have missed and been just as satisfied, and we spent the most time there”. The Captain’s bus shuttle gesture/payment in Victoria was nice, but not enough. The original 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM in Victoria would have been enough. I asked my wife rhetorically, “How can you offer us Canada when we paid for Alaska”?
We ultimately had very limited exposure to what Alaska really is--- A portion of the attraction to go to Alaska were the flying excursions and that was unfulfilled—so we missed the unparalleled beauty that is Alaska. We are deeply disappointed and this has dampened the whole experience.
When we attempted to speak to your Front office employees onboard the ship, their attitude was one of we are not going to do anything and we don’t have to. We were left with a very negative impression and find it hard to believe the Dutch would not do a better job making up for this profound disappointment. As my comment card said before we left the ship we attempted to discuss the situation with the Front office employees, they were not interested in hearing what we had to say and offered no assistance. This is not the type of experience; I remember from my travels in Holland.
When we have mentioned to family and friends the way our trip went. The first reaction has been “What did they offer to do to make up for it?” “At least you will be able to go back, since Holland America is paying for it right?” Other lines have things occur and they offer some kind of incentive to keep customers. Many hotels offer 100% satisfaction. I understand how your position may be one of “well, too bad”. You legally and contractually can adopt that position, but it does not make it the right thing to do. I also know I have no contractual recourse. I hope that will not be your decision.
I am left with the feeling similar to having gone out to dinner, waited in line and ordered surf and turf but was told they only have ribeyes, so we accept it and go along. Then they tell us we’re sorry this time our grill doesn’t work. How about a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich? That is why it has taken me almost a year to write this letter.