Holland America Cruises Complaint - Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen Cruise
I am writing this letter to express my disappointment and frustration with the Holland America Maasdam July 1-8 sailing. Unknown to myself, my travel agent, and the general public, this particular sailing hosted the famous child actresses, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, and 450 of their teenage fans. This very large party of children was unexpected, unadvertised, and highly undesired, primarily because it had a very negative effect on the cruise experience. Please read on for more details.
On July 1, 2001, I sent my parents on what was supposed to be a vacation of their lifetime. As a special present for my dad’s 60th birthday, I was fortunate enough to be able to pay for them to take a seven-day cruise on the MS Maasdam. I took a lot of time researching the cruise industry and chose Holland America because of its reputation for catering to the sophisticated, elder population. My travel agent assured me that Holland America is known for excellent service, primarily senior citizen clientele, and a grade above other family-oriented cruise lines. Accordingly, I chose against Carnival and Royal Caribbean for their cruise, because I wanted to minimize the possibility of too many kids, teenagers running around in packs, and public areas full of unsupervised adolescents. After choosing your cruise line, I was even a little worried that HAL and its reputation for catering to senior citizens was even going to be “too senior” for my active parents. But, realizing that the summer is big for family vacations, the extra expense for a HAL cruise, with its reputation for a more mature clientele, was a way of hedging my bet that they would have a more desired cruise experience.
This vacation was special to them (and me) because they had never been on a “real professional vacation”. Let me explain this further: My parents are active elders, having spent the last fourteen years running a small independent bagel shop in Scranton, Pennsylvania called “The Bagelwich”. They live on an extremely tight budget, currently running their shop 6-days per week without employee help, because they cannot afford employee benefits or taxes. For ten years, their annual 1-week summer vacation has been spent at a local campground/golf course where they enjoy camping, golfing, and just time away from their small business responsibilities. The only week that they can vacation is the July 4th week, as they cannot afford to close their business at any other time of the year and loose potential sales/revenues. So, when I booked this vacation in February, they were ecstatic and had been looking forward to this cruise for many months.
The expectations for this cruise and vacation were high. They had heard a lot about cruising from their customers. They looked forward to sunning at the pool, relaxing at the hot tubs, dancing before dinner, and playing games in the casino at night. I was so hoping that they would have a great time and enjoy, if even for just a short seven-day cruise, some of the finer things in life. They have done so much for me, their six other children, their grandchildren, their community, and their daily bagel shop customers.
Although the cruise was nice, many of their experiences were negative because Holland America had sold a large block of rooms to a special group of approximately 450 pre-teens fans of the famous Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen child actresses. This extremely large party of children really changed the atmosphere and cruise experience that Holland America advertises and is known for. Instead of relaxing at the pool, they had to avoid it because of all the unsupervised children. Instead of dancing to big band music, the dance floor was filled with children. Instead of relaxing over a drink in a lounge before dinner, they observed teens sitting in groups, banging on the piano, and peddling for tips from other passengers. On the second day of the cruise, my mother wrote a letter and gave it to the front office regarding her dissatisfaction with the amount of unsupervised children and the lack of Holland America’s ability to engage them in purposeful activities.
Here are just a few of my parents’ verbatim quotes and comments about the cruise that they shared with me:
1. “The cruise personnel were poorly prepared in handling this large amount of kids. “
2. “On several occasions, we tried to use the pools, but they were usually full with kids jumping and diving. There was no supervision from the crew nor from their parents. “
3. “On one morning, I was awakened at 3am by someone running in the hall. I looked out and down the hall were two boys about 12-years old. What were they doing out unsupervised at 3am?”
4. “One night, we were in the theatre and six girls came in and sat behind us. They then put their feet on the sofa we were sitting on. After they made a gesture of kicking my wife in the head, we got up and left. Upon leaving the theatre, we went to the TV area on the 8th floor only to see four boys on a sofa and one was destroying the fresh flowers on the table. “
5. “Kids were playing in the elevators, running up and down the steps, and generally out of control. The staff and whoever was in charge had no clue as to how to control kids on the loose. There were no curfews, no restrictions, and no one asking roaming kids where their parents were. “
6. “We overheard on at least two occasions, parents, at dinnertime, telling their kids to be back in the room by 11:30 pm. “
7. “From the gym while docked in St. Thomas, I saw a couple that had children on the cruise coming back to the boat without kids. It seemed that many, many parents used this cruise as an escape from their kids and left your staff to babysit. “
8. “It looked as if this (the large amount of children) was a new experience for the Maasdam crew. There were hardly any areas on the ship where adults could escape without other people’s kids. “
9. “In many of the lounges, the servers, bus people, and waiters observed children unsupervised and out of control. They did nothing. I assumed they didn’t have any authority to do anything. I saw more going wrong with bands of girls, ages 11 to 14, than I saw from boys. “
10. “Many times during the day I observed 2 boys playing the pianos, while young girls flocked around and were noisy. On one occasion a girl was holding out her hat asking for tips. “
After my parents returned from the cruise, I was so looking forward to hearing about how the vacation exceeded their expectations. They did have a good time… how could they not, when they value their vacation time so preciously and the cruise had been a gift? But, they were daily disgusted and bothered by the amount of unsupervised children that hindered them from using most of the public areas. They did enjoy the casino, as it was one place that they were able to escape. My husband and I, as the gift-givers, were very, very disappointed because I feel that this was not the cruise that we had bought for them. I complained to my travel agent and they assured me that HAL does not tell them when a cruise line has reserved such a large block of rooms for a special interest party. This cruise was not advertised anywhere as a “Theme Cruise”. Had I known that approximately one-third of the cruise passengers were to be children, I would not have booked this cruise for my parents. This was not my parents’ vacation of a lifetime, nor anything even close. The price of a seven-day cruise for two passengers is a large expense and our money for this particular cruise was somewhat wasted on a cruise experience that did not meet my expectations for their vacation. The undisclosed fact that this cruise was to be a fan-club cruise for some teen idols was a misrepresentation by HAL and a betrayal of the passengers that HAL is known to serve so well.
To help keep me as a potential future customer, I would like the following:
As I have explained, my parents do not have the income level to purchase a future cruise or any part of another cruise, so a partial discount for a future cruise would probably be meaningless. And, the only time that they can get away from their daily responsibilities/business is the week of July 4, so their next vacation is an entire year away. It is so unfortunate and truly sad that they/we were part of such a misrepresentation of the product that we were purchasing. A complimentary cruise in 2002 over the July 4th week would be a totally altruistic gesture on the behalf of HAL, but it is probably realistically the only thing that would be of use in their case. I do hope that HAL can do something significant in our case, something that is the right thing to do.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding these unfortunate circumstances. Please contact me at the above address or by phone at home or at my email address.
At the very least I would like a response from your company regarding this incident. Thank you for your time.