Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some Cruise Commentary

22JUL09 Aboard the Ryndam

As I awoke this morning my thoughts gravitated to our current trip.

Nine years ago when we took our first cruise aboard Holland America's Statendam, it made quite an impression upon us. Several friends had highly recommended it, and we preferred its smaller passenger capacity of 1258 versus nearly 3000 on many of the Carnival Cruise ships.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. The quality of everything was outstanding: food, service, maintenance and cleanliness were all at a very high level. The crew was in constant motion, cleaning everything, everywhere, and always pleasant and extremely accommodating. Best of all was that we unpacked our clothes one time, yet visited many different places, and when we returned from our onshore excursions, the biggest decision was what would our choice be for dinner. Tips
were included in the cost of the package, but when someone showed outstanding service, we rewarded them with additional gratuity at the end of our trip.

This current cruise has had some disappointments. The food aboard has been adequate but not anything to write home about, except of course for the Pinnacle Grill which we have discussed. A few of the servers in the casual dining area
were sometimes rude and inattentive; the purchase of beverages (wine and soda) was touted, but a water refill hard to come by. There were stains on the sofa and carpeting in our room, and the first several days we had to ask to have the discolored and rather old bath towels changed. Our room was next to a smoker, so often we could neither enjoy the balcony nor have our door opened.

The current policy of the cruise line is to automatically add $11 gratuity per person per diem to your bill (which they say can be adjusted). Perhaps that is one of the reasons we felt there was under-performance on part of some of the staff... they get a tip regardless. We also assume Carnival Cruise, Holland America's parent, has likely implemented many cost-cutting measures during the economic downturn.

So the standard was set by our first cruise. Are we disappointed due to time elapsed over the years? Have we become more particular? Could it be that the lustre is off since this is our third cruise? Or has the performance in fact waned? We do believe it the latter and that the quality and service are not as they used to be... although still good, but there are differences.

Please do not take this negatively for I have merely tried to define those differences recognized and understand the why. Overall, it was a great time, and we will likely do another cruise some time in the distant future.

If you have never been on one, likely you will find it a remarkable experience. I think everyone should try at least one, and you might start with Alaska.

Okay, back to the final days of our journey.