JFK56

JFK56
First Mate

Joined: 03/17/2014
9
Cruises
4
Reviews
15
Helpful Votes

JFK56's Past Cruises

Norwegian Epic

October 2014 - Norwegian Epic to Transatlantic

Zaandam

April 2014 - Zaandam to U.S. - Pacific, Northwest

Holland America, Still A Very Good Cruise Line, But, Used To Be Better

Holland America (HAL) provides a very enjoyable cruise experience.  I would rate both their service and food as being very good.  

However, after sailing HAL eight times since 2003, we have observed that their level and quality of food and service has continued to decline during our last three voyages over the last several years.  Up to a few years ago, it was consistently excellent.  HAL is owned by Carnival, and I would like to think that the overall decline we have observed is just an aberration and has nothing to do with parent Carnival applying cutbacks on the prestigious HAL.     

The attitude of the crewmembers is superb and they always do their best to make your cruise a memorable experience.  However, while the crewmembers always have a good attitude, their capability to meet your expectations is sometimes lacking perhaps due to their empowerment, support or training.  This lacking in meeting your expectations has become more and more present over the last several years.  Still, overall, we did find our expectations fulfilled.   

The condition of the ship was fair to good.  When we were last on this same ship, the Zaandam, in February of 2012 for an 14 Day Hong Kong to Hong Kong cruise, we commented to the ship management that we felt the ship was showing it’s age.  They assured us that the Zaandam was going to dry dock to be refurbished.  We were looking forward to being on the Zaandam again, in part, to see how well it was refurbished. In fact, we had the very same cabin this time, the Pinnacle Suite, Cabin 7001,  as we had the last time so it was easy to see the improvements if any.  For some reason, they changed he name of the suite from the Penthouse Suite to the Pinnacle Suite.   While we did see some improvements, we were still disappointed in areas that were not improved or the use of lower grade replacements such as cheaper carpets.  Plus over the years we have noticed little things such as they use to have beautiful towels with the Holland America color logos and now they have just plain old white towels without logos.  They use to have glasses that would fit into the glass holders in the bathroom so they would not slip off during rough seas and now they just plain glasses that do fit into the holders and they slip off the counter.  The glass shower door that broke while we were on this ship in February of 2012 has been replaced with an ugly curtain that does not even fit the opening.  All of these are small details, but they add up and it is the little details that sometimes can tell the whole story.  All of this seems to confirm a possible sad pattern that perhaps parent Carnival is simply making too many cutback on what was once a great cruise line.  Holland America is still a very good line and I am sure that to any passenger who is new to Holland America, that all they would see is a very good cruise line, as they would not know how Holland America used to be even better.  I do hope that either Holland America gets back to the greatness that they once were or that our experiences are just aberrations. 

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Rotterdam

December 2012 - Rotterdam to Europe - Western Europe

Still A Class Act, Great Service, Good to Great Food, Could Use More Restaurants, Maybe Cutting Back Too Much

We have been on 7 voyages with the Holland America Line (HAL) and about to go on our 8th with them.  The ms Rotterdam was our 7th voyage and is a beautiful ship staffed by an excellent crew. 

 

It has four restaurants on board that I rate anywhere from fair to excellent.

 

La Fontaine Dinning Room, which is their main dining room, serves fair to excellent food with service to match.  It can be hit and miss on both the quality of the food and the level of service.  This is not to complain, they are actually doing a fine job when you consider all the guests they have to feed with full table service on a ship in a short period of time.  You will enjoy most if not all of your meals here, but, do try and eat at their specialty restaurants,, as it is well worth the extra cost.

 

The Pinnacle Grill, is their fine steak and seafood specialty restaurant that is reservation only and does charge a fee.  It is well worth the fee and effort to make a reservation to eat there.  I would equate it to a 4 star or even approaching a 5 star restaurant in the quality of the food, service and presentation.  After the first night, they do book up quickly as word gets around the ship as to how great they are, so make your reservations as soon as you can.

 

The Canaletto is their Italian theme restaurant and is located within the greater Lido buffet area.  Do not let that fool you as this is not buffet quality food but very good to excellent Italian fare.  I would rate them somewhere between 3 to 4 out of 5 stars.  This is a newer restaurant for the Holland America Line (HAL) and the restaurant staff seems extra eager to win your business with great service and attitude.  We found on our voyages with HAL that at this restaurant, they will let you order items not on the menu, as long as the Lido kitchen has the ingredients … an advantage to having this restaurant sharing the same greater area with the Lido.  I cannot guarantee that the Canaletto will keep up this practice of letting you order off the menu, but, I hope they do because it was a nice touch.  There is a fee to eat at the Canaletto, though not as high as the Pinnacle Grill, but, once again, well worth it.

 

The Lido Restaurant is basically a very large buffet style restaurant that serves fair to good food.  It can get crowed during peak hours, but, it never seemed too bad.  Tables near the window can go quick..

 

My biggest concern with the Rotterdam and HAL in general is that I feel they need to add more restaurants.  Their largest ships, the Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, from their Signature Class, also have the Asian theme restaurant, the Tamarind.  We had the great pleasure of eating there while sailing the Eurodam and it is our favorite of all HAL’s restaurants. Alas, the Rotterdam does not have the Tamarind. :(

 

Our other concern with the Rotterdam and HAL is that they are owned by Carnival, and over our 7 voyages on HAL during the last eleven years, it does appear in our narrow “slice of pie” experience that Carnival is cutting back on quality and service.  This is part of the reason we are trying NCL later this year on thier ship, the Epic, to see if they are better. The other reason we will be sailing the NCL Epic is that it has 21 restaurants.  Regardless, we still think HAL is a class act and well worth sailing, in fact, we will be sailing HAL again at the end of this month, April.

 

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Zaandam

February 2012 - Zaandam to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)

Despite Some Bad Weather, Holland America Came Through With Their Class Act Service and Good to Great Food.

We did the 14 Day Asian Explorer on the Zaandam out of Hong Kong in February 2012.  To date we have sailed Holland America Lines (HAL) seven times and will sail the Zaandam again at the end of this month. 

We are looking forward to sailing the Zaandam again, to see how well they have refurbished it since we sailed in 2012.  To be honest, one of our few complaints was the Zaandam was showing it's age.  We were advised that it was going to dry dock soon for refurbishment. 

Once again, we were fortunate to be staying in the Penthouse Suite (now known as the Pinnacle Suite), which not only has a very nice cabin, but, gives you access to the Neptune Lounge, with their own concierge service, and priority to restaurant seating, embankment, disembarkation, and other perks.

As we sailed HAL over the last eleven years we felt they have had great service and food, but, in the last few years, it appears to us that their parent company, Carnival, has been making some cutbacks on Holland America ... maybe too many. 

The other concern we have with the Zaandam and HAL in general is that need more restaurants.   The Zaandam only has four restaurants.  That gets old really fast on longer voyages or if you travel HAL often.  We will be trying NCL for the first time on their mega ship, the Epic, as they have 21 restaurants.  Regardless, we do think HAL is a class act.

The Rotterdam Dining Room (Main Dining Room) offers good service and food.  The menu does vary from day to day yet offers some constant mainstays for people who do not want to try anything new.  

The Pinnacle Grill, their specialty steak and seafood restaurant, offers fine food with excellent service.  There is a fee, but, it is well worth it and I highly recommend eating there.  You need to make your reservations as soon as you get on board as it does book up fast.

I also recommend the Canaletto restaurant that offers Italian food.  There is also a fee for this restaurant, but, once again, well worth the price.  This is located within the greater Lido restaurant area, but, has it’s own section.

The Lido restaurant offers buffet style food.  It changes it’s menu daily and actually serves some of the dishes offered in the main dinning room.  During peak times it can get very crowded, but, overall does move quickly.  Window seats do go quickly.  Most evenings they do offer a late night (around midnight) snacks and light meals.

 

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Westerdam

October 2010 - Westerdam to Transatlantic

Delightful Voyage with Fantastic Accommodations, Excellent Service and Superb Food

This was our fifth voyage on Holland America Line (HAL).  The first four voyages were a true joy for us and we were looking forward to another wonderful cruise.

We were not disappointed.  Once again we were spoiled being in the Penthouse Suite, which was stupendous.  Like the last ship we were on, the Eurodam, this ship, the Westerdam, is one of HAL’s newer class ships and the Penthouse Suites on the Signature Class (such as the Eurodam) and the Vista Class (such as the Westerdam) ships are larger and much more modern than their older ships which we have also been on before.

Our cabin stewards were top notch and went the extra mile to make sure everything was in order for us to enjoy our stay.

Passengers staying in the suites have access to the Neptune Lounge, which is staffed by concierges who sees to your every need.  This lounge also offers continental breakfast in the morning and snacks and finger foods throughout the day.  Coffee, Espresso, tea and juices are also available throughout the day.  A great retreat to be at when other areas on the ship may be crowed or just a quick place for a “pick me up” snack and drink when you are in a hurry.

The main dining hall still has assigned times and dining tables for you to attend for most of your meals if you so desire.   The food and service is very good … excellent when you factor in all the people they have to serve.  The head waiter at your table and their assistant do a wonderful job of learning your particular needs so you do not have to retrain a new server every time you go … a nice touch.  The menu does change everyday so it does not get old.

The Lido is their buffet style food and it is very good.  Despite the large crowds at times, the lines are reasonably short and move fast.  Many of the food items offered in the full service Main Dining Room are also available in the Lido.

There is a hamburger, hotdog and nacho stand by the pool that is quick and good.

         There are several specialty restaurants that charge a fee, but, they are well worth the price.  I strongly suggest you try them and to make your reservations as soon as you board the ship as the more popular times do book up.

         There is the Pinnacle Grill, which serves excellent steak and seafood. This restaurant in particular books up fast.

         The other specialty restaurant is Canaletto, which serves Italian food. It is also very good and the servers will bend over backwards to make sure you have a delightful experience.

         We had a wonderful time on all the excursions.  We have never been disappointed by any excursion provided by HAL.

         I do not usually go to the shows but my wife does and she loves them.  While she is at the shows, I usually play the penny machine in the casino.

         Getting on and off the ship has always been a breeze.

         This was a great voyage and we are very happy we took this cruise.

         Happy Sailings!

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Noordam

October 2008 - Noordam to Caribbean

Veendam

August 2007 - Veendam to Europe - Northern Europe

Amsterdam

September 2003 - Amsterdam to Alaska - Inside Passage

JFK56's Tips

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida - A great beach town with lots to do. Great night life and entertainment. HAL offered an transit/excursion from the ship to the airport that stopped at a mall allowing you time to buy your last minute souvenirs!
Malaga, Spain - Another city with lots to do. Do take one of the excursions that takes you to the bull fighting arena, and up to the view at the top of the hill that overlooks the arena, the city and port.
Funchal, Madeira - Take the time to walk the town. Lots of interesting architectures. Lots of shopping and dinning of all levels.
Cadiz (Seville), Spain - Lots of very beautiful buildings and shops to see. An easy walk from the port. I found myself taking tons of photos of the great architecture while my wife did her shopping. Great places to grab some food and drinks at reasonable prices.
Lisbon, Portugal - This is one of my favorite port cities. This is a very large city with lots to see and do even if you do not do an excursion. Public transportation is easy, cheap and friendly. At the port we were at, an underground station was just across the street. Lisbon has lots of wonderful architecture and history. While there are large historic areas, there are also very modern areas and areas richly mixed. The food here is fantastic. If you have never experience it before, make sure you see a performance of Fado, which is a local music genre. HAL offered an excursion, which included dinner with the Fado. It was marvelous!
Barcelona, Spain - So much to see and do. Lots of history and culture. Great food. Make sure to see the Fish Sculpture located in front of the Port Olímpic, it was built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and is next to the Hotel Arts and has a gorgeous view of the sea!
Monte Carlo, Monaco - What a wonderful place. Just not enough time in this gorgeous city. I hope to return for an extended stay some day.
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy - Excellent city to visit. Make sure to spend extra days in Rome either before or after cruise! Food in tourist areas can get expensive.
Westerdam Westerdam - Make sure to make your reservations for the Pinnacle Grill and the Canaletto as soon as you settle. They book up fast for popular times, especially the Pinnacle Grill. Do not miss the Crows Next for great views and drinks!
Vancouver (Canada Place), British Columbia - Vancouver has lots of great restaurants. Do not miss China Town, but, visit during the daytime and avoid it at nighttime. Gastown is a must to see. We felt Granville Island was over rated.
Zaandam Zaandam - When you first get on the ship, make sure to make a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill. It is a speciality restaurant with an added fee but is well worth the extra charge. They book up quickly, especially for popular times.
Hong Kong - Great city! Make sure you spend at least a few extra days before or after cruise in this city!
Zaandam Zaandam - Do try both the Italian restaurant, the Canaletto, and the steak and seafood restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, as they are well worth the extra fee. Do make reservations for them as soon as you get on board as the do book up quickly, especially the Pinnacle Grill.
Rotterdam Rotterdam - Make a reservation for the Pinnacle Grill restaurant as soon as you get on board as this restaurant gets booked quickly and is their best restaurant. There is a fee but it is well worth it. Same thing with their Italian restaurant, the Canaletto.

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received a helpful vote on their Rotterdam cruise review - Still A Class Act, Great Service, Good to Great Food, Could Use More Restaurants, Maybe Cutting Back Too Much

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Despite Some Bad Weather, Holland America Came Through With Their Class Act Service and Good to Great Food.

received a helpful vote on their Rotterdam cruise review - Still A Class Act, Great Service, Good to Great Food, Could Use More Restaurants, Maybe Cutting Back Too Much

received a helpful vote on their Westerdam cruise review - Delightful Voyage with Fantastic Accommodations, Excellent Service and Superb Food

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Holland America, Still A Very Good Cruise Line, But, Used To Be Better

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Despite Some Bad Weather, Holland America Came Through With Their Class Act Service and Good to Great Food.

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Holland America, Still A Very Good Cruise Line, But, Used To Be Better

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Holland America, Still A Very Good Cruise Line, But, Used To Be Better

received a helpful vote on their Zaandam cruise review - Despite Some Bad Weather, Holland America Came Through With Their Class Act Service and Good to Great Food.

voted up a Amsterdam cruise review written by glomarrone -14 Night Panama Canal Eastbound Transit - ms Amsterdam