July 2016 - Koningsdam to Europe - Northern Europe
In the holiday travel business it is the transfer experience which sets the tone for various iterations and incarnations that travellers go through. The transfer is the first part of your trip and is the last part before you depart for your home destination. Having said that, when I select transfer providers for the various destinations I feature; I ensure that they adhere to quality standards that are unprecedented by personally taking on the entire experience end to end. This ensures that I can recommend to my customers, first hand recounts and commendations of service providers in their totality without having any bias anecdotally or from catch tag lines in advertising. In this respect, it is very unfortunate that the Ms Konnigsdam (Holland America line of cruise ships) has failed to meet even the slightest standards despite flaunting a five star diamond award. I am writing this from the ship itself and will detail these accounts as we go along. This is DAY TWO of our journey and they have definitely not made a good first impression. I find the lack of control and quality of the food together with messy efforts of coordination quite concerning and wish to inform all whom are considering taking a trip on this ship.
We boarded the ship on 3rd of July as it was over a year in the making and part of a major family get together. There are 19 of us on this trip having come from Australia, USA, New Zealand and India with a sincere appetite for experiencing the very best that Holland America has to offer. Being avid cruise enthusiasts, most if not all of us have undertaken cruises on various cruise liners spanning destinations such as Caribbean, Alaska, Mediterranean, Australia, South Pacific, Asia , Europe and USA. The boarding terminal at Amsterdam firstly advised us that they are unable to accommodate a wheel chair (initially) but which they did after we persisted. Having booked this quite in advance, and specifically mentioning that we have mobility requirements for my grandparents, I find it concerning that they did not advise beforehand. Nevertheless, boarding was OK and still took a fair amount of time.
DAY ONE - Dining Room
Just as I allude to the importance of the transfer experience in my opening statement; I again re-iterate that majority of passengers on a cruise ship will entertain dinner on the first night in the general dining area and not visit the other premium restaurants on offer. We went there with our group and had to wait quite some time before our table was organised. Whilst they did eventually accommodate, we were seated in three distinct tables (apart from each other in the same section). This experience in its own right (waiting, not being informed properly of the wait times) was extremely frustrating and disheartening as we had elderly and mobility challenged people with us. Once we placed our orders, it felt as if there was absolutely no coordination between the waiting staff. Not only did we deal with so many people, they all seemed to lack smiles (a theme which still persists when you walk around ,the lack of smiles is quite daunting, in fact quite intimidating as it makes you feel as if the crew are forced into long hours and tedious work which is surely evident). The lack of coordination efforts was fully evident when one of our tables (table I was sitting on) did not receive their mains at all. The staff had the impression (and didn’t even ask) that we were already served and were just sitting there looking at each other's faces. If I wanted to do that, I would be in the casino playing poker to be honest! The food quality was awful and the amount of time it took to organise things was just ridiculous. Being the first day and despite my flaunts of first impressions, I simply just reported this to guest services whom assured me that they will escalate the complaint. All of us were too tired to do anything further and simply went to rest, hoping that DAY TWO would turn out better.
I visited the gym facilities and was overall impressed with the level of quality of equipment and breadth of programmes. This I think is quite important especially for cruises that go for longer durations. Breakfast at Lido dining was OK and nothing like that of a five star hotel. Our family then sat next to the new york deli pizza place which was ample to kill some time. It was unfortunate that no premium restaurants are open during lunch time as I personally don’t like the buffet food at the Lido dining area at all.
I mused around the ship for the rest of the afternoon and prepared myself for the Gala dinner. In the afternoon, I received a call from Indra the food and beverage manager apologising of my experience on day one at the dining hall and confirming that we will always be given seating in the second round guaranteed all together and that we will have one dedicated waiter serving our group always. Whilst this was promising, what ensued was far less than satisfactory at all!
The gala dinner seating was adhered to and we all sat next to each other. However, that was the ONLY thing that was promised which was delivered. In customer service, my golden rule is to never make promises and only over deliver. This was not the case here on the second night despite being assured. We had to endure dealing with various drinks staff (and double orders of drinks arrived) together with a lacklustre effort to organise our food. My uncle was sincerely upset when they were unable to accommodate his request to give him well done lamb which came back the same. In fact, they did not even ask us how we wanted our lamb when we ordered it (and this is culinary arts 101 in every instance). They all assumed that we would like rare when majority of us prefer well done. Again, there was no coordination. The food quality was slightly better than day one, but the overall experience and lacklustre service delivery really disappointed us.
It would be interesting to see what ensues on Day three which I will post in detail. I cannot be more disappointed with the service delivery. It is a brand new ship and it feels like they have in adequately trained their staff and simply went on a hiring spree and gave blanked training on cue cards and sent them away. I surely cannot recommend professionally nor personally Holland America.