Well, Now That You Asked…

Day 72, Grand Asia 2017

Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 – At Sea

A tropical paradise greeted us tonight in the dining room, as palm trees hung from the rafters and our stewards and others (including Nanik in the photo) wore straw hats and Hawaiian shirts. The menu featured a number of specialties of the islands.

Meanwhile, passengers aboard the Amsterdam’s Grand Asia voyage aren’t shy, particularly when we are asked for our opinions.

Today was the chance for us to provide those opinions to Captain Fred Eversen, Hotel Director Henk Mensink and Cruise Director Hamish Davis. They hosted a question and answer gathering in the Queen’s Lounge, and passengers packed the two-story theater.

The most favorable comments and longest applause came in support of the staff of the Amsterdam. One passenger said they come back over and over to Holland America year after year because of the Indonesian and Filipino staff. (I hear the company is expanding to hire Thai staff, as other cruise ships are “poaching” too many candidates from Indonesia and the Philippines.)

Many who took the microphone opened their comments or questions with compliments, but then went on to mention items ranging from major to minor.

img_2331The Amsterdam is almost 20 years old and is considered the “flagship” for the World Cruise and the Grand Asia. Some passengers feel it is showing its age, and Capt. Eversen mentioned that it would be going into dry dock for upgrades in May after the 2018 World Cruise. Among the improvements will be upgraded bathrooms in about 400 staterooms.

In response to another comment, yes, the televisions in the cabins will be replaced, and under consideration is a new intelligent TV system that will allow passengers to view accounts and select movies instead of requesting DVDs from the front office.

The Mariners Award program came up in several questions and comments. While acknowledging that the program is administered from headquarters in Seattle, the officers said they are aware of the great distance between 5-star status (500 Mariner points) and Presidents Club (1,400 nights). There isn’t a big difference in rewards, so adding a new tier isn’t easy.

On this grand voyage, there are 800 passengers with four- and five-star status, which led the officers to decide against giving tender priority to these passengers at ports where we anchor. They said the crowds would create a safety hazard. However, in response to one passenger who complained that he wasn’t able to get off in time for a scheduled fishing expedition, the hotel manager said that exceptions are made and suggested passengers with specific needs should make requests.

A complaint about Internet service, described as of poor quality and high price, drew a large round of applause. Captain Eversen said there never would be enough bandwidth on the ship. Our demand continues to grow, and we have been sailing in parts of the ocean that aren’t well served. He said the satellite Internet companies focus on areas such as the Caribbean when the demand is higher.

Some passengers offered suggestions:

  • Provide an opportunity at the end of shore excursions to give feedback (will pass along, but you can use the “share your thought” card in the cabin or give a review on the website)
  • Put more information about special events on the Navigator app for smartphones (not sure of the capability but will look into it)
  • Stay late in ports that are near the stop for the next day (on-shore entertainment is sometimes limited)
  • Get rid of the white buckets of disinfectant solution in the Lido Buffet area (will be addressed during dry-dock; required to meet health regulations)
  • Don’t take so many elevators out of service at the same time for varnish maintenance (tried to spread it among elevator banks)
  • Position ship on pier so there isn’t so far to walk to disembark (captain said there isn’t much flexibility)
  • Provide more Mariner points to singles, who pay almost twice as much, even though they are not eating twice as much food.

And some simply wanted to express opinions:

  • Wish the time changes didn’t switch between going back during night and forward during afternoon (Captain said passengers generally like going forward during the day, and most of the audience seemed to agree)
  • “My mattress is terrible” (hotel manager said to see him; most of the audience seemed to like their mattresses, which Holland America is known for)
  • The carpet color change inconsistency between aft staircase and the others is confusing (hotel manager said if they had enough extra carpet on hand they would make the aft staircase like the others, with the white step at the bottom)

Two subjects brought out the most discussion and reaction. One was specifically about the show time for tonight. The cast singers and dancers had created their own show, rather than one designed by the company, and it was scheduled only for 8 p.m., when some passengers have their dinner seating. Later in the afternoon, the cruise director announced over the public address system that a second show at 10 p.m. was added.

The other reflected some discussion I have heard during the cruise. What else is “grand” about this cruise except for the length? The officers replied that there are a number of things, and specifically mentioned a significantly increased budget for food, supplemental staff for activities and shuttle service in some ports.

Perhaps not everyone got the answers they wanted, but they did express appreciation to the officers who took the time to listen and give replies. Perhaps it’s another feature of a grand cruise.