Posted March 9th, 2018, 09:53 AM
... Holland America beat out Cunard in cruise ship ratings this year and I can well understand why! As H. A. sails to Europe from Florida I am unable to sail with them. Too bad for me!
When I first read this about Holland America beating Cunard in cruise ship ratings I was surprised. But after thinking about it I realised it shouldn't surprise me. HAL has five times more ships than Cunard has and therefore they have many times more loyalists. We are friends with three couples who are regulars on HAL. Two of the couples have not cruised with anyone else because they assume HAL is the best.
A few years ago we cruised to Alaska on HAL's Noordam just two years after we had a Norway cruise on the Queen Elizabeth. Despite the similarities in the two Vista-class ships, the QE was a considerably better ship. To be sure, HAL did some things quite well, but not much. Regarding the comments I have read on here about "terrible food" and "the worst food at sea" on Cunard, I had to smile. We are Diamond level members on Cunard and have not once had a terrible meal in any of the four main restaurants. Some of the meals we had on HAL were terrible. Food quality is usually subjective, of course, but as one example: if short ribs of beef are described as tender and they resemble shoe leather then that is a different matter. Even the lunch for members of the loyalty programme (called "Mariners" on HAL) was poor.
Two positive points: the Noordam had real teak decks as opposed to the fake stuff on the QE; those in Neptune Suites (similar to Queen's Grill) received complimentary laundry service. That was about all.
There were many aspects of the Noordam, that left negative impressions, other than the food. The atrium was basically a hole cut in the deck with a single curved glass staircase - a far cry from the vast lobby of the QE. Getting a decent cup of tea was nearly impossible. Knowing that HAL ships are really American (despite the port of registry) I brought our own tea-bags but getting boiling - or even very hot - water was difficult. Afternoon tea in the dining room was a joke: I have never seen such small scones.
Suite passengers were invited to a reception with the captain and officers. Not a single officer showed up. We did, however, have a pep-talk from the manager of the shops and the tour director. The drinks were generous, however, so it wasn't a total loss. Whereas Cunard offers a full range of entertainment to cater to all tastes, the only entertainment on the Noordam that was not over-amplified pop or blues was the violin/piano duo. As for talks, the Noordam had a few presentations about shopping and the only alternative was the park warden who came on at Glacier Bay and gave an interesting talk about glaciers. The equivalent of the Commodore Club was frequently closed for a private group function.
HAL has a strict policy on bringing alcohol on board. We brought our permitted two bottles of Champagne and at security we were directed to a desk like naughty school-children. After a few minutes in the queue our bottles were examined carefully and the person in charge held them up to the light to make sure we had not opened them and replaced the bubbly with some contraband like gin. Then we had to sign a form and stickers were placed on the bottles.
Formal nights on the Noordam were shabby compared to Cunard, so we were not surprised that they have since been downgraded to "gala nights". I am told by the regulars that means anything goes. I could go on, but what's the point.
The fact that HAL gets better ratings than Cunard convinces me that ratings are irrelevant.