Problem fixed with Holland America: they offered a nice refund
Note: update: Holland America gave us a fair refund - I withdraw my complaints listed on this blog article
My wife and I have been on 15 cruises and the service provided by Holland America on the 23 day cruise we are on right now is so much worse than the other 14 cruises we have been on that I feel motivated to write up our experiences.
Note: our cruise was up the Amazon River and we did have some memorable experiences which I will blog about in the next week or so and provide links to some of our pictures and videos.
In order of "worse things first":
We booked a tour to Santarem (large industrial city) and Alter do Chao (a pretty little town on the water with amazing beaches). The tour guide was from Santarem and spent all 4 3/4 hours of the tour in her home town and blew off taking us to the scheduled stop in Alter do Chao. She did give us lots of unwanted shopping experiences, and wasted time stopping the bus by a new highway project and going into lots of detail about that. Many other cases where she was just killing time. She did have the driver stop on a road for one minute above Alter do Chao so we could catch a glimpse of the beautiful town that we missed. I formally asked Holland America for a partial tour refund but I received a negative response from them to my written request: no partial refund.
Our toilet did not work for over seven hours. This was not quite a ship wide occurrence since we talked to a few people who were not affected. Just hearsay, but we heard people talking of having their stateroom toilets out of order from a few hours to two days. When I first asked the front desk about this I was told it was a ship wide occurence and to be patient. After about 6 hours I asked again and was told that our toilet might be fixed that day. I got fed up, went back and told the lady at the front desk that this was a health violation and guess what: an engineer came and fixed our toilet within about 20 minutes. Sometimes complaining helps.
We booked an expensive 7 hour small boat tour and because of shallow water could not get to our destination. We were warned about this by the tour office the night before the tour and we decided to go anyway, so that was our own fault, but the tour should probably just have been cancelled.
We did not have any hot water in our stateroom for several days.
The ship had been in dry dock until the morning of the cruise and the exterior was filthy. The port side of the promenade deck was not fully reconstructed and was in particularly bad shape. However, within about 24 hours everything was cleaned up, so not such a big deal.
A nit pick: sometimes there were just paper napkins in the formal dining room, and they were not very good paper napkins.
Those were our own experiences. While drinking and having dinner with other passengers, we heard their complaints also; for example:
People's stateroom air-conditioning was not working, often for days. One couple took their pillows and sheets up to a public bar area and slept there because the bar had working air conditioning.
Complaints about the dirty state of the ship, toilets, and hot water issues.
One couple who we often met for drinks during happy hour are long time Holland America customers who have logged almost 300 days with this cruise line. They made it very clear that they will not be traveling again with Holland America. Another friend I made on board ship is also a long time customer and explained that this situation being caused by Holland America being bought by a larger company and they still charge a very high premium price for non-premium service.
I would like to say that we have had excellent service by our stateroom stewards and the food waiters. Also the food has been very good.