Sir, That's Not Fecal Water Flooding Your Cruise Ship Stateroom, That's Brown Glue

I and my family recently took a cruise with Holland America Lines to Alaska on the ms Statendam. Two days into the cruise my brother’s stateroom was affected by an overflowing toilet one room down. The ship’s response? Put big fans in the room and not acknowledge it or apologize in any other way.

With a couple days into the seven day cruise our room flooded with sewage from a broken pipe in the wall adjoined to our cabin. Understandably I was upset and complained. We were assured our room would be cleaned while we were ashore and the cause of the matter was taken care of.

After our room was “cleaned” and fans placed in it to dry I returned and absentmindedly stepped onto the carpet in just my socks…


Thinking myself a fool for walking in just socks on newly shampooed carpet I bent down to take my socks off and found them stained brown by the fecal water still saturating my carpet. Livid, I complained, but was told that there were no other rooms I could go to. Also to ease my fears they told me the water was brown because the adhesive under the carpet was brown and had probably been dissolved by it. I wondered why anyone would use water soluble glue on a ship, but was too furious to get into the particulars of it with the purser at the time.

I complained again until I was able to talk to the head of customer relations for the ship. Her offer to accommodate us: $150 per person shipboard credit. Effectively a 5% discount for the whole trip! And
all we had to do was live in a biohazard for three days.

Unsurprisingly five members of my family were incapacitated with vomiting and diarrhea within 3 days of leaving the ship.

The most hilarious part? Thought the trip they insisted we used the hand sanitizer placed throughout the ship before we could eat or use the elevator. You know, to “stop the spread of disease.”

Aw the joys of vacation.

The attached picture is after they “cleaned” our room. So if you believe the story from the ships hospitality manager, it’s glue. But it sure didn’t smell like glue…

– Sawyer


• Multiple plumbing problems in guest cabins.
• Cruise ship lies about their cause.
• Family had to ask for compensation
• It was pittance
• Acute health issues ensue

Considering the later effect on his family’s health, we think Sawyer would be justified in asking for additional remuneration.

Looks like Holland America Line needs to start issuing its guests complimentary clogs. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. iMike says:

    Honey, that’s not a floater I left behind. It’s a butterfly.

  2. Katharine says:

    I had heard they were a good line and have been looking into cruises so this is good to know. Striking them off my list.

  3. TVarmy says:

    I don’t think anyone can beat your story in the eternal “this cruise I was on SUCKED!” contest.

    Seriously, I had never heard of that cruise line, but I’ll now know to completely avoid it. I’m sure this sort of thing is rare, but just the attitude shows how little they care for their customers. Shipboard credit is a pretty lousy compensation. It’s no good for anything useful, and it requires the experience to be with the people who just screwed you.

    Consumerist should rally against store credit compensation!(That is if you guys haven’t already…)

  4. timmus says:

    Poster should consult with an attorney. Considering this could have caused a hepatitis or typhoid outbreak, this is in the big leagues of corporate negligence.

  5. Jesus On A Pogo Stick says:

    So, people don’t like fecal water? Come on, they got free vomiting and diarrhea out of it. Sounds like a good deal to me.

  6. ptkdude says:

    Holland America *used* to be one of the best lines to sail on… until Carnival bought them!

  7. Bay State Darren says:

    What does your lawyer say about this matter? (Hopefully, Ka-CHING!) Seriously, this sounds actionable. IANAL, I just play one on the internet.

  8. MercuryPDX says:

    The one piece of advice I got about cruises from an elderly Aunt:

    “If you’re on a plane, you’re captive to bad service for what… 6-7 hours of a transcontinental US flight? If you’re on a cruise with bad service, you’re stuck for days. ALWAYS research the hell out of cruises.”

  9. Techguy1138 says:

    @ MercuryPDX:

    That might not be so easy in this case. My family has around a 40 year history of crusing and Holland America is one of the lines they have used for decades.

    I know that they have had rooms on this ship in particular.

    It seems like the cruise line got themselves in to quite a jam and lied about it.

    Broken pipies in 7 rooms or so and no place to put the displaced people. I really think that this should be persued in court to disuade this copmany from doing the same to anyone else. I can olny imagine how my elderly relatives would have faired with such conditions.

    This is a total nightmare from a normally reputable cruiseline.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    Boy, that’s really shitty.

    Bwah haha, I jest.

    Okay, SERIOUSLY, when did we allow people to call a frothy mixture of piss, shit, used tampons and water “sewage”?

    It almost sounds innocuous that way.

  11. Tallanvor says:

    Sawyer has hopefully written a letter to the cruise line, but he might also try Linda Burbank’s Travler’s Aide column at USA Today.

  12. jodles says:

    we had a similar experience on a celebrity cruise ship, but they gave us a cabin upgrade and a large credit (essentially enough to pay for another cruise), which we used to take a cruise on royal caribbean.

  13. Jiminy Christmas says:

    Hold on a minute. These people lived in a shit-soaked cabin for three days? A customer relations lackey would have a hard time convincing me there was zero alternative to sleeping in a pool of sewage.

    At the very least I would expect a 100% refund for the three shitty days. Considering that people were sickened, I would consider this lawsuit-worthy material. That said, submitting to the situation and living in the room for three days sort of undermine’s one’s case and makes it seem it wasn’t that bad.

  14. gatopeligroso says:

    I was looking into taking a cruise on their lines. After reading your story, I will take my time and find someone else to give my money to. The fact that you didn’t go nuts and move your family out of that filthy room makes you a nicer guy than me. I would have asked that they “inconvenience” a staffer and put the safety of their guests first. Hope you will keep us posted on any further developments.

  15. AcidReign says:

    …..I can’t even imagine how bad that must have smelled. Cruise toilets use very little water, and mostly rely on some scary vacuum effect to flush. That leak had to have been pretty pure stuff…

  16. adamondi says:

    There aren’t a lot of instances in which I would recommend pursuing legal action for punitive damages, but this might be one of them. Perhaps you should contact Holland America’s executive customer service and explain the situation to them. If there is still nothing that they are willing to do about it (such as: refund the entire cost of your fecal cruise), then contact a lawyer.

    This is more than poor customer service. This is inhumane treatment of passengers. No human should be required to stay in a room with crap-soaked carpets.

  17. FMulder says:

    Three days? I would have been taking tons of pictures, contacting various media outlets, directly contacting Holland America Line executives, and would have been stalking the ship for space to take over rather than stay in those rooms for three days.

    I would have also gone around the entire ship touching every surface possible — perhaps then Holland America would be ‘motivated’ to do the right thing.

  18. MercuryPDX says:

    @Techguy1138: I typed in “” and got a website.

    I typed “Holland America cruises suck” into Google and found a few more. 8 Complaints

    BBB website: “The Bureau processed a total of 81 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 81 complaints closed in 36 months, 44 were closed in the last year.” followed by a breakdown by category.

    I guess it all depends how you look.

  19. Arlahna says:

    Wow. Just wow. I’m going on a cruise in August to Alaska. I’m SO glad I’m using Celebrity instead of Holland America. I’ll never use them now. That incident sounds incredibly lawsuit worthy.

  20. Arlahna says:

    Just as a sidenote, anyone else think that bathroom tile floor looks like a scrabble board?

  21. TheSeeker says:

    as Morrissey sings in “How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?”

    “…They said they respect me, Which means, Their judgement is crazy
    I’ve had my face dragged in, Fifteen miles of shit, And I do not, And I do not, And I do not like it
    So how can anybody say, They know how I feel, When they are they, And only I am I…”

  22. wobudong says:

    Cruises stink and this proves it.

  23. ACruzer says:

    When you think about the fact the cruise is a money pit.. they opened themselves up by not taking appropriate actions. I’m not a litigious person, but I believe this warrants better compensation.

  24. CruiseMates says:

    I course I can be funny and even more controversial. I’m actually a cruise line expert who worked on this very ship for seven months, I rarely agree with cruise bashers, but the folks got the short end of the stick on their compensation. I am glad they showed the world. You can’t hide in this day & age on Internet.

  25. RebekahSue says:


    Seriously, I had never heard of that cruise line…

    they’ve been advertising a LOT on eMiles. I’m dropping eMiles a note with the Consumerist link; even for five miles a click, I don’t want any more ads from these people since they’ll never get MY money now. (Not that I would enjoy a cruise; I’m more about walking around, but still.)

  26. oldhat says:

    @noasalira: That’s a horribly wicked idea.

    Imaging taking that towel that happens to be stained with brown glue and wiping down every door handle on that floor, on everything you can find.

    You bet they would freak out. Also that 100’s of people would be miserable and maybe die. But man, what an angle.

    Nice to see all the tort reform schmucks admitting that the poster should sue. I would.

  27. storm says:

    I just got off the ms Ryndam, another Holland America boat in Alaska. My experience on the boat was unparalleled. I actually had a toilet problem as well, and they had it fixed literally within about 2 hours.

    I found their service to be some of the best I’ve had in my life. This is probably a spurious occurrence.

    Having said that, I would avoid their land tours at all costs–I have never been so bored and frustrated in my life. The contrast was so stark.

  28. OKH says:

    Any chance of sending that sock to a lab to disprove the line’s contention that it was glue?

  29. storm says:


    I’ve never been on TV, but I am a lawyer, and, just making a guess here–you’ve signed your right to sue for “shit” like that long ago, with some boilerplate form that came in that blue pouch.

    I think you need to go higher up the pecking order.

    My experience on the boat was wonderful. I have to say, the hand sanitizer really pisses me off though–don’t they know that they are breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria? With the number of elderly people on there, I think they’d be a little less myopic.

    Just don’t spend any money on ANYTHING that involves a tour bus.

  30. storm says:


    There’s no exact pecking order in cruise lines. There are some that are good and some that are bad, but mostly they are just aimed at different groups. For better or worse, Holland America emphasizes pampering you, and they do it well (on the ship–you’re cattle on the land tour), but this tends to produce an average age of about 103 on the ship.

    My wife and I–both 29–found ourselves pretty lonely. On the other hand, it wasn’t a giant frat kegger like the line my mom and sister went on.

  31. lestat730 says:

    It’s sad that things like this can happen after you pay a lot of money to go on a vacation. Seriously, most of us don’t get to go on vacation all that much in the first place. If my vacation was ruined by something like this the company would never hear the end of it (especially when theres health problems afterwards to) Surely there must have been at least 1 spare room somewhere? He deserves to be compensated WAY more then a measly $150 credit. For his sake I hope this story gets big and the company is forced to do something about it. Very disturbing.

  32. tmweber says:

    This is one of the few times I would say this, but I think it’s justified:


  33. ThyGuy says:

    That is just disgusting. They had the equipment to properly repair the toilet, clean the carpet, and restore the room to a sanitary and clean state. I see suing the company for negligence and unsanitary living conditions, plus the emotional damages caused by having to live in this kind of conditions for three days.

  34. itollij says:

    I think a lawsuit would probably go nowhere (international waters,foreign registry of ship, etc). I would contact the people that might be able to provide some compensation. State what happened, and also fair compensation (maybe 5 days of the cruise?)
    Here’s some people to contact
    Richard D. Meadows – Executive Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Guest Programs

    Rose Abello, Vice President Public Relations

    Brendan J. Vierra, Vice President, Guest Programs

    Holland America Line
    300 Elliott Ave. West
    Seattle, WA 98119
    Phone: 1-206-281-3535
    Fax: 1-206-281-7110

  35. TPK says:

    Here is a cruise forum where this is also being discussed:


  36. Blackneto says:

    I’ve sailed on HAL before and the experience was great. until the 2nd to the last day.
    This was on the Volendam in September 06
    Our toilet stopped working. They fixed it, but it didn’t work right after that to the point we had to use a public one on the last day.
    turns out almost everyone on our deck and the one above had variations of the same issue.

    really a shame. but I’ll still sail with them if the opportunity comes up.
    When things go right they are really the tops.
    But when things go wrong their CS sucks all kinds of anus.
    As someone mentioned above, much of this nonsense started when they were bought out.

  37. Jesse in Japan says:

    I would have spent the rest of the cruise walking around the ship and spreading that shit everywhere, literally, just for that hand sanitizer part.

  38. SexCpotatoes says:


    I think I would’ve gone through every cabin on that ship, talking to people and complaining about shit water standing all over my cabin floor. Then tell them what was offered for compensation (fuck all!).

    Wait, how much trouble could one get in for inciting a riot and hijacking a ship…. would that be considered “piracy!”?

  39. IndyJaws says:

    I was on an NCL cruise in the early 90’s. The ship actually ran aground leaving port (evidently they ran over some debris which caused them to lose control when it affected the steering) – it even was featured on CNN. We had to spend the first night on the boat in Miami’s port, causing us to miss the first port of call (some private island). In exchange, they opened all the bars for the first night and offered free drinks (no limit) to the passengers. They also offered 50% off any future cruise. Could have been better, but drinking free on the deck overlooking the lights of Miami was pretty cool, though.

  40. foghat81 says:

    @IndyJaws: Now that, IMO, is a good way to handle a problem.

    The OP spent 3 days in there! I just can’t believe it. If they told me there were no other rooms I would have demanded a free flight back home and a full refund of my cruise. NO WAY would I spend 5 more minutes in there. NO WAY!

  41. The Bigger Unit says:

    I’ve heard of being passive, but my god, living in a small room with shit-soaked carpets for three days?!! Come on man! I agree with everyone else…I usually roll my eyes at sue-happy Americans, but this warrants a lawsuit, the neglect is so unreal.

  42. bbbici says:

    Yup, easy-to-win lawsuit. go for it, could be your American dream come true.

  43. enroper says:

    No no no, the vomiting and diarrhea was not an illness, it was the complimentary weight loss program offered to them as reimbursement.

    But seriously, I will never personally go on a cruise. Ever. There are just too many horror stories, and I also am quite adverse to vomiting and pooping for the sake of a cruise.

  44. Wormfather says:

    …and when you talk to customer relations you will want to mention this article (if they havnt seen it already) and let them know you’d be willing to write the consumerist a follow up once this is taken care of.

  45. LAGirl says:

    well, so much for a nice Sunday breakfast. i feel ill after seeing those pix.

    this guy needs to call a lawyer…STAT!

  46. MLJ says:

    I can relate! I took a 10 day on another of their ships. I spent $15,000 for the Penthouse and here’s a summary: Neither toilet worked the first 5 days and no public toilets on our floor, sliding doors wouldn’t close so humidity kept everything inside dripping wet, sliding doors knocked 24/7, doors falling off closet, and after nasty letters to the top three Executives I received a future credit of $500. Can you guess what I did with the coupon?

  47. badgeman46 says:

    Just got back from a cruise today. It was on carnival. Very elegant ship, very nice service. I had no complaints. I actually was quite surprised, as I always hear people refer to it as Walmart of the seas. I didn’t see any obese people rolling around in electric scooters and oxygen masks, nor did I see throngs of single mothers with seven kids in tow, so I hardly understand the comparison. I don’t understand why some cruise lines don’t take care of there problems more promptly. Much like montezuma’s revenge, bad press spreads around a ship very quickly.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I just got back from a Panama Canal cruise on the Statendam and the same thing happened. Not to us, but someone across the hall. In addition, there was this awful sewage stink for aobut 2 days across from the Pinnacle. Some pipe broke and they ended up replacing the carpets.
    I love the destinations on the trip but HAL and the Statendam really suck. One night we wanted to play tennis but there were no tennis balls. We asked for some and were told that they are taken away at 6 pm every night but will be put back in the morning. We kept checking for the rest of the trip and never did see any more tennis balls.
    Also, the pool closes at 7pm. They actually put a net over it. At one point when we were crossing the equator it was very warm at night… but no swimming pool. Weird.
    There’s lots of other things that I can say but I won’t. I’ll just say that if you want to cruise through the Panama Canal, it’s the trip of a lifetime. Just dont’ chose HAL.