Our cruise was wonderful! This was our first time on HAL. The first thing to mention is the food. We've been on other lines, but so far Holland America wins, hands down on the food. The selection, the quantity, the quality of the food was superb. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but overall, it was stunning. We felt like we were eating at a five star establishment every single night. Even the breakfast was a step up. They had multiple, and I mean multiple versions of eggs benedict's. That's unheard of.
Embarkation was usual. Lots of people crammed in to a small space, trying to get their ship card, etc.
The room was spectacular, as we had the superior verandah, and we can say it definitely felt superior. We loved the extra room, the balcony, the double sink, the whirlpool bath and separate shower. Of course HAL promotes the room to be a little more than what it actually is. They state that there is a dressing area and walk-in closet. This walk-in closet is simply a curtain drawn between the main part of the room and the closet area. Not exactly what I would consider a "walk-in closet". Then the fresh flowers in the room. Yes, when we came in there were three very small flowers in a very small vase. However, the flowers were changed at the end of the cruise, and only after the old ones died a withery droopy death. However, these are just minor details, overall, the room was fantastic. The service, the cleanliness of the ship, the service is all superior to the other lines, in my opinion.
One thing to mention is that this ship has a policy that you cannot serve yourself any food for the first 48 hours on board. They do this in precaution of the Norwalk and other diarrhea causing viruses that can follow passengers on board. Yes, this can definitely cause longer than usual waits for food in the buffet areas, but it's there for our safety, so not much to be upset about. We did notice that even after the 48 hour time frame was lifted, a lot of the major food items were still being prepared and served by the staff. Like an assisted buffet. It was nice having juice included on the cruise and different kinds of juice. Not just at breakfast, but at all times of the day. Furthermore, getting champagne at the captain's toast and the mariners lunch was a wonderful touch. We definitely didn't feel nickled and dimed on this cruise. My first time doing afternoon or "high" tea. Highly recommend it. The snacks alone are worth it, and the Indonesian teas were amazing.
Lastly, all the rumours and statements that HAL is only for "old" people wasn't our experience. Perhaps it was the time of year, who knows, but there was definitely a mix of all kinds on board. This was a no pressure, not in-your-face, no announcements-every-10-minutes, relaxing, low-key cruise, and we absolutely loved it!