This is our seventh cruise and the first with Holland America. We are a couple in our thirties traveling without children.
Hotel: Flew in the day before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 that we booked through Hotwire.com. Grounds were beautiful with large pool. Our room had a marina view and the bed was clean and comfortable. Unfortunately there were other parts of the room that were quite dirty (upholstery on chair was dirty as was the bathroom floors). The poolside restaurant was overpriced and the food was overcooked and just didn't taste right. We went to the Pelican Bar for an evening snack and drink. It had a beautiful view overlooking the marina and the food was good although the service was a bit slow. We had breakfast in the morning at Mariner's which was again super overpriced where they charged $10 for a bowl of oatmeal. One piece of advice: if you can walk a mile over the bridge there are several good dining options as well as an enormous wine store called "Total Wine and More" where you can pick up a couple of bottles to bring on the ship (Holland America allows you to bring wine on board). The location of the hotel was nice since it only cost $12 to take a taxi to the port.
Embarkation: We arrived early so had to stand in a long line to get registered and then wait for our number to be called. Luckily the line moved pretty quickly and the gentleman that checked us in was incredibly nice. Probably about a half hour process.
Stateroom: We had an inside stateroom and we were very pleased with it when we had arrived. The size was quite large and would likely sleep up to four since the couch appeared to bed a sofa bed and it looked like there was a bunk bed tucked into the ceiling above our bed. The bed was comfortable and the water pressure in the bathroom was great. The stateroom also came with a DVD player which was nice so we had brought some DVDs from home to watch on sea days. Only complaints about the room is that the TV was turned facing the couch and could not be turned to face the bed, the DVD player did not have a remote which was required to operate (it took a couple of days to get one delivered), and on days where the ship was really rocking, the creaking got so loud my husband had to get ear plugs. In addition, we thought it was a little strange that H.A. did not have the interactive menu on the TV to show your invoice which we had been accustomed to with every other cruise we have been on.
Dining: The food at the Lido buffet was average but we did not like the fact that a H.A. employee needed to serve each food item or drink. H.A. had put a notice in our stateroom that they do this the first two days of each cruise to try to avoid illness being spread but this seemed to continue for most food stations, including beverages for the entire cruise. This did cause additional lines and instances where they misunderstood what was asked for. The pre-poured beverages were tiny and watered down. We did enjoy the food from the grill and I liked that there was a make your own nachos bar. Food in the dining room was very good on most nights. I thought the seafood and beef selections were particularly good. We had dined one night in the Pinnacle Grill which was for an extra charge. I enjoyed the lobster bisque, crab cakes and filet minion (although it was a little overcooked). My husband though, felt that it was not worth the $50 charge. We also spent one evening in Canaletto which is their Italian restaurant next to the Lido buffet. It requires reservations but does not have an extra charge. The food was decent. We wish that there would have been a 24 hour food option like most cruise lines have although with the demographic for this cruise being older than average (mostly retirees) we can understand how this might not have been a viable option. We did order room service but some of the food was beyond edible and some was not what we had ordered.
Entertainment: We particularly enjoyed the Comic Magician Jeff Peterson and Singer/Impressionist Jeff Tracta. The singers and dancers were pretty average and in general that is not our favorite type of entertainment on cruises. I was really impressed with all of the entertainment options in the Culinary Center and attended quite a few of the lectures or demonstrations held there. I even signed up for the Caribbean cooking class, which at $29 was a bargain! There was only 12 students and we worked to create three courses. Then we got to eat our creations and even got a glass of wine and apron included. Also fun were some of the game shows held in the evening in the Culinary Center. We did play in the Casino the first night and had fun on the slots.
Service: We were truly impressed with the fact that every H.A. employee had a smile on their face and truly seemed to enjoy being there. After the first evening, the employees that worked in the lounge by the dining room remembered our names and our drink orders. The women at the front desk were also friendly and helpful as were our dining room stewards. Our stateroom steward was a little less attentive than what we are used to since sometimes our room was only cleaned once or very late in the day or there were a couple of detailed overlooked. Did this make our vacation worse? Definitely not.
Disembarkation: Easy to follow and nothing out of the ordinary. It fell slightly behind schedule but ran in an organized way. As usual there was a pretty long line for customs but it moved quickly. Probably about 45 minutes to get off the ship.