This was my wife and me 4th cruise (we are in our early 50's), but first with Holland America and first in 16 years. We brought our two teenage sons (17 & 15) and our family chose HA because we are rather quiet, reversed, low-key folks and felt HA would be more to our liking than some of the more 'high-energy' cruise lines. The passengers consisted mostly of Americans & Canadians and the rudeness we had experienced on other cruises was not present on this one. Cigarette smoke was only noticeable when near the casino or aft pool (where there is a designated area). And we never noticed it on our balcony, as some other unfortunate reviewers have reported. Everyone we conversed or dined with (we had open seating) was both interesting and pleasant. Though, with the exception of an adorable newlywed couple from Columbia, all were quite older and semi- or fully retired.
My wife and I were in a Deluxe Verandah Ocean View room with a balcony and our boys were down the hall in an inside cabin. It seemed like a quiet enough location. Both rooms were larger than the rooms on the other cruises my wife and I had been on. And we really enjoyed the balcony (the first time we've had one).
Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and orderly (each took no more than 15 minutes). If you are flying home the day of disembarkation and checking your bags, I'd suggest the Luggage-Direct service. For $19 per person (not per bag), you put your bags out the night below (as usual), but you don't have to be bothered with them again until you get to your destination airport. And you get your boarding pass printed out and delivered to your room. Another handy service we took advantage of was for $20, you can get cleaned and folded or hung all the clothes you can get in a laundry bag (though small, it was amazing how much we could stuff in it).
The entire staff was mostly friendly and cheery and attentive to our needs. We very much enjoyed every meal in the dining room and the food in the lido cafe was always good. My wife and I did have dinner one night at the Pinnacle and it was one of the finest dining experiences we'd ever had. Several passengers recommended the Italian restaurant, but slots filled up quickly and we weren't able to get in (apparently, those in the know make reservations as soon as they board the ship). We did check out the menu for the Asia restaurant a few times, but nothing ever caught our fancy so we never attempted to dine there.
According to the ship's log, we were near capacity, though we never felt crowed. We had open seating and could get reservations within 15 minutes of our desired time and we never waited to be seated when we didn't have reservations. And except for one occasion, we always found a window seat in the Lido cafe. But getting a prime location deck chair near the pool was more challenging. For the nightly entertainment, as long as we arrived 30 minutes beforehand, we could get the exact seats we wanted (even arriving 10 to 15 minute early, one could get a really good seat).
We did miss Half Moon Cay due to winds blowing directly into shore, forcing the ship to anchor further away than normal and thus making tendering operations undoable. This was a major disappointment as it was the one port we didn't want to skip (we had a private cabana rented and our boys were going to go parasailing). But we enjoyed the other ports and except for one untimely down pour in the middle of our Maya Ruins tour (causing it to be aborted), we had great weather.
Although our boys did a lot of staying in their room and ordering a lot of room service (they thought that was great), they did find enough things to do to keep them happy otherwise. Apparently, there were 55 teenagers onboard, but only about a dozen of them regularly hung out at Club HAL. I would have liked to have seen outside activities arranged for the teenagers (though I understand there were such things scheduled for Half Moon Cay).
The nightly entertainment was pretty good. Our entire family really enjoyed the comedian (the only night our boys attended). The other nights consisted of musical productions of one kind or another. The performers were extremely talented singers and dancers, but were poor actors. As long as they didn't need to act (which fortunately wasn't all that often), the show was top rate. Otherwise, it came across to me as a bad high school production. And I was disappointed that one night, just a movie was shown (and not even a good one...New Year's Eve).
My wife and I (and occasionally our eldest son) would participate in and enjoy the various trivia games scheduled throughout the cruise. The CD emceed a marriage game and a 'Deal or No Deal' game, both of which were a lot of fun. I would have preferred more of this type of entertainment. And the couple's massage my wife and I had on the last full day of the cruise was quite relaxing.
All in all, our family had a wonderful time on this cruise and wouldn't hesitate to book another HA cruise again.