This was our 12th cruise. We have sailed on Holland America, Celebrity, Orient Lines and Norwegian. We last sailed on HAL in 2009 and have to admit that this was a much better experience than our previous sailing.
We arrived in Venice the day before embarkation and stayed overnight at the Ca' Doge hotel across the street from the people mover that takes you to the cruise terminal. Note that it was a relatively long walk from where the people mover drops you off to where embarkation starts. If Holland America provided a shuttle for this we certainly didn't see any evidence of it, but did note other lines providing it. Check in was quick and easy and we were in our cabin within 20 minutes to drop off our hand luggage.
We had CA spa ocean view cabin 100001 on deck 10 forward. We had some fairly "rocky" days and while we felt the movement of the ship we never really had a problem with it. Cabin is very spacious with plenty of storage. As others have noted in various reviews there isn't a great deal of drawer space, but we seemed to have no problem with finding a spot for everything and keeping organized. Don't forget there are large drawers under the bed. Your cabin attendants like to use these drawers for extra linens and such, so just ask and they can remove them. Location is excellent! Just down one flight of stairs and you are at the spa or walk across the pool area and your in the Lido area for breakfast or lunch. Our cabin attendants Adi and Fendi were fantastic! They were always around if you had a question or needed anything and our cabin was always clean and tidy. Always looked forward to coming back to the cabin every night after dinner to see what special little towel animal they left.
We ate in the Lido for most of breakfasts and lunches and food was good and plentiful, although never really found a desert that we felt was worth the calories. Note that it has become customary on HAL to not allow self service the first two days as a precaution for the cruise bug. Even the salt and pepper shakers on the tables are taken away. Having had the "cruise bug" before while traveling, we appreciated the effort.
We ate in the MDR all nights except for one. Food was excellent with quite a large variety of choices. Dining staff were great! Really don't know how they keep up with all the tables that they are in charge of. Guess that is why they don't really adhere to the tradition of taking the ladies orders first and then serving the ladies first. Call us old fashion, but we really missed that. Ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night and while the service was excellent, the food was just as good as what we had gotten in the MDR. Not sure what all the fuss is about really and because of the extra cost would probably not do it again.
Didn't see any of the main shows. Enjoyed the piano player at the Piano Bar next the casino. Really great! Loved the Casino Bar...excellent staff. You can smoke in this bar so it was usually really busy. Casino was normally busy and for those that don't smoke there is a separate section just for the smokers, so it kept it to one section in the back of the casino. Most of the other venues we wandered into were relatively empty most nights, so if you are looking for a party atmosphere this may not be the ship for you.
Since we were staying in Barcelona a few days after our cruise, we had late disembarkation. Got off the ship around 9:45 AM, found our luggage and was through and out of the terminal within 5 minutes. Getting a taxi to our hotel is what took the longest. Quite a long line, but moved quickly.
Overall really enjoyed our cruise, and yes, given a favorable itinerary, we would sail Holland American again.