Mom and I have previously traveled with Holland America to Alaska. We have also cruised with other lines (Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival, Princess) and consider ourselves experienced cruisers with 10+ cruises now completed. We booked this cruise to see if we would like them for a longer cruise that this ship typically sails.
What we liked about this cruise:
Embarkation -- was the easiest and fastest that we have ever experienced. We arrived at the pier about 11:30 and walked right to a counter to have our pictures made and get our ship card. I thought it was strange that we were given an embarkation number because there were 100 or less people waiting to board including us. We sat down and had to wait about 15 minutes before our number was called. When they did call the numbers, groups of less than 25 were allowed to board at one time which again was strange. Once onboard we were able to quickly drop off our rollerboard bags in our cabin and then head to the main dining room for embarkation lunch.
Smaller ship size -- easy to get around, not a crowded feeling, and being able to dock in Hamilton due to the smaller size
Unlimited laundry -- loved sending out a bag of clothes everyday and getting clean laundry back the next day. This is the first trip we have taken in which we came home with clean clothes and not a pile of laundry to do. The set price of $49 for the week was well worth it.
Cabin steward -- we had a great cabin steward (Alton) who always greeted us in the hallway when we saw him. He left us towel animals most nights and was kind enough to strip the blankets from the beds and leave them off since the room was so hot. He also made sure that we had a laundry bag and laundry slip daily for our unlimited laundry.
Beverage card -- loved that I did not have to reconcile a ton of receipts midcruise or the last day with our account. I only had to keep the previous receipt and check for accuracy comparing the new receipt given with our drinks. I was able to get two cans of soda from one of the bars onboard the last night to have at breakfast in the morning in order to use up the last of our funds.... sometimes the beverage cards don't work on disembarkation day according to the staff. Great concept and being able to use it for two people was nice as well.
Explorations Cafe -- Kelvin in the coffee bar was terrific. After the first day he knew that I liked hot water to make my own tea in my travel mug. I've stopped wondering why the cruise lines can't have decent tea bags and just bring my own. We did try a couple of the iced mochas (which he blended when we asked) and they were pretty good. Kelvin was even kind to ring up one last iced mocha for disembarkation morning the night before and write a note on the receipt for the morning barista to fix it for me... sometimes the beverage cards don't work on disembarkation day according to the staff.
Pinnacle Grill -- dinner here was really good. The service was great and the food was well prepared. I wouldn't necessarily pay to eat here but will happily take it as a gift from our TA.
Omelet station in the Lido -- I had a fresh made veggie omelet most mornings and the chef was willing to cook it to my tastes (mom calls my eggs burned.... I call them well done). If you like spinach in your eggs and don't see just ask...the chef will happily add fresh spinach.
Mariner's lunch -- this was one of the best meals that we had onboard. The food was really good and the free champagne was a nice touch according to my mom.
Afternoon tea -- this is a great concept that Holland has but the minimal staff for service makes it very difficult to enjoy. The treats served were good for the most part (there were a couple we didn't care for during the course of the week). We only received one cup of hot water for tea each time we attended which was disappointing and definitely due to a lack of staff to serve the number of passengers who were participating. The tea choices for afternoon tea are very good...just make sure they bring the tea box to the table and not a tea bag.
Harbor Nights -- we thoroughly enjoyed the street festival -- we loved all of the different dancers and the bands that played. The vendors selling handmade items were great as well.
Craft classes -- we attended two classes...one where we made a lanyard and another we made a cruise journal. The lanyards were nice when we finally finished but somewhat difficult to put together as some of the beads couldn't be threaded onto the string provided and there were not any beads to be exchanged that worked any better, so your lanyard ended up not balanced if you weren't paying attention. The journals were okay -- more like a scrapbooking project which we are not fans of, but we had fun with the new party planner Sydney. These classes were held in the culinary arts center and it was difficult to see some of the materials on the kitchen counter because they blended in too well. The classes would have been better if they had been held in a room with tables and chairs to sit at to work instead.
Shows -- we loved the costumes of Bob Mackie's Broadway -- they were fantastic. The music, singing and dancing were just okay. The two costumes (yellow cutout dress and a bronze ball gown) in the show lounge are also Bob Mackie originals so we were able to have up-close views of his work after the show. Kevin Jones, comedian was very funny and we enjoyed this show. The other shows were forgettable.
What we didn't like:
Cabin -- we had a midship ocean view on the promenade deck and had several issues with our cabin. The first issue was the bathtub that did not drain -- it was not a lot of fun to take a shower and have the dirty water be over your ankles when you finished. The second issue was the room was hot. Upon arrival in our room I immediately turned the thermostat down to the coldest setting because it was very warm in the room. We never moved the control again and the room stayed very warm to hot for the week. It never got cool -- the hallway outside was cooler than our room. We were offered a fan to help cool the room down but had no place to put it so declined. We spent as little time in our cabin as possible as a result. Getting dressed in the mornings, for formal night or changing clothes after a hot day of touring was not a lot of fun in this cabin due to these issues. Waking up soaked in sweat was not a great vacation experience either. We reported these issues the first morning by phone from the cabin and three more times to the front desk to no avail. It was Thursday before the tub drained and we weren't showering in dirty water. The room temperature never changed to cool.
The front desk did try to make up for the cabin issues. According to the front desk staff, they called several times but could never find us in the room; so they finally left a message. We spend as little time in the cabin as we can because it's simply too hot I told them when we called back after hearing the message. On Thursday night at bedtime they brought my mom chocolate covered strawberries of which she shared one with me. On Friday night at bedtime they brought me a bottle of wine -- I don't drink so this was wasted on me but my mom enjoyed it at dinner the next night. These tokens didn't appropriately address the cabin issues. Holland obviously knows that a/c is a problem on this ship (I've read about it in reviews for the past 2 years) -- so this problem should already be corrected and since it hasn't been corrected there should be rooms available to move passengers. If a hotel is able to take a room out of service when something breaks and can't be fixed and move the customer to a different room then cruise lines should do it as well in my opinion.
Canaletto -- while the service was fine the meal as a whole was a serious disappointment. Many of the appetizers were over salted and not at all edible. The main entrees were just okay and not anything special. I ordered lasagna and they made the sauce with hot dogs rather than sausage. It was overly salty and not very tasty. The seafood pasta dish was okay according to my mom.
Promenade deck loungers -- these need to be checked more frequently for breakage and replaced. I sat in two different chairs (opposite sides of the ship) on two different days and was thrown backwards by the chair because the backs were broken and would no longer sit upright when someone sat back in the chair.
Service - It is truly sad to see that service is an area that has been significantly cut back on Holland America.
Main dining room -- service was very lacking here for every meal. We ate here for our embarkation lunch and waited 20-30 minutes before the waiter took our drink order. Meals eaten in the main dining room (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were excruciatingly slow and drawn out due to one waiter and their assistant being assigned so many tables and passengers to serve. There simply wasn't enough staff on hand to take orders and deliver meals and drinks. If we ordered a single glass of soda, beer or wine it would not arrive until we were halfway through our main entrees if we were lucky.
Lido -- while the staff did an okay job of clearing dirty dishes from tables but that was all they did. Previous cruises we have found the lido staff to be very helpful in bringing drinks or additional drinks, helping to carry something when hands are full, or help in locating an empty table and none of that was happening on this cruise.
Bar service overall -- we did see the occasional bar staff but more often than not I had to go to the bar and order our drinks only to be told to have a seat and they would be delivered. My mom would order an occasional wine or beer and I would have the occasional ginger ale unless it was in the morning and then we had to have our caffeine fix at breakfast in the form of a cold soda. Most of the time we had our travel mugs in which we had made tea at Explorations Cafe.
Onboard activities were again limited this cruise. At least two days I couldn't find a single thing listed on the daily paper that sounded interesting. While docked in Hamilton several onboard activities were cancelled due to a lack of participation. I was less than 5 minutes late to one activity to find a sign informing me that it had been cancelled due to a lack of participation. We waited 10 minutes past the start time for another activity and no one from the cruise staff ever showed up to tell us it had been cancelled.
I downloaded the art tour to my ipod prior to leaving. The ship has undergone a renovation since this tour was first made and many of the items discussed in the tour are no longer located where they tell you they are. I did find some of these items elsewhere but many have apparently been removed. I was very disappointed to have wasted an hour on this very poor tour considering how much I enjoyed the one I did on the Statendam in Alaska.
Overall we had a nice time. Bermuda is not an itinerary we would have chosen...it's a little too slow for us; but we wanted to try this ship to see if we would like it for a longer cruise. I had pretty much decided after taking my mom to Alaska that Holland was not the cruise line for me because it was a much older demographic and had such limited onboard activities, but I was willing to try again. With the added disappointment of a cabin not in proper working order, limited response to our concerns, and the significant staff cutbacks I am still of that same opinion and I won't be returning to Holland America.