This was our first time on Holland America. I was a bit worried as we had just recently completed a cruise on the mega Carnival Magic. I was afraid there would not be enough to keep our kids entertained. I needn't have worried!
HAL is indeed a step above any of the others. We bought the cruise for a very good price, and did not feel "nickel and dimed" at all while onboard. We felt pampered and spoiled.
We did not feel the need to go to the Pinnacle Grill (for $25) as the food in the dining room was excellent. We were served: crab legs, lobster, filet minions, caviar, large shrimp (often), escargots. No skimping on quality or portions. The desserts on this ship were the best of any cruise we have ever been on. No dried up hard cookies and tasteless cakes. Didn't get a chance to go to the Italian place (free but need reservations). The Lido buffet was ample and of high quality. No long lines, except on maybe 2 occasions. Very helpful staff.
The bars and clubs were very fun. Had happy hour 3-4 times daily in different bars. Buy 1, get 1 for $1. Prices only $6.95, so a great deal. Didn't feel the need to sneak booze on, as the prices onboard were more than fair. Was able to bring wine, and rum from shore purchases onboard. No one gave us any problem. The disco was fun, and played music from the "good old days" 70-80's. No annoying rap stuff. The entertainment staff was talented, but the production shows were all pretty much the same. Had a comedian one night-Scotty from Scotland. He was very funny and had a clean show. Also the previous olympic gymnist-forgot his name. We had seen him before, and enjoyed his show again.
The casino was small,but had everything you wanted. Did not gauge you at the tables, had plenty of $5.00 minimum. Being able to choose from 100's of movies to watch in your room was great (at no charge). Other lines charge $10+ plus for pay for view-gouging in my opinion. Only wish there were more karaoke nights (only had 2), and more comedian shows. The piano bar guy was terrific, and did not have to give a pitch for tips as others do on other lines.
Our room was an outside and we had 4 in it. Cannot imagine why they did not put a drawer in the vanity area. Only drawers are in the tiny bedside cabinets. 4 large closets. Bathroom large, but don't like the clingy shower curtain. The bunks were comfortable for our teenagers. Room kept clean and tidy by our room steward, but I don't think he changed the sheets at all during the 10 days. The room temperature could have been colder for me at night, woke up hot a couple of times.
We loved all the ports-took excursions on our own. You can always get off the ship and find a taxi to take you whereever you want. We never do organized tours, and found in places like Athens, the groups were very annoying. Taking over all the space and practically walking over everyone.
All in all a very enjoyable cruise. Will definitely take HAL again. While in Rome before departure, we spent 3 nights at Hotel Delle Muse. Highly recommend this place. They arranged our post cruise pickup for the airport-appx $25 each (cruise line charged $79 each). They have a great rate, easy access by bus, and a very attentive staff. Also free breakfast that was terrific.
I find it interesting to read cruise reviews. I can't imagine how anyone could complain about 10 carefree days of being pampered, fed, spoiled. Some people will complain about everything. Be nice to people, and they will be nice to you.