Not a great experience, and I'm usually very easy to please. We made the best of a long and expensive cruise to Scotland, Norway, and Denmark; our first cruise on Holland America. Note to first time cruisers with HA - don't expect much! I've tried to list and point out lapses so that future cruisers may avoid some of our pitfalls. First point - be sure to distinguish between verandah and lanai... there is a HUGE difference, although easy to miss the distinction when booking on line. We booked the "verandah" with a private balcony in a spa suite. Cabin was extremely tired and worn, small, and shabby. The balcony was tiny, especially in comparison to balcony on Princess, Celebrity, or Carnival. Only room enough for one lounge chair and one regular chair.
Spa suite description by HA on-line promised to have an updated color scheme (nope - same beige color scheme as all the rest of the rooms), yoga mats (yes 2 thin yoga mats, but couldn't use - there's no room for 2 yoga mats on the balcony), water feature (yes, this really dumb lump of rock that plugs into one of the electrical outlets on the vanity...I can't imagine anyone would use//it was very much in the way), jacuzzi bathtub (yes but eeewwww, tiny little jacuzzi tub ooked very yuckky, stained, had been re- and re-finished, couldn't bring ourselves to use it), and upgraded amenities (this one we did appreciate - Elemis shower gel, shampoo and conditioner dispenser in the shower), fresh flowers (yes - but the same limp, pathetic little daisies in mini-vase that were used for the entire 2 weeks on the room service trays). Point is - HA did live up to their discriptions in all but one case, but you just can't expect too much. This is not a luxury experience AT ALL!
* The cabin steward (who was great) did clean our balcony windows every day, though! He made cute animals and was very attentive.
The check-in process was frustrating... for everyone, I'm sure. The staff members that I worked with (3 of them - each their first day with HA) seemed nice but completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped to answer any questions. The whole arrival process was severely understaffed, could have used at least 20 more staff members. The check in process took 3+ hours, frustratingly lacking in communication and direction from the HA staff. We expected to breeze on since we arrived at the cruise terminal later in the day and expected the early rush to be over... not at all. Not a great way to get started.
The spa experience should have been outstanding... not at all. One technician, Teru, was outstanding.. the rest were barely satisfactory. Lack of enthusiasm, lack of communication ability, lack of training, I don't know, but it was certainly lacking. And expensive, I went away from two spa services completely regretting spending my time and money at the spa!
We loved meeting the party planner, Claire, and the lifestyle expert, Alex. Manny, one of the executive chefs, was very personable, and our dining room staff members (too many to mention) were fantastic. The captain seemed to be very safety conscious, we appreciated his direction and concern during lifeboat drills and during a very large storm.
The ship itself seems to be in need of a major overhaul... seemed to be lots of plumbing leaks, tattered carpeting and wallpaper, banged up walls/elevators. Again, if you thing "luxury/quality/nice" you'll be disappointed. Think "just ok" and you'll probably not be disappointed.
In summary, I won't book another cruise with Holland America. The ports in Norway were beautiful and we made the best of it and had a great time, but if we were typical complainers this trip would have been a nightmare. Good luck, happy cruising, evaluate your cruise options wisely, HA may make sense for some, not for others.