General Comment - This cruise sailed from Rotterdam round trip. Evidently the cruise was far from sold out so HA kept dropping th eprice as time progressed and then made (we are told) special deals for the Dutch people located close to Rotterdam to fill up the ship. Consequently there were close to 1000 dutch speaking passengers and 200 English speaking passengers, All announcements were mad in two languages and were difficult to follow at times. Where you go on a cruise to make new friends and enjoy traveling with them, on this cruise that was difficult to do. We will not take another cruise originating in Rotterdam. I believe that HA also found leaving from Rotterdam was difficult due to the mix of people and their spending habits and has therefore can celled many of the cruises from Rotterdam later this year.
The ship is marvelous and I would highly recommend it, The sailing was smooth except for 1 night and we were warned by the Captain prior to entering the rough seas thatit would be a hard night. The public rooms, bars and restaurants are very nice and enjoyable. The cruise director "Michael" was pleasant, accessible, and all over the ship all the time. We played team trivia with him every day and had great fun arguing his answers vs our answers with the other teams playing.
The dining room food was fine, but I would not call it 5 star gourmet food. The menu always had plenty of options to offer. Dining in the Canaletto was good Italian fare, but there is now a $10 charge for the meal and it used to be free on our last cruise. The Pinnacle grill was the best in service with excellent quality and taste to everything. With close to 1200 passengers on board, there was never a problem getting a reservation in either specialty restaurants. Most people ate in the dining room.
The ports were nice, but we found the ships tours to be disappointing. Many of the guides spoke a broken English and were difficult to understand. After wasting our money on a tour of Lisbon (our first port) we complained about the language problem, to be told that was the way it is. WE then swore off HA's tours and took Hop On Hop Off buses which do not cover as much of the islands as HA's tours do, but at least you could understand them. The only other two tours we took were a cable ride and sled ride, both of which were worth while. We toured in Casablanca with the HA tour which was not good. The guide did not cover everything he was supposed to, he took us to places not on the tour schedule to try and get us to buy things in his selection of shops, and ended the tour 45 minutes early.
We have sailed with Holland America many times and have always enjoyed our trips, as we did this one. WE have already booked on board for our next HA cruise in July 2013.