This was our 17th cruise, 3rd on Holland America(HAL). We chose this cruise because it included 7 ports: St Martin, St Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St Thomas and Half Moon Cay. We've visited Dominica and Martinique only once prior but the remainder several times. Our favorites remain St Lucia and Barbados. The people and country side are very different but they have the most to offer in scenery and hospitality.
This reinforced our original impression of HAL that it caters to the very senior population. Actually our two previous cruises on HAL were much better. This cruise had a "very" senior population. It felt like a cruising nursing home with a myriad of walkers, canes, motorized chairs, and men in shorts with compression stockings.
Embarkation seemed very slow in comparison to other cruises. We boarded early but had to wait in a large warehouse with about 700 other cruisers till our number was called. Lines moved slowly. As always, the rooms weren't ready so you are directed to the Lido for a late lunch where everyone is confused due to the wierd buffet design of HAL. All food is lined on two narrow traffic ways with two cross overs to each side. Can you imagine a bunch of seniors navigating this food arrangement, much less trying to make a decision on what to eat. If you want pasta and salad, you have to walk the length of the ship to obtain each.
We mostly ate in the Vista Dining Room. We enjoy meeting other people and were seated with 3 other couples from Georgia, Canada and Florida. The selection was adequate but taste frequently marginal becoming boring as the cruise progressed. The wait staff was good while the matre'd was annoying. The highlite was eating at the Pinnacle Grill. Food was excellent but be prepared to eat at a very slow pace.
The ship's decor can best be described as "heavy." My wife described it as somewhat Old World and somewhat modern. Rather eclectic. Large lamp shades,
ornate furniture with the colors of rose, bold aquas and royal blue. We were surprised at the amount of excess smoking on this cruise. The smell of cigarette smoke was common in the room hallways, much of the 2nd Deck, Deck 9 and on our verandah at times. Again, we never experienced this on other cruises. To compound this, we frequently experienced fresh paint smells in the hallways. Many railings were being varnished.
Most ship excursions are overpriced so we generally hire a local driver as we did in Barbados. Outstanding tour of the West Coast for $20. We did a ship tours in St Lucia and St Thomas. The best value was the World Heritage Tour in St Lucia due to a young tour guide named Mitch. We traveled from Castries to Soufrier where the ship came to pick us up next to the Pitons. In St Thomas we generally go to St Johns. This turned out to be a bummer. After arriving on St Johns by Boat, we boarded our safari truck only to go around the corner for a 35 minute rest room break. Who wants to waste 35 minutes on this beautiful island? Then the driver proceeded to tell us all about Cruz Bay for another 15 minutes all of which we heard on the ferry.
Entertainment in the Vista Lounge was just average. Several comedians, a pianist and several ship sponsored variety shows which lacked spark. Exception was the combo called Halcats. The small combos in the various lounges were excellent such as the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and the Adagio Strings. The bar tenders in the Ocean Bar were great. We met what will be life long friends from England at the Ocean Bar.
Overall, the cruise just lacked enthusiasm. Maybe it was due to the population. HAL does seem to be doing some cost cutting and squeezing of the dollar which is showing in service. Very sad! It may take awhile before we again select HAL.