This was our first cruise experience and we were very pleased. We really enjoyed Holland America Lines and will cruise with them again. We traveled with our two children (7 and 13) and all 4 of us had a good experience. Our verandah room was actually roomier than we expected and our cabin stewards were fabulous! Our rooms were always clean, never lacking clean towels and we LOVED the towel animals and chocolates left on our bed each night.
One area that we were disappointed was Club HAL. Our daughters were in different age groups and they wouldn't let them be together. Our daughters didn't want to be separated (and they shouldn't have to be in our opinion), so we didn't use Club HAL services at all.
We enjoyed all of our dining experiences. We enjoyed the buffet on the Lido deck and the Dining Room, (we didn't visit the specialty restaurants). We really enjoyed the 24 hour pizza at the The Slice. One downside of the buffet dining was that it seemed at times that there were not enough crew to keep lines down in the made-to-order areas. The service in the Rembrandt Dining Room was excellent and our servers were always attentive and remembered our likes and dislikes. We loved the International/Baked Alaska night, and being entertained by the servers, that was a highlight.
As for the pool, (we only used the pool on mid-deck as kids weren't allowed in the Sea View pool aft deck) for as small as the pool was it never felt crowded and we were always able to find seating along side.
Another of the very few downsides was as soon as the servers learned we weren't ordering alcoholic drinks service slacked off for us just a bit (we watched the difference in the service for those around us that were drinking those types of beverages). But I've noticed that at most restaurants in general not just on a cruise. But cruise ships like to peddle their alcohol so it was definitely noticeable.
There wasn't a lot of planned family activities going on around the ship, but we honestly didn't mind. We were happy just hanging out by the pool or playing games in the Crows Nest (one of our favorite places). We really enjoyed the night time entertainment at the Main Stage, we especially loved the magician and his dog.
We enjoyed the port days. We're pretty easy to please and loved everything we did at port and just being at those place. Grand Turk was relaxing and the beach was quite lovely. We felt that we paid too much for the open air taxi to the beach on St. Thomas ($10 for each of us), but it was cheaper than the excursions and we loved the local feel and snorkeling at Coki Beach. We missed our port in San Juan because of winds but we LOVED Half Moon Cay. We thought that they do a great job of getting people on and off of the ship on port days.
We loved our cruise and can't wait to do it again!