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 More
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! Less
Loved the beach, it was clean and close to the dock and had ample free lounge chairs for all. Loved the Margaritaville Pool. Shopping was limited. It would've been nice to be able to just buy a can of coke or water somewhere instead of having to wait for a server to get a drink.
Loved the beach and all the amenities. Loved that we didn't need to bring cash and could just use our room card. Nice to have chairs to use and plenty for the kids to do. The BBQ lunch was disappointing for us. We didn't read the fine print, didn't realize it ended so early and got there as they were cleaning it up and beverages were gone; we got a little grumpy. But luckily we could more than make up for it when we got back on the ship. Again it would be nice if they had a place where you could pay a fair price for a bottle of water or coke nearby and not have to rely on a bar or server.
Didn't really like the port as it was pretty far from town, but loved St. Thomas in general. Not much variety in the shops. If you don't have experience there its easy to pay too much to get where you want to go. It would be nice if the cruise line gave out a little more info about how to get around without having to pay for an excursion.
Loved the beach we ended up at and look forward to returning with a little experience behind us.