How wrong we were about Holland America Lines and how much we enjoyed every aspect of our cruise that was actually two legs - Spain, Portugal, then the Norwegian fjords.
We love Barcelona so we and our "best friends" started at our favorite hotel, the Hotel 1898 right on the Ramblas, and spent 4 days wallowing in all that Barcelona has to offer. We boarded the Ryndam with the least hassle imaginable - especially since we imagained that we would receive lots of hassle as first-time HAL travellers with no "club" status. Great folks grabbed our bags right out of the cab, we walked right onboard, were escorted immediately to our cabins, and could not believe that our bags were already at our door! What service!! A far cry from our Princess, Celebrity, Discovery, or even Oceania experience.
The ship was only 3/4 full on this first leg of our trip, which is quite nice, never crowds anywhere. The food was most impressive, in its variety and quality, including the specialty restaurants which we sampled as well - Canneletto and Pinnacle Grill. We all agreed, however, that our fun table for 8 at the early seating was the best and we didn't really need the extra restaurants. One dinner on the Lido deck, which included one of the best beef Wellingtons we'd ever had, was also impressive!
We had a Veranda balcony cabin and our steward was exceptional - any requests were met immediately and he kept our room and bath spotless. As we were ending the 18 days following the cruise with another 4 in London we were away from home almost a month so were counting on the ship's laundry service - we were not disappointed with that service and it was quite reasonable - they had a special price for unlimited amounts of laundry making this "luxury" a good buy considering how much we gave them to do.
The shows were great, sea days were delightful whether you wanted to just sit and read or avail oneself of a myriad of activities - we even learned how to fold those wonderful towel animals that we enjoyed every night on our bed - the spa services were lovely, although too expensive - and, in general, the most impressive thing we noted was the very high level of friendly service from almost every one of the staff. How so many in the dining room knew our name was amazing, but even when cutting through a different passageway, maintenance as well as other crew were both friendly and helpful.
My only complaint would be the high cost of internet service - unbelieveable to us that in this day and age the cruiselines should be able to gouge customers for what is an essential service. We have learned to read reviews and check out all options re: what we do ashore, so the shore excursions we chose seemed to be of good value and with only one exception, delivered what the write-up promised. The staff refunded part of the cost when we and others complained about the "one exception" which also impressed us. Most of the ports we visited are not listed here for review, however. Overall I would give very high ratings to Holland America and my husband and I, as well as our friends, are looking forward to the Auckland -Sydney cruise next spring!