After 11 cruises we decided to give Holland America a try since we were tired of children ruining our experience. (Sorry to those of you who are responsible parents, but there are too many kids running wild on ships these days. Why kids need to be on a cruise in the first place is beyond me.) Anyway, there were very few children, but as luck would have it there was a screaming baby at the next table with parents who did absolutely nothing to quiet it.
Flew to Montreal two days before the cruise, stayed at the Residence Inn. Ridiculous rates for cabs from the airport. 45 bucks, flat rate. Nice way to gouge the tourists. Had a wonderful dinner at a little mom and pop Italian restaurant called Che Ennio. When the owner found out I was Italian I got a tour of the kitchen.
Embarkation was fast and easy. Maybe ten minutes.
The cabin had plenty of room, lots of closet space, a DVD player (1000 movies available free) and, off all things, a bathtub. Though you had to be a 90 pound woman to actually fit in it. Cabin was spotless, very quiet. Comfortable bed with the same high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets we have at home. Cabin stewards kept everything immaculate and I tipped them a little extra when we left.
The ship is 20 years old but looks new, as it was remodeled two years ago. Great public rooms, terrific theater, a movie theater, nice quiet places to relax. Casino was the only place that was a little smoky. Main dining room was beautiful.
The food was all over the place, and for the first time we felt the food at the Lido buffet was actually better than the dining room offerings. The buffet had things like roast turkey and steamship round for lunch, better than most cruise buffets. The dinner entrees were really hit and miss. They had no problem with simple stuff like steak, lobster and salmon, but some of the dishes were downright weird. Why they put gorgonzola cheese on top of alfredo sauce is beyond me. It was so overpowering I couldn't eat it. No one at our table liked the desserts. I'm used to cruise ships offering decadent desserts, but these were just strange. The upside down apple tart takes the award for "most difficult dessert to eat" as it is a sliced apple in one piece topped by ice cream. Needed a knife to eat it. The chocolate offerings were few and not very chocolaty. The pistachio ice cream did not have a single nut.
The one big problem occurred on our last day at Bar Harbor Maine, the only tender port. We, and many others, had booked private tours, and went to the theater to get our tender tickets. But the rather rude HAL guy wouldn't let us off the ship until the people who had bought tours thru the ship got off first. The couple next to us waited an hour and a half and missed their tour. I called the tour company and they held it for us, as we ended up fifteen minutes late. But they guy kept telling me I should have bought a HAL tour (the one I had wasn't offered) and that this policy was the same on every cruise line. I've been on 11 cruises and never run into this. You should not lose port time or have to wait more than an hour behind people who bought tours. Tenders should be first come first served, as they've always been.
Bottom lime, great ship, great service, very average food, and a screwed up tender policy.