As a first time cruiser, I didn't really know what to expect, but I can say that I did very much enjoy cruising and the destinations. However, Holland America was not really up to scratch in several areas, most prominently in their (borderline offensive) efforts to make you buy grossly overpriced products on board.
I found the embarkation process to be quite smooth and trouble free with our bags delivered promptly. Our stateroom was obviously dated. Some drawers had sticky and loose runners and the room was in need of a refresh. The bed was comfortable and our room steward was very courteous and hard working.
We ate at both the buffet (Lido restaurant) and formal dinning room (Rotterdam) and found the food okay at both. The Lido was extremely busy and finding a table was difficult at times. The food in general was very "American". Lots of fatty, sweet, unhealthy food and the buffet lacked interesting and unique foods. The formal dining room was also very busy, but pre-booking dinning times was successful.
The onship entertainment was poor. The performers themselves were of a high quality, but the routines were cliche, corny, and borderline embarrassing. The first nights stage show was a sing and dance celebrating all things North American and Alaskan, I mean really. Give us some well known classical songs or musicals. The dancing with the stars competition appealed to us, as we enjoy dancing, but this does not appeal to all. The cooking classes were very good, and the head chef was interesting and insightful and humorous.
The extras though! Do you want a soda drink, that $2.00+15%. How about a beer, that $6+15%. What about a glass of wine with dinner, $8.50+15%. These prices are too high. There was no option for a general alcoholic drinks package. Do you want internet, wait for it, $7.50 for 10 minutes! WHAT. That's highway robbery. The shore excursions were 25% to 50% more expensive on board than exactly the same excursion bought on the dockside. There is an $11.50 per day 'service charge'. Why should we pay a service charge? Holland America should simply increase the cruise cost and pay their staff a decent wage, instead to lumping the responsibility of paying staff onto the patrons. Then there is the art actions, wine tasting, Alaskan clothing outlets, duty free, casino etc etc all designed for one thing, to take money away from you.
In summary, the destination was good and we enjoyed the cruise. But, Holland America did their darndest to make us pay as much as possible for the experience.