We booked this cruise for the itinerary and looked forward to the small ship experience which we like but which is harder and harder to find as the lines compete with the "make it big and they will come" concept. The staterooms were relatively large and the dark woods were full of old world charm, there was no escaping the fact that this ship was dated and in need of upgrading, if it is to continue at all as a passenger vessel. It was neat and clean, but fraying around the edges.
The menu was nicely varied, as you would expect in a quality cruise line, but, for the most part, the taste was not there. Although filet of beef was on the menu, I think, about 6 times over the 14 days, it was always a soft and tender meat without much flavor. I can think of only about 2-3 means where I would give a "wow" rating for flavor, and most were "ho hum". The food was presented very nicely on the plate and served impeccably.
Speaking of service, that is the only thing that kept this ship in the running for a 3 of 5 rating. I can't say enough about the staff. So friendly, always smiling, always looking to be helpful in a way that made you believe that they really wanted your experience to be exceptional. This was my second Holland America cruise and I've been on 24 other cruises across four other lines, and Holland wins out over the other lines on the staff who have direct contact with the customer.
There was one major disappointment. I was the organizer of the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and we were scheduled for a room which was part of a major fore to aft passageway. It was not a room as much as it was a wide passageway with some grouped seating. I arrived early for the meeting to find a cart with hot drinks and cookies sitting there. No sign. I sat down and watched as a few passersby stopped to help themselves to coffee, tea, and cookies. When I saw a server passing by, I commented about a sign, and he got a generic "private function" sign and put it next to the goodies. We had a total of 32 people show up for the meeting out of 41 signed up. No ship's representative ever showed up to greet us. Let me repeat that: no ship's representative came to say welcome aboard. Quite a letdown from other lines where we have had the captain and/or hotel manager come by.
The itinerary was great and the ship was on time, though we did miss our first port in Sweden because of reported bad weather which would have been bad news for tendering, but otherwise there were no hitches in visits or navigation.
Would I go on Holland again? Only if there was an itinerary that my favorite lines were not doing. The entertainment was only mediocre at best, and the loyalty program is paltry compared to other loyalty programs. Sorry to say, but Holland did not live up to the high expectations I had after hearing many veteran Holland cruisers. But, my thanks to the many wonderful Holland line staff for making the experience pleasant -- they saved the day.