10 of us total went on this cruise. Grandma (88 yrs old). Aunt & her partner (late 60s). Sister, husband and teenage son (mid 30s). My family (late 30s, with 7 yr and 7 mo. old daughters). Grandma wanted to try a "big" ship before she died, having done 30+ cruises on Holland America in the past. This was our 4th as a group, and my wife's and my 6th overall (Celebrity, Norwegian, Holland America). In general we are well-traveled. We like nice things at good prices. Definitely a quality over quantity mentality, but we're all about value. That's the basis for my review...
Overall the ship is amazing. Well worth doing at least once in a lifetime. I can't say I'm sure we would go back on this ship again, though who knows. We'd know now what to expect and so maybe that would change our minds. My sister claimed this was the least relaxing cruise we've been on - why? Because there was so much to do we were always on the go. A good problem I guess.
What we loved:
- Activities galore
- kids splash pad for infants!!!
- Entertainment (evening shows) was overall best of any ship we've been on.
- Adventure Ocean (kids care program) was awesome. Great facility and staff.
- casino was 1/2 non-smoking and actually seemed like it
- parties & parades on the promenade were tons of fun
- the various "districts" on the ship gave it a different feel and lots of variety
Where it lacked:
- Full price for 3rd & 4th passengers, even a 6-month old baby. Ouch! Granted Gma pays for this trip, but still we feel guilty about it. I know some people say why cruise with a baby, but for us it's a good way to do multi-generational travel. However, why on earth should anyone have to pay full price and receive nothing. Nursery care for her costs additional. Baby food costs additional. The only thing she got to use was a crib and a pool. To me this is the biggest disappointment overall, because there's no value for her. We wouldn't mind paying something or even paying full price if we got something for it. That said, my 7 mo old enjoyed lobster, fish, fruit soups, etc. I would just get it, mash it up or puree it in the bullet and that's what she ate every night. :)
- Food & Beverage was not as good as any other cruise we've been on. Variety in buffet was lacking. Main dining room was hit or miss depending on the night. The additional places you could eat were just so-so. The one shining star was Giovanni's Table, everything was delicious and it was well worth the service fee. And we missed things like a midnight dessert buffet, made to order eggs/omelettes in the buffet, crepes, etc. Only one bar had quality beer (5th floor inside, nowhere near the pool deck). Drink prices were steep and package prices outrageous. No option to buy punch cards or anything like that. To me it's like eating at Applebees, when I'd rather eat at the Cheesecake Factory.
- Baby changing stations were non-existent. This is somewhat comical to me in that they provide such nice splash pad and a program facility. You'd think they'd put changing stations in the accessible stalls in each bathroom, but they didn't put in any!! That's women's too. On the 15th floor near the pools was about the only place (and there they even had complimentary wipes). Didn't make sense to us.
- Trash cans are also non-existent. We resorted to either carrying it everywhere with us or leaving somewhere inconspicuous.
- Other little things that you don't think about when you get them, but realize you miss later on - HA provides a NY Times daily newspaper synopsis. You get nuts when you buy a drink. A towel creation in your room at night with a couple mints.
The rest of the aspects of the cruise, well they were what I'd honestly expect anywhere. Good service overall, with just a few instances of being slow which is expected. It was well-organized and efficient getting on and off. They offer a ton of shopping (we don't do) and a variety of excursions (we took one snorkeling and it was great). I certainly would tell anyone to not let it hold you back from going, but if you've been on other ships and with other cruise lines I imagine you'll pick up on some of these things and have to make your own judgments.