This was my first cruise on Holland America and also my first solo trip. Overall, I would say I am very pleased.
I found 98% of the staff very knowledgeable and friendly. Hamem is a great cabin steward. I was in cabin 5184. I was assigned table 50 in the MDR. It was a table for 8 but I was the only one there. I felt I was getting the royal treatment every time I ate there. Ohde and Bangkit were the best table stewards ever, however, Bangkit the assistant, is now on vacation. Hamish was the Cruise Director and I found him to be welcoming and available. Mixology classes were great. I went to them all and got the bartender certificate for proof! Ask about a drink called a Wang, Wang. The Philippine bat tenders will know it. It is not in the book.
The highlight for me was the BB King Club Band, featuring the BB King All-Stars. This was a high energy R & B band that rocked it every night, 3 times per night, except the 2 nights they were off. They are top quality musicians and singers from Memphis. If Holland America is smart, they will keep this act going. Another highlight was Mike Robinson, ventriloquist and comedian.
This was the first cruise I have done without booking any excursions. I had a ball, via taxi cabs. My favorite place was Curacao. For about $60, I went downtown and shopped and then went to Plasa Bieuw, in the old Market, where the driver waited for me. It is a large open shed with picnic tables and large pots on the stoves. I had guiambo, which is an okra soup; yuana, which is stewed iguana; and payastoba which papaya stew. Beware that salt pork and other salted meats are prevalent. I enjoyed everything I ate.
The 3 things I would not do again are Le Cirque, Pinnacle Grill and room service. I would rate presentation and service in Pinnacle that of fine dining. However, I thought the food was like the food in the MDR and a piece the Le Cirque Chicken Under a Brick was bloody. The chef must have thought it was ok to be bloody because his/her solution was to send out "well done" chicken that was too dry. My one last comment is an unexpected "got ya" for which I am partly to blame. I say partly because if not for the chaos of the coffee and tea station in the buffet, this would not have happened. The coffee and tea station is the most disorganized, every man for himself place on the ship. There is no start or end point, so folks are everywhere. To make matters worse, the staff can't decide where they want the cups and cream to be. To take myself out of that nightmare, I started ordering coffee via room service. Maybe I should have asked but since I did not, I will share this with you. Room service sounds good but it does not matter what you get, the price is $11.50 when you get the bill.
FYI, you cannot use a USB thumb drive in the computers in the Explorers Lounge. You must have an SD drive. Be prepared, the drives might not work, as was the case with me. If you simply want to print something, for example, a pre-saved booking #, the HAL thinking is that you must print from the internet. There are no computers available to passengers that will work without internet. Depending on who you talk to at the front desk, you might be able to get them to print it (with a thumb drive), you might be able to get it printed at a cost of 20 cents per page or you might be told no and sent back up to the explorers lounge. If they can't help you or don't know the answers in Explorers, then you will be sent to front desk or photography. It seemed a phone call was out of the question.