We were three families 6 cabins. We did our Xmas/New Year’s Eve (14 nights back to back) cruise on Holland America’s (HAL) newer ship the Nieuw Amsterdam this year 2013/14. We switched from Princess to HAL a few years back because HAL is one of the few remaining cruise lines that allows you to have a smoke on your balcony otherwise we would still be on Princess. I just heard RCCL has also “outlawed” smoking on balconies also! I find this sad they cannot accommodate smokers in some manner in allowing balcony smoking. I guess the remaining cruise lines left to harvest of vacation dollars other than HAL that allow smoking on balcomies are the mother ship cruise line, Carnival and now NCL which we are happily exploring again as options. We have many cruises under our belt, maybe 50 since 2002. Cruising has been as very good vacation value over these years for us. Usuallly the airfare is the bigger consideration in determining whether we take a cruise. Let me get back to this cruise. This year was a cheap year for a holiday cruise. It must be the ecomony. The cabins were going for more than 65% off for the last few months before sailing. I find Holland OK but an older crowd for sure. I should say that I am 59 years old. I get the feeling (talking to the people in the casino) that most of the younger families with small kids on these Holland cruise, were there as invited guests of the grandparents and that is fine. It’s too bad the HAL cruise line would never give a thought to having one on the many countdown locations, for New Years Eve, on the open-air Lido deck. I still remember on our first New Years Eve cruise years back on Carnival’s Spirit(2003) what a great party atmosphere under the stars. I imagined at the time it was as good an atmosphere as being NYC in time square. I am so excited for the new NCL big ships that are coming out, having fireworks every cruise. What a simple marvel idea!
The drink packages are a great NEW idea for those wishing to sign up for it. Obviously some young business analyst pointed this out to the finance people in the cruise industry. I think a no brainer as they say. Other than the other mega cruise conglomerates, the all inclusive resort competition is providing a holiday package where the cost of drinks is off the table. It is included! Worse than that when you think about it, booze on the high seas is tax free. That average drink they charged $8 for, cost them probably less than 20 cents gross before other expenses. Also missing on HAL is any late night adult entertainment as other cruise lines are often providing. Other than that, the chef’s, dining area/room and cabin steward staff is top shelf as they normally are with all cruise lines I have found. And that is the major reason today a cruise is better than an all-inclusive vacation. The 2nd reason is the casino staff experience is still better than anything at an all-inclusive. Watch out once they figure that out.
Tip to HAL: take the lido deck extra tables you have tried squeezing in and have been placed in the walking pedestrian area in the lido desk out! Nothing worse than bumping into and walking around dazed people every single day of the cruise in the lido deck when it gets very busy.