This was a great cruise and an incredible value for the money. However, I did notice a few cutbacks probably due to the lower fares offered. I personally would favor paying more and seeing some of the services restored that have been cut and a stop to this nickel and diming that has started within the cruise industry.
Where Holland America shines is with their staff and service and they did not disappoint me at all and exceeded expectations. I did coordinate the Meet and Mingle for this cruise and the staff shore side coordinated well with the Onboard Events Coordinator. I received a letter in my Cabin on the first day giving her name and an extension number and the area was properly setup and stocked with Coffee, Tea, Water, and Cookies. More than enough to go around and the cookies were very tasty.
My Cabin Stewart Zulu was over the top and the best in 18 Cruises. I sent out 24 bags of laundry and he saw to it that I got all 24 back. He did an excellent job cleaning the cabin and provided me with several extra hangers for my clothes. He was always cheerful and did an excellent job.
I purchased the Green House Spa Package and the Spa was in very good condition and clean. Two of the Rain Forest Showers did not work properly but overall it was a great experience. The Spa was closed early for required maintenance which I guess was necessary but my question is why this could not have been performed at night so the Spa remained open.
I had several massages and one treatment and while not cheap were very effective. I also had a Pedicure/Manicure once again not cheap but done well. The Spa Staff was excellent and once again the best I have seen on my 18 cruises.
Dining Room Service was slow at times and orders were confused but it was evident that staff was simply overworked and Holland America needs to address this issue. The Dinner in the Pinnacle Grill was over the top and this was the first cruise where a Lunch was available for a $10 surcharge and passengers loved it. The Beef on the ship was well prepared and tasty in both the Dining Room and the Pinnacle Grill.
Embarkation was well organized just a tad of waiting. The transfers to the ship from the airport were a rip off I took a Cab for 50% less. Disembarkation went smooth and was very organized with the Barcelona Port Police doing a great job of getting people into cabs efficiently. The Disembarkation was ahead of schedule I was off the ship by 9:10 a.m. and my group was scheduled between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. Once again it was very organized with plenty of staff directing you to your Baggage Area and plenty of Porters to help you with your luggage.
The Food was great overall the Surf and Turf was outstanding in the Dining Room and even the Lobster Tail was tasty and it was served on the 13th night of the Cruise. My suggestion here is to serve that on the First Formal Night so it is really fresh. Buffet Service in the Lido was great with a great selection of food. The Deserts were mediocre, too much flour in the Cheese Cake and not enough of Cream Cheese. Not enough of different flavors for the Ice Cream in the Dining Room. I never had a bad main entrée but at times the portions were small however if you asked for a second it was cheerfully provided.
Holland America has started to charge for shuttles in some of the Ports. They did not provide any information about Public Buses which are very easy to use in Europe. Shore Excursions were overpriced and I did several using on shore vendors for half of what Holland America was charging. In Playa de Mallorca the person selling Bus Shuttle Tickets who was not a Holland America employee was telling passengers that the Public Buses were 5 miles from the Port when the stop for the City Bus was just outside the Doors to the terminal building. When I confronted her about this she first suddenly didn`t know any English and when I spoke to her in Spanish she told me to shut up and to not tell passengers about it or she would have me arrested. I immediately got a Police Officer and demanded that he get her DNI (Spanish ID Card) because I was issuing a complaint with others to IDEIOCOPI (Consumer Affairs in Spain). This was a very ugly scene but I will not tolerate somebody taking advantage of tourists. I have also informed Holland America Lines about her conduct.
The Laundry Service was good but several times things had to be returned because they failed to spot them also clothes were not returned on time and I had to send by Cabin Steward to look for them.
This cruise called on Ports during Holy Week in Spain so many attractions were closed when we arrived. Tom the Port Guide was very helpful but seemed to have limited information about Non Holland America tours. I do not believe this was intentional Holy Week in Spain is confusing because you really don`t know what is open or closed.
Horta, Portugal was a nice Port the weather was not cooperating though. I hired a taxi driver to stop at a Supermarket (Continental) where I purchased some Wine and Cheese and then to take to the Volcano, Crater, and an Island Tour he charged me 45 Euros for 2.5 hours and spoke great English.
Gibraltar was great but do not take the Holland America Tour to the Rock. There are Guides with Vans who basically organize the passengers into groups and do a tour for 28 Euros or 22 Gibraltar Pounds that include admission to everything plus return to the Port. I believe the HAL Tours required you to pay for admission. The Cable Car to the Mountain is slow and I was told to expect a 1.5 hour wait in line going and coming. I didn`t believe this when told so I went on a Public Bus and they weren`t lying
Alicante was nice I really didn`t do any tours just walked around a bit and watched the Easter Procession.
Playa de Mallorca here I took the Train to Sòller and the train station was easily reached by Public Bus just take the Bus right outside the Port Terminal Doors to Plaza de España and Train Station for the Sòller Train is the last of three buildings on your left as you exit the bus. The train is a treasure within itself for more information about that go here: http://www.trendesoller.com/en/cms.php I strongly suggest you do this the train ride up is beautiful and the town of Sòller is a true gem. The price round trip was 27 euros and included a tram ticket to the Port of Sòller due to time restrictions I was not able to take the Tram but people said the view was incredible. The train schedule on the website has a small change from what is posed the 10:50AM train now leaves at 11:00 AM.
The Cruise Industry has overbuilt and this is causing them to have to discount to fill their ships. Prices have been cut and so has service (you get what you pay for). I find these cuts aggravating and I am willing to pay for the service. Also many long time Holland America guests are upset about the cuts and think the same way I do.
The new Liquor Policy is outrageous because you can only take on one bottle of alcohol at the Embarkation Port not at the Ports on the Cruise. I purchased 2 bottles in Portugal in Horta and refused to pay for them. I consumed one in the Dining Room and gladly paid the $18 corkage and took the other home.
I have booked another cruise on Holland America for November on the Noordam and look forward to it. As I said earlier Holland America represents a great value for the money and does a great job. Finally, the Captain on this voyage went out of his way to speak with guests which was a pleasant change. I realize the Captain has a very important duty and the safe passage of the vessel MUST be his number one priority but it was a nice change. Overall, I give this cruise 9.5 on a scale of 1-10 taking off a half point for the deserts and nickel and diming