We have cruised on several Holland, Princess, and Carnival ships. From our experience, Holland just doesn't deliver on their "upscale" image. We end up on HAL primarily because of their itineraries.
The Amsterdam is in good condition and clean. The public areas are plentiful and well kept. Our OV stateroom on the lower promenade was small but as expected. No complaints.
The ship had just come off the world voyage route, so a few glitches are understandable. But the first half of the trip was inexcusable. It just seemed as though they were very understaffed and the hotel management didn't have a clue what was going on. Keys didn't work, which meant waiting in long lines at customer service--numerous times since even replacement keys didn't work. No apologies--just "well a lot of keys don't work." (And that makes it okay?) Our cabin steward didn't make it to our rooms 'til late the first night, and didn't get the room cleaned at all the next day. Repeatedly we heard "We were supposed to have a ____ person onboard, but they didn't make it in FLL." Or, "We didn't get 'x' or 'y' like we were supposed to in FLL." Fill in the blanks--it was a common theme. People who ordered wine packages were brought the list, then told they only had one kind available but they might be getting more in a few days. The Lido seemed terribly understaffed (always difficult in HAL's 'code orange' time, but worse than usual). There was only one server for Happy Hour in the Crows Nest for the first few days, and he literally RAN around the room trying to serve everyone. The MDR was ridiculously slow, and 2 1/2 hours wasn't enough time to get to dessert. We were told a price for shirts on the deck merchandise sale, waited in the hour long line (not enough cashiers), only to be told the person working on the deck "was new" and had given us the wrong price. And no, they wouldn't honor it. The crew didn't know about one of the time changes on this itinerary, causing passengers to miss wake-up calls and the Lido to open late. About half way through things improved. The service was never terrific, but it definitely got better over time.
The cruise director, Gene Young, was great and the entertainment enjoyable. The HAL singers & dancers were just okay, but they had two dancers who were fabulous. A highlight of the cruise was a special show those two dancers did, not usually on the entertainment line up. The guest performers were varied and good-excellent. The HALcats on the deck were fine and the acoustic guitarist/singer was excellent. The Microsoft teacher was outstanding, as was the Bridge instructor. Movies in the Wajang theatre were generally new releases and well attended.
Food was okay. We were not at all happy with the Lido, either in food quality or service. The set-up of HAL's buffet creates long lines, cold food, and requires multiple trips from the line to your table. In our opinion, HAL buffets fall far short of either Princess or Carnival. The first few days in the MDR were very disappointing, but it did improve over time. The special BBQ's at Half Moon Cay and for a sail-away on the Lido deck were both good. We enjoyed the Crows Nest, although they frequently didn't have all of the ingredients to make the drinks listed on their menu.
We don't usually do ship's excursions, but we did several this time and were very happy with them.
Disembarkation involved an extra 3 hour "inspection" of all non-USA passport holders. Apparently this isn't unusual in San Diego, but our crew didn't seem to know about it, and passengers weren't told until a few days before disembarkation. This caused a lot of stress for people who went by the original schedule to book flights and tours.
HAL boasts that it has the highest number of repeat cruisers in the industry. When we talk with people, many tell us that they've never tried any other line because they've heard that Holland is the best. We sure don't agree, and we will cruise with HAL again only if the itinerary and price are better than others.