Background Information - Our 5th cruise, 4th in last 18 months on 3 lines (HAL, RCCL, and Carnival). 2/25/07 sailing to Southern Caribbean (The best itinerary of ports we've ever seen on a single cruise!)
Ship Info - Captain Peter Harris was wonderful. A real passenger's captain and true commander of all aspects of the ship! We met both the captain and his spouse on the deck; both were extremely friendly and personable. We saw him out and about on the ship several times! He rotates every 3 months, so he might not be on board when you travel.
Embarkation - From the greeters at the airport from HAL in baggage claim which arranged a bus for us stragglers running late to the crew which was waiting for us at the port... THEY WERE FANTASTIC. The crew... many of them officers / managers in the organization helped us pull / carry our luggage through the port right onto the ship. A heart felt thanks to you all! Thank you Captain Peter Harris and Holland America Cruise lines for saving our vacation (waiting for us). We went over 24hrs with little to no sleep getting to our cruise. We weathered a series of weather and airline related mishaps including 2 airlines (SWA, Air Tran), an ice storm, driving from 1 airport MDW to IND, multiple airline delays, and no gate once we landed. It seemed dismal as we waited for a gate for 45 minutes in FLL after arriving in the nick of time! We wanted to cry as we sat in the plane watching the clock tick by from 1533 to 1615. We literally ran from the plane to baggage claim, we were greeted by several HAL staff members, they saved the day! We arrived at port at 1700 exactly.
Activities - 1st culinary demo was good, the second was just ok. Bingo is bingo. We didn't visit the casino. We liked the cruise director Billy, one of the best we've seen. Overall activities somewhat sparse. Westerdam superstars was fun. Overall there were more activities which we enjoyed on the Oosterdam and RCCL.
Wine tasting - Good wines, but not much info... little to no presentation, unlike previous experience on RCCL cruise.
SPA - Not visited - looked nice, staff friendly
GYM: No elliptical trainers, not as nice and as well equipped as Oosterdam (12/2005). Fun walking the track around the ship on deck 3, just like the Oosterdam.
Room service - Timely and accurate Service - Cabin steward was very friendly but average, had to make multiple requests. Lido service very good, they were always around. Main dining service very good. One thing lacking from the main dining room was that it just wasn't very entertaining. The least entertaining of any cruise we've gone on. Decks kept very clean typical HAL.
Ports of call: Aruba we went on Jolly Pirates, inexpensive and a ton of fun, take the kids! Curacao we went to Jan Thiel beach and snorkeled and just hung out! Half moon cay has the best beach we've ever seen!
Shore Excursions - We booked our own excursions, those offered by the ship were very average and $$$ Summary - Overall we enjoyed it and would recommend it
Travel To Port of Embarkation - from Chicago / MDW on SWA, it was a nightmare and we almost missed our cruise despite leaving the day before Stateroom - Clean, small TV (soon to be upgraded to LCD), not enough storage, we've seen better designs (more drawers etc)
Dining - Service was very good, food average for cruise ship (above average on Lido deck). The one evening they had a desert presentation and unfortunately it paled by comparison to what we've seen on other ships!
Children's Clubs - looked good, typically not a kids cruise Entertainment - above average. Illusionist was one of the worst; comedian Julie Barr was pretty good. Joel Mason the Elton John impersonator was fabulous. The Westerdam cast was very good! Disembarkation - Fantastic, we literally flew off the ship. One of 1st groups off left 0820, grabbed luggage and were in a cab by 0835. Flew home on a 1050 flight from FLL arrived at airport 0850
Front desk: Professional, not very friendly (typical), had to visit twice to get a bill correction, 1st time they did not put correction through.
Photographers - Good, better on Oosterdam / Freedom of the Seas
Mishaps: A bottle of wine we had chilling in our cabin was knocked over and broken by someone from room service which came to the room to pick up a tray. The person sent to help us clean it up only did a half hearted job. We did most of the cleanup ourselves. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom was dirty inside on arrival. We had to repeatedly ask the steward to refill the Kleenex box. No fruit was brought to room despite being asked by steward day 1 what we'd like. The steward was nice and very friendly but seemed very stressed trying to service his rooms. Front desk errors.
Overall the staff was very friendly and service was good typical of what you can expect from HAL. Our last cruise which was our 1st on RCCL (Freedom of the Seas) The cruise was not as friendly / nice and the service was inferior.