Our first experience with Holland America was more than pleasant, having done multiple cruises with a variety of cruise lines to judge them by. The Embarkation was a bit shaky, as it was explained by a Holland employee, that this was unusual due to a Carnival ship embarking at the terminal at the same time. It was very noisy, not nearly enough places to sit down and the space for waiting (standing) was restricted due to the Carnival ship halving the space usually available. Even with all of these problems the embarkation went very well considering. Not the best but not the worst we have done.
The public rooms were available upon embarking on the ship but the staterooms were still being cleaned. Some may have a problem with that but Holland is gracious enough to allow people to rest in their cabins while waiting for disembarkation, making a latter time for access by the "new" cruisers. The staff were VERY helpful and courteous. We even noticed that a staff officer walking through the Lido restaurant saw a very young person carrying their tray and he politely took the tray from her and carried it to her table. The waiter staff was always there to assist the young and elderly with carrying their trays. Everyone that you met would say hello and ask how you were or if they could help. Many of the staff could remember your name after just meeting you a couple of times.Top notch service from the staff.
The ship was clean and well maintained with many places to just relax. The atrium was small but instead of using a huge amount of space for nothing but looks Holland used that space in the other public areas. The shopping area was the smallest we have seen on a ship, but it was stocked very well and didn't have all of the "junk" items you see on some of other cruise lines. Clean and efficient. The Lounges,bars and deck areas were fun and one wasn't pestered to death by waiters asking if you wanted a drink every two minutes. The staff remembered if you said no thank you or if you were drinking. The fitness area was very good and only one treadmill was inoperative. It was clean and well maintained with plenty of classes. The only thing I didn't like was the 0600 opening time, as I am an early riser, but that was minor. Once again the staff was great there too.
The dining room was tastefully done and comfortable. The staff excellent as with all other areas. The food was some of the best we have had for quite some time. Food quality seems to have been misplaced for quantity on many of the cruise lines but Holland retains very good quality with nice choices each meal.
This was our first cruise staying in an inside cabin. The room was clean and well maintained and spacious enough. Plenty of wardrobe space so that was nice. The suitcases fit easily under the bed but one had to store them toward the head of the bed as the extra bedding was stored in lockers at the foot of the bed. The night lights at the head of the bed were the best we have had on a cruise, not so bright as to keep anyone else awake but enough to read by. We would not recommend an inside cabin for long cruises however, we did miss the natural light.
The entertainment was very good. The Holland singers/dancers were very good and put on a very good show. Many of the cruise lines have sub-par entertainment but Holland does not seem to have followed suit. The comedy and other singing acts were very good also. We enjoyed each performance we went to.
The only excursion that we went on was the Sierra Madre, Concordia and Copala tour. We have done the Mexican Riviera cruise on all of the cruise lines that go there and have stayed in PV and Cabo at all-inclusives besides, so there wasn't much that interested us for excursions. We read in the cruise critic about this excursion and it sounded as if it was worth it. It was one of the best excursions that we have done mainly due to the tour guide, Marie. There were highlights and low points to the tour, but the good far outweighed the bad. It is a seven hour tour so be prepared to be gone the entire day at Mazatlan. There was plenty to drink with a choice of cold water, pop or beer. A meal is included with the tour also at Copala. The tour also included the required stop at a jewelry shop, with a rest room and cold water, pop and beer. Over all it was well worth the money and the time.
Disembarkation was extremely easy. We signed up early for the expedited disembarkation and we were off the ship at 0810 with no problems. In case you are not aware of this procedure you can leave the ship first but you must carry ALL of YOUR OWN bags off the ship, no help. We pack fairly light so it was a breeze. One note to anyone planning on this cruise or any cruise out of San Diego: the parking lot opposite the terminal has been sold and will no longer be there by end of summer. There is other parking in the area, like at the airport parking lot away from the airport. They all seem to have shuttles, but check to be sure that it is free.