I flew to Southampton from Ireland and then made my way to the port. Everything went smoothly and by 1230 I was walking up the gangway onto the ship. I was allocated a Deluxe Veranda stateroom no 6173. As I opened the door I fell in love with it right away. The decor was very tasteful and in keeping with the product that Holland America offer. Everything was polished and new with many amenities. I love the flatscreen TV and DVD player. The balcony doors are very nice and add to the decor. There is plenty of wardrobe space and a free electronic safe. The only thing I would have suggested is that a light above the inside of the door where the wardrobe space is. Its very dark and hard to see in that area.
The bed and bedding were so comfortable with plenty of pillows and cushions. The Elemis toiletries were also a nice touch. The size of the stateroom was ample and certainly a nice environment to relax in.
After dropping my bags and changing I decided to work my way around the ship from top to bottom. So it started at the Observation deck. This was a very nice area and the Explorations Cafe is superb and serves a good Cappuccino and pastries. Plenty of internet access points here also although very slow.
The Tamarind restaurant didn't fail to impress. The layout is perfect and the decor is rich and inviting. It was spacious yet intimate and struck the right balance.
The Panorama deck houses the Club HAL for the children. Plenty to keep them occupied in this area.
The Lido deck houses the impressive Lido pool. It is a true Oasis and a really nice place to swim and relax. I loved the design and features. The Seaview pool is also nice with plenty of loungers to relax in yet not feel crowded.
Time to look at the Spa and the Hydro pool was very striking. Certainly a place to un wind and spend a few hours everyday. The thermal suites are very well designed and placed. The therapy rooms are quite impressive also. The fitness center has all the latest equipment and plenty of space.I then skipped 5 decks as these all housed the various staterooms. I then went to the Promenade deck and took a look at the Rembrandt Dining room. The first impressions were good. Very well laid out and nicely furnished. All of the tables had nice floral displays and the table settings were very nice also. The staff were all getting ready for that evening.
The Shopping arcade was very impressive. Well laid out , very spacious and no cheap drums of endless gold chains that you see on other cruise lines. Everything sparkled and was polished. There are some very nice HAL branded items for sale also.
The mainstage was being prepared for a talk by various representatives from HAL and the layout of the theatre is very nice. Wine colored leather seats and plenty of space.
The Lower Promenade houses the Pinnacle grill which is small but well laid out. The furnishings are very well chosen and the atmosphere is inviting. The Pinnacle bar is a nice place to go before and after dining.
The Culinary arts center is nice and plenty of space although there was nothing going on in it for the period I was there.
Northern Lights is a wonderfully designed nightclub and a great place to dance the night away. The effects and furnishings add to its unique identity. Even when it was full of people it still felt comfortable. The DJ was great and played a good range of modern and older dance hits.
The Sports bar is a nice place to hang out and I loved the seats in the shape of baseball gloves!!The main deck houses the front desk and shore excursions desk. Quite small but does the job. There is a small bar here also which is a nice quiet retreat.
So at the end of my stay what are my impressions?
I have to say I loved the ship. It is well designed and elegantly furnished in keeping with the HAL product. The staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The facilities were good and there is plenty of areas to relax and entertain or be entertained. The various staterooms that I saw were all of a high quality and the color schemes were well chosen also.
The food was on the whole top class. The buffet lunch was really nice with plenty of choice. The breakfast was really nice and plenty of decent choices. The small things that the staff did like carrying your tray to the table and prompt collection of finished plates really stood out. Just because it was a buffet did not mean a loss of standards. Proper cups and plates unlike some lines.
Now for the glitches. At dinner in the Rembrandt there were 5 of us at the table. 4 of us had the Beef and 1 had the Salmon. We were not asked what way we wanted the beef cooked and when it came one lady who likes hers well done had to send it back. When it did eventually come back it was still not well done and had to send it back again. Also the person that ordered the Salmon had to send it back as it was not cooked properly. When it did come back it had dried out. Now for me I love my beef rare so it was perfect for me and I had no issues with the meal at all. The people who did have the problems did have valid issues and were not just being fussy.
If I had have ordered the Salmon I would have sent it back also as it certainly was under cooked. The service itself was friendly. I guess they should have thrown the Salmon away and started from scratch and the same with the ladies beef. The fact that the beef had to be sent back a second time added to the disappointment.
The other issue I encountered was that I had no hot water the next morning to take a shower. I was running late so I just had to brave a freezing cold shower. The water was literally like showering with the cold tap on. It was not even luke warm. It did wake me up though. I reported it to the cabin steward. Two other people had to be moved from their staterooms but I did not find out why. Another couple had no TV in their stateroom as it had broken. On a real cruise I guess it would be more of an issue.
With regards to the new idea of the Retreat/Lido Cabanas I still have yet to be convinced and I would not use this facility and I think the space could have been put to better use.
In relation to the entertainment the show was excellent and I really enjoyed it. Very professional and well done.
So even though there were some issues it did not take away anything from the enjoyment of the ship itself and I guess these things are teething issues which will be sorted out. I would certainly cruise on this ship in future and highly recommend it to anyone.