After reading some of the horrible reviews prior to going, we were concerned at what we might experience once on board. Boy were we worried for nothing! From the embarkation to leaving the dock on our return, we had a smooth experience, and met many wonderful people! We have cruised nine times before (so nothing compared to some people, but enough to know what to expect), and found this one to be just as good if not better than others. T
o those who say the crew is rude or abrasive, I have seen the way some people act when "asking" for assistance, it is more of a "demand" than an ask. I have always believed that if you are nice, people are nice back to you. I certainly found that to be the case while on board. We met some great crew members, from Burt Reynolds in the Lido Cafe to Party Planner Joy who did an outstanding job, to Rudy, who helped a group of dysfunctional bartenders (myself and fellow cruise members) become certified drinkologists in the mixology class, to the cabin stewards and the casino hosts - it was a fun and friendly experience! Those who say there are crabby and uncaring people on the crew - certainly didn't mingle with the crowds I did.
As for the food and the specialty restaurants, we found them all to be very good. I have to admit, we only ate in the dining room two days, we found the staff and food to be wonderful. Smiles and greetings, great presentation and wonderful food. We ate at the Cannelito, Pinnacle Grill and the Tamarind restaurants while on the cruise. Each one was worth the effort and cost. The service in all three was very attentive, and had smiles, and made it a great experience - I would highly recommend paying the little bit extra to make your cruise even more special!
The ports were fun. Grand Turks wasn't anything that special if you just got off the ship and laid on the beach, but c'mon it just got hit by a hurricane this year - what can you expect! It was still fun at Margaritaville, and there again the people were nice! San Juan was fun, we went on the city tour. I would recommend it as it was fun, informative, and gave you a new perspective if you have been here before. In St. Thomas, we took a taxi from the new port (very nice by the way - a lot less congested), and had a fun day of shopping. It was crowded, but when isn't St Thomas crowded. If you don't want the crowds take a trip to the shore and swim! Our ship wasn't able to stop at the private island due to rough seas. While this was a little disappointing, the captain made sure everyone got their port taxes refunded as well as any excursion that was already booked for the day. To top it off, he gave everyone free champagne that night (I think above and beyond) to show how sincerely sorry he was that we were not able to stop at that island. We had an extra day at sea - who can complain, you are again on vacation!
The accommodations and the ship were decorated very nice. They are not the glitzy cheap colors and new age decorations as on other cruise lines - it is Holland America, much more subtle and classy. I have sailed them before, and was pleasantly surprised that they kicked it up a bit with more color and energy, but not at the expense of distinction. We will cruise Holland America again - it was a great experience, and would encourage others to do the same!