We booked this cruise for over Valentine's Day so the ship was full months in advance of the departure date. We cruised with some dear friends of ours from the UK and they hadn't been in the Caribbean before so that is how we picked this particular cruise. We stayed at the Sleep Inn and Suites in Dania, Fl the day before the cruise. The staff were pleasant and did a good job. The room was worn but clean. The breakfast buffet was quite good. The Sleep Inn is one of a few hotels who have a free shuttle to and from the airport and the cruise terminals, which is why we picked it. We left the hotel at noon for the cruise terminal.
The embarkation was fine with no problems encountered. We were on the ship by 1240, which is fast considering the drive time is included. One disadvantage of arriving on ship later is that all of the seats at the Lido buffet were taken and no one was budging from them. The rooms were ready about one pm room. We were lucky to meet our room steward right away and asked him to empty the refrigerator so we could fit our wine into it. This way there is no problem with being charged for anything in the frig and you still get to cool your wine with room to spare. The veranda was spacious and we had the room steward open the divider on the veranda between our two rooms so we could talk to our friends while enjoying the view. Our rooms were always clean ready for us no matter what time we left and returned to them.
The ship was spotless and well maintained. The entertainment was quite good and we were lucky enough to have a concert pianist give an extra performance in place of napkin folding. The string quartet in the Explorers lounge playing for those waiting for their dining tables in the evening was very enjoyable and a nice touch to relax before the meal. We had open seating and there were some problems with that. We made reservations the first day on the ship for that evening and when we arrived at the dining room that night our table had been given to someone else. Not too much of a problem if we were late but we were there at the first seating at 515 pm. The next morning at 0800 we called and made our dinner reservations for that night and once again when we arrived, on time, our table had been giving to someone else. In total this happened three times during the ten day cruise and one night we ate at up at the Lido. Not very good odds in having your reservation and actually getting it right. We just showed up for two nights and happened to be seated with Yoga and Wardi as our waiters. They were the best waiters that we had for the entire cruise. They made up for the reservation problems. The food on Holland is second to none. The food on the Lido deck, the buffet, is better than what one is served in the main dining room on Carnival. Holland set up a welcome party for the 88 cruise critic members that were on the cruise. They were gracious enough to also serve free drinks during the party. Many thanks to Ron for arranging with Holland for this service.
It was nice to meet with other cruise critic members and talk to them in person. Due to a strike on the French island of Guadeloupe we were not able to dock there but Holland managed to secure docking and services on short notice for Dominica instead. My compliments to Holland for being able to make lemonade out of lemons. There were plenty of daily activities to participate in during the cruise and the library was the very best that we have ever encountered on a cruise ship. The library also has a wide variety of DVD's to use in your room if you so desire. We were staying in Ft Lauderdale for three days after the cruise so we elected for the expedited disembarkation, so we could pick up our rental car and go check into the Kira-Mar suites in Hollywood. Disembarkation was one of the easiest that we have encountered with no problems at all. Overall, except for the dinner reservations for open seating being a mess and some of the waiters not very experienced, it was a great cruise.