My husband and I are seasoned cruisers and we aim to cross as many major lines of latitude and longitude on a ship as possible, so we were excited by this one as it meant crossing the International Date Line and indeed (from leaving home in the UK to arriving back) circumnavigating the globe.
Whilst this was our 23rd cruise it was our first time with Holland America Line. The embarkation process at Seattle was very efficient and streamlined, and we boarded in time for a buffet lunch in the Lido restaurant which we ate by the pool - a place we were to frequent regularly.
Our cabin was a twin-bedded one on the Main Deck (Deck 2) right at the starboard bow of the vessel. It was very quiet and comfortable and we were served by Choky, our very pleasant Indonesian cabin steward.
Our first impressions of Holland America's "signature of excellence" were not brilliant. On the first night the service in the Rotterdam Dining Room was extremely slow (we still hadn't finished after two hours at the table) and, for the first three nights, our waiter either forgot to bring courses or brought the wrong thing. This rapidly improved, however, once one of the ship's officers joined our table for dinner.
Also, for the first night the cabin steward did not do the evening "turn down" in our cabin, although to be fair this was the only time he forgot and the rest of the voyage the service was impeccable.
The quality, selections and presentation of the food I found to be excellent. Also the selection and range of drinks and cocktails, although I did find the bar prices to be extortionate compared to say, P & O or Fred Olsen.
I found the evening entertainment in the Frans Hals showlounge to be pretty average. The show company was good but nothing exceptional. The guest performers were aimed more at the 60+ age group; there was a bloke who played the clarinet (who was pretty good), a fairly run-of-the-mill female singer, a cellist (boring) a pianist (who was good) a comedian (good if you could understand the transatlantic humour!) and a pretty average magician.
We spent nearly all our evenings, after dinner, in the Crow's Nest, which was the ship's version of a night club. It offered discos, karaoke on some nights, dancing, live music and sometimes a Wii challenge! :-) The cruise director, Jimmy and the DJ/compere, Drew were really friendly guys who we got to know quite well as we were "regulars" in the Crow's Nest.
It takes nine full days and nights to cross the Pacific ocean so it certainly isn't recommended for first time cruisers or those who don't like to spend a lot of time at sea. It can also be very disorientating as, for the first 10 days of our trip, we were never in the same time zone two days running. It was a strange phenomenon completely missing out a day when we crossed the International Date Line, for which we received a certificate. Also, the north Pacific ocean is certainly not aptly named as we encountered winds between Force 8 and Force 10, and sometimes a 12 foot swell, so it was fairly rough. All part of the adventure though!
Once we reached Japan we visited Hakodate, Otaru, Aomori and Kobe. We had originally planned an overnight-in-port stay at Yokahama in order to explore Tokyo, but as this was right in the path of Hurricane Melor this port of call was, unfortunately, cancelled and the ship changed course. However, the ports of call were very interesting and Kobe was a fantastic city; it's amazing to see how they have built it up again after the dreadful 1995 earthquake.
All in all, we had a really good time and would probably cruise with HAL again if the itinerary was to our liking.