My husband and I are experienced cruisers (17 so far),professionals and 60 years old who live in Florida. We love Holland America for its superb service, food and ambience. We were booked in a Superior Verandah Suite and two weeks before, received an email with an offer to upgrade to a Deluxe Verandah Suite for only $199 per person -- we took it eagerly! Spectacular cabin and balcony - lots of invitations to suite luncheons and cocktail parties. There was a bottle of champagne and a plate of fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate on Rosenthal china waiting for us when we entered our suite. We have stayed in Carnival Penthouse suites three times before, twice this year, and the only perk was VIP boarding and disembarking -- nothing at all like staying in a suite on HAL. I would highly recommend a deluxe verandah suite if you have the opportunity.
We were not at all impressed with the Neptune Lounge (only available to Deluxe and Penthouse cabins). It was dark and dreary with people just sitting around and not much conversation. I felt as if I was in a physician's office. We did use the concierge a few times and was happy with the service. Otherwise, the Neptune Lounge was not much of a perk for us, but there are many who like it.
There were only a few kids on board and they were pretty well behaved.
We were at a table for 8 at early dining and had a great time with our tablemates. A diverse group of people made for an interesting and fun week. The food was very good and the variety excellent. We had breakfast in the Lido buffet and lunched in our cabin several times. Also had lunch ashore a few times.
The stops were nice. We've been to them a number of times, although Costa Maya was new. Mostly beach stops this cruise and we were happy with that since we were on the cruise to relax.
I was part of the Club 21 VIP Cruise and it was great! Club 21 is Carnival Corporation's casino management group and I received a letter from them last spring offering the Oct. 18th sailing on the Westerdam as a special cruise. There were 66 of us on board and we were invited to a cocktail party at 5pm as we were leaving Ft. Lauderdale. Both hubby and I had free cocktails in the casino all week, there was a bottle of champagne for us upon embarkation, a free dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, and $250 in cash for me in the casino! We would definitely take another Club 21 VIP cruise if offered.
Service and elegance are what set Holland America apart from Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean (the other cruise lines we have sailed on). We take 4-5 day cruises on Carnival because they are convenient to where we live in Florida and are great getaways and stress relievers. However, for longer 7-10 day cruises, we prefer Holland America.
The only negative thing on the cruise was the change in format of the daily newsletter -- instead of a listing of activities by the hour, they are grouped by subject and that just wasn't helpful. I would highly recommend the Westerdam, Holland America and booking a deluxe verandah suite!