This was our fifth cruise, first time without kids and with friends, plus Cruise Critic pals. We think it was our best cruise so far. We live in San Diego so we were dropped off and picked up at the cruise terminal. We did get caught in the rain and hail in the long line to enter the terminal, but our cabin was ready and full of sunshine when we arrived. It was cold and chilly on deck at sailaway, so we drank coffee and hot chocolate and then had the brilliant idea of jumping into our suits and taking advantage of the bubbling jacuzzi on the aft deck. So we watched the Port of San Diego disappear as we left the bay, followed by Holland America's Maasdam.
Everyone had to adjust to rough seas that evening, and dinner was a bit of a challenge. By Saturday, the next day, it was warm and sunny enough to sunbathe on deck chairs. We enjoyed a gift exchange and meet & greet with Cruise Critic members on Saturday, and our "leader" Tigger B, arranged for us to have a get-together with the Captain and senior staff the next morning at 11. Both were very nice events, and made cruising all the more pleasant for having met so many people and ship's staff. As promised, later in the cruise, the Captain made announcements of whale sightings and the ship even changed course a bit for us to enjoy the view.
Food, entertainment, cabin staff, dining room staff, cleanliness, friendliness and ship layout all earn high marks from us. Room service was timely. Bar service absolutely lovely. The Spirit Showband played excellent jazz music at various venues throughout the ship and we especially enjoyed the before-dinner music and cocktails in the Atrium. Photographers did a fine job. We did one shore excursion in Acapulco, to a snorkel site on Isla Roqueta, and created our own snorkeling excursions in Zihuatanejo & Manzanillo.
Fellow passengers were friendly and pleasant for the most part. The ship never seemed crowded, whether in the Lido buffet, in the dining room, on elevators, in the gym or spa, pools, decks, or jacuzzis. Even the hallways never got crazy with people traveling back and forth. We were told the ship was full, but it seemed very uncrowded and comfortable.
Later in the cruise, we discovered that the spa had nice saunas, steam rooms and deluxe showers on each side (men's and women's) and began taking advantage of those amenities. The gym was well-equipped and spacious. The food was tasty and abundant; we enjoyed the soft-serve ice cream machines and Lido dessert buffet. But there were plenty of opportunities to walk the decks, take the stairs, and otherwise negate all those calories.
Cruise Director Stuart Dunn was affable, lively, humorous and entertaining, ably assisted by his staff. The actual shows and entertainment in the evenings would rate about a 3 out of 5. We've seen better and worse. They were passable at worst and very decent at best. The only temptation at the late shows was to go to bed and get a good start on the next day's activities. Stu joked that we should stay up late and get up early every day of the cruise, as we could "sleep next week when you're back at work". We came home exhausted but happy. We would consider taking the same ship on the same itinerary a second time. Can't beat the heat in January in the southern Mexican Riviera (see port reviews below).
Disembarkation was swift and comfortable--thanks in part to Stu's gentle reminders over the PA, people did not crowd the halls and stairways to await their zone being called. Also notable that morning was his announcement that we should all "wake up, we're here, we're in Honolulu." You could hear people chuckling all over the ship. Good humor, good instructions, good follow-through.
By golly, Manzanillo isn't even listed as a port. It was the sleeper surprise. We had not been able to find tour book information about Manzanillo. The port is industrial. There is a shuttle to downtown ($4 round trip) which we took with our friends to do a little shopping. The town is pleasant to walk around in and the shopping is decent. Upon returning to the ship, we took a taxi to Playa La Audiencia for a negotiated rate of $12 each way. It's about a 25 minute ride. First you have to get out of the port area, and then onto a busy highway, and finally you arrive at the resort area. There are several beaches to choose from. Playa La Audiencia was low-key and uncrowded, with rental beach chairs at only one end, so we walked to the opposite end and shared the water and snorkeling again with a group of friendly local teens. If you smile and say "buenos dias" or "buenos tardes" you will likely be rewarded with a lovely smile and a very pleasant response. We found this to be the case everywhere we went on this cruise. Again, the water was clean, clear, beautiful and full of interesting fish. Our taxi was waiting for us at the appointed hour and we returned to the ship in time for a very nice sunset up on Deck 10 as the ship sailed out of port.