Took this same cruise in 10/2005. Boarded this time with our two children, 11 & 8. Booked a balcony cabin this time as opposed to an inside. I was wary of constantly comparing this cruise with the previous one. I was also curious as to cutbacks considering the economy and the fact that I didn't pay much more for this cruise despite the better room and 2 more passengers. Here's how I saw it.
Embarkation:Still very swift and organized. They still do early embarkation at 11:30 even though they don't advertise it. Tip:If you take a taxi or a private car, ignore the line that is forming down the boardwalk. The driver will be able to go in and drop you off in the front. We made the mistake of getting out by the line because we didn't want to walk all the way back. Turns out, the cabs can take you right in. We used Greenride from our hotel, $12.50 plus tip for private town car up to 4 people.
Ship:Looks exactly the same. The cabins have some wear, but it's from people slamming and banging thier luggage into the walls. Some changes have been made for the better. Movie theatre, new coffee bar and library, and culinary arts center have been added.
Kids Club: our kids loved it. They had a full slate of age appropriate activities. There were 250 kids on the ship, which is about 3 times as many as usual on this ship. They were prepared and had extra staff on from other ships.
On Board:There was a full slate of activities, however, due to the presence of our children and our balcony, we spent most of our time at the main pool or relaxing on the verandah. one complaint here is that they only did two culinary arts activities and only accepted 15 people. These were highly coveted activities, seems they should have been able to work some others in. No backstage tour on this cruise. The shows we're 100% better than the last time, it really appears Holland America has put more into this. It also seems Holland America is carving a niche of being more low key. Only 2 announcements a day. Not really any hard sells on extras.
Cabin:perfect for 2 tight for 4. Plenty of storage and room for clothing. Preparing for formal night was a task with 4 people. balcony was awesome. Whales, dolphins, etc, all while enjoying room service for breakfast.
Dining: Main Dining was much the same as the first time around. Food was good.Service was good, but the formal dining is about a 90 minute process. Did not eat in the lido the first time, but was here much more often due to the kids. Honestly, didn't like it. It's a multi station set up and your always in one line or another. Food was a little exotic for a buffet. Best part of the lido was the dessert stations. Had roomservice for breakfast each day. The food was good, but the orders were only correct once.
Mild Complaints:Beverages. There is no shortage of service to get you soda's or alchohol(which you pay for) but the only place with the complimentary drinks(water, tea, juice)is in the lido. the glasses are very small. Bring a souvenir cup otherwise you'll be constantly getting up and standing in line to get a drink. As stated above, only 1 room service breakfast order was correct. Disembarkation was delayed 2 hours due to some international passengers going AWOL. Unforseen circumstance, but more announcements would have been helpful, there was mass confusion among passengers and crew. Our cabin steward kept coming to clean the room and I kept explaining that they won't let us off yet.Returning guests perks were non-existent. The mariner society brunch was a formal lunch that was too long. No giveaways or entertainment. We frequent Sandals and Beaches and they usually give us several nice little ammenities and usually a free shore tour.
Overall: Both adults and kids enjoyed ourselves on the ship and in the ports of Mexico. We have no problem recommending Holland America to others and will sail with them again.