This was mine and DH's first cruise on Holland America. Prior to this we did a 10 day on the Radiance and decided to hop on this repositioning cruise to make our way back home to Seattle. We have cruised many times (19 for DH and 17 for me) and our favorite line is Royal Caribbean, with Celebrity being our second favorite. I expected the service on HA to be top notch and about what Celebrity offers but overall I didn't get that at all. So, I'll start off with some of the good things I found while onboard this ship:
- Great Captain. He was very friendly with all of the guests and took part in many activities, the cruise director was also a lot of fun. I found a few of the bar staff to be friendly which was nice since everyone else on the ship lacked that!
- The Culinary Arts program was a lot of fun. Cat with the Explorations Team was a lot of fun and did some great classes. I was able to partake in a cooking demonstration with the Pinnacle Grill chef. It was a great experience and afterwards we were able to take our food that we made to the Pinnacle Grill and enjoy a glass of wine. Well worth the $29!
- The Superior Veranda Suite was very nice and roomy. I will say that the colors of the room are outdated though, too much gold for me and not modern enough but then again, that is the theme of the ship. Loved having the jetted tub and separate shower and lots of storage space. I think the bed was one of the most comfortable I've ever slept on onboard a cruise ship.
- I thought the food was really good and they had a lot of selection. I highly recommend the Pinnacle Grill - it's also one of the only places we received good dining room service, too bad we had to pay a surcharge to experience that type of service. DH had a huge porterhouse steak and I had the filet with two huge prawns. The lobster bisque was probably the best I've had so that was a huge plus!
- Mid and early 30's couple here. I think that HA attracts a much older crowd, like 70+ and unfortunately some aren't very friendly. Just so you know I get along with people of all ages, have made friends with a variety of age groups on all of our cruises but sadly most of the people on this ship were not friendly and if you like to have fun at night and like dancing to some upbeat music, we didn't find it at least on this cruise. We also have a good sense of humor and I wasn't sensing that from the guests on this ship. I also noticed this cruise had a few families on it with younger kids since it was a repositioning cruise and I heard a lot of people (without children) complaining about that. Also from what I saw they do not do much in the way of kids programs so if you are going to cruise with your younger children I definitely do not recommend HA. We have a 10 year old DD who loves to cruise and I'm so glad we did not bring her with us.
- The dining room service was horrible and I was not expecting this at all. This is something very important to DH and I when cruising. Our waiter never introduced himself to us and we had him two nights in a row. (We finally stopped going after that) and our plates once we were done eating would sit on the table for what felt like forever! Nobody ever asked us how our food was, nor did our wait staff recommend anything. We were even sitting with an older couple who had been on the cruise for the previous 2 weeks, so it's not just because we were new to the table and younger than most on the ship. We also had to ask for things more than once. In my experience with cruising that should not happen. I am used to the waiter and assistant always introducing themselves and always being on top of when we are done eating and clearing our plates quickly. They didn't even offer more bread which isn't a big deal but once again, what I am used to. Also, the dining room felt very crowded with the chairs being very close together and not enough room the for the waiters to serve food.
- Trying to get food in the Lido during lunch was chaos, long lines and having to go to different stations so by the time you were done waiting in one, your food was cold. I did feel that the servers in the Lido were a lot more friendlier though, aside from the manager in there.
- The ship was on code red the first two days we were on there due to a lot of GI issues during the previous cruise. That made it very difficult since you couldn't touch anything at all. From what I have read this seems to be typical of HA. I think it's great they took precaution but I've cruised 17 times now and this is my first time experiencing this. Thankfully we stayed healthy and they did have hand sanitizer everywhere.
- The layout of the ship was so confusing and didn't flow well. The ship also had some odd smells in the elevator and halls. I don't know how to explain them but they just seemed musty to me.
- The decor of this ship is hideous in my opinion. I understand that HAL goes for the more traditional look but the carpet in the hallway to my room was just tacky and didn't match. I just don't see how this ship was built 8 years ago. Granted it's my first cruise on HAL so this is probably how they decorate all of their ships.
- The Daily Program was lacking in my opinion. Not a whole lot to do on this ship when at sea. We spent a lot of time relaxing in our room, which was still nice. I will say that the entertainment they did have was good.
- I have never been on a cruise where you see so much staff eating and partying in public areas and that was just weird to us.
Yes, it was only four days, thank goodness but my husband and I do not plan on sailing HA again. It does not meet our expectations and what we look for in our cruise vacation. We will continue to stick with RCI, Celebrity or Princess. However, if this is your first cruise vacation or you aren't a cruise snob such as myself you will probably enjoy Holland America. I just know what I want from my cruise vacation and I just didn't get that from HA.