We flew from Newark, NJ. to Amsterdam to begin our cruise of the British Isles and were met immediately by the HAL representative. The transfer to the ship was wonderful. However, once at the port I asked myself why I was taking another HAL cruise. Passengers were embarking while others were disembarking, so there was no place for the bus driver to stop. Once in the building, we were told that we had to wait - only those with suites and pent house cabins were being called to register. The place was full of tired, hungry passengers and they just kept calling those with suites and pent houses.I don't know why they just don't have a special area set aside for those people so that they don't have to wait in line and everyone else can register when they arrive.
Once onboard, we here herded, like cattle, to the Lido dining room which is cafeteria style. There we found, as usual on HAL, lots of food which is mediocre at best. It was being served as though it were the finest caviar - a very thin layer of tuna salad that didn't even cover the piece of bread on my sandwich
The cabin itself was fine but we were told that our verandah was private - not the case. Everyone above us could look right down upon us. Our cabin stewards were wonderful. We chose to eat dinners at our own time by ourselves in the Vista dining room but we could never get a table to 2. When we tried to make reservations they were always booked. The only time the there was a table for 2 was when my husband told the maitre d' that this was going to be our last HAL cruise if he had to sit a a table for 10. The problem is that so many of the people on Holland America are elderly and that is fine but it is hard to make dinner conversation with people so much older. And, we just wanted to eat by ourselves. Breakfast in the Vista Restaurant is always a disaster on all HAL ships. They just can't get the timing right - my food would come 15 minutes before my husband's, most of the time we were never served rolls. The wait staff just walks in circles and we wait and complain and wait some more. They really want you to eat the cafeteria food in the Lido.
We visited PORTLAND, ENCLAND (We took the excursion to Stonehenge which was very interesting), the ISLAND of GUERNSEY,(We took the excursion around the island that included a trip to a jewelry store, a store that sells pearls, and a store that sells Seiko clocks. These were a waste since nobody bought anything at any place. The island has beautiful scenery,and of course Guernsey cows.) DUNMORE EAST (This is the port closest to Waterford, but not that close. We took the trip to Tipperary which was quite interesting), DUBLIN, a nice city that is struggling economically, HOLYHEAD, WALES,( beautiful scenery- we went to Conway, a quaint town with shopping and a medieval castle. They took us shopping to an outlet with lots of junk - a waste of time), GREENOCK (the port near Glasgow - we took the excursion to Loch Lomond and Inverrary which was absolutely the most beautiful scenery of the cruise but we never saw Glasgow since it isn't near the port.), BELFAST (an interesting city, which unfortunately has many scars from the fighting), S. QUEENSFERRY,(the port is about 20 mins. from Edinburgh. This was the only port from which we could actually walk to something easily. Once we walked to S. Queensferry, we turned around and went back to the tender for the ship. We definitely needed another day there. We went to the Military Tattoo which was THE HIGHLIGHT of our trip), and the last port was NEWCASTLE ( We took an excursion to York was the best place for shopping but a 2 hour ride each way. We returned to Rotterdam. Getting off the ship was quick and efficient, the ride back to the airport in Amsterdam was fine until the driver let all of us off at the wrong terminal and we had to find our way to the right place with all of our luggage.
The excursions were very expensive and all fairly good, but not worth the cost. We, as well as many others on our cruise were not happy that we paid almost $200 each to go to the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. The tickets cost about $50 each (35 pounds was the cost printed on the ticket). How much did HAL make on this? The tour operators should be advised that Americans don't want to spend the little time that they have in each port visiting typical "tourist shops" selling junk. If there is going to be shopping on a tour, take us someplace where we might buy something - not junk. There is a "port consultant on the ship who is a complete waste of time. She know NOTHING ABOUT ANYTHING. All she can tell you is "I don't know." The ship itself if fine. The problems are that the entertainment is barely mediocre, the food is alright - not great, the shops on board sell HAL logo clothing, souvenirs but not of the places we visited and lots of costume jewelry. Of course, they also sell so high end jewelry, but there is nothing to buy in the middle. Somebody must be buying this stuff, but I cannot imagine why. We had a wonderful time and the cost of the cruise itself was extremely reasonable, but this is a fine example of getting what you pay for. We have decided that next time, we'll pay more and get more. Once you have cruised on Celebrity and Crystal, you tend to expect more. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and dates. . The British Isles are wonderful We came home safely with great memories and lots of photos, and that is what is important.