This was my first cruise on Holland America. All my other cruises have been Royal Caribbean or one of it's subsidiaries. The best thing about Holland America was it's expedited disembarkation. If you take your own bags, get off early and don't have transportation arranged by the cruise line, you can get off early without sitting around waiting for your group to be called, and don't have to put your bags out the night before. We really, really liked that. We also liked the tour of the ship's kitchen that was open to everyone, not just the privileged few. The ship had self-service laundry facilities on three decks. For an Alaska cruise, it was nice that there is a cover over the pool that could be closed. It made the pool area much more useful. They had a demonstration kitchen with a guest chef that prepared four different dishes on the trip. The items in the gift shop were moderately priced, but that might have been because it was toward the end of the season. The buffet was well done with nice wrap options for lunch and made to order omelets for breakfast.
The bad points were beverage choices, over-amplification, endless sales pitches, limited ports, entertainment and dining. There were only two choices in diet sodas, plus fountain iced tea from syrup rather than fresh brewed. You need to bring earplugs because sound was way over-amplified--almost to the point of pain--in the showroom, the bar, and virtually anywhere a microphone was used. Every time you turned around, someone was trying to sell you something, but this really isn't unique to HAL but endemic in the cruise industry. We had done an Alaska cruise previously on Celebrity. This cruise had much less time in port. It was rarely more than half a day in any port, and we missed Victoria completely due to weather conditions. I know, that isn't the cruise line's fault.
The entertainment was not very good. Trying to do Vegas style seems to be a losing proposition on cruises. We really liked the cabaret format on the Azamara Quest. The option seating option in the dining room didn't really work all that well. Unless you made a reservation ahead of time, you often had to wait for a table. Once we were even given a pager and had to wait in the lounge upstairs. The food and desserts for the most part were just good. While a dessert might look spectacular, the taste was just OK.
The stateroom with a verandah was average. We were upgraded to a Spa room. That got us yoga mats (unused), a in-room water feature (a table top waterfall) that was mostly unused as it took up the only electrical outlet available, which was most often used to recharge something. We also got some upgraded bathrobes, which were really nice and some bottles of vitamin and mineral waters. Those were given to our travel mates. In general, it is nothing we would pay anything extra for and didn't really consider it an upgrade, just a gimmick.
The service was generally OK, but not great, except for Juli in the dining room. I did find that the Indonesian crew members were very cheerful and friendly. The ship itself was nice, but of course there is a certain sameness about all of them. We did have a room (6124) right next to the elevators and stairway but didn't hear any untoward noise due to our location.
Getting on and off the ship was well handled at all ports, not just disembarkation. There was a line at embarkation, but it moved quickly. The only problem was standing in a long line in the rain in Ketchikan.