My wife and I had a vacation planned with her family but unfortunately it fell through. The time was already booked so we headed out to our local travel agent to see where we could go. Our agent found this cruise for us for a very reasonable price so we booked it. Flew down to Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving to spend a couple of days in the city before our trip. Stayed at the Sea Club Resort for two days, good location but it isn't the most luxurious of resorts. Inexpensive but not the cleanest. I wouldn't recommend unless price is your only concern.
Arrived at the port at 11:30 and right into a big line. I thought it would take all day but we got through fairly quickly. Noticed that passengers were bringing beverages onboard, we try to bring some pop for my wife in the luggage so I don't have to spend that much on beverages, now it seems that it is now ok to bring it on so "smuggling" is not necessary anymore. Spent a little while exploring the ship when we first came onboard and soon realized that it was very similar to the Vista class ships we had been on before (Zuiderdam, Oosterdam) but with better decor. State room was average size but had a bath tub in the washroom. It was very small for having a bath but as a shower stall it was very roomy. We booked late so we were put in to the flexible open schedule. Not my preferred type of dining experience, the waiters never get to know you or your preferences. The dinner menu was more than acceptable; our only complaint on the entire cruise was that the service was slower than normal. I am guessing that staff was cut to save costs and the waiters had more tables to cover. The food was served properly and was never cold but there was a noticeable delay between courses. Nothing outrageous but noticeable. This was consistent at all meals I had in the dining room (I try to eat as many of my meals there and avoid the buffet if I can).
When we book cruises we try to find at least one port that we haven't been to. Our first stop was that port, Grand Turk. I really didn't know what to expect but was looking forward to it. When we arrive I soon realized that it is a beach day. There is not much on the island, a few of our shipmates rented taxis to take them to town and came to the realization that they should have just stayed near the port. The beaches next to the dock were very good with lounges provided. The pool at the Margaritaville resort next to the dock was also included at no cost but we prefer the ocean so didn't venture there. We have been to both San Juan and St. Thomas many times before but still enjoyed our days there. Half Moon Cay is the normal beach day and was a little cooler than the other ports but was still a nice day. The BBQ is good but not great. The menu has never changed in all the times we have been on the island. It has the one thing that I generally try to avoid, long buffet lines. By the time you get all your food a drink and find a seat, your foods cold.
The entertainment onboard was pretty typical of the shows we have experienced on other cruises; the main singers were not harmonious as other cruise shows. The Magician onboard put on a half decent show; it lacked most of the props of other cruise ship shows but was genuine. He did seem to be trying to sell his magic kit mostly at the end. My wife loved the animals in his act.
Our captain on the cruise was the most approachable of all the ship masters that we have had. He would come down to the buffet and seat with passengers at meal times. He also hosted a Q and A session on our last day at sea and was very candid with his answers to the questions posed to him. Our cruise director was a very lively gentleman who seemed to be everywhere. He did his job well and his staff all were attentive to passenger needs. I would have liked to have more seminars to go to on sea days but that seems to be one of the things that were cut in the name of costs.
All in all it was a nice relaxing week in the Caribbean. Holland America provided us with a nice clean ship that fulfilled our requirements for a good vacation.