Once again, Holland America Lines proves to be a very nice, old, stodgy cruiseline. The ship was in immaculate condition and, as all HAL ships, the Spa is fantastic--very clean and well equipped. The overriding issue with HAL is that it is geared toward the elderly--even at Christmas. There were plenty of kids (We have two older teens) but there is very little for them to do. The ship caters to the older crowd (>75) and there is almost nothing to do late at night. The dancing stops at 1 and the casino dies at 11..the craps table rolls up very early!
The cabin stewards were great. I was shocked (appalled actually) at how inattentive and uninterested the Dining Room staff was. We have been cruising for over 25 years and have always enjoyed the dining room experience. The waiters and assistant waiters typically dote on the women and are extremely attentive and professional. On this cruise, that was far from the case. The waiters were uninterested, not engaging and extremely amateurish in their service--clearing the table when some where eating, uneven service of food.
The food quality was OK--the fish was better than the beef (it is USUALLY the opposite on most cruises.) The ports were what they were--no surprises there. The bars were, in my opinion, very cheap with the pours--most often, you needed to order a double to get what most come to expect in a drink.
I am not sure if the "no tipping" policy had anything to do with the poor Dining Room service--it certainly did not affect the cabin stewards.
Would NOT recommend this if you have teens or young children. If you want a very quiet, relaxing cruise and are content sitting on your verandah, then it is probably adequate.