Our dinner seating was the "Open Seating" option. It worked out just fine and we never waited to get in. You can also call each day to reserve a table at a particular time. The Canaletto Restaurant was also very good. We actually wnet there 3 times. I loved the pasta w/white sauce and shell fish, while their lasagna was also great. The Lido (buffet) food was also excellent and the room was the nicest buffet atmosphere we have ever experienced on a cruise ship.
Of course on a 14-day cruise, the concern is having enough clean clothes. HAL has an option for unlimited laundry service for $49 per cabin, per week. We opted for that in our 2nd week and ended up returning home with mostly clean clothes. You sign up at the information desk on the first deck.
At home we are spoiled on good coffee. The first cruise week, the coffee was good only the first few days and then very terrible for the rest of the week. On our visit back to Ft Lauderdale after the first week, I bought some instant coffee so I could doctor their weak brew. Then second week, it was always ok. Perhaps they had run short during our first week. Room service coffee was always available but not always good. There is a Explorations coffee brew shop adjacent to the library on the 10th deck (a little inconvient) which has excellent coffee but is only opened limited hours and is charged extra to your room.
All good and we felt very safe. The HAL private island is a great place to rest up. The beach and water is delightful. Unfortunately, we were not able to rent bicycles or kayaks without being on an excursion. Make sure you rent a Clamshell from the excursion desk on the ship at least a day in advance. You cannot make arrangements for one when you arrive on the island.
Shows were very good and the little games and fun during the day was also light and entertaining. There are TVs in every room with DVD players. You go down to the info desk on the first deck to pick up free DVDs to watch, although there were several good movies also playing on TNT and several other channels. A few of the movies were recent releases. There are also daily new-release movies in the showrooms.
There are free computer classes. Aiden, the computer class teacher is very good and very patient. He teaches about 6 classes a day at various times.
There are also free cooking demonstrations and also some other hands-on cooking classes that charge a small fee. I learned several new techniques in the free classes. Chef Andre is very entertaining.
These really make the upcoming visits to the ports even better. HAL staff did an excellent job and were always available to give port advice, even if you planned to "do your own thing" in port.
Liked him very much and reminded most of us of a young Johnny Carson. He was funny and knew when to get down to business.
Excellent with minimum amount of lines. Once we got onboard we went for lunch in the Lido and our bags were in our room by about 2pm.
Loved the mint body wash in abundant supply in the cabin shower. The shampoo was also good but I did not like the smell of the conditioner and used my own. The hand soap was lemon glycerin soap. The shower is a bathtub/shower combo so bring some bath salts or bubblebath if you desire.
The ship and the passengers were fairly sedate. Everything really quieted down after about 10 or 11pm. After running aroung the ports all day, we were pretty tired anyway, so it was perfect for us.
The beds were comfy with several pillows of different sizes and fullness.
We had an outside room, obstructed view. A lifeboat was hung right outside our room but we still were able to see the full view through the large lifeboat windows.
We brought a case of water on board but found the water on Holland America tasted great, unlike some of the other cruise lines that have off-flavors, like sulfur or salt. My feet never swelled during this 14-day trip so their desalinization system must work well.
THANK YOU TO CRUISE CRITIC member reviews. I read several of the reviews before getting on the ship so I was well prepared.
There is lots to do in Ft. Lauderdale and the public transportation is good once you get out of the port area. You have to take a taxi a few miles to access the bus/trolley system. I recommend that you look at the Broward County bus system map ahead of time to get some info.