We paid for transfers from the airport to the boat. We were greeted by Holland America representatives at the airport. We took our luggage to the bus, they do not provide someone to assit you with getting your luggage from baggage claim to the Holland America bus. We decided to spend the day touring on our own in Rome and sent our luggage with the cruise line. A taxi in Rome is expensive so you will not save very much by not using the ship transfers. It was quite easy to get from the airport to downtown Rome and we had enough time to see the main sites. We took the subway and had no difficulty getting around.
We took a bus to the port. At the port all the cruise lines have buses to shuttle you to the boat. All the cruise lines had air-conditioned buses to take you to the boat arriving every 10 minutes. Holland America only had a poorly air-conditioned bus running every 45 minutes. Having to stand in 90 degree temperatures for that long a time period was awful. We were told that our bags would be delivered to our room. We went to our room and had no luggage. We called the front desk and were told that our bags were being held by security for suspicious items. We went to security and had to collect our luggage ourselves and take it to our room.
The room is smaller than most of the other ships we have been on. We were only given 5 hangers per person and considering they have 3 formal nights, I do not know how they expect you to manage for 10 days with 5 hangers. I called 6 times before they brought me some wire hangers. We had two twin beds pushed together. There are two small drawers beside each side of the bed, a sofa and coffee table and a desk with a chair. The bathroom comes with a bar of soap, hand cream and liquid dispensers for soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower.
We immediately noticed that our room was very very hot and stuffy. We called the front desk and several hours later they sent someone to look at the air conditioner. He told us it would take time for the cool air to kick in. Since the room is so small, how long could it take? At midnight we called again as we could not sleep due to the heat. He returned to tell us the air in our room was indeed not working and brought in a huge floor fan. The only thing the fan did was blow around hot air and we kept tripping over it. We went to the frige to get a cold drink, however the fridge was not working and we were too tired to go upstairs to get a cold drink or wait an hour for room service. We also could not sleep as major pipes run through this room and it sounded like someone was taking a wrench and wacking it against the pipes. We haeard loud music and constant moving of furniture. We assumed we were below a night club. It turns out that there is a furniture repair shop on the ship and the staff were playing the music and constantly moving the furniture for repairs. It is impossible to sleep in this room. We asked to be moved to another room, however the ship was sold out so there was no room to move us to. Their solution was to give us each a pair of foam ear plugs.
The next day we arranged with another couple to hire a cab and a private tour guide. We had to meet at 10:00 am. We went to the safe in the room to get our money and ID and the safe would not open. We had to wait for over an hour for someone from security to come to our room and open up the safe and reset it, so we missed our tour. On the 6th day of the cruise they offered us another room which was a smokers room so we declined.
The best thing Holland America has going for it, is their staff. The majority of the crew are from Indonesia and they are exceptional, friendly, polite and work very hard to make everyone's cruise a wonderful experience. However there is only so much staff can do when the problem is with the room.
The breakfast they serve is excellent with fresh omlets, fruit, waffles, pancakes and pasteries. There are only two omlet stations, so there is always a very long line so allow yourself ample time before going on an excursion. The lunch is a typical buffet of pizza, various meats and pastas. The food in the Lido dining room and the main dining room is average. There is nothing exceptional about the food, I would describe it as a step above cafeteria food. The menu in the Canaletto restaurant does not change at all and they do not allow substitutions. The stafff are wonderful but the food is not. We did not eat at Le Cirque restaurant as it was $70.00 per person. The wine stewards in the dining room and in the bars and night clubs harass you. It is obvious the ship makes a lot of money from drinks. One night we were at the disco, there were 8 people there at 11pm. We were asked if we wanted a drink 7 times over a 45 minute period. The drinks provided on the boat are water, lemonade and watered down ice tea. We bought a $50.00 soda card for $25.00 (they add 15% surcharge onto each drink) and a $50.00 wine card for $40.00. They do not allow you to use your soda card to purchase bottled water. The mixed drinks on board are also watered down. They published a two for one drink special, however we could not get them to honor it. Make sure to save your receipts and check your bill. We were charged for other people's drinks at a time when we were not even on the boat.
We did not go to the casino as there was too much smoke for me as I suffer from asthma. The staff at the photo shop were not overly aggressive. Christina, the woman in charge of shore excursions was exceptional, bright, funny and friendly. We did not do any spa services as they were expensive and I can get the same services for half of what they were charging at home. The front desk staff were also wonderful, Rhea went above and beyond the call of duty time and time again. The staff in gift shop are annoying as one gentleman in particular shouts out for hours, "ladies and Gentlemen, Ladies and Gentlemen', this deal will end in 10 minutes. Of course the deals go on for the entire cruise. They have lots of jewelry, but if you forgot any basic personal care items, they do not have anything. I did not use the salon as they wanted $50.00 for a wash and blow dry as my hair reaches my shoulders.
The entertainment was nothing to write home about. The first few nights, it is mostly interviewing people on the ship and finding out where they are from and how long have they been married. There is a band on board that were excellent, however the lead female singer could not sing. The piano bar entertainer was also wonderful. The main singers and dancers were good, however the music was out-dated. We left most shows after about 10 minutes. These are not broadway productions, more like highschool productions.
The pools are crowded, so go early if you want a chair in the shade, but you will find a seat. The gym was very good and the staff were very professional. They have a lot of treadmills and other equipment.
We did not do the shore excursions as we felt they were expensive and would not allow us to see as many sites as we would like. I think the shore excursions are good for older people who want an airconditioned vehicle and a guarantee that someone will pick them up and drop them off at the boat. People who took the excursions were quite happy with the tours. The boat provided transportation into town for most ports and charged 6 euros for a five minute bus ride in Palma de Mallorca. They provide you with daily print outs with details about each country you will visit and the shore excursions. These are well written and very helpful.
We chose this cruise because of the ports they stopped at. The crew were wonderful, however the room and the food need a lot of improvement.
With all the port stops, prior to the trip I went to the library and took out travel books for each port. The internet is also a great resource for top attractions. The boat also has a good library of books on each port for you to review. You really have a limited amount of time in each port so you have to research prior to departure which of the major attractions you want to see.