This was our third cruise with Holland America and because this is the only cruise line we have ever used, we cannot really compare to any other line out there. We choose HAL because we feel it's geared more for the less active adult and has fewer children on board.
Embarkation was very well organized. I was impressed at the speed at which we were boarded and that we could go straight to our cabin.
Our cabin was very nice. Bed was comfortable and the cabin attendant was always taking care of towels, cleaning up, etc. We never saw him in our cabin but he came while we were gone and was gone when we were there. Excellent service.
Food and beverages: The food was good. The breakfast selection on the Lido Deck was great. There was just about anything anyone could want. My only complaint is the coffee is awful. Way too strong. Lunch was another winner on the Lido deck. The soups have improved from our prior cruises when I would have rated the soup as a 2, this time I give it a 4 - it's much improved. The lunch offerings were more than adequate - some of them would have been as good served for dinner also. The Rembrandt Dining room was nice but I really don't care for the formal atmosphere. That said, we went there all but 2 nights. The food was excellent and the variety was good. The beef was served as I requested - medium rare. The entrees could have used some more vegetable accompaniments - half of a baby carrot does not count as a vegetable serving in my book but I guess that's the nature of a fancy setting - more presentation than anything. The desserts were okay - I'm not big on desserts but I was looking forward to something really nice and in this area I was disappointed. The brownie stack dessert, for example, was supposed to have a brownie topped with a pudding center then a ganache topping - the pudding was so thick you could cut it with a knife and it tasted very pasty. I love cheesecake but the cheesecake was more cakey than I care for and I can't say it was anything special. In the beverage department, I object to being charged over $2 for a soft drink/soda. The cruise line used to sell a card for $20 per person that paid for soda for the entire cruise. Now they sell a card - I didn't buy one - that allows you "x" amount of sodas for a price. I know some folks tend to abuse this by not drinking a whole soda but why not install soda machines? I drink very little soda and it would have been nice to have some but not at $2 per can - that's more than a vending machine. Overall, I enjoyed the food and I know I'm more critical than most regarding food taste and preparation but overall, I know it's difficult to cook for more than 2000 people plus 800 crew everyday and I give the kitchen staff credit for doing a very good job.
I believe that the rates are high. (I'm not referring to the cost of the cruise but to the cost of on-board services not included in the cruise.) As I mentioned the cost of soda was high. The cost of wine was quite high so I did not indulge - I just can't see paying $8.50 for a glass of wine from a cheap bottle of wine. I know this is where the cruise line really makes its money but I think I'd have probably spent more overall if prices weren't so high. I avoided the spa/salon because of the same reason - rates are quite high.
We went to Half Moon Cay. I know this is a favorite stop for many folks on HAL cruises - I can't say it's mine. I'm not a sun worshipper so I avoid the beach. I would have stayed on board totally but my cousin had never been there before so we went to the island for a while. We had a strawberry daiquiri at a little place near the beach - $20.00 for two small drinks! (like I said before, their rates are ridiculous). We didn't get to the beach because of physical restrictions. My cousin loved Half Moon Cay so it was worth it going there. We did not go to the barbecue offered by the ship there but returned to the lido instead.
Entertainment on board has improved from our last two cruises. I enjoyed the comedian and the magician. The singers and dancers did a great job and I enjoyed going each night. The piano bar was nice - the singer wasn't that great and he didn't have the words to all the songs right but he gave it a go and we all had a great time in there. The other entertainment we attended was fun.
Overall, I will book my next cruise with HAL because I know what to expect and I know that the ships are meticulously maintained, the cabins clean, the food is good and the service is superb. I guess the ports of call are not so important as just the cruising. I like sitting on the deck watching the water and listening to it - so relaxing.