We sail every December, usually in the Caribbean. Embarkation was a bit slow and the entry room reminded us of "Ellis Island" that so many immigrants used to enter America. Once boarded, our cabin was ready and all went initially smoothly. This was the perfect itinerary for us with lots of ports on one of Holland America's smallest oldest ship. Our cruise started off in Ft. Lauderdale and our cabin was aft port side on the lowest deck which we expected would insure better stability. This became important when we hit rougher seas that were due to master selecting an Ocean northerly route and his lack of us of the stabilizers. What we did not expect is to have several small children in our section who had a proclivity to for crying.
On first entering our cabin we noticed that the bathroom had not been cleaned and their was powder on the shelves. Our cabin steward apologized and this was the last time was had a problem with our steward who proved to be the best part of the trip. He kept our cabin immaculate, always with fresh fruit, but rarely if ever was in our way. That is the sign of a good cabin steward.
After exploration, we noticed that the ship felt older and a bit tired. For example, the fitness equipment was mostly the original 1993 Cybex equipment. Only the Treadmills and Elipticals had been replaced. The elevators also looked worn and even one of the railing fell off when another passenger leaned on it.
The explorer library was a pleasant surprise an very large for this size of ship, but the books were all dated and no current best sellers. The movie theater was also large for this size ship with good seating.
On the first day I sat down once in the pool area and water landed on me from a dripping sprinkler head. Later, we were sitting on the promenade deck and got a shower from a surprise water leak from the A/C. Not a good early sign.
This ship had been drydocked for 2 weeks in Bermuda at which time they altered the window cabins along the promenade decks to be sliding glass doors with teak wooden chairs. We inadvertently sat on one set and was scooted away from the cabins occupants. Later we discovered that most of these cabin holders enjoyed this experience.
Some of the highlights of this cruise was having the Times Herald newspaper available very early for breakfast. We like to read our IPAD's so this was a nice alternative. We just wished that the Lido buffet had better offerings then what was provided. The food was acceptable, but not remarkable, and with very little choices. The Lido staff was also not very helpful and we had to get all of our own drinks. The moving drink provided never seemed to reach us for coffee refills. The staff seemed slow, and although friendly, not very helpful. Lunch and dinner were a similar experience in either the Lido or the Rotterdam restaurant. Many people opted to go to the Canneletto or Pinnacle Grill for a better experience. These restaurants were booked solid early on in the cruise. Our dinners were often slow served and we had to send 3 main dishes back as they were unacceptable. This included a fat piece of brisket and under cooked roast beef. When my wife complained that she ordered medium well, she received a very well done piece. We ordered ice teas each night and once or twice this was forgotten or no refills were offered. On a similar vain we never were offered refills of coffee in the main dinning room. The desserts were substanded. Very
boring choices and often the best choice was cookies or ice cream. Forget about having custard, flam, rice pudding, tapioca, or even souffle.
Activities onboard the ship were pretty poor. This is a problem with most cruise lines that rely on giving you a constant array of bingo, art auctions, and fitness talks. The computer classes are the same Miscrosoft Live classes that have been offered for the past 5 plus years. What was missing was an interesting educational lecturer.
The highlight of the cruise was the entertainment which was spectacular for a smaller ship. From the singers and dancers, to the comedian, singers, or instrument players all was exceptional. Most are residents onboard this ship and were terrific.
We had only one port of call that use tender services which was Half Moon Caye. All the rest were docking with decent ports. The best port was St. Martain, and the worst was St. Vincent which was definitely third world. We passed on optional tours since we have been at all ports of call for numerous times and just took long walks around Town.
Our overall impression of this cruise was disappointing as they have taken away some many standard features. For example, they are not providing toilet seat covers anymore and the food left a lot to be desired. This ship I suspect will be sold off in the next 2 years and Captain Draper is moving to the Voldendam after 9 years. I would not recommend following this Captain as previously mentioned his lack of use of the stabilizers and taking the most direct cost effective route over passenger comforts. This cruise was inexpensive and you got what you paid for!