It has been about 3 years since we last cruised. Our past 3 cruises have been on Holland America for a total of 5 Holland America cruises. They consistently offer the things that we are looking for as opposed to other lines:
1. Larger cabins when compared category-to-category.
2. Fewer kids due to less emphasizing of a kids program
3. superior food service
4. In cabin dining from the regular dining menu at no extra charge
5. Fewer "rah-rah" entertainment events
Let me say that we are a 63 and 61 yr old active couple. However we cruise to relax. We cruise for the ship and not the ports of call. We have traveled the caribbean frequently and know that you cannot get aquainted with a country during a 6 hr visit. Shopping is better in US.
On to the cruise. We didn't book our cruise until the first week in Dec for the Jan 2 Ft Lauderdale departure. They were offering great deals on suites so we took it. Since we haven't cruised in 3 years, we were a little disappointed with the slow check-in process. This was not the fault of Holland America but due to the good 'ol US of A Homeland security. It took a little more than an hour of standing in line to get aboard. Homeland security is a study in inefficiency. I still don't see why they can't do a background check and assign risks to people allowing no-risk folks to climb aboard almost immediately. It seems we do background checks on about everything else. Of course doing it this way might put a few people out of work so we can't do that.
After boarding, everything became the usual Holland America comfort and efficiency. This was our 3rd cruise on the Westerdam so everything felt familiar. Our Superior Verandah Suite was spotless as expected. The balcony furnishings in these suites make a BIG difference over the regular verandah cabins.....which are also very nice. On our balcony, there are not only the traditional 2 chaise lounges and a cocktail table but a full dining table and 2 sitting chairs as well. We had a full breakfast on the balcony almost every morning. To some folks, this extra table is not important, to us, it is. Side note.....when eating on the balcony, we always leave an additional tip for the cabin steward for pick up. We did not have to place our used tray outside the cabin door.....instead, our cabin steward, Reymon, directed us to simply leave it on the coffee table inside the cabin....we did, and he picked it up promptly.......excellent service.
A previous Westerdam review stated that the Westerdam was showing signs of wear. The only sign that we noticed was a carpet stain in our cabin. The carpet was clean....just stained. I would suppose that this stain can be removed but it would take longer to clean and dry out than the Sunday changeover day will allow. I would guess that this will be remedied in the next drydocking. As a boatowner, I can respect how these things must be handled. The stain did not bother us. It can happen on a brand new ship. I suspect an overly amourous newlywed couple spilt the red wine in a rush to better "communicate".
It DOES seem to be true that the dining room offerings are less expensive in raw materials than in the past....an ongoing effort to economize in a slow economy I would guess. However, the preparation of the remaining selections was superb in my estimation. One night lobster and filet was offered.....both very good. Some of the seafood selections were a bit odd....Cobia? Other unusual fish selections as well.....very "fishy" tasting. After the 2nd night, I refrained from ordering seafood....until my wife had lobster...which was fine.
The table service was ideal as well. In fact, service overall was probably the best that we have ever had on Holland America. Cabin stewards, dining stewards, front desk employees, Lido restaurant service......all were outstanding.
Now the negative.....mostly not Holland America's fault but they need to make some adjustments. LOTS of kids on this cruise.....for HAL anyway. Since the cruise did not book up early we found out that HAL had offered 3rd and 4th in a cabin (must be kids) were free. BINGO! Who cares if the kids get an education? A free cruise......my wife is a retired school teacher. She was amazed that parents would take their kids out of school for a cruise. Anyway, this is america so we have a right to do what we want I guess.....but Holland America needs to ramp up the kids program when they offer these deals. They didn't, so kids were at many nighttime venues instead of club HAL. One 9pm show was 50's and 60's music by the HALcats........Parents were letting their kids get up and "dance" on the dance floor......totally disrupted older couples dance time. We saw several leave. If parents are not going to "parent" their kids then HAL needs to step in and declare some venues "off limits" to kids. On another note....a table of 10 in our fixed seating dining room had 4 kids with them......they couldn't have been more well behaved. It is nice to know that it CAN be done......
We found out 2 things from the onboard staff.....cruises just before and after a major holiday seem to have more kids....and longer cruises (10 or more days) have much fewer kids. We are now looking for a HAL 10-day cruise.
We dined in the Pinnacle Grille (a surcharge dining venue) on our last night. Wish we had done this on the first nite....we would have booked every night. This is well worth the $25 pp surcharge....elegant and comfortable. The wine selections are much more expensive however...beer, the same as everywhere else on the ship.
The Lido selections are ok.....about what most of us would order at lunch on a business day.....with more desserts. At dinner they dress up the Lido with white linen tablecloths and offer table service....a good option for those who do not wish to dine more formally.
Formally, ah, another good term. HAL CLEARLY states that at night only slacks and collared shirts are prefered in order to COMPLIMENT YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS. Apparently, a lot of folks didn't get the memo......or didn't finish their reading classes. Lots of shorts and SLEEVLESS shirts on men.....grrross. I strongly suspect these types will not be on longer cruises.......we are really looking for that 10-day now.....
All in all, we had a very nice cruise. We also now realize that your fellow cruisers are important to total cruise satisfaction as well. We will take this "kid thang" and "sloppy dress" situation as an anomoly this time. If we see it on HAL again then we will begin looking elsewhere to spend our cruising dollars.
Ken and Carol Parrott