My first experience with Holland America and generally a good cruise.
Heads up...this is your grandparents cruise. The brocuhure average age may be 55 - if you include the staff. We are active, energetic late 40's and there were very few close to our age category-accordingly all activities were targeting late 60's+ and the ship was a ghost town after 9:00pm (mercifully we are a happy couple and travel very well together). If you are looking to relax with a focus on nice leisurely dinners this was great....but lacks any entertainment/activities adults will find on RCI/Princess etc. If you have children AVOID this cruise. The kids program is an afterthought and nothing like RCI, Disney, Carnival. We are both parents and felt bad for the few families.
*Excellent service/food in the 'Superior' dinning rooms...and worth the extra money every night. (5 stars)
*Hi-Average food with Lo-Average service in the main dinning room. T-shirts and jeans were condoned and fairly common on our two visits to the main dinning room. Inconsistency with wait staff. (3 Stars)
Summary: Pay the (minimal) extra fee and take advantage of the HAL Chefs and first rate service in the Pinnacle/Terimand every night.
IA 10040 Spa Cabin: Much smaller than advertised but comfortable, convenient, quiet and we prefer the high floors. We were in the cabin very seldom but would opt for a stern balcony on deck seven if we travel with HAL again. Slow start with the room steward - 3:00pm and still no service. Met with him and detailed my simple expectations (clean towels/bed made) and offered additional tip...service was superb after that.
Girlfriend loved it (and spent a fortune). She found the services and staff excellent.
*Really? It was terrible. Well below industry standard. We went to the evening show three times and left (along with many others) each time. I certainly don't expect Vegas or Broadway but this was really bad and had people laughing/leaving. Unfortunate.
*The singer/guitar player in the Crowsnest lounge (5-9pm) was excellent.
We are fit and like to exercise daily..this gym was lo-average, below industry standard, and expensive.
Staff was friendly and in good shape but the sq footage is small, crowded and nothing like some other cruise lines. You must pay to attend any fitness class. ...they are well led but targets the age group and if you are fit you will be better to self train.
PORTS OF CALL HINTS:
St Thomas: Avoid the Safari tour. We rented a private taxi for much less outside the pier gate and had a wonderful private island tour (3 hours for $50 total) - 2 of us with frequent stops and local information in a nice vehicle vice 25 stacked 5 across in an open van and PA system. Yuck!
Half Moon Cay: Wow! Awesome Island and if you can walk half a mile you will have a private beach as most pax wouldn't/couldn't - and amassed adjacent to the welcome center. It was an interesting contrast...'Miami Beach' at one end and my girlfriend was able to go topless at the other end. You will LOVE this island :-)
Walk to Governors Beach (12 mins). Its less populated and the locals will rent you a beach chair, snorkels/mask/fin/BC for $10. Directions: walk off the ship, thru "Miami Beach' to Jacks Shack. Exit thru his front entrance and down the road 6 mins...follow the signs. Bathrooms, food and drinks avail on site.
HAL really is your parents cruiseline...and that not a bad thing. But if you are energetic and/or young (at heart) I suggest you closely consider the onboard activities/entertainment avail and be certain it is synchronous with your lifetsyle. Had I been on this cruise with a 'stale relationship' I would have been distressed. This was a wonderful cruise attributable to the fact that we are a 'new couple' and really enjoy being a twosome without activities and/or others in our demographic.
So...HAL again? Absolutely, but probably not for a few years :-)