Much of the action onboard takes place on decks 2 and 3, between entrances to the Showroom at the bow and Manhattan at the aft. On these decks, you'll find bars, lounges, the casino, a 36-seat cinema and rooms for culinary and computer classes. Deck 11 is home to our favorite bar, the Silk Den, which offers a great view of the sea from curtained booths, all in a swanky, dimly lit setting.
If you want to learn about cooking, entertaining, technology or health, this is the ship for you. Holland America provides opportunities for classes in its Culinary Arts Center, built like the set of a television show and presented by Food & Wine magazine. There are also free photo (operating your camera, editing photos, etc.) and computer classes at the Digital Workshop, in partnership with Microsoft. Most enrichment programs take place during the day and are free, with the exceptions of food classes with alcohol and some sessions at the Greenhouse Spa.
At night, the three-deck 890-seat Showroom at Sea presents Las Vegas-style production shows and guest performers, including vocalists, comedians and illusionists. The Holland America dancers and performers are some of the best we've seen at sea.
The casino on Deck 2, with the usual game tables and slot machines, is often packed.
The ship's multiple lounges -- the Queen's Lounge, Ocean Bar, Piano Bar, Explorer's Lounge, Crow's Nest and Northern Lights -- are full of opportunities to play games (perhaps trivia or Liar's Club), listen to music (everything from Motown to classical) and dance. The Queen's Lounge is also where live sports can be enjoyed throughout the day and where the ship's house band performs. Five nights a week, the venue hosts the talented B.B. King's Blues Club band from the renowned Memphis club. The Ocean Bar is packed before dinner, the Piano Bar later in the evening. On some late nights on our cruise, the Northern Lights disco was abuzz; on other nights, it was empty.
Holland America offers a variety of shore excursions, ranging from low-key motorcoach tours to semiactive walking tours and more adventurous options like kayaking and snorkeling. One nice touch is an emphasis on port history in almost all of the ship's excursions.