My husband and I have cruised many many times. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America. We always considered Holland America to be a notch above the rest in terms of elegance, service and food. Since the ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised many many times. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America. We always considered Holland America to be a notch above the rest in terms of elegance, service and food. Since the price seems to reflect this, we only sail on Holland America for special occasions or special itineraries. We always said that when we did the Panama Canal, we would get a veranda on Holland America. When we booked a full year in advance, we were able to book a SY suite guarantee at a very attractive price compared to the verandah, so we did it. 8 of our friends also went and we had 5 cabins (everyone else was on deck 1 with inside or OV cabins.) We ended up in a SS category suite, cabin 6082, assigned 12 days prior to sailing.
I'll start with the positives. The ship is beautiful. She was clean and well maintained. The New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) theme is great! Lots of vintage photos and "New Yorkie" decor. The public areas were all nice, and in good condition. The cabin is very nice. More on the cabin later. Chriz, the bartendress in the Ocean Bar was amazing! The entertainment was pretty good for the most part. Embarkation was a breeze for us, since we were in a suite. Slower for our friends, though, but not too awful bad. We waited for them, and it was about 15 minutes. Our cabins were ready when we got on board. Debarkation for us was a breeze, too (not many people disembarking that day). It was somewhat chaotic for our friends, which was probably due to some folks who held up immigration for at least an hour, making the rest of debarkation a frenzy, and also that is the day most passengers disembarked. (We stayed on the ship 4 more days than our friends.)
Food and dining experience: The service was terrible in the dining facilities and the bars. We were able to secure a reserved table for ten after embarkation, so we all were able to have dinner together each evening in the MDR at the same table with the same staff. In the past, this always meant that your servers will get to know you, and your preferences. That didn't really happen till the cruise was almost over. At every meal at least one person (and usually more than one) at our table had the wrong item served. Once, when the wrong dinner was served, and a bite was already taken, the server removed the plate and tried to give it to the right person! With a bite already out of it! This actually happened at a lunch at a different table with a different server, too! Must be common. I had fish at the Mariner's lunch, and it was served to the wrong person, who decided to keep it, but the waiter tried to take it away and give it to me. Then my replacement came, and it was cold and mushy. My lobster on formal night was mushy, too! Yuk. And the filet mignon was inedible. It was less than a half inch thick and did not have a real meat consistency.
Most of the dining room food was pretty bad. There were a few decent items at the Lido, but the same things day after day after day. And it was difficult at best to get a glass of water, or a dirty plate removed in the Lido. The best food on the ship was by far the Dive-In. And that is so sad that on a cruise ship, one would be reduced to preferring hamburgers, hot dogs and fries to anything else on board. They were really good, though!
We had room service for breakfast almost every day. The food was pretty good and usually delivered 15 minutes PRIOR to our selected time (I'm ok with that, though) except one time when the card was never picked up. The omelet was not good, but if you like eggs over medium, they did that perfectly every time! And a bran muffin every day keeps things moving along, if you know what I mean.
We tried The Crow's Nest for happy hour the first two nights, but soon learned that with the trivia going on, it was not the place to have a few nice quiet cocktails before dinner, even if you could get served, which you could not. We started going to the Ocean Bar for happy hour, but soon started calling it "happy HALF hour", as it always took a good 30 minutes to get the first drink. So, we started going up to the bar to get the first round, which is where we found Chriz, a wonderful bartendress, who knew our names and drinks after the first time ordered, and always had our mixers waiting for us when we got there. Chriz is a sweet girl, and very efficient in the bar. Her co-bartender, Vol Taire, is a great bartender, too! Between the two of them, they could crank out some drinks! We stayed at the bar for the entire happy hour after our friends disembarked. It was fascinating watching Chriz and Vol Taire at work!
Cabin 6082: This SS category cabin is very nice. It is spacious, with plenty of storage, and the showers were large with excellent water pressure! The cabin is right next to the glass elevator. This was never an issue, as there is absolutely no way for someone on the elevator to see into the cabin. They can see a lot of the balcony, though, but they are going by pretty fast, and most people are either looking out to sea, or toward the elevator doors, anyhow, so not looking onto balconies. We never noticed noise from the elevator gathering area, either. This cabin is basically right in the middle of the ship (front to back, and top to bottom), making it convenient to get anywhere quickly and easily. It is just a few short steps to the "private" glass elevator, which usually came right to us whenever we needed it, even during peak elevator times...it's like no one knows about it, lol!
The cabin steward was nice (and I say cabin steward because we never - on a 19 night cruise, mind you - never met the second one) but he seemed to have too many cabins. When we first got to our cabin, there was a plastic grocery bag stuffed into one of the drawers. This bag had some brown stuff in it - I am going to say it was melted chocolate, because the thought of it being anything else is making me gag. Two of the drawers were broken (the front was hanging off on one side) but after three days of leaving them open in the hopes the steward would have them fixed, I just went ahead and fixed them myself (MacGyver style) with some duct tape I brought along (you never know when you are going to need that stuff!) There were several areas in the cabin that have never been dusted: the top shelves in the bathroom and at the desk, and the desk around the lamp, and the cover of the storage stool. There was a sticky spill on the coffee table when we arrived, which I finally washed off before our "Panama Passage" party. Also, I believe suites are supposed to have fresh flowers. We never got any, but since they bring a little bud vase with breakfast room service, and apparently, never take them away, we ended up with quite a few flowers, anyway. Ha!
We bribed our room steward into bringing us some extra ice for the panama canal passage party we had, and he brought us a wine chilling bucket full! Then he filled it up with ice every day after that for the remainder of the cruise! Too bad the ice was usually melted by the time we got back to our cabin each time. Like I said, he was nice. He made us a different towel animal every day. Note: I have read many complaints regarding the placement of the TV in this cabin. It has been moved! It is now on the wall across from the bed, and it is huge, but there is no DVD player. Repeat, NO DVD player...just FYI. Quite a few movies to choose from on the interactive TV. Not many shows or live TV channels, though. But, hey, we weren't there to watch TV, right?
Entertainment: Hamish, the cruise director, was cute as could be. The entertainment was usually really good! A good variety of talent at the show each night. There was one comedian who wasn't that great, and once he got heckled he pretty much couldn't handle it and it was pretty awkward after that. But other than that, a really great show each night. Also, the BB King Blues Club band was phenomenal! Also, there was a violinist in the Explorer's Lounge each evening as we left dinner. We never saw the show, as we were at dinner, but he seemed to have a good crowd every night and what I did hear as we walked by was very good. One of the people in our group went to the Piano Bar each night, and loved it, but someone else in our group said the piano man kept changing the words to the songs and it was irritating. I had heard that the Screening Room showed current first run movies. I only saw one, Brooklyn, which was good. The rest of the time, they were either 1) Panama Canal Documentaries (which you couldn't get in because everyone wanted to see them and there are only about twenty seats in there) or 2)older movies or 3)movies you could see in your room or 4)movies I've never heard of.
Ports and Shore excursions: All were good and I'll review them individually elsewhere.
Note: In Guatemala, every shore excursion was to Antiqua. We chose to take a cab over to San Jose, which is about a mile West of the port, instead. This was a drive through a poor, undeveloped, dirty sad little town. We were afraid to get out of the cab. It was, however, an interesting hour and only cost twenty bucks in cab fare, so I'm glad we did it.
Note: Victoria is a good place to do on your own if the weather is nice. The whole city is pretty much walking distance to the ship and beautiful and clean and well marked and they give you a map and everything! We caught a free shuttle back to the ship cause my feet hurt. A free shuttle provided by the city, I guess. It was a big orange double decker. Free!
Cruise overall: Food and service were disappointing, ship, cabin and ports were great! I will think twice before booking on Holland America again, as we no longer consider it a notch above other lines, due to the service and food. Read Less