We like Holland America because it fits our life style (we're both retired, in our mid 60's). We chose this 21 day cruise because it visited several ports we had not been to before. The ship had just arrived from Europe for the start of the Caribbean season and there had been an outbreak Norovirus on board. This delayed the embarkation process by several hours as the crew did an extra special job of sanitizing the ship. Although HAL sent notifications of delay to passengers a couple days ahead, it was too late for most of us to change our arrival plans. This resulted in a very long line passengers having to wait outside the terminal (in the sun) for an hour or more prior to checking in. Let me state for the record that this is NOT the norm and we've always found HAL embarkation to be quick and painless. We were among the first to get on the ship and found our cabin clean and our luggage inside. We had a mid ship ocean view cabin and it was perfect - close to the elevators and free from much of the ship's motion. On the first 7 day leg there were probably 25 children on board (which is most I've seen on any HAL ship) while the next 14 day leg there were only two.
We ate all breakfasts in the Lido as well as most lunches and a few dinners. We like the variety offered there. Seating was plentiful and readily available unless you chose to have a table to yourself. We don't like to share tables as it gives us the chance to meet our fellow passengers. On this cruise there were a number of folks from the Tampa area as well other parts of the US and Canada. We found the Lido food to be very good and a cut above what we've experienced on past HAL cruises. The salad stations were great as was the pasta station. Their pizza is pretty good and the Dive-In serves up great burgers and the best hot dogs I've ever had (Nathan quarter pounder on a seeded brioche bun).
We ate in the main dining room for most dinners. For the last several cruises we've selected anytime dining as it gives us the chance to meet more people. Unless we got to the restaurant prior to 6:00 pm we found ourselves with 30-45 minute wait and generally eating at 8:00 pm or later. Dinners generally lasted two hours which was fine with us as it allowed plenty of time for good conversation.
Happy hour drink prices are now buy one and get the second for $2.00. The times were staggered so that you could enjoy these prices for much of the night. I'm not a big drinker but I found the mixed drinks a bit watered down - HAL should just raise the prices if need be but give the customer a good drink.
We attended most all of the stage shows and really liked most everything except for the juggler and the first comedian. Some shows were really, really good. It all comes down to preference. Cruise Director Simon and his staff did an outstanding job of keeping us occupied. We especially liked the trivia, cooking demonstrations and Simon's own personal presentations. Game prizes varied from a free round of drinks to HAL Caribbean buttons.
The service provided by the HAL crew was excellent (as usual). All of the crew and officers greet you warmly and make you feel genuinely appreciated. By the second day, your room stewards will know you by name. Our room was always clean and the sheets changed several times. If only land based hotels and restaurants treated you so kindly.
As for ports of call, we don't really care so much as where the ship is going so long as we're on board. I personally like the days at sea best just to relax. On this cruise we found Key West, Roatan (Honduras), San Juan and Curacao to be our favorites. We did the Bacardi tour in San Juan (which I would not recommend) and the Tiki Beach tour in Grand Cayman. You'll need your water shoes if you go in the water here (lots of rocks and coral on the bottom) and bring a wad of bills if you want to drink. Disney and three other ships were in port so the small beach was packed and there lots of kids running around. We did the Trolley in Key West which is a good choice and reasonable. With few exceptions, HAL land excursions are overpriced. In Antigua, you can save money by getting a tour on your own - I recommend the guys in the orange shirts in the tourist center.
Lastly, if you drive to Tampa, I would recommend 241 Car Services to store your vehicle. They have a fenced area just a half mile from the pier and will drop you off and pick you up and store your vehicle for about half of what the Port Authority charges.
A good size cabin with plenty of storage and a king size bed. Large flat screen TV on wall in front of bed. HAL beds and pillows are always very comfortable. Lots of free on-demand movies to choose from. Combo bath shower - shower was great. Mid ship cabin so we hardly knew we were moving.
Permits you to get on and get off at various points. Drivers give you a good rundown of what you are seeing as you circle the island.View All 256 Conch Train Tour Reviews
Great beach in the tourist area. Free admittance.
Nice tourist area with plenty of shopping. Beach area was under renovation while we were there but there was a large pool with swim up bar.
Four of us hired a taxi to take us to the distillery (he waited while we toured) and then give us a brief drive tour of old San Juan. Taxi driver was great but distillery tour is not worth the money. You never see the actual distillery, just models.View All 102 Bacardi Rum Distillery Reviews
Just used for embarcation
Depending on where your ship docks, there is a good tourist shopping area.
Went with another couple via taxi van. Wish there was more time at Nelson Dockyard to actually take it all in.View All 194 Island Tour Reviews
We walked into town and shopped at the market. Typical Caribbean island stop.
We walked into town. This was our most favorite stop. Beautiful buildings and really nice tourist area. Clean and very safe.
Not much time here to really see anything so we elected to just step off the ship and shop at the port.
Too many people packed onto a small beach (four ships in port that day), Drinks are really expensive and beach is sandy but the water bottom is rocky with coral. You'll need water shoes for sure. Expensive for what you get.View All 220 Beach Reviews