We chose this cruise for the Panama Canal full transit, and the plus that the ms Westerdam was refurbished earlier this year. I read several reviews before the cruise about the refurb modernizations, mostly people missing what was no longer there. One major change, and one I never saw mentioned, was the addition of 4 USB charging ports in our cabin: 2 at the desk and 1 at each night stand. Had I known, I would have left the mini-extension-cord-with-USB at home. At least I didn't need to use it - ever!
The other changes to the ship's decor and style felt like an upgrade for me, also. I remember the previous HAL style from trips about her sister ship, ms Zuiderdam, and similar styles on the Eurodam and Ryndam, and while I enjoyed those ships repeatedly none of the changes felt "drastic" or "out-of-character" with Holland America's general sense of class and elegance. The public areas were gracefully appointed and comfortable. The background muzak for some areas was unpleasant but that may have only been our take on it. HAL needs to reaffirm her role by bringing the next generation into the ship and my choices may not always be the most popular or current. I'd rather adapt than see the cruise line falter and loose markets.
The food was a better than last year's cruise and that was a pleasant surprise. I expect good food from HAL and am usually only mildly disappointed by a dish now and then. But the current kitchen has surpassed my expectations and on this 14 day cruise I actually was looking to try more new dishes each day rather than resort to those I had earlier in the week and thought were good.
Nice cabin, convenient location and mostly quiet with the Spa above us on deck 9 and more cabins below. The addition of the 4 USB charging ports was a pleasant surprise - 2 at the desk and one at each night stand! Nice sized balcony with 2 loungers and one side table. Locking the doors stopped all wind noise on the couple of very windy nights.
We recommend adding a tour to elevate this sleepy harbor town to an interesting stop. There's little to do in town but eat, drink and lay at the beach and while that is great for some, we made an early day of it and headed back to the ship.
Again, there is not much here but some shops and street vendors if you do not take a tour. Interestingly, the people while trying to entice you, were not as aggressive as some places we've visited. We bought coffee from a street vendor and checked on local rum prices but failed to find a deal we liked on the rum.
Book your tours ahead of time online, or from HAL. The vendors at the pier accept cash only, though they do not tell you this while negotiating. When you bring out the credit card they only say they can "take you into town to an ATM where you can get the cash you need". While this might assure we get the correct exchange rate, it does not prevent that vendor from adding new fees or changing the rate once he has us away from the ship and unable to return.
On the plus side, there is a sizable vendor market at the pier, with handcrafted originals and not just imported knock-offs. Plus some cultural displays and locals dance and musicians. Staying ashore was pleasant and comfortable, even without a tour.