This was our 5th cruise , our second with Holland America and as always we chose it for the itinerary which offered 3 different Asian countries including 4 in Vietnam and overnight stops in Bangkok and Danang with a round trip from Singapore offering the extra opportunity to celerbate the New Year there . Surprisingly the ship was just over half full which meant that the public areas , pool, bar and especially the Lido were easier to navigate than is normally the case.
We found the ship and our stateroom to be immaculate. For details of our cabin see below . Service by all the members of staff was excellent - with the obvious note that around the pool and in the buffet is can be a bit slower than elsewhere because of the number of people vying for attention but in general is was better than our experience on other boats . We found the layout and design on the ship pretty friendly in particular the number of different bars and place to hang out - the Gallery bar and the Crow's nest were particular sanctuaries. Even the 4pm happy hour didn't seem overly crowded.
We thought the food was pretty good overall. We had one poor experience in the main dining room with an overcooked steak . One poor lunch time service I think because we skipped the starters and somehow that meant our main course still only arrived with everyone else's and one breakfast in the cabin with cold tea - but otherwise service and standards were very acceptable for this kind of ship. The menu choices were good for us and we always had a few options which appealed.
Regarding the itinerary - we had to skip Koh Samui due to a tropical storm so we started with two sea days the rest went according to plan .Be aware that most of the ports are not closely located to the key sites , they are industrial container ports and there is nothing to do within walking distance. For Bangkok and HCMC it is a 2 2 1/2 hour drive to the city so you can only really do the highlights. If you want an in depth visit then go by land and not by boat. On the other hand Halong bay is now a docking location and not a tender port which is a big bonus . We had problems with disembarking on two occasions ,one in Nha Trang due to problems with the tenders and once in Hoi An which I think was a late arrival . These delayed us by 1 hour on each occasion and communication from the ship could have been improved in each case leading to crowding in the disembarkation area.
The Vietnam stops were excellent in particular Halong Bay where we took a day tour with Indochina junk which was fantastic. Danang - where we went to the utterly charming Hoi An and the ancient city of Hue ( Tour with Shore Excursions Asia ) - was also excellent.
We stayed overnight in Bangkok which I would recommend to make the most of the time . With a private transfer ( Oriental Escape) and an overnight hotel stop ( Eastin Sathorn) this was still pretty cost effective and allowed us to have extra time.
Cambodia was a big disappointment , the town of Sihanoukville is overdeveloped and dirty and frankly an unpleasant place to spend any time . It was a great shame and i felt sad for the residents . It is not a good reflection for the rest of the country which is worth seeing .
We didn't do any ship tours we used Cruise Critic contacts to make groups in all locations and process that worked very well and helped us meet people on board. We probably saved in excess of 500 USD per person through this process.
Entertainment on board was OK . On this ship the show times are 20.00 and 22.00 . I didn't like this set up .As a late diner this meant there was nothing to do in the early evening ( 16.00 happy hour a bit early to start if you are n't dining till 20.00 ) and since we had a lot of early morning tours we missed most of the 22.00 shows. I prefer the early show at 18.00 and the late one at 20.00 followed by happy hour from 21.00 for everyone .
There were just 4 shows in the two week itinerary and the rest were guest entertainers . Nothing the write home about .
The Port experts Jeremy and Kevin ( i think ) and their port talks were EXCELLENT . A great resource not focused on selling the ships tours but helping you make the most of the destination however you are travelling. A real highlight for us .
I personally didn't enjoy the ships lecturer Michael HIcks but others I spoke to enjoyed his talks so I guess it is a question of each to his own .
The did enjoy the America Test Kitchen and the Trivia Games too .
Overall I think the onboard activities were in line with what we expected , not everything to everyone's taste but enough to have something that will appeal to you.
We didn't use the SPA or buy a photo package because I felt the prices were just too high . It didn't look like either service was very busy so I don't think I was the only traveller who thought this .
Embarkation and Disembarkation at the beginning and end of the cruise worked well . The embarkation desks in Singapore where they do check in are strangely cramped inside a large area leaving everyone huddled around a little desk which could be improved but it was quick and efficient.
I think we would travel again with HAL - overall we liked the ambience and thought the service and activities were good for this size and rating of ship. I would in particular recommend the Vietnam itinerary to other travellers .
Immaculate , spacious and well serviced by our cabin stewards. I think the Suites were all remodelled in the last dry dock and so they still looked fresh .Very happy .