I picked this cruise because a full transit of the Panama Canal really interested me. But I was less than wowed by the descriptions I had read of the ports we were to visit since several were industrial ports and a couple (Nicaragua and Guatemala) were in countries that I was a little leery of visiting. Perhaps because of my low expectations of the ports to be visited, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I actually encountered. But let's start with the ship itself.
My first Holland America cruise was on the Rotterdam in 2005 and I fell in love with that ship then. She may be a little older, but she's still a beauty. I love the smaller ships and the ample public spaces on the ship (love, love, love the Explorations Cafe/Library!) really lent themselves to the extra sea days on this 16-day itinerary. The entertainment options have increased manifold since that earlier cruise with Billboard On Board and Lincoln Center being my favorites. The trio at the Ocean Bar was also fantastic, but we seemed to miss them a lot (as we did with several of the Main Stage shows) because of our dinner schedule.
As always, the impeccable service and attention to detail by the ship's staff was amazing. From the cabin stewards to the dining room attendants to the wine stewards to the bar tenders and coffee baristas to those delivering our morning coffee, every need was anticipated. The only downside was the Lido. The food and selection was terrific, but it seemed to be understaffed and we often had to fetch our own coffee or water (a very minor complaint).