We stayed in a hotel in Plantation the night before our cruise. Hotel accommodations were difficult to get because of the annual boat show being held at the same time. We took an Uber from the hotel to the ship. The cost was about $18 and the ride took about twenty minutes. The car was at our hotel within 10 minutes of our request. The embarkation process was pretty easy and all told, we were in our cabin within an hour of leaving the hotel at 11am. Half way through our cruise we went back to Ft. Lauderdale and had to do the “In Transit” customs thing. It was pretty easy and only lasted about 1-1/2 hours start to finish.
Over all, the entire ship was in excellent condition. It was just beautiful. All of the public restrooms were clean, fresh and working properly. Our luggage arrived very shortly after we got into our cabin (Signature Suite 6063). The cabin was great, no plumbing or A/C issues. We had pre ordered a bouquet of flowers for the cabin and they were beautiful! They lasted almost the entire two weeks that we were on board. I never could figure out how to get the jets on the bathtub to work but it really was no big deal because I just wanted to soak anyway. One thing though, the dividers on the balcony made an annoying rattling noise. We’ve had plenty of balcony cabins in the past and have never experienced this before. I just jammed a couple of spoons in there and problem solved…no more rattle! Our cabin stewards (Rifqi and Riz) were as great as we have come to expect. They did not disappoint and always greeted us by our names with a genuine smile and good cheer. An odd thing though, there were no toiletries in the bathroom the first day. We requested some and soon receive a bar of soap and some lotion. That was fine but the weird part is that on the night before disembarkation, all of a sudden, there was all kinds of new stuff added, like pillow spray, face sponge, shower cap etc. all of it was nice Elemis products. Where were those on our first day? The mini bar was fully stocked but because we had some things of our own that we wanted to put in there, we removed some items and set them aside. Later, those items had disappeared from our cabin entirely and we saw some erroneous mini bar charges on our account. It took a couple of tries but we finally got it all worked out to our satisfaction. Towards the end of the trip we requested that the mini bar be restocked and was informed that it would be done at about 10am the next morning. No problem but about one hour later the mini bar guy came and restocked it! That’s great service! Our laundry was done to such a high standard that I actually made a point of tipping the person who did it. The laundry came back with a little note on it stating “Your laundry was prepared by name”. I took that card and a monetary tip to the front desk and asked them to please see that it got to name. They seemed a little surprised because I don’t think many people do that.
One of the first things we did when we got on board was to make our specialty dining reservations. There were several host kiosks set up in various areas and they were able to get us the day and times we wanted with no problem. We first tried it through the dining reservation phone system and found our options were somewhat limited but the hostess at the kiosk was very helpful and accommodating and arranged it all perfectly... The Tamarind grill was amazing as usual. The food was good and the service was exceptional. The Pinnacle Grill was enjoyable but the table was very wobbly to the point of almost being a hazard. Also, there were WAY too many tables jammed together in the area we were in. No chance for an intimate dining experience if that was what you were after. The food and service was good though. The Caneletto food was awesome but the service was somewhat slow. We wanted to make the show that night and the server offered to deliver the desert to our stateroom. I thought that was a very nice gesture and we accepted but when we got back to the cabin later that night, no dessert. There was a message on our phone stating that they tried to deliver it but we weren’t in our cabin when they came. Huh? That was the whole idea. Oh well, we got it later. We found the food in the Main Dining room to be exceptionally good on this trip. We also heard this from a number of other passengers too. The “Surf and Turf” on Gala night was very good. The Lido food was also very good and the selections were quite varied and interesting. The New York Pizza out by the Sea View pool was very good and the person running it was a delight. The Dive-In Burger spot was also good and the wait wasn’t too long normally. On most days we got room service breakfast and it was always on time and accurate. At one point during the cruise on a sea day, a well-dressed food service person came by our cabin and gave us a plate of gourmet cookies as a “Special Gift”. How nice was that? It was a small gesture but it made a big impression!
As a whole, the staff and crew were great. The Cruise Director, Rebekah was very good and she did the presentations very well. Our Activities Director, Michaela, was a delight and always had something going on. She did the Daily Trivia and made it very fun. One thing though, during the first week of the cruise we didn’t have much drink service at all during daily trivia but on the second week we had Happy Hour drink service every day. The trivia was at the same time and location during both weeks but one week we had happy hour and one week we didn’t. The Captain, Arno Jutten was very good and informative. He did a heroic job of getting us in to the dock at Turks and Cacaos because it was very windy. It took 3 hours to do it but he got it done and we extended our stay there by the same amount of time. Also, he can crack a good joke too! We had a military/veterans meet up during the cruise and it was attended by the Environmental Officer which was nice. The fitness instructor who conducted the Morning Stretch sessions was good and he was funny too. We attended two Gala nights in the MDR and it was nice. We went to one “Orange Party” in BB King’s Blues Club and the energy was off the charts. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought it would be. The Lincoln Center Stage musicians were very talented and it was a joy to watch them perform. The Billboard Onboard pianists were just mediocre in my opinion. Their rendition of “Africa” by Toto was almost painful. The comedian was hilarious and we saw him twice with two different shows.
During some of the sea days, not all of the private cabanas were in use so the crew put the nice chair pads out by the pool for general use. That was another example of the crew doing a fabulous job!
We bought three ship sponsored shore excursions. The first one, in Key West, was cancelled ostensibly because the boat we were supposed to be using was having mechanical problems. We suspect the true reason was because not enough people had signed up for it. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we ended up just doing the Hop On-Hop off bus tour and it was very enjoyable. Our driver was very knowledgeable and funny too! After that we walked around town and ended up at Sloppy Joe’s for lunch. The second tour was in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. We were supposed to tour a “Cigar Factory” a “Rum Factory” and a “Chocolate Factory”. What it really turned out to be was a glorified gift shop tour. We’d arrive at a location, watch a short video on how they make the product, and then get ushered straight in to a gift shop! It happened at all three locations in addition to the first gift shop we went to about 20 minutes out of town. Of all the stops, the Rum one was the best. They gave us a nice soup for lunch with some entertainment and the grounds were nice to walk around in. The tour guide was nice and the driver was good too. The third tour was in Fort Lauderdale and consisted of a bus tour to various locations around town and then a boat ride to look at mega-yachts and mansions. That was a lot of fun and then the bus took us to the airport.
The disembarkation process was fairly routine and a lot of the crew members were on the gang way wishing us safe travels. It was a great end to another great Holland America cruise and we’ve already got our next one booked!