I wish I could say this was a good cruise that met my expectations, let alone exceed them, but as a repeat HAL passenger I am sorely disappointed in our most recent experience with their product. I am grateful the ship's Mediterranean Romance port itinerary was a distraction from the shipboard experience because had it been in the relaxed Caribbean or Mexico, the cruise would be labeled a waste of hard-earned vacation spending. It was a classic case of a bunch of ongoing small details adding up to a mediocre cruise experience.
The ship's condition upon embarkation was probably our first ominous sign. Despite a recent refurbishment before heading to Europe, general maintenance seemed lacking. Filthy windows everywhere, from our first walk into our verandah cabin to the floor-to-ceiling Crow's Nest vistas - cloudy and spotted windows (some looking like tar) just showed negligence. While a norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise might have distracted crew from some exterior ship maintenance on transition day, I could not see why cleaning efforts later in the 12 day itinerary could not be undertaken. I will say that the stateroom cleanliness (windows and other issues) were quickly addressed by the stateroom staff. Also our stateroom air conditioner problem (a unit seemingly set to "permafrost" despite the warmest thermostat setting) was handled and corrected by the engineering staff with concern and expertise.
In terms of daily onboard experiences it just felt like the ship was short on staff. No cruise director until day 9 (we had an "emcee" in his place), the Executive Chef seating patrons in the dining room, and a basically absentee cruise staff all contributed to a feeling of neglect by those in charge. Frequently we heard this was the last cruise before a charter of the Westerdam to South Africa for the World Cup. Did this account for the scarce staffing? Or was staff being re-routed to a new HAL ship coming on-line shortly? Both? Who knows? But the mere fact that Holland America does not seem to try to provide a top-notch experience for EVERY cruise says a lot in my opinion. This was no discount cruise. This was not a repositioning cruise. But it had the feeling of "let's just get through this one."