4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
Holland America's ships afford a traditional cruising experience with modern touches that don't feel overbearing. The refined fleet holds onto numerous traditions, such as afternoon tea and extensive art collections, but keeps the onboard ambience fresh with innovative dining and entertainment options. All of the ships bear a similar look and feel with vintage-style navy blue hulls, understated decor with pops of color and artsy fixtures, classy dining venues, bold theaters and simplified pool areas (no waterslides or party stages).
The line offers a wide array of daily activities, which include enrichment programs like cooking classes, wine tastings, mixology classes, art events, themed trivia games, fitness classes, Digital Workshop seminars, movies and other special interest events during the day. Nightlife is fairly understated with predinner cocktails generally being the liveliest time. However, numerous entertainment options run the gamut from production shows and live band performances to dancing, piano bar sing-alongs and occasional late nights in the nightclub.
Holland America has introduced some innovative options, including new partnerships with Afar, BBC Earth and UTrip. Afar destination guides will provide exclusive digital content (on the line's website) for up to 400 ports, as well as "authentic recommendations" for top attractions, new destination content for shore excursions and more. BBC Earth offers a plethora of onboard enrichment, including live musical concerts, photography classes, an interactive BBC quiz show and exclusive programs for kids. Details of the UTrip partnership are still being rolled out, but the new linkup will eventually allow passengers to build and customize "the perfect trip."
The B.B. King's Blues Club experience, which debuted on Eurodam in March 2013 and has since been added to a handful of ships, is a HAL favorite. In each ship's Queen's Lounge, passengers can enjoy music and entertainment straight from Beale Street in Memphis. HAL also has recently teamed up with Billboard Onboard to add a new musical experience under the same time. Found on Eurodam, Koningsdam and Oosterdam, it consists of a sing-along piano/guitar spot focusing on hits from a number of eras and genres like pop, rock and country.
Holland America has always paid attention to the culinary arts in its dining and enrichment offerings. It offers both traditional set-time, same-tablemates dining, as well as "As You Wish" dining, which allows passengers more flexibility in choosing when and with whom they eat. The line was a pioneer in introducing the alternative restaurant concept, with the introduction of Odyssey Restaurant (now Pinnacle Grill) onboard Rotterdam. This signature fine dining venue has consistently offered excellent dishes inspired by the Pacific Northwest; it also hosts "An Evening at Le Cirque" once per cruise, on sailings longer than a week. The pop-up experience consists of a tailored menu of French Continental cuisine, wine selections and decor from the land-based venue of the same name.
By summer 2017, a Sel de Mer pop-up experience will be available in Pinnacle Grill restaurants on all Vista-class (Noordam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam) and Signature-class (Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam) ships.
As the alternative dining trend continues, Holland America has added venues to several ships, including Canaletto (a family-style Italian option) and Tamarind (Asian-fusion). For passengers wishing to do the cooking and not just the eating, Holland America, a leader in onboard culinary enrichment programs, offers Culinary Arts Center show kitchens for demos and hands-on classes. On Koningsdam, the Center also will serve as a farm-to-table dinner venue, available to book for an additional fee.
Another signature space is the line's Explorations Cafe, which debuted on the line's Vista-class ships and has since been expanded to other vessels in the fleet. It's akin to an onboard coffee house with a coffee bar selling for-fee beverages, computer stations with Internet, a fantastic library, card and game tables, and comfortable reading chairs that face out to the sea.
All cabins offer Mariner's Dream bedding and Euro-top mattresses, Elemis Aromapure bath products, complimentary fresh fruit, no-fee 24-hour room service, bathrobes, nightly turndown service and more. While cabin categories remain fairly standard, the line has introduced spa cabins and lanai cabins (with back doors that open directly onto the wraparound promenade outer deck) on select ships.
Holland America has long had a reputation for catering to a well-heeled but somewhat traditionally minded crowd. Perhaps that's due to the line's insistence on maintaining its traditions with elegant afternoon tea, ballroom dancing, tennis courts and timeless decor throughout the fleet. An emphasis on worldwide, often lengthy, itineraries also attracts an older crowd with the time and money for these extended voyages. But standard modern features like Internet cafes and alternative restaurants, coupled with superb kids facilities (Club HAL) and a growing entertainment lineup do entice younger passengers and families alike. Many are onboard as part of multigenerational groups. Don't expect to see lots of children until the summer season, unless you're sailing on a shorter itinerary or during a holiday.