Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
The Maasdam was the only cruise ship in Port Everglades May 2 and was indeed the only ship in port at every port on our 15 day cruise. Such is the advantage of doing a cruise on Holland's reposition from the Caribbean to Canada. The ports were also great: Charleston, Newport, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Saguenay, Quebec, Montreal. You can't do these on a regular cruise. The Maasdam with only 1200 guests is "mid size", but compared to most of the newer ships is even small. She is still a jewel! The service, the lack of lines, the ability to walk into the main dining room without waiting for a table, crew remembering your name and what you like, all of these are why the Maasdam still shines. The ship looks good; new elevators, new coffee servers and Canaletto chairs, new cafe pool side (Dive In) since last drydock. Dining room is excellent. Lido is very good. Enjoy this ship as I'm sure Holland will be loosing her soon as the newer/mega ships arrive.
On may 20 we went from seward ak to Vancouver, Had a window room (beware some window rooms have view of walkway then sea, ous fortunatly did not. The boat was exellent all in all , no compalints, In fact almost up to celebrity standards with food- exellent. This is a great ship, has nice movie theater and library. Higly recommend
We just left this wonderful ship today and all was wonderful. Best staff ever! Food was great and we loved every moment.
Room was hot from day one. Desk kept making excuses. First said temp was within range. Then said would be fixed after next port stop. Talked to other people on ship, and found others had same problem during whole 10 day cruise to Panama. Happening on decks 5,7,8,1 that I know about. Some people got compensated from $100 to $800. Others did not get compensated. Guess it depended on how loud you yelled. Desk kept lying about problem, at least they could do was admit it was a problem they couldn't fix and compensate everyone. But they kept on denying the problem even though most passengers knew it was ship wide.
This is a too lengthy review of only a short (seven-day) cruise, but it reflects our enjoyment and satisfaction from it.
It was a cruise in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, roundtrip Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, Greece.
We boarded the ship at 11:00 a.m. and our cabin was already ready. Ryndam belongs to the Statendam-class of ships, noted for its exceptionally well-designed cabins. Our outside cabin (no.728), actually more a hotel room than a cabin, was indeed one of the most spacious, airy and bright that we have ever been in and its bay-window one of the widest ones. Storage space was ample, with many drawers, and the closets had folding shelves for even more storing capacity. The beds had adequate space under them to store a medium size luggage. The mattress was out of this world and accordingly we had a heavenly sleep (I remember they used to sell it "Mariner's Dream" for $900 plus transportation costs, but I don't know if they continue). The sofa in the sitting area was not the more common 140cm, but a full 200cm, and so was the vanity, with a large mirror. Thestateroom was perfectly outfitted with flat TV with DVD player, magnifying mirror and of course the usual safe. Bathrobes were also provided.
The spacious bathroom was equipped with a full bathtub (almost every outside cabin on the ship has one). The "Elemis" toiletries here surpassed those of more expensive cruise companies: "Refreshing" came spontaneously to mind whenever I made use of them.
Although the cabin was near the staircase and elevators, it was very quiet. It was quite soundproof, too.
Our stewards, Mingki and Ali, whose kindness and efficiency we can only praise, held the cabin in immaculate condition.
We like traditional seating in the Main Dining Room, but this time we chose"As You Wish Dining" for a change (you can come to the restaurant and dine whenever you wish and with your preferred company). We were not disappointed. Contrary to what we had heard about long queues, we were able to enjoy every night a table for two (so difficult to obtain in other companies) as soon as we entered the restaurant; only once we had to wait ten minutes before one could be found. Perhaps this was because we prefer to dine late.
The variety in the Main Dining Room was one of the amplest we have encountered and the presentation and taste were excellent. Actually the taste had improved than on our last HAL cruise, a few years ago. Portions were similar (or larger) to more expensive companies. Service was as we remembered it, friendly and efficient. We were so happy with food and service there, that we did not eat at any alternative restaurant, although many fellow passengers spoke enthusiastically about Pinnacle Grill.
We had both breakfast and lunch in the Lido Restaurant, satisfied again by the variety and taste. Of special notice were the Asian food and the desserts. The tables were cleaned quickly for the next passenger to sit. Pizza also and Mexican food in the Terrace Grill were very satisfying when coming back late from the ports.
We ordered room service once, a full lunch with appetizer, soup and dessert, and it was delivered without delay. Room service is free 24 hours a day (unlike some other cruise companies) and offers a wide variety of choice.
A nice touch was the fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning.
A nice treat was also the Indonesian Tea held in the Main dining room.
Kindness, friendliness and effectiveness characterized the crew everywhere. I have heard that Holland America has a training school in Indonesia, and this could be true, as they were certainly well trained. It was a welcome surprise to be called unexpectedly by name or have your preferences remembered.
I think it is well noting that the Ryndam was honoured with the 2013 5-stars Diamond Award of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.
Being of a medium-size (56,000 tons) and currying just 1,260 people the ship had an air of intimacy and never felt crowded. She was built in the 1990s, so perhaps a bit old now, but it was impressive how well-maintained and clean she was; we have been in newer ships that looked older than her.
Being especially sensitive of the visual environment, I was suspicious of what to expect, but the interiors of Holland America is a rare instance where photography does not do justice. They were especially atmospheric during the night due to the right lighting, used frequently mix-and-match and good-quality textiles, and had evident attention to detail. According to Dutch tradition flowers were everywhere with impressive flower displays here and there. What was admirable were the numerous works of art, from the 3-deck high sculpture in the Atrium to 17th century paintings or 18th century consoles. We were told that works of art aboard a Holland America ship could reach a $2,000,000 total value. It was a pity that the dress code was not more formal (something like Cunard's for example) to complement such elegance.
Of special notice was the Explorations, a spacious combination of a nice library and internet cafe, ideal to sit and handle your business in the PC or relax with a book. The theatre also was designed partly as a night club, which added to its atmosphere.
Usually we do not watch many shows in the theatre in other companies, as we prefer late seating and after it we are not in the appropriate mood, preferring the bars or dancing. However, 'As you wish dining' enabled us to watch fairly many shows earlier in the theatre, all well-taken care of, and we were particularly impressed by the talented singers and dancers.
Ryndam is one of the relatively few ships offering separate theatre and cinema, and my DP was impressed with the popcorn provided in the latter.
Congratulations go to the employee who designed the itinerary, as he/she managed to incorporate much of the essence of Greece in a short package "Homeric Quest" was the name of the cruise). As far as I have noticed, itineraries are a strong point of Holland America. Our previous cruise on ms Rotterdam involved a detailed circle of Western Europe, including famous capitals, historic sites, beautiful sceneries and shopping opportunities, absolutely the best itinerary we have ever had in any cruise. Now we felt we savoured a carefully designed taste of cosmopolitan Greece - ancient and modern.
Corfu and Rhodes do not need any recommendation. Both have been extensively held under European occupation, Corfu mainly under British, Rhodes under Italian domination, and this has arguably helped them to become well known to international tourism. Strolling in the old towns of these ports is a must and shopping opportunities abound, prices being even more attractive due to the current financial situation.
Kusadasi (the "island of the bird") owes its importance to nearby Ephesus. Interestingly, Efesus is presented as a Roman city, based on its ruins from this period, but ask any student of Ancient History in an American or a British University and they will tell you that Ephesus was built by Greeks and was already flourishing centuries before the might of Rome entered the historical stage here; it scorned the Latin language and retained thoroughly its Greek character. So its inclusion in this particular quintessentially Greek cruise itinerary ("Homeric Quest") was perfectly justified. Of special interest also is the house where, according to the Catholic religion, Virgin Mary lived and died.
Contrary to the other ports, bargaining in Kusadasi was absolutely required when shopping. An officer of the ship jokingly forewarned us in a friendly talk: when a local asks $10, you must counter-propose him $1, and the bargain starts from this point!
Katakolon is the port to ancient Olympia, a must-see as the birthplace of the Olympic Games, more than seven centuries before Jesus was born. Katakolon itself is a surprisingly picturesque little port, where you can have a meal or a drink two or three feet from the sea - at low prices.
However, the highlight of the cruise for us was Santorini, acclaimed the most beautiful island in the world by â€˜Travel Leisureâ€™. Here history meets a unique landscape in a dramatic way. Birthplace of the Cycladic civilization, the first European one along with the Minoan in Crete, the island was torn to pieces by the eruption of its volcano 1,650 years B.C.. The result is that, after climbing to the top of the steep coast by means of a cable car or a donkey, you can have lunch or drink enjoying a tremendous panoramic view of the sea-flooded caldera.
Back in Piraeus, a smooth disembarkation ended a great cruise.
Overall, from all aspects it was an excellent cruise and a great value for money. Accommodation, food, service, entertainment, itinerary, all were exemplary. Holland America is one of the rare instances in the market where we found a motto coming true: â€˜A signature of Excellenceâ€™ indeed. We would fully recommend them and we are looking forward to return.
I've read some of the reviews here that are less than flattering for the Westerdam, and I feel I must step in and say something. I've also noted, however, that some reviews are a bit outdated. So hopefully my review will help a bit, since my husband and I have just returned from a cruise in September of '13.
I will start with the cons of the Westerdam, as that won't take as long to describe. In the description of the formal evenings we were told that the men "sometimes choose to wear jackets" in the Vista Lounge. When we arrived at the Vista we were told that jackets were "required." So that was a bit of a surprise because my husband didn't bring a jacket. Fortunately they had jackets there for him to borrow. Also, there was one fellow in the Lido cafe who I noticed never smiled. Okay - those are my two "cons" with regard to the entire trip and the whole cruise line and the Westerdam itself.
Now the pros - the ship was clean, shiny, beautiful, well appointed and just plain incredible. (This was our thirdcruise and also the third cruise line we had tried.) The staff was beyond helpful, always smiling (except for that one guy in the Lido) and our steward even called us by name! Every single one always greeted us with a smile - every single time! There was ALWAYS a "Good morning madam," or "Good afternoon, how is your day?" It was amazing. One day we requested a banana for our room, and for the rest of the cruise we had bananas every single day. The food was wonderful, plentiful, and just plain terrific.
There were always great activities. "High Tea" included an amazing array of goodies that even my husband - a large eater and sugar addict - couldn't possibly finish. One night there was a barbecue featuring salmon and chicken, along with so much other fancy food, as well as a marzipan sculptured eagle and so many desserts. Other outdoor feasts included a HUGE banana cream pie, an apple pie, and a chocolate bread pudding - all to die for.
And, contrary to what another reviewer said, the performers possessed the most incredible talent I've ever seen. The choreography was mind blowing, and the singing - wow!!! The lead male singer had the best voice of any singer I've ever heard - hands down. That guy needs an agent. I don't know where HAL gets these talented people, but once a talent agent sees these kids they are out of there! There was a "Dancing with the Stars" contest where cruisers could try out their own abilities at dancing, and the winner would go on to compete with other HAL dance winners. They gave away a free cruise in a drawing, and had huge jackpots at several bingo games. There's not enough space to describe the daily activities that went on - geared to every age level and type of person - active, lazy, old, young, athletic, nerdy, etc.
We have been on a Royal Caribbean Cruise, Norwegian, and now Holland American. The best by far is Holland America. Do not be afraid to book a cruise on the Westerdam. You will love it.
My family party of 11 spent thanksgiving on the Nieuw Amsterdam on a 7 night cruise. The food was substandard in all dining areas. There were insufficient staffing in the main dining rooms and the food was extremely slow in arriving at the table. I have cruised on three other lines and must say HAL is the poorest quality of all.
Below are copies of the note I sent to Holland Americal line and
their response on the 10-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SEAFARER January
18th January 28th on Noordam:
> From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:16 AM
> To: Guest Relations (HAL)
> Cc: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: 10-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SEAFARER January 18th January 28th on Noordam
We were very disappointed with our most recent voyage on the Noordam. There were some very good points about the ship as well, but the overall impression I/we had with the Noordam and Holland America was negative.
I would like to start with the GOOD Ray and Vincent at the front desk/Purser's desk were excellent, providing as much assistance as possible with a smile. The Ship it self was clean and in good repair and well handled, both in our cabin and the public areas. The Spa/Gym staff were excellent, especially Saundra the leader of the morning Stretch and exercise class!! (and having these two sessions each morning from 7:00-7:30 and 7:30-8:00 as free classes was GREAT) The dinning room food was excellent as
However, our vacation was overshadowed by several events starting even before we boarded:
The first being our dinning room seating. When we booked initially, we were unable to get first seating (5:45) and were wait listed. Our travel agent suggested we try back on the day the final portion of the fare was due, which we did. We were able to obtain first seating (and it was reflected on the web site.) When we did the original submission of our documents to check in, 1st seating was displayed. About five days before sailing we went to print more luggage tags and noticed we had been re-assigned to open seating for dinner. We called Holland America Line and were told there was nothing they could do and we would have to call our travel agent, which we did. After spending close to an hour on the phone with our travel agent, we were able to again have 1st seating in the dinning room. (And again, we checked the next day to be sure it was on our reservation on the web site and it was.) When we came to board and were issued our ID cards, printed on the face of the card was open seating for dining. We immediately brought this to the attention of the agent that was checking us in. She, rather curtly said there was nothing she could do and we would have to handle it 'ship board' by talking with the dinning room manager. (In the past we have had to do this to get early seating and it always involves a "gratuity" of around $50.00 and since we worked at getting first seating before the cruise we had no intention giving anyone a gratuity for this again.) At my insistence, the manager on duty came over and I explained the problem. He also said there was nothing he could do and the only way to fix it was to do it on board.
I was surprised that a member of management was not empowered to resolve issues of this nature in a better way. He said my only alternative would be to call the 800 customer service number, which he provided. I did so ASAP right there and then (I think to the manager's surprise) I talked with a gentleman who claimed he was in the President's office. He also said that we should just go and talk with the dinning room manager. I again explained that fixing it with the dinning room manager would involve cash payments and about 1-2 hours of time. I pressed him with "if you are in the president's office, you mean you can't solve a simple customer's issue like dinning room seating?" he then put me on hold to "check something" and after a few minutes he came back and said that we should check with "Annie", the guest relation's manager on the ship and she would resolve our issue. I thanked him, boarded the ship, and went straight to the front desk/purser's office and asked for Annie. After a 10-15 minute wait, Annie came out and introduced herself. We explained our issue and she called the Dinning room, and after some discussion, we were granted 1st seating and had our ID cards re-issued, but not before Annie informed us that it was not the ship's fault that we did not have 1st seating. In all of this, we managed to miss the Mariner's Lunch in the dining room. We were the 7th, 8th and 9th people at a table for eight, so it was crowded, but our dinner companions were great and we all enjoyed each other's company each night at dinner (there were always empty tables in the dinning room and we heard from many others that they also wanted early seating and could not get it, but this has been an ongoing issue, since anytime dining was introduced and a different matter all together.) In all of this, the overall attitude that we encountered, both on the phone before the cruise, at check in and on board was:
It's not my fault
There is nothing I can do about it
It's not my issue
Where I was expecting the attitude of "How can I fix/resolve your problem." Which to me would be a signature of excellence.
The 1st night of the cruise, we received to notes about the deep sea fishing excursion we booked for a member of our group. One of the notes said the boat was out of commission and the other said here is your ticket for the excursion. Neither were date/time stamped so we did not know which to believe. We called and were not able to reach the excursion's desk (they were closed) We went down to the front desk to ask. They did not have a clue on which was correct, had no information other than the schedule for the next day with a mark next to the deep sea fishing and said there was no way to contact the excursion people to ask. (Where they were very nice and trying to be helpful, apparently they were not empowered to call/page/locate the excursion people to get an answer to our question) They suggested that we plan on the excursion, just in case it was "on", which we did and the it was (thank god we did plan) We also noticed that there were several people signed up for Deep Sea Fishing that did not show up at the boat, and we wondered if they had the same issues we did. Again we had the attitude of "there is nothing I can do/that I am allowed to do, to resolve the issue."
One night we ordered an in-room movie to be delivered. After the phone hold wait of 3-4 minutes they came on the line, took our order and said the movie would be there in 10-15 minutes, even though we offered to pick it up. After waiting over an hour for the movie, we called again (same 3-4 minute hold) they were surprised that we did not have the movie, then put us on hold trying to find out what happened, then we were told they thought the movie had been delivered asking us to be sure (we checked the outside bin, even though we were in the room the whole time, it was not there) then waited while they tried to figure out what happened. We never got the movie.
The times and locations of the ship board activities were poorly thought out nothing scheduled then several things scheduled at the same time. Locations and times of things like team trivia, and shipboard movies were greatly varied, even thought it was always well attended (when we could locate it) The quantity of the activities was very low. The late night Dessert event was held in the atrium, which was way too small. It was cramped, on three levels, and the A/C could not keep up we left quickly, without sampling much (We almost felt like the venue was chosen so people would leave quickly without partaking in the dessert buffet.
The movies around the pool on the Lido deck could not be heard/understood, ruining the movie. This is a BAD place to present movies and we declined to view any other movies on the pool deck. When we mentioned it to the Cruise Director, he said he knew and there was nothing that could be done. (Notice the theme of "not my fault, nothing I can do...")
The following items are just notes/comments about other things we think you should be aware of that normally we would not bother to write about, but since I am already writing, I am including them as well:
The Cruise Director, (Sean Michaels?) was the poorest dressed Cruise Director I can remember, who told very old, poor jokes to an audience that clearly, after the first couple of times he spoke, didn't what to hear them. I may be an old fogey, but on formal night, I would expect the Cruise Director to be turned out in a well fitting Tuxedo, complete with bow tie, cummerbund/vest studs and cuff links. This was not the case and it was noticed by many of the guests.
In the past, participation in trivia, game shows... yielded some nice mementos of the trip. This time, either they were not given or they were so poor as to be not wanted who really wants another pin... We can remember the days of the Dam Dollars and ending up with a "dam ships" sweat shirt, hat or t-shirt and we miss them.
Room service was prompt in the morning, delivering our wake up coffee. However, it took them forever to retrieve the tray (sometimes as late as 4:00 pm, even though we called early to to have them picked up) We honored the request not to put them in the hallways, but we were tempted to several times because of the delay in getting them.
Calling anyone on the ship's telephone resulted in always being put on hold for 1-5 minutes, regardless of who we were trying to reach.
The tenders on half moon cay were some of the worst boat handlers I have ever encountered. They struck both the dock and the ship very hard, jarring the passengers and alarming some of them. The weather was not particularly rough or windy, just poor drivers (When the Ship's tenders were used at Samana, they were smooth and gentle, in worse conditions...) Where this did not affect our enjoyment much, I thought I would note this for you, since they are outside contractors and you need to know the quality (or lack there of) of the contractors.
This was my 3rd cruise on a Holland America ship in the past five years and each one has been a step down in customer service from the one before. This is an alarming trend and feel that as a loyal customer, I need to make you aware of them. If this trend continues, Holland America will no longer be my cruise line of choice.
On 2/11/2013 11:50 AM, Guest Relations (HAL) wrote:
Thank you for your email to Holland America Line's Guest Relations Department.
We are committed to providing our guests with the highest level of service, and appreciate the effort it takes to write to us. Please be assured that we respond to all correspondence in the date order it is received. At times it can take several weeks to properly investigate and research some issues to provide a proper response. We appreciate this opportunity to review your correspondence and thank you for your patience.
You will be hearing from us soon.
If you find it necessary to contact us in the meantime, please refer to your booking number.
Office of the President
Holland America Line
TAKE CARE before reserving on Zuiderdam or any other Holland America Cruise ships. We traveled as a group of 6 (my family of four with teenage children and my parents). The Zuiderdam has poorly trained staff, extremely uneven quality of dining, and poor services (shore excursions and spa for instance).
Our problems started at arrival. Our family of four received a room which had not been cleaned. Dirty towels and partially eaten food were in the cupboards, food bits and a variety of sundries (including sweatbands) were on the floor, the bed whilst made had sheets that clearly had been used. We complained to the steward who cleaned the closets but did not vacuum and also did not change the sheets. We complained to the front office at dinner after which the sheets were changed. The room was not vacuumed until the second day.
Dinner service was uneven. In the 'set time' dining the tables are jammed full (3rd floor). The 'reserve as you go' dining room is far more spacious (but fewer tables). The 'buffet' on the Lido Deck is almost inedible and the strong smell of cooking food lingers throughout theLido area including the pool. As far as dinner service, the portions were very small (for example: a 'caprese' salad contained one-half of a cherry tomato and one piece of mozzarella; a strawberry desert contained two 1/4 strawberry portions). The quality of food varied from night to night with some dishes exceeding expectations but an equal number far below expectation.
We tried to use the spa services and made reservations. When we arrived for the services we waited (twice), in both instances there was a failure to communicate between the front desk and service deliverer (pedicurist). After 20 minutes wait both times we were offered only the opportunity to reschedule. No explanation was given. We went to the front desk to complain and try to understand but were told that the only responsible 'persons' were the spa management.
We bought the 'enhanced' spa package consisting of access to a warm whirpool and thermal suites. This was billed as an exclusive service that would not be crowded. We were unable to use the 'thermal suites' at most times due to the number of guests who had been sold the service. The whirlpool area had an all glass enclosure allowing light but the blinds were drawn making the space shadowy and dark, not at all pleasant to use.
We booked a shore excursion to St. John's for snorkeling. The shore excursion was canceled due to 'beach inundation' at the last minute (approx. 11:00) before departure with no alternatives given (or available). We checked on surfforecaster.com and called friends who we were to meet on St. John's and both sources indicated that the snorkeling beach was not inundated (some swell but passable conditions). When we confronted the Front Office, the assistant refused to inform a manager of our complaint because "the manager on duty cannot help you and they don't want us to repeat our story". He offered instead that we could 'make an appointment' with someone else and write our complaint.
This last problem sums up our experience. The Zuiderdam has unresponsive staff who are not trained to address complaints or react. It provides uneven service levels that can impact vacation and the whole atmosphere seems that one should have limited expectations.
My parents who have been on over 50 cruises over the past twenty years felt that the Zuiderdam quality of food and service was the lowest they had ever seen. Their comment, "Holland America had a reputation of being a well-oiled machine and this is a complete surprise," sums up our family experience.
If you consider the Zuiderdam look elsewhere. There must be another boat and another line that will care more about your experience.
My wife, Susan, and I have been on 8 HAL ships, and we chose the Eurodam because of the destinations. The ship is the newest in the fleet, and holds approximately 2100 passengers. Getting on the ship was easy, as we had our paperwork in order. It only took 25 minutes. Getting off was easy as well, as we had early walk off, since we were driving to Sarasota and not taking a flight back home.
The ship is typical HAL, which is modern, great interiors, and our room was very comfortable. We had an outside veranda room, and there was alot of storage in the room.Some nice features about the room included a fridge, robes, and a flat screen and CD player. You have a list of many CD;s which you can order free of chanage. You have to go to the front desk to pick them up. Our room stewards were friendly and helpful, and we always had the room clean when we came back from breakfast. Room service was efficient, and we always got our food delivered on time. The coffee tasted great and was hot.
In terms ofeating, we ate most meals on the Lido deck. We did go to the Asian fusion dinner, which was excellent. It was a few dollars extra, but well worth it. The Italian dinner on the Lido deck was also an additional fee, but worth the expense. We did eat in the main dining room only twice, and it was fine, We enjoyed the casual life styhle on the Lido deck, and the food was very good. The breakfast choices were great, and the waffles were hot. We did not dat at the Pinacle Grill since the night we wanted to eat it was sold out completely. My r e commendation is make your reservations early for any of the 3 speciality restaurants.
There were many activities on board, and we are trivia lovers, so we played several rounds on board. We did not go to the evening singing/dancing events, but chose to watch movies in our room, which was fun.I had 2 books on my Ipad that I wanted to read, and only got to finish one, but that's what a vacation's for I think,
The destinations were quite varied. Turks is the island for those who love water sports. Other then that, there's nothing else to do there. Period. No shopping per se, and it's a flat island. When our tax driver talked about potholes, I think he was being conservative. I think a tank could have fit on some of them. Downtown is not worth visiting, in my opinion, and the beach next to where the ship docked is the best place to go to just relax.
San Juan was quite nice. Be sure to be on deck with your camera when you enter the island, as El Moro castle is on your port (left)l side, and definately worth loopking at. We had 10 hours on the island, and walked to the fort, which is an uphill walk about 2 miles from where the ship docks. Shopping is OK there, and while there are outlet stores, please compare prices back home before you reach for your credit card.
St. Thomas was busyu with 6 ships in port. I know many of you have been there, and the prices are quite good, especially liquor. Buy your quota early as they'll deliver the order back on the ship in plenty of time. Jewelry is still very competitive, and if you see something you 'must have' buy it!
Our time on the private island was cut short by an hour due to Bahamas customs snafu. Our captain was obviously very mad, and through JC our host on board, we found out that he had contacted the HAL home office in Washington to get things cleared up. There was, ironically, another HAL ship at Long Beach Kay, and finally we go clearance to depart the ship. We chose to ride the skidoos which were alot of fun.
Overall, the week was great, and if you're in the mood to travel on a fun ship with an excellent staff, this is the right choice. Having been on several other ships, we enjoyed this one as much as others. Our only request is that for prizes, we really want them them to bring back the ship's letter on a mug. We have several mugs in our collection, and we have no"E" to show!