This was my 34th cruise, 4th with Holland America. I began cruising in 1980 and still think it is a wonderful way to vacation, although as this review indicates, I feel that the cruising experience has deteriorated in recent years probably due to financial considerations.
I purchased the H/A transfer from Los Angeles to San Diego for $25. A large coach picked me up at a shopping center just a few blocks from my home. It stopped at 3 other locations on the way down, and only a total of 11 passengers were transported on this coach. Other coaches served other areas in Southern California. We arrived at the shipıs terminal just as they began the embarkation process which went rather slowly. I suppose the increased security was partially responsible for this.
I had a standard outside cabin with a large picture window and twin beds that converted into a queen (although my queen at home is larger--there must be a cruise ship queen size thatıs smaller than the standard queen.) The cabin also contained a couch, chair and desk, cocktail table, 2 bedside tables, and a small screen TV. The carpets were well worn and faded. A bowl of fresh fruit was provided daily. Holland Americaıs standard cabins are much roomier than other cruise lineıs that Iıve experienced. The bathroom contained a full bathtub/shower combination. Bathroom storage shelves were minimal, however. Closet space and drawer storage was adequate. There was a small safe in one closet.
The first lifeboat drill was given before sailing and another one a week later in Hawaii. By the way, a couple from my dining table didnıt go to either of them and nobody followed up to see where they were or why they didnıt participate, even though attendance was taken at the drills.
The best thing about this cruise is the itinerary. 4 wonderful days at sea going to Hawaii, 5 days visiting the Islands, then 4 more sea days on the way back to California. (If youıre counting, the departure day and arrival day make up the 15-day cruise.)
Each port had several shore excursions available for purchase aboard ship and I chose a 1/2 day one at each stop. They were all smoothly operated with good guides. Except at Hilo and Kauai, the ship was close to the local life and you could just walk off the ship and be in the middle of things. One excursion I really enjoyed was the Sugar Plantation Steam Train ride at Lahaina. Surprisingly, it was cheaper to buy the excursion on the ship than to walk up to the ticket office at the train station and pay for it. The ship excursion also included a shuttle ride to the train station. Each port also had free shuttles to shopping areas if they werenıt close to the ship.
On a couple of the excursions that I took, the coaches had extra rows of seats squeezed into the standard sized coach making leg room next to nothing. Iım 6ı 2² and had to sit sideways with my legs in the aisle. When I asked the bus driver about this arrangement, he replied that the coaches were made to accommodate their Asian visitors who are generally smaller. When I asked the shore excursion representative on the ship why they booked these coaches for their passengers, she replied that they just contracted with local providers who chose the transportation. So much for caring about passenger comfort!
The major disappointment with Holland America on this cruise, however, was in the dining room. They have evidently severely cut back on the service staff and have not provided adequate training for those who remain. To cite a few examples: slow service, mixed up orders, courses not delivered at all, slow service, lack of table preparation (no sugar or salt/pepper shakers), slow service, necessary silverware not provided. Did I mention SLOW service? Our 2 waiters were pleasant young men who tried their best, but were overwhelmed by the task of waiting on the several tables they were assigned. Often other tables had finished dessert and were leaving the dining room and our table hadnıt even received the entree yet. We often had to ask for pepper, or salt, or sugar, etc. They never seemed to see that someone needed a fork for their dessert--it had to be asked for. The dining room Captain was no help other that to occasionally fill up a water glass. If you expect the bread crumbs to be brushed up between courses you better bring your own brush and tray. Our table often looked like a bird feeding station by the end of the meal.
I tried eating breakfast and lunch in the dining room, but the service was slow, slow, slow. It was 10 to 15 minutes before I was handed a menu, then another 10 to 15 minutes before any food arrived, etc. I think they are trying to save money by encouraging people to eat in the Lido Cafe (read cafeteria) where the service staff is minimal.
If youıre watching your salt intake, youıd better pre-order a salt free menu as the shipıs chef seems to love the salt shaker. Nearly everything was too salty. I quit ordering soup as it was always over salted. Many of the roasted meats must have been prepared with a salted crust, as they too were often too salty.
The salads were sometimes served with wilted lettuce.
Anything positive about this ship? YES!
Free freshly popped popcorn served in the movie theater. Yes, the ship has a movie theater showing a selection of movies 3 times a day. Of course, the cabin TV has movie channels as well. But who wants to watch a movie on those tiny TV screens?
The ship has a mid-level full wrap-around teak promenade deck with comfortable wooden deck chairs. Itıs wide enough for the chairs and walkers who enjoy strolling or power walking.
The Java Bar just off the atrium is open all day and offers free coffees, expresso, cappuccino, and cookies. Yes, I said free. Most other cruise lines charge for specialty coffees. There is also a free ice cream bar open all afternoon in the Lido.
The production shows were very good with an outstanding troupe of singers and dancers.
An 8-page cruise ship edition of the New York Times is delivered daily to each stateroom.
As I said at the start, cruising makes for a wonderful vacation. Just not as good as it used to be.