Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: January 31st, 2004
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
First Time Cruise.
It was fantastic. I truly enjoyed the entire experience.
Embarkation – Fast and simple. Once my wife and I went through the lines, received our id cards and what not, we were on the ship in under 30 minutes. We were greeted by stewards with white gloves and escorted to our cabin. Our luggage was on the bed waiting for us. Amazing. We did the “exploring the room” procedure to discover what our accommodations would be for the next week. First, our ocean view window was on the same level as the life rafts. I knew this before I booked the room so it was no surprise. I thought we were going to have a small 3’ by 4’ window or less. We had a full size floor to ceiling window that was 8’ tall and 8 ‘ wide. We could see the water and watch the moon while we sailed along. It was so much more than what I expected and this was foreshadowing for the rest of the trip.
Our room also had a bathtub that was wonderful as an option that my wife really enjoyed. We had our bed made twice a day and chocolates at night. Out room steward was great with a fresh fruit plate everyday and fresh linens all the time.
Ship was great. My wife and I were in the gym almost twice a day either on the cardio or weights or taking a class like Pilates or Yoga. Some classes were free, but most were 11.00 extra. No big deal. They were good basic classes.
The ship had some amazing
art pieces around with a theme basically of 17th century Italian
sculptures as well as some other really phenomenal pieces ranging from
modern and post modern pieces to classical ship pieces done by captains
with Holland America. Really nice.
Food – Amazing. Variety and quality. The first night I took advantage of the Odyssey restaurant’s 10.00 per person special. Food was really good and the service was fantastic. I bought seat for my wife, mother in law and her friend for the first night. I really enjoyed the servers – Hungarian men and women who were delightful. Had the rack of Lamb with a great Cabernet Sav. with dinner. However!!!!, to me, it was not that much better than the quality of food and service that we received in the main dining room.
The main dining room was fantastic. Out waiter was Budi and his assistant was Arief. Really nice friendly attentive fellows. Budi was a bit soft spoken, but was there for our every need. Arief was a bit more outgoing and always smiling. Our Wine Steward/ Sommelier was great (I forget his name right now). Wonderful demeanor, very knowledgeable and always available if I had a question. He was also part of a separate wine tasting/ pairing class I attended on the first at sea day.
The food was great, especially considering the amount of people they had to feed. I really enjoyed the choices and quality of the meals. I had everything from Foi Groi (spelling???) pate to a chilled Strawberry, cream and green peppercorn soup to double rib venison chop in a reduced Cabernet wine sauce. The Dover Sole is not to be missed, especially when they bone the fish at your seat. My mother in Law and friend are both Chinese and not fond of the French/Austrian style of the head chef. Budi and Arief went above and beyond getting dishes to their liking. I was very satisfied.
Ports of Call – I have visited each place the ship stopped before and really had no desire to get off of the ship, except for Tortola. I still believe that, but I scheduled some sort of tour through the ship for each stop for my family. St. Thomas has great shopping. Other than that it is still a bit of a dump. We booked the tour through the ship and we stopped only at tourist stops where people were selling all kinds of junk. Not too impressed. Our driver had a thick Dominican accent and was hard to understand at times and really did not narrate the island tour one bit. Nice scenery on the north side of the island over looking Meagan’s Bay. It was the only stop where someone was not hawking towels or bags or t-shirts. The nice thing about the ship’s tour is that we knew we would get back on time, although for St. Thomas, the ship did not leave until; 11:30 p.m. I would investigate other tours. Diamonds and Tanzanite and liquors buys were great. I stocked up on Guava berry Liquor since I cannot find it in the States and it reminded me on my younger days in the Caribbean.
Tortola was nice. Quiet and serene. The complete antithesis of St. Thomas. I have not been back in over 10 years and it still seems unspoiled. I have never liked Nassau, although the Ardastra Gardens were neat and the tour of the fort was nice, however, for me it is worthwhile to stay on the ship. I have been to Nassau on numerous occasions in the past so I knew we were not missing much, but it was a nice day excursion.
On Half Moon Cay, It is a really nice beach and we took the nature walk. A nice walk but out guide, although very sweet, was not very informative and just hiked us along the trail. Aside from being 40 minutes late, it seemed as though we were a nuisance to our guide. A nice walk nonetheless. Half Moon Cay is your idyllic tropical beach and for those who do not get to one very often, this is a really pretty spot.
My wife and I were some of the younger people on the ship ( 31 and 33 years old) and that was great for us. Holland America seems to be pursuing the niche of the “Traditional” cruise line with set seating times and more serene atmospheres. I do not think it is better or worse than some of the other more energetic lines. For us, this was a perfect setting. The shows were really great and I loved the Filipino Crew show the best. Really a lot of laughs. The art auction was fun.
I cannot wait to go onto another cruise. I have spent a lot of time in the Caribbean and this is a great way to see little snippets of each island and its unique characteristics. If you want to experience island life, do not go on a cruise, you just get a snapshot.
Holland America was great and seemed to address the problems I read about by some reviewers during the Dec. 2003 overhaul. There was some vibration in the dinning room, but you are sitting directly over the wheels (propellers) and with the ship making better than 20 knots in 6-8’ seas, I thought it was amazing how smooth it was during dinner. Once the seas hit 12- 15’, the ship’s stabilizers actual became more effective. Counter intuitive, I know, but that was my take. The rocking was most noticeable when the seas were medium in size. There was never enough rocking to become a nuisance, just noticeable and you had to mind your steps when going down the halls a bit. I noticed no foul small on any level even during the roughest seas. I also found there were plenty of public restrooms and there was little to no wait for any of the elevators.
My favorite evening activity was the Cigars under the Stars in the Oak Room on the 10th level deck. There was a lovely waitress there every night and had my port wine waiting for me as I lit me cigar. I met some really nice gentlemen up there and got a chance to reflect on the days activities and what a great time I was having.
Going on Norwegian in November and I cannot wait.