September 2015 - Zuiderdam to Europe - Mediterranean
I was very excited to be cruising for the first time on Holland America. I am not a first time cruiser but, I am a new-bee on HAL. I was excited about the ports in Europe that I would be visiting and also that I was going to get a taste of a luxury cruise line. All of my other cruises have been on Carnival. I was looking forward to better food, better entertainment, a luxury cruise-line atmosphere. I have to say that all that I expected was just fair.
The decor outside the rooms and inside was no different than Carnival. It did not have any "Luxury" feel to it. The rooms were of comparable size with no extra amenities and we had to pay for laundry every day. There isn't even a place to iron. On carnival they have a laundry on each deck and a place there where you can iron clothes.
The entertainment schedule was disappointing. The only up side to that was that because of the number of ports vs. the days of cruise, there wasn't a whole lot of time for entertainment at night. We ported 10 out of 11 days and were exhausted when we got back on for dinner. So, because the entertainment wasn't that exciting, I didn't really plan for any of it. I did go to one show and a comedy thing. Not much difference there either. It was just OK.
The biggest issue I had was the food. OMG! This is supposed to be a higher end cruise line and I thought the food would be outstanding. Not so much! The buffet was not very good at all. The variety of salads, breakfast choices, and dinner choices in buffet was far surpassed BY CARNIVAL. Carnival has a wonderful buffets with different things daily and lots of variety.
You can get Italian that is upper scale but you have to pay an extra $10 per person and it is in the buffet. It is not a separate specialty dinning restaurant like most other cruise lines you go on. We paid the extra $10 to eat the Italian because we were bored of the buffet. And you might be thinking, "if you didn't like the buffet, why not just go to the formal dinning room every night?" Well, after paying $35 extra per person to eat at the steakhouse the first full day on the cruise and having a very bad experience, we realized that all the food choices might be a problem. The bad experience at the steakhouse just set the tone for the whole cruise. It is a steak house and both our steaks were cooked incorrectly and had to be sent back. The sides were OK and that was all we had to eat for a while. it took too long for the replacement steaks to get there so we cancelled the dinner and told them we were done and leaving. The manager then came over and was very rude and said we would not be charged for the dinners but you will pay for the caviar and walked away.
Since this was the highest end restaurant on the ship, we didn't think any of the other food would be much better. We were right. Main dinning was just OK. I got tired of only having Cesar salad every time I was in the main dinning. There was one other salad choice and a soup. None of them were anything I liked. So I would always go back to the house salad(Cesar). They did have the same choices you will see on any cruise menu:frog legs, escargot, prime rib, lobster(2-3 oz.) on one night only, etc. Nothing was prepared that was out of this world great or that memorable. After the issues at the steakhouse we cancelled the other premium dinning reservations we had at Le Cirque so I can't comment on that them night, but it is held at the steakhouse and run by the same people so it wasn't worth chancing and a waste of money.
THE ONE really great thing on this cruise was the themed food nights on Lido Deck!!! They had: buy one glass of wine-get one wine for a $1 from 5-7 pm. And during the same time frame The Lido also hosted 4 different nights of themed food spreads: appetizers and main courses based on where we were at Port. We had Croatain, Italian, Greek and a Mediterranean night. This food was memorable. Thank god for it because on those 4 nights we ate there instead of any of the dinner venues.
Instead of gaining weight on a cruise from too much eating, I lost weight on this one!
I doubt I will go on a Holland America cruise again. It would have to be a SMOKIN' deal. They offer a return cruiser discount and try to get you to book another cruise while on this one and give huge discounts but even that was good enough for me to consider it. it is up to you if you want to be your own judge of the cruise and not heed my advice. Everyone has different taste and interest.
I am looking forward to Norwegian and Royal Caribbean next.