Holland America, ships, and stuff

My favourite photo of the ship

I've *never* been on a cruise. Before this trip, I was a cruise virgin. I really didn't know what to expect. I'd heard stories about how these ships were big (be sure to call them ships, because if you call them boats, you'll quickly be corrected by those with an extreme passion for this lifestyle. It's not pretty, either).

Before our cruise, the general consensus of the population went something like this: Oh, you're going on a Holland America cruise? Those are for old people.

I cannot tell you how many times people said that to me. Doesn't that sound exciting and conjure up rousing images of soft-serve ice cream and crokinole on the Lido deck before an early check-in at sunset? Hah - yeah, this couldn't be farther from the truth! The theme of this ship was far from it. For the population, I would say half were retirees. But the other half was a solid mix of young adults, and families with children.
And of the retirees, I think I saw one the whole time who was actually beyond retirement if you catch my drift. The rest were young and young at heart and active, and participated in the late night festivities and shore excursions along with the rest of us. I was on this trip with travel agents who represent the top 25 agencies in North America, and their sentiments were constantly echoing the same thought throughout the week: "I always perceived Holland America as being for old people but its definitely not".

One thing I did pick up around the ship is that Holland America's theme is less people; more room per ship. I'd believe this to also be true. I hate crowds, and I hate line ups.
It's not that the ship ever once felt empty, but nearly ever did I have to wait in a line for anything. The open dining in the Lido area was probably the only lineup I experienced and it would never be more than 2-3 people deep.

A better word I would use for the atmosphere of this ship would be vibrant. There's always something going on from the time you start at breakfast, to the disco parties that run well into the night. There's a large blend of activities to satisfy any age, and the ship even has a kids club - I thought that was something you only saw on a Carnival ship.

Show Room at Sea

But the staff of Holland America are truly the stars! They are the most wonderful people I've met and they're what I miss the most! They made the experience go from just 'amazing' to "trip of a lifetime".

Whatever you need, the staff is there and ready to help. They're friendly and engaging. They truly care about your experience! And they're never in short supply. Our dinning room assistants got to quickly know our dinner preferences and always had our table prepared with our favorites by the time we arrived! Small touches like that really make the experience memorable.

I cannot wait to return on a Holland America cruise again. We're thinking about trying the Mediterranean next summer! And because we've sailed with HAL before, we're automatically 1-star Mariners and qualify for perks (I love points, and I love perks)! I can't wait!

Here are some of my recommendations if you're sailing Holland America...

There is the Lido deck for leisure dining, but my preference was the Manhattan Room, our regular dining option. The food there is amazing. But also, be sure to reserve a night at the Pinnacle Grill. The food there is incredible - very elegant, and extreme fine dining. The Pinnacle Grill is a must!

There's just SO much to do on the ship, you will not possibly cover it all. Some musts include catching a show in the Showroom at Sea in the evening. The performances are well polished, and spectacular! I enjoyed the daily bingo, with a growing jackpot each day from $10,000 to $100,000. Can you imagine winning that?!! On the last day was also a free-cruise bingo. I saw a girl win a free cruise. That would be cool. The culinary demonstration is also a must. The culinary arts center is very posh. And be sure to grab a drink in the crow's nest. The view (and super comfortable chairs along the front) are spectacular!

This was a big deal for me because I'm a huge water drinker, and if you want a bottle of water on the ship you need to buy it. There are pop cards you can purchase (ick), but if you can live on water/juice/coffee/tea/iced tea, then I strongly suggest grabbing drinks from the Lido area whenever you need a drink outside of your meals. Water and drinks there are free, and if you cannot find what you're looking for, there's always staff around to help get what you need.

A girl's favourite! I didn't realize this, but all the shopping on board our ship was tax and duty free! Our tax in Ontario is 13% so no tax is always a treat! I'm not sure if this is exclusive to any at-sea shopping on the ship, or just because we were in Caribbean waters, but be sure to check it out. We picked up some great items and souvenirs here!

(More cruise review to come soon...)

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