Cruises, Reviews, Speaking from Experience, Vacation

Holland America


Welcome back blog readers,

In this post I will share why I prefer the Holland America Cruise Line over Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian.

The ships in the Holland America line all look very similar on the outside and can be distinguished from the dark blue color that is painted on the lower half of the ships. During one of the “Talk with the Captain” lectures, it was mentioned that Holland America has this shade of blue specially made for their ships. There is a name to the color, but it escapes me.

The layout of their ships is also very similar, which is probably great for crew members that work 9 months on one ship then starts a new contract on another ship, it takes less time to get to know. I found this to be true as a passenger having been on 3 of their ships and feeling familiar when you leave one and get on another.

Holland America does many things that really stand out, lots of little touches or attention to detail that I have not noticed/experienced on the other cruise lines. While my experiences are subjective, it’s still worth mentioning.

Things like:

  • The crew member to passenger ratio is pretty darn close to 1:1 which is great considering that Holland America ships are smaller. Roughly there are 2,000 passengers with 2,000 crew members onboard. Larger cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have roughly 4,000 passengers with 1,800-2,000 crew members onboard. To me it shows that Holland America cares about not over working their room attendants as they assign 2 per room, where as the larger lines assign 1 per room with more rooms to cover. Assigning 2 room attendants also provides their guests with better, more efficient service as many times we have left our room in the morning to get breakfast on the Lido deck/buffet and when we arrive 30-35 minutes later our room was made up. We tend to refer to the room attendants as Cleaning Ninjas. Where as on the larger cruise ships, if we weren’t out of the room while they were making their early morning rounds, our room would be made up later on in the afternoon on their way back or not until the evening turn down service. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, just sharing my experience.
  • While the Holland America ships are smaller, their common areas and theaters are much larger which can accommodate more of their passengers that want to attend the headlining shows. No reservations needed no extra fees, plenty of seats for everyone. One good thing Holland America offers is 2 showings on the same night, one between the 7-8 pm and one again later at 10pm. Not just one time slot where you make it or miss out. Here’s a tip: When attending a show in the theater, go to the upper seating level and snag a front corner balcony seat, one of the best seats in a private section. This is also a great meeting place if your cruising as a group.
  • Happy Hour! I’ve touched up on this in a previous Cruising 101 post. Holland America offers a Happy Hour that two of their bars participate in from 4pm-5pm. One ship offered a Buy one get the same drink FREE, while the other two ships offered a Buy one get the other 50% off. Their regular mixed drink prices are cheaper than the other cruise lines. The best place to enjoy your Happy Hour is at the Crows Nest located on an upper deck at the front of the ship. Such a great panoramic view, often there is live music playing or a trivia game taking place, sometimes it’s low key and quite, just a great place to watch the sunset.
  • The overall interior design and decor, pure elegance and high class. If you are a fan of art, you will not be disappointed in all of the great pieces located throughout the ship. The common restrooms are the cleanest, the stalls are very private with floor to ceiling coverage. The elevators are more spacious, well lit and even have a floor mat that reminds you of which day it is. My husband likes to joke that he knows which underwear to wear today.
  • The sundeck where the outdoor pools are located also has a retractable roof. This feature is great on the days when the sun is shining while also raining. You can still lounge outside, get some sun, enjoy the pool without the effects of the rain. Yes, I know that a little rain won’t matter if you’re already wet, but most people don’t want rain in their adult beverage or while they are trying to read.
  • Your stateroom comes with nice robes, no other line that I have experienced offers that. I love those robes, they do offer to sell them and I think I will splurge the next time I’m onboard. I use the robe every morning just to sit out on the balcony, watch the sunrise, enjoying some quiet time listening to the waves. The robes come in handy as many passengers use them at the pool.
  • Your stateroom has a fruit bowl with a card to fill out should you want your room attendant to fill it. Apples red or green, Oranges, Pears and Bananas are your options. I take advantage of this service, because I wake up before my husband 99% of the time (unless he’s dealing with acid reflux/indigestive issues), so it’s nice to have a small bite to eat, put on the robe and sit out on the balcony until he wakes up, which is usually me waking him up somewhere around 9:30am. Just another thing the other cruise lines don’t offer. It’s not to say that you can’t bring food back to your room, you can. It’s just nice to have it already in the room in case you forget to grab a nibble before the buffet closes.
  • Turn Down Service comes complete with towelgomi (all lines do), but only Holland America places chocolates on your pillow. If you don’t want them, just let your room attendant know, or bring them to me, I’ll give them a good home. Especially the dark chocolate ones.
  • The Buffet, the best tasting food so far. The best options that include Gluten Free, Turkey bacon (as my husband doesn’t eat pork), the best Salad bar with big bowls to make a decent salad. Another great thing about the buffet here, is that they offer premade, wrapped sandwiches that you can grab/go bring back to your room and put in the mini fridge for later. They have a wide variety of hot/bagged teas. Small jars of baby food are also located at the buffet, no other line seems to offer that. The best part of the buffet is that the crew serves you instead of all passengers handling the tongs and spreading germs like the bigger cruise lines that make sure they lather you in Purel “Washy Washy” before entering. This is not to say that you shouldn’t wash your hands before eating, because you absolutely should. Wash your hands and wash them often, encourage your kids to do the same. Nobody wants to spend their cruise with a norovirus.
  • The dining room: If the food at the buffet is great, the food from the dining is even better if you can imagine that. As I mentioned in the Cruising 101 post, you can order as many appetizers, dinners, desserts and if you know to ask, the Cheese Platter/ Chartissarie too.
  • The best tasting water, Holland America takes pride in their water filtration system. I found the water on the Norwegian had a bit of a metallic taste. You won’t get that on Holland America.

Holland America does tend to be known for being the cruise line for older people, that isn’t entirely true. While they don’t have the water slides, ziplines, rock climbing walls or character parades; there are families with small kids, there are younger couples and younger singles as well.

If you are like my husband and I that are introverted, not a fan of big crowds, not using the cruise to drink ourselves silly, not high energy but still want to get out and enjoy what the ship has to offer, visiting beautiful ports and just wanting to relax on your vacation… If this all sounds like a great way to spend your vacation, then you won’t be disappointed with Holland America. After reading that back, I can see where we might sound boring or would be compared to an older couple. If anything, they have raised the bar and the other cruise lines won’t compare to the level of service, cleanliness and friendliness. At least that has been my experience. Now that we have cruised with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian, to gain experience we will only cruise with Holland America going forward.

One very noticable thing about cruising on a smaller ship like Holland America and the Carnival Legend is that you tend to notice the motion of the ocean a bit more. If the water is choppy, lots of white caps are visible, you will feel the sway. My earlier recommendation if you suffer from motion sickness is to made your way mid-ship. On one occasion we were walking from one end of a deck to the other and you felt like you were walking through a fun house, which some people find fun and normally I would too. Not in an aggressive swaying from left to right motion, but slower gradual motion.

On the bigger ships like the Allure of the Seas you barely felt anything at all. The Norwegian Epic was similar, I tend to notice the movement when I’m sitting. If you find the motion getting to you, try not to focus on the movement, or get to mid-ship and look out from a window. You can always pack pills for motion sickness, just in case. The medical center on board can also assist you if you haven’t got your sea legs yet. It happens to the best of us, including me especially if I’m sitting and my equilibrium is trying to figure out which way we’re moving. Luckily the icky feeling is short lived and passes in a few hours and the rest of the cruise is fine.

Cruise line loyaly offers perks after your second cruise or after you’ve cruised 10-14 days. Each line varies in what they offer for loyaly perk. The perks alone may sway you to cruise with one line over another. I can only share my experiences, share tips and advice so that you can make the best choice for you and your family.

Happy Cruising!


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