Ships sailed on: Koningsdam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam
SUMMARY: More expensive than Carnival or NCL, older crowd, no water parks or exciting thrill rides on these ships, but plenty of seating in the shade above deck. Good food, nice lounges with jazz, blues and classical music. Not great for families with children.
What Are Holland America Ships Like?
We love Holland America Lines because they have a lot of places to sit outside in the shade (we live in Florida and get enough sun), it’s relatively quiet because it’s an older crowd and the food is good. The service is also consistently good. They also have a lot of different entertainment options like Lincoln Center Stage for live classical music, BB Kings lounge for blues singers, and the main theater has a variety of different shows. All their ships have consistent amenities and cabin features. They don’t have rock climbing, slides, ropes courses or other physical activities, but they do have several large pools (indoors and out), and plenty of seating on deck in the form of lounge chairs and regular tables and chairs. They have a retractable roof over the pool that is closed at night, then they show late night movies on the big screen. They have really comfortable couches on the upper pool deck to watch from. They also have THE best upper deck lounge of any cruise line. It’s usually called the Crow’s Nest. It’s big, with an incredible view of the ocean in front of you with lots of seating, couches, giant chairs and a bar. That’s also where they have games and books.
I like that there is always outdoor seating adjacent to the buffet, which not all cruise lines offer. The Dive In is one of the best outdoor cafes of any ship we’ve been on. They serve burgers and fries that are SO good! Their addition of the Beyond Burger was much appreciated. I’m still waiting on other cruise lines to stop serving those disgusting mushy vegetable patties and calling them “veggie burgers.”
They have lots of small pocket lounges to sit quietly and chat with friends. Each lounge has a slightly different design, all with comfortable chairs. There was no smoking in the casino when we went last, but I think it was a COVID thing. We also really enjoy the original art that Holland America has on their ships. We saw two original Lichtensteins as well as a couple of Andy Warhols that were spectacular.
The food on Holland America is consistently good. They switch up their dishes everyday and have sections to their Lido Market buffet, such as a large salad bar, and Asian food section, something called “Harvest” which is soups and bread, plus the more traditional section. They have an excellent selection of European cheeses, which I really liked. They also have wonderful fresh baked cookies next to the ice cream at the dessert section. Their desserts are average however. They look amazing, but don’t have much flavor, just a lot of sugar. I was not unhappy about this…because it caused me to eat less of it. Their breakfast buffet opens at 6:30am. Their room service is the best we’ve experienced. Also, many of the HAL ships have “The Dutch Café” which is staffed with Dutch people and serves traditionally Dutch food. It is also decorated with Dutch houses and Delft Blue items.
We’ve stayed in standard balcony cabin, an aft balcony, the Signature Suite and an interior cabin. All have been nice. The aft balcony cabin was great because of its large balcony. The standard cabins have plenty of room though. There is always a lot of storage. The bathrooms are well-laid out and the walk-in showers are really big. The interior cabin was tiny, but comfortable. We stayed in a Signature Suite once (you can watch my YouTube video), which was enormous. We didn’t need that much room, but it sure was nice not to constantly bump into each other.
Our kids had the balcony cabin next door, so it was convenient to walk back and forth through the balcony doors. That bathroom was huge, and had a tub as well as a separate shower. Holland America tends to upgrade their passengers who have a higher “Mariner” status, unlike other cruise lines which make you place a bid on getting an upgrade. As far as electrical outlets, they have more outlets than many other cruise lines, which is helpful when you bring a laptop as well as other devices. Plus we always bring European adapters so that we can plug our phones into those outlets, freeing up the other ones for our laptops. Their room service is included with your cruise price, and they have a pretty good menu which includes pizza, cheese quesadillas and chocolate chip cookies. So you can order all day everyday without any additional charges. I enjoyed their breakfast particularly, which was Greek yogurt with granola and passion fruit. Their beds are comfortable and not as hard as some other lines.
Private Island: Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay is one of my favorite private islands. They don’t have a pier, so you have to tender, which isn’t the greatest. But we’ve never had a cruise on which they didn’t go to the island (due to weather). It’s very natural, without a lot of built up activities. So there’s no pool, swim-up bar or slides. They have a large pirate ship on the beach which has a bar inside. There are huts that rent beach toys like stand up paddleboards, floats and catamaran sailboats. You can rent the cabins on the beach which have a front porch and are air conditioned. Their food at the pavilion is wonderful. They provide a picnic style lunch, which is so well-prepared and tasty. There are a variety of salads, coleslaw, potato salad, burgers, dogs and dessert. We always enjoy it. You eat at picnic tables that are covered and surrounded by foliage.
They have excursions like horseback riding, jet skiing and a stingray pool. We usually walk all the way to the end of the beach where the reef is and snorkel there. We bring our own equipment, so I’m not sure if they rent any. We once snorkeled all the way around the bend to a beach around the corner. There was nobody there and it was just beautiful. It’s a very relaxing island. Note: your all-inclusive drink package CAN NOT be used on the island. You will have to pay for drinks there.
Holland America Pros:
- Excellent Food: Wide variety, including a lot of vegetarian options, and all well prepared and tasty.
- Consistently good service
- Varied room service menu – no additional fee
- Covered walking deck that goes all the way around the ship
- Good TV shows and movies that don’t cost extra
- Beyond Burgers at the Dive-In
- Crow’s Nest Lounge
- Thoughtful design details throughout the ship
- Nice fitness center that faces forward with a great view
- The Dutch Café
Holland America Cons:
- Price – more expensive than the others
- Port – in Florida they only sail out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami
- No fun activities on the pool deck