It is our first Holland America cruise. We knew it is more for mature passengers but we didn't care as we just wanted to try the Mexico Riviera cruise and the timing was right. We embarked from Vancouver and our check-in was a breeze.
Our oceanview stateroom with a large square window was very spacious but it was on deck one where most of their oceanview staterooms are located. The location of our stateroom was problematic as it was below Billboard Onboard. We could hear music until midnight or 1:00 am and noise from moving chairs as the place has hardwood floors. Thanks to Guest Services, they were quick to help and had us relocated to another stateroom.
Main Dining Room: There were pros and cons to open seating, we liked the flexibility of no fixed dining time but the wait for a table was around 15 minutes. The main dining room service was great but slow. Food was good generally but they were exceptional on Gala nights.
Lido Market: food options at this buffet restaurant were not bad but waitstaff's service was average. Trying to find a table was always a challenge, perhaps it's the set up of the restaurant. Their dinner closing hours of the restaurant was too early as many guests were still coming in for dinner passed 8:30 p.m. not realizing the restaurant was already closed. The strangest thing was that they reopen at 10:30 p.m. for an hour for late night snacks. So between 9:00 p.m. (main dining room closes) and 10:30 p.m. guests can only get room service at that point.
Specialty Dining: Pinnacle Grill (Steakhouse), Tamarind (Asia) and Canaletto (Italian). They were nice but it would have been better if there were more choices, perhaps French or Spanish.
Ports: Cabo San Lucas was most fun as we took the boat trip around the Arch and spent some time on Medano Beach. We did the hop-on hop-off in Mazatlan and we were able to cover a lot of grounds in a short time but it is probably cheaper to hire a car to take you around as well. Puerto Vallerta would be great for scuba diving but we didn't go this time.
Activities: I enjoyed America's Test Kitchen where I got to see demonstrations of tried and true tested recipes by amazing chefs. I was lucky to see Andy Matsuda demoing his masterful skills of sushi making. Other workshops such as Microsoft and photography were pretty good too. There were some other for-fee activities such as wine tasting and martini sampling but we didn't participate.
HAL ships fell short on its entertainment options and its operating hours were limited. Billboard Onboard's music was mediocre; Lincoln Center Stage performance was good but it seemed out of place; BB King's Blues Club is probably the only one that is noteworthy with good performance. Their main stage shows were disappointing and lackluster.
Navigator App: convenient for checking the daily schedule, account balance, chat with fellow passengers. I suggest that more details be provided for each event that's happening onboard instead of just the title.
HAL really needs to plan more activities during at-sea days or theme events on the Lido Deck: improve their entertainment options and have a look at the gaps in their dining hours.
Very spacious cabin with a large window + sofa, flat-screen TV. The bathroom has a bathtub and Elemis bath amenities. Expect noise from Billboard Onboard directly above as it has hardwood floors, you may also hear music and singing well past midnight.
A vibrant city with beautiful mountains and spectacular waterfront. Vancouver Cruise Terminal is located right in downtown, accessible by Canada Line Rapid Transit.
A beautiful city with lovely beaches, many opportunities for water-related activities. Great shopping and restaurants along the main strip called State Street. It's very easy to explore downtown Santa Barbara by foot.