We are seniors and prefer smaller ships that have a reputation for traditional cruise experiences with fine food & service but without the theme park hype of RCCL. Although we are Diamond members of RCCL, we decided that we needed a break from the behemoths of the seas Oasis class ships. Although the Oasis class is fine to experience a time or two , it is not for us. You almost need a GPS to navigate the ships and we are NOT rock wall climbers, surf riders or zip liners. If we want a theme park experience, we will go directly to Disney World.
We have cruised over 30 times that included all the popular lines, such as Carnival, Norwegian, RCCL, Celebrity & HAL, so I'm in a position to evaluate reasonably objectively.
The food & service was definitely a cut above at the main dining room & buffet. We did not eat at the extra cost, (specialty) dining rooms but reports suggest they are also very good.
Breakfast buffet was very good. Wide choice of fresh fruits and baked goods. Of note are the sticky buns which are at least as good if not better than the famous Celebrity sticky buns. Moreover, they were available every day. Eggs could be ordered any way you like them, Omelets, scrambled, Benedict, or over east medium etc. and the lines were NOT excessively long. Lunch & dinner often included N. Y. strip steaks grilled to your perfection.
Service in the main dining room was good. We chose anytime dining for 2 and were always accommodated in a reasonable short time. The food & food selection was good. But with 2 exceptions. The Tiramisu desert was totally lacking in presentation & taste. It was served on a tasteless cracker & NO Kalua. The shrimp cocktail is served with a version of tarter sauce. After the 1st night I wised up and specifically asked for regular cocktail sauce. No problem!.
ENTERTAINMENT. The main theatre entertainment consisted of a comedian, John Wing, & he was excellent & kept you in stiches. The illusionist that they called a magician was barley OK. His name is J. P. Parent and did almost all card tricks.
I prefer an illusionist that makes things disappear/appear & appears to cut people in half. And it helps if he has a scantily clad assistant. The special musical production by Step One Dance Company was called "HUMANITY" We did not care for it. It was loud, mostly loud drum beat and bass noise that some call music. It was freestyle dance with a touch of cirque du solei. The other theatre production was "Holland America Story, First 150 years." An interesting history of the company. Found it very interesting & entertaining. It traced the genesis & growth of the company from its beginning thru the war years to the present. The other film was. The other film/documentary was a nature film about life in the deep ocean. Again very interesting, especially since both were shown in the theater in the round concept. Screens that surrounded you approximately 180 degrees.
Other entertainment venues: Much has been written about the Rolling Stone Rock Room and BB King's Blues Club & billboard on board. First, the Rolling Stone Rock Room Band was the WORST band I have heard in a long time. IT was TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE music for a mature passenger clientele. It was mostly hip hop & rap, with a generous amount of horrible heavy metal thrown in. It was ear drum splitting loud and in the open so it was hard to get away from. NO one danced to the music. What does that tell you? The other venue "billboard onboard" was good. It featured two pianists playing oldies rock type music by such well know & popular artists such as, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell, Tom Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, & yes Dolly Parton & of course Elvis. This venue always drew a standing room only crowd & the performers encouraged sing along. One problem was that there was hardly any real dance venue or music.
The ship was kept exceptionally clean & easy to navigate. It had 2 main pools an outdoor pool deck 9 in front & the Lido enclosed pool deck 9. We hung out primarily in the Lido deck enclosed pool. It had a retractable roof and we expected this pool to remain mostly enclosed. Unfortunately they opened the roof as early as & 7:30 AM
even on windy & cloudy days which made it too chilly for most . Also they played loud recorded music , hard rock that was much too annoying for an enclosed pool that was supposed to be relaxing.
I would have given this ship a solid 4.5 rating except for the loud rock music in the Lido enclosed pool and the totally inappropriate Rolling Stone Rock room heavy metal band.
Cabin was clean , adequate size for 2 adults with adequate storage. Our Cabin Steward was outstanding & we tipped him extra.
Amber Cove was so convenient & enjoyable, we didn't feel the need to take an excursion.