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Everything posted by robotpony

  1. We found that it really depends who is working at each particular bar, especially the bar managers. We've generally had good service, but the best bars change depending on the voyage (and sometimes day). I also suggest moving between bars as they get busy, as usually there is a quiet bar somewhere else on the ship. Quiet bars are often the best ones, as service will be faster, noise levels lower, and there is more time for staff to make your drinks. For example, we had a habit of hitting the Crow's nest just as most people were leaving (mid/late afternoon), or hitting the sun bar after the second dinner rush was done. When bars are busier, like on the Music Walk, we made a point of getting to know the servers, which gets you noticed when you're ready for your next beverage. We've seen some of these servers on subsequent voyages, and remembered their names (and they remembered us), which resulted in some of the best service and tips out of all of our cruises.
  2. I'm not normally a dessert guy, unless I'm cruising. Our favs: 1. Salzburger Nockerl at Rudy's is a sharing size fruit flan that was fantab. 2. The Bossche Bol at the Dutch Cafe, also sharable, is pretty fantastic. 3. Creme brulé at the Pinnacle 4. Banana crisp (and banana pies) at the Lido
  3. This is one of the reasons we also use a TA, they work magic with things like price changes.
  4. This is our favourite sweet drink too. I've only seen it charged as a single, but it's usually free-poured and a bit more generous than the average drink. We've also found that staff are entertained when anyone orders it, as it's a favourite in the staff bar (and "wang wang" is slang for the sound an ambulance makes when you've had too many). I generally stick to gin and soda outside of a few splurge sweet drinks. Holland America has a special anniversary gin (De Ligne?) that is quite nice. My partner usually has a few sweet drinks before dinner, and occasionally an espresso martini from the Crow's nest that she really enjoys.
  5. On our September 11-day we had 2 comedians and an illusionist, in addition to the Step 1 dancers, and a mashup of the dancers and Billboard pianists, as well as Billboard onboard, Rolling Stone room, and BB King bands. There was one evening with a movie playing on the main stage (instead of in the lido pool). The days included the typical port and EXC talks. On our April 18-day there were 3 comedians, Step 1 dancers, a new music group, and a number of island performers (dancers, sand artist, etc.). There was enough we couldn't see it all. Additionally, this itinerary had a jazz band playing Third Avenue West, in addition to the other standard bands.
  6. For warmer itineraries our lifehack is to book an inside cabin and a cabana, which is usually cheaper than a veranda room. You get an outdoor private space with service, and a nice, dark, quiet room to sleep in.
  7. On the Pinnacle ships at least, I've seen 3 sizes of interior rooms: small, sideways inside rooms that are slightly less small, and mobility rooms (somewhat larger). We were once assigned a mobility inside cabin, and it felt huge. We didn't find, however, that it affected our cruise enjoyment much.
  8. It was a bit tougher to wear a jacket on our last Mediterranean cruise, as it was quite warm and humid in areas of the ship. I admit I ditched my jacket at least once that cruise for temperature control reasons.
  9. We've transferred a number of bookings from HAL to our TA and it was always speedy: one was by form (we filled it out for our TA, they submitted, only took a few days), one was on ship (they asked us who it was and updated it right there), and the others were by phone (they looked it up, updated similar to on-ship).
  10. That lonely piano was in use for our April cruise, but not for our September dates. It was nice.
  11. The Starlink receivers are a fantastic bit of technology that include 1,280 tiny antennae arranged in a honeycomb shape, on those flat + stationary bases (as shown on the Koningsdam above). They only need line-of-sight and not directional positioning, making them much smaller and more reliable, and given the huge bump in tech they're much more efficient (AKA faster, lower powered) than the previous generation. Unfortunately, the Nieuw Statendam we were on earlier this month did not yet have Starlink, so our connectivity was much slower than when we were on the Koningsdam in April. Luckily the retrofit for these is straightforward and I expect the entire fleet will be done by mid 2024 (given what we've seen so far).
  12. I can confirm this; Tamarind/Nami staff told us this explicitly when we were on the NS a few weeks ago. Menus will change significantly, and the current plan was to shut down Nami (adding rolls to the Tamarind replacement menu).
  13. We were at a shared table last week and one couple ordered 3! The items were all good (and a few of the desserts great), though nothing compared to tea at various Fairmont hotels and teahouses in Victoria. The tea is fairly typical, and there are other selections if you ask. For us, though, tea time is more about a quiet moment in the afternoon, or to meet new people. The snacks and tea are a medium for that and not a destination.
  14. I don't think I could find a steak dinner anywhere in our area for under $100pp including tip that included 3 courses, even in a fair-to-middlin' restaurant. A three course meal at one of popular mid-level steakhouses here would cost between $60-120 (depending on your main choice), not including beverages or gratuity. If you ordered multiple of any of the courses, you could easily increase that by 50%. The Pinnacle grill is somewhere above fair-to-middlin', and somewhere below the top end steakhouses here. Of course to match value-for-value, you would need to add the built-in cost from your cruise fare ($10-$15 per meal), but even then the Pinnacle still is a reasonable cost.
  15. We try to maximize the benefit to great crew members by opting into the auto-grat, tipping key members an additional amount (e.g., stewards, Retreat staff), and giving positive feedback to other members that stand out (via the app and in the post-cruise survey). We have found that the positive feedback often means more to staff than cash, as it provides them with additional time off, in addition to feeding into their performance metrics. When we have left positive feedback for crew members, they always reach out and thank us (and sometimes their managers do too). For completely outstanding members, we will both tip extra and provide detailed positive feedback. We have asked a few crew members about gifts, and our limited sample set none of them needed anything or wanted trinkets, food items, etc., but we did get the sense that staff might be directed to not ask guests for goods.
  16. I have ditched the tie in recent years, but I still like to wear a sport coat and button up, with nice slacks or dark jeans. I'd love to own a tux, but it wouldn't be very convenient to fly with anymore, especially given the cost of flying with extra baggage. My goal is to look sharp, while still being comfortable and pack modestly.
  17. We had a surge of smoke in the Vancouver area last weekend, but this week it's dissipated and clear. There are still active fires inland, up country, and on Vancouver island, but the strait has been clear. You may see smoke in the distance, and conditions may change, but as of today things are looking pretty reasonable here.
  18. I've only sent the information by email, but have always received a confirmation (generally the same day or week). For one of our cruises, I had to re-request a confirmation, which arrived the same day. Note that the Shareholder OBC does not apply to certain types of cruises, like casino offers, and other free offers. The confirmation will list any reason OBC is not available. For example, my next cruise was a free offer from last August and did not qualify for the additional OBC (I forgot about this rule when I applied, but it makes sense to us).
  19. I second this; the tap water exceeds the quality of some brands of bottled, and many municipalities (e.g., is much better than most LA or Vancouver City tap water). All of the ice, with the exception of this year's limited edition glacial ice, is made with the tap water (so you'll be drinking it regardless).
  20. We did 18 days on the Koningsdam this year, and 7 days last year, and the overall experiences were wonderful. We did observe a number of people who were frustrated for various reasons, mostly based on missed expectations, and (to a degree) some inflexibility. Cruises can be stressful for people, and mismatched expectations are frustrating. My suggestion is that if you're flexible, you will probably have a great time. On our 18 day cruise in April, we did see some items out of stock; a few high end liquors ran out before the mid-way restock, but there was a wide selection of alternatives (e.g., Hendricks ran out, but they had a fantastic Dutch Gin that was better). There were a few food items that dwindled near the end of the cruise, and a few items that weren't available at the ports. There were many other food options to chose from, and there was always an excess of good food. We experienced great service all around, but again saw some people frustrated when drink orders took longer, or when there were lines for the MDR or other services. When we vacation, we see long lines at the MDR and either wait (like any restaurant around here), or we change our plans. We found that dining a bit later solved the wait issue generally, and that was fine by us. If you've ever visited Disneyland or Disney World, waiting is not a sign of bad service, but a busy venue (we always joke about waiting being part of the experience because of Disney). We have had so much fun on our Holland America cruises that we have 4 more booked now. They're relaxing, the itineraries are interesting, the people and service are great, the food is plentiful and delicious, the entertainment is a good fit for our tastes, and the price-for-value is above average for what we need. They're not perfect, but compared to the other types of vacations they're more relaxing and less costly ... and you get to sleep on a ship!
  21. On the Pinnacle class ships at least, we found the Music Walk very sociable over the past few years, and have made several good friends because of it. Between sets there is ample time to talk to your neighbours in all of the venues, especially for the later time slots. We also found the duelling piano bar interactive, as the performers took requests, conducted sing-alongs, and spent time after their sets with the guests. On our last 18 day trip, the piano players knew most of the guests by name and would pick songs they thought we would like. It was impressive how many songs were in their repertoire, and how quick they were able to learn new songs.
  22. No, there are no longer excursions on Holland America that touch land in the Antarctic. Additionally, HAL only has 2 permits in 2025 to sail by the Antarctic, and they are unsure if they will have any in 2026. (We're booked for 2025, excited to even see the region!)
  23. Aside from the food, lovely staff, and lovely ships, we really enjoy how the entertainment is focused: the EXC talks, special speakers, dance troupe, and cover bands. The entertainment tends to be very sociable too, and we've made connections with most of the bands and cruise directors. We also appreciate that our rooms and bags are ready earlier than some of the other lines, which makes that first day extra special. We tend to book a speciality restaurant that first day (Nami or Tamarind on the Pinnacle ships) to avoid the crowds. We also book a cabana on itineraries that suit it, and the staff and services in the cabanas has been excellent.
  24. We sail out of Vancouver regularly, most recently in April. We have experienced check-ins that were under and hour, and a few that were closer to two hours. Overall the experience is similar to Ft. Lauderdale on a busy day. The big caveat being that the customs line can be slow if understaffed, but it's usually better than the customs line at Vancouver airport. There have been some signage issues in the past, but we found in April that there were enough staffs and signs that people were flowing into the security line without issue. For anyone with mobility issues, there is a separate line that goes much faster (it was to the left of the main queue in April). We travel with friends that have mobility issues, and they always beat us on to the ship. Port staff should be able to help folks find the mobility line. You may also find that the port is busier in the mornings as most people ignore their boarding times. If you can skip that early rush, you can cut the boarding time in half or more.
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