If the mega ships carrying thousands upon thousands of people aren’t for you, then opt for a line with mid-sized ships such as Holland America. The company has 15 cruise ships sailing on more than 500 voyages a year.
HAL may not be as well-known as some of the bigger cruise lines, but it shouldn’t be forgotten about. The food onboard is among the best offered at sea and the variety of itineraries offered makes HAL a popular choice!
Whether you fancy a gourmet hot dog, a quintessential Italian pasta dish or a perfectly cooked porterhouse steak – Holland America Line can tick all the boxes. In my mind, the cruise industry is renowned for three things – taking passengers to amazing destinations, unbeatable customer service, and last but by no means least… FOOD! So it is almost a given that Holland America Line delivers on these three factors, especially on the cuisine front.
The main dining room offers breakfast, lunch and a five-course dinner and often the food is inspired by the surrounding location. The line’s paid for dining options are also very popular, particularly The Pinnacle Grill and Italian restaurant Canaletto. If you’re keen to splash out a little during your holiday, enjoy An Evening at Le Cirque, a pop up restaurant which appears in the Pinnacle Grill for at least one night per sailing. Le Cirque is a famous New York restaurant which comes with a high price point, but on HAL you pay a lot less.
Some cruise lines tend to make a song and dance about their children’s facilities, but just because HAL has a more subtle approach doesn’t mean the line doesn’t come up trumps when it comes to keeping kids entertained. More than 25,000 children and their families sail with HAL every year, and the line is particularly good at hosting large groups of families and multi-generational groups (when grandparents, parents, kids, and even auntie and uncles all sail together).
Kid’s club Club HAL is for children aged between three and 12, offering all sorts of arts and crafts activities, video games, parties and sports tournaments. A favourite among teenagers is HAL’s The Loft, a private adult-free area for teenagers between 13 and 17-years-old.
Broadway shows, comedians, illusionists and musicians – you name it and HAL probably has it. The line also has a partnership with the US version of Strictly Come Dancing, giving passengers the opportunity to learn some dance moves from the professionals and put their new skills to good use on the dance floor. Dancing with the Stars: At Sea dance lessons are available across all 15 ships, but appearances from the professionals from the show only happen on a handful of cruises.
If you’d rather listen to music than dance to it, then B.B King’s Blues Club might be the place for you! The bar was originally only on one ship, the Eurodam, but because it proved such a big hit the cruise line rolled it out to Westerdam, Zuiderdam, Noordam and Neiuw Amsterdam.
The Greenhouse Spa offers the expects array of treatments, and the Culinary Arts Centre is one of the best at sea, with a wide range of chef demonstrations offered during sailings. The cooking school also has complimentary sessions for youngsters where they can learn to make anything from cookies and scones to pretzels and granola bars.
The line’s cabins are a good size, but some are a little bit dated on older ships among the fleet. HAL’s top grade Pinnacle Suite is massive and you get access to the private Neptune’s Lounge if you book it, but some of the smaller suite classes are just as good in my option. If you’re keen to upgrade, I’d recommend the Signature Suites or a Spa Suite or stateroom. In spa rooms you also get yoga mats and an iPod docking station in your room and it’s close to the onboard spa too.