Having been thoroughly impressed by HAL and the Noordam in December I decided it would be fun to try our their newest ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. The 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise has once again exceeded my high expectations to the point that I will most definately be back for more. Embarkation at Port Everglades was simple and efficient with ground staff Elena remembering me from my previous cruise and expediting my check in. I was onboard the ship within about 50 minutes of arriving at the terminal and was immediately impressed by how stunningly beautiful the Nieue Amsterdam is. Previous cruisers with Holland America are invited to take a leisurely lunch in the MDR where the food is excellent. After a very pleasant 4 course meal followed by coffee I headed for my stateroom where the bag had duly arrived and got settled in.
The safety drill is taken extremely seriously as you would expect and does not start until every single stateroom and guest is accounted for as being present and correct. We departed on time as part of a procession of ships leaving on Sunday afternoon, including the Celebrity Solstice, the Allure of the Seas, HALs Westerdam and a Carnival ship.
I have an inside cabin for the first time in my 4 cruises to date and was a little concerned I would feel cramped. In fact quite the opposite, as a single traveler a queen size bed with bathroom and shower is more than adequate and on Holland America, quite comfortable. The beds are excellent and storage space more than sufficient. I have taken to using their laundry option where they will do a bag of washing for 20USD a time or 49USD for the week. Given the 24 hour service where everything comes back clean and folded to me this is a no brainer. It also means I dont need to take a large suitcase full of clothes.
During the 7 days I ate twice, the 2 formal nights in the Pinnacle Grill, run by my favorite Maitre D on the seas - Sam. This is a truly professional operation with superb meat and I have a personal favorite of the bone in rib eye steak. One evening meal in the Tamarind Grill which sits on the 11th floor mid ships with big window views out to sea. Again culinary perfection and staffed by an outstanding team. Both these restaurants have a supplement of 25 and 15 dollars respectively and are worth every penny in my book. Food and service in the main dining room throughout was of a very high quality, where I had breakfast and lunch on most days.
I know Holland America have had a reputation of catering to an older group of passengers. I found a great cross section of folks on this cruise and families with well behaved children and while a mainly US/Canadian based passenger make up, also quite a few Europeans, including myself from the UK. To me that slightly older group equates to a more civilized environment. I am 49 and cruise to relax and get away from a hectic business life. HAL fits that need just about perfectly in my case.
Our stops were Grand Turk which I love, parked alongside the Costa Atlantica I knew which ship I wanted to be on of the 2. A great beach and I didnt leave the cruise port terminal, but shopped and sat listening to music and reading a good book. On the apporach to San Juan, the Nieuw Amsterdam crew open access to the bow of the ship on deck 5 which is a first for me I which I truly enjoyed as we sailed into the port and docked. From San Juan onwards to St Maarten where we are parked next to the Allure of the Seas and the Norwegian Dawn, as you can tell I love seeing ships. I took the two flags tour of the island where they take you across to Marigot on the French side of the island.
Our last stop was at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas which I have been to three previous times but where we were unable to tender because of the height of the swells. This time we were lucky and the island is a great place to stop, with a great beach and views back to our own ship and the Maasdam.
I saw three of the shows, the comedian who I enjoyed very much, a group of 4 guys who sing and the New York show, which was one of the best productions I have yet seen at sea. All good entertainment.
I enjoyed coffees in the Crows Nest each morning and has been mentioned before, the Filipino bar staff run an excellent operation throughout the ship, special kudos to Agustin in the Ocean Bar who was good company.
I dont buy art on cruise ships or have a particular interest in the cruise lines photography department, being an avid photographer myself I like to take my own pictures but always found the staff to be friendly and not pushy.
I think special mention of the cabin attendants is always appropriate, what these guys do twice a day is something of a miracle in my book. They know what time you get up, go out, come back and juggle a large number of rooms and leave you a towel animal on the bed every evening which made me smile each time. The same can be said of many of the departments that you never meet, including the laundry folks.
I found the cruise director JC to be amuzing and entertaining and the ships officers always friendly and willing to talk. Its fair to say that this whole crew onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam seem to work well together and are happy. That reflects well on how they treat us, the paying passenger. It is always good to see many members of the crew take a bow at the end of this presentation the day before debarkation.
As was explained in the debarkation talk, HAL have removed the 10 as a mark for each of the elements on the passneger survey, on the grounds that everything can be improved. The maximum mark is a 9. When I look back at this particular trip and wonder what they could have done better, the answer that I find is just about nothing.
Getting off the ship was a breeze and they give you a time and stick to it. When they call your number I was off the ship within 5 minutes and directed to where my bag was. Using the ships arranged transport back to Miami airport also simplifies the transport options.