We are regular cruisers and not fussy customers, despite the content of this review. Loved our last cruise on Noordam last year. We had not tried HAL before that. I'll cover both good and bad aspects in order to be fair.
Arrived at start of embarkation. Was already quite busy. All handled quite well and boarded efficiently. There were quite a few people not checking in and standing in line for security. The queue combers were not doing a great job of telling these people.
Was as expected clean and tidy, apart from the balcony which had not been cleaned properly. I did it myself. The colour scheme was a bit bland. We noticed as soon as we got onto our balcony that there was a foul odour coming out where two vents were located on the balcony. We called guest services and somebody came up promptly. We were told that the smell was Venice and not in fact the gas I was feeling on my face and smelling whilst standing in front of the vent! I asked the staff member to stand where I was and tell me again it was Venice...she would not. Nothing like a customer not being believed by a staff member. I dislike that strongly when the facts are staring you in the face. That was day one, or should I say hour one. I will not bore you with the detail as it took 7 days and a string of guest relations and engineering people to finally do what I suggested on day 2, i.e. cover the vents. The first few days was a comedy of broken promises, lack of communication and acceptance of a not uncommon problem, now that I have investigated others complaints on other sailings. One of the Guest Relations Managers did eventually give us some satisfaction. Thanks to her but here alone.
Both of stewards were very good. They were always helpful and cheerful. They got us a table for our large balcony despite not being able to use is until the last few days.
We did not use the Main dining room. We usually opt for room service dinner, however due to our balcony issue we ended up doing other things the first 7 days. Lido was fine, good selections. One exception...if you have a special diet, god help you! I am gluten intolerant and although items were pre-booked, getting them was a major problem. The process of how to get the various items took about 6 days to understand. Some, I never got. HAL seem to think it's ok that if you want your pre-ordered spaghetti you need to tell them the day before....and I thought I was on holiday!
We ate at Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind. Pinnacle Grill was once again good. Service is great. Tamarind food was nice but service was a bit hit and miss. The layout of the Tamarind was a bit odd and felt like everyone was overlooking everyone else. They did not use the very nice booth tables for two. They said they keep them for the staff...hmmm. They tried to charge us for the meal despite prepaying online from home.
We usually choose to have room service dinner from the main dining room on our balcony. That's our main joy of cruising. After 7 days we could finally do this. Although the food itself was fine (the steaks were very good) we never received one single meal where all items were correct. There was always something either missing or swapped. We got called every evening to check if the food was ok and it just got a bit embarrassing to say yet again it was wrong. Points to them for checking, but more points deducted for always calling whilst we were eating the meal. Where's the common sense? Try to to provide good service but instead hack people off.
N/A. We don't go.
N/A. We do our own. Although plenty of possibilities.
Ports of Call:
Good I'd say. Dubrovnik is always a personal favourite. My only gripe with Livorno is that you are forced to buy shuttle tickets to get off the boat. Not a big deal but would be good to be advised somewhere by HAL before you book.
Clean and tidy. Decor quite nice but some carpets were VERY shabby looking around the stairwells and lift areas. I understand that a ship has a long season and work is carried out as required, but there were a number of instances whereby stairwells and areas of deck were closed for hours for cleaning...and in one case 2-3 days for the sake of varnishing some railings! Surely the cleaning could be done very early morning and not up until 0930-1000 and especially not on a sea day. After our balcony vents were covered, we noticed a watered down version of the same smell more and more on the lido rear deck. So much for fixing, or should I say "moving" the problem.
We had late disembarkation. They did the same as last time, in that they say you can wait in your stateroom. That is until a staff member appears on your balcony after opening the partitions. Basically after that you can't wait on the balcony as they are cleaning and water is dripping from above. Fair enough, but at least just say that in advance. Disembarkation itself was good and there were plenty taxis despite a very long queue.
To sum up: Poles apart from the Noordam last year. Only two things better on the Nieuw Amsterdam were the extra sun deck on top of Tamarind, which was quiet and spacious, and the sunbeds which were much more comfortable, but that's about it. The lack of acceptance and initial unwillingness to sort our balcony problem was quite unbelievable. We would have been moved to a better stateroom if the ship wasn't at 100% capacity. I would not like to say categorically, but I strongly suspect that the balcony vents will now be uncovered ready for round ??? of the problem. After all, vents are there for a reason.
Will I sail HAL again, even though we have future cruise credit and received compensation. I'm really not keen right now. They'd have to really pull out the stops.