We've sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam before, so pretty much knew what to expect and although there seem to have been one or two cutbacks (particularly, I believe, in staffing levels), little has changed since our last sailing a year ago.
Since then, we sailed on the Zuiderdam earlier this year and weren't particularly happy with some aspects of that, so were hoping that this cruise would restore our faith in HAL. It did.
Embarkation: We arrived quite early from our Barcelona hotel (Fira Palace: see my review on Tripadvisor) and the embarkation process was entirely painless and was, in fact, quite pleasurable. There's a decent coffee shop/patisserie in the passenger lounge with indoor and outdoor roof terrace seating and also some quite useful shops at the other end of the check-in area.
Cabin: (Or, to give it its posh title - "stateroom") We were in one of the Deck 10 Spa Balcony Cabins, a few doors away from where we were last year. Entirely satisfied with the standard of accommodation; the degree of storage space; etc. and found the bed to be extremely comfortable. Our cabin steward, Tony, and his assistant were brilliant and very much on top of their game.
Ship Overall: Very clean and attractive. Even on sea days there was an abundance of available loungers away from the popular pool/lido areas. The carpets alongside the elevators are beginning to show signs of wear and tear; and not just because of footfall, but more than likely down to having to clean up spilt food or drink or that other scourge of modern civilization - chewing gum!
On one or two days there was a most appalling stench of sewage down on the shopping mall area on deck 3.
Other than that, nice ship!
Entertainment: Abysmally dull. HAL have never been noted for spectacular Broadway-style stage shows but the productions, such as they were, were so "samey" as to merge in to one and be totally unmemorable. Other than that, there was a pianist, a couple of violinists, both of whom produced virtuoso performances and although WE enjoyed them, they were perhaps not entirely appropriate to the lighter tone needed for a cruise audience. Then there was a magician; enough said; not to our liking and we only stayed for 10 minutes.
The advertised "ballroom dance request hour" was a total impossibility as the "dance" floor was sticky in the extreme! The resident music trio, were, however very good to listen to.
Food & Dining: We used the Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch and have absolutely no complaints. The menus were varied and interesting and at breakfast they had an "English Breakfast" servery with good quality "proper" rashers! Not the stringy, hardtack stuff you normally get away from the UK! We had opted for a table for 6 in the Manhatten Dining Rooms and had excellent dinner companions. Very pleasant waiting staff and the food was always good. However, when it did eventually arrive - (and we had one or two issues here which we took up with the Maitre'd) - it wasn't really presented to what you would call a 5* standard (smears of soup over the outside of the bowls, etc), but other than this, no complaints whatsoever. The food in the Manhatten seemed to be served warmer than when we were last on the ship, although it's never been what you'd call "hot". I remember, a few years ago, when the plates were fairly hot to touch. This isn't the case any more. The dreaded H & S? Fears of litigation?
Standard of dress at dinner was in general appropriate to the daily recommendations. Around our section of the dining room we certainly didn't see any jeans or scruffy t-shirts, etc. My wife commented that people seemed to be more "dressy" than on our last cruise and certainly, even on non-formal nights, there were a fair few long frocks on view.
We tried the Tamarind (Asian fusion) dining choice one night and this was very memorable and a nice change from the usual.
Ship Staff: I always find it remarkable that the staff you encounter on a day-to-day basis (mainly Philippinos and Indonesians) are so pleasant and obliging. They work very hard for their money and probably have to put up with some rude and objectionable guests, yet manage to stay so warm, smiling, and friendly. They are brilliant!
Ports of Call: We had absolutely no regrets with any of the places visited and went on some trips which took us to one or two areas we'd never been to before - Cinque Terre (beautiful); and Corinth Canal/Napflion (excellent trip), but other than these trips and as we'd been to most of the destinations before, we tended to steer clear of the ship's shore excursions. As everyone knows, they can be a bit pricey for what you get!
Conclusion: We enjoyed this trip very much and could have quite easily stayed on for the return leg!