Like many of us CC members, I love cruising so after my last Mediterranean cruise in 2010 on the Noordam I was really looking forward to the 24 day Mediterranean Adventure on the Nieuw Amsterdam.
Checking in, in Barcelona, was faultless. It was wonderfully hassle free.
It wasn't until I was in the cabin that I looked at our dining arrangements and found they had us down for early sitting. This was not what was asked for at time of booking back in September 2011. A quick visit to the Dining Manager had us changed to the later sitting.
I found the food in The Manhattan Dining Room to be good but not outstanding.I was disappointed with the Lido. Too often the food was warm to cold. The Pinnacle Grill maintains it's reputation but I was very impressed with the food and service in the Canaletto. It was fantastic (I love my Italian fare). Most breakfasts we dined in the Manhattan Dining Room. It was a welcome respite from the crowded Lido. The terrace grill was OK as was Slices, that is until I found out the pizzas were not made fresh, they were frozen, pre-packaged.
I didn't go to any of the shows in the main theatre as I have found them to be very cliched and repetitive as is the case on the cruise lines I have sailed with.
The bars we frequented offered the usual good service and the 'happy hours' were a great relief to the hip pocket.
Shore excursions were OK but as usual they are very much overpriced. A 4WD excursion in Corfu was $179 per person with 4 people in one vehicle. That's $716 per vehicle and there were 11 vehicles in the convoy. I daresay one could hire a vehicle for a whole lot less.
The ports visited were all unique in their individual ways but once again transfers by coaches provided by HAL were expensive. It's what being a captive audience is all about.
I can't remember a cruise where I have had so much buy, buy, buy stuff crammed into to our letter receptacle. One truly hopes that HAL does recycle it's paper because I had visions of a landscape denuded of trees with all the paper thrown at us on this cruise.
The one saving thing on all cruise lines is the cabin staff. I cannot recall having a bad cabin crew on any of my 11 cruises and this was the case with HAL's crew.
The Cruise Director, David Shea a very friendly like-able chap and was very approachable, unlike some Cruise Directors I have sailed with.
I cannot see how HAL makes money out of those ridiculous cabanas. I rarely saw many occupied. They would be best removed with more tables and chairs in their place. It might increase bar sales.
As the newest ship in the HAL fleet I was a little disappointed but not to the point it spoiled my cruise. I did find the Noordam in 2010 a better experience.
Whilst I may have highlighted a few negatives I did really enjoy my cruise.
The itinerary certainly helps with the enjoyment of a cruise and to have 2 nights in my favourite city in the world, Venice was magical as was the overnight stay in the most amazing of places, Istanbul.
Touring during the days, chatting with fellow cruisers back on board, recapping the highlights of the days, relaxing times on our balcony sipping a wine and reading a book all makes for a wonderful holiday and that's what I got.
My message to new cruisers is not to expect too much. There will be things that irk you but put them aside soak up the cruising experience.
You will enjoy it.