I booked this cruise as a follow-up to a 35 day South Pacific Cruise on the Westerdam which was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, the Nieuw Amsterdam had a lot more negatives than positives.
I was traveling with a friend and we left Ft.Meyers,FL on October 2nd on AirBerlin. The flight was uneventful with a connection in Dusseldorff and arrival in Venice was on-time. I had booked a private transfer with Sun Transfers and was met promptly and taken to Plaza Station Hotel in Mestre. The hotel was adequate and very convenient being directly across the street from the train station.
I had visited Venice before but thoroughly enjoyed the extra two days prior to boarding on October 5th. I purchased the 24hr. pass on the Vaporettas and spent an enjoyable time just riding around the city.
Embarkation was efficient and we were on-board in less than thirty minutes after arriving. The cabins were also ready which enabled you to stow your hand luggage prior to having lunch. The cabin was roomy and the balcony adequate, nothing special but acceptable. Harry and Ricky (stewards) were at the door as we entered, introduced themselves, and made sure we didn't need anything. After this pleasant start I was looking forward to a great cruise, little did I know that it was downhill from this point.
Lunch in the Lido could best be described as chaotic. The layout is very inefficient with tables along the walkway where you line up for service. This added to the fact that people wanted to see what was available and stopped in this narrow pathway. This made moving about difficult along with getting bumped into while trying to make your way to a table. HAL had their mandatory health rules in effect so there was no self service, including beverages. This created another backup and by the time you had a beverage and found a table the barely warm food you had been served was now cold. This was a big complaint I heard from many people over the entire cruise, the food just wasn't kept hot and I finally started asking for my food to be heated again. With a couple of exceptions when I asked for the food to be heated I was told it was already warm...sorry this wasn't the answer you give a customer.
The dining room was very slow and again the food was at best lukewarm and when you asked for it to be reheated you could expect another long delay, very poor and one of the reasons I say this is not a five star ship.
It seemed that we were constantly under some type of health alert with very few days when we could actually have any self-service in the Lido. This severely limited your enjoyment of the buffets. During the transatlantic portion I had purchased the Thermal Suite for the thirteen days. On more than one occasion individuals had reported to the Spa desk that the Thalossotherapy Pool was dirty but nothing was done. Then without any notice we were told four days before arriving in Ft. Lauderdale that the Thermal Pool was closing at 5PM and wouldn't be available for the rest of the cruise. I asked at the spa desk if there would be a price adjustment given and was answered very curtly that there would be no refunds. Since I had paid for the entire time I went to customer service and was told that they would talk to the Spa Manager. Later that evening I was called and told that I would be given a small credit. I responded that I wasn't satisfied and that since I had paid for full access for the entire time a full prorated refund should be given. It took a lot of effort but I persisted and was given what should have been offered at the start. Again, proof that the Nieuw Amsterdam is not a five star ship. It seemed on several occasions that there was not good management in place as a lot of these situations could have been avoided. A good manager would have immediately sent out a notice of the closing and stated upfront that a refund was being given. As it was the guests had to take the lead and spend an hour more of their time trying to get answers.
One other thing that really bothered me was after buying the Admiral's Wine Package based on the list of wines that were available in that offering. After puschasing I learned that two of the wines I especially wanted on the list were not available. Instead I was told they were out of stock but more would be loaded at the next port. It never happened and instead we were given substitutes they were inferior wines and certainly weren't what had been advertised or for which I had paid.
I could continue on for several more paragraphs about instances where Holland America failed to live up to their reputation as a luxury line, for me I just did not experience the service or quality I have had on other true five star ships.
It would be unfair not to say there were some examples of people really trying to do a good job. I'll list some of them:
1. The Pinnacle Grill is excellent and worth every cent of the surcharge. The food is outstanding and the service was impeccable.
2. The room stewards did an excellent job of keeping things in order and fulfilled any requests that were made in a friendly manner.
3. A couple of the ladies on the serving line in the Lido did a good job and were glad to reheat your entree. Thanks to them as this attitude was not reflected by the others.
This was a difficult review to write as I don't like to be negative but there were just so many things that could have been improved with very little effort but instead were allowed to become issues that really took away from the whole experience. I hope Holland America and the Nieuw Amsterdam can get their act together and get the health situation on board corrected along with getting some good managers. If not, things will just continue to deteriorate.
Over crowded, but still seeing the Parthenon was an experience.
Walk from the port to Columbus Square and then amble up the Ramblas. There is a wide esplanade down the middle that is filled with shops and street performers. To see a lot of Barcelona for an economical price I suggest the Hop-on, Hop-off buses. If you ride the buses get off at the stop where the beautiful Gaudi Church La Sagrada Familia is located. It contains some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen.
Exotic mix of new and old. Take adequate time to check out the Grand Bazaar, I've never seen anything like it.
Beautiful walled city. Great for just walking through the narrow streets. Great local wines with wine tasting available.
Don't miss the opportunity to visit Ephesus, the ancient city is beautiful and you can feel a sense of history at every step.
The hop-on, hop-off bus is your best bet to see an overview of the city.
We stopped twice on different legs of the cruise. Each time I enjoyed the beauty more than before. Take a ride in the cable cars or if you are adventurous ride up on the donkeys. Either way you will arrive at a beautiful city full of neat shops and restaurants.
Get the Vaporetta pass and enjoy this unique and beautiful port. Also, if you are doing an overnight on the ship there is a people mover about two blocks from the dock that will take you into Venice in less than five minutes for l Euro. When you get off the People Mover you will be in Piazzale Roma with access to Vaporettas and connecting bridges to the rest of Venice.
If you need any supplies or beverages ask directions to the Coop which is close to the station. This is a Venetian Version of a discount store and you can purchase supplies and beverages at a much better price than other places in Venice (especially wine and soft drinks.)