Our first HAL experience on board of the Nieuw Amsterdam: it was a very smooth and sunny cruise.
Smooth: as the staff front & back of house worked very hard and above all: they engaged all passengers and were all extremely friendly providing excellent service.
Food on-board was overall very good to excellent: buffets in Lido with plenty of choice. Also evening BBQs at pool side or aft deck (we did not eat but could see the selection provided). We joined the MDR twice for lunch and one time for dinner. But the real jewel is the Tamarind: its location and small dining room provides any passenger with an exclusive dining experience: personalized service by excellent staff and the food is very very good! Fresh produce and what a choice! Pinaccle we dined twice: Le Cirque was not keeping its promise as the food on-board is already very good, but food served at Le Cirque is not better. Regular Pinaccle menu is good again and the service here is also excellent: see the Pinaccle as an upscale steak house and that is what they do very well.
Tip: check if you are already a cruise passenger with history from an other Carnival group shipping company. We sailed with Cunard before and this made us already a one-star-mariner level with special perks as seperate checkin and a special Welcome Back Lunch in the MDR on the sailing day (others will join the Lido). We informed the Mariner Club prior to our sailing, so that our status was updated prior to sailing.
Entertainment: let's be honest here: we want a bit of glitter in the shows with music and dance. Most places offered fantastic entertainment, but the Showroom at Sea provided very few big productions. Okay one show NYC could not perform the 2nd show due to terchnical failure, things happen. But there was one other show "cantere" which was great, but other shows were hired extra performances. They were good as well, but not the glitzy musical style shows. Dancing with the Stars appeared also, but is it not strange to have passengers perform where really the professionals should entertain you?
Port visits were executed professionally: ships was docked in time and tours were offered. We have done Rick Steve's own excursions and enjoyed to walk off the ship nearly every day.
There is plenty of public spaces to enjoy diuring the day or evenings and all is kept very well and very clean (she was in dry dock in April 2013).
Summerize: fantastic cruise, programme, inviting ports and wonderful staff!