We cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam from October 6 - 13th in the Western Mediterranean. We visited Palermo, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and Toulon. The week was fantastic. The staff on board the ship were wonderful. We loved the ports. The ship is in good shape. The only qualm we had with the cruise was the disappointing/uninspired dining room food. Dinner was so poor that my wife and I ate in all three alternate dining rooms after the first four nights just to avoid the main dining room. Two of the three alternate dining rooms (Pinnacle and Tamarind) were excellent. The Caneletto (portion of Lido Buffet turned into an Italian restaurant) was a slight improvement over the dining room, but had no atmosphere.
A little about our family:
My wife and I are in our mid/late 40's. We also traveled with our 8 (almost 9) year old son. We spent 2 days in Barcelona in advance of the cruise and 3 days after the cruise in this fantastic city.
We have cruised many times over the last 15 years (typically at least once a year). We have cruised on Holland/Princess and Celebrity. This was our 5th cruise with Holland. We consider ourselves seasoned cruisers. This was our first cruise to the Mediterranean.
1. Kids Club - There were only 16 kids onboard (between 3 and 12), but our son loved the kids club. He insisted on attending rather than go to the specialty dining rooms. Even with only 4 or 5 other kids attending every night he found the program entertaining and loved the space. There were video games, giant screen tv's for movie night, and good counselors who kept them well entertained.
2. Casino - The casino was dead the week we were onboard, but the staff were extremely gracious and fun. We spent an hour or so every day at the casino and had a blast. They have most casino games (craps/roulette/blackjack/three card poker/let it ride with 3 card poker bonus).
3. Entertainment - The biggest surprise for us was that we enjoyed the onboard entertainment. Our prior Holland cruises have left us moaning about the poor quality of the singers/entertainers. Nothing could be farther from the truth on this cruise. The Hal Cats (with Ben) were fantastic. Our son ended up dancing with all the show performers to Proud Mary and became famous around the ship, which he loved. We also enjoyed Cantare (Il Divo type act) in the main theatre, as well as Brett Cave (classic British piano man entertainer). We didn't expect to enjoy Brett as we thought he would be corny/over the top, but 10 minutes in we were laughing and singing along.
4. Pool - We only had one sea day and had a great day at the mid-ship pool. Our son loved the water, we had clear skies and smooth seas.
5. Food - This was the one huge disappointment of our trip. As I mentioned we have cruised 5 times on Holland and previously have enjoyed the food. Unfortunately, on this trip, the food in the main dining room was bland and uninspired. The quality of the product was simply poor. While we realize that the cruise line is essentially providing banquet/wedding food for 2000 guests, our past experience was that Holland's main dining room provided good, tasty and creative menus. This was not the case this voyage. Food is very subjective, and some may have enjoyed the fare, but for us the quality was drastically worse than our previous voyages.
The Lido Buffet was equally as poor, in our opinion. Our son ate dinner in the Lido 3 nights as he wanted to go to the kid's club and not to the alternate dining. Presentation, choices and quality were once again a huge disappointment. In addition, it seemed like the buffet was always closed/closing, leaving you feeling like you had even less choice. I think the use of Canaletto in 20 percent of the Lido, at night, causes one quadrant of the buffet to be closed for use by this restaurant, further reducing the options/choices given to you for a late night snack. From a purely subjective point of view, we much prefer the set up of the buffet on the Celebrity Solstice class ships as the two parallel buffets get cumbersome.
Pinnacle Grill - This restaurant never disappoints and that was the case on this voyage. The service, ambience and food quality was all excellent and well worth the $25 upcharge.
Tamarind - This was our first time in the Tamarind and we thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience. Again, the room had good ambience, the menu was creative, the service was wonderful and the food delivered on taste.
Canaletto - This is the alternative italian restaurant in the Lido Buffet. The food was an improvement over the dining room and the service was good. This restaurant could serve by being moved to its own room as there is simply no atmosphere here due to its location in the buffet.
Room Service - We had breakfast in the room 2 days as we had busy days touring Rome and Pisa. The food was hot, of high quality and was served right on time, despite the fact that there was a large demand for room service breakfast on these days.
Barcelona - We spent two days before the cruise and 3 days after in Barcelona. This is one of our favorite cities. We stayed at the Casp74 apartments before the cruise (funky, great location, clean and lots of space) and at Hotel Gran Torre Catalunya after the cruise (23 stories, great views, modern, located next to main train station). Loved both properties.
Sagrada Familia is a must see, as well as the Bouqueria market on Las Ramblas. We took our son to a Barcelona football game which was one of his highlights of the trip. It took awhile to get used to eating dinner at 9:00 p.m. but the food in the city was great. Had an amazing burger and fries at Santa Burg restaurant in the Sants district. This small restaurant is killin' it. I know that it seems crazy for an American to come to Barcelona and go for a burger, but we consider ourselves foodies and this place was great. The fries/chips were memorable. They have a burger with foie gras and carmelized apples that I want to return and try on our next trip. We also ate twice at Pura Brasa, located next to the Arenas (old bullfighting arena turned mall) on the Gran Via. Chicken hanging on skewer was mouthwatering, the pasta was great, and the corn on the cob was really good. Iberian ham is all over the city and is addictive. Loved having a croissant and coffe every morning for breakfast. The pace, even in Barcelona, is slower than in the U.S. They seem to appreciate life a little more than we do, and after a few days we settled into their pace and loved everything about the culture and the people.
The people we encountered on our trip were, generally, warm, embracing and interesting. A European cruise was a nice change from the beaches and trinkets in the Caribbean. We look forward to our journey.