This was our second sailing on the Nieuw Amsterdam this year. I had reservations about the ship since the first sailing while not bad didn't stand up to other HAL ships. I am happy to report that the December voyage was much better than expected and I wish I could have stayed on for another week.
We flew down the day before and took a hotel shuttle to the port. The embarkation process went fairly smoothly but did take longer than necessary. It would seem that the need to try and get everyone's picture trumped speed. I heard one of the ship photographers tell the couple ahead of me that this picture was for ship identification. Never mind that everyone's photo is taken when you check in. This did not code well for the start of the cruise. Once we got past this hurdle, picture not taken, we took our bags to the room and proceeded to the embarkation lunch.
Typically we stay away from the MDR except for the lunch the first day to avoid the crowds on the lido deck. This trip we tried breakfast in the MDR and the service was quick and the food was good. Once the waitstaff realized that I liked more than one cup of coffee they made sure to keep the coffee cup full. It seems like a much easier way to start the day if you are not in a rush to get to port.
We did enjoy a night at the Pinnacle Grill. Service was wonderful and the food was even better.
In many ways this trip was almost like a homecoming. We ran into several crew members that we meet on previous HAL sailings. This may have added to our enjoyment but the crew on this trip was outstanding. Far better than what we received on our earlier NA sailing. At the first happy hour we meet a wonderful bar person who remembered our names after one order and said hello throughout the cruise whenever we saw him.
Interestingly we even had the same cabin stewards as our first sailing on the NA. Here too the service was improved. On the first day they stopped and asked us when we wanted ice delivered to the room. They followed through at the requested time. They kept the fresh fruit filled, the room cleaned and always checked throughout the cruise to see what, if anything, they could do for us.
Getting off ship in port was no problem was seemed to go well. The biggest surprise was at disembarkation. I was fully prepared for an hour or more wait to go through customs and much to our delight we walked right through. Less than five minutes from end of line to getting our taxi to the airport.
Regrettably there was one flaw and that was with the front office. When we filled out our boarding documents online we each provided separate credit cards. The front office in their infinite wisdom decided that only one card would be billed and it would be their choice. When I complained I got a blank stare from the woman behind the counter as if to say why is this a problem? In the end they did correct and provided separate statements and billed correctly. Another mistake was that we did not get our full OBC and that is under review with our TA. In the future, if we use a TA, I will request better documentation from them.