This cruise was to both the Eastern and Western Caribbean. We had 14 nights on the Nieuw Amsterdam from FLL on the 14 November and we were very disappointed with most of the cruise. I think that the first mistake was to do what HAL view as two cruises in one. The food and entertainment is repetitive and neither is of a particularly high standard. We had been led to believe that HAL were a higher end line, but saw little evidence of it.
The shows in the theatre were very average and the food in the Manhattan was the same. Two of the four of us(two couples) had particular dietary needs (two vegetarians one of whom has a gluten allergy) and HAL seemed incapable of understanding this. The cruise had been booked for six months and we had been assured on numerous ocacsions that they understood and could cater for a gluten free diet. On the first night we were told that "it would be OK tomorrow but could they eat normally tonight". We asked if the helicopter was available to take the coeliac to hospital in that case! They also expected vegetarians to eat meat on that first night. Nowhere near good enough. Despite the fact that we were there two weeks, they never quite got it right.
Verandah cabins are very small and furnished with low quality stuff. The bed is the best thing and the sofa is from IKEA. The whole feel of the Nieuw Amsterdam is not up to the mark.
The Lido restaurant is the best food on the ship although availability is disjointed. You have to walk round both sides when it's very busy with diners carrying plates of food and people walking through from the pools, to see the selection. I saw a couple of accidents with food on the floor due to this.
The coffee in the Lido is awful. Tea is worse than awful. Coffee is not available in any bar on the ship and is only gettable (apart from the Lido) from the cafe in the Crow's Nest. They have a selection inexpertly prepared and served in paper cups. Any Starbucks does a better job. The internet is available in this area at extortionate rates. Needing to keep in touch, a very slow connection costs a package rate of $55 for 100 minutes or 75c per minute on pay as you go.
The ports of call are very mixed:
Half Moon Cay--HAL's private island, full of mosquitoes when we were there and not pleasant. A range of water sports available at expensive prices. Two calls here, 1st and 2nd week. Stayed on the ship the second time!
Grand Turk--Not worth the visit--rushed tour and nothing really to see apart from the Salt Museum and slave commemoration. Again two calls here.
Grand Cayman--Not worth the visit either--we saw the biggest motor parts distributor in the Caymans!
San Juan--Well worth the visit--we enjoyed the rain forest.
St Martin--Again good "Under Two Flags" tour. Would like to have stayed longer here.
Cozumel--Shopping Mall, some Mayan ruins. Tours to Chichen Itsa took 12 hours--the wrong port for these ruins.
The ship does not handle any degree of swell very well and is noticeably unstable. The captain told us one afternoon the they were stopping for three hours to check the stabilisers, but here was no noticeable improvement afterwards. It rolls far more than it should for a ship of its size. All in all, we were very disappointed with HAL, expecting it to be way better than it was.