I just returned home from the February 13 - 20 sailing of the Nieuw Amsterdam, and I thought I would pass along some of my thoughts on this sailing while they were still fresh in my head.
First, this sailing was an RSVP charter of the ship, so this experience was somewhat different than your normal HAL cruise. But, hopefully some of my observations about the ship, crew, and port destinations will be of value. As background, my partner and I are 52 and 49 respectively. That seemed to be the general demographic of this cruise. Some older, some younger, but a real good mix.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise, which I definitely recommend. Thankfully, the east coast didn't have the weather we had last year, so the trip south was uneventful. We had plenty of time in Ft. Lauderdale to stop by the Total Wines to stock up and to have a nice dinner. We stayed at the Embassy Suites which is in the perfect location. It has a great complimentary breakfast in the morning which was perfect. The nicest part though was to wake up Sunday morning and see the Nieuw Amsterdam (and 5 other ships) in port. I agree with what other posters have said and recommend getting a room on the 10th floor or higher facing the port. You can't really beat it for the view.
We left the Embassy Suites at about 11:15a.m. The lobby was crowded as a large tour group was gathering for a cruise on the Ruby Princess. Once we fought our way through the crowd, we were able to easily get a taxi to the port. 15 minutes later, we were at Pier 26 with the Nieuw Amsterdam before us. Check-in was a breeze. We had our bags taken from us, were checked in, and were onboard by 11:45. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we grabbed a table near the Sea View Bar and ordered our first (of many) drinks. This was the perfect place to begin our vacation. By the time we had eaten lunch, a general announcement was made (about 12:30) that staterooms were available, so we made our way down to our home for the week.
We book a Superior Verandah Suite (Category SS) and it was perfect. We booked into cabin #6094 which was midway between the center and aft elevators. This was the perfect location for accessing the Lido Buffet, the aft pool (scene of many shipboard parties), and the gangway for port visits. The stateroom was substantially bigger than the standard Verandah stateroom and was very comfortable for two tall guys. I really liked the fact that it had the full length sofa and the double sink in the bathroom. It also had both a tub and a standing shower which was very nice. The balcony had to chaise loungers w/ ottomans and a dining table with two chairs. Perfect for morning breakfast ordered from room service
The Nieuw Amsterdam is a beautiful ship. I've sailed on the Eurodam twice, and I really like the colors better on this ship. The atrium and common spaces seem to be a little more understated from a color standpoint, which I think is more the HAL style. The Manhattan Dining room is certainly bold with its reds and oranges, but I think I liked it... I agree with what other posters have commented on regarding the carpeting. I think whoever selected it made a mistake. Although immaculately cared to by the crew, it looked stained due to the pattern. No doubt this will be changed out some day. Otherwise, the common spaces were very similar to what I have found on the Eurodam, so there were no surprises. I think the ship is well designed to minimize the feeling of being on a completely full ship.
I can't say enough about the crew of this ship. To a person, they were very friendly, polite, and very accommodating. Ono and Kadek were our stewards and they did an excellent job of cleaning up after us. They always greeted us by name, and always checked to make sure we had everything we needed. The staff in the dining room, Tamarind, Pinnacle, and the Lido were equally friendly and responsive. The bar staff that attended to the many events on the ship were excellent. It actually seemed like they were having fun. The nice part about this cruise, was that it appeared that the officers, crew, and entertainers are encouraged to participate in the evening dance parties and interact with the guests. They really seemed to enjoy themselves and we enjoyed interacting with them. I even understand that some of the crew extended their contracts so that they could participate in this cruise.
True to form for HAL, the food was excellent. I can say I didn't have a bad meal the entire time. The food in the Lido is exceptional compared to other cruise line buffets. The experience in the main dining room, Tamarind, and Pinnacle was top notch. The Tamarind and Pinnacle were well worth the nominal additional charge. I could have eaten every night in the main dining room and been happy.
The itinerary for this trip was a little different than the standard Nieuw Amsterdam voyage. For this cruise, we stopped in Costa Maya, Mexico, Puerto Cortes, Honduras, Mahogany Bay (Roatan), Honduras, and Cozumel, Mexico. The port visits were great except for Puerto Cortes. I think HAL/RSVP were trying to appeal to nature lovers when they selected this port. Unfortunately if you had an excursion you had a minimum 2 hour bus trip to get there, and if you stayed in Puerto Cortes you were stuck in the middle of the second largest shipping port in Central America. To leave the ship, you had to hazard being struck by massive cranes carting containers to nearby container ships. We ventured into the town, and turned around after 15 minutes. I hate to sound like a spoiled American, but there was nothing attractive about this port. I did love Cozumel, Mahogany Bay, and Costa Maya. We were fortunate (or some thought unfortunate) to share Cozumel with 7 other cruise ships, including the new Allure of the Seas. We docked next to that massive ship and it made me very thankful to be on the Nieuw Amsterdam.
We decided to do the Expedited Disembarkation as our flight was at 11:10 am and I wanted to make sure we had enough time. Boy we did. They announced the Expedited Disembarkment at 7:20, and we were off the ship, through customs, and at the airport by 7:50. Couldn't ask for any better!
In summary, we had a great week onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. I really enjoyed the ship and crew, and thoroughly enjoyed this special sailing!! Please let me know if you have any questions, I'll try to answer them as best I can.