We (husband and I) were looking forward to this cruise as a relaxing end to 6 weeks of travelling around Europe. There was so much to see and do, however, that we didn't ever get into total relax mode, but we wouldn't have had it any other way. From embarkation to disembarkation at the end, we really couldn't fault HAL and we are already scheming towards another HAL cruise in the next year or so.
We arrived by train at St Lucia station from Nice and managed our bags ourselves over the bridge (no ramps, whyever not??) to the people mover. From here the ship wasn't well signposted and we found others as confused as we were looking for the luggage drop. However we'll be fine next time. Very pleasant staff on check in, we were delighted to find we had been upgraded to a veranda stateroom (from oceanview, very nice) and took possession of a lovely stateroom which far surpassed our expectations. It was a disabled room which meant plenty of room and we made good use of the balcony at every opportunity, just fabulous entering and leaving port. Thank you HAL!
Bags arrived after a couple of hours and we were able to unpack completely and store bags under the beds. Plenty of storage. Met our room steward later, and this was one of the few times we actually saw either of them as we were nearly always out when they worked their magic. We did enjoy the towel critters though, as we were travelling with a little stuffed toy "Spotty Dog" which we take photos of at lots of points on our travels, for our wee 2 year old grandson. When we get home I will create a story with pictures for him about Spotty Dog's travels, and there will be a special chapter on his encounters with the weird and wonderful animals met in our stateroom, created by our stewards. Thank you, boys, we loved them! I took photos each time.
We chose anytime dining and had no problems being seated promptly at whatever time we wandered up to the MDR. We usually chose to sit with others and we met some lovely people on each occasion. The meals were extremely good, we thought, always beautifully presented and delicious, and not overly large which I think is good; by the time you've worked your way through three or even 4 courses, that's a seriously good meal. We also tried the Pinnacle Grill which was excellent, the fillet steak here was surpassingly good, and Tamarind which was something quite different and also exceptional.
We ate in the Lido a couple of times and enjoyed that too, though it's a different kind of dining. The food was tasty and varied but the servers often provided very small servings unless you asked for a little more. I guess that's no problem, you can always go back, maybe they are saving us from ourselves! We did find that breakfast in the Lido on port days was a busy affair with so many people wanting breakfast at the same time but the service staff were unfailingly calm and courteous and the crowd thinned out after half an hour or so. we discovered that the MDR is the place for a relaxed and leisurely breakfast and went there a couple of times to avoid the rush upstairs.
The thing that amazed us on this ship was the number of passengers whose attitude toward the staff was seriously lacking; we witnessed many occasions when stewards were spoken to rudely, snapped at, demanded for things and generally treated in a most arrogant and offhand way. Never once did we see any reaction to this behaviour on the past of ship staff and they should be commended for it. The words 'please' and 'thank you' are entirely missing from
many people's vocabulary. I felt like apologising for them sometimes.
Port excursions (the ship tours) were relatively expensive, we thought, though sometimes they were the most reliable way for us to see the highlights of a place and be sure of getting back to the ship on time. We joined a group of seasoned travellers on one occasion and had a most enjoyable private full day tour of Istanbul which covered a lot more than the ship tour offered, but once you know the ropes you can plan these excursions with confidence. CruiseCritic forums are valuable here, use the roll call to get to know your fellow travellers in advance.
We didn't take wine aboard or buy soda cards etc, choosing to buy the 3-bottle deals of wine in the MDR. The bottles followed us around the ship, wherever we ate and this was great, if a little expensive but we knew it would likely be so. Can't see the point of taking bottles of wine aboard if you can only drink them in your stateroom, better to be socialising in one of the many bars.
We met some lovely people this way.
Overall we just loved our 12 days on Nieuw Amsterdam and have nothing but praise for the ship, its management and the whole ambiance of the cruise. I can't imagine that any other cruise line could offer more, but then as a first time cruiser I have nothing to compare it with. No matter, we are already looking at another cruise in the future