Transatlantic for 17 days. What should we expect. Good Food - yes, Lovely Ship - yes, Entertainment 24/7 - no, everybody satisfied - no, complainers - yes, theft or damage - never heard of this before on a cruise.
I was on the transatlantic crossing on the Nieuw Amsterdam Oct. 27-Nov 13/11. Never sailed Holland America before but had done a transatlantic going the other way, from Miami to Barcelona. My expectations are always small so I can enjoy whatever comes along, but it blows my mind when I see what some people think is rightly theirs because they "have paid for it". No consideration for the other 2000 people on board. It's all about me isn't it, but you can't let this spoil your trip.
Yes, we had a long wait to get on the ship but you can't do anything about fog. We were in Venice for 3 days prior to getting on the 17 day transatlantic, had a wonderful time in the rain, with 7 inch deep water in St. Mark's Square, watching people with bags over their shoes to keep them dry and seeing how the Venetians have to cope with this all the time. They actually put platforms all around the flooded parts and you walk from platform to platform until a dryer part appears. All the merchants just go along like it happens all the time, and it probably does. We took a Vaporetto (which we had bought a 3 day pass) to Piazzale Roma and got the people mover for 1 Euro to the ship's terminal, very easy with our luggage. Rick Steves' book is a great source for all info on Venice.
Once we got on board our room was ready so we were able to take our carry ons and free us up to go for lunch in the lido. I thought compared to other lunchtime embarkments, the lido was very civilized. We were able to get a table right away. Our luggage came in a timely manner and unpacked for our 17 day journey.
We happened to get a handicapped room on the 1st deck, because we needed to accommodate 3 people and that was the only one left. It was a little larger and a larger shower, we liked it very much. It had a King Bed and a chair that pulled down to a single, very comfortable.
Wonderful. Best service we have ever had on a ship. Broke my shoe and our room steward took it and had it fixed, free of charge, a lifesaver when it was the only formal pair I had with me. Anything we asked for (and we don't ask for much) was done with a smile. Our dinner waiters were personable and helpful with our needs.
Excellent food. So good it was hard not to order two different appetizers/desserts. I will say the lido is excellent for breakfast and lunch but was a little disappointed the night we went there for dinner. Sometimes we just don't feel like spending 2 hours eating dinner and I just don't find the lido steps up to the plate. The night we went it looked and tasted like the food had been warming on the trays for about 1 hour. The duck was very dried out and the breading on the shrimp was not crisp. The breakfast/lunch buffets seem to be better than the dinner for some reason. Maybe because they don't have as many people eating then, the food stays on the trays longer. So you have to make your choices, timeframe or better food I guess.
Everyone has their likes and dislikes. Could some of the shows be better, maybe, but you were entertained for an hour every night, free of charge. Make the most of it.
We have never taken outside excursions before because I was always nervous about getting back on the ship on time, but the excursions were so expensive on the ship I decided we would have to go outside or not go at all, and we had come too far to miss touring the wonderful places we were stopping.
Thank you Cruise Critic for all your wonderful information about excursion companies. I had researched on here for two months before we travelled because we wanted the best trip we could afford.
Went on our own for the day. Took the shuttle to town and enjoyed very much.
We used Corfutaxiprivatetours in Corfu and Christos was our guide. We left it up to him where he took us and enjoyed all of it. Took us to the top of the mountain, right down to the bottom. Took us to a little town of 500 and bought some local wine, and they had bread with olive oil and oregano for us, it was delicious and a small taste of wine. Highly recommend this excursion.
Taormina/Messina, Sicily, Italy
We were supposed to go to Taormina but the captain said there was a bike race going on and the streets were all closed, so we were going to Messina. Our first thoughts were great, our excursion is set for Taormina, I guess we are on our own. I emailed Sicily Tours telling them we wouldn't be going to Taormina and he emailed me back, don't worry I will pick you up in Messina, it happens all the time. Terrific!
Ignazio was waiting for us and he drove us back to Taormina (45 minutes away), terrific service. He took us to a tourist area that had about a 2 klm walk down a street covered with shops, restaurants, etc. Lovely. Bought the best gelato in Italy so we were told, delicious, and then he took us back to Messina and showed us a town clock that at 12:00 noon every day a lion, rooster and people move on this tower, all painted in gold with music playing. Spectacular. Lasts about 10 minutes. The square is full of people watching this.
The first thing to say about Rome. Buy your Coliseum and Vatican tickets on line before you go. There was a 3 hour wait for the Vatican and a long line for the Coliseum as well. We were told to buy them ahead by RomeInLimo and we just walked in through the doors when we arrived. What a relief that was, when you only have a day to see Rome. RomeInLimo was our excursion choice as suggested by CC and they were wonderful. Our driver was Franco and he more or less took us to what he thought was the best places. Dropped us off at the entrance to everything, even helped us to the right entrance at the Vatican and Coliseum and we just walked in. Made all the difference in the world. Even had water in the car for us to drink. I talked to someone on the ship afterward and they took the ship tour for a 12 hour tour and they said it was horrendous. They lined up for Vatican tickets for 3 hours in the sun with no water and they were all getting desperate. The bus dropped them off and they had to meet it at a certain time and place, and there is so much walking in Rome, the people were exhausted and were not allowed to stay on the bus if they wanted to, they had to get off. So be careful you know what is best for you. All the excursion operators get you back to the ship at least 1 hour before the ship is leaving, so you don't worry about missing it.
We have been to Cadiz before so we stayed on the ship that day, threat of rain.
We had to miss Madeira because of high seas and winds and the ship's captain couldn't go fast enough to get there on time. We only stopped to let off sick passengers and the entertainment that had to go to another ship and we left again, probably 1-1/2 hours total around 5:00 pm.
I thought he was great. Wasn't in your face all the time and informed you when he needed to. Always pleasant with a smile on his face and saw him around the ship more than any other CD.
I know people like to be entertained, and I realize 17 days is a long time to be on a ship, and longer if you caught the tour before us), and I know 7 days of sea days in a row is a lot of sea days, but what should a ship do about that. I didn't particularly join many of the activities on the ship (my choice), but they had trivia almost every day, lectures every day, bingo every day, free computer courses every day, "chats" every day with people working on the ship, towel animal making, flower arranging, bridge, games, cards scheduled most days, even free lessens in bridge and I could go on. Just because these aren't the things you enjoy, I don't think it is fair to say there is nothing to do on the ship. They had an excellent library selection, the best I have seen, they had a really nice area where you could sit and read with views of the ocean on two sides with comfortable chairs. Don't pay $800 - $1,000. for a 17 day cruise and expect to be caudled every minute of the day. The itinerary was the best I could find on the transatlantics, Venice, Rome, Sicily, Greece, Spain, Portugal, isn't that good enough; beautiful ship and an experienced Captain that kept us safe. He not only had a huge storm off of Spain, he had two tropical storms developing in the south Atlantic as well to keep an eye on. It is hurricane season until the end of November, so not unexpected. I don't think you can ask for more.
We cannot control the weather. Our seas were fairly rough the whole crossing and the weather was mostly cloudy, but you can't do anything about that. When we travelled in April on our transatlantic, we were going from Florida to Spain and the seas were very calm, but that isn't to say the next time we could be averting a storm, luck of the draw.
Damage on the Ship
I have never heard of this happening before. I can't imagine people can be so low, but unfortunately times are a changin'. Let's hope this doesn't happen again.
I thoroughly enjoyed our crossing. I don't like rough waves either, but am I going to stop cruising, not likely. Thank you Holland America for a wonderful vacation.