About our cruise:
We booked a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise in March of 2012. The cruise featured 4 stops including Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Roatan, and Costa Maya.
We're a married couple in our late 30's / early 40's. We've cruised previously with Holland America, most recently on the Eurodam and Zuiderdam. We've also cruised with Carnival, Disney, Norwegian.
We have 4 kids who have cruised with us previously, but this time the kids stayed home and it was just the two of us.
Our previous experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam's sister ship, the Eurodam, was decidedly mixed and we almost passed on cruising with HAL again. As you will see, we're VERY glad we decided to go with HL one more time! Our cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam was everything we expected the Eurodam to be...and then some.
We got to the terminal about 11am. There was an embarkation delay due to a couple of passengers from the previous cruise being late disembarking.
This meant that by the time embarkation finally got under way around 11:45 or so, a significant portion - maybe even most - of the passengers for our cruise were lined up outside the terminal and all embarked at once.
In spite of this, embarkation went very smoothly once it got started. HAL's talents for service and efficiency really shone through in this situation. It could have been very chaotic but it definitely wasn't.
Once on the ship, sometime around 12:30, our room was ready (I love that) and we headed to the Lido for lunch.
General ship appearance:
This is a gorgeous ship. It is decorated very nicely/tastefully (I love the New York theme) and it's absolutely sparkling clean.
On our previous cruise on the Eurodam (sister ship to the Nieuw Amsterdam) the quality and variety of the food was mediocre at best.....one of the major reasons why we almost didn't book with HAL this time around. Our logic was that the food situation on a pair of sister ships was likely to be very similar and so we braced ourselves for a week of bland meals once again.
We could not have been more wrong.
Whether judging by the sheer variety of the food or the quality and taste, meals on the Nieuw Amsterdam were simply outstanding. There were so many delicious choices to choose from that sometimes picking something was the hardest part of breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I don't know what happened on the Eurodam 2 years ago, or maybe HAL has made a fleet-wide change with regards to their food, but wow, was it it ever good on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Sure, there were one or two offerings that didn't turn out so well - inevitable on a ship with 2,100 passengers preparing the quantity of food that they were.
But overall, I was blown away by how great the meals were. On par with Disney , which is the best I've ever had.
Breakfast was good, lunch was good, dinner was good.
Room service was OK - as good as room service on a cruise ship can probably be.
We dined in the Pinnacle Grill and also did the "Le Cirque" evening. Both can fairly claim to be a 5 star restaurant experience.
My wife has some specific dietary needs - she can't have gluten or seafood - but this posed no problem at all. There was still more than enough to choose from that she pretty much always had lots to eat - even just choosing from the standard selections in the Lido. HAL was also very accommodating and always ready to whip up a specific request. too. If you have special dietary needs this ship is a great choice because they go out of their way to meet your needs.
I could go on and on but I think I've made my point. If the quality of the food on this ship isn't good enough for you, then I would say don't bother booking a cruise at all because I don't think it gets any better than this....at least without booking on a luxury cruise line.
You think "Holland America" and the first thing that comes to mind is: "A whole lot of retirees". Once again, we expected our experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam to be similar to that of her sister ship, the Eurodam, where it felt like it was us (a couple in our 30's) and 2,000 retirees.
Not on this ship. The difference between the Nieuw Amsterdam and our previous experiences with HAL was striking.
Sure, there was still a healthy contingent of "traditional" Holland America passengers - elderly and usually previous HAL customers.
But, there was also a strong mix of other, younger passengers: people in their 50's, 40's, 30's, 20's, and yes, a noticeable number of kids (ranging in ages from infants to teenagers and every age group in between).
This led to a different (and by "different" I mean "better") atmosphere aboard this ship - a little more lively, a little more fun. Don't get me wrong, you'll never mistake the Nieuw Amsterdam for a Carnival "fun ship"......but the atmosphere was very upbeat and generally pleasant to be a part of.
Everyone on this cruise - kids included - were very well behaved. The smokers respected the rules and without exception stuck to the designated smoking areas.
In terms of nationalities it was mostly Americans, Canadians, and Brits with a few folks speaking French, German and Russian thrown into the mix.
We only attended one show, a performance by the group Kintare (sp?). This was OK, not great. However, our fellow passengers raved about some of the other shows - the musicals were apparently very good. For a variety of reasons, we unfortunately just did not get a chance to get to any of them. Wish we had, as the reviews from our fellow passengers were very positive.
The on-deck live entertainment (Jenny and the HALcats) was very good, they did a nice selection of songs during each sail-away party that contributed to the fun atmosphere on board. DJ Marty also did a great job and we really enjoyed his "name that tune" contests. I don't recall hearing the Miami Sound Machine or the J.Geils Band on our previous HAL cruises! Again, a (relatively) younger and more contemporary atmosphere on board.
My wife booked a massage in the spa, and it was fantastic. She went back for a second massage later in the week which was also great. Definitely worth going if you're a fan of massages.
Although we didn't bring our kids along, we did do a little scouting as we were curious about whether or not the Nieuw Amsterdam would work for us as a family cruise in the future.
The verdict: probably yes. We spoke with some of the parents who had kids aboard and they reported that their kids loved Club HAL and wouldn't leave it if they didn't have to. This meshes with our general observation of the kids on board, who seemed to all be having a grand old time.
One good thing about the smaller number of kids on a HAL cruise: the ratio of Club HAL counsellors to kids to pretty low (I estimated 1 counsellor per 10 kids) and the kids seemed to love the attention they got.
Bottom line: We would consider bringing our kids on the Nieuw Amsterdam on a future cruise, and this was a surprise to us.
The service on this ship is impeccable in every respect. Better than even what we expected from HAL. Not much more I can say about it.
We booked in category "IA" which is an inside "spa" room. It was small but laid out very well, with very ample closet space for all of our clothes and possessions. It had a queen sized bed which was comfortable enough.
The air conditioner was not nearly powerful enough to cool the room properly. And the pillows were not all that great. These are my only two complaints about this entire cruise.
This is a marvellous ship, the best I have ever sailed on. It is fully deserving of the awards and accolades it has been receiving and is a very worthy heir of the Nieuw Amsterdam name.
We would sail again on this ship in a heartbeat.