3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies ... Read More
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies between our cabin and our friends next door. We had a mag makeup mirror and a small note pad on the night table (which I used a lot). Our friends didn't have these things. We had the open dining and because of the great dining room hostess, had the same wait staff each night, whom we loved. Dining room food was usually ok. There was a meal or two we traded in, the red snapper being one. Great presentation, small quantity. We were disappointed that we were on one of 4 HAL ships in an experimental dining mode, charging $10 for a second entree. I hope this initiative fails as trying different foods is one of the best parts of cruising. We did the buffet twice for breakfast and a few times at around 3pm for a snack. We are never fans of the buffet. This one wasn't too bad though. TAMARIND is by far the best dining experience on the ship. Try it early on and go often. So pretty up there too, at the bar. Weak entertainment, disappointed at how poor most of it was. There were three nights of 14 in which we thought the Main Stage entertainment was up to cruise ship standards. BBKing All Stars consistently great in the BB King lounge. Gets people up and moving and happy. More activity choices needed, especially on sea days. America's Test Kitchen could be better with another cook/demonstrator. Same with the EXE talks by Jeanette, boring. Cruise director Nick also lackluster. This may all be by design as the clientele, at least on this cruise, much older. Many over 80. At 58 I was definitely in a minority decade represented by the guests. All services were *impeccable* EXCEPT for room service and the wait staff at both Canneletto and Pinnicle Grill restaurants. In fact room service breakfast on port days was as if it was the first day they ever offered room service breakfast on a port day. Many complaining. We had a snafu where we never did get any breakfast on a port day waiting for pre ordered room service which never arrived. I must mention they did make it up to us with hand written notes, a bottle of wine, follow up phone calls and priority delivery of room service breakfast the second (and last) time we ordered it. Loved the unlimited laundry service and they did a superb job. Passing through the Panama canal was wonderful, being served the Panama rolls and coffee throughout the early morning hours. I recommend you don't miss the early up at 5:30am to experience the canal at the beginning. I was going to skip it, BUT am so very glad I decided to get up for this once in a lifetime experience. We headed to the back of the ship on deck 9 by the pool as we left the first set of locks. Nice perspective, and not many thought of doing this. Central America hot & humid . Costa Rica our best day using a private tour company call Thumbs Up tours, their 10 in 1 day tour.Ten folks in a nice, cool van. Perfect. We loved our day at Huatulco, MX with the sandy beach and restaurants right off the ship. Great swimming cove. We did enjoy all ports. Did not do a tour in Guatemala, only walked around the "faux" town just off the ship. But with food, bars, entertainment and shopping, we had a great time there. This was my 5th cruise. Probably would use another line (Royal Caribbean again maybe) for our next one in a year or two. HAL was very good, but just a bit too low key for us. I would suggest another itinerary which may cater to younger guests or maybe not choosing HAL at all if under 45. Research it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and ... Read More
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and treatments way too expensive. Watch your bill - we had multiple charges for other people's alcohol and for things that were included in our beverage package. They did reverse the charges, but it took time away from our cruise to get the items corrected. The cabin was comfortable and clean and the cabin stewards were wonderful. We were on the 8th deck near the bridge and had no issues with rolling seas or noise from any of the entertainment. We did have to walk through the spa area every time we went to higher decks - odd set up. We are 60 and felt like we were the babes on this cruise. This appeared to be an older group that was in bed by 9PM. The first night at sea we expected to be wowed by the entertainment. Instead we got a movie on the main stage and the sound system was not good. We saw perhaps 3-4 entertainers that were good, but this was highly disappointing for a 14 day cruise. We arranged our excursions a month or so before cruising. The descriptions were somewhat misleading - "a motorized catamaran" was actually a booze cruise with 150 other passengers - not what we pictured. We thought we were going to a nice cove to swim where we could snorkel and see the native fish. After cruising with everyone else drinking we got perhaps 30 minutes in the water with no fish at all (didn't need to bring our snorkeling equipment or the rolls we took from breakfast to feed the fish). We did sign up for one excursion on the ship and then chose not to go because we were not feeling well. HAL has a 14 day refund policy - not very accommodating on a 14 day cruise. We couldn't get a refund but could trade to a lesser priced excursion, but still lost the money. We did have a wonderful time with our dinner table - table for 8 at the 8PM seating. Overall we did enjoy our cruise. We chose the itinerary for this cruise and not the cruise line. For a number of reasons we perhaps will not cruise with HAL again. They are way too focused of making a buck. For example - every cruise we've been on before with other lines we've been able to use all of the spa facilities on the day we had a treatment. Not on HAL. Everything had a separate price tag. As a last thought - we completed HAL's online survey after our cruise and indicated that they could contact us for clarification or comments. It's been a month and there's been no attempt on their behalf to follow through. Aside from the on board cruise staff, HAL needs a lesson in customer service. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 ... Read More
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 days, because of weather we where delayed by over 24 hours. We embarked the ship in groups and met up in the buffet for lunch. Our bags arrived quicker than expected, so we sorted ourselves out, then went for a group party in one stateroom. We where on decks 4, 6,8. And we where very happy on deck 4. Turns out to be a good location to scoot out for the safety drill, a nice walk around deck 3, and also easy to run up to deck 3 if there was something to grab a photo of. We kept the tv on in our room when we where there, tuned to the forward cameras. Loved the option of viewing the Canal crossing on the TV, that was a long hot day. Every morning we enjoyed the buffet. You can’t go wrong, everything you can imagine plus some extra surprises. Lunch was by the pool at the burger place, or pizza. We only attended tea in the afternoon one day, but it was a very nice treat. Dinner we had a group table in the dining room for 8. We didn’t dine there every night, but made sure we all attended the gala nights. Other times we tried some of the different specialty restaurants available. The Pinnacle was a dinner that made you feel like you won the lotto. But our true favourite was the Tamarind. The staff made the dinner fun, and you felt truly welcomed. Plus the exceptional food, and presentation, made it a feast for the eyes. Most days, pre dinner, we attended the martini tasting, or the happy hour in the various bars. But be pre warned, the happy hour bars get full fast. We had beverage cards, so we didn’t worry about happy hour pricing. And I am glad we did, the cards where good for everything we wanted to drink, from sparkling water, to special coffees ,and drinks all around. Every day we had wonderful coffees made in the exploration area, the staff there knew your name and coffee within days. Days we didn’t go on excursions, we spent at the pool, loved the unobtrusive music. But there does need to be more shady areas. We found often people pulling chairs into doorways for shade, but that made it very inconvenient for others. Our group had all been at most of the locations on this cruise, so we didn’t depart at every port. But we really enjoyed the small markets they set up by the ship, for those who just want to purchase a souvenir. The casino was very quiet the entire trip, we did go to the bar there and lost some money at the machines. They did have some very nice piano players there as well . After dinner, it was usually a walk around deck 3 , before seeing what was on the show that night. Most nights we didn’t stay, we all found the entertainment to be lacking, the jazz band was not a group to dance to, so most just sat and listened. We all loved the national Geographic show, with the live performance. Disembarkation was a slow process, they called groups by colour, and there was even colours called that were not on the list, we where close to last. The whole finding your suitcase thing and getting in line , seemed confusing for some. Enjoyed a lovely night in San Diego before flying home. Staff who made this trip memorable: Jerry and Jenny in the martini bar. Janny in the exportation cafe. My perfect mocha. Abdul and Made who made our cabin home. Miguel and Joel who had the wine knowledge. Wayo, Davee, who served table 91 with grace. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about ... Read More
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about cruises, on their misuse of obsolete maritime transport laws to create tax free tourist resorts. Or their bypass of immigration laws and hiring cheap labour from around the world. However, listening to enthusiastic cruise adepts, we expected that this trip will made us change our minds. On the positive side, we found the international staff very kind and helpful. But we did not meet many Spanish speaking staff. This HAL cruise surprised us by the very similar customers aboard: mostly white couples in their seventies. As cosmopolites, somewhat younger, we enjoy more age and racial diversity, and it was strange to be in such finely targeted crowd. There was a double talk when it comes to environmental creeds, which are emphasized by HAL especially when it comes to save money for the operation, like to remind you avoid changing your towels frequently. The plastic water bottles sold in your cabin are from Europe. Fortunately, there is little plastics items used for the food service. Food is not supplied locally, everything came from US, for the whole cruise. Quite some paper spoiled with the leaflets advertising for the shops aboard. To be serious about environmental virtues, we should bear in mind that this form of sea transport use four time more fuel per passenger than a modern airplane. The 750 litres of fuel used by passenger for this 2 week cruise correspond to what I use a year with a car. And worse, after the booking, I had the feeling to be framed in a well rehearsed marketing process, with an objective to make me spend a maximum as I spend time with this company. A lot of staff and accessible surfaces on the ship are meant to bring additional income. I would have preferred a better service. The number of additional charges, and the high price of them perfectly reflects this financial objective. The time to spend on shore is very limited and the excursions highly priced. Come on, why charge $120 pp for a short visit to San Diego zoo? Before the cruise The call centre did not properly answer our questions before booking, as we noticed later. The booking process is cumbersome, with too many computer glitches encountered with browsers (I tried Microsoft explorer, Edge and Android). Some beta testing by HAL would be beneficial. Even we booked long in advance, HAL’s website, contrary to claims, did not allow us to book an hotel in FLL. The only choice offered was at $12000 per night. We booked elsewhere at a reasonable cost. Due to a light handicap, HAL requested additional documents for the cruise, and the details about these documents was not provided by HAL. We had to consult elsewhere. Due to the same condition, we booked our flights directly, and had also to organize our own transfers. The web checking process difficult, again with too many issues with browser. And finally, the departure flight information was requested again by HAL on the ship. I had also to sign an abusive long contract, which I should better have read before booking. In a summary, it reads ‘HAL is not responsible’. Eg the amount covered for lost luggage are ridiculous low. Embarking Very noisy hall at FLL terminal, it was hard to sustain a conversation in it. Luggage handling was OK, but with some delay. At the counter, it took long because person there did not know how to handle our special documents. Finally, we were asked to go to customer desk to have copies of our extra paperwork (even they had to be emailed to HAL before the cruise) For doing so there was a long waiting line at the customer desk. The customer desk clerk made copies of these documents, but forgot to return one original. Glad we checked, so we could get it back. The dinner time requested at booking was changed by HAL to less favourable to us, without explanation or excuses. It was difficult to have it changed afterwards. Even so, we were surprised by the absence of hosting from staff, in the sense of grouping people by affinities or languages. The second day of the cruise the customer desk requested again these documents. We had to elevate the tone and threaten to file a complain about harassment before we suddenly got to talk to somebody reasonable. In conclusion, the customer desk staff is not competent for anything but routine. The coordination between headquarters and the ship seems poor. Too long waiting time to access the customer service desk. Ship More than 2000 passengers. A dining hall and a self-service restaurant (plus 3 speciality restaurants, accessible at an additional high charge). Large surfaces devoted to shops, casino, photography, spa, wine cellar and other income generating activities. Not much space left for sports. Outdated decoration, interior brass and gold plated, in fifty shades of beige. Display of art not curated. More than 800 employed on the ship. Seems quite a high figure, but a share of staff is in income making activities at casino, spa, jewellery shops, excursions. And there is also the sailing, navigation crew, and the maintenance crew counted in it, so we understand that the customer service crew or hotel staff was overwhelmed. As welcome drink, we observed the desk selling beers, bottled water and soft drink cans. One day as we returned to the ship we were offered a glass of water and a refreshing towels. The other days nobody was around. The number of elevators is insufficient with such high proportion of customers with mobility issues. Expect to wait. The best spots for seating outside on the deck are covered with a tent and named ‘cabanas’ and accessible only at an additional fee, and left empty most of the time. The Neuw Amsterdam is not so new anymore, and the maintenance was done during the cruise. Unfortunately, we were nauseated by the smell as the whole hull was getting a new coat in Puerto Vallarta, or as the handrails were varnished, or at sea when the upper part of the ship was repainted. More precautions should have been taken to avoid unhealthy solvent be pumped in the air-conditioning system. We had to vacate our cabin. And so, HAL saves on ship yard. Last day ‘at sea' we refused to leave the stateroom to allow for more scheduled maintenance, in that case, a wet carpet cleaning. On the day of arrival, we could not access the patio again, as the outside of ship was undergoing more M&R. Cabin (called stateroom) Small. Balcony (pompously named verandah) allows for two chairs. The safe was not ok, as its battery was low. We had to wait quite long in the room to have it fixed. Clean, except stained sofa, walls and bed cover. On windy days, to avoid draft and strong whistling, we patched the patio door joints with duck tape. Fridge hardly cold. TV entertainment not as good as on an airline. Sink with cracks. Cabin due for an update. As the weather got colder at the end of the cruise, we were surprised that the air-conditioning could not to be disconnected, even temperature went too low. With a non-responsive customer desk, it took 10 hours to be fixed. Food & beverages Generally speaking noisy restaurants. Room service at no additional charge for a limited selection of dishes or drinks, or with an additional charge for others. Breakfast was delivered half an hour before requested time, with the explanation ‘It is a busy day’. Slow on some other days. Breakfast time at restaurants should have been adjusted for early arrival at port of call. Dining hall The dishes served did frequently not correspond to the pretentiously redacted menu, with ingredients listed missing or substituted. Obviously, the cooks did not read the menu, or tried to do savings on ingredients. Eg Grand Marnier, truffles, half avocado, maple syrup. Meal after meal, the comparison of the dishes with the ‘fancy’ menu became a subject of laughter. We had fun with the leftover potato soup was renamed Sunchoke Soup on Gala Night. Generally speaking rather poorly presented dishes with bland taste. Service was kind, but staff overwhelmed. Not trained to handle dishes, bottle and glasses quietly. It generally took 1 ½ hour for a seated dinner. Nice white tablecloth and tableware, and even a flower. Too many breaded dishes like scallops, sweetbread, sole, chicken ‘pillard’. Large parking area for scooters. Self service restaurant Lido No available tables as many tables for 4 are taken by couples or singles, even for filling the daily (free) crossword. To choose your table, arrive early! Chairs adapted for high BMI. Large choice of food, put on a plate by the staff at the stations where you line up. Due to communication issues, we frequently got too large servings. By the end of the cruise we got the impression that some buffet dishes were left exposed too long, like dried out mexican rice or sour smelling beans. Exaggerated additional charge for speciality restaurants. The ginger lobster served at the ‘fusion’ Tamarind was excessively salted. We did not visit the two other ones, as we got the same feeling of pretence from their fancy menus (Escargots? canned or frozen?). Not much spices used and the bland food served is compatible with dentures, except short ribs or striploin. Selection of sugar free dishes. We did not have the impression that many clients had digestive troubles, but be prudent about complaining about it at the medical facility, as you may get quarantined. In short, pretentious menus and mediocre food. Drinks Drinks are highly priced and another service charge added on each bill, on top of the daily $15 pp obligatory service charge. Wine or beer billed at 5 to 6 times the market price. Water, tea or filter coffee are complimentary. Unlimited fountain drinks for $8 per day. Other daily passes for unlimited alcoholic beverages. Unfair and peculiar rules about these passes, as they have to be bought for the whole cruise, or that everybody in the cabin has to buy the same pass. ‘Enrichment’ activities onboard Quite a high proportion of activities with additional charges, e.g. Half an hour meditation for $12. Many activities are meant to showcase the shops, casino, bars or spa. Bingo cards at $5. The cycles at the fitness are only meant for cycling classes at 12$. No fitness instructors besides classes. Very slow internet access at an excessive price. At the arrival, on a day of disrupted air travel, it would have been kind to make the wifi free for everyone. The mainstage had some pleasant shows, by professionals, but they lacked spontaneity. As we travelled during Carnival week, we vainly expected some reference to it. The sound on the BBKing club and the mainstage is set so loud that if you do not wear hearing aids, you will soon need some. Better use protective ear plugs. Small shows with local dancers on the rear deck. We liked the dancing classes. Excursions Long waiting before departure. The EXC staff selling them seemed overwhelmed, and there was a long waiting line. Anyway, they could not provide us the practical information about where was the supermarket we needed or where to get a fast web access. We had an enquiry about an excursion, and were told that we will get the answer later… we did not get it. Generally speaking the excursions are highly priced. E.g. in Huatulco, a snorkelling tour was offered for $80 pp. We took a taxi to this same beach and rented the equipment for a total of 300 pesos for two. Unfortunately, in three ports of call the ship was moored along a similar sized cruise ship, the Coral Princess. This was not a smart, as it brought quite a crowd getting ashore. A port of call, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala was very unpleasant, as the ship moored in a polluted coal harbour. Taxis were not allowed to access to the ship there and we had to walk a mile way from the entrance of the port to the ship. The time allowed ashore was short, and we made the best of it with a local taxi or just by walking. So, we had the chance to practise some Spanish, and we could adapt to the weather and our envy. And got also quite some authentic memories or photos. Disembarking The announcement on the PA were not very audible, as the are mixed with music and static on TV. It was delayed, and service staff impatient to get to cabin. The questionnaire we received by email after the cruise did not cover all the sides of HAL’s services. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that ... Read More
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that there was so good ratings with HAL with travelers with similar preferences we did not hesitate to book this trip, our first on HAL. Our preferences were quite traditional: Piece and quietness, well mannered co-passengers, dining experiences with lots of choices and styles, civilized onboard activitities and entertainment, interesting excursions, kind and friendly staff and responsible shipowners with competent crew. Particularly we were not after activities some other latest cruise ships may offer for families and younger clientele, We tried to avoid cruse lines with all-day partying and noisy teens and kids around. As a summary HAL offered all this in very sophisticated way. Onboard staff exceeded any of our previous experiences. Based on recommendations on the CC HAL group, before boarding we visited at the Total Wine iand picked up a 6 bottle box of selected wines based on their recommendation of "a taste of America". However, after the trip found that the selections onboard was perfectly adequate, if not US-centric. Check-In Fort Lauderdale was done in breeze by very helpful officer, particularly noticing we were not that experienced cruisers on HAL. We boarded soon before noon and had a wonderful lunch served in the MDR after settling in to our cabin. The VD Class cabin was on the 7th deck with a veranda. It was not a suite, but spacious enough for two of us. For our surprise, there was enough storage space even for a much longer trip. There was absolutely no noise from neighboring cabins or from the corridors. Completely quiet, apart quiet hum from the AC. We found ship interiors very nicely designed and we felt being at home soon after boarding. Most of the fellow passengers were naturally from US and Canada, also quite big part, probably a few hundred passengers from Europe and from South America and Far East.. Based on the Skipper's, Jeroen van Donselaar's note, there were some 2100+ passengers and 800+ crew members onboard, so the ship was practically fully booked. Cruise itself offered everything and beyond we expected. For our surprise the seadays were anything but boring. The days were full of activities, e.g. starting from presentation of the ports we were going to call, Digital Workshops, recitals on the Lincoln Center, stand up shows and other performances after dinner at the Main Stage ending upto enjoying the B.B. King's Club. BTW, they played really well. About dining experience, we had dinners in all the restaurants, twice in the Pinnacle Grill, once in Rudy's, once in Tamarind, once in Canaletto and Lido, rest in the MDR. In general, we were fully content with the MDR, but Pinnacle offered us the something to remember for long time. My personal favorite was the Sole Meunier at the MDR, but it was available only once soon after departure, Based on our experience it's difficult to fully understand those who in CC HAL Forum have complained MDR being not upto their standards. Dover Sole in Rudy's; the Maine Lobster, Tartar Steak and Filet Mignon at the Pinnacle. Tamarind was excellent, but as have traveled lots in the far east, we found it a (little bit) too westernized. Sushi was available daily at the Lido. And now we still miss Hamburgers in the Dive In. They were special. Really. Shore excursions we pre-booked, were mostly as expected: In Cartagena the old town was really nice and worthwhile to visit, could have spend a lots of more in the town. Passing Panama Canal was a really highlight of the day. For an ex Sailor (Master Mariner), like me, this was a really meaningful event. We passed the Canal through the old locks, far more interesting than the new ones, which were apparently not that busy on our day of passing. In Costa Rica we chose an Exc to flower gardens up to the mountain having a magnificent view over to the Pacific. We managed to see a pair of macaws not too far away in the garden and a number of crocodiles on the way. It was most beautiful landscape. Time to visit there was far too short, again. In Nicaragua we had a trip to a banana plantation owned by a local prominent family, supplying their products to major brands. Lots of manual, minimally paid work needed before products can be shipped. Highlight of that trip was to see the landscape with active volcanoes on the way. Local people were extremely friendly with us. Really difficult to figure out how they manage to struggle with the average salaries paid in that country. We hope they will manage with their struggle with economy, e.g. expanding from agriculture to tourism. In Guatemala we had another trip to a Coffee Plantation and a small city on the mountain area. Was really beautiful, again. There were also two Mexican ports, Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta on the way. Enjoyed both excursions to the country side. Street vendors in Cartagena and Guatemala were some degree of nuisance, but nothing unexceptional for 'seasoned travelers'. Before the trip we had concerns, e.g. how to cope potential 'cultural differences' during the two weeks with the fellow passengers mostly from US and Canada since we are not that extrovert. That proved to be a non-issue. With all people we spoke with were most friendly curious and knowledgeable what's going outside US. Quite a number of them had visited even to our home country, Finland, on their previous cruises or careers. So overall, would wholeheartedly recommend Panama Cruise with HAL anyone expecting a classy experience to pass the Canal, see beautiful countries with friendly people of Columbia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, spend time with fellow most nice passengers on a well maintained ship with a stellar crew. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the ... Read More
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the late winter or early spring when it was cold in the Washington, DC area. Celebrity no longer offered this cruise during this time of the year. So, we reviewed the ships that sailed during this time and decided that the Nieuw Amsterdam would be our choice. (Note: We did compare the Nieuw Amsterdam to the other Holland America ships that provided this itinerary. The Nieuw Amsterdam was reviewed best by Cruise Critic.) How did we like the cruise? Staff. The service staff in all areas of the ship were wonderful, especially their personalities and how they strove to accommodate all requests. Of course, we would only politely ask for something that our experience indicated was reasonable and also within the prevue of a particular service person. We particularly were impressed with the towel creatures left on our beds at night and learned onboard about how they were created and surprisingly how little time each one takes to create. Stateroom. We thought the stateroom size, bathroom (with tub), balcony, comfort of the bed, sitting area, and storage areas were all quite nice---certainly not to be outdone by the Celebrity Infinity which was their ship sailing this itinerary. The stateroom attendants kept the cabin clean and neat daily and were very responsive to requests; although, we had few. Dining. We were pleased with the breakfast and lunch buffets in the Lido; although, we thought the choices and quality of the food were good, but not exceptional–choices and quality for breakfast better than for lunch. The poolside hotdog/hamburger and pizza options helped to make some of our lunches enjoyable. We were not so satisfied with the Lido evening dining because of the limited selection and quality of the food the one night we dined there. Of course, the staff was attentive and friendly. Our regular evening meals were in the Dining Room on deck 3. We thoroughly enjoyed the staff. However, there were only a few dishes that we truly enjoyed eating. We found most of the food unappealing, often inadequately prepared, and providing unsatisfying pleasure. The wienerschnitzel and the surf and turf were the two entrée selections that we found quite appealing. We particularly enjoyed the desserts which had plentiful choices and were mostly prepared well and quite tasty. The entrees we selected in the Pinnacle Restaurant, particularly the Alaska King Crab, was by far the best entrée enjoyed during the cruise. We would have expected that the regular Dining Room would have provided more of this level of quality. Entertainment. The performers in the Mainstage theater were just ok, especially in comparison to our Celebrity experiences. That said, the comic John Wing and the English piano player/comic, Brett Cave, were quite enjoyable. We wouldn’t want to see any of the other acts twice. The cruise’s backup band and the classical quintet were superb. Playing together on the Mainstage to provide the musical background for the featured nature film was a great way to highlight their talents. A particular performance highlight was the Columbian Ambassadors who provided a show on the Mainstage one afternoon. In our opinion, they provided the best performance of the entire cruise and should have had more exposure--perhaps an evening performance. Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance featuring members of the wonderful Filipino staff performing with great enthusiasm. Shore Excursions. We enjoyed the excursions we selected which included city highlights, horseback riding, rafting, snorkeling, zip lining, nature watching on a river, and an equestrian show. The only excursion we were quite disappointed with was the Lake Atitlan full day excursion which required a 2 ½ hour, extremely bumpy bus trip followed by a 45 minute boat ride across an average-looking lake to an unexceptional resort for a basically enjoyable lunch followed by a 45 minute return boat ride exactly the same as the first one, followed by a 2 hour return bus ride exactly the same as the first one, but a half-hour shorter because of driving downhill, and less bumpy apparently due to the lighter loads of trucks going toward the port. All in all, this excursion included too much traveling with very minimal enjoyment for the effort. We also noticed that the Holland America written descriptions of the shore excursions that we took were often not truly reflective of the actual experiences. That said, it was still only the one excursion mentioned above that was disappointing and perhaps a more accurate description of the excursion would have helped us to make a better decision. Informational and Cultural Lectures. In particular, the Shore Excursion informational leader, Jeanette, was superb. Her presentation describing the next day’s experience of sailing through the Panama Canal was clear and comprehensive, allowing an enjoyable understanding of the next day’s experience. Additionally, Jeanette’s other presentations providing information of what we’d see upon arriving in other destinations was thoroughly well done and appreciated. Holland America Onboard Internet. The Holland America onboard internet that provided information about daily activities and dining menus, person-to-person onboard texting, and enabled us to keep track of our own cruise itineraries was extremely effective, reliable and useful. That said, access from our cell phones were not up to the exemplary level of the in-cabin TV access and the technical staff should strive to make both access pathways equally effective. In Conclusion. The purpose of the trip was to enjoy the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary during the late winter or early spring. Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam provided the desired itinerary. The stateroom, the Lido breakfast and lunch buffet along with the hotdog/hamburger and pizza poolside options, the shore excursions, the informational/cultural lectures, the Pinnacle specialty restaurant, and the entire staff were, in our opinion, quite good. The entertainment and the evening dining were, in our opinion, just average. Will we sail with Holland America in the future? Probably not, particularly because the entertainment and evening dining we’ve experienced on Celebrity ships—which we consider to be extremely important parts of the cruising experience—are much better. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
We always cruise with HAL as our experience has always been very good. The Nieuw Amsterdam is well appointed, tastefully decorated with plenty of public rooms. We especially enjoyed the Explorers Lounge on deck 11, the baristas make a ... Read More
We always cruise with HAL as our experience has always been very good. The Nieuw Amsterdam is well appointed, tastefully decorated with plenty of public rooms. We especially enjoyed the Explorers Lounge on deck 11, the baristas make a great vanilla latte. There was also a great selection of puzzles, board games and books in this lounge which was well used by the guests. The crew on the ship are very professional and extremely approachable. The cabins are clean, comfortable with lots of storage, and the new flat screen TVS are great with excellent reception and lots of choices of current movies and four news stations. The food in the MDR was less stellar than on previous voyages and although we tend to stay clear of the Lido other than an occasional breakfast, however, this time we discovered that the lunch and dinner selections seemed more varied. The tray of various pastries was a pleasant treat in the Hudson Room (card tables set up). The PA announcements were limited which was pleasant. We absolutely loved the Billboard on Board Piano bar, Andy and Polina were excellent. Also the music in the BB King Lounge was well attended. We caught most of the main stage shows and the majority were good. We are HAL devotees. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
Holland America 17 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale through Panama Canal on to San Diego checked off all the boxes. As usual food was good to great, housekeeping and dining staff friendly, accommodating and truly attempted to meet our ... Read More
Holland America 17 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale through Panama Canal on to San Diego checked off all the boxes. As usual food was good to great, housekeeping and dining staff friendly, accommodating and truly attempted to meet our every whim. The check out procedure through San Diego was exceptional. Took less than 10 minutes! A few specifics worth noting. Aji and Hendry in dining area were exceptional servers. My husband got a $40 hair cut in the salon and the gal cut his ear as well as the back of his neck using the clippers. Not sure if the gal was not experienced or just did not care. We visited the Tamarind restaurant. We got sushi as an appetizer, Sea bass and a steak. The steak was very good. The Sea Bass was severely overcooked and the sushi was worse than the all you can eat sushi restaurants. Why? The chefs were lazy and cut the vegtables in huge chunks rather than thinly sliced. Each bite was all cucumber as huge chunks of cucumber were in all the sushi we ate. I would strongly suggest skipping the Tamarind. Not worth the extra dough. Our largest disappointment with the cruise is frankly nothing Holland America can do. We are in our mid 40's and the crowd as well as itinerary on the cruise was very mature. We normally enjoy trying a few new things on sea days but the activities were Soduko, Crossword puzzles, listening to pianist, learning how to use email. The two events we looked forward to was a pub crawl visiting the 4 bars on the ship. Unfortunately both events were cancelled due to lack of parcipitation. Now the million dollar question...would we do this cruise again. Probably not unless we brought some friends. For sure a yes in 15 years but the lack of activities for physical able adults was low. We still love Holland America but for sure will reconsider longer duration cruises in the future to be sure cursory activities meet our expectations. Once again, NOT a Holland America issue aside from the smaller comments mentioned above. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
First, let me just say, Nieuw Amsterdam is our favorite ship now. We’ve sailed Eurodam, Oosterdam and Noordam. All great ships but this one is awesome! The artwork and décor is very nice. The ship is in fantastic shape and the crew ... Read More
First, let me just say, Nieuw Amsterdam is our favorite ship now. We’ve sailed Eurodam, Oosterdam and Noordam. All great ships but this one is awesome! The artwork and décor is very nice. The ship is in fantastic shape and the crew was wonderful. Take a close look at the large mural of New York that is outside the Manhattan dining room, (across from Adagio) you will notice something quite clever. Fort Lauderdale embarkation was slow but normal. The time we could board was pushed back from 11:15 to 11:45. I’m not sure why. The staff handling things were very nice and pleasant. There were no free refreshments that I noticed but there were vending machines in the waiting area. The seats were comfortable enough and the A/C was working well. We had used the VIP Bags-service. They picked up our luggage from the carousel at the airport and it was in our cabin when we got on board. I had never used this service before and was a little nervous but they were great! Communication is very good and it is a very reasonable price for the convenience you get. We had cabin 6053. It is a signature Suite. It is close to the forward elevators which makes getting to the Crow’s Nest and gym pretty easy. In the Signature Suites, the large screen TV on the wall behind the sofa is actually a plus in our book. Sure, you can't watch it from the sofa now but it frees up a lot of space on the counter top and where the DVD player used to fit, not to mention you now have two more power outlets available. On the minus side, we didn't get any personalized stationery this time. I don't know if it was just an oversight or a permanent cut-back. Everything else in the cabin was great. No plumbing issues. For some reason though,, one of the A/C vent covers was completely blanked off with packing tape on the inside. After I removed the cover and stripped off all the tape the room cooled right down which was a good thing because it was miserably hot outside. I never did notice anyone smoking anything on the verandas. For that matter, smoking wasn’t much of a problem on board. The sea view pool area was never really too packed and I don’t remember smoking in the casino being too much of a problem although you could smell it in there occasionally. The Lido was very good for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were many eggs benedict choices and the baked beans too every day. Plenty of juice choices and the coffee only ran out when too many people filled up their travel mugs at once. Lunch was good. You could still get custom made sandwiches and the pre-mades were very good and fresh. Dinner and desserts were quite good also. “The Lobster Fest” was good and the lobsters (I asked for two) were a pretty good size. I do feel like I kinda got snookered on the wine though. The wine steward came around while I was eating my lobster and suggested a glass of the wine he was holding (nothing unusual there) it was a Washington wine and he said it paired nicely with the lobster so I said sure. It was good but he failed to mention that it was $12.00 a glass! As opposed to the normal $8.00. I guess I should have asked. I bought an $18.00 glass of wine in the Pinnacle Grill because I didn’t have my glasses on and it looked like $8.00. And to tell you the truth, it wasn’t all that good. Food and service was very good though as usual. We also ate in the Tamarind and I have to say, that is probably the most exquisite service in a restaurant that I have ever received. Just spectacular! Entertainment on board was good. The singers and dancers do a great job and the comedian (John Joseph) was an absolute riot! Hamish the Cruise director is very nice and personable, he made things fun. Hammish even came to the vetrans meet to welcome us and say thanks for our service. That was a very nice touch. The Activities Director (not naming names) seemed a little lackluster and just going through the motions. He could have been much more “active” in my book. The Kid’s Club manager (Stephanie?)was always having fun with the kids. She did a great job. Andy form Scotland in the Piano Bar had ‘em packed in every night. He was a lot of fun too. In fact, all of the ships’ crew were fantastic. The front office even set up a “chess players meet” in the daily planner when they saw my note in the library looking for other players. How cool is that? The gym was very nice but the Captain likes to take most of the treadmills out of service at certain times for noise/navigation reasons so the wait can be awhile during those times. I've never seen that before. We went on three HAL sponsored tours. The aviary in Columbia was good, the aerial tram in Costa Rica was good, the “Mayan Ruins” in Puerta Chiappas Mexico was a complete waste of time and money. The tour guide told vulgar stories on the bus and then just took us to a shopping district (Said he wanted to “show us his city” where we were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes), then took us to a dilapidated old church where the ceiling was literally falling down on us and then finally took us out to see “the archeological site” which amounted to nothing more than a pile of rocks and some recreated building foundations. He tried to tell us that what we were seeing was 2,000 years old. Ya, right, they let kids climb all over them and chip off souvenirs to take home. What a gimmick. Disembarkation in San Diego was probably the easiest I have ever encountered. Customs literally just glanced at the outside of our passports and we were on our way. We were in the passenger pick up area on the pier and I asked my wife “Did we go through customs yet?” It was that quick and easy. This was another great Holland America Line cruise and we booked our next one while on board. We are doing the Voyage of the Vikings next. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because my Father-in-Law wanted to do the Panama Canal, and it was great. We loved the food, itinerary, hospitality of the crew and overall journey. Watching the ship go through the Canal was a real treat, but some ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my Father-in-Law wanted to do the Panama Canal, and it was great. We loved the food, itinerary, hospitality of the crew and overall journey. Watching the ship go through the Canal was a real treat, but some of the more obscure stops were also fun. Here are the itinerary highlights we enjoyed most: Half-Moon Cay (Private Island): Beautiful beach, fish in the shallows & lots of birds. A great day in the sun! Columbia (Cartagena): National Bird Aviary -- fun, but a bit sunny and hot Panama Canal: Watching the ship rise and fall powered by rainwater & gravity -- amazing! Costa Rica (Puerto Caldera): Mangrove river cruise -- like a Disney Jungle Boat cruise with real crocodiles & exotic birds. Nicaragua (Corinto): You MUST walk on top of the white domed church at the town center! Guatemala (Puerto Quetzal): Bus ride to Antigua was well worth it. Elevation made it cool, and the town architecture was fun to explore on our own. Mexico (Puerto Vallarta): Rythms of the Night show excursion was great. By luck of the draw we had front row seats. The performers were very entertaining (especially the more gymnastic ones), and the food was good and plentiful if not quite as tasty as it could be. We had some minor issues, but the crew worked hard in every instance to make things right. The two worth mentioning were some cabin noise from the BB King Lounge that lasted until about 10 most nights, and some slow service at tables for 10 during open-seating dining. The crew addressed the first with earplugs that worked great for me, and some proactive efforts by the head waiters to seat us at smaller tables where the service was prompt. They also offered a free meal at the Pinnacle which was very much appreciated. Overall, a great experience, and we'll be back on another Holland ship again soon. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We picked this cruise because of the where was going and Holland's history of great service and great dining. This was my 25th cruise, and it rates as number 25. The dining in the main dining room was terrible. The portions were ... Read More
We picked this cruise because of the where was going and Holland's history of great service and great dining. This was my 25th cruise, and it rates as number 25. The dining in the main dining room was terrible. The portions were tiny and the service was horrendous. One night we spent 2 hours waiting to eat. We couldn't get anyone to bring us water, fresh bread, or pour our wine. We finally gave up on the main dining room and paid to go to specialty dining, which was superb. We also tried the Lido, and were completely disappointed. The food was the same every night. The meat was tough, chicken was rubbery and the fish was greasy. The entertainment was below standards. The Beatles tribute band was embarrassing. It took us 3 hours to get off the ship in San Diego. Poor organization, poor security. This cruise was horrible, horrible, horrible. We will never sail with Holland again. Read Less
26 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We borrowed this line from the classic Queen hit because we have just crossed off another item from our bucket list. We have always wanted to make a complete Transit of the Panama Canal, so when Holland America Line (HAL) contacted us ... Read More
We borrowed this line from the classic Queen hit because we have just crossed off another item from our bucket list. We have always wanted to make a complete Transit of the Panama Canal, so when Holland America Line (HAL) contacted us about a repositioning cruise, off we went on the Nieuw Amsterdam! This was our 14th cruise, and our first time sailing in the Pacific. THE SHIP The Nieuw Amsterdam is one of the biggest ships in the HAL fleet and it is very well appointed without being ostentatious. As you might expect, it is very clean and tidy above decks and below. We found the ship layout very easy to navigate, and really appreciated the unobstructed Promenade Deck (3 times around = 1 mile). The ship seems to have a tendency to pitch quite a lot during weather. This is most noticeable on higher decks and up in the Crow’s Nest. She doesn’t seem to roll or yaw much at all, but the almost constant pitching during a relatively mild (Force 5) blow in the Pacific surprised even a few US Navy veterans with whom we ate dinner. TIP: if you suffer from sea-sickness perhaps you should consider taking an inside cabin on a lower deck. You won’t have much of a view, but at least you might avoid feeling queasy. THE ITINERARY Our main objective for this trip was to transit the Panama Canal, and we have to say that everything that came afterwards was rather an anticlimax. We visited a few places that we would like to visit again, but a few others that we sincerely hope we will never see again. See our port reviews - such is life (and travel)! THE CREW We have nothing but praise for the crew. HAL seems to recruit mostly for Indonesia (which was at one time the Dutch East Indies) and the Philippines with officers from the Netherlands. Every crewmember we spoke to was polite, friendly, helpful and happy. We tried to talk to as many crew as possible – officer, sailors, cleaners, hospitality staff – because they ALL have an interesting story to tell. They are a long way from their homes and from their families, but the crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam always manage to be upbeat and are very pleasant company. They are busy, but always seem able to find a few minutes to share a joke or a comment! We learned that many crewmembers are on their 7th or 8th contract with HAL, which is a good sign, because if they were not happy with the treatment they receive they would be unlikely to come back time and time again! They work hard – no doubt about it – and their hard work makes life as pleasant as possible for the passengers, so we wanted them to know how much we appreciate their efforts. Our cabin stewards (Sam and Sid) were excellent. They kept our cabin neat and tidy and were always a pleasure to talk to. They were very adept at creating little towel animals for our amusement, and some of their efforts were very creative indeed. We enjoyed speculating about which creature might be awaiting us when we turned in for the night. Nice touch: HAL places a little chocolate on each passenger’s bed during the nightly turn-down. We’ve sailed with other lines that used to do this (not naming names, but the line that uses a capital X as part of its logo) but have since removed this minor treat, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. Full marks to HAL for keeping a simple but much appreciated tradition alive! The Ship’s photographers are friendly, but not pushy, and the videographers created a very good DVD of our passage through the canal. FOOD We found no reasons to complain about the food in any of the restaurants onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. The Lido Market serves a range of interesting dishes from all over the world including Asia and Italy. It tends to get a bit hectic at times, especially when people are lining up to get served at the buffet stations. The Lido waiters are very efficient, always asking if you need tea, coffee, juice and always willing to fetch something from the buffet. The Tamarind restaurant has an interesting Asian-Fusion menu. We enjoyed the Jewels of the Sea soup, the Satay Selection, the Sashimi, and the Wasabi/Soy encrusted Beef Tenderloin. Desserts of Mango Cloud and Tamarind Chocolate were also delicious. The Tamarind serving staff are delightful, and service here is outstanding. The Pinnacle Grill fed us delicious halibut and a good steak that was served medium, although it was requested medium rare. It was still delicious, but we prefer to have our beef a little less cooked inside. Minor slip-up, and our waiter offered to replace the cut, but as we hate to waste food we enjoyed it anyway. The Lobster Bisque was very tasty, and the Lemon Soufflé dessert was an excellent finish to a great meal. Afternoon Tea in the MDR is a refined experience with different theme days (Dutch, English and Indonesian). It usually features neat little sandwiches, scones (with jam and cream) and cakes. We usually ate dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room (MDR) and never regretted any of our menu choices. The menu is always very inventive, although it does list some dishes that you might call standards every day for the less-adventurous diners (for example, salmon and strip-loin steak). Some people complain that service in the MDR is sometimes slow, but simple logistics provides an answer to this criticism. If there are just two diners at a table, the chefs and servers can deliver a course in much less time than it takes to organise food delivery for a table of 8! Tip: if you want a speedy dinner, just ask for a table for 2! While we found MDR dinner portions to be adequate and resulting in less food waste, those with heartier appetites may wish to order extra courses. We chose Open Dining at 6:00 p.m., so we sat on the lower level where we met some very interesting people every evening. The MDR is much less busy at the later seating, possibly because of the demographic (older people prefer an early dinner). TIP: the farthest reaches of both levels of the MDR overlook the ship’s wake, and this seems to upset some people in rough seas. Watching the horizon rise and fall can make some people feel queasy – if this affects you, tell the dining room crew. ENTERTAINMENT BB King’s Blues Club featured a very capable band, who treated us to a wide range of R&B and a few contemporary pieces, but we would have preferred to hear more blues classics. When they did play some Etta James, Albert King numbers they aced them all. This entertainment was a big attraction that helped us decide to take this HAL trip. In the Showroom at Sea we were entertained by an outstanding magician (Mark Haslam – still don’t know how he does it!), a juggler, comedian (Jamie Kennedy – very funny man), and an accomplished pianist. Song and dance shows featured on two nights, and these were very good indeed – we appreciated them because they added to the variety. The Philippine crew members gave a very good cultural show one afternoon and showed an amazing range of talent. The Piano Bar featured a very entertaining piano man (Mike) who played a good range of Golden Oldies. Cruise Director Hamish Davis is without doubt one of the best CDs we have ever met. He is not only very visible (not true of every CD) he is genuinely funny, and brings a light-hearted approach to every activity. We especially enjoyed his contributions to Team Trivia and Call My Bluff! Similarly host Eric (DJ, Pub Trivia, Deck Games) is a very entertaining person and we appreciated his company and his hard work. FELLOW PASSENGERS Other reviewers have commented on the demographics aboard HAL ships so we don’t really have much to add except to say that as early retirees we were among the youngest on board. Many passenger in this demographic need mobility aids, and we wondered how the crew would cope during a real emergency in the event of needing to evacuate the ship. A FEW PROBLEMS Embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was very smooth given the inevitable line-ups, but it was well co-ordinated. Disembarkation was not so efficient. It seemed to be rather chaotic – the capacity of our ship seemed to swamp the terminal facilities in San Diego, and the US Border Service decision to clear everyone on board before allowing anyone to disembark didn’t help matters. We realise that all shipping lines MUST obey the dictates of the US Border Service, but we think there are better ways to handle this. For example, on a Trans-Atlantic crossing on the QM2, a UK Border Agent cleared the passengers while we were at sea – much better idea! TIPS Bring jackets or wraps as the temperature varies widely in various public areas around the ship. Shelves in the cabin closets can tip up and latch at the back, allowing you to increase the amount of available hanger space. The shelves are designed to work in this way. If you need to use the mid-ship elevators, the glass ones on either side are much faster than the regular ones in the middle of the ship. If you have any problems or concerns, raise them with appropriate people (usually the Front Desk (Tel. 90)). They are very responsive, and take any complaints seriously. For example: we detected the smell of smoke in our cabin on a couple of mornings and reported this to the Front Desk. Dinelle came to our cabin, agreed that the smell was noticeable and promised to investigate. The problem occurred a few more times, and HAL eventually discovered the cause (ship’s incinerator, apparently). The problem did not recur. Full marks HAL and Dinelle. Smokers are allowed to poison themselves (and others) in three locations on board: on their balconies, on the starboard side of the Lido deck aft, and in the casino. You can avoid the cancer fumes in the casino and on the Lido deck by simply not going into these areas, but if you have a balcony cabin and your neighbours decide to puff away you might need to spend most of your time indoors! We don’t really understand this laxity from HAL. Smokers are in a minority, so why does the company not confine smoking cabins to just one small area of the ship? TIP: reaching the lower level (deck 2) of the Showroom at Sea requires a trip through the casino. Take a deep breath before you enter, and then make as quick a transit as possible, or go up to deck 3 and avoid the fumes altogether (of course you’ll need to descend the stairs in the Showroom if you prefer to sit at the lower level). Unfortunately, the croupiers who work in the casino have no option but to be exposed to death-dealing second-hand smoke. PORT REVIEWS We went ashore at every port of call, and took three excursions from the ship. CARTAGENA As this was really just a bunkering stop before our Panama Canal transit, we were allowed just 4 hours in port, which isn’t really enough time to see anything much. It’s a clean city, with a clear separation of Old Town and New Town. The cruise port terminal has a good shopping selection and bird exhibits. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). PUERTO CALDERA/PUNTA ARENAS (Costa Rica) We took the Punta Arenas on Your Own tour, and regretted it. The town is a squalid, gritty place with few if any attractions and those that exist were either closed or impossible to locate. The Museum was closed and the Aquarium was - somewhere – we’re not sure if anyone in our group managed to locate it. The dark-sand beach and the sea are uninviting and as you move away from the main drag the squalor rises exponentially. The heat and humidity combined to remove any vestiges of enjoyment you might have anticipated. Don’t waste your money on this tour – we sincerely hope HAL removes it from their itinerary. CORINTO (Nicaragua) The port has a typical tourist area stocked with typical tourist items, an unusual clock tower and another museum that was closed. Rather squalid with open sewers alongside the sidewalks, but not as dire as Punta Arenas. An interesting place for a brief walk around. PUERTO QUETZAL (Guatemala) An interesting industrial port that will appeal to ship lovers. There were several bulk carriers alongside discharging powdered coal (fuel for the power station) and about a dozen cargo vessels waiting in the roads. Not much more to write about the port itself, so if you decide to stay onboard you won’t miss much. The highlight was the Jade Museum (free entry). This is a very informative display and well worth a view. There is good entertainment in the terminal. PUERTO CHIAPAS (Mexico) Similar to Puerto Quetzal, but without the added interests of powdered coal and cargo ships. Not a great deal to do here if you haven’t booked a tour. Nice dockside entertainment from a percussion group. HUATULCO (Mexico) We took the half-day Bird Watching and Eco Tour and it was excellent! Our knowledgeable guide took us to several different ecosystems and we saw many species that were new to us. Huatulco is also a very clean, tidy place, devoid of litter and graffiti. The citizens are very environmentally conscious and take obvious pride in their town. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). If you choose not to take an excursion, there is a nice beach right in the port. PUERTO VALLARTA (Mexico) The port at this much-touted vacation spot seems to lack most of the amenities you’ll find in its Caribbean equivalents. We took an excursion to Las Caletas which was reasonably good and the resort did include a decent lunch. The waves and steep beach drop-off here combine to make swimming difficult – even for strong swimmers. There is a good range of water sports on offer, but you need to wear a life jacket in order to participate in any of them. CABO SAN LUCAS (Mexico) Another very neat and tidy place with excellent views. Walking ashore attracts the usual bothersome touts, but they are polite enough to take No for an answer. Worth a longer stay (in our opinion). Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
My husband and I have cruised many many times. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America. We always considered Holland America to be a notch above the rest in terms of elegance, service and food. Since the ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised many many times. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Holland America. We always considered Holland America to be a notch above the rest in terms of elegance, service and food. Since the price seems to reflect this, we only sail on Holland America for special occasions or special itineraries. We always said that when we did the Panama Canal, we would get a veranda on Holland America. When we booked a full year in advance, we were able to book a SY suite guarantee at a very attractive price compared to the verandah, so we did it. 8 of our friends also went and we had 5 cabins (everyone else was on deck 1 with inside or OV cabins.) We ended up in a SS category suite, cabin 6082, assigned 12 days prior to sailing. I'll start with the positives. The ship is beautiful. She was clean and well maintained. The New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) theme is great! Lots of vintage photos and "New Yorkie" decor. The public areas were all nice, and in good condition. The cabin is very nice. More on the cabin later. Chriz, the bartendress in the Ocean Bar was amazing! The entertainment was pretty good for the most part. Embarkation was a breeze for us, since we were in a suite. Slower for our friends, though, but not too awful bad. We waited for them, and it was about 15 minutes. Our cabins were ready when we got on board. Debarkation for us was a breeze, too (not many people disembarking that day). It was somewhat chaotic for our friends, which was probably due to some folks who held up immigration for at least an hour, making the rest of debarkation a frenzy, and also that is the day most passengers disembarked. (We stayed on the ship 4 more days than our friends.) Food and dining experience: The service was terrible in the dining facilities and the bars. We were able to secure a reserved table for ten after embarkation, so we all were able to have dinner together each evening in the MDR at the same table with the same staff. In the past, this always meant that your servers will get to know you, and your preferences. That didn't really happen till the cruise was almost over. At every meal at least one person (and usually more than one) at our table had the wrong item served. Once, when the wrong dinner was served, and a bite was already taken, the server removed the plate and tried to give it to the right person! With a bite already out of it! This actually happened at a lunch at a different table with a different server, too! Must be common. I had fish at the Mariner's lunch, and it was served to the wrong person, who decided to keep it, but the waiter tried to take it away and give it to me. Then my replacement came, and it was cold and mushy. My lobster on formal night was mushy, too! Yuk. And the filet mignon was inedible. It was less than a half inch thick and did not have a real meat consistency. Most of the dining room food was pretty bad. There were a few decent items at the Lido, but the same things day after day after day. And it was difficult at best to get a glass of water, or a dirty plate removed in the Lido. The best food on the ship was by far the Dive-In. And that is so sad that on a cruise ship, one would be reduced to preferring hamburgers, hot dogs and fries to anything else on board. They were really good, though! We had room service for breakfast almost every day. The food was pretty good and usually delivered 15 minutes PRIOR to our selected time (I'm ok with that, though) except one time when the card was never picked up. The omelet was not good, but if you like eggs over medium, they did that perfectly every time! And a bran muffin every day keeps things moving along, if you know what I mean. We tried The Crow's Nest for happy hour the first two nights, but soon learned that with the trivia going on, it was not the place to have a few nice quiet cocktails before dinner, even if you could get served, which you could not. We started going to the Ocean Bar for happy hour, but soon started calling it "happy HALF hour", as it always took a good 30 minutes to get the first drink. So, we started going up to the bar to get the first round, which is where we found Chriz, a wonderful bartendress, who knew our names and drinks after the first time ordered, and always had our mixers waiting for us when we got there. Chriz is a sweet girl, and very efficient in the bar. Her co-bartender, Vol Taire, is a great bartender, too! Between the two of them, they could crank out some drinks! We stayed at the bar for the entire happy hour after our friends disembarked. It was fascinating watching Chriz and Vol Taire at work! Cabin 6082: This SS category cabin is very nice. It is spacious, with plenty of storage, and the showers were large with excellent water pressure! The cabin is right next to the glass elevator. This was never an issue, as there is absolutely no way for someone on the elevator to see into the cabin. They can see a lot of the balcony, though, but they are going by pretty fast, and most people are either looking out to sea, or toward the elevator doors, anyhow, so not looking onto balconies. We never noticed noise from the elevator gathering area, either. This cabin is basically right in the middle of the ship (front to back, and top to bottom), making it convenient to get anywhere quickly and easily. It is just a few short steps to the "private" glass elevator, which usually came right to us whenever we needed it, even during peak elevator times...it's like no one knows about it, lol! The cabin steward was nice (and I say cabin steward because we never - on a 19 night cruise, mind you - never met the second one) but he seemed to have too many cabins. When we first got to our cabin, there was a plastic grocery bag stuffed into one of the drawers. This bag had some brown stuff in it - I am going to say it was melted chocolate, because the thought of it being anything else is making me gag. Two of the drawers were broken (the front was hanging off on one side) but after three days of leaving them open in the hopes the steward would have them fixed, I just went ahead and fixed them myself (MacGyver style) with some duct tape I brought along (you never know when you are going to need that stuff!) There were several areas in the cabin that have never been dusted: the top shelves in the bathroom and at the desk, and the desk around the lamp, and the cover of the storage stool. There was a sticky spill on the coffee table when we arrived, which I finally washed off before our "Panama Passage" party. Also, I believe suites are supposed to have fresh flowers. We never got any, but since they bring a little bud vase with breakfast room service, and apparently, never take them away, we ended up with quite a few flowers, anyway. Ha! We bribed our room steward into bringing us some extra ice for the panama canal passage party we had, and he brought us a wine chilling bucket full! Then he filled it up with ice every day after that for the remainder of the cruise! Too bad the ice was usually melted by the time we got back to our cabin each time. Like I said, he was nice. He made us a different towel animal every day. Note: I have read many complaints regarding the placement of the TV in this cabin. It has been moved! It is now on the wall across from the bed, and it is huge, but there is no DVD player. Repeat, NO DVD player...just FYI. Quite a few movies to choose from on the interactive TV. Not many shows or live TV channels, though. But, hey, we weren't there to watch TV, right? Entertainment: Hamish, the cruise director, was cute as could be. The entertainment was usually really good! A good variety of talent at the show each night. There was one comedian who wasn't that great, and once he got heckled he pretty much couldn't handle it and it was pretty awkward after that. But other than that, a really great show each night. Also, the BB King Blues Club band was phenomenal! Also, there was a violinist in the Explorer's Lounge each evening as we left dinner. We never saw the show, as we were at dinner, but he seemed to have a good crowd every night and what I did hear as we walked by was very good. One of the people in our group went to the Piano Bar each night, and loved it, but someone else in our group said the piano man kept changing the words to the songs and it was irritating. I had heard that the Screening Room showed current first run movies. I only saw one, Brooklyn, which was good. The rest of the time, they were either 1) Panama Canal Documentaries (which you couldn't get in because everyone wanted to see them and there are only about twenty seats in there) or 2)older movies or 3)movies you could see in your room or 4)movies I've never heard of. Ports and Shore excursions: All were good and I'll review them individually elsewhere. Note: In Guatemala, every shore excursion was to Antiqua. We chose to take a cab over to San Jose, which is about a mile West of the port, instead. This was a drive through a poor, undeveloped, dirty sad little town. We were afraid to get out of the cab. It was, however, an interesting hour and only cost twenty bucks in cab fare, so I'm glad we did it. Note: Victoria is a good place to do on your own if the weather is nice. The whole city is pretty much walking distance to the ship and beautiful and clean and well marked and they give you a map and everything! We caught a free shuttle back to the ship cause my feet hurt. A free shuttle provided by the city, I guess. It was a big orange double decker. Free! Cruise overall: Food and service were disappointing, ship, cabin and ports were great! I will think twice before booking on Holland America again, as we no longer consider it a notch above other lines, due to the service and food. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
This was a position changing cruise through the Panama Canal. It's very popular with Vancouver residents going both ways. It was our second cruise and we were worried about it's length. It was no problem it became a second ... Read More
This was a position changing cruise through the Panama Canal. It's very popular with Vancouver residents going both ways. It was our second cruise and we were worried about it's length. It was no problem it became a second home for us. The ship was very impressive clean combined with excellent service in all departments. I have read some of the other reviews and it is as if they were on a different cruise. The activities we got involved with on the cruise were Microsoft Windows 10 ( I am converted), Pools, sauna, trivial pursuit in crows nest bar during happy hour, and walking on the promenade deck. The service was excellent from the room stewards, dining room staff, front desk staff, bar tenders and wine stewards. This was a happy ship and it showed through it’s staff. I don’t know how they do it but they remembered our names and room number throughout the cruise. They even remembered you favorite cocktail at happy hour. We arranged most of our excursions through contacts we made in the roll call for this cruise on Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic was a huge plus in helping us to make new friends before even boarding the ship. These excursions were limited to 12 people and the benefit of this was made clear on the one excursion we made with HAL where the bus was held up for an hour when one of the 50 passengers on the bus disappeared at tours end. Cabin upkeep was excellent and timely with the ice bucket topped up twice a day. We were lucky we had no smokers in the vicinity. I heard a number of horror stories about cigar and cigarette smoke wafting in from adjacent balconies. I am hoping HAL revisits this problem and bans smoking all together. We had open reservation for dining but ended up booking the same table, in the Manhattan Dining Room, for dinner most nights. Breakfast and lunch was usually at the Lido, which was pretty crowded, but the food, in general, was excellent. We ate at the three speciality restaurants and the food was worth the extra money. Entertainment was good, we just walked out when it didn’t suit us. The show time with the ships dancers was excellent but they were only on twice during the cruise. Really enjoyed the piano bar and the sing along each night. One good idea was the couple of times they moved it up to the Crows Nest bar. Disembarkation in Vancouver was flawless. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We had a wonderful cruise. A Panama Canal transit was on our "bucket" list - we enjoyed every minute of our 19 day cruise. Dining: our booking included dinner in each of the 3 specialty restaurants. Tamarind was our ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise. A Panama Canal transit was on our "bucket" list - we enjoyed every minute of our 19 day cruise. Dining: our booking included dinner in each of the 3 specialty restaurants. Tamarind was our favorite of the 3. Canaletto was average, Pinnacle was good, but we felt the upcharges there were too steep. We loved the burger place on lido for lunch as well as the pizza. We had several breakfasts & dinners in the MDR. We felt service, quality & presentation were very good. Lido for breakfast or lunch was good, but at dinner the food looked over cooked and held in the warmers too long. Crew: every crew member we encountered was friendly, helpful & a pleasure to interact with. Even though the crew seemed over worked, they still did their duties with a smile & pleasant attitudes. Ship: she was clean & in good condition. We liked the décor and enjoyed the amenities. Ports: we loved them all. Laundry: we purchased the "unlimited" laundry pkg & felt it was well worth the money. Everything came back the next day neatly folded or on hangers. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Wanted to visit certain Central American countries listed and also travel through the Panama Canal. This cruise seemed to fit the bill. We have travelled extensively around the world but had not used HAL before. Over all, the cruise ... Read More
Wanted to visit certain Central American countries listed and also travel through the Panama Canal. This cruise seemed to fit the bill. We have travelled extensively around the world but had not used HAL before. Over all, the cruise never really exceeds a standard of OK which is disappointing given the price tag. Food had been distinctly better on other cruise lines and the rigmarole of queueing up every single time for anything due to the layout of the dining area, made meal time a chore. When you consider that the recommended tipping for a 15 day cruise is 375 dollars it's difficult to justify. Ship excursions are best avoided as they represent little value for money, a far better experience to be had by using one of the numerous local firms that are lined up at each port and save yourself around 70% each time on ship prices. Disembarkation time at San Diego was confirmed as 07:00. Turns out that this crucial piece of information was incorrect and for some reason thought it best not to tell the guests until half way through the cruise. The actual time of 09:00 meant we would miss our onward flight and of course incur a financial penalty to change to a later time. Listening to passengers discussing the surprise new time of 09:00 during the fiasco that was disembarkation, It was obvious that many more were missing connections also. Despite clearly being at fault by supplying incorrect information, HAL refuse to acknowledge their error (despite being in black and white) and refund the penalty I have incurred. Very much a case of we have your money, tough luck. We have had some excellent cruises in the past, notably Royal Caribbean. I heartily recommend them and from now on will only use them. Overall recommendation for Holland America? Avoid at all cost!!!! Customer service in this day and age should not be this appalling. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Cruising the Panama Canal had always been on my bucket list and a year a go decided to book it with our friends. We chose this ship because it came back all the way to Seattle which is close to home. This was our 20th cruise and the 9th ... Read More
Cruising the Panama Canal had always been on my bucket list and a year a go decided to book it with our friends. We chose this ship because it came back all the way to Seattle which is close to home. This was our 20th cruise and the 9th with Holland America. While we liked the itinerary and the ship is beautiful the service and dining in the main dining room and the lido was poor. I cannot say enough good things about the Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto, and the Tamarind. All 3 offered superior menus and the food was well presented and very good. Would rate them 5 stars. The main dining room did not have a good selection on the menu unless you like duck, veal, and lamb. Several nights the only thing I could order was the Chicken selection. What I did order was good but just not enough to choose from. Also the helpings were very small. On the first Gala night I ordered the steak and shrimp. My steak was about 4 bites, not joking, and 2 tiny shrimp on top. The amount of time to get served and eat dinner would be one hour one night but nearly 2 hours the next. no consistency in the service. After a few nights we decided to eat in the lido and specialty restaurants. The Lido was the same food at lunch and dinner with changing out the meat. Everything was fried, dry tasting and just not very appealing. They did have Asian food available which my friends said was very good and a wonderful salad bar. The service in the dining room and Lido was by far the worse of any cruise I have been on. In general, the waiters in both areas seem to just be going through the motions. Nothing like I have experienced on my other Holland America cruises which all had wonderful service. In the LIdo no waiter asked if you wanted coffee or water. You had to get it yourself or ask them. I had 2 encounters with wait staff about clearing a table so we could sit at the table. both waiters acted like it wasn't something they needed to do but did do it although not happy about it. Completely amazed at the bad service as Holland America is known for its service. The Dive In (hamburgers and hotdogs) is outstanding and we ended up here eating lunch many times. Also The New York Pizza was very good and also open during the dinner hour. Embarkation and disembarkation went well. Cabin was nice, we had a balcony cabin on deck 5. We loved the location. Our cabin steward kept everything looking great. Entertainment was average. Went to a couple of shows but pretty much the same as all cruise ship entertainment. Ports and shore excursions were good. Our favorite was the coffee plantation in Guatemala which included lunch. I would not do this cruise again even on a different ship. While I enjoyed the ports, shore excursions and seeing Central America, it is a once in a lifetime trip for me. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We have been on another Holland America cruise ship that went to Alaska and liked it so much we decided to take the Nieuw Amsterdam through the Panama Canal. It was exciting because this was the maiden voyage for the ship to pass ... Read More
We have been on another Holland America cruise ship that went to Alaska and liked it so much we decided to take the Nieuw Amsterdam through the Panama Canal. It was exciting because this was the maiden voyage for the ship to pass through the canal! The service and staff was excellent. Our cabin steward was very attentive to us and took exceptional care to make us feel special. Our room was clean and comfortable. Holland America has this figured out to a "t". Their services think of everything we might need. We took numerous excursions and they were all well coordinated and informative. We were concerned about a 90 minutes bus ride to see the Mayan site, but it enabled us to see the countryside and culture of Guatamala. Our guide, Cora, was exceptional. She was open to our questions and was very knowledgeable. All of the other excursions were well worth the money we paid. We will definitely travel again with Holland America. Being a person who loves to learn about new cultures, this was an A Ticket ride! Read Less
Nieuw Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.5 0.0
Public Rooms 4.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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