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331 Holland America Caribbean Cruise Reviews

At the port we were greeted very nicely and had a gentlemen that did our paperwork that was very nice and patient. The embarkation went smoothly got our stateroom cards then hop on the ship! We had a guaranteed partial view balcony and it ... Read More
At the port we were greeted very nicely and had a gentlemen that did our paperwork that was very nice and patient. The embarkation went smoothly got our stateroom cards then hop on the ship! We had a guaranteed partial view balcony and it was ok. Next time I will prefer a full view balcony but the price was right. There is a lot of storage space everything was well appointed. I found that the toilet in the bathroom was set in a awkward manner since it's on an angle. The shower though was large and loved the glass door. We then met our stewarts that were going out of their way to help us. We then headed to the Ocean Bar for a glass of champagne. We had the elite beverage package and found that for us it was worth its price. Jose the bartender at the Ocean Bar is fantastic. All of the cocktails were made with attention and were very good. Then off to the adult pool and the pool bar and there we started our voyage. There was a very good vibe there also. Then off the Main Dining Room. All of our servers were excellent all through the week. The food at the Main Dining Room was very very good all the time. We did go to the Specialty restaurants Canalletto and found that it was not worth the extra money spent. I also have the same opinion with Tamarin but it was better. On our voyage the seas were rough but the captain travelled behind the Bahamas and could not stop at Half Moon Key. Captain O'Driscoll is Excellent very prudent and was out on the pier in Grand Turk to salute all the guess. The Music scene is great. BB King Blues Band was excellent, Billboard on Board, Rolling Stone Rock were awesome, I was impressed. We also had good times in the Crows Nest with EXP and the vision was beautiful. We did take an excursion of the ship and it was very nice. (Puerto Plata and Cabarete Beach). The Dutch Café was my morning RDV, Andre and Kessidy were always very nice and enjoyable to start the morning. Sunshines! Where there was some downfalls in my personnal opinion was how short the time lap was for having breakfast and Lunch at the MDR. I was turned away a few times. It is more quiet during the afternoon not as much entertainment. The theatre is a bit small for the amount of people on the ship. Service was sometimes a bit slow at the Aft Pool Bar. We attented the dance shows at the Theatre and they were beautiful. By the way we had a slowed disembarkation because of the testing on one individual by the government of Florida but that was beautifully taken care of. All in All a great cruise with many many great Qualities and some small downfalls. Read Less
Sail Date March 2020
I booked this cruise later than I usually do, about three months out, so I didn't get any "freebies" but the price wasn't to bad for a new ship. The New Statendam is the largest, newest ship I've ever travelled on ... Read More
I booked this cruise later than I usually do, about three months out, so I didn't get any "freebies" but the price wasn't to bad for a new ship. The New Statendam is the largest, newest ship I've ever travelled on and there were lots of pros and a few cons. First of all, the ship is absolutely gorgeous, the service and food were outstanding. My cabin stewards were some of the friendliest and hardworking I've had in nine cruises. The evening music entertainment was great, something for everyone - classical, BB Kings, rock bank and dueling pianos were all wonderful. The first dance show "Humanity" was amazing with the 270 LED panels that were as much a part of the show as the dancers. The second dance show was also good, but I don't think it was good as the first show. There was a comedian that was somewhat funny, a magician that I didn't see and a BBC Earth movie (no live musical accompany). I had anytime dining for dinner and I only went to the dining room three times, food was very good and service was sometimes a bit slow. The lido was great with tons of options and great food ( the only thing I missed was a taco bar as the last two HAL ships had one at lunch). Dive In was wonderful as always I still don't love the pizza at New York (bagels in the morning were very good) Now for the cons- for some dumb reason, HAL has not renewed their contract with America's Test Kitchen - so no live cooking demos and no ATK shows on the TV. We were very lucky that Rudy Sodoman was on board and did a live cooking class in the main stage that was fantastic. Other than trivia (which was great), and overpriced Bingo there wasn't much to do during the day. HAL isn't known for constant activities, but there seems to be less and less free things to do during sea days. I was travelling solo, so I booked an inside room. The room was spotless, but tiny, mostly bed. The bathroom was also very small but the shower was awesome. It was fine for one person, but I think it would be tight for two people, although storage was good. The ship was pretty easy to get around, but the number of people meant sometimes a wait for the elevators and the lido could get pretty crowded at peak times. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
HAL WITH KIDS FOR DUMMIES - Our cruise aboard the Niew Statendam We are a family of 4, including 2 young children, and we just returned from a cruise aboard the Niew Statendam. It is because Holland America may not be the first cruise ... Read More
HAL WITH KIDS FOR DUMMIES - Our cruise aboard the Niew Statendam We are a family of 4, including 2 young children, and we just returned from a cruise aboard the Niew Statendam. It is because Holland America may not be the first cruise line that families with young children would consider for a cruise vacation the main reason why I wish to share our experience. When I was researching this cruise, it was at times a bit hard to find information that pertained to kids, so I hope that this thread is helpful to other families who may be considering a cruise on Holland America. BACKGROUND I'll start by giving a bit of information about us, simply to provide some perspective. Mom and Dad are in our 40’s and our kids are 8 and 10 year old. We got our kids (addicted to) cruising when they were still toddlers. Our daughter’s first cruise was actually on Holland America when she was 15 months old. Since then, they’ve cruise 11 times across 5 different cruise lines, from Alaska, to Cuba, to the Mediterranean, and to places in between. Raising a young family, we’ve sailed mostly on family friendly cruise lines like Disney, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Carnival. We’ve tremendously enjoyed every cruise we’ve taken. Needless to say, those cruise lines cater heavily to an energetic, younger crowd, with tons of activities for children, even late into the evening. But when it was time to plan our next cruise during our kid’s mid-winter break, I came across this itinerary on Holland America and it automatically caught my attention. First, I’d be visiting three ports that I hadn’t been to before; Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, and Amber Cove, in addition to Key West (which I love). Second, this itinerary was aboard a brand new ship (which I’m a fool for). Third, it had a “kids sail free” promotion. After comparing pricing with other cruise lines, even more budget minded ones, we learned that cruising on the Niew Statendam would cost at least $1,000 less than the closest competitor. Even though I was a bit hesitant about sailing on a cruise line that’s not traditionally considered family friendly, I decided to book it and hope for the best. PRE-CRUISE We flew to Florida the afternoon before our cruise. After comparing airfare between FLL, MIA, and PBI, we realized that we could save considerably (both on airfare and hotel) by flying into PBI, so that was our choice. It was actually nice to fly into a fairly small and uncrowded airport, at least compared to the other 2 options. We spent the night at the Embassy Suites by the airport and then took the Brightline (soon to be Virgin) train down to Fort Lauderdale the following morning, which was an absolutely wonderful decision. Not only was it fun, but it took us 37 minutes to get there. From the moment you arrive at the train station, the entire experience is sleek and modern. A great way to begin our vacation. CHECK IN Our ship was docked at Terminal 26 in Port Everglades, and we planned our arrival to coincide with the recommended time printed on our paperwork, which was 1:00pm. When we got there, the line was out the door, and once inside, it looked like a line at a Disney ride, exactly the type of experience we were trying to avoid by sailing on HAL! But the line moved very quickly, and within a few minutes we were at the front of the line. I did notice that we were the last people standing in line at that particular time, so it seems like we just happened to have bad timing with our arrival time within this batch of passengers. But overall, no complaints with the check in process. Everything went smoothly and efficiently at the hands of very courteous port employees. Our kids were given bright orange plastic wristbands with their muster stations printed on them. THE SHIP Niew Statendam is indisputably a beautiful, tasteful, and well planned ship! I had read several reviews from many HAL loyal customers who didn’t like the direction that HAL has taken with the Pinnacle class of ships, but I personally considered it to be perfectly executed. It had the feel of a modern ship, while still maintaining HAL’s more traditional feel and ambiance. I considered this ship the perfect way to tie the HAL of the past with the HAL of the future, opening the door to a new generation of HAL cruisers like us. We loved the music theme throughout the ship, reflected in the various pieces of art. Contrary to our previous HAL cruise on the Westerdam, which we found gloomy, with garish art that left us scratching our heads, the Niew Statendam felt airy and tasteful, with cohesive and pleasing music themed art. STATEROOM After a lot of consideration weighing the pros and cons, we booked stateroom 4135; a VH category obstructed view verandah stateroom on Beethoven deck. The pros? It was $800 cheaper than a fully unobstructed verandah. Because it was the first VH balcony on that section, we had a decent not fully obstructed view, the balcony was considerably larger and angled, and we had a midship location fairly close to elevators. The cons? It still had a partially blocked view, it had a connecting door (which means you can sometimes hear your neighbors) and the stateroom was located above public venues. But all the pros definitely outweighed the cons (some which turned out to be non-issues), so we were very satisfied with our decision. We didn’t have any noise issues (very quiet and well insulated), and even when the seas got a bit choppy, our midship location on a lower deck provided a smooth ride. We loved the larger, angled balcony which we used considerably, and we were still able to enjoy the views even with the partial obstruction. We considered our stateroom a hidden, more affordable gem. Compared to other cruise lines we’ve sailed on, this balcony stateroom was small for a family of 4. With the upper bunk (over the bed) down, and the single sleeper sofa open, it was tight. My wife hit her head with the bunk getting up from the bed one morning which brought her to tears. But it was a beautiful, tastefully appointed stateroom. Large wall mounted flat screen TV, plenty of storage, and a bathroom with one of the best, most spacious and powerful showers I’ve had on any cruise. We just had to be very disciplined about keeping things stowed and tidy to avoid feeling too cluttered. Elemis toiletries were provided which smelled wonderfully. The interactive TV packed a lot of content. Free movies (including a selection for kids), live TV, information about dining venues including menus, daily programming for Club HAL, port information, and the ability to check our onboard statement. NAVIGATOR APP We downloaded the navigator app on our phones, which basically replaces the paper When & Where. It was neat to click on favorites and have a condensed list of activities only containing our favorites. It was also neat to look ahead and basically plan all activities for the entire week. We liked getting alerts a few minutes prior to selected favorite activities. We also liked the chat function which works like texting and which allowed family members to keep in touch. Only drawback is that it doesn’t give you any type of alert when you’ve received a message, so you have to periodically check your phone. The lack of alerts is not something that’s specific to HAL. That’s how the system works on all cruise lines we’ve sailed on with this feature. Main difference is that the chat is free on HAL, while other cruise lines charge you for its use. A DIFFERENT SAIL AWAY When we’ve sailed on other cruise lines, we are usually out on deck during sail away. It’s usually loud, with thumping music, the entertainment team with microphones, urging everyone to dance, there’s some sort of performance on stage, sometimes with the cruise line’s mascot or characters, and waiters are handing out “drink of the day on souvenir cups” to unsuspecting passengers who grab them before realizing that they are not free. It’s not the same on Holland America. The main pool deck was, most of the time, blissfully quiet and serene. So on this particular sailing, we did something quite different. We learned that religious services (Catholic mass) would be performed by the onboard priest right at 5:00pm on this Sunday. So that’s what we did during sail away. We were at mass as the ship started moving, and it felt right to begin the cruise this way. It set the tone for the rest of the week. A second non-denominational service was performed following mass. CLUB HAL AND OTHER KID FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES After sail away, we decided to check out the Club HAL facilites, and figure out once and for all what our children could truly expect. On this ship, there wouldn’t be water slides, surf simulators, children’s pools, cartoon characters doing meet and greets, children parades throughout the ship, children themed stage entertainment, character breakfasts, or children facilities spanning half the length of the ship. What we encountered were modern, nicely appointed and welcoming facilities tucked away on deck 10, with large TV’s, gaming consoles, and foosball tables. Needless to say, the facilities were considerably smaller than on other cruise lines, but for the number of children that sail on Holland America, they were more than adequate. Hours varied slightly from port days and sea days, but typically they’d be open from 8:00am to 11:30am, then from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and finally between 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Hours and activities for each day could be accessed from the interactive TV in our stateroom. Even though the club closed at 11:00pm, counselors encouraged us to pick our kids up by 10:00pm, as the last hour was usually more of a “wind down, quiet” hour. Quite different from previous cruises like Disney, where you could go to the kids club at midnight and the club would still be jam packed with kids completely wired. Check in is done “the old fashioned” way, by signing them in and out on a piece of paper. No computerized systems or wristband tracking devices like on other lines. There were 3 counselors staffing the kids club. From them, we learned that on our particular sailing, there were only 110 passsengers aged 3-17 onboard (out of 2,600 passengers). We also learned that this number was actually high, and that there are weeks when the number of kids onboard is in the single digits (depending on itinerary, time of year, and if kids are out of school). Our kids were in the 7-12 age group, and it seemed to be the group with the “most” kids in attendance. We never saw any teens 13-17 use the adjoining teen facilities. Every night, the same 15-20 kids in the 7-12 age group would be at the club, which meant that all of them became fast friends. This turned out to be an unexpected plus, and a definite advantage over other cruise lines. Normally, on lines like Disney, Royal and Carnival, there are SO many kids onboard (sometimes measured in the thousands), that it makes it chaotic, overcrowded, as well as harder to make friends when there are so many kids congregated in these facilities. On a particular sailing on Carnival during a school break that we cruised on, there were so many kids onboard that they had to use conference rooms as overflow space, and even then, they were tightly packed. Not remotely the case on this HAL cruise! On the Niew Statendam, our kids begged to go to the club every night specifically because they wanted to hang out with their new friends. They created their own play dates, agreed on meeting times, they’d run into each other ashore and get excited, and at the end of the cruise, they hugged and exchanged information with promises to stay in touch. That alone was more valuable than anything that an oversized kid program could ever provide. They had a chance to make real friends. One observation that my wife and I made is that overall, children on this sailing were considerably better behaved, educated, and well mannered than what we’ve encountered on other cruise lines, when sometimes it’s a free for all, with hordes of children roaming the ship unattended and terrorizing other passengers. On this sailing, we never saw children unattended, and most seemed to be traveling with parents and grandparents, all adjusting well to the more adult atmosphere. Outside of the kids club, there weren’t many (if any) activities that were children specific. But that didn’t mean that children didn’t have anything to do. The sports court on deck 11 was a second favorite place for them to frequent, and this is where we saw some of the teenagers, playing an impromptu game of basketball. The main pool with a retractable roof and three large hot tubs was also popular with families onboard, but the only time when I found it to be truly crowded was during prime hours on our 2 sea days. We also took our children to a few performances at Lincoln Center Stage during the day which they enjoyed more than I expected, and which piqued their interest in classical music and even raised the possibility of learning to play a music instrument. In our stateroom, we had a large selection of free movies, including a children’s movie category. Normally we wouldn’t spend much time in our stateroom, but without feeling the pressure of too many activities, we actually spent some afternoons just watching a movie as a family and relaxing, which felt amazing. STAGE ENTERTAINMENT The main theatre on this ship is The World Stage; an interesting, high-tech semi-circular theatre with floor to ceiling LED screens covering 270 degrees of the theatre, and with excellent acoustics. It’s not what people who prefer a traditional theatre setting would like, but I personally loved it. Unfortunately, I found the actual entertainment lacking. I may have become biased in favor of far more elaborate, mesmerizing, professional, and high tech performances now found on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and MSC which include aquatic and ice shows, partnerships with companies like Cirque du Soleil, and full Broadway productions. On the Niew Statendam, the main entertainment on 3 nights consisted of either a (rather bland) magic show, a comedy show, or a combination of both. On other nights, the main show was simply a BBC Planet Earth movie (which was impressive when played on the LED screens, but it was not a live performance show). A woman in front of me exited the theatre irate, huffing and complaining to her husband that she couldn’t believe that the show for the night was a 30 minute movie about sea animals. That left 2 nights for performances by the Step One Dance Company, one called Humanity and one called Resonance. The group consisted of 6 contemporary dancers, performing assisted by multi-media, high tech LED screens and recorded music. We first saw Humanity, which my wife and I attended while the kids were at the kids club. We actually LOVED this show. The dancing was good, but when combined with the upbeat music and mind boggling visuals, it created an amazing show. It showcased the strengths of the World Stage. It was good enough for a standing ovation from the packed theatre, something that I don’t see too often after a cruise ship performance. We enjoyed it so much that we took our kids to see the second show that same night after we picked them up from the kids club, and they loved it as well. Unfortunately, the second show, Resonance, wasn’t nearly as good. In fact, it was painful to watch. At some point, we noticed that people were actually getting up and leaving the theatre. We tried to finish watching the entire show, hoping that it would get better, but we gave up as well. We quietly exited the theatre in between songs. Thankfully we were seated towards the back. OTHER ENTERTAINMENT The main source of entertainment on this ship outside of the Word Stage is located along Music Walk, with various types of music. Lincoln Center Stage, BB Kings Blues, Rolling Stones Rock Room, and Billboard. As mentioned before, we attended several Lincoln Center Stage performances and they were absolutely phenomenal. Unfortunately, we only enjoyed the music at the others venues in passing, but what we witnessed was great as well. The Rolling Stones Rock room seemed to attract the largest crowds. There’s also a smallish casino, which allows smoking. We didn’t use it, but we didn’t find the smoke smell to be too overpowering when we had to cross through it to get to the World Stage. We also attended an “Ask the Captain” meet at the World Stage which we thoroughly enjoyed. Captain Neil O’Driscoll narrated while he played a slide show on the LED screens of various behind the scenes aspects of this ship. I must say that he’s one of the most charismatic and well spoken Captains I’ve ever encountered. The presentation was very enjoyable, and when the time came for actual questions, he truly engaged with each person, paying special attention to the children who asked rather intelligent and well thought out questions. GREENHOUSE SPA We purchased a week pass for the Greenhouse Spa which gave us access to the Thalassotherapy pool, relaxation area with heated tile loungers, and various thermal rooms. We paid $219 for a couples pass by purchasing it online before the cruise, which was the right choice because it was being sold onboard for $299. We thoroughly enjoyed these facilities. They were never too crowded, and we could always find an open tiled lounger. The previous time that we had access to a thermal area was the previous year aboard the MSC Meraviglia which had wonderful facilities at their Aurea Spa, but which was way too crowded most of the time, hindering our enjoyment when we couldn’t even find where to sit. Not the case on the Niew Statendam. At certain times during the day we had the place all to ourselves. It was truly relaxing to spend some time there, specially after a long day ashore. DINING Overall, we considered the cuisine on this ship to be far superior to the cuisine on any other cruise line that we’ve recently sailed on. Very little to complain about, and we never encountered anything that we didn’t like. HAL’s Culinary Council of renowned chefs definitely delivered. We ate at the Dining Room on 3 nights, including the Gala Night. In addition to the food, we found this restaurant to be very eye pleasing and classy. We had open time dining, and upon learning that reservations were recommended, we figured out too late that our only options were either 5:00pm or 8:30pm. We just went as early as possible and were accommodated right away at a table for 4. For breakfast and lunch, we ate mostly at the Lido buffet. Normally we are not big fans of buffets, partly because the food tends to be mediocre and partly because we hate the chaos, with passengers (some with questionable hygiene practices) touching all the serving utensils, but on the Niew Statendam, we found the lido food to be very enjoyable. We were also pleased to see that most food is served by the lido staff, rather than having passengers self-serve which was not only more hygienic, but it also controlled the amount of food served, which many times ends up wasted when people over serve themselves. We also purchased a dinner package which included Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill. We brought the kids with us to Canaletto as a special treat since it was my daughter’s birthday. Our daughter ordered from the kids menu which is free, and our son ordered from the regular menu, which we were told would cost 1/2 the adult price, but they never charged us for his meal. We had an enjoyable dinner, although the service was a bit lacking. My main complaint about Canaletto was its location. It shares space with the lido buffet, which makes it feel less special, and it’s also loud with people entering and exiting the area, as well as clanging metal from kitchen equipment nearby. One night we decided to have dinner at the New York Deli and Pizza. We ordered Caesar salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. Everything is made to order so they give you a pager while you wait. We truly enjoyed having a super casual evening sitting at our table overlooking the pool area. Very relaxing. For our last night onboard, my wife and I attended the Pinnacle Grill. This meal was, without a doubt, the highlight of the cruise, and the perfect way to finish our vacation. The ambiance was perfect, our waiter was very attentive, and the food was superb. Both of us ordered the 10oz filet mignon, paired with bernaise sauce, and it was truly one of the best, most succulent steaks I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. We both had the key lime pie for dessert, and we both agreed that it was the best dessert we had all week. PORTS OF CALL As mentioned at the beginning of this review, a big deciding factor to take this cruise was the itinerary. We’d never visited 3 out of the 4 ports visited, so here’s what we did: - Half Moon Cay: We’d read many times that this port of call has one of the most beautiful beaches of all the private islands in the Bahamas, and it truly lived up to the hype. Not only was it beautiful, but it was unspoiled and uncrowded. People do tend to congregate closer to the beginning of the strip, but by walking a couple extra hundred feet, we had the beach to ourselves. We rented a clamshell but I think we would’ve been OK without it. There was enough shade. We had some drinks at the pirate ship shaped bar which also had great views from its upper deck. We decided not to eat at the buffet provided ashore so I can’t comment on that. Overall, we had a relaxing and blissful day at Half Moon Cay. - Grand Turk: I looked hard at excursions and what to do in Grand Turk, and I just couldn’t find anything that truly appealed to me, so we decided to reserve a Margaritaville pool cabana for the day and just relax at the Welcome Center. It was nice to have a place where to be, and to have food and drinks delivered to us while the kids enjoyed the pool. Overall, the entire welcome center and pool area didn’t look or feel crowded. It was pretty relaxed, and only 3 pool cabanas had been rented out. Our waiter was very courteous, attentive and friendly, and since he attended to us all day, after a while we started chatting about our personal lives and life in Grand Turk in general. I asked him how different this place was with one Holland America ship visiting vs when there are multiple ships from other cruise lines. He said that it’s a completely different experience, and that we should be glad that we got to experience Grand Turk the way we did, aboard Holland America. Not surprisingly, he said that when they have two ships (from more family friendly lines) visiting at the same time, the welcome center is absolutely insane. The pool is packed, and the atmosphere is chaotic and raucous. So I’m glad that I had the opportunity to experience this place the way we did. They also had a Flowrider (surf simulator), and our son begged to participate. For $39, he could get a 90 minute shared session with 6 participants. When I realized that most of the other people who had signed up for a session were the friends he’d met at Club HAL, I felt that the right thing to do was to let him join in the fun. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and watching these kids cheer each other on as each one took his turn was worth every single dollar . - Amber Cove: We were in port with the Carnival Conquest this day. Similar to Grand Turk, Amber Cove has a welcome center, but the list of activities and excursions in the area is considerably more extensive. We decided to book a 2 hour Panoramic Puerto Plata excursion that would be easy for the children. It was indeed a very easy excursion. As we drove to the city of Puerto Plata, our tour guide provided tidbits of information about life in the Dominican Republic. Our first stop was the city’s town square, where the San Felipe Cathedral is located. We were funneled with other tours into a souvenir store for about 20 minutes, and then we walked around the town square and proceeded inside the Cathedral afterwards. We then boarded the bus and drove along the beach. Even by the driver’s own admission, it wasn’t the prettiest beach, but then he announced that we would be making another “photo” stop there. When the bus stopped, we realized that we were about to be dropped off at a bunch of tables along the beach, selling more of the same souvenirs that we’d seen before, so nobody got off the bus. It was actually a bit comical. We kept going to our final stop, the San Felipe Fortress, for a quick photo op. The Fort wasn’t very large or impressive (at least compared to Spanish fortifications at other locations like San Juan), but it was still much more interesting than the souvenir stops. I just wish that they’d given us a bit more than 10 minutes to explore rather than wasting time trying to sell us souvenirs prior to this stop. But overall, it was an enjoyable tour and it fulfilled its intended purpose. We were back at the Amber Cove welcome center by 11:00am. We returned to the ship to have lunch, and then my wife and daughter decided to stay on the ship to rest while my son and I ventured back out to explore the welcome center. With two ships in town, it was pretty packed, and it had the chaotic “tourist trap” feel that our waiter at Grand Turk had described to us the day before. We went down the water slides a few times and then returned to the ship. - Our final stop was Key West, which I have visited many times and which I truly enjoy. We were in port with two other ships, the Viking Sky and the Norwegian Sky. In addition to that, there was a festival happening on this day, so it was pretty crowded. We didn’t plan a thing for Key West, and decided to go with the flow. We docked at the Navy Pier, so we were bussed into town. Once there, we had lunch at El Meson de Pepe which is my “go to” restaurant for Cuban food when I’m in Key West for work. After that, I took the kids to the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum, while my wife did a little bit of window shopping. We made a stop at Crocs for new shoes, we then had some ice cream, and returned to the ship. DEBARKATION Our return flight was at 12:30pm from FLL, so we weren’t in much of a rush to get off the ship. We enjoyed breakfast one final time at the lido buffet and then walked off the ship at 9:00am. Unlike other cruise lines where they literally force you out of your room before 8:00am and then you have to wait in a public area, on this cruise we were told that we could wait in our stateroom until our luggage color was called. This made for a much more leisurely and enjoyable last morning onboard. One thing that helped expedite debarkation was the fact that we had gone through US customs the day before in Key West. Everybody was required to proceed to the World Stage with their passports before proceeding ashore in Key West. Cards were scanned and then a hole was punched in them after meeting with US Customs. When we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the next morning, US Customs agents were present, but they just waved everybody through as we exited the terminal. No need for additional screening. We took an Uber to the airport ($14), and we were through security and at our gate with over 2 hours to spare. CONCLUSION Our cruise aboard the Niew Statendam was absolutely wonderful. Not only did it meet expectations, but it far exceeded them. None of my concerns about bringing small children became a reality. If anything, we learned that Holland America provided a much more enjoyable cruise for our family than what we’ve experienced on family-friendly cruise lines. We learned that we don’t need Disney characters jumping up and down on stage, or elaborate kids clubs, or incessant kids music, or Dr. Seuss parades through the ship to keep our children entertained. They truly loved the experience on the Niew Statendam. I asked my 10 year old son to rank the 11 cruises that he’s been on, and he placed the Niew Statendam second (first place went to the MSC Meraviglia in the Mediterranean which was rightfully a wonderful cruise, and also one of my personal favorites). With that said, I know that Holland America may not be a good choice for many families that do enjoy that kind of energetic experience that family friendly cruise lines provide. So I’d be careful about blindly recommending Holland America to any family. I believe that you must be someone who does appreciate the more relaxed and upscale type of experience that Holland America provides in order to enjoy sailing on this cruise line. For example, we have friends who exclusively sail on Disney (they actually sailed aboard Disney Magic the same week we sailed on Niew Statendam). When we came home, we compared notes, and they said that they would’ve been miserable on our cruise (but probably not as miserable as we would’ve been on theirs!) We went on the Niew Statendam looking for relaxation and a nicer experience, and Holland America definitely delivered! Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Embarkation was smooth, uncrowded and uneventful. Escorted to 4 & 5 Star Mariner Lounge and boarded promptly at 11:30am. Carried all of our luggage as carry-ons and we were unpacked by 1205pm. For lunch we went to the MDR and were ... Read More
Embarkation was smooth, uncrowded and uneventful. Escorted to 4 & 5 Star Mariner Lounge and boarded promptly at 11:30am. Carried all of our luggage as carry-ons and we were unpacked by 1205pm. For lunch we went to the MDR and were seated at a table for 2. Everyone (ships staff) along the way greeted us with "welcome on board" , "hope you have a nice cruise" with sincere smiles of welcome. Thus is what we love about Holland America! We were finished by 1:15pm and sat in one if the lounges for our next event which was the Welcome Back Mariners Cocktail Party at 2:00pm which was hosted by the Hotel Manager Errol Nelson. We said hello to him and he greeted us with a familiar hello. We knew him from the Nieuw Amsterdam in November 2019. Food: Excellent food in Main Dining room, Pinnacle Grill and Lido Market Buffet. Entertaiment BB King All Star Band was excellent. Plenty of dancing. Holland America also started ballroom dancing in the early evening which also plays Latin music. Enjoyed Lincoln Center stage classical music each day. Enjoyed Rolling Rock band which was packed every night. Also enjoyed the Greenhouse Spa with its thermal rooms as a couples package for the week. Buy online for $219 vs $279 if you buy onboard. Ship Quality Ship is beautiful and new like condition from top to bottom. Service staff always cleaning and polishing and repairing. Debarkation was WoW FAST and smooth. They started self-assist debarkation at 0710 am and I was on the curb waiting for a taxi at 0725 am. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Chose this cruise for Pickleball and music theme. Ship was very classy and the music venues were great. Especially enjoyed the Billboards venue where two artists on two grand piaoes played nightly with a range of songs from the sixties ... Read More
Chose this cruise for Pickleball and music theme. Ship was very classy and the music venues were great. Especially enjoyed the Billboards venue where two artists on two grand piaoes played nightly with a range of songs from the sixties thru the present. Embarking and dis embarking was a breeze. Food was very good in all areas, like the hand washing stations in the Lido common area. Food and service in main dining area better than my last cruise on Celebrity! Now where the cruise fell a bit short. The sport court. Where we would play Pickleball had no equipment on first couple of days. There doesn’t appear to have an activities director. There was no meet and greet announcement in the daily newspaper nor any time mentioned in the daily things to do pamphlets. When I asked if a time could be put in they said they were made up in advance and couldn’t be added? Fortunately six people eventually showed up and we enjoyed excellent games for remainder of cruise. We just scheduled ourselves. Same goes for card playing which was listed at 10am and 2pm in the main dining room. No staff to coordinate though and no cards! Had to bring our own. These were not major problems and everything worked out fine. Weather was perfect and their private island was beautiful with some of the nicest powdery sand I’ve seen. Would definitely sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We cruised on this ship when it was brand new for two weeks in March 2019 and decided to book one week, this year (Jan 2020) when we got a terrific deal on a balcony cabin. We re-booked cabin 4017, forward which has a very large balcony, ... Read More
We cruised on this ship when it was brand new for two weeks in March 2019 and decided to book one week, this year (Jan 2020) when we got a terrific deal on a balcony cabin. We re-booked cabin 4017, forward which has a very large balcony, and no obstruction below ( life boats ), as do deck four mid-ship. The food and entertainment was terrific. We ate in most venues, Dining Room, Lido for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dive In burgers right by the Lido indoor pool, and the Pizza/sandwich spot on deck 10 overlooking the mid Lido deck pool. The hand made individual pizzas which can be customized are terrific. Lunch at Lido has so many choices, it is almost hard to not want to sample everything. Main dining room had many upscale meals, Rack of Lamb, Rack of Veal, Steaks, Lobster, Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail. With the exception of wonderful Napoleons served at lunchtime at the Lido one day, overall, desserts could use a slight improvement. The Lido offers ice cream during lunch every day with waffle cones. We dined twice at Pinnacle restaurant deck two as they have King Crab as a main dish without an up charge. No other ship that we have been on ever served Alaskan King Crab as a main dish. In fact Pinnacle also  offers enormous steaks for no up-charge. Where ever you eat on this ship, the food is a high point. So much so, we compared it to a 16 day trip we took on Crystal Serenity in December 2019, where the food was terrible. We paid nearly three times the price for a week on Crystal and realized when we came back on board Niew Statendam (NS), that the food by comparison on NS was superb. The other main feature on this ship is its entertainment. No other ship offers so many entertainment choices. First, the theater in the round concept, supported by almost 360 degree floor to ceiling digital graphics is quite spectacular on this ship. While there were only two main shows during the seven  days, there are so many other entertainment venues that you forgive the fact that there are not more main shows.  Many "pure musical" venues, which alternate on most evenings are 1. Lincoln Center - quintet ( Violins, Viola, Cello and Piano) playing music from the Masters to Show tunes to Latin ( Tango Music), etc.  Note Lincoln Center also offers many afternoon concerts. These young musicians were terrific. 2. BB King's, a feature on many HAL ships, had a great "Soul" group .... terrific singers, back up band. 3. Rock and Roll Venue was also very good 4. Billboard top requests - singer/pianist playing requests. All of these venues are mid to forward deck two, and become the mainstay of evening entertainment. On deck nine each afternoon and evening, there are movies, which can also be seen in your cabin. Fairly recent feature movies can be watched as you lay on lounge chairs by the indoor pool. They even serve popcorn and fresh baked pretzels for the evening shows ( available at the Pizza restaurant). Embarkation and Disembarkation were very smooth and easy, another high point of the ship. There are two pools in this ship with the outdoor pool (aft) deck 9,relegated to adults, offering canopies from the Sun, a bar, and easy access to Lido for breakfast or lunch. The mid ship pool has a retractable cover for inclement weather. If there is anything lacking, or needing improvement it is the need for more wait staff in the Lido. There was just too few staff to keep tables cleared and serve beverages at breakfast and lunch. The other notable need for improvement is a change of menu for the "Welcome back Mariners lunch" on the second sea day. Again this year, it was a Caribbean mish mash of dishes that just did not work. We remembered it was the same menu as the year before, and not very inviting. Truly, repeat customers could do with a better quality meal. This was cruise number 49 for us and we think HAL got most everything right on this ship. We will cruise Niew Statendam again someday.... Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We wanted a winter break and chose this cruise because it was a newer ship and much cheaper than Celebrity’s Edge. We also were interested in the new music walk area of the ship as we are music lovers. Embarkation was a breeze ... Read More
We wanted a winter break and chose this cruise because it was a newer ship and much cheaper than Celebrity’s Edge. We also were interested in the new music walk area of the ship as we are music lovers. Embarkation was a breeze although traffic into Port Everglades was very heavy. Our room was ready and very nice. Veranda on deck 7 with a great port side view and close to the aft elevator. The veranda was awesome for morning coffee! Bed was very comfy and the bathroom tight but the shower was very spacious. Our only complaint about the room was the doors slamming every morning at sunrise. I wish people would be a little more aware of the noise they are making and that not everyone wants to be awake at 630 am on vacation! Dining was good overall. The MDR generally good, not great. Very long wait on Gala nights! Pinnacle grill was okay, nothing special. Steak well cooked but bland. Rudi’s was great. Very attentive service and delicious French cuisine. Tamarind was amazing with its food and beautiful aft view! We did not spend much time in the Lido buffet...typical crowded cruise cafeteria really. Entertainment was great fun. Loved the Rock Room and BB Kings. Loud music and lots of dancing with a fun crowd! Not sold on the Billboard pianos. Just meh. We only went to the stage shows twice. The comedian was just okay. The dance group was excellent! Spa was very nice although the massage was only average, I thought. Fitness area was great with a large room, lots of equipment and free weights. The pool areas were very nice. The Lido pool roof was open so it was very comfortable. Always room in the multiple hot tubs. Good service from the bars! We also enjoyed the Explorations cafe. A nice quiet bar area with amazing forward views. Books and games are available there as well as the EXC area for excursion planning. Disembarkation was fairly efficient but getting thousands of people out of the terminal on Sunday morning is going to be a challenge for anyone. Overall, we loved our time on the Nieuw Statendam and would definitely recommend it. It is a very traditional ship but with lots of modern art and great musical entertainment to make it fun! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose the Zuiderdam for a romantic, relaxing cruise. We were very disappointed with many things about the Zuiderdam and Holland America as a company. First, let me start by saying the Holland America has some serious operational and ... Read More
We chose the Zuiderdam for a romantic, relaxing cruise. We were very disappointed with many things about the Zuiderdam and Holland America as a company. First, let me start by saying the Holland America has some serious operational and procedural issues which need an outside consultant to fix. Embarkation: You know you are in trouble when getting on the ship is the best thing you can say about the ship. Embarkation was quick and painless. Cabin: We chose an inside cabin for this cruise because we like to take a nap in the afternoon and there is nothing better than a cold, dark cabin after a hot shore day. The cabin was very dated. The shower floor was filthy. I mean black filth. When the shower is dirty you have to wonder what else is dirty that you are not seeing. It is like walking into a restaurant and looking up to see black vents and ceiling tiles. If they do not care enough to make sure the shower floor is clean then you can bet they are not making sure the things you cannot see are clean. The steward was fine and helpful. Restaurant: We ate dinner in the restaurant only one night because the first experience was that bad. First of all, they sat me a 6 foot 7 football player type of a guy in a booth with a table cloth that almost went to the floor. I spent the entire dinner feeling like I had a blanket covering my legs and when I got up I took the table cloth off the table with me. Second, we never saw the same person twice. It was ridiculous. There was not one person you could have called our waiter. Third, it was chaos in the restaurant and took a very long time for the food to arrive. There was way too much time between courses and when the food did arrive it was bland and just not very good. We skipped dessert because by the time we got around to being asked what we liked we just wanted out. We went one morning to eat breakfast in the restaurant at 9:05 am and were turned away because they said breakfast was over at 9. Now mind you, we are on vacation and 9 am is too early to stop serving breakfast to people who are sleeping in and trying to relax. Buffet: The biggest problem with the buffet is there are not enough places for people to sit and eat. There are two many large tables and not enough smaller tables. Lunch and breakfast can become very stressful affairs. I literally felt like dropping my plate and walking out on more than one occasion and I have never felt that way on a ship before. It was not just us you would see and hear people upset they could not find a place to sit. I have never experienced something quite like this on a ship before. Also the buffet stops serving dinner at 8 pm. This is way too early because people from the West Coast are not ready for dinner until 8 pm. The problem with the Zuiderdam is it wants to run on its time schedule and not on a realistic time schedule for all of their guests. One evening I actually saw them removing the food away from people trying to get something to eat. This is not an exaggeration. They actually removed the food away from them leaving them to stand there hungry. Bars: The bar service was fine and as a matter of fact our best overall service was from Ricky in the Ocean Bar. The drinks were always plentiful and good. At least the bar was good to keep the edge off of how awful everything else about the ship was. America's Test Kitchen: One of the reasons we booked this cruise was for America's Test Kitchen. It was advertised that it was on the Zuiderdam. Guess what? There was no America's Test Kitchen. I have to say it really felt like a bait and switch type tactic. If you are going to advertise something to a potential customer as a cruise company you had better make sure it is happening on the ship when they arrive. BB Kings: The best part of the Zuiderdam entertainment was the BB King lounge. The only problem was the first three nights it was not offered. We got half the product for the full price. See how this is going? Billboard Music: This was the most laughable and horrible entertainment I have seen in years. I am serious it is awful. The two guys behind the piano's are awful. Mainstage Theater: Dance Shows - They had three dance shows which were very good. The dancers were very well trained and their interaction with the LED screens was really amazing. They were the best part of our trip. English Comedian - First let me remind you that we are a gay male couple. The homophobic comedian was not funny and as a matter of fact he was offensive. He made several awful gay jokes which were insulting. My husband and I did not pay to be insulted and that is exactly what happened. If this were racial jokes the guy was making they would have fired him on the spot. What is the difference? You do not insult people who are paying for your service. We will not make this mistake with Holland America again. It was really that bad. Half Moon Cay: You would think since Holland America has had this island since the 1990's if would be an amazing place to be. Well it is not. The straw market was a joke. The food was a joke. Not being able to use your drink package on their island was a joke. The facilities are run down and they are dirty. Once again Holland America and dirty are in the same sentence. Not good. We took a shore excursion on Half Moon Cay. It was awful. It was not on the ocean but in a lagoon. We rode a small uncomfortable boat around a lagoon. Seriously it was like one of those bad amusement park boat rides with the cheesy narrator. It was truly that bad. Disembarkation: Was quick and easy. In closing, we were very disappointed in Holland America. The ship and cruise were overall depressing. Holland had better change their game because this was truly one of the worst cruise ships we ever sailed. We will not choose Holland America ever again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
I am missing a single day to become a *** three star mariner with HAL. I crossed the Atlantic twice: once on the Noordam and once on the Koningsdam from and to Civitavecchia, plus three weeks on the New Amsterdam (which is still my ... Read More
I am missing a single day to become a *** three star mariner with HAL. I crossed the Atlantic twice: once on the Noordam and once on the Koningsdam from and to Civitavecchia, plus three weeks on the New Amsterdam (which is still my favorite vessel in terms of decor and style). Firstly, the ship voyage was often unexplainably rocky - even when there was not particularly rough seas. This made me wonder if the ship STABILIZER were working properly. Second, I’ve always found the food experience on board of HAL to be excellent and I NEVER even considered once to send back a dish... well, this time I was forced to do so several different times on board of the Zuiderdam. Including in its Pinnacle grill, which in my opinion was way below the standards of a HAL specialty restaurant (for $35 extra). So my major complaint on board of the Zuiderdam was the poor quality of the food - often unacceptable even in the Lido cafeteria. I found the food selection and quality dramatically lower than the usual standards of Holland America lines. Often economizing on the carving station with few choices, and those that were offered were often sad chunks of overcooked beef, pork or turkey, or the “ethnic” section with shameful bowls of equally overcooked stuff. — Furthermore, I found the entertainment offered on board rather pitiful. Nothing like the BBC Earth show played by a four element string quartet on other ships. Plus the overall appearance of the Zuiderdam is tired and anachronistic sometimes lacking in basic hygiene (as I had reported to officers onboard) like in the aft pool mens restrooms on the Lido deck, which -honestly- smelled like a Marine barracks. Horrific. On the other HAL ships I mentioned above, there were fresh orchid buds in every restroom. To my chagrin, I found the miseries of a ship which has failed to live up to its promises to have undergone some "major" refurbishment. I also would like to mention my profound disappointment of having found the classy lounge right next to the Crows Nest turned into some sort of schoolroom with (in my opinion) useless chairs where I have noticed only three people who were occasionally sitting to attend some sort of medical lecture. On the other hand there was always a battle to get a seat on one of the TOO few bistro chairs in the smoking section of the ship aft. Overall I would never consider take another cruise on the Zuiderdam. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Just finishing up our holiday cruise. First time on HAL but have cruised most lines. The good: room stewards were very good and so was the food. The Bad: We had a balcony room which was pretty small, buckets around ship to catch ... Read More
Just finishing up our holiday cruise. First time on HAL but have cruised most lines. The good: room stewards were very good and so was the food. The Bad: We had a balcony room which was pretty small, buckets around ship to catch leaks, lack of activities on at sea days, nightly entertainment horrendous, sewage smell in a few corridors. The Ugly: It was our Anniversary, which was noted on the original invoice and it was totally overlooked. We were sailing with another couple, also anniversary and birthday. They were given cupcakes in their room, a couples massage, big deal in dining room, We were not given as much as a banana with a note on it! Very disappointing. Today I went down to Guest Services to formally complain and was told they’ll make note of my complaint. So, needless to say, we will never be sailing again with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Hi there. It’s January, and I’m back home in Michigan. We are all snowed in today so I’m finally going back to submit my review for my holiday cruise. Most of which I typed while I was on the ship, and some I filled in just now. ... Read More
Hi there. It’s January, and I’m back home in Michigan. We are all snowed in today so I’m finally going back to submit my review for my holiday cruise. Most of which I typed while I was on the ship, and some I filled in just now. (So please excuse my mixed tenses!) Here it is: ROOMS: It’s 4:24 a.m. and I'm on the ship, on Christmas Eve morning, actually. I’ve been thinking about it since my first dinner here, so why not start my review now, because the reason I’m awake now in the first place is because I’m suffocating in this too-hot room. I bought a small digital clock to take with me that also shows the temperature. I would get the room just right and the system was set to auto-regulate. Then it would be too hot. I finally figured out that any time housekeeping would come in the room, they were setting the thermostat back to their set point of TOO HOT AND STUFFY TO SLEEP. I am laying by the floor by the door now in hopes of sucking some fresher cooler air into my body and to limit the light from my iPad. Since I mentioned the room temperature, before I move on from talking about the room, the smoke alarm went off the first time after I took a quick shower and left the door open. We’d all been diligently keeping the shower door closed after showering since. The second time it went off, I took a shower and although I was careful to keep the door shut, the captain started making announcements so I creaked the bathroom door to hear them, what with being a responsible guest and all. It almost immediately went off. It didn’t wake me, as I was up since 3:30. It did however (almost) finish the job of waking up my kids, which could stay asleep under interrogation lights. Interestingly, the smoke alarm has not gone off the last few nights when we distinctly smelled cigarette smoke. We called and the guy turned it off and explained to me how smoke alarms sense heat and smoke (well except cigarette smoke) and how it was all for our well being and the safety of the ship, Like I’m an absolute complete ticking idiot and never understood in 46 years the purpose of smoke alarms. Basically there is nothing they could do but turn it off remotely each time after they inspect for no fire. So I said thanks and “okay I’ll see you the next time I take a shower again, I guess.” Overall, though, sneaky temperature changing and smoke alarms that go off when there is steam but not when there is smoke, the rooms are good. More spacious than Carnival and the bathroom didn’t induce claustrophobia. SHIP DECOR: Now that I’ve gotten out of the way why I’m writing this at this very moment, I’ll start properly! I am on the Holland America cruise line’s ship “The Zuiderdam.” I took a short Carnival cruise over the summer with just the kids and wanted to go with my husband for a longer vacation over the winter break. The kids and I wanted more cruise fun but slightly more upscale. (That is to say, less people that see a cruise as a prolonged drinking contest, and less people that don’t have manners and step slightly to the side when they decide to plant themselves in doorways and see other people trying to get around them.) I researched and this ship’s size-to-occupancy ratio was one of the best. That is to say, it had the most square feet per person, so the overcrowded feel of The Carnival cruise would hopefully be avoided. Although generally this cruise line is thought of as more expensive, I shopped Carnival cruises at the same time and the prices were very close worked out on a per day cost but Carnival didn’t have one that fit our schedule well. This is my fifth cruise. The prior one was Carnival, about 6 months ago. Go back 20 years to two more Carnival cruises. Then one more when I was a kid. I don’t remember the line, but it wasn’t Carnival or Holland. I remember though, as a kid, the shows were amazing. I was in awe! That is the breadth of my expertise as a cruise guest. I’m no expert but am very well positioned to compare/contrast Carnival and Holland, so here goes! The ship took a little getting used to. It’s beautifully, well at least plushly, decorated. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It feels decadent with its plush fabric chairs and spacious layout. But it is decidedly less open than the three Carnival’s ships I’ve been on. The atrium only spanned three floors and isn’t spacious. It’s just more of a 3 floor open staircase isha. Crystal seahorse hanging down in the center. The center floor had some Christmas decorations there. It didn’t seem that even without the decorations there would be space for a d.j. And there wasn’t space around the edges enough for audience to gather. There were chairs put around but it wasn’t a comfortable place to gather around a performer. It was more of a very comfortable waiting room, with the exception of being overly lighted to the point of wincing - but more on that in a bit. What I’m trying to say is it was impossible to get that sense of a ship that was a singular cohesive body with all its separate parts working together, which I realize now was what was in large part appealing about the large unifying open inside atrium spaces of the Carnival ships. I got used to it after about a day, after learning my way around more. You really couldn’t go to the atrium first and then look around and see or remember. I had to always strategize in my head first where I was going, and how to get back. Felt like lots of luxurious appointed tunnels. Other than the general lack of an open floor plan, of note was that this ship has two additional full restaurants they’ve built into the main areas. They push them, announce them, put them prime and center in most of their print-outs for the days’ activities. I find this tacky because all the food is paid for in the price of the cruise, and here I am being told if I want a true fine dining experience I have to make reservations and pay more. That’s right, did I not mention they are full on paid restaurants? There is a sense of luxury in the use of the space (minus the open concept, as I mentioned). Halls that are curvy for no reason except that they can be. Little curved corridors with lighter art insets in the wall. His luxury isn’t as felt on the Carnival ships, where walkways always seem to be made the shortest space between two points. The Zuiderdam throws down the mike here, and deservedly. SHOWS: It’s important to me that you take a moment to recognize I did say some positive things first about the ship. Because it’s all downhill from there. Entertainment. Oh boy. Reviews said this ship was top rated for entertainment. Maybe those reviewers were very heavy drinkers? The first night, there was no show. The cruise social director kept asking about great upcoming shows they had, such great dancers. I was thinking maybe she just really like the dance part, because watching just dancers for an hour - that can’t be right. Right? It was right. The second night was all and nothing but dancers. I made everyone go, we stayed for 10 minutes. There was no second show going anywhere here to catch. They have an ongoing blues band act with a dance floor. It’s not something to go sit and watch, though. I walked up to the edge of it a couple of times. Nobody was dancing, and the music was so loud you wouldn’t have been able to hold a conversation in there. I was used to Carnival that had a main show and on a smaller stage other side of the ship they’d have a comedian or something smaller. The next night’s show was a guy that did a Beatles tribute. Why yes, that WAS on the main stage, it was the main show. It was starting out okay, I mean the Beatles, right? He told some little stories and did some songs but mostly lots of tiny bits of songs. Then his wife came out. I winced, just like I did with the interogation-wattage-level lights at dinner, which I’ll get to later. She was like a more saccharin and thin (personality-wise) version of Kathie Lee Gifford. Hey, Kathie Lee did Carnival Cruise commercials early on, so maybe this is the Holland America version? Wow. I can’t think of anyone more Beatles-contrary. Then she sang one of the best songs ever - "Let It Be." Were it not possibly the best song ever, it would have ruined it for me forever. If a female is going to sing that song at all, shouldn’t it be a little more Edie Brickell and less fake Marilyn, dramatically flitting her skirt around and coming out in different glamorous outfits that were all basically the same cut, but in different colors, with no explanation, on and off 5 times in a 45 minute show? Last night there was a comedian. He was mentioned excitedly by one of the cruise hosts earlier. I should have been on alert since the other host got so excited talking about dancers. This guy had no act. Zero. I kept waiting for it. He knew it, too, and seemed embarrassed, even. He was affable enough and talked to the audience for 45 minutes but no show actually came. He had just written a book and was on a late night show and taped a special, (and he told us all, plus he had done 10 commercials) so maybe he had no jokes left. My kids enjoyed it more than the dancing show or the Beatles guy, but still not as much as watching a movie in their room. They didn’t know how much of a non-act it was, as they are ages 9 and 11. His show was truly far below the standard of what you’d get from that comedian on Carnival on the smaller stage - that wasn’t even the main act. The last night of the cruise was supposed to be the “good” show, as touted by the comedian in his first show, when explaining why he had no jokes. (He was saving them for the last night.) It was going to be a variety show. It was about 17 minutes more of the comedian. Then the Beatles guy and his sacharrine wife again. Not really a variety show by my definition - more of a warmer-over recycling of what was bad to begin with. I missed the first 5 minutes of the comedian. When I was walking up the stairs outside the theatre to join my family I heard the comedian saying something about how he told his wife when she gives him the silent treatment it's not really punishment. As I sat down I was thinking "tonight's the good stuff?" He made a bunch of age put-down jokes the first night. My husband said that as soon as he came out onto the stage for his "finale show" some guy yelled "I don't like you." So, that has to suck as a comedian, but I'm not sure he didn't deserve it. Other "jokes" included saying he needed surgery once and started with a Jewish surgeon and then got "upgraded" to an Indian surgeon and they're smarter, so... (insert laughter here?) FINE DINING: Fine dining that is included? I’m still trying. The first night, as soon as we sat down to dinner, I winced in the brightness of the faux incandescent colored light. Why. So. Bright. Fluorescent supermarket lighting would be better, truly. I couldn’t stop wincing. Then they delivered a bloody rare steak to my daughter even though she ordered it medium well. They took so long to come back to the table that everyone was mostly done by the time they even knew they needed to try again, this time cooking it. And my husband and I very stupidly agreed to a salad which meant our kids just sat there for the first 20 minutes or more. I ate as fast as I could when I realized they were waiting before my kids could get to eat. We were there for an hour and a half with no dessert. And I never was able to stop wincing from the light. The next night at dinner I asked the dining manager if we could possibly please sit somewhere less bright. He said they were assigned, so no. I could wait “over there” for a family with another table to be asked I they’d be willing to trade with us. No straight thinking person would trade with us, and I didn’t want to be further at their mercy, so I said it was fine, I didn’t want to wait, I’d just wear my sunglasses. I went back to my room and brought back my sunglasses and wore them, like a jerk, through dinner. There are darker normal-restaurant-light-level tables around the edges and the very center of both floors. The overhead oval of light that goes all the way around both floors is nauseatingly bright and really I couldn’t get past it. After dinner I went to the desk and they said the only way I could change tables was to forfeit my assigned table if he manager would “release” us from it, so we could go in unassigned on the other floor. But we had to get permission to go in unassigned at a certain time and there were no slots. The other option was to make reservations in the main (still) free fine dining restaurant. There were no spaces for actual reservations, no spaces to reserve for “unreserved” spots. But guest services said I could always “try.” She said she couldn’t guarantee anything though because it was just like a regular restaurant and again we could not even try without getting permission to be released from our assigned table which, once we forfeited, could not get back. I said it’s not really like another restaurant, because if it were home like another restaurant, you could go home to feed your kids, or go to another restaurant. I had to risk losing all dining options for my kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas for the gamble to get away from the light. Please be warned that if you order anything from a different category from your fellow diners, they will not bring it all at the same time. They will serve the first course and not bring others’ food until you have sat there with the empty plate for quite a while for whatever soup or salad you were so dumb to say “yes” to when they suggested it. A waiter at dinner asked me if I wanted ice cream with the slice of apple pie for dessert I ordered. I said "okay." A different waiter delivered pie. I said “I ordered this with ice cream?” The waiter said it doesn’t come with ice cream, but if I wanted ice cream too, he could bring me some. (Because I'm a huge pig and he was making a special exception? No thanks!) Also a wrong desert was brought second night. Waiter set it down and walked off, and I had to wait SO long to get a chance to tell him he brought the wrong thing (which was getting awkward to keep repeating.) Another time, my husband had breakfast in the dining room with my daughter, just the two of them. The dining room was mostly empty. A while after they were seated, an older "proper" British couple were seated RIGHT ON TOP OF THEM. Well, right next to them, filling out the remaining 2 seats at their 4-top, but it felt uncomfortable to the British couple apparently because she politely asked to sit somewhere else (not in my family's lap) and the waiter said "no." I get cruise seating style but when someone politely asks to sit somewhere else, even one table over, and is told NO by the waiter, well, that's just weird. My husband said it was certainly memorable to hear this proper British lady get angry and raise her voice with her British accent at the waiter after he kept saying "no." It's just weird that it's the opposite of "customer's always right" here. It's "the ship staff is always right." Another time, my husband ordered a coke, waiter took forever, husband asked again, waiter dropped off TWO warm cans, no ice. Husband FINALLY gave up waiting for the waiter to come back, and walked around and found the waiter to return the second coke. The waiter said he'd take it off beverage gift card, and said he'd get back to us with a cup of ice. We gave up on ice eventually and took the can to lido to get our own cup of ice. The next morning, I tried to get a coffee with the beverage card and I couldn't because the beverage card showed no balance, because, of course, the errant charge for the unordered second coke can had not been removed. Finally, on Christmas Day, I was seated with 3 other ladies that were strangers but we were having a touching conversation about something very important that had happened to her, and were all leaning in. Other people around us were still eating their main course. We were finishing our coffee. The waiter INTERRUPTED her emotional story ON CHRISTMAS DAY to ask us IF WE COULD LEAVE. One of the other ladies snapped back at him "no we'll leave in a few minutes." I just really couldn't believe I wasn't hearing things. Nope, that really happened. ROOM SERVICE: The first night, we filled out our little placard for breakfast in-room the next morning. We all woke up but it wasn’t our set delivery time of 8:30 to 9:00. We could have gone to the lido deck or the fine dining restaurant, but we’d ordered something so kept waiting in the room the first morning of our cruise. I called and asked about it 10 minutes past the window, and we got it 20 minutes later, so it was 30 minutes after the end of our set window. Well, most of it. Except my husband’s, which wasn’t included at all. I called. We left and he stole a piece of my son’s toast. We got a message at 10:30 saying they tried to deliver the food but nobody was there. Next morning, the only thing that changes was that I started to ride them faster. 5 minutes before the end of the window, I called them and they THEN started the order and we got it in about 20 minutes. Still later than our window. It would be nice if on a trip like this I didn’t STILL feel like as a mom it was my responsibility to be sure my kids get food, but whatever. We get it. In room dining isn’t something they make more money off of, like their other paid restaurants. It doesn’t seem to be a priority to them to actually fill the orders, at least not ours. To that end, there is also no printed in-room dining menu anywhere to be found, as there was for Carnival. I waited in line to ask at the desk and they said I could find it on the television ship channel. One night we were hungry after the lido deck shut down everything but pizza, but we didn’t want pizza. So we tried room service and after an hour of no delivery we called and then were told again “we’ll follow up.” No explanation given. Seems they don’t start a room service order until the first complaint of it being late comes in? REFLECTIONS ON THE FOOD: It was difficult for the kids and even my husband to find things to order at dinner. There was usually just one thing they would eat, and the order would have to include instructions to leave certain things off. Carnival’s menu worked better for us. It had several recognizable things, a few fancier things, and one “exotic” type thing each evening as choices. Most of the food on this cruise was for the “refined” pallette so much it was alienating. Waiters would drop off food and then be gone for a good long while unless I was rude enough to wave them down, for, say, water. (The glasses were empty when the waiter set down the food and walked off.) My daughters’ medium well steak was ripe with fresh blood in the center. It took forever to get the waiter to come back, and then we had to wait for a new steak that was cooked. The first night that dinner took an hour and a half, with no dessert. Prime rib is suppose to be pink but we all found it too disgusting, wet with red blood in the center to eat, so we could never order that again. The coffee was way too strong. In the lido deck I would get 2/3 of a cup and add hot water to it to make a full normal cup. I could never get coffee in the dining room. I tried once. I only was given creamer and sugar, no Splenda or anything. I often felt I was breaking decorum to ask to get my family’s dining needs met. (Also please be aware that soy, almond, or coconut milk is not available for coffee.) There IS an awesome coffee bar on the 10th floor at the front of the ship. We didn’t discover it until halfway through our cruise, though, because it is all by itself and not listed as anything except EXC Tour Cafe in all the paperwork. We thought it was a desk where salespeople tried to sell excursion. I was looking for where I could get lattes and cappuccinos since I had these $25 drink cards and don’t drink alcohol. Do you understand I was LOOKING for this place and still only found it by accident out of boredom on the 3 rd day of the cruise? It’s a neat room. Seriously it is the coolest space on any cruise ship I’ve experienced. If you are reading this and go on this ship, go there first - it’s awesome and you’ll likely have it to yourself a few days with crickets chirping as nobody else will have figured it out yet. Unlike other cruises I’ve been on, about 9:30 the only offerings in the lido deck were self-serve pizza. Well, there was pasta with meat sauce behind the counter but glass separated you from it and there wasn’t someone to serve it. No cookies, cupcakes, sandwiches... just pizza. Good pizza. But wow if you didn’t want pizza and were hungry, you’d have to get room service, and you’ve read how that turned out for us… AFFILIATIONS, “O”/OPRAH AND MICROSOFT: There is a connection with “O” magazine they tout.. They advertise that they offer yoga and meditation classes for a comprehensive Oprah inspired well-being experience. One class was a guided meditation class at 5:30 the first full day. It was printed on the daily activity highlights insert as well as the daily schedule. It was supposed to be in the fitness center and was to be $15. I went with my daughter, who is mature for her age, and wanted to go. She does yoga with her dad sometimes. The first person in the fitness center said there was no class. I got out my paper daily schedule and showed it to her. She led us into the fitness room where on the floor in the center of all the loud machines were some mats. The fitness guy came up to us and clearly had zero class. I mean, had no idea of any meditation class. ; ) He handed me a clipboard and said "you can take one fitness class for $25 or a pack of 5 for..." I said, no, I wanted the mediation class for $15. I gently asked if he had done this before. He defensively said "yes, I've been in fitness for 10 years" or something. I said, "it's a little different." He looked alarmed, and seemed defensive. This guy was threatened and it didn't seem likely he meditated himself much less had ever led a meditation class. I said "Is it going to be in here?" and he said, "oh, well, you can do it in here" and led us back to the little room on the side with chairs. He walked off and I told my daughter I was sorry, but I didn't feel good being "led" in a meditation with this guy. We were getting up to leave when he came back and I politely said "we're going to pass this time" as I walked out. I didn't make eye contact with him. It was so awkward and embarrassing. For him, too, I think. I’m sure he was relieved. Oprah, methinks, would not be proud. The onboard daily schedule had huge spans of hours with nothing worth doing, so I went to a class on something I wasn’t really interested in. There is a Windows connection and I went to learn how to use a program that came on Windows that I don’t ever use. There were other classes that I didn’t go to because they were on how to use paid programs. OTHER SHIP “FUN” The piano bar had two pianos with guys singing. I usually love piano music but those guys were so canned and tame there was just nothing to latch on to. Definitely not dueling pianos, and absolutely it wasn't a sing-along piano bar. Trivia was a couple of times a day, we did that out of desparation a few days but by the end that was too boring to keep going to. Also, my daughter and I went to watch someone cook food, because we were that bored. I learned the difference between rice pilaf and just rice. Yay. One “game night” we went to had a capacity to be fun, but the female host wouldn't read a funny answer and she whined and ruined the joke like it contaminated everything. It was a PG-13 joke and it was mostly senior citizens, and us.. Ugh sometimes I had to wonder if this was a European sense of humor thing, like how in Europe maybe populations as a whole think crying clowns are hilarious? She was the same host that thought watching dancers with cool lights was just the bee's knees, so… I'm glad the televisions in the cabin had movies loaded on them for the kids. They watched about 5 movies and I let them have their video games. It was my intent to just let them have their "tech" on the plane too and from, but I felt sorry for them for having nothing to do. I made them leave their home from Christmas to be on a ship with no entertainment! I wish I could combine the spacious plush ship and polite other guests from this cruise and mix it with the "everything else" of any of my prior Carnival Cruises. I can't believe a Holland Cruise, which is supposed to be the top of the line, failed so greatly by comparison. I’m really glad my husband didn’t hate this, his first cruise, which I forced upon him. He is even willing to try again. He has no idea that cruise ships usually have nonstop ENTERTAINING “entertainment,” and by comparison this ship sucked SO BAD as far as that goes. The most entertaining thing I did, truly, was watch “Blinded By The Light” one afternoon in the main theatre. But even that had issues. It froze several times and had to be re-started, and fast forwarded up to the point where it had stopped. By the time it reached the end, I was almost the only one there. Like this too-long review, which if you are reading it, you may also be the only one “there”... ; ) Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
The cruise to the Western Caribbean was great. We were on board for Christmas and New Years. We paid in full for this cruise in Early September but did not get a room assignment until a week before we embarked. We signed up for ... Read More
The cruise to the Western Caribbean was great. We were on board for Christmas and New Years. We paid in full for this cruise in Early September but did not get a room assignment until a week before we embarked. We signed up for Club Orange with the promise of a room upgrade (instead of a ocean view room we got an obstructed view room), I would not recommend spending the extra money for Club Orange it did not provide anything special for us. Our room was conveniently located and easy to find, but we noticed a sewer smell in the hallway after the first day, Then it permeated the room. After I complained to 5 people it was checked out and we enjoyed another day smell free. The ship sent me flowers as an apology. We then tolerated sewer odors for the rest of the 14 days. We were told that the ship was at full capacity and a room change was not possible. We received an apology letters while still onboard with a $200 on board credit. This was not nearly enough and I have requested a refund but have not received an acknowledgement of my request Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
THE SHIP: A medium sized ship (2106 guests), the architecture is probably the least impressive of the 6 cruise ships (on 5 lines) that I have been on. The atrium area is small, and there is no grand open promenade. The décor is heavy ... Read More
THE SHIP: A medium sized ship (2106 guests), the architecture is probably the least impressive of the 6 cruise ships (on 5 lines) that I have been on. The atrium area is small, and there is no grand open promenade. The décor is heavy on old New York City scenes (reflecting the name of the ship). The main dining room is functional but not grand; the prettiest décor is at the Pinnacle Grill. The Italian specialty restaurant, Canaletto, is simply a section of the buffet area that was “roped off” to become a paying restaurant. There are two pools; the largest one, which is adults-only, has NO shade except in the smoking area. The mid-ship one is much nicer but also much smaller. It has tables and chairs in addition to the lounge chairs, which is a nice feature, and plenty of room in the shade. The ship is not really geared towards families, as the passengers are mostly over 50; I may have seen a dozen children among the 2000 passengers. The main lounge area, the Crow's Nest, is on the 11th deck and difficult to access if your cabin is at the rear of the ship. The library is there, and consists of coffee table travel books that are meant to be read in that room. The ship has three sets of elevators, and we seldom had to wait long for one. The casino is tucked away on the 2nd deck, so you don't have to encounter it if you don't want to – a nice feature. A note about which is the best side of the ship for ports of call, if you have a verandah stateroom and like a view while docked: The starboard side has the best views of Key West and the Dominican Republic, but not of Half Moon Cay. Not sure about Grand Turk, since we never docked there due to high winds. DINING: We only used the main dining room for Afternoon Tea, eating mostly at the Lido Market Buffet. Food there was good but not terribly varied; breakfast had the same items every day. A major difference from other cruise lines is that for the most part passengers do not serve themselves; you tell the crew member what you want and they put it on a plate. This cuts down on germ-spreading but also slows the line, and you have limited control on how big a portion you get. There is an Italian and Asian food area at one end of the buffet. Desserts were good but again not exceptional; for a cruise line known for its food, I expected more variety. The dessert crepes (at the end of the Italian food area) were the best. For breakfast, the eggs benedict were excellent; they are at the end of the line with the English Breakfast items. Drinks were brought to you, although there is also a serve-yourself area. ENTERTAINMENT: This was the most disappointing aspect of the cruise. It cannot compare with other week-long cruises we have been on (Royal Caribbean, Princess,and Celebrity). On the main stage, there are two shows by six dancers, and two comics. That's it for the week. This is comparable to what we had on a four day Bahamas cruise by Carnival, and can't hold a candle to the Broadway style shows on RC. The first show by the dancers was excellent, the second almost boring. We did not attend the comic shows, but other passengers said one was good, one not so much. There are several (loud) music venues with limited seating on the 2nd deck. Daily activities on board are also less interesting than other lines; many of them seem geared toward selling you things. Overall, you get a LOT more for your money on other cruise lines when it comes to entertainment. SERVICE: Top-notch. The crew is the friendliest and most helpful I have seen on any cruise. The waitress at Caneletto even remembered my name when I saw her on the ship the day after we ate there. PORTS of CALL KEY WEST Our ship was the first in port that day, and therefore got the better dock: the one with the easy walk into town (less than a block). Note that if you get stuck docking at the Navy pier, you have to take a trolley into town. I don't know if our ship always gets the “good berth” but I am glad we did this time! We had visited Key West before, so we did not take a guided tour. We did go to Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum, which is an easy walk from the ship. Admission is $15 but the exhibits are interesting and well-done. Be sure to take the time to wander a bit out of the tourist area, down one of the residential streets, to get a feel for the graceful Southern air the town has. Also look for the free-roaming roosters around the historic marina ! GRAND TURK The ship was unable to dock there due to high winds. Apparently this happens frequently, so I would advise NOT booking any shore excursion here that could be done on another island (such as snorkeling). Based on what we could see from our verandah, the island is windswept and not especially scenic or even tropical-looking. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Amber Cove) My favorite port ! The ship docks at Amber Cove, which is a “village” created for the cruise line. It is lovely and well-maintained, with lots of shopping. We took the Ocean World Day Pass excursion, and it was wonderful ! The staff there was friendly and very helpful to my husband, who has mobility issues. We didn't realize that the park is built on the side of a hill, so the walking was difficult for him. They not only loaned him a wheelchair for free, the staff pushed it for him. The park itself has great animal shows (approved by the Humane Society and World Wildlife Fund). Don't miss the dolphin show ! The seal show is excellent also, as is the parrot show. The only mild disappointment was the Shark Encounter, which is not really a show at all; you simply watch other tourists pet the sharks. We ate at their restaurant, from the menu, and the food was good and reasonably priced. The gift shop is nice as well. One thing to be aware of is that you cannot wear eyeglasses if you do the Dolphin Encounter (for the safety of the dolphins). So if you have poor eyesight and no contact lenses, you may see “fuzzy” dolphins ! HALF MOON CAY I had read so many good reviews of this private island in the Bahamas that perhaps I was bound to be disappointed by aspects of it. The site itself is very nice overall, but was not built with older guests in mind, especially those with mobility issues. The map shows there is a tram to take people to the lunch buffet hidden behind the shops, but we did not see any sign for it while we were there. When I asked an employee about the buffet, she said it was a “five minute walk” down the path, with no mention of a tram. As for the beach, the sand and water are beautiful, as is the architecture along the beach. There is a cute children's play area (which went unused while we were there, with so few children on the voyage). It was high tide, and the beach was very narrow - in fact, the first two rows of lounge chairs were literally in the water! Perhaps the beach was eroded by Hurricane Dorian, but it was way too narrow for so many guests at once. The only chairs available on the beach (without renting an expensive cabana) are lounge chairs, which are nearly impossible for someone with mobility issues to get in and out of. Another surprise: If you want a bottle of water, it costs $4.50 ! So be sure to bring your own water bottle from the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
This was our first HAL cruise and our 7th overall. DW and I had wanted to try HAL for a few years and this was a great deal on the last minute sale. We booked a verandah guarantee about 3 weeks out, and about a week before sailing, were ... Read More
This was our first HAL cruise and our 7th overall. DW and I had wanted to try HAL for a few years and this was a great deal on the last minute sale. We booked a verandah guarantee about 3 weeks out, and about a week before sailing, were offered an upsell to a Signature Suite for just a few dollars more. We snapped that up and looked forward to getting on the Nieuw Amsterdam. EMBARKATION We had flown into Fort Lauderdale the day before, so were able to take an early shuttle to Port Everglades and be in line early. The terminal was opened up around 10:30 and we were checked in a few minutes later. We had to wait until 11:30 before boarding so used that time to visit with others in the waiting area. ON THE SHIP Nieuw Amsterdam was clean and elegant without the flash of some ships on other lines we had sailed. We were told our cabin was ready, but we wanted to make our Pinnacle Grill booking first. That was done with ease at the podium on Deck 1. CABIN We got up to Deck 5 and our Signature Suite, SS 5091. It was well appointed with plenty of room for the two of us. The bathroom had dual sinks as well as a jetted tub with shower and a separate shower stall. DW appreciated the bathroom size and comforts! Bed was very comfortable. The balcony for SS cabins on Deck 5 is not as deep as others due to the lifeboats immediately below, but with some organization we could arrange the chairs and stools to be able to stretch out. There was also a table of reasonable size. Met Darma and Tri, our stewards for the week and they kept the cabin spotless throughout. FOOD We were on As You Wish dining, which was new for us and I think we both still prefer the set seating, however we can see the benefits of being able to go anytime. Food is subjective so others may have different views, but we found the meals in the MDR very good, and for the most part, service was attentive. We ate in the MDR every night except for the Pinnacle Grill. The Pinnacle Grill did not disappoint. Excellent steaks, and the sides were pretty amazing. We did order the Clothesline Candy Bacon and it was very tasty. We also had these tater tot like things as a side with a blue cheese aioli dip. THAT was delicious and when I mentioned this to the chef who came out to see how the meal was, he asked if I wanted the recipe. He had that delivered to the cabin the following day! Will definitely book in Pinnacle again our next cruise. Food at the Lido was decent overall, we generally ate breakfast there and the egg dishes were always hot and tasty. We also ate lunch at Dive-In on a couple of occasions. Those were some of the best burgers and fries we’ve ever had!. ENTERTAINMENT As has been discussed on the Holland America boards, this was an area we felt could use improvement. The comedians were alright. The dancers good but certainly could have used live singers to make the performance more enjoyable. BB Kings was the best entertainment on the ship without question! Very talented performers and we would listen to them for hours. Billboard Onboard was a letdown. Like food, music is subjective. We sat down to listen to the piano players do a county set and DW, who is a country fan, wanted to leave after 2 songs. They pretty much butchered those and we just didn’t enjoy any of their other music, so never went back. PORTS We stopped in Key West and just wondered around on our own. We were supposed to make a stop in Grand Turk, but after a couple of tries at docking, the Captain came on and said it was well above the wind threshold for the ship, so sadly we had to just wave at the island. Port fees were refunded and the bars were opened up to free beer and wine for an hour that afternoon. Our next port was Amber Cove and we booked the Monkeyland excursion through the ship. We both enjoyed the little squirrel monkey’s more than we thought we would. Half Moon Cay was outstanding as our final stop. Silky smooth sand, and lots of room as we were the only ship there. DISEMBARKATION Sometime between Half Moon Cay and getting close to Port Everglades, Nieuw Amsterdam apparently developed steering issues with one of the azipods. I say apparently because there were no announcements on-board saying there was an issue. A lot of us figured out something was wrong when they used tugs to get us turned around and docked. The only announcements we heard were “we are delayed and expect to be docked soon”. It was later on, reading cruise critic boards we learned of the reason. We docked about an hour after scheduled time and it was about 30 minutes after that before the first passengers were allowed off the ship, us included in that group. While we made our 10:50 flight with plenty of time to spare, there were a lot of upset and angry passengers waiting in the line. I’m betting if there had been better communication from the bridge and cruise/travel director, it may have calmed some of the people a little bit. SUMMARY Despite the issue with disembarkation, we both thoroughly enjoyed our first Holland America Cruise. We purchased 2 Future Cruise Deposits on-board so we will be sailing with them again. Yes, the entertainment could use a big overhaul and perhaps add a singer or two in a couple of the lounges to help out. Neither of us has to be entertained 24/7, we just would have preferred a couple more options. Our cruise “needs” of clean ship, friendly and attentive staff, and good food were met. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Friends had planned their vacation and invited us along...We would go again in a heart beat. Our room was clean, we were catered to, there was plenty of food and so many choices. The staff made us feel catered to. Our cabin person PuTu ... Read More
Friends had planned their vacation and invited us along...We would go again in a heart beat. Our room was clean, we were catered to, there was plenty of food and so many choices. The staff made us feel catered to. Our cabin person PuTu was awesome!!! He brought us what ever we needed, answered our questions and kept us informed. PuTu was funny, sweet and so very accommodating. His customer services skills are golden! *We were invited on the cruise by our friends Norm and Teri, we invited my husbands brother and sister~in~law Richard and Paulette. We all had a blast! *Shore excursions we absolutely loved and had so much fun on the ConTiki. *The mini hummers were fun and educating our guide 'Johnny Depp' was fun and knowledgeable. *We went on an unplanned excursion in a young man who had a comfortable van asked us along and his prices were AWESOME! I wish I could remember his name, you wouldn't believe how much he knew. This person made us feel as if we'd been friends forever. *On our last stop we had pre-ordered a 'half shell?' with two lounge chairs. We couldn't find any available ones and the people we were instructed to look for, for guidance were no where to be seen. We just gave up and ended up not getting one because it felt like we were wasting our beach time looking for help. *(Just a thought, maybe those who pre-order get a ticket say "lounge shell #1" and tag the shells with numbers. when we get to the destination or somewhere along the way the tickets are given to the purchasers so they may just go to the preassigned shells. AND the 'half shells' are set up prior to our arrival...(I heard from some that they had to wait for someone to set things up when they got there, and they too had to follow behind a line of people and LOOK for available seats.) But the positive experiences far overweight the beach chair experience and we absolutely would love to go on another cruise. Thank you to all who made our first experience so very AWESOME! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Oosterdam Review My wife and I had sailed on the Oosterdam about 10 years ago and were not hesitant about booking another vacation aboard her. The cruise was acceptable but I was a little disappointed with some things that Holland ... Read More
Oosterdam Review My wife and I had sailed on the Oosterdam about 10 years ago and were not hesitant about booking another vacation aboard her. The cruise was acceptable but I was a little disappointed with some things that Holland America had decided to economize on. I want to be fair with this review. There were some really good things on this ship and cruise, I just seemed to notice what had changed and not for the better of the cruising experience. The embarkation was fantastic. I have been through this terminal umpteen times before and this time we just timed it perfectly. From curb to cabin in under 15 minutes. Awsome. The ship has just had a refit recently. I was hoping that they had improved the buffet experience. Previously the ship had a normal layout for the buffet, but had instituted a policy to have the staff serve you (when the Norovirus first started getting headlines). This just didn't work and caused long backups during meal times. The revamped buffet now has the staff behind the counter serving, but the layout is terrible and no china is provided till you get to where the staff is working. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that some food is self serve before you get there, which causes you to either hold the food in your hand or backtrack and barge into the line to retrieve whatever you wanted. Not optimal. The new water/ice dispensers are a disaster. They employ a no touch proximity sensor to activate them that just doesn't work. The comedian/magician even added it into his act derisively. The buffet also closes at 8:30 and doesn't reopen till 10:30, well past having a snack after the show. This wasn't a huge deal for me as I really don't use the buffet if I can help it. What I found really chincy on this cruise was that they wanted 10 dollars if you ordered a second entre in the dining room on gala nights. Now some might say that “you don't need it.” Well I would like to reply that when you are on a vacation where you paid for your all inclusive food, I expect that if you want to try two different entrees or have an extra lobster tail, then you should be able to. No questions asked. It just was something that left a bad taste in my mouth. The do provide a decent “free" room service if you have an urge for something late at night or breakfast in the cabin. My wife really lamented the disappearance of the Library. That is the first place she always goes to when we board. The movie theater is now not part of the ship, not sure if it was popular with the general crowd, but my wife loved it. The entertainment is definitely not as extravagant any more. This cruise had the prerequisite comedian, magician (a very small show), a former Olympic gymnast and a BBC Earth2 presentation. I will emphatically state that the BBC Earth2 show was absolutely fantastic. That doesn't take away from the fact that it didn't cost Holland America much to stage. If you like the singers and dancers on the main stage, you are out of luck. The rest of the cruise was more than fine, I enjoyed my vacation as usual but next time I will go back to their corporate cousins Princess. Much better rewards program, the daily tips are not $14.50 per day and you can still order what you want (for now) in the dining room. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
Embarkation and disembarkation were amazingly quick and efficient. This ship was beautiful, classic and tasteful in every way. We really enjoyed the thermal spa and fitness center, Lincoln Center, B.B. King, back outside deck on Lido ... Read More
Embarkation and disembarkation were amazingly quick and efficient. This ship was beautiful, classic and tasteful in every way. We really enjoyed the thermal spa and fitness center, Lincoln Center, B.B. King, back outside deck on Lido Deck, and Promenade decks. The Main dining room was beautiful and service was great. The Cafe was also wonderful. We were able to get specialty coffees there.. Excursions were well priced and we loved the trip we took to Trunk Ba on St. John. Service everywhere was impeccable. Cabin Stewards were very attentive and helpful. Our Signature Suite (6105) was incredibly roomy and very comfortable. We loved the huge balcony, whirlpool tub and great selection of in-room movies. This is definitely a quieter ship which was great for us. We loved Holland America and will very likely choose this line when we cruise again Ports: We went snorkeling and on a tram in Turks and Caicos. Both were great. We loved the private island. It was gorgeous and the water was crystal clear. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
This was my 2nd Caribbean cruise and we brought 2 friends who had never cruised before. We wanted a smaller ship and also the likelihood of less young children, hence the choice of Holland America and the Oosterdam. I must say that the ... Read More
This was my 2nd Caribbean cruise and we brought 2 friends who had never cruised before. We wanted a smaller ship and also the likelihood of less young children, hence the choice of Holland America and the Oosterdam. I must say that the staff made the holiday the best, from the room service, sommelier, waiters, barkeeps, most of the folks were friendly, helpful and always willing to please - of course there's always a few exceptions so we just didn't go where we weren't treated the best! Overall we enjoyed the amenities onboard but a few things could be improved upon. The evening show entertainment while very good was VERY SHORT!!! I realize there's 2 shows most nights but each show was less than an hour which fell quite short of a really entertaining event. We also found many of the daily activities somewhat bland - there was no events during the day by the pool, which we had experienced on our other cruise which was very enjoyable and entertaining. As well on the other cruise there were nightly, adult interactive games - like a newly wed game etc etc. which gets everyone involved. I did miss this sort of activity onboard. So if you are looking for a really relaxing, laid back atmosphere, with little excitement, good food, drinks, and lots of rest - you will very much enjoy the Oosterdam. I would likely specifically give a shout out to our room attendants - Astrid and Ali, our wonderful wait staff - Von and Tre, bartenders - Junar (Jose), Paula, Ryan; all lovely to deal with and deserve a big hand! Our cruise director Becca also deserves a shout out as she too certainly went above and beyond the duties of a 'traditional' cruise director!! The signature beverage package was very useful and the Pinnacle Grill dinner was fabulous!! Overall a lovely holiday really - very enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We love Tim Timmons & Mercy Me so we went on the Mercy Me at sea cruise it was awesome except for the Holland America cruise line. The service in the main dining room was horrible they were not friendly at all. The menu was bad except ... Read More
We love Tim Timmons & Mercy Me so we went on the Mercy Me at sea cruise it was awesome except for the Holland America cruise line. The service in the main dining room was horrible they were not friendly at all. The menu was bad except for 3 nights out of 7 nights. The buffets are bad because you cannot take what you want you have to wait inline and be served. There is nothing to do on the ship thank goodness we had special events all week. The ports we did not get to go to the ports we were expecting to go because they claim that it was too rough waters. It was not rough except for 1 night but we were at sea that day. The fitness center is very small and the staff is not qualified. I would never go on Holland America if they did not have the Christian Cruises. I like the ships and how they look but they need more activities. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Chose this cruise mainly for the itinerary, never having been to Grand Turk. Unfortunately weather did not cooperate, and we were re-routed to San Juan. Not the cruise line's fault, but disappointing. This was after bypassing Half ... Read More
Chose this cruise mainly for the itinerary, never having been to Grand Turk. Unfortunately weather did not cooperate, and we were re-routed to San Juan. Not the cruise line's fault, but disappointing. This was after bypassing Half Moon Cay completely and changing Cap Cana to Samana DR. Embarking and disembarking were relatively quick and easy, as were the tendering to shore. Unlike some of the other posts here, I had no issues with the food. On the contrary, found most things to my liking. A lot depends on the choices you make. The band at BB King's was good, and entertaining. The Lincoln Center Stage was fantastic. Skipped some of the main stage show, but the BBC Planet Earth film with live soundtrack was really good, as was the comedian. Also enjoyed the casino, and the America's Test Kitchen presentations. The biggest flaw was that a full 50% of the ship were there as part of a Christian music pilgrimage. As a result, we were frequently proselytized, and subject to many conversations that people really should have been having in private. Shame on Holland America for not informing the other half of the guests in advance of this. The onboard experience suffered greatly due to this group. They have been non-responsive on my complaint so far. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Hollard America Oosterdam Jan 19-26, 2019 Great Cruise! -Had a beautiful cruise on the Oosterdam and lots of sunny, warm days! Embarkation was the best ever! We arrived shortly after 1:00 with no lines or waiting to board the ... Read More
Hollard America Oosterdam Jan 19-26, 2019 Great Cruise! -Had a beautiful cruise on the Oosterdam and lots of sunny, warm days! Embarkation was the best ever! We arrived shortly after 1:00 with no lines or waiting to board the ship. We went right to our balcony stateroom on deck 4 and were soon greeted by our wonderful cabin steward Yumus who took great care of our room and kept our ice bucket filled. I was thrilled that we had a bathtub, though it showed signs of age. -We joined our 4 friends on the Lido deck for cocktails, then the Muster drill, followed by dancing at our Sail Away party. We had “anytime dining” which worked well with little or not waiting at the main dining room. -Shortly after boarding, we learned that the Christian band Mercy Me was on board to give several prepaid concerts. We heard toward the end of the cruise that staff considered this group of passengers as a whole to be among the most courteous and kind. -We did not see more than 10 children, all of whom were well behaved. Most of the passengers seemed to be our age (early 60’s) and older. -We loved that there was a Happy Hour daily in the Billboard Lounge at 4:00 with buy one drink, get the second for $2. They brought appetizers and had Trivia hosted by our Cruise Director Becca. We had wonderful Whiskey Sours, Chocolate Martinis, Mudslides, and Bourbon and Diet Cokes. All refreshing! -At 6:00 daily in the Gallery lounge, they featured three $4 drinks which varied from day to day. They had Lemon Drop Martinis, Manhattans, Blue Margaritas, Appletinis, Classic Martinis, and Brandy Alexanders. They brought olives, bread stick crackers, potato chips and nuts. There were comfortable couches, wing back chairs and warm lighting where we felt like we were in our own family rooms with delightful servers to attend always with a smile. -The Lido buffet dining area was lovely with perfect lighting including lamps, nice upholstered chairs, and cloth napkins. Loved the made to order pasta bar and made to order salad bar. Pizza was also available. Food was served by the servers on request as you went through the line. There was a dessert and scooped ice cream area with toppings available. I was disappointed that they were out of waffle cones the three times I went there. At breakfast, there was a made to order crepes and waffle area. I loved the blueberry crepes. By the pool, there was a taco and hamburger bar. -Many mornings, we ordered room service including omelets, fruit, coffee, cereal, and rolls. Service was prompt and courteous. We were given a form to fill out nightly if we wished room service and place on our door knobs. -I was glad that I’d read the reviews and the Holland America policy ahead of time and knew we could carry on a carton of soft drinks, bottled water, and 1 bottle of wine per person. -The dining room was nice. I found the food okay, though a couple in our group loved it especially the onion soup, noodles and beef, and Weiner schnitzel. We liked that a cheese plate was available each evening for dessert. Dessert varied each evening. I especially loved the chocolate lava cake and key lime pie. -The public restrooms were all warmly lit, and I LOVED the rolled-up wash cloth to use to dry hands. So luxurious! -We heard the comedian Tim Kaminsky several times. He was clean and very good. One night there was to be a dancing show early evening but it was cancelled due to accident a performer had, so Tim was asked last minute to do another performance. He did a fine job. -We were to stop in the Bahamas our first day on Sunday, but had to cancel due to not being able to dock safely. We attended Mass at 5:00 pm. We were pleased a Mass was available but would have preferred a morning time. It was well attended with no extra seats available. -One morning, my husband and I attended a cooking demonstration at America’s Test Kitchen, but were disappointed to discover there were no samples available. Blueberry pancakes and artichoke and salmon omelets were featured, so it seems basic enough to provide small samples. I’ve attended shows on other ships and always had delicious samples. -We were to stop in Turks and Caicos, but due to weather stopped in Samana, Dominican Republic. We did not book excursions through the ship. We met a man who offered to take us on a motorcycle pulling a four person cart on a tour to a waterfall and a beach for $25 each. It was a bumpy ride seeing many small houses, some with dirt floors, and all with bars on the windows. We arrived at the path to the waterfall with locals telling us of the “5 minute walk” to the waterfall. It was really 20 minutes with many rocks and hills. Most of us were in flip flops crossing rock streams. Locals were along the path selling jewelry, paintings, and drinks along the way. One fellow climbed a tree yelling, “Monkey Man” and quickly descended the tree as we walked past with his hat out looking for tips. When we got to the falls, 3 young men were jumping off the falls as a guy counted to three, then passed the hat for more tips. We hiked back to where our motorcycle had dropped us off and rode to a small beach. We stayed about an hour anxious to return to the ship. It was an interesting adventure. -Our second stop, which was not scheduled due to weather was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We went to a restaurant, did some shopping, and the guys walked around the fort. We found some wonderful Michael Kors purses at a good price. -Our final stop was in the Dominican Republic. We went to a large pool and had a wonderful day of swimming, water sliding, and hanging out at the pool. -My husband liked the casino and found the Craps Table attendants friendly. -We went to the BB King lounge a couple of times and the band was terrific! The sets were somewhat short. Overall, we found limited opportunities to dance. -Loved that liquor purchased in the onboard store was delivered to our room the morning of our last day at sea. -We would have liked an aerobics class and exercises in the pool. We’ve cruised Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian and were a bit disappointed that the Oosterdam didn’t feature gleaming brass staircases and a tiered balcony atrium with entertainment. I missed the entertainment crew led dancing opportunities, the hairy man contest, and Newly Wed Game. -Overall, the cruise was great! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our second cruise with Holland America and we were impressed with the Oosterdam. The embarkation was the best we have ever experienced. After processing our boarding passes and receiving our room card we waited in a large area ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Holland America and we were impressed with the Oosterdam. The embarkation was the best we have ever experienced. After processing our boarding passes and receiving our room card we waited in a large area with a card number. When our number was called we walked on the ship and went straight to our cabin where we left our carry on stuff and headed for lunch in the Lido Market. The decor in our cabin was new, pleasant and well done. Our attendant Mardi did a great job checking on us and keeping the ice container filled. The Lido Market also is decorated beautifully. When we saw it at night it really was quite upscale looking and gave me a new appreciation for its attractiveness during the day. Food was simply outstanding in the Lido Market. Servers behind the buffet served us. We usually ate breakfast and lunch there and their coffee was the best. Our evening meal was 5:30 in the Main Dining Room 3. We were seated right on time at a table for 8 and had pleasant dining companions. We were able to enjoy several gorgeous sunsets while we were there for dinner. The Christian band Mercy Me had about 900 guests on this cruise so the overall age appeared more diverse. The band brought their families for a time of R&R and the actor in the movie "I Can Only Imagine" , J. Michael Finley was on this cruise with his family. The pool area had plenty of lounges and most of the time there were empty ones in the shade. The Lido pool was a good size and I was able to do my lap swim one of the days we were in port. Some things are out of our control and the weather in the Caribbean that week was one of them. We could not stop at Half Moon Cay for our picnic because the high winds made tendering dangerous. The next day was At Sea. Both days were sunny and pleasant. We also were able to see most of the lunar eclipse of the Blood Moon. Right at the last minute a cloud cover moved in and poof - it disappeared. On Tuesday we were diverted to Samana, Dominican Republic because of high winds and tendering issues at Cap Cana. The ship offered a few excursions but we enjoyed a walk around this port. Samana is where the whales spend time during the months of January through March although we didn't see any. Wednesday was spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico rather than Grand Turks due to high winds. I was disappointed about this because I enjoy the beach that is near the port where the ship docks. On Thursday we did dock at Amber Cove. This is a great place to play. We enjoyed the water slide and the pool area. This area has been developed nicely for the cruise ships. There is really a lot to do on this ship. BBC Earth Experience shared several good shows about nature in diverse parts of the world. The area called Billboard Onboard has two piano players that presented music and songs from Great Standards, On request (excellent) The 1970s etc. We stopped at their 7:30 shows after dinner. Mainstage performers were Tim Kaminski and Derek Floyd. Our cabin was 5136 with a balcony. There were no rooms across the hall from us and it was very quiet and pleasant. There is plenty of storage room. The beds, sheets and pillows were comfortable and clean.We were disappointed there was no night light in the bathroom. We enjoyed seeing Fox News on the TV in our cabin. One thing we really liked was the Navigator for our mobile device. We were able to check our phones for information on the ship, view our onboard statement, etc . We were invited to the Captain's lunch during one of our days at sea. It was very nice, well attended and Captain Rens van Eerten and the entire crew did a fabulous job to make our cruise safe and interesting. We chose to carry our luggage off the ship ourselves at the end of the cruise. This was so easy and well organized. Our shuttle to the Park and Cruise was waiting for us when we walked out. And just like that we were home! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Chose this cruise for ports as we have done several Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. This was to be Half Moon Cay, Cap Cana DR, Grand Turk and Amber Cove DR. Have wanted to see Turks & Caicos and DR. I was somewhat ... Read More
Chose this cruise for ports as we have done several Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. This was to be Half Moon Cay, Cap Cana DR, Grand Turk and Amber Cove DR. Have wanted to see Turks & Caicos and DR. I was somewhat concerned about the Oosterdam as far as updates and refurbishment. It was in good condition with no particularly worn areas. The cabin was at least partially updated. Not sure if more to come. Hallways look slightly dated. Dining was prompt with good service. No complaints on food. Unfortunately we had to skip Half Moon Cay as tenders could not pick up passengers due to waves. This was then a sea day. We were unable to stop at Cap Cana for the same reason and they substituted Samana DR. We didn’t get off the ship. Grand Turk was also cancelled for weather/safety reasons and they substituted San Juan. They did dock at Amber Cove. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This was our very first time on HAL and we loved it. It’s truly a laid back and relaxing atmosphere. We rented a Retreat Cabana for the week and we absolutely loved it. It was well worth the money. Our cabin Butler, Carlo, was great. He ... Read More
This was our very first time on HAL and we loved it. It’s truly a laid back and relaxing atmosphere. We rented a Retreat Cabana for the week and we absolutely loved it. It was well worth the money. Our cabin Butler, Carlo, was great. He was very attentive. We had some issues with high winds and had to skip our first port. So we had an extra day at sea which made the cabana even more worthwhile. We enjoyed dinner at Pinnacle Grill twice and Canaletto once. Our cabin was 7038 and in a great spot. One thing we did discover is they changed the explorations cafe. It’s not like the pictures. It’s much smaller and part of the crows nest bar now. So if you’re expecting a “coffee shop” it’s not. But the coffee was great. Definitely will sail on HAL again. We have already booked for next year. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We tookk the cruise as we got a fabulous rate for our suite for three. We had drink pack for 2. paid taxes and grats for 2 and 1 nite dinner at specialty.we padi tax and grats and din for son. The cruise had a more diverse age group ... Read More
We tookk the cruise as we got a fabulous rate for our suite for three. We had drink pack for 2. paid taxes and grats for 2 and 1 nite dinner at specialty.we padi tax and grats and din for son. The cruise had a more diverse age group than usual. Te cruise line attracts seniors but this date had more folk younger. The activity choices were AWFUL. If you like Bingo and Mahjong you were in paradise. Limited ne class for exercise and a handful of day activiies which included shore excursion lectures etc. Very discouraging. The food choices were POOR but the prep averaged a "C". The sommeliers encouraged drink pack holders to get bottles of wine NOT included on package(I knew that) and purchasing 15 dollar glasses of wine. It would be O but it was unrelentless no matter whether MD anytime dinign etc.Discouraging! Not once. twice but three times our beverage bill was charged for a drink at Billboard lounge their addition nest to casino.It was corrected bu once should have been enough.we played trivia theer daily as ONE thing we could do when NOT in a port. Billboard dueling pian disappointing. Talented pianists but their voices less than average. The BB King lounge FAB> Many empty seats at ALl shows .Troupe there was Hopping and Popping and WOW. The quartet in the lincoln lounge was extraordinary.Kudos to each musician and their professional talents and presentations. Yuo were a gleaming beam on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
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