Holland America Line - Nieuw Amsterdam Sept-Oct 2018
I thought to myself what a great way to arrive in San Diego from Vancouver for those who don't care to fly, and quite reasonable especially if your prime goal was just ... Read More
Holland America Line - Nieuw Amsterdam Sept-Oct 2018
I thought to myself what a great way to arrive in San Diego from Vancouver for those who don't care to fly, and quite reasonable especially if your prime goal was just transportation with no frills attached.
I had high expectations for this 4 day repositioning cruise which continued on from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale which for some I believe was a total of 23 days. My high expectations were due to this ship being newly refurbished in 2017 and we've sailed on HAL before many years ago and it was by far at the top of our list for favorites. I recall the food being exceptional ( before the days of specialty restaurants) and the entertainment stellar. So how did it fare this time around?...
Embarkation: Vancouver BC Terminal
This was SUPERB! HAL does it right. Your informed of the time you should arrive. Don't come earlier, you won't get any further ahead.
Check in was a breeze due to the set time for arrival. We had no line ups whatsoever. After we checked in we were seated in a waiting area for about 10-15 min before we boarded. Once onboard we weren't bombarded with staff promoting dining, activities etc. While waiting for the "Cabin ready" announcement we went to the dining reservations desk to pre book our MDR reservations. Our cabin was ready in about 10 minutes after we boarded.
I rate this Embarkation 9/10
That's it folks...we just sailed away. No live band, NO MUSIC WHATSOEVER! No countdown when going under the Lions Gate Bridge. NOTHING! On the Lido Deck they set up 2 tables with black spandex coverings which became a 'pop up bar' in addition to the existing bar. They also set up 2 cocktail tables! Two for 2500 + passengers? They stacked the lounge chairs and tucked them aside so no place to sit except for a handful of scattered chairs and the existing bar stools. I don't know why they had to stack them...It wasn't a rainy day, just overcast but still fairly warm. There was no build up of excitement, the Lido Deck was a bland, boring space. This was sooo disappointing. I hoped when we sailed away in Seattle perhaps it would improve...nope we just sailed away.
For this sail away I'm rating it 1/10
Main Dining Room:
For being a ship that just went through a refurbishment I expected the main dining room to have all the glitz and glamour that most shipboard dining rooms have. I was quite disappointed with the decor of the MDR. It was definitely stuck in the 70's ( no appearance of refurbishment here) with the orangey red laminate divider walls and serving stations. Our first night we were seated directly across from one of the many open, unsightly, very noisy server stations. We were seated so close to it that the waiters butts were almost touching our table when facing the serving station. Not a pretty site! Also the fluorescent office type lighting above was very dated and bright overhead so I learnt to ask to be seated in a dimly lit area of the dining room, which had a much nicer and calming appearance as you would be seated closer to the windows and it was also much quieter. What we thought was really strange was there was no music, none, nothing even piped thru a speaker system, odd to say the least. We had anytime dining and made reservations as soon as we got onboard for our preferred time. There was one evening we had no reservations and only waited a few minutes before being seated. The food was actually quite tasty and we did enjoy most meals. Always enjoyed my breakfast here especially the Lox...so fresh and superb quality.
I rate the MDR 6/10
This is the only restaurant we dined in while onboard and for the $25.p/person charge was worth it. If you book onboard and dine on embarkation day they do offer a discount. The ambiance was relaxing and peaceful just what is needed after dining in the noisy MDR for 3 nights straight. I ordered the Wasabi Crusted Filet Mignon. This was a full size filet, not the tiny piece of meat you get in the MDR, it was cooked perfectly as requested and the flavor was delicious. My husband ordered the Lobster Tempura main entree, where they cut the lobster meat, tempura it and stuff it back into the lobster shell beautifully prepared. The lobster was fresh, tender and not rubbery. There was only one item I didn't care for on the shared appy plate, but that could be based on personal preference, otherwise everything else we enjoyed immensely which made our last evening on board our favorite. Service by the all female wait staff was attentive and courteous. We wanted to tip our waitress but no 'tip option' on the receipt so we had to tip with cash.
I rate Tamarind 9.5/10
Dive-In- no fee
This grill on the Lido deck served the most delicious burgers and fries. We ordered the Cannonball burger, very yummy. The wall-mount menu has milkshakes listed on it, however you have to go across the deck to actually order them from the bar. Definitely worth it.
Pizza- no fee
Good pizza here, wait time was a bit long over 1/2 hr but they were lined up before we ordered. While we were waiting we could smell cigarette smoke drifting our way so the smoking area is nearby by the bar.
Tea is Served 3p.m.- Allocated in the MDR where your usually able to order all kinds of beverages. Don't expect to be able to order any other beverage. I love having an afternoon cup of tea, my husband does not ever drink tea so he asked if he could at least order a beer. "NO! This is TEA,TEA,TEA! NO BEER!" was the response. Ok we get that but we also understand that cruise lines will 'bend over backwards' to please you within reason and I don't think it was too much to ask for one beer as a beverage preference. Also a kinder response would of been appreciated.
Nothing much to write about this was your average nice buffet, not as big of a selection that we enjoyed on Celebrity but you still get a fairly decent selection. The behind the counter servers plate your choice of items for you which I really appreciated instead of everyone touching everything with self serve buffets. We really liked the salad bar where there's an array of salad items you choose and the 'salad chef' tosses it altogether for you with your choice of dressing in these large salad bowls. The oriental dressing was my favorite.
On the Mainstage over the 4 nights there were 2 magic shows-Magic Rocks, a musical production-One World and a comedian-Frances Dilorinzo. We didn't go to the magic shows, the musical production was boring also the young performers timing was off on the dance moves. It was like they were dancing just to get it over with. I thought I was watching a high school performance, it was so bad we left. I was now skeptical about going to see the comedian but she was fantastic. The theatre itself is large and even though it appeared a bit dated it's still beautiful. There was plenty of room and a seat could be found easily on any level. The cup holders are hidden in the chairs arms, but some were a bit rusty and difficult to pull out to open.
BB King's All Stars: Fantastic! The music, singers and instrumentalists were all top notch! Three performances per evening all different sets except we noticed on the 4th night they started over again with the same show and music we saw on the first night which isn't so bad unless you were staying onboard for the entire 23 day cruise.
Billboard Onboard: The When & Where daily newsletter would just print Billboard Onboard 1970's. So what does that mean? There was no explanation of what type of entertainment this was. We weren't even sure if it was live entertainment. It was right in the casino where we never ventured except to purchase a used casino deck of cards at the lottery booth for only $1. We discovered it after exiting the Mainstage show one evening and this ended up being our favorite night time place to go for drinks and fabulous music. This is the venue to be at to enjoy 2 pianists dueling out tunes from the 60's, 70's and All Requests later in the evening. Now that should of been the newsletter write up. We absolutely loved it!
Lincoln Center stage: This was a small group of young Performing Arts graduates playing stringed instruments with a pianist performing Beethoven to Buble. We never saw a full performance but stopped for a bit to hear them play one afternoon and they were a fantastic, extremely talented group of musicians.
Overall Evening Entertainment rating 8/10
Drink Package: ( make sure you continually check your onboard account for accuracy)
You would think that your drink package regulations, rules, and restrictions should be basic knowledge by onboard staff especially by those who work behind the customer service desk. To me it's fairly simple....we purchased a basic alcoholic beverage package online which included gratuities ($206. ea USD for 4 night cruise) which allowed us to have ANY drink on the menu valued at $9 or less. Anything over $9 we would have to pay the full price for, not the difference in price like you're able to do on Celebrity & NCL. There was no shortage of drinks (except wine-very few at $9/glass) that fell within this price range which was excellent. So did this end up being so straightforward? Oh no, why would it? After signing into the free onboard Navigator App ( which is excellent by the way) to view our shipboard expense account I noticed we've been charged the full price for every drink with an added gratuity! At first I thought they're just listing every drink we've ordered and it will be reconciled later. So off to the customer service desk to double check. " NO" says the young man at customer service. "You have to pay full price for all those drinks". " You see because you ordered a drink for $9 you have to mentally calculate what the gratuity will be, which now brings the drink total to $10.28 which exceeds your $9 package allotment, so really you should be ordering drinks at about $7.75." WHAT??? First of all there are no drinks on the menu for that price and second it's not my responsibility to mentally calculate the gratuity which by the way I already paid for. Then I mentioned that I specifically asked the bartender if one of the drinks I ordered was included, and she said it was. He asked me what her name is so she can be reprimanded for giving out the wrong advice! He then gave us a printout of the drink package policy and told us we obviously need to pay heed to the 'fine print'. His co-worker also peered at our account and said "yeah that's how it works". Frustrated and not wanting to waste anymore time there we questioned a few bartenders about the policy and told them our predicament. They told us exactly what we thought... that we're entitled to ANY drink on ANY menu that's $9 or less which is exactly what the policy states. No gratuity should be added as it's already been calculated into the package price. The next morning back to the service desk we go ( not how I want to be spending this short cruise). Thankfully the other person there spoke to the bar manager, reversed all our charges and apologized for the inconvenience, and thankfully we checked our shipboard account on a regular basis which I advise everyone to do. My advice to HAL is coach your staff so they at least understand and are on the same page for your basic policies especially on something so simple like the beverage packages.
A beautiful boat, but nothing grandeur. Aside from the evening entertainment we found this to be a bit of a boring cruise. Few were under the age of 70 so there was no shortage of canes, walkers and scooters. Kindness and patience is a must. I personally don't want to fill my days with acupuncture appointments, reflexology, and how to reduce swollen ankles and then pay a bomb for their so called remedies. Overall we found the daytime activities quite boring...I love cards but don't play bridge, however we did enjoy Americas Test Kitchen in the afternoons. Earlier I mentioned that there was no music piped into the MDR at any time. Actually it was nowhere during the day anywhere...not in the observation lounge while enjoying a coffee, not in the buffet having a meal, not in the atrium area waiting in line at the customer service desk...nope I listened for it but no daytime music whatsoever except at 2pm for a Lincoln Stage performance which was live.
Overall if you want a completely relaxing do nothing cruise this is for you, if you want excitement and a more youthful variety of things to do cruise on another line.
Overall rating 7/10 Read Less