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577 Holland America Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

Good price, with free daily lectures. Wanted to try HAL again after many years and many cruises on RCL and Princess. Service and crew where very happy, friendly and efficient. Food was tasty great with lots of choices in Lido every ... Read More
Good price, with free daily lectures. Wanted to try HAL again after many years and many cruises on RCL and Princess. Service and crew where very happy, friendly and efficient. Food was tasty great with lots of choices in Lido every meal! Never ate in dining room. Won money in casino so that was great! Microsoft lectures where amazing from actual Microsoft employee and learned lots about many MS tools and apps. Photo shop provided "free photography lectures" from an actual National Geographic photographer -"Justin James" and learned many tips on improving my pictures! Really enjoyed all of the destinations especially Aruba because of the TukTuk Tour we took from a Expedia vendor. Wish HAL had large central public malls like RCL on some of their newer ships. Always enjoy sitting in a cafe and watch the people walk by. Eurodam just has a great VIB and loved this cruise. Would definitely go again. Highly recommend the Sting Ray swim excursion in Half Moon Cay. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise because of the great price. Our cabin was D1842 on the lowest passenger deck and we were very happy with it. This is not a cruise for younger folks. There were two children on board and I had to wonder if they were ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the great price. Our cabin was D1842 on the lowest passenger deck and we were very happy with it. This is not a cruise for younger folks. There were two children on board and I had to wonder if they were bored to death. The room stewards were excellent, as were the bar waiters and all the staff in the Lido buffet. Unfortunately we had poor service in the MDR despite going there when they said they were less busy. One night after waiting 20 minutes for the waiter to take our order we gave up and left, never to return. The food in the Lido was excellent and varied. We loved having eggs benedict cooked to order for breakfast. We loved the Crow's Nest lounge up top, despite the noisy daily trivia. The art work was great. As it happens I love oriental art so I really appreciated the lifesize terracota warriors and horse and ancient Chinese artifacts. We enjoyed the Ocean Bar. There were always places to sit around the ship but the daytime music in all the lounges except the library annoyed us. The Explorations Cafe offered custom coffees and also served as the library, board game room, and internet cafe. This was the largest library I've seen at sea in years. It was a popular room but there was always a chair available. We appreciated the wraparound promenade deck for our daily walks. The art gallery and auction were, blessedly, low key. There were several recent, good movies in the Wajang Theater but it was hard to understand why there was just this smallish drop down screen instead of a real movie screen. If you sat at the sides of the theater it was hard to see the screen. It was nice to have a real movie theater onboard, though. The Billboard lounge features two grand pianos and two musicians playing and singing. A different decade of songs was featured each night. We thought the male singer was good but the female was not professional quality in our opinion and we also couldn't see the appeal of the place but it was very popular. Aside from the great price what we really like about this ship was the relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere. The passenger to space ratio is average so we're not sure how this happens but we never experienced lines or crowding, even at the elevators which always arrived promptly. The entertainment was good for the most part though we miss the production shows they no longer have. There was a German instrumentalist who played the marimba, sax, trumpet, drums, and pan pipes. He did a dueling drums thing with the ship's drummer that was fantastic. He did "Stairway to Heaven" on the pan pipes that was hauntingly beautiful. He was so good we went back to the second show to see him again. There were always seats available in the show room - no need to show up a half hour ahead for a seat like was the case on Princess. There were two cornhole tournaments we enjoyed and lots of trivia games. They had many performances of classical music in the Lincoln Stage that were very good, provided by a young, enthusiastic quintet. The port lectures and talks on Mexican history and culture were excellent. The passenger service desk and shore excursion desk staff were both efficient and courteous. Embarkation and disembarkation were efficient and painless. The hot dogs and hamburgers were made to order so they gave you a little buzzer for when your order was ready but when we used this a crew member passing by grabbed the buzzer, got, and delivered the order to where we were! Impressive and the hot dog was the best I've had on a ship. The main pool has a cover so it can function in any weather and this was a popular area. It also had two ping pong tables made of real, beautiful woods and unlike on many ships they were in a protected area so you could play without the wind ruining your shots. The pool behind the Lido buffet was also popular and there were nice tables and chairs out there that were a bit protected from wind and sun. One of our favorite things was the towel animals the room stewards left on our bed each night. And on one of the last days the crew decorated the entire pool area with towel animals. It was a great display much appreciated by many of us. This is a ship for us older folks who don't need non-stop entertainment and activities and like to spend time watching the ocean or reading or enjoying walks on deck. This is an older ship without the modern bells and whistles but it was perfect for us. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This is our 7th cruise.We had a signature suite. Other cruises have been 14 day transatlantic on Celeberity, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. This ranks last on our ratings. Pros: Crew all very friendly, pleasant, helpful and seem to be very ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise.We had a signature suite. Other cruises have been 14 day transatlantic on Celeberity, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. This ranks last on our ratings. Pros: Crew all very friendly, pleasant, helpful and seem to be very happy. Food was very good at first. Canned music was subtle and unobtrusive.Cons: Too many to list but here are the main ones. Ship is very tired and not well maintained.It needs to be retired. The total design of ship is archaic and not very comfortable. Reportably had been refurbished in 2018, but doesn't look like it. Main theater too small to accommodate most of passengers. Dinning room is unattractive and impossible to get seated on their "AnyTime" plan unless you want to eat after 8 or wait 30 minutes plus to be seated. Food was very good at beginning of cruise but has deteriated, however, we have always found something to our liking. Entertainment is very lacking, acts are very mediocre. Only one dance music venue playing only jazz and blues. No dance classes. Enrichment classes very few and far between. Not many on board activities. Several of the ports we stopped at were industrial ports far from the cities, obviously to save port fees. We will not return nor recommend to our friends unless they are looking for just relaxing, reading, and paying big bucks to go on excursions. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
I choose Holland America because we do not like the mega ships...I like to feel that we are at sea! I thought the food was the best I have had comparing with other cruise lines. The service was outstanding, friendly and fun. I would be ... Read More
I choose Holland America because we do not like the mega ships...I like to feel that we are at sea! I thought the food was the best I have had comparing with other cruise lines. The service was outstanding, friendly and fun. I would be hard pressed to look elsewhere. There was wonderful entertainment in the evening at the Gallery Bar. Two duel pianists played and sang 50's to 90's music. We went twice an evening...really fun!!! The Panama Canal was very interesting and enjoyed seeing the new ports in Mexico. Our dining room wait staff was exceptional and fun (made out first time cruisers with us feel very comfortable). We were lucky enough to draw great tablemates at our large table. Drawbacks. For our taste I thought the entertainment in the Mainstage was just ok. Also, our wifi was very spotty. All around I would give a big thumbs up!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We sailed on the Holland-America Oosterdam’s 18-day Panama Canal cruise (January 15-February 5, 2020) from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. My wife and I are in our 70’s, and we are four-star HAL Mariners. We had temperatures that were ... Read More
We sailed on the Holland-America Oosterdam’s 18-day Panama Canal cruise (January 15-February 5, 2020) from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. My wife and I are in our 70’s, and we are four-star HAL Mariners. We had temperatures that were mostly in the 70’s and 80’s and lots and lots of sunshine. (There was very little rain during these 18 days.) We packed sunscreen and some 30% Deet insect repellent (we did not experience much in the way of mosquitoes, but some of the tours advised using insect repellent). Dining: Before we sailed I noticed that there were some negative reviews about the Oosterdam posted on Cruise Critic. Our experience, however, was mostly positive and often extremely positive. For example, we’ve been on seven HAL cruises, and the food on this one was the best we’ve had. We ate dinner in the Main Dining Room each night except for one night at the Pinnacle Grill (very good), one at the Canaletto (extremely good – in fact, we enjoyed it more than the Pinnacle), and one night when we ordered dinner through Room Service off the Main Dining Room menu. (Since we did not eat at the Lido buffet, I can’t comment on that.) We did take advantage of the Main Dining Room’s Club Orange. It can get you into the Main Dining Room faster (priority seating), though not necessarily faster service once you’re seated. On our cruise it included an additional entrée each meal that was not included on the regular menu. One of our wine stewards (Joey) was especially good. I liked his recommendations. An added bonus was that he made some origami for us. (It was a side talent of his!) The Main Dining Room menus each night included a good mix of well-prepared popular dishes (steak, salmon) and some adventuresome gourmet food with an emphasis on dishes that reflected the ports we were visiting. The soups were outstanding. They were made with flavorful stocks, free of grease, well-seasoned with interesting combinations of ingredients. One negative was that during the first week of the cruise, getting seated in the Dining Room seemed hectic and somewhat disorganized. One night, in fact, they were totally confused as to which table we were being assigned to. As the cruise continued, things got better. I suspect that the staff were aware of the problem and taking steps to fix it. In addition, while always friendly, the serving staff seemed more pressured and harried than on previous cruises. I know that other reviews have found them to be understaffed, and I am inclined to agree. Talks: Edgar Jiménez, HAL’s Mexican Cultural Ambassador, was outstanding. His lectures covered a great deal of Mexican history, culture, geography, and geology and lots of information about the Mexican ports we visited (Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Huatulco, and Puerto Chiapas). He was enjoyable, entertaining, and a gifted teacher/lecturer. Much less successful, I think, were the talks given by the ship’s cruise director. His presentation on the Panama Canal was particularly disappointing. He admitted that he had never been to the Canal before and was using a PowerPoint and script that had been prepared for him in HAL’s corporate offices in Seattle. I was surprised that a Panama Canal cruise did not bring onboard speakers who were knowledgeable about the history and engineering of the Canal. Transiting the Canal was, of course, the highlight of the cruise. Some of us were up as early as 5:30 a.m., though it wasn’t until 6:30 a.m. that we could start witnessing anything. It takes most of the day to transit the Canal, and throughout the journey the TVs in the rooms and the loudspeakers on the decks broadcast commentary at key points in the transit. I re-read David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas while I was on this cruise, and I am glad I did. It added a lot to my appreciation of what we were seeing. Entertainment: The Lincoln Center Stage quintet (string quartet plus pianist) was outstanding! They played to mostly packed houses. I liked that they discussed the music they were about to play and why it meant so much to them. We saw a few Mainstage performances. The comedian, Tim, was funny. I liked the dancers, too. The most unforgettable was the live music they provided to accompany a screening of the BBC Planet Earth II video. The nature photography was spellbinding, and the music was the perfect accompaniment to it. We didn’t spend too much time at the piano bar, but the two guys who performed there and their audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Internet and HAL’s Navigator App: Our package included Premium Internet Service, and it was mostly great. This was our first experience with loading HAL’s Navigator App on our phone and iPad. The app still needs some work, I believe, but it was helpful, especially since you could access shipboard events from it. I liked that it let me see the day’s dinner menus, though, curiously, it did not include the desserts. (You could see the desserts if you accessed the menu from the room’s TV, however.) In addition, it wasn’t always able to pull up my account, though, again, I could see it on our TV. I hope that future enhancements include being able to pull up such useful information as which location they are disembarking the ship from when we are in port. Since it is not always easy to hear announcements from the captain or cruise director (the Oosterdam’s sound system could use an update!), it would also be helpful to post these announcements to the app (or at least allow you to replay them from the app. The Casino: The big plus was that there was no smoking allowed in the casino, which passengers often traverse in order to get to the Mainstage on Deck 2. I do very little gambling, but on previous cruises I might play blackjack for one or two nights on an 18-day cruise. I didn’t play at all on this cruise because their blackjack table paid only 6 for 5 for a blackjack, instead of the usual 3 for 2 and let dealers hit soft 17’s. Worse yet, the lowest minimum bet was $6. When I asked the bit boss what they paid for a blackjack on a $6 bet, he answered $7. Of course, no serious gambler would ever play blackjack on a cruise ship and I expect the house to have an edge, but this seemed so downright greedy and excessive that I decided not to play. Smoking: Smoking was prohibited in the staterooms and balconies and public areas and was allowed only on one small section of the ship – outside by the Seaview Pool Bar on Deck 9. So this was a great cruise for non-smokers, and a lousy one for heavy smokers. A few other notes: We booked our pre-cruise hotel through HAL and came three nights before to enjoy San Diego. The hotel was the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, and, frankly, it was a disappointment. While the staff were friendly, our room was a bit dismal. It overlooked a parking lot in the Main Tower. Something was out of whack with there HVAC system, which meant that the public rooms were uncomfortably cold, and so, too, was our room. It was not a hotel I’d return to. We heard very few complaints from other passengers onboard except for complaints about the time it took to get seated in the Main Dining Room. I noticed that later in the cruise the Maître D’ staff and chefs were going from table-to-table to ask passengers what they thought. They seemed genuinely interested in listening, and I respect that a lot. We appreciated the fact that HAL cruises do not bombard you with lots of intrusive announcements over the ship’s PA system. Like all HAL cruises this was a great choice for an older crowd who want a relaxing experience and like to read, listen to music, play card games, have good conversations with fellow passengers, and eat well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise because the Canal had been on our bucket list for a long time. We have sailed on Eurodam almost ten years ago and had some really good memories of that time. We stayed in Deerfield Beach the night before where we found ... Read More
We chose this cruise because the Canal had been on our bucket list for a long time. We have sailed on Eurodam almost ten years ago and had some really good memories of that time. We stayed in Deerfield Beach the night before where we found a delightful Brazialian buffet. Since spouse was riding a med scooter, we were given some leaway on standing in lines so embarcation went very smoothly. On board and in room by 12:30. The ship was well done in overhaul with new color scheme and upgrades. Our cabin 8033(accessable) was larger than most on the ones we were albe to peek in with plenty of room for the scooter to park and turn around. The shower was spacious but did flood the entire bath when used( drains wouldn't contain water). The bedding was very comfortable and the room was expertly maintained by steward whenever we left cabin ( one day even making bed 4 times). The dining was good in the main dining hall ( didn;t try specialitys) and we were treated with care and graciousness. Was nice to called by name every evening when we came to sign in to dine and by several of the attendants on the Lido deck. Even had one of the line supervisors prepare a plate and then carry to find table for spouse. The main entertainment was not as elaborate as we remember with the "shows" being a single singer or comedian. The best in our opinion was the staff preformance. Plenty of other activities with two excelent piano players in the Billboard who often had fifty or more people standing in the aisle watching since no more seating. The orange party was no more than waiters bringing around canapes while the band played very loud music in the BB King room. Don't bother with wearing Orange, few did. The self walking tour in Curacao was nice and we felt completely safe while seeing a good bit of the old city. The canal tour in Puerto Limon was excelent with many sloths and other wildlife being seen. The bird park at Cartegena was well done with some beautiful displays and easy to travel pathways. Most ports were typical vendors pushing the same trinkets and "local" (made in China) wares. Disembarcation for us was very easy since we were in the last group to be called. Eight ships in port that day. We lazed around and enjoyed talking and visiting until after 10:15. Walked off ship, picked up luggage, stood in line at immagration for about 10 minutes and then strolled to parking garage and were on road to Alligator Alley before 11:00. Overall a good cruise with some highlights and some letdowns. The worst was when HAL "allowed" us to have Meet and Greet in same room where they were playing bingo loudly. HAL did set up snacks and coffee which was jumped on by bingo players. Saw several quieter possible locations. No officers or other HAL reps attended. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This was a very successful vacation. Aft cabin on 8th floor was perfect for going thru the Panama Canal. The guide narrating the cruise was a welcome surprise...he did a great job. We also liked the (30 minute) educational classes they ... Read More
This was a very successful vacation. Aft cabin on 8th floor was perfect for going thru the Panama Canal. The guide narrating the cruise was a welcome surprise...he did a great job. We also liked the (30 minute) educational classes they offered and attended almost all of them. Microsoft classes. Photo-coach classes. Port to table cooking demonstrations by chef about local foods. Presentations by the cruise director about the regions, and animals, and history. Fascinating topics. Also, the Lincoln Center Stage offered classical music performances and talks about performers. Such a treat! Our biggest complaint is that we don't like to dress up for dinner on the 2 gala nights, and eating in the Lido buffet can be challenging if ya want to just sit and have dinner as a couple. Would prefer HAL to come up with a dining service option for the "under dressed"...lol. One other thing we don't like is the high pressure "spa and fitness" people. They are too aggressive and materialistic...so we stayed away. However, we will definitely return to HAL!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Panama Canal transit in January, just the time to be out of the Northeast. Have been on Rotterdam multiple times. Enjoy the size of ship, the fact that it still has an Explorations Cafe and full Promenade deck, making it very comfortable, ... Read More
Panama Canal transit in January, just the time to be out of the Northeast. Have been on Rotterdam multiple times. Enjoy the size of ship, the fact that it still has an Explorations Cafe and full Promenade deck, making it very comfortable, especially on sea days. Needs some additional activities and entertainment, especially for sea days. The Billboard On Board was great, just not enough seating. Food is very good, although MDR menus seemed disjointed. If you don’t have fixed seating, it’s a long wait for open dining availability. We were lucky to be able to change after 2 nights. Lunch in Pinnacle excellent. Lido, MDR staff uniformly helpful and attentive. Lido items repetitive, but satisfying, although seemed to be short of fresh berries after first week. Ship is older, needing some cosmetic updating. Rust visible outside. Fire alarm sounded first evening, but small fire was contained without impact on guests. High winds and seas in Caribbean resulted in cancellation of Aruba port call. No much anyone can do about that. As always, ships excursions are expensive, but well organized. Felt more comfortable using them this trip due to unfamiliarity with ports in Guatemala and Nicaragua etc. Canal was a bucket list item, so glad we did this trip. If you’ve been on HAL ships of this class, you’ll know what to expect. Biggest recommendation...add more activities and showings. Often unable to attend shows due to lack of seats. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My wife and I (both 53) were asked to join our friends on the Eurodam 11 day cruise to the Panama Canal. Having cruised several times before on Disney, RCCL & NCL we were eager to experience HAL. I was aware that the HAL demographic ... Read More
My wife and I (both 53) were asked to join our friends on the Eurodam 11 day cruise to the Panama Canal. Having cruised several times before on Disney, RCCL & NCL we were eager to experience HAL. I was aware that the HAL demographic was the older sort. We booked in 2018 for a 2020 cruise, so we had plenty of time for research and YouTube video watching. My wife kept insisting that it wasn’t an “old person” cruise....and today, as I sit on the Lido deck of the Eurodam on day 10 of our 11 day cruise, writing this review, I can confidently say that it is a cruise geared to seniors. This doesn’t make it bad, or boring. Perhaps for my wife and I it is a bit boring. But I can certainly see why this cruise appeals to the over 70 crowd. As a disclaimer, please let me remind you that the views expressed herein are from that of a young-at-heart 53 year old. 95% of the passengers on our cruise are older than me...by a good margin. But they all seem to be enjoying the selection of activities and entertainment. There is a game room where the passengers gather to play board games or card games. There are televisions set up in that room. There is a small casino, that seems very tight on the payouts. There are two very talented pianists that play in the Billboard Onboard club and they attract a nice crowd. They performed almost every night so far. I don’t feel as though I am qualified to review the entertainment on the main stage. I am not a fan of stage shows, so normally I don’t attend. I did go to the comedian show....he was okay..but his set was targeted toward an audience 80 and up. I went back a few nights later to see the impressionist, I gave him about 20 minutes before leaving the show. His first impression was of Paul Lynde. If you know who Paul Lynde was...then this is a show for you! There was also a Brazilian musician (Danilo Gonzalez) that performed one night..I did not attend that show but I heard a lot of people walked out on the show because it was a lot of loud guitar music, not targeted toward this crowd apparently. So what is lacking? What could HAL do differently? I’m not sure they will change anything, as apparently this type of cruise works for their demographic, but here are a few things I would like to see. There is no live band on the pool deck. There are no activities throughout the course of the day that might appear on the pool decK. Other cruise lines we have been on have offered volley ball or even belly flop contests which of course would not appeal to this crowd, but surely there must be something they could offer in the form of entertainment. Half way through the first week, my wife and I found ourselves working on a jigsaw puzzle in the Explorations Cafe. That was a first for me. By the way, if jigsaw puzzles are your form of entertainment, maybe the cruise line could pitch in and buy a few new puzzles before each cruise? The one we were working on had a note in the box saying it was missing 11 pieces. Food is hard to find at certain times of the day. You can always get room service 24/7 (although the menu is quite limited). And you can always get pizza by the Sea View pool but you have to order a whole pizza and wait 10-15 minutes. An improvement would be to offer slices and have them ready-made, with an option for a whole pizza if you wish. You can also order burgers and dogs for Dive-In with a 15-20 minute wait. But if you are looking for food around 4:15PM - 5:15PM and the again from 9:30PM - 10:30PM you are out of luck! What ever happened to midnight buffets with ice sculptures and butter carved into seahorses? Does any cruise line offer that type of fare any more? As I sit on my deck chair looking at the selection of activities to choose from for the day, I may go to the Team Trivia challenge but will pass on the selection of “Look ten years Younger w/ Dr. Diana”, “Increase your Metabolism”, “Design your own Luggage Tags” or “Design your own Keepsake Tin Box”. The food on board is good, some of it is very good. I haven’t experienced anything amazing however. You can, of course, pay more money to experience one of their “exclusive” restaurants, but that is an entirely different topic that I could comment on for days. Starting with, “Let me get this straight, you can offer better food if I pay you more money? So in the meantime I have to settle for the “free” food that is included with the cruise?” I know this is common not just on HAL but the other cruise lines I have been on as well, I just disagree with the idea. There was a time when, if you paid to go on a cruise you got amazing food at each meal and didn’t have to pay an up charge for better food. Some of the other cruisers seem to like having the staff dish out your selections at the buffet. I am not a fan. I have stood to the side waiting for a roll or sausage or piece of fruit to be placed on my dish while the food staff is attending to another passenger by dishing up an omelet or crepe or other food item which does need assistance. The food at the Lido is presented in such a way that you cannot, in most cases, help yourself even if the tongs are within reach. The sneeze guards are so low that you have to be very short or have extremely flexible limbs to helps yourself, forcing you to ask for assistance for that food selection that you wanted one more piece of, but were too embarrassed to ask for. The dining room is well run and the servers, assistant servers and head waiters are very accommodating. We originally chose the as-you-wish dining option, thinking that would be great to not have to be locked in to a dining time, but very early on we discovered that once we found a table we liked with servers that knew us, we opted to go to that table each night at the same time and the wait staff accommodated our request. This is one of the truly unique experiences you can still have on a cruise ship. That is...having your waiter call you by name, know your likes and dislikes, having your favorite beverage ready for you when you sit down and all of the other quirks you may have that you would have to explain to a new waiter if you did not commit to a dinner time. I now know that I much prefer that tradition much more than the optional come-when-you-want. Specific to this cruise, the ports were good. I think they could have squeezed another day in at half moon Cay if they wanted to. We had to miss our day in Costa Rica due to rough seas. This gave us three sea days in a row and the ship was tossing everyone around, I won’t say violently, but someone else might say it was violent. The pools have been closed for two days because of the rough water and the sliding roof is closed as well, they say they cannot open it because of the rough seas and it could slide back and forth. Not sure if that is true, it would be a bad design if that is the case. They have a policy not to save pool chairs, but that is largely disregarded by our fellow cruisers. They say that chairs unattended for 30 minutes will have the towels removed and the chair made available to someone else. This is not heavily enforced by the staff, but the seniors on board are not shy about moving your stuff if they feel your chair had been empty for too long. Towels at the pool are super easy to get. On other cruise lines we have traveled on, we have had to “sign-out” towels and then check them back in. It seems HAL is not concerned about missing towels, they are readily available to everyone and no one cares if you take one, three or thirty. Our cabin is fine, plenty of room for two adults, I think our placement at the rear of the shop may have added to the queasiness we felt after a few days of rough seas, but that is to be expected, our room steward tried his best at pronouncing our last name each time we saw him, but he was attentive and thorough and I appreciated his attempt at the towel animals each night. I also liked that this was a smaller ship. We have been on trips that have 5,000-7,000 passengers and on a ship of just 2,100 you are not standing around as much for food, or elevators or disembarking. I am very glad to have experienced the Eurodam. It is not for everyone, But that doesn’t make it bad. I probably wouldn’t do it again, there are a lot of other cruise lines I might like to experience. But knowing what to expect before you go is important for any trip you take. I got what I expected from the Eurodam, I just think they could offer their cruisers a bit more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We were excited about this Panama Canal Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego over the holidays. The cruise ports and itinerary were great! Absolutely no complaints here. Our excursions were a mix of HAL and Shore Ex. They were all ... Read More
We were excited about this Panama Canal Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego over the holidays. The cruise ports and itinerary were great! Absolutely no complaints here. Our excursions were a mix of HAL and Shore Ex. They were all well done and interesting. The food was just okay. More than once, I had to send my dish back in the main room. It was like cafeteria food and really, I’m not picky but the meat was inedible. The Lido was actually better and that’s not saying much. They ran out of Splenda, lemons, limes and chocolate ice cream halfway through the cruise. Our room thermostat didn’t work and apparently they are in the process of changing them out. Our room started out too warm so we asked to cool it down. They cooled it down but it turned into an icebox!! And they turned the fan speed up so that it sounded like a jet engine... (well, almost) It continued like this the entire cruise. Then the toilet didn’t flush... or did five minutes after it was pushed. We heard gurgling sounds constantly. There are hardly any electric outlets in the bedrooms. They provide plug strips but bring an extension cord or two. Especially if you have a cpap! There were no rooms left when we signed on in March so took a room that was over the Main Stage. It turns out there were rooms that opened later but we were never informed about them so we were stuck listening to any performance or rehearsal under our floor. We really liked the staff and they tried to do the best job they could but they really are understaffed and expectations are very high. We like Holland America but are going to seriously check ship reviews from now on before we book. We like the smaller ships but the Rotterdam needs to be retired. Rusty and too old to fix. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
The itinerary was why we chose it (Panama Canal), and we’d heard great things about HAL. We’ve cruised on Cunard, Celebrity (Aqua class), Azamara and Avalon. This was our worst experience. The ship itself is great, with beautiful art ... Read More
The itinerary was why we chose it (Panama Canal), and we’d heard great things about HAL. We’ve cruised on Cunard, Celebrity (Aqua class), Azamara and Avalon. This was our worst experience. The ship itself is great, with beautiful art and public areas. The staff is wonderful and determined to please. But some real bummers. Do NOT pay money for the thermal spa - we bought a couples pass and only went twice - money down the drain. The no-stress any time dinner seating in the (beautiful) dining room is crazy - despite valiant efforts by staff there were terrible lineups and long waits at the table. The food was middling - steaks ordered rare came in a variety of done-ness, even in the Pinnacle restaurant. America’s Test Kitchen was fabulous, but we understand that partnership is over. Too bad. The other enrichment activities were not great. And the logistics did not work - things we had paid for not waiting for us, repeated reminders of reservations we had not made, strange charges on the bill. The actual passage through the Canal was absolutely brilliant and will always be remembered. Our last excursion toured Ft Lauderdale (great) then ended at the Miami airport - what a nightmare. Dumped in a very industrial area with no instructions and literally miles away from any check-in areas - we were not the only people muttering about this last bad taste in our mouth. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
This cruise was selected based on the interesting Panama Canal itinerary, the holiday sailing dates and the exceptional price offered. While the entertainment was weak and very limited the food selection and quality helped offset this ... Read More
This cruise was selected based on the interesting Panama Canal itinerary, the holiday sailing dates and the exceptional price offered. While the entertainment was weak and very limited the food selection and quality helped offset this weakness. It is a fairly small ship and generally quiet and not crowded, which we liked. Well maintained other than excessively dirty windows on all decks that made viewing difficult. Cabins were clean and service above average. Crew members generally very happy and, unlike the Costa Luminosa which we also just took, seemed to actually care about being of service. Like many ships, there was a constant effort made to sell products and services which after 17 days became extremely irritating. Shore excursions were over priced and typically involved large bus transportation. Plan your own excursions with private guides for a better experience. Holland America does a nice job for the price but the average age is higher than many ships. Bring good books! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
I consider myself a veteran cruiser and, having done my research, thought it was time to try my first HAL cruise for my 'bucket list" Panama Canal trip. It definitely met my expectations and more. This was also my first ... Read More
I consider myself a veteran cruiser and, having done my research, thought it was time to try my first HAL cruise for my 'bucket list" Panama Canal trip. It definitely met my expectations and more. This was also my first sailing from Ft. Lauderdale. Having flown in the day before, we stayed at a hotel near the port. Embarkation was smooth with just a short wait. The terminal is smaller than others I've seen and a little worn but staff was helpful. You're given a group number and board accordingly. The Eurodam is absolutely beautiful! I was immediately impressed by the decor, cleanliness and easy navigation to the different venues. But, even more impressive was, as we stepped aboard, we were told that our cabins were available...that was a FIRST. See cabin review below. We had the majority of our meals in The Dining Room and Lido Market and both are very nice. The Dining Room is beautiful. Food was good and service were great. The Lido Market has a great selection of food options. I was happy that the buffet staff dishes up your choices. The Explorations Cafe was quiet with a great view and good coffee. We did all HAL shore excursions. Most were very good, some just okay. Disembarkation was quick and easy Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We chose this particular cruise because we had always wanted to see the Panama Canal and Aruba, both of which we got to see. As usual though, the highlight of our trip was meeting other guests and the wonderful staff members. From the Sea ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise because we had always wanted to see the Panama Canal and Aruba, both of which we got to see. As usual though, the highlight of our trip was meeting other guests and the wonderful staff members. From the Sea Bar bartenders/servers to the Caneletto servers and Maitre'D, to the Casino workers and the Tamarind servers, it was top notch customer service. All were friendly, personable, hardworking, and remembered everyone's names immediately. Seeing the Panama Canal was really more interesting than I thought it would be. It was on my husband's bucket list (not really mine) but seeing in person the locks and how they worked was really interesting. Watching our ship go through the locks (wake up early and don't miss this!) was another highlight of my trip. The passage on either side of the Eurodam was just inches, and it was fascinating how they do they navigate this. The engineering of the damn itself was also fascinating to read about, along with the history of how it was done and what discoveries were made to help not only the completion of the dam, but future generations from diseases like malaria. Onboard entertainment as a whole was very good. I loved the BB King's Band. They were constantly high energy and fun, as well as being extremely talented. The comedian was funny, and the BillBoard piano singers were also entertaining. As far as dining, we never once ate in the Dining Room, so I can't rate that. But Tamaring=d and Canaletto's were excellent, and we ate at both several times for dinner. Service at both was excellent. As I mentioned before, meeting the staff and seeing how hard they work while smiling every day, is aleways my favorite part of a cruise. If I might, I want to persoanny thank a few staff members: Dolce, (casino), Donny, Saul, Phee Jahy, and Chindawan (Sea Bar), Evi and Arma (tamarind), and Nelson ((Canaletto Mgr.) Thesee people all made our experience on this cruise a truly great time. Holland has an older demographic, and my only advice to them to is include more onboard activities for those of us that haven't reached that demographic yet. While I enjoyed trivia and martini tastings, there wasn't much else I was interested in. Overall, in was just a wonderful time as always on Holland America. And they do an incredible job of training their staff. Thank you! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
I picked this cruise because a full transit of the Panama Canal really interested me. But I was less than wowed by the descriptions I had read of the ports we were to visit since several were industrial ports and a couple (Nicaragua and ... Read More
I picked this cruise because a full transit of the Panama Canal really interested me. But I was less than wowed by the descriptions I had read of the ports we were to visit since several were industrial ports and a couple (Nicaragua and Guatemala) were in countries that I was a little leery of visiting. Perhaps because of my low expectations of the ports to be visited, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I actually encountered. But let's start with the ship itself. My first Holland America cruise was on the Rotterdam in 2005 and I fell in love with that ship then. She may be a little older, but she's still a beauty. I love the smaller ships and the ample public spaces on the ship (love, love, love the Explorations Cafe/Library!) really lent themselves to the extra sea days on this 16-day itinerary. The entertainment options have increased manifold since that earlier cruise with Billboard On Board and Lincoln Center being my favorites. The trio at the Ocean Bar was also fantastic, but we seemed to miss them a lot (as we did with several of the Main Stage shows) because of our dinner schedule. As always, the impeccable service and attention to detail by the ship's staff was amazing. From the cabin stewards to the dining room attendants to the wine stewards to the bar tenders and coffee baristas to those delivering our morning coffee, every need was anticipated. The only downside was the Lido. The food and selection was terrific, but it seemed to be understaffed and we often had to fetch our own coffee or water (a very minor complaint). We didn't participate in a ton of activities as we simply enjoyed spending our free time playing cards in the Explorations Cafe or walking the promenade before settling down to read in one of the amply numbered lounge chairs. But we did enjoy the trivia and the Happy Hours(!) and the Orange Party was a blast. As to the shore excursions ... Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Swimming with Stingrays!! This excursion was downright cheap and one of the highlights of our trip. It really set the tone for the rest of the trip. We also really enjoyed the beach with tons of chairs, bar service that came to you and lovely clear water to swim in. Oranjestad, Aruba I didn't do a shore excursion in Aruba because none of them really appealed to me but I enjoyed a couple of beers and an excellent lunch at Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant which is right on the main drag. We also took a cab to the Butterfly Farm (making sure to arrange for return transportation). It was a pleasant (although very hot) diversion and the Blue Morpho butterflies were stunning (but impossible to capture by photo). Panama Canal Transit The star of the show was the transit of the canal. Deck 6 (right below the bridge) was the best spot to watch (the crew opens up a lot of extra areas for viewing that day). Get there early to find a good leaning spot and bring sunscreen and a rain poncho or umbrella ... both were needed throughout the day. (Go to one of the talks in the days leading up to the transit to get the scoop on everything that you're seeing. It really helped one appreciate the engineering and the simplicity of function.) Take a break during the crossing of Gatun Lake to have lunch and then get back in place for the second set of locks. After a Happy Hour break, I was back on the Promenade getting pictures of the stunning views of Panama City. It was a long day, but really spectacular! Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica We went to on the Coffee Plantation tour (not the Starbucks one) with a side trip to the Oxcart factory in Sarchi. It was a rainy day and I'm glad we did this instead of a zipline, aerial tram or river cruise. It was a pleasant, but unspectacular, day. The tourist shop at the Oxcart factory had some beautiful carved wooden items that would make for great souvenirs and gifts. Corinto, Nicaragua The Cortijo El Rosario Equestrian show was a definite highlight of the trip. These beautiful animals and their skillful riders put on an incredible show. It was also only about a 30 minute ride from the port, making it one of the easier excursions. The included lunch was very good as well. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala We went to the Mayan ruins at Iximche, a normally 2-hour one way drive that stretched to 2-1/2 hours due to road construction (as the Guatemalans are still in the process of replacing roads destroyed by a June 2018 volcanic eruption). All of the tours seemed to have been impacted by the road work which really limited our time to shop at some of the great shops near the ship. The good news is that we got really good views of the volcano spewing smoke every few minutes (no worries, small releases are good and the volcano isn't expected to erupt again for several years) as we rose to almost 8000 feet. The Iximche site itself is a small one. If you've seen bigger sites, you may want to skip this tour, but if you have never been to a Mayan site, it is a good introduction. Huatulco, Mexico Another great highlight of the trip was the Sailing Adventure on the Luna Azul. Sign up for this one early as it is limited to 10 passengers (there were only 8 on board for us as there were 2 no-shows). The Luna Azul (with its wonderful crew) motors around to a lovely isolated cove for swimming. If you aren't a good swimmer, they keep a close eye on you and you're encouraged to use a noodle or wear a life vest until you make it to the beach. This is followed by raising the sails and heading to deep water for possible wildlife sightings. We saw Manta Rays jumping from the water and a sea turtle or two, but the best part was just watching the sun set under sail. They are generous with included beverages whether you want water, soda, beer, margaritas or even a shot of mezcal! Puerto Vallarta, Mexico In Puerto Vallarta, we did the Sea Lion Encounter and it was an experience that I will never forget. Jenny was like a big puppy dog and gentle as a lamb. I had no idea that you could get in the water with Sea Lions and hug on them and pet them (and get a kiss back!). Really a wonderful experience and a great included meal. The same facility has dolphin encounters and our fellow passengers who did that seemed to enjoy their experience fully as much as ours. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Very clean, well appointed ship. Dining @Lido and Dining Room was usually top rate. Lots of variety, well presented, variety of options through the cruise. Staff, without exception, were terrific for the whole cruise - friendly, ... Read More
Very clean, well appointed ship. Dining @Lido and Dining Room was usually top rate. Lots of variety, well presented, variety of options through the cruise. Staff, without exception, were terrific for the whole cruise - friendly, responsive and efficient. Cabin steward was very responsive and helpful - very knowledgeable. On board entertainment - numerous and varied - from magicians to dance, musicals and comedians. Other activities were directed at an older audience - Holland America seems to attract older demographic which is fine but maybe more active types of activities on board would be welcome. Charges of $15 for fitness classes seemed a bit excessive. Gym was outstanding!! Tours were generally very good - well organized and good guides. One tour occurred (Cartagena) in which the guide (limited English) took us to two different stores during a 3 hour shore tour. This ate up at least 45 minutes of our overall tour - was quite insistent, to the point of raising his voice, if we didn't stay in the store and look at the merchandise. He had little historical/cultural knowledge of the city. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We’ve sailed in HAL and I find they have excellent service. This was no different. I really loved the itinerary (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and the Bahamas) and they had great choices for shore excursions. ... Read More
We’ve sailed in HAL and I find they have excellent service. This was no different. I really loved the itinerary (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and the Bahamas) and they had great choices for shore excursions. It was a lovely way to experience the canal and parts of Central and South America. Delicious food too. The ship is a little dated. Wonderful entertainment (classical Lincoln Center quintet, dueling pianos, singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, musicians). My only quibble: terrible internet (no streaming and only one device at a time per payment). They shouldn’t be charging for internet which is now like charging for AIR and especially without streaming! Also they charge their employees for internet and I think that’s wrong when they work so much and need to stay in touch with family. Loved all our shore excursions which I went on with my active 81 year old mom: swimming with dolphins (Puerto Vallarta), snorkeling (Huatulco, Mexico), Lake Atitlan (Guatemala, beware 2.5 bus ride each way plus 2 hour round trip boat ride), equestrian show at a ranch in Nicaragua, crocodile nature boat ride in Costa Rica, food tour in Cartagena, Colombia, surf horseback riding / kayaking in Bahamas and great Panama Canal experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
My sister is a 4 time mariner and after the loss of her husband of 56 years asked me to join her for a cruise that she and my brother-in-law had wanted to take during Thanksgiving. I did! I am 58 and had such a great time. I went ... Read More
My sister is a 4 time mariner and after the loss of her husband of 56 years asked me to join her for a cruise that she and my brother-in-law had wanted to take during Thanksgiving. I did! I am 58 and had such a great time. I went without picking up any internet packages (no phone calls/texting, no FB...., -I called my husband 3 times in 16 days to check in. I was able to relax like I haven't in years. My sister gave me the choice of Excursions and with the exception of 1, we had the best time. Being afraid of heights she was not thrilled when my first pick was the Canopy & Zip Line tour in Costa Rica, but after her first line, she loved it and would do it again (she is 74). One of our other highlights, was do to Cruise Critic roll call, one of the passengers noted that they purchased the Palm Oasis in Half Moon Cay - WOW!!! It cost us each $117 to have our own private party!! We had a huge covered Cabana with a table setting for 12. They were their to great us when we arrived with food, and our lunch was unreal. We had a hot tub, float mattresses and snorkel gear that was all provided.....oh and a unlimited bar, all included. And yes the water and view were to die for. We didn't sleep in at all - we were up walking deck 3 at Sunrise, I just can't tell you enough how relaxed, how much fun I had. We met so many people, and thankfully we exchanged emails with some. Our dining crew was spectacular, we stayed at the same table due to our waiter Sumerta, Dining room 2, table 212. He not only served us, but entertained us. Thanks Holland America and my Sister for a AWESOME 1st Cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Panama Canal 10 night partial voyage. The Holland America Zuiderdam has some serious air conditioning problems. Understandable that when you’re walking through the hallways, it can be a little warm with the deck doors open, however, ... Read More
Panama Canal 10 night partial voyage. The Holland America Zuiderdam has some serious air conditioning problems. Understandable that when you’re walking through the hallways, it can be a little warm with the deck doors open, however, the rooms should not be to the point where it’s uncomfortable. The second night into our cruise, we called down to customer service and asked them to check the air conditioning. It was on the coldest setting and yet, it was warm. Of course, they asked if our balcony door was open. They said they would send engineering up. It was so warm in the room that we asked for a couple of fans. When you’re paying extra for a Signature Suite, you shouldn’t need fans to keep you cool. Since the room was warm, that meant the bathroom was even worse as there are no vents in the bathroom. We would shower and immediately come out into the room to dry off. They did try and make it right – offering to move us to another room. At first, we declined, since we had a connecting room with friends, but after sleeping on it with the noise of the fans running, we decided we couldn’t do another 8 nights like that. We packed up and moved to a much cooler room. The next day, we return to the room to get ready for dinner and there’s no water. They were fixing a pipe and were informed the water probably wouldn’t be back on until 4:30. They offered the spa showers so off I went to the spa showers – again, inconvenient. The Lido restaurant was so warm – it was hard to enjoy a meal without rushing through it just to get out of there. Same with the bars the general areas of the ship. I’ve never been so warm on a cruise ship. HAL really needs to adhere to the “No Saving Seats” rule at the pool area. Every single time we went to the pool whether it was a sea day or port day, pretty much every chair had some personal item on it to reserve it.We got to the pool one morning on a port day and counted 9 chairs in a row that were ‘reserved.’ After 4 hours – every single chair was still not occupied. This is totally unacceptable. Talking to some other passengers, that were there for awhile, they also said they watched people come down in the early morning and place a book, hat, cup or whatever on the chair and leave. Unfortunately, this has become common practice on cruise ships however, this was the worst I’ve ever seen. We also found this to be the case in the Explorer’s Lounge. Not one seat that wasn’t being used was without a personal item to ‘save’ it. On the subject of lounge chairs, the old fashioned wooden lounge chairs down on deck 3 by the muster stations are in horrible condition. Most of them were broken and the backs wouldn’t stay up or go down. We found the entertainment on board to be fair. With the exception of Benjamin Makisi, who had an excellent voice – the rest was just ok. BB King’s Lounge band was phenomenal. Best music on board. The itinerary itself was pretty good - the Panama Canal is amazing and very interesting. The locks were way ahead of their time for when it was built. The narrator that joined us was very informative. As for the rest of the ports, not too much to do except shop unless you decide on a tour. On the morning of disembarkation, we went to breakfast in the Lido Market (which was hotter than any other day we’d been in there) and I requested sweetener for my coffee. I was told “Sorry Madam, we are all out.”All out of sweetener?? We did choose to dine in the Canaletto one evening with our friends and it was beyond excellent. It was well worth the additional charge of $19 per person. The room stewards were excellent – we were only with the one set of stewards for 2 days before they relocated us but they were both very accommodating. My husband and I decided to go to the spa – pedicure for him and manicure for me. Most of the time, these girls are pretty chatty. The manicurist was not. All she did was insult my cuticles and dry hands. She asked me when the last time I had a “proper” manicure! In this day and age, you’d think the internet on ships would get easier and it was better than the past, but still you have to keep reconnecting. The HAL navigator app is useless other than for the Happenings on Board and seeing your bill. You’re supposed to be able to use it for messaging your friends that didn’t get the internet package and it’s free, but it doesn’t alert you when there’s a message and other than my husband, I couldn’t find our friends within the app. HAL used to be our go-to cruise line and then we discovered one we are much happier with. We have not been on a Holland ship in a couple of years, and maybe our expectations were a little high from previous Holland cruises. When we first started cruising Holland, it was the more ‘classy’ choice of all the lines but sadly, we think the elegance of this line has deteriorated. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We chose the cruise for it's destination, the Panama Canal and for it's embarkation port, Ft. Lauderdale. The ship was fine, the stateroom was excellent and the service staff was wonderful. We did NOT feel the same about the ship ... Read More
We chose the cruise for it's destination, the Panama Canal and for it's embarkation port, Ft. Lauderdale. The ship was fine, the stateroom was excellent and the service staff was wonderful. We did NOT feel the same about the ship personnel. They were aloof and never smiled or made eye contact. We also felt that there was a constant sales pitch for jewelry or spa services. We were inundated by daily paper advertisements in our mailbox, definitely not environmentally friendly. The beverage package is NOT worth it. We never knew exactly what was or was not included, forcing us to ask and making us feel uncomfortable. We did not feel that we got our money's worth. The on board activities were lacking which made for boring sea days. The pools were small and too cold, the hot tubs were not hot enough and looked grimy. Service in the Canaletto specialty restaurant was bordering on arrogant and the food was average. We therefore skipped all other specialty restaurants. The buffet food was good. The entertainment at night was very good, especially enjoyed Hilby. Aruba was underwhelming while Willemstad was fun. We walked both cities. Our main event was the Panama Canal and we booked the Canal Experience. We do NOT recommend it. The guide was repetitive, the food was dubious and the boat was very old. It had a malfunctioning engine and spewed fumes all over the decks. We sat there for 4 hrs, breathing through wet towels. HAL refunded the money but otherwise did not check in with the two passengers with medical emergencies this had caused. Again, aloof and did not care despite our complaint. Be aware, HAL definitely caters to older customers. There were a lot of walkers and wheelchairs on board and the ship was quiet after 930p...not catering to the more active, even if senior, customer. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Stateroom Attendant service was outstanding.. Quality of Lincoln Center Stage musicians and recitals were world class. Panama Canal presentations and speaker were excellent. The actual transit was normal : 8 hours from coast to ... Read More
Stateroom Attendant service was outstanding.. Quality of Lincoln Center Stage musicians and recitals were world class. Panama Canal presentations and speaker were excellent. The actual transit was normal : 8 hours from coast to coast...glad it was cloudy to keep the hot sun at bay... Visible changes to the ship from last dry dock are minimal....New cushions on the deck chairs and Lido pool chaise were welcome. However, the Nieuw Amsterdam's grace, class and grandeur seems downgraded and replaced with pedestrian/mundane colors, fabrics, designs, carpet, furniture, etc. We missed the orchid plants on Lido window tables and previous dramatic large imitation flower arrangements at various points around ship. The Atrium next to Guest Services is a perfect example of the "new" look. Made many wonder if cost cutting is a high priority at the cruise line. Also a significant changes in fleet wide Lido food items; fried chicken nuggets every lunch and dinner, bacon featured in one form or another at all three meals, etc. Soups were always excellent. All three fee restaurants featured expensive one night special menu extravaganzas; the one held in the Tamarind was outstanding and all of the staff wore their native costumes.. The "level" of entertainment and breadth of activities available were average. The main dining room was unpleasantly loud and major delays occurred with food delivery. Ports were standard Central American commercial ports requiring bus transit to shopping and attractions often an hour or more away.(except for Puerto Vallarta and Aruba). For some reason, the amount of flies coming on board the ship in Central America ports was high and they remained on board for the remainder of the cruise. Would not take this cruise again. I expect more than "Average" from Holland America.. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
The price was right and we were traveling with friends who had never been through the Panama Canal. We usually always travel with Holland America and always pleased with travel Volendam was small and getting from bow to stern difficult ... Read More
The price was right and we were traveling with friends who had never been through the Panama Canal. We usually always travel with Holland America and always pleased with travel Volendam was small and getting from bow to stern difficult since galley is inconveniently located thus creating a safety hazard. The entertainment was mediocre except for the ventriloquist. A comedian was so crude and awful that several people walked out, including us. I did enjoy America’s Test Kitchen. We missed the crew show which is always a popular inclusion in entertainment. The Allegro Strings was a poor replacement for Lincoln Center on other ships. The lifeboat safety drill was disastrous. The announcement was unintelligible in cabins to announce the drill and once on deck, deck crew microphones were out of batteries or dysfunctional. The initial drill is important since it is supposed to indicate the competency of the crew. We didn’t even have to put on life preservers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
Traversing the Panama Canal had always been a "bucket list" for my husband and me ages 67 and 72, respectively); being veteran HAL cruisers, we chose the NIEUW AMSTERDAM 21-day Panama Canal Cruise, 28 September to 19 October ... Read More
Traversing the Panama Canal had always been a "bucket list" for my husband and me ages 67 and 72, respectively); being veteran HAL cruisers, we chose the NIEUW AMSTERDAM 21-day Panama Canal Cruise, 28 September to 19 October 2019, from Vancouver BC to Ft Lauderdale FL. We enjoyed a few days visiting Vancouver, BC before boarding the ship. Embarkation/disembarkation was fast and smooth. If there were children aboard, we never saw them (ok by us!)...what we DID see was more folks using power chairs and walkers than on any previous cruise! OVERALL RATING: 3.5 stars. As always, the HAL cusine and service staff were WONDERFUL, abosolutey 5 stars. What made this overall experience score a mere 3.5 for us? I've detailed a number of "hits" and "misses" below. ACTIVITES: Woefully inadequate, e.g., TOO FEW trivia offerings (and those offered frequently conflicted with mealtimes). Also, holding the trivia games in the Billboard Lounge--immediately across from the Casino--is HORRIBLE! Noise conflict/intrusion=totally unacceptable. All the fun we used to have singing karaoke and playing trivia in the Crow's Nest aboard other HAL ships: gone. And for goodness' sake, STOP the money-grubbing, pushy Spa/Shops "activities," e.g., the "Foot Analysis" (do you really think cruisers are too dumb to recognize that these offerings are merely poorly-disguised sales pitches?). Why charge $15 for riding a bicycle in the workout room? Please! Suggestions: offer stretching/yoga/etc., at later times in the morning (for those who don't rise at the crack of dawn every day). ADD more fun + games, especially in the morning...DON'T schedule pickleball during the hottest hours of the day...add INSTRUCTORS for bridge, mah jong, shuffleball, other games. And make sure everyone who wants to play card games are accommodated: every time we went, foursomes were already set, denying us a chance to play. ENTERTAINMENT: Comedian Jim Short was super, as always, but we didn't care for the younger comedian (the one whose first joke involved a fart. The dance act was OK. Lincoln Center players, as always, were absolutely FABULOUS...most of their classical music offerings were standing-room-only. B. B. King band was very good. We missed having the small jazz trio for listening/dancing we'd enjoyed on previous cruises. SUGGESTION: why not have one of the pianists lead a passenger "Glee Club"? Not everyone enjoys singing, but for those of us who do, it surely would be WONDERFUL to have had the opportunity (as we did aboard another cruise)...plus, it's a super, fun, healthful activity in which older, less physically active passengers can participate. AMERICA'S TEST KITCEN: Unlike the previous cruise when we enjoyed the same ATK instructor, this time, she always looked at the camera, vs. the audience members. As she was less engaged with the audience, it made the experience less fun. Also, there used to be an opportunity to TASTE the dish that had been prepared, which was fun: we missed being able to do that. LECTURER: merely OK. He needs to listen to a recording of himself talking...he has an irritating/distracting vocal tic (a tongue-smack, like a tsk-tsk sound). COMPUTER: The Microsoft Studio person was of great help: solved a Windows 10 issue we'd been having. EXCURSIONS: The Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive beach resort opportunity was lovely, but too short. We got there too late for breakfast, and left too soon for lunch. Having all-you-can-drink between 9 and 11 a.m. is great if you're an alcoholic. The best part of this excursion was the water aerobics in the pool with one of the hotel's staff (a very cute & vivacious senorita). Nobody cared that she didn't speak English!--the acitivity was fabulous, and made us wonder why a water aerobics workout isn't offered on the ship! The Aruba Public Beach Bus excursion was SORELY lacking. The beach was great, but HOW COME NOBODY TOLD US in advance that we would need TEN DOLLARS to rent a lawn chair? We ABSULOUTELY should have been told in advance, or better, include the lawn chair rental in the cost of the excursion (which, all tolled, was basically just the bus ride). Also, to use a bathroom/cold shower involved walking 100 yards and cost another dollar...give me a break! SHOPPING: why so little reasonably-priced/cute women's clothing? Why no sparkly "bling" lanyards this cruise? The orange cloth lanyards were totally blah...I definitely would have bought an orange BLING version! Forget the high-end jewelry boutique (never saw a soul in there). PHOTOGRAPHERS were more pushy/annoying on than on our previous HAL cruises. Plus, if their photos were more affordable (e.g., $5 instead of $50 each), they would sell a lot more, plus avoid being stuck with thousands of prints that end up as trash. PANAMA CANAL: Experiencing the Panama Canal--the whole reason we went on this cruise--was a real treat, although less joyful that I'd hoped. Because I use a walker and fellow passengers were insensitive, I could never get close enough to the ship's edge to see from that vantage point (husband shot the photos with this review). Also, in plain view of the passengers, the cruise director and other staff enjoyed the view from the deck immediately below us: very frustrating, since passengers were not allowed access to that deck. I finally gave up and watched most of the crossing on the TV in our stateroom (very fuzzy camera reception). Later, I realized: AH HA!--it's another chance for the photographers to make money! Their marvelously clear video souvenier was exhorbitantly-priced. DINING: As ever, HAL dining was overall marvelous. Lido is consistently GREAT. Noticing the lovely fresh flowers on our Pinnacle Grill table reminded us of when you used to have fresh flower vases on every table in the LIDO! Pinnacle Grill dining was lovely, but we weren't convinced it was worth the extra money, especially for the Rudy's Sel de Mer nights. New York pizzas could've been better: most were underdone. Burgers were great. BEVERAGES: The biggest hit: at-sea days Mixology classes--FABULOUS fun!! Bartenders Jonathan (Ocean Bar) and Michael (Pinnacle Bar) are amazing! Not so great: the Dale deGroff cocktail selections...many were very weird, and tooooo sweet (Mixology classmates /daily Happy Hour friends agreed): bring back the standard cocktail menu!! SERVERS/STAFF SUPERSTARS: Besides Bartenders Michael and Jonathan, waitress Catherine; Sommolier Alex; and our excellent cabin stewards, Bayu and Andreas. Cruise Director (forgot her name) was pleasant, but nowhere near as engaged and fun a Cruise Director as we've experienced on previous HAL cruises. Would we go again? Maybe for the cruise itinerary, but NOT aboard Nieuw Amsterdam. That's all! Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Embarkation in Vancouver was fast and smooth. I was told it might be different the next day when four ships would be in port, rather than just this one. The vaguely Art Deco décor of the ship's public areas was lovely, and ... Read More
Embarkation in Vancouver was fast and smooth. I was told it might be different the next day when four ships would be in port, rather than just this one. The vaguely Art Deco décor of the ship's public areas was lovely, and everything was always clean and fresh. The stair landings and corridors displayed beautiful art and sculptures, and there were many historic pictures and maps associated with the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam and with the history of the Holland America line. I noticed that the painting crew made sure there was never a spot of rust anywhere. The top level EXC lounge was very comfortable and had electronic maps of the ports we visited. My oceanview cabin was perfect in every way. The food was a little too fancy for my taste, but I don't cruise to eat anyway. The entertainment in the Mainstage theater was generally only fair, but that is a personal opinion, and I truly enjoyed the a capella male quartet. As is typical on cruise ships, the shows were over-amplified. The backdrop of the theater stage is a giant digitized TV screen, which made for dramatic and surprising lighting effects. The room for the pianists and violinists, which is called “Lincoln Center Stage,” was a good venue, and so well-attended that I sometimes did not get a seat. The fitness center, unlike on some cruises, was quiet enough that I could read my electronic book while on the treadmill. The cruise director was very accommodating to those of us who played cards. She gave us two of the meeting rooms and made sure we had cards and water to drink. The lecturer, an articulate man with wide-ranging interests, gave well-researched talks along with excellent visuals. I looked in on and enjoyed the charming and capable woman in the America's Test Kitchen cooking shows. I had a fine time revisiting San Francisco and San Diego. In Puerto Vallarta I took the city bus, which goes right from the cruise ship terminal to downtown. The other ports were of only marginal interest to me. Even so, I enjoyed them all, including Huatulco [walked to La Crucecita], Puerto Chiapas [shuttle bus to Tapachula], Puerto Caldera [private tour of national park, mountain top restaurant, and river cruise], and Aruba [private tour, submarine excursion]. The passage through the Panama canal was great, and the interpretive talks were excellent. In Fort Lauderdale I opted for the excursion that included an Everglades airboat ride, which was fun and informative, and an airport transfer. It worked out wonderfully. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the ... Read More
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the locks and the gentleman who escorted us on the trip with his facts regarding the canal was very interesting. It's hard to believe in this day and time when something starts deteriorating it is torn down and built anew and these locks are over 100 years old and are still operating in their original fashion with the same wooden gates! Staff on board was very courteous and our room steward, Nyoman and Muss were fantastic. They usually had our room cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast in the morning and were always smiling and making sure that everything was satisfactory. Dining room staff was a little slow the first week, however, they soon learned our beverage of choice and had it waiting for us when we sat down. Menu choices were varied and could have had a little more regular items to choose from, but for the most part, the food was tasty and temperature appropriate. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
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