Had a Wonderful Time: Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by NotSoRealMcCoy

Nieuw Amsterdam 5
Member Since 2012

Overall Member Rating

Had a Wonderful Time

Sail Date: March 2012
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
This was my wife and me 4th cruise (we are in our early 50's), but first with Holland America and first in 16 years. We brought our two teenage sons (17 & 15) and our family chose HA because we are rather quiet, reversed, low-key folks and felt HA would be more to our liking than some of the more 'high-energy' cruise lines. The passengers consisted mostly of Americans & Canadians and the rudeness we had experienced on other cruises was not present on this one. Cigarette smoke was only noticeable when near the casino or aft pool (where there is a designated area). And we never noticed it on our balcony, as some other unfortunate reviewers have reported. Everyone we conversed or dined with (we had open seating) was both interesting and pleasant. Though, with the exception of an adorable newlywed couple from Columbia, all were quite older and semi- or fully retired.

My wife and I were in a Deluxe Verandah Ocean View room with a balcony and our boys were down the hall in an More inside cabin. It seemed like a quiet enough location. Both rooms were larger than the rooms on the other cruises my wife and I had been on. And we really enjoyed the balcony (the first time we've had one).

Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and orderly (each took no more than 15 minutes). If you are flying home the day of disembarkation and checking your bags, I'd suggest the Luggage-Direct service. For $19 per person (not per bag), you put your bags out the night below (as usual), but you don't have to be bothered with them again until you get to your destination airport. And you get your boarding pass printed out and delivered to your room. Another handy service we took advantage of was for $20, you can get cleaned and folded or hung all the clothes you can get in a laundry bag (though small, it was amazing how much we could stuff in it).

The entire staff was mostly friendly and cheery and attentive to our needs. We very much enjoyed every meal in the dining room and the food in the lido cafe was always good. My wife and I did have dinner one night at the Pinnacle and it was one of the finest dining experiences we'd ever had. Several passengers recommended the Italian restaurant, but slots filled up quickly and we weren't able to get in (apparently, those in the know make reservations as soon as they board the ship). We did check out the menu for the Asia restaurant a few times, but nothing ever caught our fancy so we never attempted to dine there.

According to the ship's log, we were near capacity, though we never felt crowed. We had open seating and could get reservations within 15 minutes of our desired time and we never waited to be seated when we didn't have reservations. And except for one occasion, we always found a window seat in the Lido cafe. But getting a prime location deck chair near the pool was more challenging. For the nightly entertainment, as long as we arrived 30 minutes beforehand, we could get the exact seats we wanted (even arriving 10 to 15 minute early, one could get a really good seat).
We did miss Half Moon Cay due to winds blowing directly into shore, forcing the ship to anchor further away than normal and thus making tendering operations undoable. This was a major disappointment as it was the one port we didn't want to skip (we had a private cabana rented and our boys were going to go parasailing). But we enjoyed the other ports and except for one untimely down pour in the middle of our Maya Ruins tour (causing it to be aborted), we had great weather.

Although our boys did a lot of staying in their room and ordering a lot of room service (they thought that was great), they did find enough things to do to keep them happy otherwise. Apparently, there were 55 teenagers onboard, but only about a dozen of them regularly hung out at Club HAL. I would have liked to have seen outside activities arranged for the teenagers (though I understand there were such things scheduled for Half Moon Cay).

The nightly entertainment was pretty good. Our entire family really enjoyed the comedian (the only night our boys attended). The other nights consisted of musical productions of one kind or another. The performers were extremely talented singers and dancers, but were poor actors. As long as they didn't need to act (which fortunately wasn't all that often), the show was top rate. Otherwise, it came across to me as a bad high school production. And I was disappointed that one night, just a movie was shown (and not even a good one...New Year's Eve).

My wife and I (and occasionally our eldest son) would participate in and enjoy the various trivia games scheduled throughout the cruise. The CD emceed a marriage game and a 'Deal or No Deal' game, both of which were a lot of fun. I would have preferred more of this type of entertainment. And the couple's massage my wife and I had on the last full day of the cruise was quite relaxing.

All in all, our family had a wonderful time on this cruise and wouldn't hesitate to book another HA cruise again. Less

Published 04/30/12

Cabin review: VB5038 Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

The room is on the 5th deck, port (left) side, towards the front. It was a quiet location and we really enjoyed the balcony (our first cruise with one). The bed was comfortable and the bathroom was a decent size. It had plenty of closet and storage space (including room enough under the bed to place our suitcases). However, getting into the closets, which are right across from the bathroom, can be a bit awkward at times. You do have to place your ship Id card in a slot near the door to make the lights and TV work, but we eventually figured out that any card of that size can be used (i.e. credit card).

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Port and Shore Excursions

Chacchoben Mayan Ruins

This excursion was by far the most popular one in Costa Maya. There were more than a dozen full-size coaches, holding 50-60 people each that headed out to the ruins from just our ship (two were in port that day). It was about an hour's ride out to the ruins along fairly deserted highways. There is not much to see along the way...a few very small villages and the vegetation that grows in the area is quite unattractive. However, our tour guide, though somewhat low-keyed, was very informative and entertaining. Once at the ruins site there was a gift shop and restrooms where folks waited as each bus' group were slightly staggered to be led by their guide through the various ruins structures. After seeing a couple of the smaller structures, the skies opened up and we were dumped upon (ironically, the only rains we saw the entire cruise). After about 10 minutes of this, the guides starting sending their groups back to the gift shop for cover. Nonetheless, everyone was completely soaked from head to toe. By the time the rains let up (it lasted a total of maybe 20-25 minutes), it was too late to continue the tours and we were sent back to our buses and the hour ride back to the ship. Later we heard that one or two of the first groups out did make it to the largest of the structure (which we only got to see from the bus). Obviously, it was disappointing to drive all that way and only get to see a fraction of the site. But it makes for a better story now.

Dolphin Swim

Since the ship had to tender guests to the island, we had to be ready to go an hour before this excursion actually started. Once ashore, we had to wait about 30 minutes before the mini-coach took us on the 20 or so minute ride to Dolphin World. They then gave us about 35 minutes to walk across the street and visit the Turtle Farm (which is more than enough time unless you are really into turtles). Afterwards, we gathered back at Dolphin World and waited another 30 minutes or so for further instructions. Our group of about 50 was broken up into four groups of about a dozen or so. We were given life jackets and told to get into our swim suits (there is a changing room and free lockers to store your stuff). There is a lot going on at this point as other groups are finishing up their tours, getting into their lockers, and changing out of their swimsuits. Each smaller group was first taken one at a time into a pool where an employee was holding a small stingray. Each person was given a few seconds to pet the stingray while their photo was taken. After getting out of the stingray pool, our group was taken into a larger pool where we stood along the edge on a submerged platform. We then spent about 20 minutes with a dolphin, getting to pet her several times, posing for photos with her, and having two 10 second rides with her (one where you hold on to her flippers and one where she pushes you on a boogie board). Afterwards, we were led out of the pool to rinse off and change out of our swimwear. We then had about another 90 minutes before our mini-coach arrived to take us back to the tender port. This was plenty of time to view and purchase our photos and visit the gift shop. There were four of us and we purchased a CD containing 160 photos for $159. The photos were professionally done. We were all sunburnt by the end as they don't want you to wear sunscreen while with the dolphin and it was a very sunny day. The entire excursion from the time we needed to be ready until we arrived back at the tender port was about 5 hours. It certainly is a unique experience and my entire family enjoyed it very much.

The port at Mahogany Bay on the island of Roatan, Honduras is modern, clean and very nice (interestingly, the ship backed into this port). There is a very nice private beach nearby (for cruise ship passengers only). It can be reached by a short walk or by taking a sky chair (essentially a ski lift) for a small fee. Our family took a Kayak and Snorkel excursion on the other side of the island that was a lot of fun. All in all, this was our favorite port on our cruise.
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