This was our 4th Holland America cruise experience with approximately 35 other cruises on many other lines, past & present. We chose this sailing based on our desire to experience an Atlantic crossing and sail on HAL's newest ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam.
First, the excellent: We have learned from experience that no one does logistics as well as HAL. We were traveling from Miami on an award air ticket connecting through JFK and then onto Barcelona. We were very fortunate to have Hurricane Sandy pass by Florida before we left and not yet arrive in New York before our connection. Flights were seamless although we often thought of the thousands of passengers delayed just 48 hours later.
We booked a one-night hotel package in Barcelona through HAL primarily for the ease of transfers we experienced in the past. Even though our flight landed at 615 AM, there was the HAL representative waiting for us with a smile right outside customs. A note on the Barcelona airport- it is clean and incredibly efficient with baggage carts everywhere (for free). The line at immigration took less than 1 minute and customs was even quicker. Within minutes we were on our way to the Hotel Melia Barcelona, which is located in a quiet part of the city. We loved the Melia (see our review on Trip Advisor) and again, the transfers to the ship the next day were flawless. We were somewhat paranoid when we first got to Barcelona having read about flagrant pickpockets and petty crime. We found the people very friendly, the city incredibly clean, and at no time did we feel threatened or intimidated.