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The good: - service was pleasing and top-notch throughout the ship, but I felt that pool staff was considerably slow in removing empty plates/glasses; some individuals were better than others, just like on any other cruise line; our cabin stewards were superb, but this is always hit-or-miss; - food was well above average, but portions have been substantially downsized; some of the appetizers in the main dining room were almost laughable (two dime-sized scallops one evening); build-your-own pizza kitchen by the adults' pool was really excellent; - cleanliness throughout the ship, especially in public restrooms; unlike previous cruises, I never saw a single used room-service tray waiting to be picked up on hallways; - Spa was decent -- nothing fancy, but the thermal rooms were nice enough; - Jeremy, on-board pianist at the Piano Bar, is a truly gifted entertainer The bad and the ugly: - we've always read about the predominance of older passenges on HAL, but had never truly experienced this issue in our previous cruises; this was most definitely a problem this time around, in what appeared to be the 80-80 cruise (80% of passengers in the 80-year old range); by and large these elderly passengers have a distinct sense of entitlement, move slowly and occupy tons of space, cut in front of lines; - The so-called cruise director; one rarely comes across such a useless individual occupying this type of position; well, unless you count "learming to use your Microsoft Office calendar" and "Salsa with host Sabine" as interesting activities at sea; - tenders: one of the most irritating systems ever devised in a cruise ship; you line up like cattle in a looooong hallway, just to receive a numbered card; after that you take a seat at a dancing hall with zero amenities and wait for your number to be called; no priority for Mariner-status or suite-level cruisers, no way to reserve a time-slot in advance; this must have been the idea of a Soviet-era planner; - let me emphasize that Jeremy the piano man was the only exception -- entertainment on the Nieuw Amsterdam varies from pitiful to non-existent; what an eyesore it was to see a bunch of ladies "learning belly dancing" at the Crow's Nest on at least three occasions. I felt bad for the hapless barman watching the scene and hearing the dreadful soundtrack. At night, all bars on deck 3 looked like ghost towns after 9:00pm; not a single source of music (not even Muzak) was available to entertain us on deck 3 after dinner; on two occasions the ship's "major" attraction was a musical show featuring... the Philippino crew. Seriously, who comes up with something like this and chalks it up as entertainment?!? How to please an audience with tastes predominantly adapted to a nursing home routine; - shore excrusions: waaaaaay over-priced and most definitely underwhelming; the interests and peeves of the elderly passengers just made them worse; on board shopping: not sure if it's a matter of laughing or crying; maybe both, unless you reeeeeaaaally like "replica sunglasses" or the sort of tawdry items that Bijoux Terner sells at airports; - little things, like the fact that Nieuw Amsterdam consistently docked at the farthest possible pier, even when larger ships took prime spots at every single port we visited; I didn't even bother asking about this because there would surely be some kind of lame and murky excuse along the lines of "berth depth" or "operational reasons"; in Santorini HAL clearly gave us the short end of the stick, with a late arrival of 9:00am and early departure at 3:30pm, then shamelessly blaming this on "Greek authorities", which for some reason appeared to be much more flexible with other cruise ships visiting the island on that day; our Captain then generously apologized for this "minor inconvenience" by offering each adult guest... a free glass of sparkling wine at dinner. Wow, how generous...tsc, tsc, tsc. - scheduling: what kind of cruise line manages to bring its passangers to Santorini on a constrained schedule (9:00am - 3:30pm) on the same day when four other major ships are visiting the island?!? I checked port-of-call website and learned that there were 13,000 cruisers visiting Santorini on that day, so you can imagine what a nightmare the island was -- not to mention the cable car lines. On the following day just a single ship was going to visit the island. It begs the question of what kind of useless staffer creates and manages itineraries at HAL (which changed a couple of times after we purchased the cruise); last but not least: by far (and I really mean by far) the worst and most disorganized emergency drill we ever experienced on a cruise; cruise drills are naturally annoying but this went several notches above (or below, if you prefer); if drills are a reasonable measure of survival in case of a real emergency, our odds of survival would be marginal, at best; My biggest regret? Having chosen HAL over Celebrity for this particular cruise, only because HAL's itinerary featured one additional day (12 over Celebrity's 11). Celebrity is not perfect, but it would have certainly offered us a better ship and a more interesting crowd to travel with. Bottom line? I don't think HAL will see us on board its ships any time soon. Never say never, because one day we'll turn 70 and then match HAL's prevailing demographics.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by Colonel Vatutin

Trip Details
The good:

- service was pleasing and top-notch throughout the ship, but I felt that pool staff was considerably slow in removing empty plates/glasses; some individuals were better than others, just like on any other cruise line; our cabin stewards were superb, but this is always hit-or-miss;

- food was well above average, but portions have been substantially downsized; some of the appetizers in the main dining room were almost laughable (two dime-sized scallops one evening); build-your-own pizza kitchen by the adults' pool was really excellent;

- cleanliness throughout the ship, especially in public restrooms; unlike previous cruises, I never saw a single used room-service tray waiting to be picked up on hallways;

- Spa was decent -- nothing fancy, but the thermal rooms were nice enough;

- Jeremy, on-board pianist at the Piano Bar, is a truly gifted entertainer

The bad and the ugly:

- we've always read about the predominance of older passenges on HAL, but had never truly experienced this issue in our previous cruises; this was most definitely a problem this time around, in what appeared to be the 80-80 cruise (80% of passengers in the 80-year old range); by and large these elderly passengers have a distinct sense of entitlement, move slowly and occupy tons of space, cut in front of lines;

- The so-called cruise director; one rarely comes across such a useless individual occupying this type of position; well, unless you count "learming to use your Microsoft Office calendar" and "Salsa with host Sabine" as interesting activities at sea;

- tenders: one of the most irritating systems ever devised in a cruise ship; you line up like cattle in a looooong hallway, just to receive a numbered card; after that you take a seat at a dancing hall with zero amenities and wait for your number to be called; no priority for Mariner-status or suite-level cruisers, no way to reserve a time-slot in advance; this must have been the idea of a Soviet-era planner;

- let me emphasize that Jeremy the piano man was the only exception -- entertainment on the Nieuw Amsterdam varies from pitiful to non-existent; what an eyesore it was to see a bunch of ladies "learning belly dancing" at the Crow's Nest on at least three occasions. I felt bad for the hapless barman watching the scene and hearing the dreadful soundtrack. At night, all bars on deck 3 looked like ghost towns after 9:00pm; not a single source of music (not even Muzak) was available to entertain us on deck 3 after dinner; on two occasions the ship's "major" attraction was a musical show featuring... the Philippino crew. Seriously, who comes up with something like this and chalks it up as entertainment?!? How to please an audience with tastes predominantly adapted to a nursing home routine;

- shore excrusions: waaaaaay over-priced and most definitely underwhelming; the interests and peeves of the elderly passengers just made them worse;

on board shopping: not sure if it's a matter of laughing or crying; maybe both, unless you reeeeeaaaally like "replica sunglasses" or the sort of tawdry items that Bijoux Terner sells at airports;

- little things, like the fact that Nieuw Amsterdam consistently docked at the farthest possible pier, even when larger ships took prime spots at every single port we visited; I didn't even bother asking about this because there would surely be some kind of lame and murky excuse along the lines of "berth depth" or "operational reasons"; in Santorini HAL clearly gave us the short end of the stick, with a late arrival of 9:00am and early departure at 3:30pm, then shamelessly blaming this on "Greek authorities", which for some reason appeared to be much more flexible with other cruise ships visiting the island on that day; our Captain then generously apologized for this "minor inconvenience" by offering each adult guest... a free glass of sparkling wine at dinner. Wow, how generous...tsc, tsc, tsc.

- scheduling: what kind of cruise line manages to bring its passangers to Santorini on a constrained schedule (9:00am - 3:30pm) on the same day when four other major ships are visiting the island?!? I checked port-of-call website and learned that there were 13,000 cruisers visiting Santorini on that day, so you can imagine what a nightmare the island was -- not to mention the cable car lines. On the following day just a single ship was going to visit the island. It begs the question of what kind of useless staffer creates and manages itineraries at HAL (which changed a couple of times after we purchased the cruise);

last but not least: by far (and I really mean by far) the worst and most disorganized emergency drill we ever experienced on a cruise; cruise drills are naturally annoying but this went several notches above (or below, if you prefer); if drills are a reasonable measure of survival in case of a real emergency, our odds of survival would be marginal, at best;

My biggest regret? Having chosen HAL over Celebrity for this particular cruise, only because HAL's itinerary featured one additional day (12 over Celebrity's 11). Celebrity is not perfect, but it would have certainly offered us a better ship and a more interesting crowd to travel with.

Bottom line? I don't think HAL will see us on board its ships any time soon. Never say never, because one day we'll turn 70 and then match HAL's prevailing demographics.
Colonel Vatutin’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Ages 10 to 12
Ages 13 to 15
Service
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Cabin Review

Interior Stateroom
Cabin I 6079
Nothing remarkable, but actually more spacious than expected (for an interior stateroom, that is).
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews