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We selected Holland America for the food and service (our second cruise ever). We're in our early thirties and we're joined by both sets of parents and an 18 year old sister with a total of 7 in our group. We had a really nice Christmas on this cruise and would recommend it to others. Disembarkation: We flew in the night before to ensure no flight delays. We aimed to be at the cruise port at 1:00 but due to heavy traffic didn't make it until 1:45.(9 cruise ships leaving on the same day with an estimated 25,000 arriving and another 25,000 leaving). Unfortunately some flights were cancelled and some other passengers didn't make the cruise. Despite the official paperwork saying the boarding process was 1:00 to 5:00 we learned that we could have boarded as early as 11:30 that morning. Food was available at Lido upon boarding, the buffet restaurant as it always is (skip paying for an outside lunch).. Ship: Built in 2010, the ship still feels relatively fresh and classy. There's not a ton of activities (no water slides or climbing wall) but that's expected due to the small size of the ship as it only carries ~2,100 passengers verses 5,000-7,000 of larger ships. The Silk Den (bar) on the top deck (11) is the best place for some quiet and to enjoy the views. Best place to go if you get sea sick is the seats around the circular staircase in main atrium on the Deck 1. It's the "middle of the middle" and sways the least. The ship will provide sea sickness drugs if you need them. Dining: Manhattan Dining Room (only dining room): Overall, food was "Really Good". About 80% of the menu was different each night and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It's unlikely that they will cook anything that's the "best you've ever had" but it will likely come in one or two notches below that. We were very happy with the food in the Manhattan Dining Room. They don't tell you but you can order multiple appetizers and entrees. So we would each order 1-2 appetizers and occasionally an extra entree so we could share and try everything. If you like something that comes small like scallops (3 tiny bites) order extra in advance. Two months in advance, we reserved a table in the Manhattan Dining room for the 5:30 dining time and were glad we did. Others had to wait a while in line for 15-30 minutes whereas our party walked right in each night, a must if you have a larger group. We saw them accommodate a group as large as 9 at a single table. Pinnacle Grill: We doubted whether the additional $35 up charge would be worth it for the upgrade to this restaurant but it ended up being a great value. I would describe the food here as "Amazing" (a small step down from "Life Changing" at a five star restaurant). The steak was on par with some of the best steak houses we have in Dallas, Texas. The food was noticeably improved over the Manhattan dining room and my only regret was not booking another dinner here. Lido Buffet: Never had to wait and it got busy but didn't feel overly crowded. It's a good option if you need something quick as something is available through-out the day. The food was good but definitely a step down from the dining room. Dive In: The Burgers and Hot Dogs were pretty good here. It did however consistently take 20-30 minutes to receive your food which is too long for this kind of food. Slice: Pizza was okay. Not bad, not great either. Room Service: You can also order room service 24 hours a day. A great option if you need an early breakfast before an excursion. They mixed up our order a few times but they tried to fix it ASAP when they did. We did not eat at any of the other specialty restaurants. Entertainment and Activities: Overall the acts were barely entertaining, any less and I would have just walked out. The magician/ comedian just juggled. Magic in the circus show for example was simulated with a live actress pulling doves out of a hat but she pretended to pull doves out of a real hat which then just flew around on the LED TV screen (not impressed). Activities listed on the Holland America website like America's Test Kitchen and BLEND we're not available on this ship (we were very disappointed). Really wish Holland America would list what activities are available for each ship as we were really interested in these two particular activities. Digital Workshops were for those that had little to no experience with the computers and applications they cover. They start each work shop with "this is a mouse". Fitness: We were interested in fitness classes but they tried to charge you an extra $15 for the classes like a cycling class. I think it should be included. The mixology class allows you to get behind the bar and practice making drinks. For $15 you get three pre-determined cocktails and more if you correctly answer trivia questions for the excess drinks, A fun and fantastic value. The art shows offers overpriced art. Virtually all are reprints that they try and sell at $1K-$15K. They have lots of gimmicks to suck you in. If you study the art closely you can see the ink blotches, the same micro dots they use on printing magazines and newspapers. If you have bad eye sight you probably won't notice. If you see something you like, take a picture of it and find it online for a lot less. The ship's shops offer increasingly large discounts towards the end of the cruise. Service: Service was pretty good. Most staff had a positive and courteous attitude and were semi-personable (tough when there's new passengers each week). Staff would do their best to help you with questions and I don't think I was ever told "no". There were occasional mistakes and staff apologized and did there best to fix it ASAP. I felt like I was developed a friendship with our server and cabin steward, wish we could have spent more time with them. Ports and Shore excursions: Our smaller ship size helped mean that we did not overcrowd an island we were visiting. We did three excursions and had a good time with each. Overall we found the excursions to be a pretty good value and a fair deal considering the time and hassle it would take to do it on your own. Other Passengers - Holland America is known for the "newly wed and the nearly dead". We were on a "young" cruise with families joining for the holidays (can't imagine what a regular cruise is like). There was space to park walkers at the entrance to the dining room. My younger sister, 18, went to several events intended for ages 18-25 and five or less people would show. Unless you like music from the 40's-60's the night life is DEAD. Otherwise, you'll fit right in and enjoy the dancing and songs which all ends at 11:00. I need to find a cruise line with good food, service, and activities that's not a booze cruise with drunkards. Christmas Activities - They decorated the various Christmas decorations including a Christmas trees, toy train, gingerbread houses, garland, and Christmas lights. They had various hot cocoa nights, Christmas caroling, and visit from Santa on Christmas day. Christmas Eve and Day meals were EXCELLENT. Christmas Eve included a choice of a traditional Christmas Dinners from various countries (6-8 options). The choir of crew put on their own heart warming show on Christmas Eve. The staff went out of their way to really make it feel special. Would definitely do it again. The only downside was on December 26th we were supposed to visit Half Moon Cay (Holland America's Private island) and they cancelled it when we arrived in the morning (another day at sea). The captain said that the wind was 30-40 knots with waves cresting at 5 feet, and the ship couldn't get a hold of their staff on the island. The ship's weather channel showed 9 mph wind and when I went outside there was a light breeze with what appeared to be small waves. We were later told the island's staff couldn't come to the island due to the large waves. Based on my knowledge and experience, I suspect because it was the day after Christmas, the island staff was either too drunk or didn't want to come into work and called in sick.

Christmas Cruise with Family

Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by keith.borg

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2016
  • Destination: Eastern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Large Spa Ocean-View Stateroom
We selected Holland America for the food and service (our second cruise ever). We're in our early thirties and we're joined by both sets of parents and an 18 year old sister with a total of 7 in our group. We had a really nice Christmas on this cruise and would recommend it to others.

Disembarkation: We flew in the night before to ensure no flight delays. We aimed to be at the cruise port at 1:00 but due to heavy traffic didn't make it until 1:45.(9 cruise ships leaving on the same day with an estimated 25,000 arriving and another 25,000 leaving). Unfortunately some flights were cancelled and some other passengers didn't make the cruise. Despite the official paperwork saying the boarding process was 1:00 to 5:00 we learned that we could have boarded as early as 11:30 that morning. Food was available at Lido upon boarding, the buffet restaurant as it always is (skip paying for an outside lunch)..

Ship: Built in 2010, the ship still feels relatively fresh and classy. There's not a ton of activities (no water slides or climbing wall) but that's expected due to the small size of the ship as it only carries ~2,100 passengers verses 5,000-7,000 of larger ships. The Silk Den (bar) on the top deck (11) is the best place for some quiet and to enjoy the views.

Best place to go if you get sea sick is the seats around the circular staircase in main atrium on the Deck 1. It's the "middle of the middle" and sways the least. The ship will provide sea sickness drugs if you need them.

Dining:

Manhattan Dining Room (only dining room): Overall, food was "Really Good". About 80% of the menu was different each night and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It's unlikely that they will cook anything that's the "best you've ever had" but it will likely come in one or two notches below that. We were very happy with the food in the Manhattan Dining Room.

They don't tell you but you can order multiple appetizers and entrees. So we would each order 1-2 appetizers and occasionally an extra entree so we could share and try everything. If you like something that comes small like scallops (3 tiny bites) order extra in advance.

Two months in advance, we reserved a table in the Manhattan Dining room for the 5:30 dining time and were glad we did. Others had to wait a while in line for 15-30 minutes whereas our party walked right in each night, a must if you have a larger group. We saw them accommodate a group as large as 9 at a single table.

Pinnacle Grill: We doubted whether the additional $35 up charge would be worth it for the upgrade to this restaurant but it ended up being a great value. I would describe the food here as "Amazing" (a small step down from "Life Changing" at a five star restaurant). The steak was on par with some of the best steak houses we have in Dallas, Texas. The food was noticeably improved over the Manhattan dining room and my only regret was not booking another dinner here.

Lido Buffet: Never had to wait and it got busy but didn't feel overly crowded. It's a good option if you need something quick as something is available through-out the day. The food was good but definitely a step down from the dining room.

Dive In: The Burgers and Hot Dogs were pretty good here. It did however consistently take 20-30 minutes to receive your food which is too long for this kind of food.

Slice: Pizza was okay. Not bad, not great either.

Room Service: You can also order room service 24 hours a day. A great option if you need an early breakfast before an excursion. They mixed up our order a few times but they tried to fix it ASAP when they did.

We did not eat at any of the other specialty restaurants.

Entertainment and Activities: Overall the acts were barely entertaining, any less and I would have just walked out. The magician/ comedian just juggled. Magic in the circus show for example was simulated with a live actress pulling doves out of a hat but she pretended to pull doves out of a real hat which then just flew around on the LED TV screen (not impressed).

Activities listed on the Holland America website like America's Test Kitchen and BLEND we're not available on this ship (we were very disappointed). Really wish Holland America would list what activities are available for each ship as we were really interested in these two particular activities.

Digital Workshops were for those that had little to no experience with the computers and applications they cover. They start each work shop with "this is a mouse".

Fitness: We were interested in fitness classes but they tried to charge you an extra $15 for the classes like a cycling class. I think it should be included.

The mixology class allows you to get behind the bar and practice making drinks. For $15 you get three pre-determined cocktails and more if you correctly answer trivia questions for the excess drinks, A fun and fantastic value.

The art shows offers overpriced art. Virtually all are reprints that they try and sell at $1K-$15K. They have lots of gimmicks to suck you in. If you study the art closely you can see the ink blotches, the same micro dots they use on printing magazines and newspapers. If you have bad eye sight you probably won't notice. If you see something you like, take a picture of it and find it online for a lot less.

The ship's shops offer increasingly large discounts towards the end of the cruise.

Service: Service was pretty good. Most staff had a positive and courteous attitude and were semi-personable (tough when there's new passengers each week). Staff would do their best to help you with questions and I don't think I was ever told "no". There were occasional mistakes and staff apologized and did there best to fix it ASAP. I felt like I was developed a friendship with our server and cabin steward, wish we could have spent more time with them.

Ports and Shore excursions: Our smaller ship size helped mean that we did not overcrowd an island we were visiting. We did three excursions and had a good time with each. Overall we found the excursions to be a pretty good value and a fair deal considering the time and hassle it would take to do it on your own.

Other Passengers - Holland America is known for the "newly wed and the nearly dead". We were on a "young" cruise with families joining for the holidays (can't imagine what a regular cruise is like). There was space to park walkers at the entrance to the dining room. My younger sister, 18, went to several events intended for ages 18-25 and five or less people would show. Unless you like music from the 40's-60's the night life is DEAD. Otherwise, you'll fit right in and enjoy the dancing and songs which all ends at 11:00. I need to find a cruise line with good food, service, and activities that's not a booze cruise with drunkards.

Christmas Activities - They decorated the various Christmas decorations including a Christmas trees, toy train, gingerbread houses, garland, and Christmas lights. They had various hot cocoa nights, Christmas caroling, and visit from Santa on Christmas day. Christmas Eve and Day meals were EXCELLENT. Christmas Eve included a choice of a traditional Christmas Dinners from various countries (6-8 options). The choir of crew put on their own heart warming show on Christmas Eve. The staff went out of their way to really make it feel special. Would definitely do it again.

The only downside was on December 26th we were supposed to visit Half Moon Cay (Holland America's Private island) and they cancelled it when we arrived in the morning (another day at sea). The captain said that the wind was 30-40 knots with waves cresting at 5 feet, and the ship couldn't get a hold of their staff on the island. The ship's weather channel showed 9 mph wind and when I went outside there was a light breeze with what appeared to be small waves. We were later told the island's staff couldn't come to the island due to the large waves. Based on my knowledge and experience, I suspect because it was the day after Christmas, the island staff was either too drunk or didn't want to come into work and called in sick.
keith.borg’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Large Spa Ocean-View Stateroom
Cabin CQ 10003
Having a window at the front of the ship meant we could watch the sunrise and pull into port each morning from our bed. We loved use room service for breakfast so we could enjoy this view with our morning tea. The room was ~260 sq ft (verses 160 and below) and included Yoga mats, cotton robes, slippers, mini fridge, tub, with a shower head adjustable for height. If you had a window on the side of the ship the view is often blocked when you pull along side another ship at a port.

We loved our room. We had initially booked an interior state room and three week prior to our departure had the opportunity for an upgrade to a room with a window for $200 more. We were allowed to select this Spa suite and it felt like a huge value for the price.

The location was convenient for all things located on the top decks of the ship. However, as you are located near the top of the ship you will feel the movement of the ocean more. I am prone to sea sickness and just felt it the one morning while traveling on the open ocean when I rushed my morning routine so I could get to a lower floor. I would book this room again as it'd didn't make me sick.
Panorama Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews