Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by suzannecruisecritic
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Pinnacle Suite with Verandah
THE SHIP: This is only our second cruise as a family; we were on a Celebrity Mediterranean cruise with our kids last summer. We chose the Nieuw Amsterdam for Alaska on our wonderful travel agent's recommendation because it met the criteria we were looking for (we didn't have much flexibility on our dates, really wanted an itinerary that would visit Glacier Bay which many ships don't have permits for, and wanted a large suite with a large balcony that we would all be comfortable on if we wanted to do sightseeing from our balcony or eat a meal from room service in our room.) Our agent, who worked for HAL for many years in the past, encouraged us to consider the NA because it met all our requirements and we could book a PS for a more reasonable price than on the other lines we were looking at for our dates. He warned us that HAL has a reputation for having a much older clientele than all the other mainstream lines and helped us have realistic expectations about what to expect ahead of time so we were not disappointed by the lack of ziplines and waterslides on board. The ship was tastefully decorated with a NY theme and had a relatively calm vibe for a cruise ship. Our suite was huge with plenty of room for everyone and a great balcony with seating for all of us to be outside at once with our binoculars. The ship's main pool had a retractable roof which was a big hit as everyone could enjoy it even on the cold day in glacier bay. The pool usually had plenty of loungers free so there wasn't a culture of throwing down towels early morning and hoarding seats all day which was refreshing. There are a few little cabanas that can be rented for $50 a day next to that pool that look out to the ocean. The spa onboard was really nice; I didn't book a treatment but did buy the spa pass and highly recommend that as the hydrotherapy pool and steam rooms were fantastic.
THE FOOD: Most of the food onboard was good; some was great. Nothing we would seek out on land but there was something for everyone. We ate at the Tamarind, PG and Rudi's Sel de Mer (inside PG one night of the cruise) and all of these were much better than the MDR and Lido in our opinion. We tried the burger quick service next to the pool once and thought it was just ok and our son tried the pizza quick service many times and was happy with that. We had room service a few times and were happy with that as well. We tried to avoid the Lido Buffet as there was a norovirus code red during our cruise and because there were often long lines there.
KIDS STUFF: We were told that there were about 100 kids on board which is a lot for HAL but very few for a July Alaska cruise. Our 11 year old son really enjoyed the kids club. The staff was excellent and fun. The physical facility dedicated for the kids was cool and spacious. Typically there were anywhere from 2-20 kids there when we arrived. The age group for him run from 7-12 year olds which seems like too broad a range but I was told that they only divided the kids into further subgroups if there were more kids on board. My 13 year old daughter went by the teen club a few times but it was always empty; usually the counselor staffing the place was all alone. So our daughter spent her free time enjoying the pool, or reading or attending shows and programs with us. Most of the kids on board were very well behaved and supervised by their parents or grandparents with only a handful of exceptions which I think is unfortunately to be expected anywhere these days. One family took all of their children including screaming tiny ones (yikes!) to the specialty dining restaurants which we found really surprising and unfortunate; we asked to be seated as far as possible from them and we were fine but it was a shame that they surely kept others seated near them from enjoying their meals and the specialty restaurant staff didn't seem to intervene. Kids of all ages could often be seen playing in the main pool or at the ping pong tables near the pool and were generally well behaved and friendly.
ENTERTAINMENT: We highly recommend the BB King shows; very good quality live music. We didn't attend too many of the shows in the theater. The first night there was a "Magician/Funny Man" in the theater and we asked the concierge if it was family friendly and were told absolutely but we were disappointed that there was no "magic" and some of the jokes were so raunchy that we felt we had to leave (for example, jokes about sex, adultery, condoms, etc). We also attended a show with a duo called Synergy which was ok. After that, we stuck to BB King. On Glacier Bay day, park rangers came on board and did various presentations onboard that we thought were worthwhile.
PORTS: We embarked in Vancouver. Stayed at Fairmont across the street from the port which was very convenient as they send your suitcases to the ship for you. We noticed that going through security (after cruise check-in) there was a much shorter line for Global Entry so be sure to look for that if you have GE to save time. We first stopped in Juneau where we did the Whale Watching/Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari; none of us are super serious photographers but chose this because of the small group size and loved it and the guide who was wonderful. In Skagway, we had such a long time in port that we booked two excursions... the train in the morning which was a little boring at times but incredible scenery most of the time (sit on the left side on the way out because even though you will switch seats for the ride back, there is better narration on the way out than back) and then in the afternoon a helicopter ride to walk on a glacier which was incredible fun. In Ketchikan, we did the black bear viewing by floatplane trip in Tongass Forest which we enjoyed although the floatplane ride was a little scary because the Beaver planes used are so ancient but we lived to tell about it and did get to see some beautiful bears.
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