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Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
872 Reviews

Panama Canal ports great- food terrible

Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by Alberta54

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Sep 2017
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America

Took a 21 day Panama Canal cruise from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale. The ship is nicely decorated with some lovely flower arrangements & art & it is in relatively good working condition. Our cabin was well cared for but we found the pillows & linens to be in poor condition. Pillows had stains & no support. Stains on the duvet as well.Our bathroom shower curtain had black mold on it. It was replaced as soon as we notified the steward. Air conditioning worked great.

We enjoyed the various ports on the cruise. Definitely must do a tour for Puerto Chiapas, Puerto Caldera, Nicaragua & Guatemala. There is nothing at those ports to do unless you take a tour. These are great places to get tours from to explore the country.

The Nieuw Amsterdam must do something about the poor quality & quantity of food they serve. It was the most disappointing part of our cruise. Portions would not even satisfy a child. Food was overcooked or raw usually. Poor selection of food unless you like eating lamb or pork belly. They did have prime rib which came either raw or like leather. Soups lacked substance & taste. Service was beyond slow. 2 hours to get a main course is too long. Waiters had way to many tables to serve in my opinion. The only item we really enjoyed in the dining room was the fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. We eventually quit going to the dining room as the food & service was a disappointment. We found the ship deep fries a lot of it's food which we don't enjoy. Watch out for the turkey bacon. It actually should be called turkey jerky- it's deep fried!

The buffet was slow & staff seemed unenthusiastic about working. Tables were left dirty & staff were slow to pick up dirty plates from our table or ask us about something to drink. Most items have to be served to you. With only one staff serving lines were long. They were often out of items such as crackers for soup, earl grey tea, spinach & parmesan cheese at the salad bar, skim milk unless at breakfast, meatballs for spaghetti & meatballs, eggs at breakfast, etc. No one had any explanation for why items couldn't seem to be found. Just a shrug of the shoulders. The pasta bar food is reasonable. The buffet has limited hours. If you think you can get something to eat any time of the day you can't unless you order room service which has a very limited menu. Pizza is very good as are the burgers. However, expect to wait a long time to get a burger (usually have only one person cooking) & they close at 5:30 pm.

Tamarind is the only pay restaurant we went to. Food was fairly good; the setting peaceful & comfortable & service excellent. They should be open for lunch but they aren't.

The Mariner's lunch had halibut with rice & peas on the menu. The halibut was so overcooked it was a solid chunk of fish that required a mouthful of water with every bite so it could be swallowed. The rice was disgusting & there were no peas. We were told the peas were mashed into the rice. Really- there were no peas anywhere. Dessert would fit on a tablespoon. This is supposed to be a place to see the Captain & Customer Services Director. Neither turned up. They did a crew drill instead.

Afternoon tea is a joke. More unenthused & slow staff. Would have to wait & wait & wait for someone to serve the table. Tea is served in the Ocean bar which means sitting next to public walkways & never enough tables for people who wanted to have tea. Why on earth tea is served in a location like this was an unknown even to the staff who agreed it was a poor place to have it. Eventually people quit going, including us, as there was a lot of frustration about both the location & poor service. Pastries were overdone & dry.

Room service was prompt. They made an effort to serve hot food but it wasn't. We did request a few items not on the menu (peanut butter & cheese slices) & they did bring them which was appreciated. You can get English muffins, ham & poached eggs. BUT, if you want plain eggs benedict that has these items, you pay $9.00 per person more!

We didn't use the spa. I had enquired about a day pass & was told they don't sell day passes only passes for the whole cruise. For 20 days the cost would be $599 each!!!

Photos were very poorly done. Staff at the photo gallery would pressure you to buy expensive packages of pictures & didn't listen when told no thanks.

Happy hour is a time to get a second drink for $2.00. You also get some nuts & a small plate of about 4 appetizers. A few times these were tasty & others were terrible. It gets busy & service can be quite slow as a result. Again, there doesn't seem to be enough staff.

Tours through the ship were pretty good even though the selection was limited & I could not use the onboard credit to pay for them when booking them before the cruise. I also had to pay in US dollars. The excursion desk was unhelpful when onboard. The assistant manager didn't know anything about the tours other than what I already read on line. The person you can talk to with "any question" about a port was available one hours per day & basically she pushed the ship tours rather than answering questions we had.

Shops onboard cater to those who have big dollars to spend. Expensive & mostly jewellery & watches. The few items they have that the average passenger might need were ridiculously expensive. A small tub of toothpaste was $7.00 US.

Entertainment was hit & miss. Mostly miss. Bailamos was fabulous. The Test kitchen entertaining. BB Club was a big letdown. Brand new band that never worked together before were brought on for the cruise. They did OK but played the same songs each night. They just didn't seem to have any connection with the audience which was evident in the fact that there were always vacant seats at any show. The experts that talked about the Panama & also the sea life were excellent. The Panama Canal movie about the building of the canal was great & very informative before we got to the Canal. The pamphlet the ship handed out about the canal was helpful but it would have been nice for someone inform us of where exactly we were in the Canal when passing through. There was a speaker who told us very little during our passage. I understand you don't want someone talking all the time but more information would have been nice.

Be prepared for smoking hot & humid weather on this cruise. We had fabulous weather (we like the heat & sun) for almost all ports but for those not used to the high temperatures & humidity it can be quite uncomfortable.

Front desk staff were friendly & helpful. They acknowledged any concerns but little they could do about things such as the food.

We had a couple of unfortunate experiences during the cruise. A microburst storm in Hutualco which resulted in us getting stranded on shore for several hours & also a 4 hour delay with a tour in Costa Rica as we were forced to travel a mountain road due to problems on the main highways. In both incidences the ship kept the buffet open for people to have something to eat when they got back to the ship & greeted passengers back to the ship with genuine care & concern.

The Captain did a fabulous job with his daily announcements & also with informing passengers of any delays & the reasons for them. The Q&A they had with him was very interesting.

If the ship can improve it's food- and it needs LOTS of improvement & beef up it's entertainment it could make for much more pleasant cruises in the future. We know that passage through the Panama Canal is expensive for the cruise lines but the cost of the cruise was very expensive especially when the food was so poor.

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Cabin Review

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)

Took the ship tour that included the Filadelfia coffee estate & Antigua. At the coffee estate they have one of their guides do the tour. It was excellent. Our lunch at the estate was also excellent. The walking tour at Antigua was very interesting but the weather was hot, humid with beating sun the whole way. The guide seemed to lose his enthusiasm as the day went on. We did see an erupting volcano which was great.


Did a private tour with Julio Tours. The van was in an accident on our way back to the ship which resulted in us getting back late. Luckily the ship hadn't sailed as there were late ship tours. The guide on our tour although a pleasant young man was quite disorganized & his ability to keep track of time with the pace of the tour was poor. We missed some places we were supposed to see as we ran out of time due to the slow pace.

Coffee Plantation

Got a late start due to utter disorganization by the ship in getting people off the ship. The guide was beyond hyper which was tiring to watch & listen to. Lunch at the Dalton coffee plantation was after 3pm. so we were starved. The plantation was OK but lunch poor. Much better tour at Filadelfia coffee estate. Saw a botanical garden which was lovely. We ended up going to Sarchi that was not part of our tour as the road was closed that we would have taken to see the church. Sarchi was very interesting. Arrived over 4 hours late back to the ship due to problems with the highways so we ended up taking a mountain road (no fault of the tour folks). Driver did a great job navigating the big bus along the twisting, narrow mountain road.

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Booked with Sonny Island tours. He has a nice van & is very knowledgeable. Saw many of the sights on the island in 3 hours at a reasonable price.

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