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Hello everyone, Welcome to my review of the Nieuw Amsterdam. This is my cruising history: Cruise lines – 16 Ships cruised (size) – from 5,000 GT to 225,000 GT Ships cruised (capacity) – from 300 to 5400 Ships cruised (ratings) – from 2.5* to 5* We have not been on the Nieuw Amsterdam for a while. The more exciting it is to see the ship again – after recent refurbishment. Our itinerary this time – Eastern Caribbean in March. MS Nieuw Amsterdam This ship is one of a few most significant landmarks in the world of cruising. Some comments on the general situation in cruising are necessary to understand our vision of this ship today. 2010 The year of its construction, glorious 2010, was the highest peak that the cruise industry ever reached. The Queen of all ships RMS Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was already in service. Royal Caribbean launched the Allure of the Seas - a slightly improved sister ship of their unique giant Oasis of the Seas. What must be emphasized: all these ships were in their original design in 2010 (some unpleasant modifications have been done since then). The opulent Queen Elizabeth was launched in 2010. MS Nieuw Amsterdam (NA) joined her sister ship MS Eurodam (built in 2008). These two cruise ships weren’t the most expensive ships ever built. However there was something special about them. The stars, or the gods that govern shipbuilding were in their good mood when these ships were designed. Neither fastest, nor largest, they have accommodated an exemplary list of luxury features within the size that allowed the economically reasonable number of passengers (2,100) to enjoy high quality cruising in its fullness on the most spacious and comfortable resort ship. In the other words, intentionally, or just as a matter of luck, these ships designers created a pair of the best resort cruise ships ever built. Different ships were built; different people were managing cruise industry in 2010…. Redefining Luxury The NA is a fairly large ship, but not crowded as opposed to some mega ships. Not “officially” luxury, NA is packed with luxury features that leave so-called “luxury ships” far behind (from Silversea to Regent). Really? What is luxury at sea? To know that we need to open a glossy cruise brochure at the page called “Luxury cruises”. It will tell us that, for a few thousand dollars, you can get an unparalleled personalized service and enjoy first class dining at sea in the most sophisticated environment (of course marbled bathroom included). The highest numbers of space ratio and crew/passenger ratio will complete the picture. Wow! Now please recycle this brochure properly. Passenger space ratio (to make it simple) is ship’s internal volume divided by the number of passengers. It does not include the open space (sun decks, pools, promenades). Unless you limit your cruising experience to what a luxury nursing home resident may dream about (eating, sleeping, talking, bedside nurse with a tray of canapés 24/7), you’ll need much more on a cruise ship to call it luxury. People live under heavy pressure of various stereotypes. Say “resort cruise ship”, and a harping echo will bring “we don’t need climbing walls”. Why climbing walls? Who is talking about climbing walls? Why does it need to be climbing walls if it’s not a “luxury” ship?! Lack of experience feeds stereotypes. The sleep of reason produces monsters. Lack of cruising experience & blind cruise line loyalty feeds cruising stereotypes. What is it really like? “Luxury ships” is a label that is commonly associated with club style cruise ships. Most people have no idea of what cruise ships really are. Various ads are their primary source of “information”. Club style ships are relatively small (up to 50,000-60,000 GT). Indeed, they offer personalized service and great food. The prices are kept so high that only those who can afford (and like this type of cruises) can be seen on board. No “strangers” that may hurt delicate feelings and habits of the “members only”. As explained above, the price tag does not necessarily mean “luxury”. “Luxury” is rather confusing, heavily overused, and distracting marketing word. Therefore I prefer star ratings. Due to the limited size (but not for this reason only) club style ships are lacking some amenities that are available on larger, higher-class ships (like Nieuw Amsterdam – a real, not “brochure” luxury). A special note to remember about the higher class ships: this is the quality of the ship, not passengers. I review cruise ships, not passengers. Let’s go back to 2010 and overview the new ship. Tonnage: close to 90,000 GT (a mid-size cruise ship) Passengers: 2100 (double occupancy) Nieuw Amsterdam from bow to stern: observation deck, observation lounge, full circle promenade, two swimming pools (adult only aft sea view pool deck), large sports court, first class spa with a real hydrotherapy pool, modern gym, spacious private feel sun decks with sweeping vistas, choice of specialty restaurants, elegant art deco interiors, fresh flowers everywhere, artwork collection that fills the ship with a flavor of classic sea travel and more than 100 years history of the cruise line, good to excellent food and service, daily afternoon tea – something that goes without saying. a classic ocean liner vibe on a modern cruise ship Any “official” (in the brochure meaning) “luxury ship” to fit this list from A to Z? None! Wait, how about “being close to the sea” on a large cruise ship? This is not an exclusive feature of the small ships. It’s a matter of talent and taste of the shipbuilders (and those who order the ships of course!) Needless to say that on the Nieuw Amsterdam one can feel as close to the sea as if it was a private yacht with added feel of being on a powerful ship that sails majestically across the waives. This is what the Nieuw Amsterdam was at the time of leaving the shipyard in 2010. Who is NA for? The 5* luxury cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam welcomes everyone who can pay from let’s say $500 pp for a 7-day Caribbean cruise, while a 10-day Caribbean cruise on a 3.5* club style ship is likely to start from $3,500 pp. MS Nieuw Amsterdam today A $100 note today is not what it was in 2010. We have to admit this. And we also have to admit that the stars of a cruise ship rating in 2010 are not exactly the same weight in 2018. The cruise industry standards have deteriorated since then and continue to do so. More water is being added into cruise lines cooking pots (literally – food and service, and figuratively – new ships design). Bean counters have more say nowadays. However different cruise lines/different ships have made different progress going down. Some did more, some did less, some did not (rare exception). How did the Nieuw Amsterdam survive this period and how is she doing today? A special note for the first timers (please read carefully). There will be a fair amount of critical notes below. But… Please understand that we are reviewing the most comfortable cruise ship available at the moment. Much attention has been paid to some fine details that may be important only to those who know this ship, love this ship and cruise a lot. It’s the uniqueness of the ship that justifies the amount of time I spent on the critical notes. Disaster and disgrace: someone has misplaced diamonds in the King’s crown jewels! This is what it is about. Nothing more. No worries. Even with a somewhat damaged crown, this cruise ship is still #1 at sea. Major refit: 2017 Cruising in March, 2018 The Ship After recent revamp: immaculately clean, fresh and shiny like an amber drop. God forbid, the ship did not suffer any major hardware design changes (like added cabins, ruined open decks, etc.) Changes were made to the layout, décor, and functionality of some areas only. Interiors The ship retains its original elegant décor and layout in general. Changes: the good, not so good, the bad, the ugly. The atrium staircase has been removed completely. IMO this is a clear improvement. The atrium is more spacious now. The ship is still easy to navigate: there are three major staircases and 14 elevators. The panoramic sea view elevators are as beautiful as they used to be. The unique art deco chandelier in the atrium (a rotating stylized model of New York City skyline) is in place but for some reason it is not rotating. Is it temporary or permanent? I don’t know. If it’s permanent…. Well, it can be a bad omen - like a clock that stopped. Very bad. Holland America, don’t let anyone stop your clock! Some strange toponymic changes have been made. The Queen’s Lounge has lost its original name. Now it’s a BB King’s Blues Club & America’s Test Kitchen …. with Queen of Netherlands Beatrix’s statue bust and the Royal Family portrait at the entrance! It seems to me that this “kitchen” has no taste… Could BB King’s continue to perform in the Queen’s Lounge? The former Nothern Lights Disco/Dance Club has become the Gallery Bar. The space is completely redesigned. Now it’s a small lounge that opens directly to the casino. We can say that the former Casino bar has moved here. A single most visible change is the conversion of the Piano bar. The bulkheads have been removed. Casino bar removed (moved to the former disco club site). Now is an open space board to board. The space includes the newly installed “dueling pianos” on the redecorated starboard side and the casino itself (no smoking) on the port side. At a glance this area is somewhat “carnivalized”. Those who cruise on Carnival ships may remember musicians performing near the casino - across the main passage way. The noise of the casino is mixing up with the beauty of the singing pianists. Can we dream about something? What a wow ship would there be if the casino goes overboard, or at least being reduced to the size of the one on the Queen Elizabeth and separated by a nice bulkhead… The Explorer’s Lounge has been reduced to a faceless area with a few chairs and an empty wall (where the podium for the String quartet used to be). The purpose of the change is to create a more appropriate space for chamber music concerts. The stage is now on the opposite (forward) end of the former lounge. A light partition separates the performance area from the main passage. It’s a good idea. However the implementation is a lazy work. Do these people know (or just pay attention to) why this lounge was called Explorers’s Lounge? What artwork belong to this lounge and why? Zero attention was paid. Rushed changes? Half artwork left in the new chamber music lounge. They forgot to relocate the installation (thus an empty wall). The other one remains in the dwarfed Explorer’s Lounge. However the author name plaque (now invisible) was found attached to the wall upside down behind the couch seatback. The worst part of this change is that the view of the largest artwork displayed on the ship, the Panorama of Manhattan, is now obstructed. The awkward location of the decorative set of flowers completes the damage. The counter should have been on the other side of the open space (exactly where the podium was) so that at least a part of the view of the beautiful Panorama remains open… Not the most visible due to its location away from the main traffic, but the most painful change is…. Yes, it’s the Crow’s Nest. I welcome the removal of the stairs in the atrium. I see the benefits of the new dueling pianos. The new Gallery bar seems a good spot at times (if the casino is quiet). I can smile looking at the ignorance related to the Queen’s Lounge situation. I see the benefit of the new partition that separates the chamber music area. But the Crow’s Nest! The area of the former Exploration café is now an excursion office. A few touch screen tables indicate that the digital world has found it’s way here. Touch the screen and get information on the ports of call and other destinations worldwide. The thing is that these screens are total waste. Two of them display the minimum info on the ports of call (a map with a few “points of interest”). The other ones display “cards” – selections of colored pictures, etc. This is a good stuff to look at while waiting in a doctor’s office, i.e. something that you would look at and put aside in a few minutes. IMO this is a useless decoration, waste of space and equipment. The area where the library was, is now hosting a big screen with ever changing views of tourist destinations – pure decoration. Think of electronic wallpapers. In front of it – another screen table that may attract your attention for a minute before you get bored with its primitive “interactive options». A huge double screen installation takes the central part of the panoramic view forward. Again. I will repeat it because the readers are likely not to imagine this. The Crow’s Nest is a forward observation lounge. By definition the beauty of this venue is a panoramic view forward. This is a luxury feature on a cruise ship. What happened? As a part of the “improvements”, a monstrous two-screen installation is placed right in the middle of the panoramic view. Does it block the view? Yes. It’s like a melanoma spot on someone’s nose. The screens display current navigation information. It’s basic but interesting. Good to know. But why here? Why in the middle? There is so much wasted space, so many useless screens nearby… This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Another thing in the Crow’s Nest that turned my face red. Port side. The original SS Nieuw Amsterdam bell and the beautiful model of the liner are gone! Can one imagine that such unique memorabilia can be replaced with an IKEA-inspired tour office lecture room with a few rows of seats and a digital screen displaying colored pictures (again, another one!!)… The whole area of the Crow’s Nest has been sterilized as if it’s ready for rent: no links to the Holland America Line, nothing to remind where you are … Very strange. Explorations Café That is amazing. Viking Cruises have followed the New Amsterdam planning (in general) for their new ships. They put their Mamsen’s café in the observation lounge exactly on the spot where the Explorations café used to be on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The Mumsen’s has more options to choose from (think of the Dutch café on the Koningsdam). While another cruise line is copying the best of Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL is getting rid of it! At the same time. The Explorations café has been removed and replaced with that excursion desk. Specialty coffee is now available from the bar some 50 feet away from the crash site. No dance floor any more. That’s it about the changes. I do not owe this cruise line. This is not my business. I am only a paying guest there. I don’t make decisions. I only review the ship. What has survived? The library is not exterminated completely (as it was done on the Koningsdam). There are several bookshelves here and there in the lounge with some very interesting books. The lounge is still available to serve its primary purpose as a forward observation lounge. This is a luxury feature, and one of the most beautiful spots on the ship. Nieuw Amsterdam Food Let’s start from…. the food. The buffet food on this ship used to be excellent. One would look for and never find freshly squeezed orange juice and some 10 kinds of eggs benedict as a standard feature on any other large ship (non-HAL). Today these features exist in memories only. Juices are from standard vitality dispensers now. There is only one kind of egg benedict as a feature of the day. Crab meat benedicts are available in MDR. The quality of desserts in the buffet was not consistent. It varied from very good to rather boring (late snack). Gone are pastries from Explorations Café as the café itself does not exist any more. Coffee is available from the bar in the Crow’s Nest lounge. This is it about the losses. Let's continue wuth the cruise... The buffet in general was good to very good. Excellent meats. Excellent bread pudding. Omelets-made-to-order have uncountable number of ingredient to choose from. Salad bar is great with options. Enormous variety of juices/juice drinks for breakfast. Excellent muesli. Fruits – good selection during the cruise, but not everything available every day. Service – outstanding. Waiters provide reasonable amount of assistance in the buffet – not annoying, just effective. Main Dining Room Cruises is our vacation time that is short and precious. We are flexible as to where, when, and with whom to eat, and the Nieuw Amsterdam provides great opportunities for freestyle dining. However we have preferences as well. As the cruise time is short, we try to have the best of it. We do not follow the MDR ceremonial dining routine every night. We are in MDR for Gala dinners, and for quick visits on the other nights to see what is going on, to try something good… and of course to take pictures and review menus. I am pleased to report that the food on Gala nights was simply excellent in selection, taste and presentation (lobsters, foi gras, excellent meats, amazing cold soups…). Other days – good to very good. Specialty restaurants We never skip the Tamarind. This is the most popular specialty dining venue on the ship that never disappoints. We did not do Pinnacle Grille this time – just too much food. We did not do Sel de Mer event at the Pinnacle Grille. We tried it on the Koningsdam and did not like it. It was not worth the money IMO. The Canaletto (an area in the buffet that is converted into a specialty venue each night) was pretty full every night. But their menu has never been to our liking (tastes differ). A few more words about public rooms Interiors retain the elegance of the original design. No closed-in feel. The ocean view panoramic elevators are magnetic. A three-deck high Atrium is relatively small yet charming, with the famous NY skyline chandelier. The Atrium continues to the spacious (board to board) central elevator foyers with the panoramic elevators on both sides. The new carpeting is a piece of art. The ornament of the carpet is now matching the luxurious ornate elevator doors. We enjoyed both observation lounges: Crow’s Nest (Deck 11 forward) and Tamarind (formerly Silk Den Lounge - Deck 11 midship). The Nieuw Amsterdam is a ship of artwork and fresh flowers. Open decks The Nieuw Amsterdam (along with the sister ship) is the most spacious cruise ship at sea (internally + externally). It features the iconic full-circle teak promenade, the forward view deck, and astonishingly vast (yet private feel) sun decks. There are two swimming pools on the ship. The central pool has a sliding roof The aft pool area (adults only) is a fantastic open panorama of the sea. No crowds. Extra charge service: cabanas for rent. Spa and Fitness It’s amazing that the sports court on the mid-size Nieuw Amsterdam is larger than on many mega ships. The spa is top class at sea: thermal suite (thalassotherapy pool, three steam rooms, heated tile beds), relaxation room, and various treatment rooms. This is something for you to know about the spa on the Nieuw Amsterdam. All the cruising passengers know that “food is included” in the price. But all cruising passengers (I believe) know that this fact says nothing about the food quality (from mediocre to excellent). Thalassotherapy pool (AKA hydropools) are relatively rare, so most cruisers have little idea of what they are. Some people believe that a hydropool is somewhat standard. In fact, the hydropool quality varies as wide as the food quality – from the imitations to the real ones that are extremely rare. The hydropool on the Nieuw Amsterdam is one of those real that are extremely rare. This is $$$ and worth every penny if you want to have an effective hydro massage, not just a fun time in an enlarged jacuzzi. There are also two free separate saunas for men and women. The forward-looking gym is well equipped. Design deficiencies? Yes, there is one that is pretty obvious: a wasted space above the bridge that could have been a much more appropriate place for the forward viewing deck (rather than on Deck 5 forward). Cabins There is a wide selection of cabins for different budgets on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The most typical is a standard balcony cabin. The cabins are reasonably spacious for the category, have a good storage space, most cabins have tub/shower combos rather than shower stalls. The balconies are very spacious, with unobstructed views (except for the substandard balconies on Deck 5 midship). The ocean view cabins (most of) follow the layout of the balcony cabins. The ones on Dec 4 (so-called “obstructed view” – behind lifeboats) feature large floor to ceiling windows. The cheapest inside cabins has two main configurations. Both are rather compact with amazing amount of storage space. These cabins on the luxury ship deliver outstanding value for money. Outstanding means o-u-t-s-t-a-n-d-i-n-g. The large insides category “J” and “I” is a pinnacle for families of four. The largest insides at sea combined with the price - is a miracle. Many cruisers make huge mistakes searching budget cruise lines for a “value-for-money” cruise vacation, not knowing that a luxury cruise vacation may cost them less! A big step up in balcony cabin size are mini-suites (“Signature Suite”). Although not full suites, the “Neptune Suites” are very pleasant spacious cabins with extra large balconies. The ones on stern are absolutely beautiful, with huge balconies (think of a private open deck). The ship features two very expensive full suites (“Pinnacle” category). The Nieuw Amsterdam is a one-class ship, no ship-within-a-ships, no obnoxious segregation. The Nieuw Amsterdam provides a ship-within-a-ship quality experience (actually above that) for all on board. A Nieuw Amsterdam – within – a Nieuw Amsterdam, so to speak. Holland America Line is still doing many things right. The suite perks are set up in the most civilized way that does not affect the cruising experience “for the rest of” the passengers (about 87%, i.e. the whole ship). HAL ships remain the most egalitarian (only Viking Cruises and Costa Cruises compares) among the major cruise brands that makes credit this respectable cruise line. “Many classes” means “No class”. Entertainment The theater is fully capable modern entertainment venue. From RCI to NCL, I have not seen any production show that cannot be repeated on “The Main Stage” as it’s now called. It only depends on the cruise line intention and budget. The best show IMO was the BBC Earth footage accompanied with a live orchestra. Some may or may not like the concept, but it’s without a doubt a top-notch professional performance. The production shows performed by the resident troupe (canned music) were full of energy but …. Canned music is like plastic food. We respectfully skipped the guest performers. There was a lot of discussion on how Oprah’s O magazine would affect the cruising experience. It was absolutely harmless. We were able to avoid any interactions easily. B.B.King’s performances were well attended. Not my cup of tea though. The dueling pianos performances were very entertaining. We could attend a little bit a few times, and it was very well done. The chamber music concrts were probably the most professionally done part of the entertainment program. Fellow cruisers Is “HAL demographics a good fit for us”? Here you go. Be aware that a ship called “HAL’ does not exist. HAL ships have their names and differ like day and night from 3*+ to 5*. Never say HAL. Say what ship. There were many young people on board. This ship, this itinerary, and the short duration of the cruise attract the youngest clientele. There was visible number of kids on board. Nieuw Amsterdam cruise tips Believe me or not, many cruisers still don’t know… how to cruise! Take time to study the whole ship and identify the best features for you to enjoy. Don’t go where and when most people go. Life at sea is different. Leave your habits on land. You’ll go back to the boredom of them in a week or two. A cruise ship is not a floating hotel. Don’t book a cruise if want to stay in a hotel. Start you day early. Morning is the most valuable time on a cruise. See how the sea and the sun wake up. Enjoy your early breakfast in the buffet while everything is for you only. The single most important thing on a cruise ship (after hand wash): the buffet. Sometimes you can have better food than in the Main Dining Room – right from the stove. Eggs benedict with crab meat – try MDR breakfast one time (two times max). You don’t have to have full dinner in the MDR every day. Be flexible. Save time. Combine MDR and the buffet. Walk! The Nieuw Amsterdam is a ship far active cruisers. You didn’t know that? Wow! Don’t miss Gala dinners in MDR. Have a dinner at Tamarind – a must. Try wasabi crusted filet mignon. Check out the buffet daily for lunch and dinner. You are going to find something you will like. Ask if lobsters will be available in the buffet on Gala night. Best Thermal Suite at sea – book for the duration of the cruise as soon as you get on board. Need a table for the party of one or two? Contact cruise line in advance, and see Maitre D as soon as you get on board. Any time dining is good way to get a table you want for the time you want. Be quick. What unique place is found nowhere else but on a cruise ship? Promenade deck – this is where you start your day. Yes you do. Do all cruise ships have promenade decks? No. It’s a luxury feature. Don’t forget about the gym. Don’t order room service. Food in the buffet is much better. Is it a good idea to book an inside cabin? Yes, the best. Book an inside and save money for the spa if you cruise on a budget. Is a beverage package waste of money? Yes. Came across something tasty? Grab it and save for later in the fridge. The food will not be waiting for you to come back. Don’t forget that you are cruising on a romantic ship. Check out the very top private sun decks forward and midship. Don’t forget that the Nieuw Amsterdam has a large sports court. Sounds of charm – go to the Silk Den Lounge (now called Tamarind bar?) The Nieuw Amsterdam is not a ship where sun lounges have to be placed in rows “cheek to cheek”. Take an advantage of this. You are on the most spacious cruise ship at sesa! The ships will supply sun deck towels –unlimited. Your part is to bring clips to fix them on the loungers. Mark you packing list. What if I don’t want to go to the gym, but want room service, have breakfast in MDR, don’t have dinner in the buffet, don’t swim in the pool, stay away from thermal suite, watch for trivia sessions… ? Then it’s time to book a cruise on the Maasdam. But you are on the Nieuw Amsterdam my friend! Itinerary The itinerary was the crème de la crème of the 7-night Caribbean cruises. Fort Lauderdale – Grand Turk – San Juan – St.Thomas – Half Moon Cay – Fort Lauderdale. Paradise islands Paradise cruise ship Paradise weather We have waited until all three points are in line. And that was the Chocolate of the Seas cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. My cruise blog collection: cruiseadmiral.com Happy cruising!

The Chocolate of the Seas cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by ronbe65

9 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Hello everyone,

Welcome to my review of the Nieuw Amsterdam.

This is my cruising history:

Cruise lines – 16

Ships cruised (size) – from 5,000 GT to 225,000 GT

Ships cruised (capacity) – from 300 to 5400

Ships cruised (ratings) – from 2.5* to 5*

We have not been on the Nieuw Amsterdam for a while.

The more exciting it is to see the ship again – after recent refurbishment.

Our itinerary this time – Eastern Caribbean in March.

MS Nieuw Amsterdam

This ship is one of a few most significant landmarks in the world of cruising.

Some comments on the general situation in cruising are necessary to understand our vision of this ship today.

2010

The year of its construction, glorious 2010, was the highest peak that the cruise industry ever reached.

The Queen of all ships RMS Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was already in service.

Royal Caribbean launched the Allure of the Seas - a slightly improved sister ship of their unique giant Oasis of the Seas.

What must be emphasized: all these ships were in their original design in 2010 (some unpleasant modifications have been done since then).

The opulent Queen Elizabeth was launched in 2010.

MS Nieuw Amsterdam (NA) joined her sister ship MS Eurodam (built in 2008).

These two cruise ships weren’t the most expensive ships ever built.

However there was something special about them.

The stars, or the gods that govern shipbuilding were in their good mood when these ships were designed.

Neither fastest, nor largest, they have accommodated an exemplary list of luxury features within the size that allowed the economically reasonable number of passengers (2,100) to enjoy high quality cruising in its fullness on the most spacious and comfortable resort ship.

In the other words, intentionally, or just as a matter of luck, these ships designers created a pair of the best resort cruise ships ever built.

Different ships were built; different people were managing cruise industry in 2010….

Redefining Luxury

The NA is a fairly large ship, but not crowded as opposed to some mega ships.

Not “officially” luxury, NA is packed with luxury features that leave so-called “luxury ships” far behind (from Silversea to Regent).

Really?

What is luxury at sea?

To know that we need to open a glossy cruise brochure at the page called “Luxury cruises”.

It will tell us that, for a few thousand dollars, you can get an unparalleled personalized service and enjoy first class dining at sea in the most sophisticated environment (of course marbled bathroom included).

The highest numbers of space ratio and crew/passenger ratio will complete the picture.

Wow!

Now please recycle this brochure properly.

Passenger space ratio (to make it simple) is ship’s internal volume divided by the number of passengers.

It does not include the open space (sun decks, pools, promenades).

Unless you limit your cruising experience to what a luxury nursing home resident may dream about (eating, sleeping, talking, bedside nurse with a tray of canapés 24/7), you’ll need much more on a cruise ship to call it luxury.

People live under heavy pressure of various stereotypes.

Say “resort cruise ship”, and a harping echo will bring “we don’t need climbing walls”.

Why climbing walls?

Who is talking about climbing walls?

Why does it need to be climbing walls if it’s not a “luxury” ship?!

Lack of experience feeds stereotypes.

The sleep of reason produces monsters.

Lack of cruising experience & blind cruise line loyalty feeds cruising stereotypes.

What is it really like?

“Luxury ships” is a label that is commonly associated with club style cruise ships.

Most people have no idea of what cruise ships really are. Various ads are their primary source of “information”.

Club style ships are relatively small (up to 50,000-60,000 GT).

Indeed, they offer personalized service and great food. The prices are kept so high that only those who can afford (and like this type of cruises) can be seen on board. No “strangers” that may hurt delicate feelings and habits of the “members only”.

As explained above, the price tag does not necessarily mean “luxury”.

“Luxury” is rather confusing, heavily overused, and distracting marketing word.

Therefore I prefer star ratings.

Due to the limited size (but not for this reason only) club style ships are lacking some amenities that are available on larger, higher-class ships (like Nieuw Amsterdam – a real, not “brochure” luxury).

A special note to remember about the higher class ships: this is the quality of the ship, not passengers. I review cruise ships, not passengers.

Let’s go back to 2010 and overview the new ship.

Tonnage: close to 90,000 GT (a mid-size cruise ship)

Passengers: 2100 (double occupancy)



Nieuw Amsterdam from bow to stern:

observation deck,

observation lounge,

full circle promenade,

two swimming pools (adult only aft sea view pool deck),

large sports court,

first class spa with a real hydrotherapy pool,

modern gym,

spacious private feel sun decks with sweeping vistas,

choice of specialty restaurants,

elegant art deco interiors,

fresh flowers everywhere,

artwork collection that fills the ship with a flavor of classic sea travel and more than 100 years history of the cruise line,

good to excellent food and service,

daily afternoon tea – something that goes without saying.

a classic ocean liner vibe on a modern cruise ship

Any “official” (in the brochure meaning) “luxury ship” to fit this list from A to Z?

None!

Wait, how about “being close to the sea” on a large cruise ship?

This is not an exclusive feature of the small ships.

It’s a matter of talent and taste of the shipbuilders (and those who order the ships of course!)

Needless to say that on the Nieuw Amsterdam one can feel as close to the sea as if it was a private yacht with added feel of being on a powerful ship that sails majestically across the waives.

This is what the Nieuw Amsterdam was at the time of leaving the shipyard in 2010.

Who is NA for?

The 5* luxury cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam welcomes everyone who can pay from let’s say $500 pp for a 7-day Caribbean cruise, while a 10-day Caribbean cruise on a 3.5* club style ship is likely to start from $3,500 pp.

MS Nieuw Amsterdam today

A $100 note today is not what it was in 2010.

We have to admit this.

And we also have to admit that the stars of a cruise ship rating in 2010 are not exactly the same weight in 2018.

The cruise industry standards have deteriorated since then and continue to do so.

More water is being added into cruise lines cooking pots (literally – food and service, and figuratively – new ships design).

Bean counters have more say nowadays.

However different cruise lines/different ships have made different progress going down. Some did more, some did less, some did not (rare exception).

How did the Nieuw Amsterdam survive this period and how is she doing today?

A special note for the first timers (please read carefully).

There will be a fair amount of critical notes below.

But…

Please understand that we are reviewing the most comfortable cruise ship available at the moment.

Much attention has been paid to some fine details that may be important only to those who know this ship, love this ship and cruise a lot.

It’s the uniqueness of the ship that justifies the amount of time I spent on the critical notes.

Disaster and disgrace: someone has misplaced diamonds in the King’s crown jewels!

This is what it is about.

Nothing more.

No worries.

Even with a somewhat damaged crown, this cruise ship is still #1 at sea.


Major refit: 2017

Cruising in March, 2018

The Ship

After recent revamp: immaculately clean, fresh and shiny like an amber drop.

God forbid, the ship did not suffer any major hardware design changes (like added cabins, ruined open decks, etc.)

Changes were made to the layout, décor, and functionality of some areas only.

Interiors

The ship retains its original elegant décor and layout in general.

Changes: the good, not so good, the bad, the ugly.

The atrium staircase has been removed completely. IMO this is a clear improvement.

The atrium is more spacious now. The ship is still easy to navigate: there are three major staircases and 14 elevators.

The panoramic sea view elevators are as beautiful as they used to be.

The unique art deco chandelier in the atrium (a rotating stylized model of New York City skyline) is in place but for some reason it is not rotating.

Is it temporary or permanent?

I don’t know.

If it’s permanent…. Well, it can be a bad omen - like a clock that stopped.

Very bad.

Holland America, don’t let anyone stop your clock!

Some strange toponymic changes have been made.

The Queen’s Lounge has lost its original name.

Now it’s a BB King’s Blues Club & America’s Test Kitchen …. with Queen of Netherlands Beatrix’s statue bust and the Royal Family portrait at the entrance!

It seems to me that this “kitchen” has no taste…

Could BB King’s continue to perform in the Queen’s Lounge?

The former Nothern Lights Disco/Dance Club has become the Gallery Bar.

The space is completely redesigned.

Now it’s a small lounge that opens directly to the casino. We can say that the former Casino bar has moved here.

A single most visible change is the conversion of the Piano bar.

The bulkheads have been removed.

Casino bar removed (moved to the former disco club site).

Now is an open space board to board.

The space includes the newly installed “dueling pianos” on the redecorated starboard side and the casino itself (no smoking) on the port side.

At a glance this area is somewhat “carnivalized”.

Those who cruise on Carnival ships may remember musicians performing near the casino - across the main passage way.

The noise of the casino is mixing up with the beauty of the singing pianists.

Can we dream about something? What a wow ship would there be if the casino goes overboard, or at least being reduced to the size of the one on the Queen Elizabeth and separated by a nice bulkhead…

The Explorer’s Lounge has been reduced to a faceless area with a few chairs and an empty wall (where the podium for the String quartet used to be).

The purpose of the change is to create a more appropriate space for chamber music concerts. The stage is now on the opposite (forward) end of the former lounge. A light partition separates the performance area from the main passage.

It’s a good idea.

However the implementation is a lazy work.

Do these people know (or just pay attention to) why this lounge was called Explorers’s Lounge?

What artwork belong to this lounge and why?

Zero attention was paid. Rushed changes?

Half artwork left in the new chamber music lounge.

They forgot to relocate the installation (thus an empty wall).

The other one remains in the dwarfed Explorer’s Lounge.

However the author name plaque (now invisible) was found attached to the wall upside down behind the couch seatback.

The worst part of this change is that the view of the largest artwork displayed on the ship, the Panorama of Manhattan, is now obstructed.

The awkward location of the decorative set of flowers completes the damage. The counter should have been on the other side of the open space (exactly where the podium was) so that at least a part of the view of the beautiful Panorama remains open…

Not the most visible due to its location away from the main traffic, but the most painful change is….

Yes, it’s the Crow’s Nest.

I welcome the removal of the stairs in the atrium.

I see the benefits of the new dueling pianos.

The new Gallery bar seems a good spot at times (if the casino is quiet).

I can smile looking at the ignorance related to the Queen’s Lounge situation.

I see the benefit of the new partition that separates the chamber music area.

But the Crow’s Nest!

The area of the former Exploration café is now an excursion office.

A few touch screen tables indicate that the digital world has found it’s way here.

Touch the screen and get information on the ports of call and other destinations worldwide.

The thing is that these screens are total waste. Two of them display the minimum info on the ports of call (a map with a few “points of interest”).

The other ones display “cards” – selections of colored pictures, etc.

This is a good stuff to look at while waiting in a doctor’s office, i.e. something that you would look at and put aside in a few minutes.

IMO this is a useless decoration, waste of space and equipment.

The area where the library was, is now hosting a big screen with ever changing views of tourist destinations – pure decoration. Think of electronic wallpapers.

In front of it – another screen table that may attract your attention for a minute before you get bored with its primitive “interactive options».

A huge double screen installation takes the central part of the panoramic view forward.

Again.

I will repeat it because the readers are likely not to imagine this.

The Crow’s Nest is a forward observation lounge. By definition the beauty of this venue is a panoramic view forward. This is a luxury feature on a cruise ship.

What happened?

As a part of the “improvements”, a monstrous two-screen installation is placed right in the middle of the panoramic view.

Does it block the view?

Yes.

It’s like a melanoma spot on someone’s nose.

The screens display current navigation information.

It’s basic but interesting. Good to know.

But why here?

Why in the middle?

There is so much wasted space, so many useless screens nearby…

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen on a cruise ship.

Another thing in the Crow’s Nest that turned my face red.

Port side.

The original SS Nieuw Amsterdam bell and the beautiful model of the liner are gone!

Can one imagine that such unique memorabilia can be replaced with an IKEA-inspired tour office lecture room with a few rows of seats and a digital screen displaying colored pictures (again, another one!!)…

The whole area of the Crow’s Nest has been sterilized as if it’s ready for rent: no links to the Holland America Line, nothing to remind where you are …

Very strange.

Explorations Café

That is amazing.

Viking Cruises have followed the New Amsterdam planning (in general) for their new ships.

They put their Mamsen’s café in the observation lounge exactly on the spot where the Explorations café used to be on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

The Mumsen’s has more options to choose from (think of the Dutch café on the Koningsdam).

While another cruise line is copying the best of Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL is getting rid of it! At the same time.

The Explorations café has been removed and replaced with that excursion desk.

Specialty coffee is now available from the bar some 50 feet away from the crash site.

No dance floor any more.

That’s it about the changes.

I do not owe this cruise line. This is not my business.

I am only a paying guest there. I don’t make decisions.

I only review the ship.


What has survived?

The library is not exterminated completely (as it was done on the Koningsdam).

There are several bookshelves here and there in the lounge with some very interesting books.

The lounge is still available to serve its primary purpose as a forward observation lounge.

This is a luxury feature, and one of the most beautiful spots on the ship.

Nieuw Amsterdam Food

Let’s start from…. the food.

The buffet food on this ship used to be excellent.

One would look for and never find freshly squeezed orange juice and some 10 kinds of eggs benedict as a standard feature on any other large ship (non-HAL).

Today these features exist in memories only.

Juices are from standard vitality dispensers now.

There is only one kind of egg benedict as a feature of the day.

Crab meat benedicts are available in MDR.

The quality of desserts in the buffet was not consistent. It varied from very good to rather boring (late snack).

Gone are pastries from Explorations Café as the café itself does not exist any more.

Coffee is available from the bar in the Crow’s Nest lounge.

This is it about the losses.

Let's continue wuth the cruise...

The buffet in general was good to very good.

Excellent meats.

Excellent bread pudding.

Omelets-made-to-order have uncountable number of ingredient to choose from.

Salad bar is great with options.

Enormous variety of juices/juice drinks for breakfast.

Excellent muesli.

Fruits – good selection during the cruise, but not everything available every day.

Service – outstanding.

Waiters provide reasonable amount of assistance in the buffet – not annoying, just effective.

Main Dining Room

Cruises is our vacation time that is short and precious.

We are flexible as to where, when, and with whom to eat, and the Nieuw Amsterdam provides great opportunities for freestyle dining.

However we have preferences as well.

As the cruise time is short, we try to have the best of it.

We do not follow the MDR ceremonial dining routine every night.

We are in MDR for Gala dinners, and for quick visits on the other nights to see what is going on, to try something good… and of course to take pictures and review menus.

I am pleased to report that the food on Gala nights was simply excellent in selection, taste and presentation (lobsters, foi gras, excellent meats, amazing cold soups…). Other days – good to very good.

Specialty restaurants

We never skip the Tamarind.

This is the most popular specialty dining venue on the ship that never disappoints.

We did not do Pinnacle Grille this time – just too much food.

We did not do Sel de Mer event at the Pinnacle Grille. We tried it on the Koningsdam and did not like it. It was not worth the money IMO.

The Canaletto (an area in the buffet that is converted into a specialty venue each night) was pretty full every night. But their menu has never been to our liking (tastes differ).

A few more words about public rooms

Interiors retain the elegance of the original design.

No closed-in feel.

The ocean view panoramic elevators are magnetic.

A three-deck high Atrium is relatively small yet charming, with the famous NY skyline chandelier.

The Atrium continues to the spacious (board to board) central elevator foyers with the panoramic elevators on both sides.

The new carpeting is a piece of art.

The ornament of the carpet is now matching the luxurious ornate elevator doors.

We enjoyed both observation lounges: Crow’s Nest (Deck 11 forward) and Tamarind (formerly Silk Den Lounge - Deck 11 midship).

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a ship of artwork and fresh flowers.

Open decks

The Nieuw Amsterdam (along with the sister ship) is the most spacious cruise ship at sea (internally + externally).

It features the iconic full-circle teak promenade, the forward view deck, and astonishingly vast (yet private feel) sun decks.

There are two swimming pools on the ship.

The central pool has a sliding roof

The aft pool area (adults only) is a fantastic open panorama of the sea. No crowds.

Extra charge service: cabanas for rent.


Spa and Fitness

It’s amazing that the sports court on the mid-size Nieuw Amsterdam is larger than on many mega ships.

The spa is top class at sea: thermal suite (thalassotherapy pool, three steam rooms, heated tile beds), relaxation room, and various treatment rooms.

This is something for you to know about the spa on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

All the cruising passengers know that “food is included” in the price.

But all cruising passengers (I believe) know that this fact says nothing about the food quality (from mediocre to excellent).

Thalassotherapy pool (AKA hydropools) are relatively rare, so most cruisers have little idea of what they are.

Some people believe that a hydropool is somewhat standard.

In fact, the hydropool quality varies as wide as the food quality – from the imitations to the real ones that are extremely rare.

The hydropool on the Nieuw Amsterdam is one of those real that are extremely rare.

This is $$$ and worth every penny if you want to have an effective hydro massage, not just a fun time in an enlarged jacuzzi.

There are also two free separate saunas for men and women.

The forward-looking gym is well equipped.

Design deficiencies?

Yes, there is one that is pretty obvious: a wasted space above the bridge that could have been a much more appropriate place for the forward viewing deck (rather than on Deck 5 forward).

Cabins

There is a wide selection of cabins for different budgets on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

The most typical is a standard balcony cabin. The cabins are reasonably spacious for the category, have a good storage space, most cabins have tub/shower combos rather than shower stalls. The balconies are very spacious, with unobstructed views (except for the substandard balconies on Deck 5 midship).

The ocean view cabins (most of) follow the layout of the balcony cabins.

The ones on Dec 4 (so-called “obstructed view” – behind lifeboats) feature large floor to ceiling windows.

The cheapest inside cabins has two main configurations. Both are rather compact with amazing amount of storage space. These cabins on the luxury ship deliver outstanding value for money. Outstanding means o-u-t-s-t-a-n-d-i-n-g.

The large insides category “J” and “I” is a pinnacle for families of four. The largest insides at sea combined with the price - is a miracle.

Many cruisers make huge mistakes searching budget cruise lines for a “value-for-money” cruise vacation, not knowing that a luxury cruise vacation may cost them less!

A big step up in balcony cabin size are mini-suites (“Signature Suite”).

Although not full suites, the “Neptune Suites” are very pleasant spacious cabins with extra large balconies. The ones on stern are absolutely beautiful, with huge balconies (think of a private open deck).

The ship features two very expensive full suites (“Pinnacle” category).

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a one-class ship, no ship-within-a-ships, no obnoxious segregation.

The Nieuw Amsterdam provides a ship-within-a-ship quality experience (actually above that) for all on board.

A Nieuw Amsterdam – within – a Nieuw Amsterdam, so to speak.

Holland America Line is still doing many things right.

The suite perks are set up in the most civilized way that does not affect the cruising experience “for the rest of” the passengers (about 87%, i.e. the whole ship).

HAL ships remain the most egalitarian (only Viking Cruises and Costa Cruises compares) among the major cruise brands that makes credit this respectable cruise line.

“Many classes” means “No class”.

Entertainment

The theater is fully capable modern entertainment venue.

From RCI to NCL, I have not seen any production show that cannot be repeated on “The Main Stage” as it’s now called.

It only depends on the cruise line intention and budget.

The best show IMO was the BBC Earth footage accompanied with a live orchestra.

Some may or may not like the concept, but it’s without a doubt a top-notch professional performance.

The production shows performed by the resident troupe (canned music) were full of energy but …. Canned music is like plastic food.

We respectfully skipped the guest performers.

There was a lot of discussion on how Oprah’s O magazine would affect the cruising experience. It was absolutely harmless. We were able to avoid any interactions easily.

B.B.King’s performances were well attended. Not my cup of tea though.

The dueling pianos performances were very entertaining. We could attend a little bit a few times, and it was very well done.

The chamber music concrts were probably the most professionally done part of the entertainment program.

Fellow cruisers

Is “HAL demographics a good fit for us”?

Here you go.

Be aware that a ship called “HAL’ does not exist.

HAL ships have their names and differ like day and night from 3*+ to 5*.

Never say HAL. Say what ship.

There were many young people on board. This ship, this itinerary, and the short duration of the cruise attract the youngest clientele. There was visible number of kids on board.

Nieuw Amsterdam cruise tips

Believe me or not, many cruisers still don’t know… how to cruise!

Take time to study the whole ship and identify the best features for you to enjoy.

Don’t go where and when most people go.

Life at sea is different. Leave your habits on land. You’ll go back to the boredom of them in a week or two.

A cruise ship is not a floating hotel. Don’t book a cruise if want to stay in a hotel.

Start you day early. Morning is the most valuable time on a cruise. See how the sea and the sun wake up. Enjoy your early breakfast in the buffet while everything is for you only.

The single most important thing on a cruise ship (after hand wash): the buffet. Sometimes you can have better food than in the Main Dining Room – right from the stove.

Eggs benedict with crab meat – try MDR breakfast one time (two times max).

You don’t have to have full dinner in the MDR every day. Be flexible. Save time. Combine MDR and the buffet. Walk!

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a ship far active cruisers. You didn’t know that? Wow!

Don’t miss Gala dinners in MDR.

Have a dinner at Tamarind – a must. Try wasabi crusted filet mignon.

Check out the buffet daily for lunch and dinner. You are going to find something you will like. Ask if lobsters will be available in the buffet on Gala night.

Best Thermal Suite at sea – book for the duration of the cruise as soon as you get on board.

Need a table for the party of one or two? Contact cruise line in advance, and see Maitre D as soon as you get on board.

Any time dining is good way to get a table you want for the time you want. Be quick.

What unique place is found nowhere else but on a cruise ship? Promenade deck – this is where you start your day. Yes you do.

Do all cruise ships have promenade decks? No. It’s a luxury feature.

Don’t forget about the gym.

Don’t order room service. Food in the buffet is much better.

Is it a good idea to book an inside cabin? Yes, the best. Book an inside and save money for the spa if you cruise on a budget.

Is a beverage package waste of money? Yes.

Came across something tasty? Grab it and save for later in the fridge. The food will not be waiting for you to come back.

Don’t forget that you are cruising on a romantic ship. Check out the very top private sun decks forward and midship.

Don’t forget that the Nieuw Amsterdam has a large sports court.

Sounds of charm – go to the Silk Den Lounge (now called Tamarind bar?)

The Nieuw Amsterdam is not a ship where sun lounges have to be placed in rows “cheek to cheek”. Take an advantage of this. You are on the most spacious cruise ship at sesa!

The ships will supply sun deck towels –unlimited. Your part is to bring clips to fix them on the loungers. Mark you packing list.

What if I don’t want to go to the gym, but want room service, have breakfast in MDR, don’t have dinner in the buffet, don’t swim in the pool, stay away from thermal suite, watch for trivia sessions… ? Then it’s time to book a cruise on the Maasdam.

But you are on the Nieuw Amsterdam my friend!

Itinerary

The itinerary was the crème de la crème of the 7-night Caribbean cruises.

Fort Lauderdale – Grand Turk – San Juan – St.Thomas – Half Moon Cay – Fort Lauderdale.

Paradise islands

Paradise cruise ship

Paradise weather

We have waited until all three points are in line.

And that was the Chocolate of the Seas cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

My cruise blog collection: cruiseadmiral.com

Happy cruising!
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