We chose the cruise in large part because we wanted to experience the still-new Niew Amsterday just a few months after it had been christened. Embarkation and disembarkation were flawless and user-friendly. Once aboard, where we had a standard verandah stateroom, we enjoyed almost every moment of the cruise from Fr. Lauderdale to Amsterdam in late-April, early-May 2019. The stateroom was fresh, nicely decorated, clean and comfortable. Our stateroom was at the very front of the ship and yet we never felt any untoward motion despite some rough seas along the route.
Much to rave about:
1. Public spaces are beautiful and punctuated by public art so plentiful we seemed to discover something new every day.
2. Entertainment options were outstanding, as seems to be consistent across all of Holland America's ships. Great singers and dancers, two marvelous pianists, sizable casino (at which I won a $1200 jackpot (playing a penny slot machine, at 300 pennies per pull), duplicate bridge on every sea day and many more activities too numerous to detail. The main stage featured a new 270 degree screen, which utilized technology in ways that greatly enhanced not only lectures but also integrated technology into singing and (especially) dancing in a mesmerizing way.
3. The ship moved rapidly yet smoothly. Even in the English Channel, with some awesome swells one evening, the ride remained smooth. We never saw, experienced or heard of anyone being seasick.
4. The water in the two swimming pools was about 84 degrees, very comfortable, and each pool had multiple jacuzzi's, with water cascadomg from the top ones to the middle ones and then the bottom ones, a pleasant sight to see and experience.
5. The retractable roof over the main pool and largest outdoor sitting area was open in the daytime, weather permitting, and closed at night so free full length movies could be shown outdoors
6. Free popcorn topped off the free movie and blankets were plentiful on the chillier nights.
7. Food was outstanding in Rudi's Sel de Mer (upcharge) and also in Tamarind (upcharge), which we enjoyed two and three times, respectively, on this two week cruise. Two other upcharge restaurants (Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto) were good, but not great. We tried each one once, and ate in the main dining room the other nights. Main dining also was good, but not great food. Service was excellent, however.
8. Serving staff and cabin stewards were friendly, wore genuine smiles, and unfailingly wanted to please. Service was excellent everywhere on board.
Little to criticize, but here is a short list:
1. With just two swimming pools, one mid-ship and one aft, the ship allows smoking adjacent to the aft pool, and of course the smoke wafts everywhere. Consequently, the main pool (non-smoking area) was much more heavily used than the aft pool. Moreover, the prime outdoor viewing/sightseeing area is aft, around and behind the aft pool, and it effectively has been co-opted by smokers (a minority of total passengers) at the expense of non-smokers (the clear majority of passengers).
2. Similarly, the casino apparently allows smoking on alternating days, which is just as unpleasant and just as silly (catering to the smoking minority of passengers) as is the smoking area by the aft pool. On the no smoking days the casino still reeked of tobacco smoke.
One suggestion: All employees wear their name badges on the left sides of their clothing, chest high. Which means that when the shake hands (always right-handed), their name tag is turned away from the one whose hand they are shaking, making it difficult to read the name tag. Employees should wear their name tags on their right sides, so that when shaking hands they are turning the name tag closer to the other person and making them much easier to read. Simple suggestion, powerful results, I can assure you. In Washington, D.C., where everyone wants to meet everyone else (in power, but that's another story) and know their names, almost everyone has learned to wear their name badges on their right sides. Holland America should check it out and make the same small but significant change.
Cherbourg, France, was the port through which everyone arranged to tour Normandy, with this June being the 75th Anniversary of D-Day making the visit to Normandy especially significant. The tours of cemeteries have been so well-documented by others there is nothing I can add to how truly awe-inspiring they are. What most people onboard the Niew Statendam were unaware of was a spectacular exhibition of portraits of World War II combat veterans in the new convention center adjoining the spectacular la Cheneviere Hotel in the Normandy region.
Being on a cruise, we could not stay at this beautiful hotel in the French countryside, but it appeared to be a place we would love to come back to. We met the owner, who was warm and charming, and proud of his new convention center and the fact the first public exhibition he had invited in was that of portraits of American combat heroes. The photographer, John Riedy (www.johnriedy.com) has captured the emotions of these gentlemen, now all well into their 90's, one or more 100+ years of age. The pride in their faces, the weathered look and creases that 90-100 years of aging can create, the stories that clearly are in within them, create an awesome and emotional experience for visitors. Because it is still a new convention center and a new exhibit, it has not yet been well marketed, but it deserves rave reviews and is a must-see for anyone visiting Normandy during the summer of 2019.