Love the aqua blue water of the Caribbean: Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by klm1

Nieuw Amsterdam 5
Member Since 2010
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Love the aqua blue water of the Caribbean

Sail Date: December 2011
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Background information: This was our second cruise on Holland America, and we totally loved it, again. We chose HAL because of (a) the itinerary, (b) start/end on a Sunday, and (c) the service and food on our previous HAL cruise. We really loved how new the ms Nieuw Amsterdam was, and how everything was spotless. Since our cruise was in mid-December, the ship was decorated beautifully for Christmas. Lots of trees loaded with ornaments, and garland dripping ornaments everywhere.

Travel To Port of Embarkation: This was our first cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. We dropped off our Hertz rental car at the nearby Crowne Plaza, and caught the Hertz shuttle to the cruise ship terminal. The terminal was enormous, and very well organized. There were five ships in port that day, and all of them were separated, with their own terminals. It took maybe a ½ hour from the time the shuttle dropped us off, until we were on the ship.

Stateroom: Our room was available More immediately, which was great. Luggage arrived within about an hour. We were in room 7094 (category VA), which is towards the back of the ship, and very near the elevator, which was a nice bonus. We found a deal on a category VH room, so we booked it, even though we didn't really want that category due to the metal balcony. Luckily we were upgraded to a VA category 2 weeks before the cruise. The room was very nice. Bathroom was large enough, and included a bath-tub. There were 3 closets, and plenty of storage space. Room had a flat screen TV on the wall. There was a small couch, coffee table, chair, and foot stool which had storage room inside. The balcony was really nice, with two plastic wicker chairs and small table. Luckily our neighbours were very quiet and we rarely saw them.

Ship info:

Deck 11 -- Observation: The Crow's Nest was very nice and spacious with a great view. We never saw many people here. On the Alaska cruise this area was always packed with people at all hours. But in the Caribbean that weren't many people hanging out here. Explorations Cafe had a nice library, but we found the internet speed wasn't really much better here than anywhere else. Cabana Club was pretty amazing, if you want to spend the extra $ for your own private cabana. I think it might be pretty windy up there though. Silk Den was a great place, with a great view. I don't think many people know about it because we rarely ran into other people there. We used the private areas with beautiful loungers every night to use our laptop and internet access. For some reason it seemed faster there.

Deck 9 -- Lido: Greenhouse Spa & Salon was nice. On one of the "at sea" days we did the foot & ankle massage for only $39. It was well worth it, and the ladies who did the massages were so nice and charming, and interesting. Lido Pool often had people lying around it on the comfy loungers. Depending on the weather the roof was sometimes open and sometimes closed. There were never a lot of people in the pool, but it's a great place to hang out. There were about 10 private cabanas that you could rent around the pool. Sea View Pool was great too, with lots of loungers. We swam there once, just so we could say we tried it. There were never many people swimming there either.

Deck 3 - Promenade: The Showroom at Sea was beautiful, and covered 3 decks. We often sat on deck 2 to enjoy the shows. Screening Room was great for watching movies, and getting free popcorn. We went one night, but left early since we didn't enjoy that particular movie. Shops were good, and they had a lot of sales through-out the week. They also had a lot of draws for free prizes. On "at sea" days they had sidewalk sales around the Lido Pool. Atrium was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Ocean Bar was surprisingly crowded a lot of the time. We especially enjoyed the wooden loungers with cushions outside on this level. It's a great area to read a book, have a nap, and enjoy the scenery.

Deck 2 -- Lower Promenade Deck: Piano Bar was busy after the shows ended in the The Showroom at Sea. Casino was nice, and we actually did quite well on the slot machines. We went to bingo one day, and karaoke one night in the Queen's Lounge. Both were a lot of fun. For $25 you had good odds of winning hundreds of dollars at bingo. Explorer's Lounge is a nice area to hang out, but there were rarely any people there.


Manhattan Dining Room: We did the As You Wish dining, and ate on level 2 of the dining room. We never had to wait to get in, and were always able to get a table for two. All meals were extraordinary, and the service was superb. I can't say enough about the food on HAL ... it is first class.

Pinnacle Grill: We ate there on my birthday. Caesar salad was made right at our table. Lobster bisque was made right at our table. Filet mignon was fabulous. Baked potatoes were enormous. White and dark truffles were yummy. And they brought a chocolate mousse cake for my birthday. Which was followed by chocolate soufflé. I could hardly walk out of there, but loved every bite. The décor is luxurious.

Lido Restaurant: The buffet is so tasty on HAL. There is lots of variety for every meal. I think my favorite is the many choices of eggs benedict for breakfast. Every night there was a buffet with foods from different parts of the world. I was usually too full to enjoy the late night food.

In-room dining: We had breakfast many days in our room. We never did quite figure out what time to put on the room service request. They always seemed to come about 20 minutes before we expected them. We also ordered the surf & turf on one of the formal nights, and enjoyed a great meal in our room.
Dessert Extravaganza: This was around the Lido Pool on the second "at sea" day, late at night. There was soooooo much food. There were loads of desserts, plus fruit & chocolate fountain, candy floss, breads, and sugar-free desserts. The most amazing thing was the display of candy apples. There was a huge display, with many different coatings. Unbelievable.

Activities: We did the "On Deck For The Cure" walk, to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. It's a great way to raise some money, and enjoy the scenery. You can walk the entire route, or whatever you feel like. We did the behind the scenes kitchen tour, which was free, and quite interesting.

Service: First class. It's one of the things I like best about HAL. All the staff are friendly, and helpful. We met our room stewards on the first day, and they took great care of us.

Entertainment: We went to The Showroom every night to enjoy the shows. The entertainers were quite talented, but I found the shows disjointed. There was a lot of music to appeal to the older folks on board.

Disembarkation: We were off the ship around 9:00 AM. Picked up our luggage, went through customs, and were outside within ½ hour. There were helpful people in the cruise terminal to direct us to the taxis. We were in a cab within minutes, and at the Fort Lauderdale airport very quickly. It's quite shocking to go from the ship to the plane in such a short time, but it's easy to do in Fort Lauderdale.

Summary: I love the HAL ships, and I'm looking forward to cruising with them again. Less

Published 01/14/12
Helpful? Thank klm1

Cabin review: VD7094 Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

Lots of room in this cabin. Three closets with LOTS of hangers. Closets can easily be adjusted to have shelves, or just fold the shelves up to have a longer hanging space. There was a safe in the closet, but we never used it. Bathroom is a decent size. There is a bath-tub, which is great to have the extra space when having a shower. Lots of shelf space around the mirror, and under the sink. We had twin beds, and each bed had it's own end table with a shelf and two drawers. This was very handy for keeping track of all the little stuff. There was a small couch, coffee table, high back chair, and stool that could be opened for storage. Look under the end of the bed, and you'll find a drawer. The drawer will have extra blankets for sitting out on the balcony. This room had a good size flat screen TV mounted on the wall. Still only got a few channels, but we hooked it up to watch some shows we had brought from home. Balcony is a decent, with clear glass so you can see through it when sitting down. There are two plastic wickers chairs, and a small table. Location was very good. Towards the back of the ship, and very close to the elevator. We often took the stairs up to walk off the food. Since its at the back of the ship, you can easily walk down to the main dining room. It was very quiet and we rarely saw anyone in the hallway. Overall we were very happy with the room.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We were off the boat by 7:45am and heading towards the Grand Turk Cruise Terminal. It's a huge complex that has many shops and a Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We walked outside of the terminal and picked up our golf cart from Nathan ($80 USD). We read about Nathan on Cruise Critic and everyone said it's a great way to see the island which is only seven miles long and one and half miles wide. Before leaving, Nathan told us to just drive on the road (the cars will go around you) and stay on the left. It was kind of nerve racking at first, driving on the road with a top speed probably of 10 miles an hour while cars are passing you. But what we realized is that it's a great way to see everything, slowly. We made our way clear to the other end of the island to see the Grand Turk Historic Lighthouse. It was sitting on top of a bluff with the waves crashing below. To the left was the Caribbean Sea, and to the right was the Atlantic Ocean. We got back in the cart and drove to Bohio Beach. On the way, we did see donkeys and horses wandering on the side of the road. The beach was outstanding ... white sandy beach and turquoise water. The undertow was very strong, but the water was very nice. We rented a couple of loungers to lie down and soak up the sun. I don't think alot of people knew of the beach since it was practically empty. We had a little trouble getting the golf cart started but once we did, we headed to Cockburn Town which is the national capital. We drove down Front Street and admired all of the beautiful buildings. It was lunch time so we drove to Jack's Shack which is right on the beach. We had some great Jerk Chicken while enjoying the view. We had about another hour before boarding time, so we decided to drop the golf cart back to Nathan and check out the shops at the cruise terminal.
Read 1695 Grand Turk Reviews

We were awakened by the ship's travel guide over the loudspeaker giving us a tour as we sailed into San Juan, Puerto Rico. Again the water was turquoise, and waves were crashing along the shoreline. After a quick lunch by the Sea View pool, We arrived around 1pm and docked in Old San Juan. Swimming alongside the ship was a pod of dolphins! It didn't take us to long to get off of the ship and head into the town. We spent the entire day walking around Old San Juan. It's a walled city that has two forts protecting it. The streets are narrow, steep, and paved with adoquine (blue) stones and lined with old brightly coloured buildings with wrought-iron balconies. There were many amazing Christmas decorations. We saw beautiful churches, government buildings, quaint shops and restaurants. They even have a Marshall's. We did make it to Castillo San Cristobal which is one of the forts. We didn't have to be back on the ship until 7:30pm so we had dinner at Mojito's, one of the local restaurants. It's been a long day of walking. Puerto Rico is definitely somewhere to come back and spend a week, to see more of the island.
Read 2951 San Juan Reviews

For those of you that don't know, St. Maarten is an island that is approximatly thirty seven square miles. It is divided between the French (Saint-Martin) and the Dutch (Saint Maarten). It's very interesting because there is double of everything. Two police departments, two different sets of currency and two airports. The electricity on the French side is 220 volts (just like in Europe) and on the Dutch side it is 110 volts. One side is peaceful and quiet, and the other is party central We got off of the ship and walked over to the information booth and caught up with Bernard's Tours. It was a bit disorganized but eventually we got onto the bus. Our guide was Thomas and right from the start he was great. He told us that he made his famous Rum Punch at 5am this morning so it might be a little bit strong. We didn't drive too far before we had our first stop. Thomas pulled into this parking lot that looked like where you abandon cars. We walked a few feet and he started calling to the iguanas. All of a sudden, iguanas were coming from every direction. From this small pond, from the trees behind us. Thomas gave anyone who wanted to feed the iguanas some lettuce which we picked up earlier. Iguanas are vegetarians. There were at least over twenty of them, all different sizes and colours. We managed to feed a couple of iguanas. We stopped to meet Calvin, who showed us sea urchins, a conch shell, and a sand dollar that he had just retrieved from the ocean floor. Our next stop was Orient Beach where half of the beach is clothing optional. Some of the men on the bus were very excited about this. We spent about an hour there enjoying the view. The water was a beautiful turquoise colour but it was very rough today so we didn't venture in. We had a quick stop in Marigot which is the capital of the French side. We only had twenty minutes but we were able to pick up some Caribbean spices and some fabulous French tortes from a pastry shop called Sarafina. The last stop of the day was the best ... Maho Beach. This beach is famous because the runway of the Princess Juliana Airport starts at the beach. When the planes are landing, it appears that they are right above your head, and you can almost touch them. what is even better is when the planes are taking off. The plane gets lined up on the runway and then turns it's jets on. What happens next is hilarious, the blast from the plane whips the sand up and has been known to throw people back into the water. Fortunately for us, we did manage to see one plane take off but the funny thing is that it wasn't even a huge plane. Hats were flying, and people were getting pounded by the flying sand. There was supposed to be a 747 arriving from Paris while we were there but it was delayed. All aboard time was 2:30pm and we made it back with only a few minutes to spare. Next time I think we'll just get a cab and visit the places on our own. We didn't even make it to the shopping district.

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