Fantastic ship, outstanding cruise!: Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Review by edi1140

Nieuw Amsterdam 5
Member Since 2010
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Fantastic ship, outstanding cruise!

Sail Date: March 2012
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
About our cruise:

We booked a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise in March of 2012. The cruise featured 4 stops including Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Roatan, and Costa Maya.

About us:

We're a married couple in our late 30's / early 40's. We've cruised previously with Holland America, most recently on the Eurodam and Zuiderdam. We've also cruised with Carnival, Disney, Norwegian.

We have 4 kids who have cruised with us previously, but this time the kids stayed home and it was just the two of us.

Our previous experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam's sister ship, the Eurodam, was decidedly mixed and we almost passed on cruising with HAL again. As you will see, we're VERY glad we decided to go with HL one more time! Our cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam was everything we expected the Eurodam to be...and then some.


We got to the terminal about 11am. There was an embarkation delay due to a couple of passengers from the previous More cruise being late disembarking.

This meant that by the time embarkation finally got under way around 11:45 or so, a significant portion - maybe even most - of the passengers for our cruise were lined up outside the terminal and all embarked at once.

In spite of this, embarkation went very smoothly once it got started. HAL's talents for service and efficiency really shone through in this situation. It could have been very chaotic but it definitely wasn't.

Once on the ship, sometime around 12:30, our room was ready (I love that) and we headed to the Lido for lunch.

General ship appearance:

This is a gorgeous ship. It is decorated very nicely/tastefully (I love the New York theme) and it's absolutely sparkling clean.


On our previous cruise on the Eurodam (sister ship to the Nieuw Amsterdam) the quality and variety of the food was mediocre at of the major reasons why we almost didn't book with HAL this time around. Our logic was that the food situation on a pair of sister ships was likely to be very similar and so we braced ourselves for a week of bland meals once again.

We could not have been more wrong.

Whether judging by the sheer variety of the food or the quality and taste, meals on the Nieuw Amsterdam were simply outstanding. There were so many delicious choices to choose from that sometimes picking something was the hardest part of breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I don't know what happened on the Eurodam 2 years ago, or maybe HAL has made a fleet-wide change with regards to their food, but wow, was it it ever good on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Sure, there were one or two offerings that didn't turn out so well - inevitable on a ship with 2,100 passengers preparing the quantity of food that they were.

But overall, I was blown away by how great the meals were. On par with Disney , which is the best I've ever had.

Breakfast was good, lunch was good, dinner was good.

Room service was OK - as good as room service on a cruise ship can probably be.

We dined in the Pinnacle Grill and also did the "Le Cirque" evening. Both can fairly claim to be a 5 star restaurant experience.

My wife has some specific dietary needs - she can't have gluten or seafood - but this posed no problem at all. There was still more than enough to choose from that she pretty much always had lots to eat - even just choosing from the standard selections in the Lido. HAL was also very accommodating and always ready to whip up a specific request. too. If you have special dietary needs this ship is a great choice because they go out of their way to meet your needs.

I could go on and on but I think I've made my point. If the quality of the food on this ship isn't good enough for you, then I would say don't bother booking a cruise at all because I don't think it gets any better than least without booking on a luxury cruise line.

Fellow passengers:

You think "Holland America" and the first thing that comes to mind is: "A whole lot of retirees". Once again, we expected our experience on the Nieuw Amsterdam to be similar to that of her sister ship, the Eurodam, where it felt like it was us (a couple in our 30's) and 2,000 retirees.

Not on this ship. The difference between the Nieuw Amsterdam and our previous experiences with HAL was striking.

Sure, there was still a healthy contingent of "traditional" Holland America passengers - elderly and usually previous HAL customers.

But, there was also a strong mix of other, younger passengers: people in their 50's, 40's, 30's, 20's, and yes, a noticeable number of kids (ranging in ages from infants to teenagers and every age group in between).

This led to a different (and by "different" I mean "better") atmosphere aboard this ship - a little more lively, a little more fun. Don't get me wrong, you'll never mistake the Nieuw Amsterdam for a Carnival "fun ship"......but the atmosphere was very upbeat and generally pleasant to be a part of.

Everyone on this cruise - kids included - were very well behaved. The smokers respected the rules and without exception stuck to the designated smoking areas.

In terms of nationalities it was mostly Americans, Canadians, and Brits with a few folks speaking French, German and Russian thrown into the mix.


We only attended one show, a performance by the group Kintare (sp?). This was OK, not great. However, our fellow passengers raved about some of the other shows - the musicals were apparently very good. For a variety of reasons, we unfortunately just did not get a chance to get to any of them. Wish we had, as the reviews from our fellow passengers were very positive.

The on-deck live entertainment (Jenny and the HALcats) was very good, they did a nice selection of songs during each sail-away party that contributed to the fun atmosphere on board. DJ Marty also did a great job and we really enjoyed his "name that tune" contests. I don't recall hearing the Miami Sound Machine or the J.Geils Band on our previous HAL cruises! Again, a (relatively) younger and more contemporary atmosphere on board.

Spa facilities:

My wife booked a massage in the spa, and it was fantastic. She went back for a second massage later in the week which was also great. Definitely worth going if you're a fan of massages.

Family facilities:

Although we didn't bring our kids along, we did do a little scouting as we were curious about whether or not the Nieuw Amsterdam would work for us as a family cruise in the future.

The verdict: probably yes. We spoke with some of the parents who had kids aboard and they reported that their kids loved Club HAL and wouldn't leave it if they didn't have to. This meshes with our general observation of the kids on board, who seemed to all be having a grand old time.

One good thing about the smaller number of kids on a HAL cruise: the ratio of Club HAL counsellors to kids to pretty low (I estimated 1 counsellor per 10 kids) and the kids seemed to love the attention they got.

Bottom line: We would consider bringing our kids on the Nieuw Amsterdam on a future cruise, and this was a surprise to us.


The service on this ship is impeccable in every respect. Better than even what we expected from HAL. Not much more I can say about it.


We booked in category "IA" which is an inside "spa" room. It was small but laid out very well, with very ample closet space for all of our clothes and possessions. It had a queen sized bed which was comfortable enough.

The air conditioner was not nearly powerful enough to cool the room properly. And the pillows were not all that great. These are my only two complaints about this entire cruise.

In summary:

This is a marvellous ship, the best I have ever sailed on. It is fully deserving of the awards and accolades it has been receiving and is a very worthy heir of the Nieuw Amsterdam name.

We would sail again on this ship in a heartbeat. Less

Published 03/20/12

Cabin review: IQ10043 Spa Interior Stateroom

Room was small, but the layout was very good. There were 3 closets, more than enough for the possessions of 2 people. The queen sized bed was comfortable but the pillows were not. The room's air conditioner was underpowered and did not cool the room properly. If I could make one change to the ship this would be it. The bathroom was a simple setup, featuring a shower only (no tub). It was sparkling clean and everything worked properly. There was plenty of water pressure and hot water in the shower. The room only had one electrical plug - a pain in the butt for charging up iPads, laptops, phones. Bring a small power bar along and it will solve this problem. Finally, our specific room (10043), though classified as an Inside, was at the very end of the corridor and so had a window looking out onto the deck. It was kind of nice to have this bit of sunlight coming into the room.

Read All Spa Interior Stateroom (IQ) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Costa Maya is a small Mexican town that is developing itself as a port of call for cruise ships. Like Roatan or Grand Turk, there is pier for the ship to dock at (so you don't need to mess around with tenders, just walk off the ship) that leads to an area purpose-built for cruise passengers, which then leads to the town beyond. I perceive Costa Maya as still being in its infancy of development. The basics are there (shops, restaurants) but I think they have a ways to go before they equal a place like Roatan. The shops do have a plentiful amount of souvenir type merchandise. You can get t-shirts, hats, silver jewelry and similar trinkets for very reasonable prices. So it's a good place to shop for this type of stuff that you're taking home with you as little keepsakes or for gifts. It also has two tequila stores so you can stock up here. :) Costa Maya has a "beach area" where you can sit on a beach chair, get some sun, and you kids can make sand castles. But, you can't actually swim in the ocean here (unlike Grand Turk or Roatan). There is a pool which is free for cruise ship passengers to use and which kids will like. Beyond that, many shore excursions and tours leave from Costa Maya. We were booked to go on an excursion to some Mayan ruins but had to cancel due to illness. If you feel adventurous you can also rent vehicles (dune buggies or Jeeps) from the locals. If you need to stop at a "normal" store for some reason, there are pharmacies and other such stores beyond the cruise facility in the town proper. I took a walk through it and it seemed nice enough. Beware, though, the locals are very aggressive in trying to sell you whatever they think you might need! I would certainly not book a cruise specifically to go to Costa Maya but it is a nice enough little stop.
Read 1766 Costa Maya Reviews

Stingray Swim

This was our second time visiting Grand Cayman, a lovely island which is still under British colonial rule. Grand Cayman is another tendered stop (no pier for the ship to dock at) so there is a bit of time involved getting from ship to shore and back again. Make sure to build this time into your plans if you have to be somewhere for shore excursion. There's lots to do in Georgetown (Grand Cayman). If you don't want to do a shore excursion it's very easy to get around town, either on foot or by taxi. The locals all speak English (you can't live or work there if you don't) and it's very safe. There are many shops to choose from within easy walking distance of the docks, if shopping is what you're after. We did the Stingray City shore excursion in Grand Cayman. This involves taking a short ride on a tour boat out to a sandbar where stingrays naturally congregate. This is an easy, fun and very popular shore excursion where you get into the water with the rays (the water is very shallow, even younger kids can take part in this activity). The rays are plentiful and swim right among the throngs of people. It's a great experience and I highly recommend it. If you have kids, don't miss the Turtle Farm (unrelated to the Stingray Adventure). Our kids on a previous cruise LOVED the turtle farm and it's very inexpensive as a bonus. One thing to note about shore excursions in Grand Cayman - nothing happens fast on this island. Be prepared for some standing around and waiting at the docks before your group makes its way to whatever bus you're taking to get to your excursion. It can get hot standing and waiting there so bring a bottle of water. Bring some cash along too, it's handy for tipping drivers and tour operators and also for buying nice cold popsicles for hot, tired kids. :) There are plenty of ATM's and banks within an easy walk, you'll recognize lots of American and Canadian banks so your debit card is more useful here than most places.

What can I say about Half Moon Cay. Even as private islands go, it's in a league of its own. My favourite stop of the cruise for sure! For those who have not been to Half Moon Cay: here's a quick list of what makes it so great.... - beach sand that is almost impossibly soft, like baby powder - water that is as clear as a sparkling clean bathtub, and just about as warm - warm, gentle weather - a killer lunch buffet (no extra charge) - lots and lots of things to do if you're not into sitting on the beach - a stunning natural environment For those of you who have booked a cruise that includes a stop to Half Moon Cay, you are in for a treat. Just remember it's a tendered stop (no pier for the ship to dock at) so plan accordingly. And make sure to get there as early as possible! The hours will go by way too fast and I guarantee you won't want to leave.....

Roatan is an island off the coast of Honduras. There are numerous beaches and bays on Roatan but our ship stopped at Mahogany Bay, which is a facility that has been purpose-built to receive cruise ships. It's similar in this respect to Grand Turk or Costa Maya.....but superior to either of these places. Mahogany Bay has a nice, new pier for ships to dock at so there is no need to fuss around with tenders. Just get off the ship and walk to the beach. When you first get off the ship and pier, you'll be in an area with restaurants (including a Fat Tuesday!) and shops. From there, you can either walk to the beach or take the "magical sky chairs". It's actually faster to walk (about 10 minutes) than to take the chairs and the chairs cost a fair buck (12 for adults, 7 for kids) so you can decide accordingly. If you have trouble walking then the chairs are a great option. They're also fun to ride "just because" but you definitely don't need to use them if you don't feel like spending the money. Once at the beach it's a really nice day. There are lots and lots of beach chairs. Clamshells and beach stuff (snorkelling gear, etc) are readily available for rent. There are lockers available if you want to make sure some valuable stuff doesn't get "borrowed". The beach is very nice - soft, well groomed sand. The water is also great - warm, clear and a nice soft sand bottom. If you have kids they will love this. Right on the beach, you'll find washroom facilities are plentiful as are restaurants and bars. If you want to take shore excursions to other parts of the island, they are numerous but we didn't take any and can't comment on this.
Read 2446 Roatan Reviews

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