Our group of young adults (upper 20s) did a week long cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam with family and significant others, total of six of us. We chose this cruise because of the price, dates, itinerary and the fact that we had not yet been ... Read More
Our group of young adults (upper 20s) did a week long cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam with family and significant others, total of six of us. We chose this cruise because of the price, dates, itinerary and the fact that we had not yet been with Holland America.
Having prepped by reading some reviews and general information, we knew that the ship would scale elderly. There is no getting around this fact and what it entails for the cruise experience. This was the oldest group of people I've ever seen on a cruise. As such, we were prepared for bland food, strange entertainment choices and some other inconveniences along with a slow paced cruise.
We were very wrong about bland food. The food was a true delight and a highlight of the cruise. This is the best dining experience and best food taste, presentation and selection I've ever had, hands down, in comparison to Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. The range represented from upper-class wedding catering up to true-blue restaurant quality meals. The Buffet was phenomenal and open much more often than rivals' buffets.
The ship ran like clockwork, and was already very accustomed to having an elderly set of passengers. It was very rare that our party was inconvenienced, although we did often feel very loud despite trying to remain as quiet as possible. Despite it being a relatively small ship, there were so many lounges and bars to hang out at, and each offered a different view or experience. As a bonus, the crew was great at handling the very elderly and I believe they would do very well with disable passengers.
Drinks were inexpensive and of medium strength. Specialty drinks like espresso were fantastic and inexpensive. The only drinks that stood out as high priced were soda and beer. Tips were 15% automatic gratuity which was actually nice as the receipts did not have a tip line and we never felt pressured to give more. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the wait staff, some of the bar staff was unfriendly. While many were absolutely excellent, we had a number of unsatisfactory experiences with bar tenders that had us moving on to the next lounge.
Entertainment was strange and extremely lackluster. Luckily for us, the majority of our party was not into Broadway style shows so we weren't disappointed by the shows in the main theater, although some of them were worth a laugh. We could tell we weren't the only one with this sentiment, as the theater did not reach over 50% capacity after the 2nd day. However, the BB Kings All Stars Band played for 3 hours almost every night and were the heart of nightlife on the ship. There was also a popular piano bar but it pandered heavily to the older audience and did not interest us much at all. As you might be able to guess, the night club was consistently dead and despite having a great setup never reached its potential.
Our group brought our own entertainment. Our games and books were a life-saver, as the many lounges provided interesting new locals for us to socialize and play. The ship also has a ton of games on loan to borrow, and even a puzzle corner. But we were basically on our own: trivia lasted 10 minutes, with then nothing interesting going on for 3 hours, and the hokey cruise game shows were few and far between.
Our cabin was satisfactory. The bathroom was wonderful: good water pressure, great soap, lots of space. The TV system was great, it had a built in on-demand system that had dozens of movies and tv shows ready to watch and access to live news. The ship was lacking in white noise (engine hum / wind / waves) that generally comes on a cruise ship - which made it a bit more difficult to sleep especially when we could hear crew moving large equipment down the hall.
Other notes about the ship are mostly positive. The elevators were plentiful for a ship that size and always quick. The pools were great and never overcrowded, and there is an indoor pool and an outdoor pool and 4 small hot tubs. Room service had very limited menu but was good. Cabin stewards were like ninjas and did a great job cleaning up while we were out. They would fill a bowl with fruit and would keep ice in the ice bin which was very nice. Average dress wear was higher than Carnival or Norwegian, even on non-formal nights people were dressed well and there were very few t-shirts on board even just relaxing in the lounges and pool decks.
Embarkation, debarkation, and each of the ports was a breeze. Due to weather, we were not able to go to our first stop at Half Moon Cay which was a huge bummer. The announcement said they were going to beef up the entertainment for the day to make up for it but it sure didn't seem like it. We also stopped at Grand Caymen, got a $5 ea taxi ride to the 7 Mile Beach, very nice but crowded, we walked a quarter mile and found just the right amount of people! Cozumel we took another $5 ea taxi to a private beach (Paradise Beach) which was fun and interesting. Our final stop was Key West where we had a very strange customs routine that everyone on board had to do - it was a huge waste of time and the timing forced everyone on board to wake up early which was unfortunate.
In summary, this is a great laid back facility to use for your own entertainment. The food is wonderful and the staff is very friendly. The rooms are comfortable and the amenities are top-shelf. Don't expect to be wowed by the pre-packaged entertainment in terms of quality or quantity.
For other young adults, don't expect to pick up any singles on the cruise. If you're bringing a S.O. or a group of buddies you should have a lovely time. Just make sure to bring some card games, a good book and a tablet or gameboy! Use the ports of call for your chance to party! Read Less