131 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Family Cruise Reviews

We cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam from October 6 - 13th in the Western Mediterranean. We visited Palermo, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and Toulon. The week was fantastic. The staff on board the ship were wonderful. We loved the ports. ... Read More
We cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam from October 6 - 13th in the Western Mediterranean. We visited Palermo, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and Toulon. The week was fantastic. The staff on board the ship were wonderful. We loved the ports. The ship is in good shape. The only qualm we had with the cruise was the disappointing/uninspired dining room food. Dinner was so poor that my wife and I ate in all three alternate dining rooms after the first four nights just to avoid the main dining room. Two of the three alternate dining rooms (Pinnacle and Tamarind) were excellent. The Caneletto (portion of Lido Buffet turned into an Italian restaurant) was a slight improvement over the dining room, but had no atmosphere. A little about our family: My wife and I are in our mid/late 40's. We also traveled with our 8 (almost 9) year old son. We spent 2 days in Barcelona in advance of the cruise and 3 days after the cruise in this fantastic city. We have cruised many times over the last 15 years (typically at least once a year). We have cruised on Holland/Princess and Celebrity. This was our 5th cruise with Holland. We consider ourselves seasoned cruisers. This was our first cruise to the Mediterranean. Onboard Activities: 1. Kids Club - There were only 16 kids onboard (between 3 and 12), but our son loved the kids club. He insisted on attending rather than go to the specialty dining rooms. Even with only 4 or 5 other kids attending every night he found the program entertaining and loved the space. There were video games, giant screen tv's for movie night, and good counselors who kept them well entertained. 2. Casino - The casino was dead the week we were onboard, but the staff were extremely gracious and fun. We spent an hour or so every day at the casino and had a blast. They have most casino games (craps/roulette/blackjack/three card poker/let it ride with 3 card poker bonus). 3. Entertainment - The biggest surprise for us was that we enjoyed the onboard entertainment. Our prior Holland cruises have left us moaning about the poor quality of the singers/entertainers. Nothing could be farther from the truth on this cruise. The Hal Cats (with Ben) were fantastic. Our son ended up dancing with all the show performers to Proud Mary and became famous around the ship, which he loved. We also enjoyed Cantare (Il Divo type act) in the main theatre, as well as Brett Cave (classic British piano man entertainer). We didn't expect to enjoy Brett as we thought he would be corny/over the top, but 10 minutes in we were laughing and singing along. 4. Pool - We only had one sea day and had a great day at the mid-ship pool. Our son loved the water, we had clear skies and smooth seas. 5. Food - This was the one huge disappointment of our trip. As I mentioned we have cruised 5 times on Holland and previously have enjoyed the food. Unfortunately, on this trip, the food in the main dining room was bland and uninspired. The quality of the product was simply poor. While we realize that the cruise line is essentially providing banquet/wedding food for 2000 guests, our past experience was that Holland's main dining room provided good, tasty and creative menus. This was not the case this voyage. Food is very subjective, and some may have enjoyed the fare, but for us the quality was drastically worse than our previous voyages. The Lido Buffet was equally as poor, in our opinion. Our son ate dinner in the Lido 3 nights as he wanted to go to the kid's club and not to the alternate dining. Presentation, choices and quality were once again a huge disappointment. In addition, it seemed like the buffet was always closed/closing, leaving you feeling like you had even less choice. I think the use of Canaletto in 20 percent of the Lido, at night, causes one quadrant of the buffet to be closed for use by this restaurant, further reducing the options/choices given to you for a late night snack. From a purely subjective point of view, we much prefer the set up of the buffet on the Celebrity Solstice class ships as the two parallel buffets get cumbersome. Pinnacle Grill - This restaurant never disappoints and that was the case on this voyage. The service, ambience and food quality was all excellent and well worth the $25 upcharge. Tamarind - This was our first time in the Tamarind and we thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience. Again, the room had good ambience, the menu was creative, the service was wonderful and the food delivered on taste. Canaletto - This is the alternative italian restaurant in the Lido Buffet. The food was an improvement over the dining room and the service was good. This restaurant could serve by being moved to its own room as there is simply no atmosphere here due to its location in the buffet. Room Service - We had breakfast in the room 2 days as we had busy days touring Rome and Pisa. The food was hot, of high quality and was served right on time, despite the fact that there was a large demand for room service breakfast on these days. Barcelona - We spent two days before the cruise and 3 days after in Barcelona. This is one of our favorite cities. We stayed at the Casp74 apartments before the cruise (funky, great location, clean and lots of space) and at Hotel Gran Torre Catalunya after the cruise (23 stories, great views, modern, located next to main train station). Loved both properties. Sagrada Familia is a must see, as well as the Bouqueria market on Las Ramblas. We took our son to a Barcelona football game which was one of his highlights of the trip. It took awhile to get used to eating dinner at 9:00 p.m. but the food in the city was great. Had an amazing burger and fries at Santa Burg restaurant in the Sants district. This small restaurant is killin' it. I know that it seems crazy for an American to come to Barcelona and go for a burger, but we consider ourselves foodies and this place was great. The fries/chips were memorable. They have a burger with foie gras and carmelized apples that I want to return and try on our next trip. We also ate twice at Pura Brasa, located next to the Arenas (old bullfighting arena turned mall) on the Gran Via. Chicken hanging on skewer was mouthwatering, the pasta was great, and the corn on the cob was really good. Iberian ham is all over the city and is addictive. Loved having a croissant and coffe every morning for breakfast. The pace, even in Barcelona, is slower than in the U.S. They seem to appreciate life a little more than we do, and after a few days we settled into their pace and loved everything about the culture and the people. The people we encountered on our trip were, generally, warm, embracing and interesting. A European cruise was a nice change from the beaches and trinkets in the Caribbean. We look forward to our journey.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I travelled with my grown up daughter on the Mediterranean Romance 12 day cruise from Venice to Barcelona. It was just wonderful. We had two nights in Venice before departure and stayed at the Hotel Rialto right on the Grand Canal which ... Read More
I travelled with my grown up daughter on the Mediterranean Romance 12 day cruise from Venice to Barcelona. It was just wonderful. We had two nights in Venice before departure and stayed at the Hotel Rialto right on the Grand Canal which was perfect for sightseeing. We could walk everywhere. We did many of the tours in port, which are expensive but I highly recommend them as you see far more of a city this way than you could ever hope to do on your own. I was afraid they would be rushed but the pace was very good and the lunches always at a special restaurant full of character and a beautiful meal with local wines. We finished in Barcelona and also had extra nights there. We stayed at hotel Arc de Rambla which was right in the old city. We got a 2 day on off bus tour pass which was perfect to see all the sights. The Niew Amsterdam is a perfect ship. We were on the Navigation deck right below the Lido pool so we could just walk upstairs to the restaurant. The cabin had a balcony so we enjoyed many views coming into and leaving the picturesque ports. I booked a VC category cabin but got an upgrade to VA. We did have a set dining time, but changed that to open dining as it was too restrictive. We were still able to dine in the dining room if we wanted to but it gave us the opportunity to enjoy the special cultural buffets by the pool and more casual meals when we felt like it. The crew are all wonderful and get to know you personally which really adds to your enjoyment. I loved the cruise so much I'm going back next year to see the Greek Islands which a friend. Even though my daughter was one of the youngest amongst the other guests sailing, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience too. We just saw so much and the weather was perfect! A little rain, but not enough to disrupt any plans, and not too hot either.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We flew into Barcelona two days early and had a private company meet us and take us tat o our hotel. Two in our party don't walk well and we used private companies several times during our cruise. It was worth every penny and the ... Read More
We flew into Barcelona two days early and had a private company meet us and take us tat o our hotel. Two in our party don't walk well and we used private companies several times during our cruise. It was worth every penny and the private tours we took in Pisa/Florence and Naples were actually much less than HAL's private tours and approximately the same as the HAL standard tours.In Barcelona we stayed at the Hesperia Ramblas. It was 2 blocks from Las Ramblas and 1 block to the wonderful market, a must see. We used the hop-on-hop-off bus to see the city and it was a great tour. You can get off at any stop and wander then hop back on and continue your trip. There are red and blue buses and you should check the itineraries on-line to see which is better for you. The red bus had two lines and you can take both for one fee.Embarkation: Very easy. Short cab ride from the hotel and we were on the ship within 30 minutes.The ship is beautiful and very clean. We had a great balcony room in the middle of the ship. We could feel a vibration from the engines, but it wasn't a problem. The room was the usual HAL room. Plenty of closet and storage space. Our balcony was over the lifeboats which was a surprise, so if this is a problem, get a room on deck 6 or higher. When we booked, the balcony prices were the same as an ocean view, probably the reason for being over the lifeboats.We always have as you wish dining and make reservations for each evening. You can make them 5 days in advance which was a change from previous cruises where we could only make reservations 3 days in advance. This was a nice change.We went to all 3 specialty restaurants. We love the Pinnacle Grill and, as always, the food was great although the service was not quite up to par. We were surprised that we had to pay for the Canaletto, but it was nice and worth the money. The Tamarind, a new Asian restaurant. It's only on the Nieuw Amsterdam and Eurodam, but should be coming to other ships in the future. Great food and nice addition to the specialty restaurants. The food in the dining room was very good and we always had plenty to choices. We also had breakfast in the dining room on several days which was much easier than in the Lido. The Lido is great for lunch and also for a low key dinner after a long day in port.The ports were great and I'll go into more detail below. We love the casino and the piano bar and both were fun on this trip.Not many children on this cruise, I think there were 6, so if you want a cruise line for children, I'd recommend looking at NCL, RCL, or Princess.Disembarkation was a challenge in Venice. We had a terrible docking position and the distance to the terminal was way too long for most people. I had ordered a wheel chair for my husband and HAL was terrific. They had a van for the wheel chairs that took us right to the terminal. Once we had our luggage we were met by a private company, use Viator, and taken to a private boat to go to our hotel.Marseille: Took the ship's shuttle to the old port and wandered around for a couple of hours. Found a great shop for linens.Monte Carlo. Took the hop-on-hop-off bus which was at the port. No need to pre-book on-line. They had a senior discount and and you can buy your ticket at you get on the bus. I took the tour twice and got off at the Palace. Walked around and had a wonderful ham sandwich on a great baguette. This is a great walking city, but very hilly. It's beautiful and you'll be amazed at the huge yachts.Pisa/Florence: We took a private tour with Rudy's Rome Car Tours. They were perfect. There were 4 of us and it cost 550 euros. We were met at the port by Teresa and taken immediately to see the leaning tower of Pisa. She was able to drive up next to the tower. The tour buses aren't allowed inside the walls of the old city and it's a 15 minute walk to the tower. We next went to Florence with a detour into the countryside. Beautiful. After a wonderful day in Florence where again Teresa was able to get us next to all the sights, we had a great lunch and then ended the day at a winery in the countryside that not only makes its wine, but also grows wheat for its bread and pigs for its sausage. This was a perfect day.Rome: Again we used Rudy's Rome Car Tours and had Rudy as our guide. Another perfect day being taken up to each location with very little walking. Rudy took us to places the buses can't go and it was worth the moneyNaples: Another private tour, This time with Joe Banana Limos. Nunzio picked us up at the port we went immediately to Pompeii where we had a private guide provided by Joe Banana. He was great and we spent over 2 hours visiting this amazing location. As we were leaving the ship tours were arriving and it was beginning to get crowded.. We then drove down the Amalfi coast which is spectacular and had lunch in Amalfi. Don't miss this opportunity. We paid a total of 450 euros for Joe Banana and an extra 110 euros for the private guide. This cost was for 4 people.Messina: Pretty town, but we didn't take any tours. There is a large clock in a square near the port and it's worth seeing it at noon as it not only had wonderful bells, but many other moving parts. Katakolon Greece: We took the HAL tour to the Magna Grecia Farm. A nice tour after several long days of touring. We had come great food and watched dancing. They have some very nice pottery and you can also buy olive oil products. Corfu: We took the HAL panoramic tour and it was nice. We stopped at a restaurant on a hill with beautiful views. I stopped in town to shop and bought beautiful pillow covers with silk hand woven designs for 15 euros. Many cute shops.Dubrovnik: Wow, this was one of our favorites. We had been told to just take the HAL shuttle to the walled town and walk around. This was great advice and I would suggest doing just this. You can walk around the top of the wall, after climbing many steps, but just walking around the small town is delightful. Stop and a cafe and have an espresso or other drink and just people watch.Venice: We stayed Venice for 2 additional nights and it was wonderful. We stayed at the Antico Panada which is 1 1/2 short blocks to St. Marks Square with no bridge to cross. It didn't have its own taxi dock, but we only had a short walk from where we got off the private taxi. Many small nice restaurants nearby, no need for reservations. The hotel is in a great location, but needs a little updating. However, breakfast was included and the great location made up for the decor. Wander the small streets and you'll find wonderful little shops and lots of gelato. Take the vaporetto, the public boat, and you can tour the entire island. You can also get to Murano and vist a glass factory. This is a beautiful city, but there are no cars and it can be difficult if you have trouble walking. All in all, this was a wonderful cruise. Look into private tours and check the prices. They are much better than the ship tours, particularly if you have at least 4 people. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We arrived at the Cruise Terminal after being collected with a private transfer. This year our luggage was taken and we had a long walk to the terminal. There should be assistance for people that are older. Check in was completed without ... Read More
We arrived at the Cruise Terminal after being collected with a private transfer. This year our luggage was taken and we had a long walk to the terminal. There should be assistance for people that are older. Check in was completed without any problems and we went onboard around midday. We arrived at our cabins, which were interleading and were totally shocked. The cabins were filthy to say the least. The sheets looked like they had been on the bed for months and the pillow cases had large holes. The dirt bins had been used to get sick in and not cleaned. The smell in the bathroom was absolutely atrocious. We complained and by the end of the day the cabins had been cleaned and new linen was put on the beds. One would think that after that welcome, that would be the end. The cabin saga went on for the duration of the cruise. We booked and paid for 2 Lido Cabanas on the 9th floor for the 24 night cruise. My husband was recovering from major surgery and my mom did not enjoy the sun, so it was a perfect arrangement. Almost everyday, repairs were taking place, so one had continual noise and if repairs were not taking place then they would start to set up at 10 in the morning for a function in the evening. It was absolutely awful. Sanitizing was a total joke....for the first 2 days when one entered the Lido area somebody stood half heartedly and sanitized a persons' hands. Thereafter nothing and many times there was nothing in the containers, hence the awful germ that spread around the ship. Imagine more than 1 000 people coughing as if they had whooping cough. The food this year was completely inedible. We have always enjoyed the Kosher cuisine on Holland America. I don't know what happened this year. It was disgusting. Food was always cold, even the desserts were not nice. We are Mariner Members, so our profile will always come up on booking. Strange that nobody from Holland America found it necessary to inform the travel agency that always does our bookings that the main entertainment on the ship was the same as the previous year. We needed to be given the information to make a choice whether we wanted to travel again with the same entertainment. The balance of the entertainment was well below par. We never take shore excursions, but on 2 occasions noticed the prices being charged if one wanted a shuttle into town. I am referring to Corfu and Marseilles. On both occasions people were completely ripped off. It was far cheaper to take a taxi. The officers around the ship were most unfriendly and rude to say the least. They never deemed it necessary to greet one in a passage. If one was in a queue, they pushed in. In 24 days, I heard the captain's voice almost daily and never set eyes on him. Strange......very strange. I have done so many cruises, many cruise lines that I have done don't even exist or their names have changed from Chandris to Celebrity, etc. This is the first time that I have experienced an awful cruise from day one to the end. To actually count the days until one disembarks, is not the way to have a holiday. Disembarkation was fine, we know the drill and have done it so many times!!!! Holland America Lines start taking real concern. You are not what you used to be and what a shame. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We sailed from April 13 - April 21, 2013, the last Caribbean cruise for HAL for the year until November. Pros: Beautiful ship with unique art throughout every nook and cranny practically. Decent entertainment, lots of choices for things ... Read More
We sailed from April 13 - April 21, 2013, the last Caribbean cruise for HAL for the year until November. Pros: Beautiful ship with unique art throughout every nook and cranny practically. Decent entertainment, lots of choices for things to do and see or just to relax and veg out, decent food, and lots of space in the cabin. Good high tea in the afternoon and friendly crew. Affordable elegance and not too many children (for those who prefer a relatively quiet cruise). Cons: Food can be bland (to be fair we really like it spicy), Lido can be really over crowded, and the pool area was often times very crowded with people saving lounge chairs for non-existent people, and not a lot of time at each port stop. Shows can be hit or miss. Not too many children for those who are looking for a family cruise, but they do have good programs for kids and go out of their way to entertain the few kids around. Pictures are way too expensive. I took a sister trip (myself and my two younger sisters) to celebrate one sister's birthday and the other sister's graduation. We shared 1014 which is a pretty large ocean view room. We split the beds into two twins and the couch in the room was a queen pull-out bed, which was very comfy. Despite 3 ladies who packed fairly lightly, storage space was not a problem at all. The window was a decent size: bigger than a port hole and was nice to have. We booked only a few weeks before the cruise and there were no interior rooms left (but that's ok, I wanted an ocean view), but there were some good sales and the third passenger was only $99. This was a quiet room even though its below the Casino - we did not hear any sounds. Personally, I would have preferred to be more in the middle of the boat for the convenience, but all those rooms had been booked. I did find our room to be somewhat convenient, since it was not far from the front elevator banks and it also offered a second gangway. Embarkation was very easy and pretty quick - we carried our own luggage to the room which was on the Main floor (1st Floor) and towards the front of the ship right near the first floor of the Showplace and those bank of elevators. The dining rooms and lido buffet were all the way in the aft. But on the main floor is also the main desk, which was very convenient. I went directly by cab from the airport to the dock and was on the boat within an hour. The embarkation took about 30 minutes or less. The cab ride was about $15. They try and make you take a photo before you go on the boat and this held up the line considerably. My sisters and I traveled separately, so I did not want to take a picture alone. If it weren't for the picture thing, embarkation would have been even faster. We had lunch at the Lido - it was super crowded. Its very hard to navigate during rush hours: Breakfast 9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (they shut down the breakfast at 10:00 a.m.); Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.) and Dinner (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.). Dinner was the least crowded. I only had lunch 2 times in Lido because I hated the crowds. It got so bad that you could not even walk down the hall because of the numerous people. To be fair, often times the bottle necks would be caused by clueless and maybe rude people who just would stop and chat or space out and people could not pass. The food was pretty good at the Lido for breakfast and lunch with a decent selection of healthy food. We ate there for breakfast 5 out of 7 days and the selection is very good. The other days we ordered room service, which was delivered timely and the food was at a lukewarm temperature, but I think that was because of the distance it had to travel. The only other problem with Lido, is that the plates can often times be dangerously hot and they are heavy and you don't get a tray, so you have to keep going back and forth to get drinks or salads instead of one trip. We had lunch in the dining room 3 times and the food was ok, but I liked to be served instead of recreating the Hunger Games at the Lido. The Mariner's lunch was so-so, the food that day was not very good and it didn't feel as special as the other Mariner lunch I have been on (MS Maasdam), but they served Champagne and you got the blue and white tile of the Nieuw Amsterdam which was nice. I brought my sisters to this lunch, even though this was their first HAL cruise, and they did not have a problem with it. Dinner: 5 nights in the dining room; 1 night in the Pinnacle Grill ($29 extra) and 1 night in Tamarind ($15). The dining room food for dinner wasn't too bad, but again it was bland for our taste so we asked for the Indonesian Chili Garlic sauce (called Sambal) and it really helped a lot. We did the late seating. Our service was ok - I have had fabulous and super attentive service on other cruises and other cruise lines. For some of the nights, the waiter remembered to have the hot sauce out and other nights he forgot and could not get it (Lido has it all the time for self service). Every cruise I have ever taken in the past, the set wait staff would know your name, remember anything special, and have it ready for you. Our group treated us as if we were in the open seating - I like picking a set seating for the extra attention. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't what I was used to (especial on HAL cruises). I don't know if it was the end of the Caribbean season and they would be dry docking for 2 weeks after our cruise or what, but the service was a bit lacking. The lobster served in the dining room on the last formal night was ok - it could be not fresh or pretty fresh depending on which tail you got. I ordered two tails and one was good but the other was inedible. Pinnacle Grill was fantastic - very good food and a lot of it. We got the porterhouse steak, the rib eye, and the lamb chops - all of it delicious. Its a long night though and we were there for almost 3 hours. Tamarind is their pan-Asian restaurant. We thought it was ok, not very good Asian food, but not the worst. I would not eat here again, unless maybe there was no surcharge. The location, decor and views are lovely, but the food was so-so. The portions are also pretty small for a surcharge restaurant. The ship was pretty full - with a couple of large groups. One was a large business group of about 1000 guests (the ship holds about 1900 guests total)and many of us felt a lot of attention was paid to the group at the expense of the other guests, but I can't be sure that was true. There was a younger crowd on this cruise than on the previous cruises I have taken (Alaska and New England), which was kind of fun. The night club was consistently full especially after the formal nights and the music was pretty standard at the club. The Piano bar was very nicely decorated and the pianist and singer was good, but he was not as outgoing as some of the other piano bar entertainers I have seen on other ships. However, he was very good and I liked his subdued demeanor - it was very classy and fun. The Casino was pretty packed every night, but its a small casino. The pools were pretty full between 10:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is the Lido pool and the back of the boat pool. Both were very full with a lot of the bucket of beer party groups in the back deck pool. I had mixed feelings about this because the crowd seemed more like a Carnival party crowd than a typical HAL crowd. We discovered that a lot of the bucket of beer party crowds were from the same organization that booked about 1000 passengers, so maybe this was an anomaly or maybe this was a Caribbean cruise thing - I think it was an anomaly. We sometimes hung out on the promenade and sat at the lounge chairs there - the breeze was nice and it was a lot quieter and relaxing. We could read and snooze there without any trouble. The shows were so-so. They do basically two large productions - the first was some theme about NYC but with very few songs related to NYC and the second was called Cantare - which featured their 4 male vocalists of varying talent. I wish they would just do a real show with a beginning, middle and end story line - I have been on NCL cruises and they did a Broadway show (Guys and Dolls) which was fantastic and always filled. Royal Caribbean also does a fantastic ice show and also a water show. Cantare was decent, but it all depends on the vocalist. We did not see the smaller shows in between, but many guests complained about the ventriloquist. I did hear raves for the Irish show and we saw parts of their Dancing with the Stars show on the last night, which was a lot of fun. Throughout the ship and during different times there are all kinds of entertainment options. My sisters saw a cooking demo which they liked a lot (and which also did not try to sell the audience useless kitchen gadgets, which I witnessed once at a "cooking demonstration") and their are various musicians and singers at different bars. Some of our table mates got to do karaoke, which they seemed to enjoy. We also purchased the week long use of the Thermal Hydro suite. I did this the other two HAL cruises I took. We negotiated a lower price of $150 for each of us and we got 10 salt scrubs and loofas for the three of us. We used the Thermal and Hydro suite every day. The Thermal suite has those wonderful tile chairs. I am not sure if it was worth the approximate $20 a day (daily rate is $40, but I know people who negotiated it down to $30), but we did enjoy it and it was nice after a long day of touring around. We spent about 1.5 hours each evening in the hydro pool and the chairs. I recommend going anytime after 6 p.m. because you will have the entire place to yourself. This was true every night and we never waited to use anything. Signature shops - I found really good deals at the Signature shops on luxury items and Tortuga Rum Cakes. They sell high end items at discounts and duty free. In fact often times, you will save more money buying certain items on the ship then in the duty free shops in the port. My sister and I bought the same exact Michael Kors purse, but she paid about $40 more than I did. She bought hers at a Duty Free shop on the island and I bought mine on the boat. Its definitely worth checking out if you like to shop. Shore excursions: I never take shore excursions unless someone gives me their tickets (happened to me in St. Martin once) and even then I can be reluctant. You can always do the same tour on your own either booking ahead or when you get off the boat and save quite a bit of money. At every port, you can hire your own taxi driver at a negotiated flat rate to drive you around and give you a tour. Their are also tour operators at the port you can hire for tours. We played it by ear, brought a Frommer's guide book, and had some great adventures for a fraction of the cost of the ship's excursions. We unfortunately did not get to Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island in the Bahamas) because of weather conditions. Overall, I would recommend this ship and HAL - we definitely will be taking another cruise with HAL and this ship is really beautiful. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I booked this cruise at the last minute to attend an educational conference held on the cruise. The conference room was not very comfortable because of the seats and the noise from the group next door. I sailed with my 9 year-old ... Read More
I booked this cruise at the last minute to attend an educational conference held on the cruise. The conference room was not very comfortable because of the seats and the noise from the group next door. I sailed with my 9 year-old son. He was not impressed with Club Hal and staff. He made 2 good friends on board and spent most of the cruise hanging out with his friends away from Club Hal. There was always plenty of room in the pool and hot tubs. The pool seemed heated which which made for comfortable swimming. My son broke his arm on the ship while playing soccer. The medical clinic and crew were wonderful. They checked on us several times during the cruise, making sure he was doing ok and didn't need anything. We did not dine in the main dining room for dinner and ate almost exclusively at the Lido cafeteria style restaurant. The food was outstanding. Lots of variety. You could eat steak every night if you wanted. It seemed like some of the apps and entrees were the same as what was served in the main dining room. One of my favorite spaces on the ship was the library. They have a wonderful selection of books and magazines. It has a nice coffee bar with yummy treats. I loved all the fresh flowers on the ship. Every room service order came with fresh flowers. The entertainment and stage is top-notch. We sure enjoyed all the shows we saw. The ship has a cozy movie theatre which plays a different movie daily. We have cruised Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival previously. This Holland cruise hosted mostly elderly passengers, which provides the ship with a much different feel. I felt that many were not happy to see children on the cruise. I do not think I would cruise Holland with my children again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Just returned from a 12 night Barcelona to Venice cruise. Second time on HAL. There will definitely be a third. Embarked in Barcelona, fantastic city, will definitely return there. Embarkation speedy as we arrived mid-afternoon, avoiding ... Read More
Just returned from a 12 night Barcelona to Venice cruise. Second time on HAL. There will definitely be a third. Embarked in Barcelona, fantastic city, will definitely return there. Embarkation speedy as we arrived mid-afternoon, avoiding the rush. Verandah cabin Deck 6(for 3) adequate size, although quite cramped when the sofa was made into a bed each evening. Bathroom with a small bath and overhead shower, decent size. 3 formal nights on our 12 night cruise, although HAL website advertised it as 2 formal nights. Dined in Manhattan Dining Room and Lido. Food choice very good in both. Service a little slow in Manhattan, especially if sharing a large table. Dinner could take up to 2 hours which is why we dined in the Lido a few times, just so that we could enjoy the evening entertainment around the ship. We didn't use the other restaurants but heard that they were excellent. Entertainment good. OK, the shows weren't always the most exciting but everyone cruising on HAL knows that by now. The entertainment staff do a very good job but it would be nice to see some professional performers brought on board occasionally. Even Thomsons do that and they are nowhere near as good as HAL. The Piano Bar was always packed and enjoyable, probably the most popular bar. The Crow's Nest was always quiet and deserted whenever we passed through, usually quite late in the evening. It's probably busier when Chris, the guitarist, plays his sets. Northern Lights Disco was never very busy but played good music. The Casino was always busy and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. A smattering of people listened to Adagio Strings each evening. It's a shame it's in a lounge with "through-traffic" as some people just carry on chatting in loud voices, somewhat spoiling it for the people who are sitting quietly listening to the classical music. Not very respectful to the musicians, either, who do a wonderful job. Not much entertainment out on deck, which was a shame. The stage is there for the band, Shanthi and the Hal Cats, but I can only recall seeing them two or three times in the afternoon. Nothing else going on around the Lido pool for sail-away. Many other bars and areas we never had the time to use. Lido pool always crowded, as on all cruise lines, with limited seating around it. However, always loads of space to sit on deck in other areas of the ship, even on the "at sea" days. I mainly sat out on our verandah and suppose that, as this ship has an abundance of verandahs, most people sat out on theirs, hence the space around the ship. Cabanas seem to take up quite a lot of space. Most people I spoke to not in favour of the cabanas. My husband used the gym a few times, said it was very good. Ports of Call. We just mooched around by ourselves in many of the ports, deciding not to do the long trips, especially to Rome and Florence. Livorno was surprisingly quite nice, although the graffiti spoiled it a bit. We only walked from the port to the train station in Naples, going to Pompeii by ourselves. Cheap, easy and quick. Highly recommended. Naples a shock, filthy and crumbling but never felt threatened. I did leave all of my jewellery on the ship though, just in case! We had a private shared tour in Sicily with "Sicily with Mario", booked directly. What a lovely man, we had a great day with him and felt sad to leave at the end of it. My husband did the ship's tour to the Corinth Canal in Npfalion, he said it was very good. My daughter and I went shopping. My husband took a local train to Olympia in Katakalon. Very simple and cheap. The train is right there in the town, when you walk off the ship. My daughter and I ... went shopping! Also visited a little music museum and took the "noddy" train around the town and out into the countryside. Then lunch on the quayside in a local taverna. Very enjoyable. Corfu Town was surprisingly beautiful and a definite "must go there on holiday" for us. Dubrovnik was very beautiful too, we took a glass bottom boat trip (but no marine life to see!) and then the cable car to the top of the mountain to take in the fabulous views. Definitely worth it. All very do-able by yourself, no need to take tours. HAL provide a regular bus service to the town, very cheap. Last port, Venice. A magical, unforgettable experience, arriving in Venice by ship. Disembarkation. We were in the last group of people leaving the ship, independently at 9.30 a.m. This gave me the opportunity to have a peek at the suites near my stateroom (Upper Verandah Deck 6). Wow, I'd like one of those next cruise! Walked from the ship to the People Mover (not particularly easy in the heat and with heavy cases) then bought the 1 Euro ticket to Piazza del Roma (just a couple of minutes away). Then we walked to our nearby hotel for an extra night's stay before flying back to UK. My daughter missed "our" ship so much that we took a water bus ride past it that evening just to say a final farewell. Then as our plane took off at 5.30 p.m. on Friday evening, we looked down and saw the magnificent Niew Amsterdam sailing out of Venice on the next leg of her journey. Our thanks go to .... Our lovely Cabin Stewards, Helmi and Frank. They looked after all our needs with a smile and made us smile every evening when we arrived back in our stateroom to a different "towel" animal. Donny Tan, Manhattan Dining Room, always had time for a chat whilst allocating our table and always managed to seat us with very nice, interesting people. Scott and Katie in the Teen Club. Our 13 year old daughter had a fabulous time with them and made countless new friends. Dave, Cruise Director, for giving us an early morning alarm call each day (lol!). Everybody from Front Desk staff to the waiters to the young men who greeted us with a cold towel and a glass of lemonade upon our return to the ship every afternoon were lovely.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We recently got back from our "grand tour" of Europe. This included a 5 night stay in London, followed by a 24 day collectors' cruise of the Med. The group included me, a 48 year old widow, ds16, dd13 and ds who turned 7 on ... Read More
We recently got back from our "grand tour" of Europe. This included a 5 night stay in London, followed by a 24 day collectors' cruise of the Med. The group included me, a 48 year old widow, ds16, dd13 and ds who turned 7 on the cruise. In London, we stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge which was a great hotel. We had executive lounge privileges which was well worth it. It was walking distance to the London Eye and Waterloo train station. Since there were 4 of us and it's like herding cats to keep them together, we took black cabs everywhere, instead of the underground. There was always at least one black cab waiting outside the hotel, even at 5:30 a.m. when we left for the airport on the last day. We arrived in Barcelona on July 6, departure day. Our flight arrived at 11:30 a.m. and we went straight to the ship. We have previously sailed Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess and Disney with Royal Caribbean being our favourite cruise line, up until now. I was quite apprehensive about HAL for our group. given HAL's reputation as an "old person's cruise line". I am happy to report that I loved HAL in every way. There were plenty of kids for mine to hang out with (in the case of dd13) or to play with in the HAL club (in the case of ds6/7. I never wanted for things to do. I enjoyed the spa, bingo, trivia, cabana club, Explorations Cafe. The food was very good. The desserts were much better than on Royal Caribbean. The trip's itinerary was excellent. We visited 17 unique ports of call, with overnights in Venice and Istanbul. Service on the Nieuw Amsterdam was very good, but not as friendly as on other cruise lines. Cabin: We had a main deck inside J cabin. Posters on the HAL board had described these cabins as "huge". I chose it for the space, giving up smaller balcony cabins. Well, I wouldn't describe these cabins as huge. Larger than the average balcony cabin, yes. With 4 of us, we had floor space to move around which was good. The pullman came down over the heads of the regular beds, leaving about 20 inches of space for the person sleeping underneath. The regular bed was not against a wall either. This meant it was impossible to sit on the bed comfortably. It was a little claustrophobic at bed time and not conducive to reading or eating room service. The bathroom had just a shower. The shower and the bathroom itself were comfortably larger than other cruise lines I've been on recently (RCCL and Disney). There was plenty of storage. Look for the drawers at the bottom of the beds. The cabin was very conveniently located halfway between the guest services desk and shore excursion desk and the Showroom at Sea. I have booked the same category for our cruise next year. This time, we'll only be 3 people, so there won't be issues with the pullman. If we were 4, I would book a verandah cabin. Dining: We had early fixed dining. Dinner was at 5:45. We had the same 8 person table for both segments. On our first segment, we did not have tablemates. On the second segment, we had an older couple and a father and daughter join us. There were empty tables around us every night. The number of waitstaff seemed spread thin. Although pleasant, our two waiters did not have time to chat. On our first segment, we were done with dessert by 7 pm. On our second segment, with a new asst waiter, we were often still waiting for dessert at 7:30. The quality of the food was excellent, especially compared to RCCL. The lobster was "real" lobster. The desserts were uniformly excellent. Club Hal: Located on deck 10 amidships. Club Hal is separated into 2 groups, ages 3-7 and ages 8-12 - called the tween club. There is also programming for the 13-17 year olds. My dd13 went to the first night, made a friend and hung out with her new friend for the rest of the cruise. She didn't go back to the teen club except for the second "first" night where she and her new friend went to see if there were any other friends to be made. DS16 did not go to the teen club. DS6/7 turned 7 on day 4 of the first cruise. The counselors made him a big birthday card. The 3-7 group had a lot of 6 and 7 year old boys in it. The space for the 3-7's was small and arranged like a day care, which wasn't quite appropriate for active elementary aged boys. The staff of Club Hal frequently moved the group to the tween area. DS7 loved the tween area, with its movie theatre and video games. Cabana Club: We rented a retreat cabana for the whole cruise of 24 days. The weather was often too warm for me to enjoy it. However, it was a great place to take pictures when scenic cruising or in port. The waiters were eager and tried their best, but service was often slow in getting our lunch orders. The cabana menu was quite limited, essentially burgers and wraps. I appreciated the fresh fruit bowl though. The hours of the cabana were somewhat limiting as well, especially with long port days. I would have used the cabana more if the hours extended past 5 pm. Lido: The layout of the lido was poor. It took forever for the non self service food. The food was very good though. Even though there were plenty of servers, none of them ever delivered a drink to the table. It was typically very crowded at meal times. I tried to avoid the lido whenever possible. Room Service: Best. chocolate cake. ever. Greenhouse spa: I got the thermal retreat package. Only used it once, but it was excellent. Next cruise, I'll use this over the cabana club. Explorations Cafe: This was where the computers were and the IT person. The location of the computers were the best of any ship I've been on. Plenty of computers , books, a coffee shop and an excellent view, what more could anyone ask? Summary: HAL has won a new cruiser. We booked a 22 nighter on the Eurodam for 2013. 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Sail Date July 2012
Here's my overdue review of our 24 day collectors voyage cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam in July. We are two adults and a daughter who turned 11 on the trip. We are all very experienced cruisers and have been on many different lines, ... Read More
Here's my overdue review of our 24 day collectors voyage cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam in July. We are two adults and a daughter who turned 11 on the trip. We are all very experienced cruisers and have been on many different lines, as well as several different HAL ships. We sailed from Barcelona all the way through the Med to Istanbul and finally back to Venice, where we disembarked. We have had mixed experiences on HAL ships but were keen to try this ship because it is one of the newest and most modern in the fleet. I personally have never sailed on HAL for their interior decor. Our initial impressions were that the ship looked old and dated, which really surprised us given it is all of two years old. I do not think it is going to age well and looks similar to many of the older HAL ships. Low ceilings, long, narrow corridors, dim lighting, smoky mirrors and a garish red dining room were what stood out to me. Many people we met commented on the dated decor and especially the muted carpets, which looked flat and faded. My feeling is they really need to go back to the drawing board and start over on ship design. There is nothing innovative about the ship. Fortunately, the NA has many positive aspects to it and these far outweighed the negatives. The balcony cabin was comfortable and extremely quiet. The beds were excellent. The bathroom was very plain but roomy. The desk area lacked storage space for personal effects and really needs some shelves on the wall. The couch was fairly ugly and the seat cushion seemed to be permanently falling off, which made sitting on it a weird experience. The balcony was deep, but unfortunately we were next to smokers for the entire 24 days and it significantly impacted balcony time. As soon as the door next door opened I knew the lighter flick was coming and I was going to be breathing in smoke. Really a shame. We enjoyed the gym very much and thought it was very well equipped, with no time limits on the ample cardio equipment. It needs better ventilation but worked very well for us and I loved the icy cold face cloths in the fridge by the door for refreshment after a long workout. I also really liked having a dedicated screening room on the ship. It could stand a bigger screen and more chairs, but it's a real pleasure to go and watch a decent movie in a shipboard cinema in very comfortable chairs. The main midship pool seemed too small for the crowds on board and far too cramped, with cabanas, table tennis tables and loungers all jammed in together. There are a lot less casual, lounging chairs on this ship than Vista class ships and they have no protection from the sun, which was intense. It was extremely hot on the trip and it would also help if the side windows slid open to allow more of a cross breeze. Fortunately, we're not big sun worshippers but needed to be by the pool to supervise our daughter. HAL isn't known for its entertainment, so my expectations were low. I've seen a lot of shows in 40 cruises. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of acts. The Olympic gymnast and mindreader were unusual and different. Thankfully, there was a decent, tiered seating show lounge and it was surprising to see it was never packed out. Maybe people were too tired after the long port days. The CD was Dan Bernbach who had the perfect personality for the voyage. He's young, enthusiastic and smart and went over very well with the passengers. Daytime activities were limited because the itinerary was so port intensive but we enjoyed renting movies, reading in Explorations or sitting in a nice shady spot on the deck. My husband really missed cultural lectures on board and there is nothing offered in that area. We don't use Windows so the computer classes were of no use to us. We would have liked educational or historical lectures on the areas we were going to. It really helps if you like cooking demonstrations on HAL. We usually do Trivia a lot but ever quite found our groove on the NA because of the time spent in ports. We found the dining room service to be decent and had no complaints. We were never once approached by a maitre'd to see if everything was okay in 24 days. The waiters worked hard and tried hard, but there doesn't seem to be any oversight. Dining room standards are not what they once were, but we were happy. We thought the food was excellent overall, always hot and tasty and well presented. For a truly top end dining experience on a ship these days you need to go to the specialty restaurants. We've always been fans of the Pinnacle Grill and went there a couple of times and couldn't fault it. However, it was Tamarind that got us hooked. We ate there three times and I could easily have gone back for more. Everything about the experience was fantastic and I can't rave about it enough. Worth every penny, and frankly, it's underpriced. For us, with our Three Star Mariner discounts, it was almost embarrassing to enjoy a meal of such high quality for what we paid. To be honest, it was one long cruise of food, food and more food... BBQ's on the open deck, special regional food presentations, chocolate buffets... HAL works extremely hard and the food never stopped coming. We needed the gym.... The Lido buffet... Well, remember what I said about dated ship design??? This is a huge negative on the ship, with its galley design and long lines, which made it a slow, congested experience. The food was excellent and the variety of offerings was too, but the thought of lining up for each section was a real turn off. As an ex-pat Brit, I really appreciated the English breakfast section and teabags too. Table bussing tended to be lacking here and often nothing would be removed at all until you had finished your meal, so plates stacked up and no-one took them away which isn't very elegant. There were plenty of tables for two, if you didn't mind them being in the aisles next to the food lines, which were always crowded. It was akin to eating your meal on the side of a slow moving freeway, with constant traffic jostling by you. For a two year old ship, HAL is way behind the times on buffet design. Most new ships feature the island system and other ships are retrofitting their buffets in line with the trend. There is also a mandatory 2 day suspension of self service in the Lido for health reasons, which means you can't even get your own tea or coffee. Most food is served to you anyway, but the drink stations were extremely clogged up by serving tables at either end of the Lido and everyone was extremely relieved when it ended. For us, we went through it again when the second leg of the voyage started. HAL believes it helps keep Norovirus at bay. It is, nonetheless, highly frustrating to have to direct someone to make the perfect cup of tea whenever you want one, and made meal service even slower and more congested than usual. I cannot imagine going an entire voyage like that. Our daughter turned 11 on the cruise and was well treated by the kids club and our waiters, who ordered her a personalised cake and sang to her. The only shocker came when we went to the front desk to get some balloons put on our door and found we had to pay $2.50 per balloon for this to be done. Yikes!!! Club HAL did a very good job and our daughter had a lot of fun up there and made some good friends. We think HAL tries very hard with families and made sure everyone had a good time. There were approximately 250 kids on board, and 2000 adults. Overall, the staff on board are absolutely excellent with kids. Our waiters made paper origami designs every day, which complimented the inevitable towel animals in the cabin. Christopher the Canaletto chef provided free cotton candy every evening for our daughter. She had the movie theater wired and knew when to find fresh popcorn deliveries at the start of every movie. The staff are one of the best features on the NA. They work very hard and are gracious, professional and friendly. We didn't find there to be an excessive amount of overbearing rules or restrictions and can't fault the crew. The captain was very low key and other than a extremely brief, blink and you missed it welcome speech and toast, was hardly seen and only heard from the bridge. He was apparently a very nice, shy older seaman, but interacting with the masses was definitely not his thing. We had been to many of the ports before which meant we could relax a great deal on the trip and did not need to rush around touring in 100 degree temperatures every day. The ship was a very comfortable, relaxing place to be on a port day. We don't do ship tours usually and do find HAL tours to be extremely expensive, but we did do a tour in Istanbul in order to gain access to the Topkapi Palace, which was closed on the day we were there except for cruise tours. Many ports were tender ports and particularly in Kotor, it took forever to offload all the passengers for the short amount of time we were there. Independent passengers definitely play second fiddle to ship tours, and some people who had booked tours privately and couldn't get off the ship until 2 hours after arrival were quite upset about this. The tour guide Tom was extremely knowledgable and helpful, and always available, and gave excellent presentations on the ports as well. Overall, we had a fabulous time on the ship, once we made the initial adjustment and accepted its shortcoming and embraced its positives. No ship is perfect. Compared to the thoroughly contemporary one year old Celebrity Silhouette which we sailed on last year, and which we anchored next to in Mykonos, the two year old NA is positively old fashioned and dowdy, yet it still managed to charm us and endear us in its own way and we were ready, but not happy, when the 24 days came to an end. We would sail on the ship again. I love many of the traditions HAL clings to and want to drag them into the 21st century at the same time, but I suspect they would kick and scream all the way... Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
I've been on HAL before and had high expectations for this adventure. They failed miserably in several categories. First off...the food. We were part of a large group so I can tell you it was not just me personally with this ... Read More
I've been on HAL before and had high expectations for this adventure. They failed miserably in several categories. First off...the food. We were part of a large group so I can tell you it was not just me personally with this experience. In the dining room, I received over cooked meat constantly. From the duck, to the osso bucco, and even steaks. We also received items that were simply not fresh, like cheese and sushi items. HAL talks about having Celebrity Chefs do their menu, but I doubt Charlie Trotter would have been happy about the temperature of those steaks. My next gripe has to do with staffing. We never saw the captain. He didn't bother to show up for the farewell crew show at the end of the cruise. Nor did I ever run into him aboard ship. Also, it's high season and there were a ton of kids/teenagers on board (I think I heard 450). HAL should have been prepared with staff monitoring and policing the pool and common areas. They used to be very strict about this stuff. HAL did finally send out a letter half way through the cruise reminding us parents to watch our kids, but those were just idol threats. They did nothing to kick the kids from the front 2 rows of the theater. I felt sorry for the entertainers. (And keep in mind that our group was traveling with 3 kids.) Or to keep the teenagers from rough housing at the pool. The cruise director, Dave, gave a half-hearted plea to keep mind of your kids and explain that they simply have more kids this time of year. MY RESPONSE..."Well then plan ahead for it. Don't let 25 kids and obnoxious teenagers ruin a cruise for everybody else." Our cabin stewards rarely remembered to fill our ice bucket or give us fresh towels after a couple of days. We are in the Med. It's hot and nothing dries. The wine steward did something that no high end restaurant would ever do. He tried to switch champagnes on my Dad to a far inferior brand. After presenting the inferior bottle, he then told my Dad that they were out of what my Dad requested. I've waited tables before and you should return with the wine menu and ASK what to do or offer another selection as a replacement (And not one that costs $25 less.) Last gripe, they charge ridiculous prices for everything now. The photo department wanted $40 for a formal night pic and you were forced to buy an 8x10, a 5x7, and 2 wallets. We had several great pictures taken during the cruise, but you no longer get to pick a size or package. It's $40 for formal night and $20 for other. The HAL tour prices are ludicrous, especially the ROME transfer. I expect this up sale on Carnival.NOW FOR A FEW POSITIVES...the Nieuw Amsterdam is a lovely ship, although the layout is odd. The entertainers brought on board for the showroom were all fantastic...From the concert pianist, to the GRACE trio, to the wonderful comedian Scotty. And if you do go, please go up and listen to Chris Toler is the Crow's Nest. He is a rare talent with his mash-ups and not to mention, very personable. Lastly, I want to give a huge thanks to Club HAL. My son and his cousins loved their enthusiasm and activities. He rarely wanted to hang out with us. They are really great and tried to keep the kids happy with a wide array of things to do. Kudos to them. This might be my last HAL experience. I really missed the higher end touches that once made HAL my favorite cruise line. If I pay more for a cruise, I don't want to be nickel and dimed. I want more interesting food and more importantly, well cooked food. It was under average most nights. HAL didn't do theme nights where everybody dressed up. I missed having Dutch night with the fun hats and Dutch food. We talked to cruisers with more than 200 days on HAL and they too were disappointed. There used to be this air about HAL that they were the best and knew it. No more. The lack of discipline comes from the top. The staff seemed ill-equipped to deal with the simplest of problems that arose...from my problem with a bar drink, to issues around the pool area, to problems with something in the lido ding room. I hope they get their act together. This was not the HAL of old. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
What a way to kick off the summer! This trip took us to Venice, Italy, Kotor, Montenegro, Piraeus (Athens), Greece, Cruising The Dardanelles, Istanbul, Turkey, Mykonos, Greece, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey, Thira (Santorini), Greece, and ... Read More
What a way to kick off the summer! This trip took us to Venice, Italy, Kotor, Montenegro, Piraeus (Athens), Greece, Cruising The Dardanelles, Istanbul, Turkey, Mykonos, Greece, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey, Thira (Santorini), Greece, and Split, Croatia. With this being a very port-intensive cruise, the cruise itself is a little bit different from what we had experienced in the past. Everything seemed to work, our flights, our private shore excursions (we saved money!), and to top it off, our young boys (ages 9 and 11) were close to perfect and even did better that we did in some "boring" situations. Because so many cruises begin and/or end in Venice, I will spend a little more time talking about the logistics of Venice. We arrived late Sunday morning in Venice via US Airways. The airport is not that large. We covered every bit of it looking for a sign or kiosk to call the Marriott Courtyard Shuttle bus. Our Marriott reservation rate included "free airport transportation." Before leaving the United States, I called Marriott reservations to ask them "how" to arrange for the shuttle and was told to look for a kiosk with a phone to call the hotel. There is no kiosk. We were not quite at the point of frustration yet, when we decided to go outside... and the shuttle bus was parked right in front of our eyes. The hotel was about a five minute drive. This is an "airport" location (I didn't realize it was "that" close to the airport). The place was full of cruisers coming and going. The staff was excellent... all spoke perfect English. Being a European hotel, the guest rooms are smaller than what we Americans are used to. Marriott's website would not let me book four people into one room. Knowing that most European hotels offer rooms with either two twin beds or one large bed, I was afraid of booking just one room. In hindsight, the beds were larger than expected and I guess all four of us could have made it in one room (if the front desk would have allowed it). But it was nice to have two bathrooms to get ready in the mornings. We mistakenly thought all Courtyards have free internet. This location offered to give us a code once for 30-minutes of free time in the lobby. We saved that opportunity for later. While the hotel was not in "old" Venice, it turned out to be in a great location. Admittedly, I wanted "Marriott Rewards" points. The "name-brand" hotels in the historic district were more expensive and we would have had to figure out transportation and baggage logistics (meaning carrying bags or hiring a porter to carry the bags through old Venice). The Marriott Courtyard simply was less hassle. The airport shuttle (once we found it) was quick. Tip: The hotel is on the bus line (number 5). The bus stop toward the historic area is right across the street from the hotel's front door. Note the return stop is in front of a church (that is set back from the curb) on the Marriott side of the street and is about 500-feet before the Marriott. It's hard to spot your stop to ring the bus bell early on the return trip, so pay attention to the landmarks on the LEFT side of the bus as you leave the Marriott for the historic area. The best decision of our trip was arriving in Venice a couple of days early and buying a transit pass. The ride from the Marriott to the "bus station (Piazzale Roma)" took about 20-minutes. The bus "station" is not a building. It is basically a huge cul-de-sac. From there visitors have three choices: in one direction is a building that is the entrance to the cruise ship tram/people-mover (One-Euro each way), On the opposite side of the cul-de-sac is a line of boat (vaporetti) stops and a bridge that crosses the water (the start of The Grand Canal) into old Venice. We walked across the bridge and promptly began wandering the streets of Venice. Tip: Transit passes are good for buses and boats (vasporetti). The official site is http://www.veniceconnected.com/node/1454 . The site is in English but it does not do a very good job at explaining "how" everything works. You can save a few dollars by buying a one, two or three day pass on-line before you leave the states. You are provided with a confirmation number that you then enter into an ATM-like machine at the airport (baggage claim area). An important piece of information is that you specify a date for the pass on-line during the purchase process. The on-line calendar is a Monday-Sunday calendar instead of the American Sunday-Saturday calendar. We clicked wrong day and were unable to pick up our pass until Monday. In the following days, we rode the bus from the Marriott to the bus station, jumped on a city boat (Vaporetti) and explored. Experts will tell you the best thing to do in Venice is to "get lost." We weaved through walkways and over canals. We found great "reasonable" restaurants." The general rule is the further away from St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), the cheaper everything is. Our most enjoyable activity was riding the boats. One night we got on the boat as the sun was setting and got terrific shots of Venice at sunset! Yes, because we have kids, we paid the 80-euros for the family to ride an actual gondola (prices and routes are regulated) but the public boats are all you "need." On Tuesday we slept late, got dressed, and ate our emergency food of Lance snack crackers because we figured we would have a big lunch on the ship. We checked out and they gave us a code for some free internet time. By email on our iPad, we confirmed our arrangements for Kotor, Montenegro. With luggage in tow, we, along with other cruisers on several ships, boarded the city bus with our handy transit passes. We hauled our luggage across the cul-de-sac and toward the tram. Machines for the one-euro tram (people-mover) tickets accept credit cards. Cruiser go up an escalator and onto the tram (an elevated train-type ride). There is no way to walk. The tram makes two (2) stops. The cruise ships are typically at the first tram stop. After exiting, we had to go down an escalator, walk to an awaiting bus, load our luggage and then ride to the cruise terminal (about a five minute ride). After unloading our luggage from the bus, we rolled it about 100-feet and gave it to a cruise port attendant (required). We entered the terminal around 12:30 and found no line. After check-in, security screening and the cruise photographer stop, we boarded the ship and went to our cabin (5056). We realized we missed the "Welcome Back Luncheon" in the main dining room and headed to the Lido. Tip: Another option would have been a taxi from the hotel to the cruise terminal. We would have avoided the one-euro tram ride and gotten on the ship about 30-minutes earlier, but we saved roughly $50 by using our transit pass. Smartest decision we made on board our ship: Getting unlimited laundry. After lunch, we unpacked and sent our formal wear shirts and our clothes from the past few days out to the laundry. There is no need to pre-arrange this. There is a checkbox on the laundry form for "unlimited laundry." The cost was about $8 per day and covered all four of us in the cabin. After unpacking we got off the ship and did the reverse route to get back to Venice but without the bus ride. Note, depending on where the ship is docked, this can be a LOT of walking just to get to the tram. Once at the bus station, we boarded a boat that took us directly to Saint Mark's Square where we got some better pictures and visited some several churches. We went back to the ship for a late dinner. The first night of our "cruise" overnighted in Venice. We got up early and used our transit passes again to travel to Murano. We used Rick Steve's book extensively during our time in Venice and Murano and saw many others using it as well. And speaking of Rick Steve's guidebooks, the ship library had several copies of his Mediterranean Cruise Ports book. However, we found the pages had been torn out for the ports we were visiting! Our "cruise" officially got underway when the ship left Venice mid-afternoon. There is no way to describe the priceless experience of standing on the bow of the ship (the bow was opened several times during our 12-days), listening to Italian music and sailing out of this magical city. Holland America gets major points here... commentary was provided either entering or leaving every port. Often music was matched to the port. The commentary was appreciated, but we found ourselves in a quandary. We so wanted to be on deck, to feel the breeze, to get a full clear view and take pictures. But it was difficult to hear everything and so sometimes we retreated to the Crow's Nest. Food on the Nieuw Amsterdam turned out to be wonderful mix of offerings and tastes. The hit of the cruise for our family turned out to be breakfast. Several days into the cruise, one of us happened to spot a crepe being made at the waffle station. We'd all had crepes before (during a family trip to Paris), but for some reason these really hit the spot! It turned into a crepefest every morning... crepes with Nutella and various fruit compotes (raspberry and blackberry seemed to be the favorites). The waffle station is also the secret place where passengers can find the imitation McDonald's Egg McMuffins wrapped and almost hidden from view. The other "must-have" item every morning was the ship-made potato cakes (they were best with a little sea salt from the grinder that is on most tables). These were not the usual frozen hash brown patties from a box. Sometimes we had to search the various food stations of the Lido to see which ones had the potato cakes instead of fried potato wedges. Lunches seemed to be the usual cruise ship fare. The boys seemed to gravitate to the daily Asian-inspired offerings. The burgers (including lamb burgers) and hotdogs all looked and smelled good at the Lido Pool Grill. We were tempted but the serving sizes were so big and thick that we opted to go for the mixture and sampling of other items in the Lido. At various times, we all chose the taco/burrito station which also offered a chance to make your own nachos. I would say during our entire cruise there were only a couple of food items that fell short of expectations. The chips for the nachos were a thicker texture and just didn't satisfy when compared to your local Salsarita's or Moe's quick serve Mexican restaurants back home. The other disappointment was the pizza. The crust was tasteless, the toppings lacked imagination and the cheese was sparse (how about some plain pepperoni and mushrooms, buffalo chicken, philly cheesesteak, pesto?) . We all tried pizza once. I gave it a second shot and it was better but still not good. Apparently we were not the only ones who felt this way. The pizza counter was not a popular place. Tip: Don't forget the famous HAL bread pudding for dessert in the Lido. This dessert is a tradition for many past HAL passengers, but I'm afraid unless you know about it and look for it, newer HAL customers will opt for the standard (and less tasty) dessert options in the dessert cases beside the ice cream bars. This was our first time with "Anytime Dining" in the main dining room and it would out perfectly for us. We ended up going to the dining room each night between 6:15 and 6:30. The first night of the cruise we were sent to a table upstairs (packed because EVERYBODY eats in the main dining room on the first night). But for the rest of the cruise we were seated downstairs and had the same excellent waiter who quickly learned we liked Iced Tea and needed extra butter (kids love butter on bread and it's something we normally don't do at home). We never requested a specific time and never requested a specific table or waiter. It appears HAL tries to make the experience the same fixed seating as much as possible. We noticed other passengers around us, generally arrived about the same time as well and were seated in the same seats for the most part. Our food arrived as quick as you could ever expect and we were always able to make the 8pm main stage show. We were super pleased with Anytime Dining and will certainly use this option again. By the way, the Baked Alaska parade took place as usual for the fixed seating dessert time. However, the waiters also paraded down the staircase and included the Anytime Dining room. So there is still the opportunity to wave your napkin if you choose. Tip: You are able to make a reservation and specify table and/or waiter. We have our own family vacation game that we always play, whether it be on a cruise or a land vacation. "How long can we go WITHOUT our kids eating chicken nuggets and fries!?" It's not that we are against those foods, but we do object to serving them to our kids for lunch and dinner every day of vacation. Think about it, no matter where you go, that's what EVERY restaurant offers on the kids' menus. On the ship, no kid's menus for us! A cruise is a perfect time to for kids to try new foods because if they don't like something, they can always get something else without additional costs. Our boys started the week with mussels, lamb, escargot, lobster, different varieties of fish and pasta. They did not seem to like the chilled soups for some reason, even though we tried to encourage them by comparing the soups to melted ice cream. We skipped the main dining room several nights because of special food that was served outside on the Lido deck. Several nights the food team grilled MEDITERRANEAN inspired foods, kabobs, gyros, olive spreads, cheeses, special pita breads and desserts. These affairs were great and well attended. Greek music was playing, Greek food was being served, and all enjoyed the scenery as we sailed away from the ports... but we had to take our food into the Lido to actually eat. There just wasn't enough space for everyone to eat outside. While not "complaints," there are several things that HAL could do to improvement enjoyment. Would there be any way to remove sun lounge chairs and set up additional seating during these events? Some extra umbrellas for shade would be excellent as well. Finally, a general comment about Lido dining... Please HAL, buy more of the larger glass sizes. Apparently the Lido stocks two sizes, a smaller "juice" glass (guessing about 6-8 ounces) and a larger glass that's about 10-ounces. It never failed, no matter what time we went to the Lido, morning, afternoon, night, I always got stuck with the smaller glasses. Others in my family would get the larger glasses, but not me! Tip: Find a table, put down your food, and then go get your drinks and always plan on carrying two glasses of drink per person. There are no trays. Entertainment aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam has improved. Music choices were both old and new. The production levels are blew me away (more on that in just a minute). Where the "Welcome Aboard/Preview Show" was once a complete waste of time, it's now worth seeing! The highlight of the entertainment schedule was the first show, "Cantare." Four male singers were featured and the audience that was there to see them went wild. One singer was obviously the "star," but as our cruise went on, I realized the other singers were extremely talented, and I would say, were even under-used. The staging was spectacular and simple at the same time. Pieces Roman columns and blocks were mounted on a turntable. In addition, there was a live orchestra was on the stage. Behind it all was an electronic LED board that "changed" the background than flashed visions of cliffs as well as colorful artistic backgrounds. It was stunning. The next show, "NYC," utilized the electronic light board even more by creatively showing computer animation of a New York city street and subway station. One of the performers "moved" on stage and the illusion made it appear that he was actually walking down a subway staircase. It was off-the-charts cool. The music in these two shows would have fit anyone's taste... in fact our boys enjoyed them and asked to go back for the next shows. Sadly, I was disappointed in the attendance. For all of the criticism that HAL caters to an "older" crowd, I thought these offerings would dispel those notions. Later in the cruise, a cruise official told a large percentage of the passengers had already been on the ship and had seen most of the production shows and that European cruises are usually quieter because they are so port intensive and people are actually tired (I totally believe that). The other production shows, Garage Band and Avalon Ballroom were closer to the typical cruise ship shows. We were glad some of the other singers got a chance to shine. The ship picked up comedian Paul Adams (clean and funny) and pianist Elliot Finkel. I was worried that he was too close to the HAL "mature" stereotype... but he had the audience eating out of his hand... young and old LOVED him. There were a few one-time events/shows that we were able to see at least some of --cooking demonstrations and animal towel folding. The "Deal or No Deal" show had the potential to be a lot of fun. There were nearly 800 fun-loving Australians on board and wouldn't you know the one with zero personality was the one picked to be the "Deal or No Deal" contestant. She sat there and didn't care if she missed out on winning $1,000. She figured anything she won would be more than she started with. ...And she was right--she left the show with about a dollar and showed no emotion when she lost the big money. The newly-wed show featured three older couples... and they were FUNNY! Cruise Director Dan and Mario the DJ were hosting this and totally lost control a few times (you would think they've heard and seen it all before-- but obviously they haven't). Our boys loved Club HAL. They've enjoyed Club HAL in the past and just like our last cruise, they raced to Club HAL after dinner each night. This surprised us a bit. We were a bit worried because often they were the only boys taking part in the activities. Thankfully, there was a guy working in Club HAL, so I think he found some other activities for them to do when things got too girly. Interesting note, there were roughly 50-kids on our cruise. We were told the number would climb to 250-kids on the next voyage. My boys wanted me to play Wii with them at one point, but adults are not allowed in the Club HAL room when other kids are present (for security reasons). We would have appreciated the opportunity to play computer games as a family during sea days on when we returned early from a shore excursion. At one point, we took our boys out to the pool. They jumped into the back ocean-view pool and within a few minutes, they were told children are not allowed (this was fast, I was standing right there and I didn't see this happen). After this happened, I "think" I recalled reading something about an "adults only pool" on Cruise Critic, but I swear I never saw a sign or a note anywhere on board. We went to the Lido Pool and found a number of other kids there. My boys quickly jumped in and began splashing and playing tag with the others. One passenger was visibly upset. Let's face it, it's not a big pool to begin with compared to the land-based pools kids are used to. ....Maybe if passengers had realized all of the children were being told they had to go to that one pool that man wouldn't have been there to get splashed???? The movie theater was a fantastic venue with nice comfortable high-back seats that slightly recline. The seats even have small tables beside them for drinks and popcorn. Yes! HAL still has the bags of popcorn on a tray at the entrance to the room. Our complaint is simply the fact that we couldn't take advantage of this nice venue more often! With so many extensive port days, the movie schedules just didn't work for us. We saw a couple of movies here on our sea days, and again, we're sorry we couldn't see more. This was also the site of one of our family "adventures." (You know, one of those family stories that will be told over and over for years to come.) Without relaying every detail, a showing of "War Horse" was very crowded and all of the seats were gone. Some had already seated themselves on the riser steps. More people were standing at the entrance wondering what to do. I went across the hallway and took stackable chairs (which I returned after the movie by the way) and carried them over to my family. By now the lights had been dimmed and the movie was starting. I un-stacked the chairs and my family members all took one-- except in the midst of doing this--one man suddenly walked up and took one of our chairs. It was one of those crazy moments frozen in time. I stared in disbelief--THAT MAN JUST TOOK MY CHAIR! By now, others were going across the hall and bringing chairs over too. I had to go get another chair. When I returned, there was no place for me and my new chair. The one available spot was across the room along the outside wall. I didn't realize it until later when my wife told me, but the empty spot was right in front of the man who took my original chair! We found the ship in almost perfect condition. We saw nothing broken or damaged other than a few worn spots on the stairs in the highest traffic spots (and that's being super picky). We all loved using the "outside" glass elevators and appreciated the floor mats in each elevator car reminding us what day of the week it was! Stops Along The Way: For the most part we made our own shore arrangements and we were very pleased. There are plenty of websites and guidebooks (Rick Steve's) that tell you what to see at each port. I'll only mention a few highlights. Full disclosure: We are not shoppers and I'm sure others would enjoy exploring the villages and bazaars a little bit more than we did. Kotor, Montenegro: If you were to ask our kids the highlight of this vacation, they would tell you Kotor. We booked an afternoon the "Monty B (www.montenegro4sail.com)." The Monty B is a private sailboat operated by a British couple. They live on the boat and host travelers to make a living. We were delayed in getting off of the ship--ship-sponsored tours get tender service before "independent" travelers. After leaving the dock, we turned left and walked less than five minutes to a small shore-side park with a stone monument and a small dingy (raft) was waiting for us. We climbed in and were rowed to the Monty B. The couple was delightful. We rode around Kotor Bay for several hours and saw the UNESCO World Heritage site of Perast from the water. Granted, we didn't walk around Perast as I guess the ship-excursion people did. But our boys took a quick dip in the Adriatic Sea, hoisted the sails, turned the sail gears and "drove" the boat. We were provided with a light snack and local cookies. We had about 45-minutes to peek inside the old town and gaze up at the wall of the fort (looks like the Great Wall of China that climbed the mountain) before catching our tender back to our ship. This happened to be the day of our 15th anniversary and we will treasure it. Piraeus (Athens): We made arrangements by email with Paul Kalomiris (www.greektaxi.gr). We were advised to get off the ship the moment they open the door to meet our guide. We did and that turned out to be EXCELLENT advice. Our private driver, Konstantinos, was waiting outside the cruise terminal with our name on a sign and took us immediately to the Acropolis. It was not crowded and we started snapping pictures right away. Thirty minutes later, the place was a mob scene. The bus tours started arriving. We left the Parthenon about 45-minutes after we arrived and could not believe the giant crowd of people on the steps waiting to get in. Our driver Konstantinos is technically a driver and not a licensed tour guide so he could not accompany us into the sites. He told us about the history and sites before we got out of his car. Honestly, that was fine. His company can arrange for an official guide to escort your into the sites but I really don't think that's necessary for most people. We were rushing around the entire day and really could not have spent more time listening (absorbing) any other details. Our boys enjoyed seeing the changing of the guard outside the Parliament Building. Our driver made this day. He had so much personality and excitement and really seemed to enjoy his job. On top of that, he seemed to appreciate our business. He presented our boys with postcards, bookmarks and a nicely packaged box of baklava at the end of the day. Tip: Konstantinos got us to the Parthenon before the crowds. We were so taken back by the site and took so many pictures that we ate up too much time. Give yourself 30-minutes and then move on to see the other ruins at the Acropolis site. Istanbul: This was the port where we were totally confused. Thank God for the ship's doctor! We ran into him on the bow of the ship as we sailed into Istanbul. Despite asking for clarification with the on board port guide and the shore excursion desk, it was the ship doctor who really explained "how" the Istanbul port works. Apparently there was a shuttle bus that would take you to the Galata Bridge for a charge. The doctor told us to skip the bus and walk! So glad we did. We had a few notes from a Rick Steve's book and explored. We went back to the ship for dinner. Our boys went to Club HAL and my wife and I went back out to take pictures as the sun started to set. We got some beautiful pictures of mosques lit at night and the Galata Bridge. I didn't understand the fascination with the bridge until we went to see it in person. It's a multi-level bridge... cars and people travel on the top... restaurants are on the lower level. This is a grimy urban bridge but the open air restaurants appeared to be super clean! Many on the ship had chosen a Bosphorus River dinner cruise or dinner and whirling dervish show. I thought the whirling dervish shows were too late in the evening to keep the boys out considering we had a full day of touring Istanbul the next day. Our dinner on the ship turned out to be one of the best (Lobster Thermidor) but I would suggest others consider dinner on the Galata Bridge for the experience. The next day was a full day tour (www.dailyistanbultours.com). Another family from the ship with children about the same ages as ours, had also booked this tour. Truthfully, our guide was fine, but she lacked the enthusiasm and energy of our driver in Athens. I don't think she took enough cues from both families. She really didn't engage the children and, despite both families telling her that we are not shoppers, she left us alone in the Grand Bazaar for an hour (we all visited a nearby mosque on our own during shopping time). Mykonos, Greece: Our ship-sponsored tour took us to Delos on the afternoon we arrived. We all enjoyed the boat ride over to Delos. There were a lot of ruins on the ground on Delos. According to Greek mythology, this is the place where Apollo was born. During roman times, it was an important trading port. Very little has been reconstructed here. I wish there had been drawings to help visualize what used to be here. With few trees and no shade and difficulty visualizing, our boys got tired of this. Honestly, we were starting to get mentally tired as well. After dinner on the ship, we went to Mykonos and walked over to the windmills and saw the most wonderful sunset! We got some terrific pictures! Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey: Our private guide arrived about the same time we got off of the ship and walked out of the terminal (http://www.ephesustours.biz). She was a lovely lady... a former teacher and had a genuine love for people. By the way, the terminal area here is nice and fairly new... a very impressive entry to the country. Our Mercedes Benz van took us to the Virgin Mary's House. Again, we beat the tour buses. From there we spent about three hours in historic Ephesus. This IS IMPRESSIVE. Very quickly, the place became VERY crowded and hot. A delicious lunch was served to us at the nearby at the government sponsored carpet weaving school. After a carpet demonstration, with only slight pressure to buy, we went to see other ruins. It's obvious why everybody wants to visit Ephesus. Tip: Make sure your camera battery is charged... this is THE place to see and photograph ruins. Thira (Santorini), Greece: From the descriptions we heard before we arrived, this was the second-most confusing do-it-yourself port. We had no specific plans. The ship shore guide made it sound more complicated and encouraged us to take a ship excursion. We did not and ended up making the right choice. This is a tender port. The tender boats arrive at a small dock at the bottom of a cliff. There are three ways up: 1). Cable car (ski lift type of cabin) 2. Ride a donkey 3. Walk up the steps (you would be nuts to try this). HOWEVER, we did not choose any of those options. It just so happens that at the dock, there was a small boat tour office. For a tiny price (at least compared to the ship shore excursion), we bought tickets on a large wooden pirate-looking boat. It took us around the edge of the island to the northern tip where a bus met us at sea level and gave us a ride to the top where we visited the town of Oia. This is the photographic spot everybody wants to visit for the shots of white buildings and blue-domed churches. After two hours, the bus took us back to the town of Thera where we would have to go back down the cliff to our tender dock. Santorini is a fairly small island, but it's much too large to traverse without some kind of transportation. Back in Thera, we walked around and decided to it was time to head back to the ship. This is the thing that every cruise passenger needs to know: You've got to get down the cliff back to the dock. The cable car line was l-o-n-g. Passengers later told us back on the ship that the line was an hour and a half! While I would have liked to have spent a little more time in Santorini, the fact of the matter was we were all getting tired and really needed to get back to the ship as quickly as we could. Looking at the stairway... it looked like it would take forever to walk down. We chose to ride the donkeys down (five euro each). It was an adventure. They went down the steps much faster than I would have liked... trust me, you have to hold on! Don't even think about taking a picture while riding these donkeys! Tip: The cable cars can only handle a small number of people at one time. The line is slow. Be prepared for the wait, especially if there are several cruise ships in port at the same time. You do not need a "guide" in Santorini, but you do need to think about transportation. Ship excursions will get you around the island, but they all end at the top of the cliff and you have to decide how you want to get back down. Walkers have to use the same staircase as the donkeys (watch your step!). Split, Croatia: This can easily be done on your own. We entered the historic town (the walled palace interior was a town) and paid a small amount of money to buy a church pass. This allowed us inside the church, baptismal, bell tower and a small museum. After that we walked around a few minutes and were ready to try something different. We went back to the ship, ate lunch and went back into Split with beach towels. At the end of the dock, turn right, follow the palace walls until they end at the bus station and keep walking and follow the railroad tracks. As long as you follow the tracks you will find City Beach (we didn't and it took us longer). We went under a graffiti covered bridge and were there. This was a neat experience. Once you get past thinking about the urban and dingy entrance way, you realize the water is only waist deep for about the length of three football fields. Young and old were there. Every size and shape of humanity was on display. It should be against the law to sell a bikini to some people! We were amused at the number of people speaking English... every American college student backpacking across Europe must have been there that day. Back in Venice, we now understood the transportation system, and could have easily gotten back to the airport using city transportation. I had previously made arrangements with www.europeantransfer.com for a van ($45). We got to the Venice airport 2 ½ hours before our flight and needed every minute because the check-in lines moved slowly. Our flight was full. US Airways was offering passengers a $900 voucher, hotel and meals for anyone who would stay overnight and fly out the next day. I had to be back at work the next morning otherwise we would have jumped at the opportunity. Additional odd notes: - I almost felt out of place wearing a tuxedo (I happen to have one). - Internet was slow--but not as slow as I expected. - They will still deliver the printed New York Times to your cabin if you request. The New York Times website can be accessed FREE in the Explorers Lounge. - We were a bit surprised there was no note of congratulations or mention of our 15th anniversary. There was a deck party/cookout the night of our anniversary so we did not eat in the main dining room. - The Dessert Extravaganza seemed more "flashy" -- beautiful. However, a lot of it tasted the same. Everyone took pictures of the cabinet of candy apples. - Never once saw anyone using the spa pool (we walked by it all the time). - I never realized I would use the front desk like an ATM machine. I needed Euros and they just added a charge to my cabin. There was a small service fee but less than I would have paid using an ATM. I could also convert Euros (bills not coins) back into American dollars with NO fee (HAL uses the Bank of America conversion rate). - We really didn't feel the need to sample the other restaurants. We really enjoyed the pool side cookouts as we left a number of ports and we were out on excursions many days at lunch. - We did get a soda card for $25 before the cruise (value of $50). We're not the kind who drink a lot of soda, but thought over 12-days, we'd use it. But since we had soda on so many shore excursions with our included lunches, we really didn't have a desire for more Coke. We had trouble using it up. But if I were going to the Caribbean, I think it would be a must-have. No matter where we were on the ship (Lido, MDR or bar), we received a can of Coke. There has been some question about whether you are served a can or a bar fountain Coke on other HAL ships. - We were so busy, we only used the gym once. We really enjoyed walking the deck! - Thankfully, we had a number of "half" sea days... where we did not dock until the afternoons. This proved to be invaluable, not just physically, but also mentally. - This cruise required physical stamina. There was a LOT of walking. In addition, there were stairs and uneven walking surfaces at the historic sites. I really don't know how some people were able to do it. - We ordered movie DVD's from the front desk several times. They are FREE. You can pick them up or they will deliver to the cabin. Watching a movie in the late afternoon while the "smart ones" among us (who me??) dozed off after a day of touring, was a welcome respite. I tend to be a perfectionist. I am always looking for ways to make something "better." But the truth is, I'm not sure what I could have done to improve our vacation experience. However, I have one regret. Our boys discovered the terrycloth robes in the cabin and wore them EVERYDAY. When they weren't "lounging" in them, they were acting out their martial arts skills they acquired by watching Kung Fu Panda. I'm sorry I didn't order robes with their initials monogrammed and hidden them away for Christmas presents. Steve Swicegood Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Most important for us, the food was outstanding! We are all serious foodies and on other cruise lines felt we had to pay an upgrade to eat in the specialty restaurants to have adequate meal quality. We did eat in Pinnacle grill one night ... Read More
Most important for us, the food was outstanding! We are all serious foodies and on other cruise lines felt we had to pay an upgrade to eat in the specialty restaurants to have adequate meal quality. We did eat in Pinnacle grill one night for dinner (excellent) and many mornings for breakfast (a suite amenity). The Tamarind was also good. However, every other night we ate in the main restaurant for no extra charge. Across the board every course was fabulous. It would rival any of the James Beard award winning chefs we go to at home. The choices were interesting and each dinner forks were flying back and forth across the table with "you've got to try this!". The ship is very well run. Everything was smooth and staff was lovely. We did not feel like we were being pushed to buy extras constantly. The crowd is older. That made it a little slow for the teenagers (who as a result hung with us!) There were probably as many walkers slowing down traffic on this cruise as strollers on other lines. However, the seniors weren't throwing tantrums and went to bed early so there were plenty of seats at the late shows. No lines on workout equipment. Overall it was a good trade. The shows did seem more targeted for a Lawrence Welk set. We had a suite beside the penthouse. No noise or smoke complaints. The Neptune lounge was a very nice upgrade. Compared to regular suite on Celebrity and Owner's suite on Norwegian this was a great experience and we are thinking about going back on HAL in November. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This was my wife and me 4th cruise (we are in our early 50's), but first with Holland America and first in 16 years. We brought our two teenage sons (17 & 15) and our family chose HA because we are rather quiet, reversed, low-key ... Read More
This was my wife and me 4th cruise (we are in our early 50's), but first with Holland America and first in 16 years. We brought our two teenage sons (17 & 15) and our family chose HA because we are rather quiet, reversed, low-key folks and felt HA would be more to our liking than some of the more 'high-energy' cruise lines. The passengers consisted mostly of Americans & Canadians and the rudeness we had experienced on other cruises was not present on this one. Cigarette smoke was only noticeable when near the casino or aft pool (where there is a designated area). And we never noticed it on our balcony, as some other unfortunate reviewers have reported. Everyone we conversed or dined with (we had open seating) was both interesting and pleasant. Though, with the exception of an adorable newlywed couple from Columbia, all were quite older and semi- or fully retired. My wife and I were in a Deluxe Verandah Ocean View room with a balcony and our boys were down the hall in an inside cabin. It seemed like a quiet enough location. Both rooms were larger than the rooms on the other cruises my wife and I had been on. And we really enjoyed the balcony (the first time we've had one). Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and orderly (each took no more than 15 minutes). If you are flying home the day of disembarkation and checking your bags, I'd suggest the Luggage-Direct service. For $19 per person (not per bag), you put your bags out the night below (as usual), but you don't have to be bothered with them again until you get to your destination airport. And you get your boarding pass printed out and delivered to your room. Another handy service we took advantage of was for $20, you can get cleaned and folded or hung all the clothes you can get in a laundry bag (though small, it was amazing how much we could stuff in it). The entire staff was mostly friendly and cheery and attentive to our needs. We very much enjoyed every meal in the dining room and the food in the lido cafe was always good. My wife and I did have dinner one night at the Pinnacle and it was one of the finest dining experiences we'd ever had. Several passengers recommended the Italian restaurant, but slots filled up quickly and we weren't able to get in (apparently, those in the know make reservations as soon as they board the ship). We did check out the menu for the Asia restaurant a few times, but nothing ever caught our fancy so we never attempted to dine there. According to the ship's log, we were near capacity, though we never felt crowed. We had open seating and could get reservations within 15 minutes of our desired time and we never waited to be seated when we didn't have reservations. And except for one occasion, we always found a window seat in the Lido cafe. But getting a prime location deck chair near the pool was more challenging. For the nightly entertainment, as long as we arrived 30 minutes beforehand, we could get the exact seats we wanted (even arriving 10 to 15 minute early, one could get a really good seat). We did miss Half Moon Cay due to winds blowing directly into shore, forcing the ship to anchor further away than normal and thus making tendering operations undoable. This was a major disappointment as it was the one port we didn't want to skip (we had a private cabana rented and our boys were going to go parasailing). But we enjoyed the other ports and except for one untimely down pour in the middle of our Maya Ruins tour (causing it to be aborted), we had great weather. Although our boys did a lot of staying in their room and ordering a lot of room service (they thought that was great), they did find enough things to do to keep them happy otherwise. Apparently, there were 55 teenagers onboard, but only about a dozen of them regularly hung out at Club HAL. I would have liked to have seen outside activities arranged for the teenagers (though I understand there were such things scheduled for Half Moon Cay). The nightly entertainment was pretty good. Our entire family really enjoyed the comedian (the only night our boys attended). The other nights consisted of musical productions of one kind or another. The performers were extremely talented singers and dancers, but were poor actors. As long as they didn't need to act (which fortunately wasn't all that often), the show was top rate. Otherwise, it came across to me as a bad high school production. And I was disappointed that one night, just a movie was shown (and not even a good one...New Year's Eve). My wife and I (and occasionally our eldest son) would participate in and enjoy the various trivia games scheduled throughout the cruise. The CD emceed a marriage game and a 'Deal or No Deal' game, both of which were a lot of fun. I would have preferred more of this type of entertainment. And the couple's massage my wife and I had on the last full day of the cruise was quite relaxing. All in all, our family had a wonderful time on this cruise and wouldn't hesitate to book another HA cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We were excited about taking our first cruise on Holland America Cruise Line. Although we had heard that it was mainly for older people, we wanted to give it a try and found a very great rate for a balcony room. We were two married ... Read More
We were excited about taking our first cruise on Holland America Cruise Line. Although we had heard that it was mainly for older people, we wanted to give it a try and found a very great rate for a balcony room. We were two married couples celebrating our wedding anniversaries. Ship: Sadly to stay, Holland America's ship Nieuw Amsterdam did not meet our expectations. Compared to the ships we've been before, it is a conservative and smaller ship. Other than the NYC chandelier on the smallest atrium we have seen on a ship, it had nothing that visually could stand out or that you would remember. Food: Most of the time was under seasoned, cold and the waiting time between courses on the Manhattan dining room was more than 20 minutes. The exception was the soups, always excellent and hot! Twice in the same dinner I had to return the food because I asked for a medium steak and they kept bringing me a well done overcooked steak. They got it right the third time after all the people in my party had finished eating their food. Not even in their specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle Grill, did they have it right. I got a bloody rare filet mignon instead of the medium filet that I had ordered. They charge $25 p/p on this "beef specialty" restaurant so the least you can expect is the steak to be perfect. On this particular sailing the food on the Lido buffet was always served by the waiters. You could not cater yourself for the food. Needless to say the portions were very controlled and we even thought that they were running out of food. The Tamarind was a very nice and different restaurant! Service: Not as expected! The service at the restaurants was terrible. We were left unattended most of the time with empty water glasses, stale bread and no food for longs periods of time. The service at the SPA was terrible as well! SPA: Watch out for the scam on the Greenhouse Spa Hydro pool and serenity area. We paid $250 per couple to use the Hydro pool and the Serenity areas for a 6 day cruise. After paying for the service, they identified us as qualified users by placing a small navy blue sticker to the back of our room keys. SURPRISE! This same sticker was used for all correspondence, reminders, invitations, etc. that we received on our stateroom daily. In other words, anyone could have placed the same sticker on the back of their room card key for free! It is a very nice relaxing area but after buying the access, we found that it was highly priced compared to other Holland America sailings. Besides this, they did not have any control whatsoever on who entered the area. Even though they give you an access card to open the door to the pool, because of the Spa layout (the reception area on one side of the ship and the hydro pool, hot stone beds, sauna, etc. crossing to the other side of the ship) people got in and out as they wished and we saw this happen on various occasions. We presented a formal complaint to the Spa manager and she said that it was impossible to have somebody on a full time basis checking on this. Shows: Besides the Cantare group show and the comedian, nothing else was to stay awake for. They need to improve on entertainment! GOOD: One of the best things of the cruise was the extremely comfortable bed, ample closet and the most spacious bathroom. We even had a bathtub in our cabin! Great balcony cabin! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We are veteran cruisers with several longer cruises under our belts. We have sailed on Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney and now, Holland America. Ship: The ship was beautiful. We had adjacent cabins on the upper verandah ... Read More
We are veteran cruisers with several longer cruises under our belts. We have sailed on Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney and now, Holland America. Ship: The ship was beautiful. We had adjacent cabins on the upper verandah deck. The rooms were in fantastic shape and well laid out. Couldn't have been happier with the cabin. I loved the Crow's nest and Explorations Cafe!! Great coffee and service on Deck 11. Cabin steward: The cabin steward was top notch. Our room was always clean but he often forgot to leave a few items that were needed, like a replacement laundry bag after we sent out the laundry and a breakfast tag for the door. Not a big deal but a slight hassle to track someone down to get another one. Dining room: Here is where the problems start. The service in the dining room was awful. We had anytime dining and we learned that this was probably why the service was so bad. The first few nights we had a server who NEVER even smiled at us. He looked mad the entire time. This made us a bit uncomfortable. We had empty tea and water glasses most of the time and practically had to beg for tea or coffee. Not once in 15 nights did anyone in the dining room ask if we wanted refills on our coffee or tea. NOT ONCE!! We always had to remember to ask when they went whizzing by. We never saw the head waiter nor did anyone ask us if we enjoyed the meal, if everything was alright or anything. I received a card in my room to report if there was anything that they could do to help make my cruise more enjoyable and I reported my poor experiences in the dining room. The head waiter called me in my room and we talked and he made a reservation for us for the following night. I figured since I complained, they would make extra efforts to stay on top of the service. That did not happen. The service was just as bad. Our dinners in the specialty restaurants were a little better but not much. Food: I always seemed to find something to eat. Of course, that is not hard on a cruise ship. The food was good I would say overall. Room service: My teenage son must have ordered at least one cheeseburger from room service everyday and no matter how hard we tried, we could not get a plain hamburger. Out of 15 calls in 15 days, only twice did room service get the order right. We had them even repeat the order back to us to make sure they understood that it was supposed to be plain. They just kept putting mayonnaise on those burgers. Entertainment: The shows I saw were okay but nothing out of the ordinary for a cruise ship. I really loved the cruise director and went to all the trivia contests and other "smaller" fun entertainment that J.C. put on. Kids club: My daughter enjoyed the kids clubs and there were a lot of kids on the cruise. Ports: We loved Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Roatan, I would go on a cruise that just went to those ports. I loved the beaches at these ports. I would probably not recommend the Nieuw Amsterdam because of my experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the ... Read More
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the port but we found for the 4 of us a cab was less money and more comfortable. Once at the port, it only took about 30 min to get on the ship. The ship itself is beautiful, our room was ready when we boarded at noon. Only problem I have with the outside window room was the bunk bed was over the queen bed and I kept hitting my head when I got in and out. Otherwise there was enough storage space for 2 teenagers and 2 adults. And now for the important part...the food! We find that the food on HAL is probably some of the BEST food on most of the cruise lines. This ship was no exception. We also found the service to be very good and we never had more than a 5 minute wait with the anytime dining option. The activities on the ship were good, not great. We have found that this is the only thing lacking with HAL. We assume that due to the average age on most cruises are older, that they don't have many options for family activities during holiday sailings. We enjoyed the Eastern Caribbean route. In Puerto Rico we all did the Segway tour and had a great time. At all the other Islands, we took cab/van/open bus tours. None were booked through HAL. All in all, we had a great time cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam and are looking forward to next years cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale on December 11, 2011. This was a seven day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had not been on this ship before so the first thing we did was explore so we could learn the layout of the ship. ... Read More
We boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale on December 11, 2011. This was a seven day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had not been on this ship before so the first thing we did was explore so we could learn the layout of the ship. It's also a great time to take pictures. We are spoiled and we only book cabins with a verandah. We love the beds on the HAL cruise line as sleep just needs to be comfortable and if it's not, we are not happy. HAL, in our opinion, has the best food and so we will be sticking with this cruise line going forward. I just hate to spend money on something that is not up to snuff. The ports on this cruise were; Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, San Juan and Saint Maarten. We had not visited Grand Turk before nor San Juan. Grand Turk was okay, very pretty beaches. I was not impressed with San Juan as it just reminded me of Mexico. We love Half Moon Cay and the weather was so wonderful while we were there. In Saint Maarten we had the same nice weather and we just shopped. We don't take many excursions because we have done them in the past and they are kind of expensive. We like to explore on our own. We did learn something on this cruise. If you book your next cruise while on board, you just put down a $100 deposit and you can select your cruise and your cabin. The deposit is good for four years. In addition, we got $50 each drink cards for the next cruise. Just little benefits to booking while on board. If it turns out that you cannot take the cruise you booked, the deposit can be used for another cruise. You don't lose that money. We booked a cruise for the next New Year so we can party on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We are recently back from our enjoyable 12 night cruise of the Mediterranean Empires and sharing our thoughts. This was our third cruise with HAL but first time on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We arrived at Marco Polo Airport and had previously ... Read More
We are recently back from our enjoyable 12 night cruise of the Mediterranean Empires and sharing our thoughts. This was our third cruise with HAL but first time on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We arrived at Marco Polo Airport and had previously arranged land transportation from Airport Transfer. This was booked on line at clickairporttransfer dot com. We were four adults and had an assortment of 9 suitcases. The total cost was 65 Euro for all of us and our bags one way. We received prompt email confirmation of our reservation and a contact number if we didn't see our driver when we got to the Arrival area. We were met at the airport in a mini bus and decided to also arrange for pick-up at the end of the cruise for which we received a small discount. Embarkation in Venice was smooth and quick. HAL did retain US passports and provided a receipt but not those of EU citizens. We were able to reclaim them after our stop in Istanbul though we had yet to visit Kusadasi. Our staterooms were immediately available (around 1:00 pm) and our bags began arriving shortly there after. We were in a veranda room (VC category) on deck 5 which provided ample storage space. There even was enough space to slide our large suitcases under the bed. Ship A quick bite in the Lido and we began a short exploration of the ship before heading out. Being a new ship it was obviously in great shape and we liked the NYC touches. There was a problem with the midship pool and so only the aft pool was available for swimming for both children and adults. The situation was remedied after two days. There seemed to be an adequate amount of lounge chairs and no chair hogs. Most of the cabanas didn't have any occupants so not sure if the space they take up outweighs the additional revenue. There seemed to be a few more announcements and the disembarkation was not silent as on other HAL ships but that too may have changed. Nonetheless, they were few enough not to be an intrusion. The photographers were present but didn't harass you which was nice. Guest demographics on the ship appeared to be about 60% North American, 30% European, and 10% everywhere else. A wide variety of age groups from children to seniors made for a nice mix. Dining-can't say enough good things about Tamarind and Pinnacle Grill. Excellent service, delicious food, and nice ambience. Our group of four had tasty seafood, tender herb encrusted tenderloin, and even "to your taste spicy" lamb in the Tamarind. I found the bread pudding dessert a little heavy after a filling meal though. At the Pinnacle, the Steak Diane and filet mignon never disappoint. Neither does the lava cake or souffle! There I felt the potato and vegetable sides were somewhat bland. Both restaurants are definitely worth the extra charge in our opinion. Manhattan Dining Room-Large Group Alert! I've read threads in the past about large groups and how you can determine if they are sailing with you but never gave it much thought.....cruiser be ware! We were assigned "As You Wish Dining" and showed up the first night around 8:15 pm. We were given the pager and waited about 10 minutes...so far so good. Once seated we found the service to be extremely slow. After finishing a course we would wait about fifteen minutes before the plates would be cleared and the next course would be served. It was 10:15 and time for the show when we were gathering our things to leave. We chalked it up to the first night settling in. We returned on the third night earlier, around 7:45 pm. We got the pager and waited about 25 minutes before being seated. The dining room was very busy with the stewards rushing around to serve everyone. There was a large table next to us with people from a group that we had seen wearing color -coded name tags throughout the ship. I struck up a conversation with one of the women and she explained a little about her group etc and that there were 600 members on our particular sailing. Before leaving the dining room, we requested to make reservations for the next night and were told it was too early and to call in the morning. The next morning at 10:30 we called for reservations and were told none were available for the next three nights in the MDR. When we arrived for dinner that evening around eight we received our pager and waited about 40 minutes before it buzzed. When we approached the stand, we were told that our table had just been given to someone else in error and it would be a few more moments. As we were not happy with this chaos every night, my spouse asked to speak to a manager. While we waited at our table, the servers apologized for the wait and explained that there was a very large group etc. The manager arrived to hear about our observation that "As You Wish Dining" was not appearing to be as most people wished . He sent over a bottle of wine and without asking, we were notified in our mailbox daily of a reservation time for any night we were not dining in one of the specialty restaurants. This solved our problem and things did appear to settle down in the dining room as the week progressed but we did see and hear people receiving complimentary glasses of wine or dinner offers for one of the specialty restaurants because of their long wait. I do want to mention that the servers were great and put a lot of effort into trying to serve us in a timely fashion but at times were hindered by more people than the usual standard. Most of the food was consistently good and the presentation was great. My favorites were chicken breast stuffed with spinach and gruyere and the london broil which was tender and cooked as requested. The wine stewards were also the most available of any cruise we have been on. The only other out of whack thing was on the third formal night (not the last night) when they did the obligatory baked alaska parade. It definitely was geared toward the upper level fixed time diners. We had just finished our entree but the table next to us was having their soup! The alaskas weren't lit up either but maybe that is the fire safety rule now. In-room Dining-We used it three times. The first time it never arrived to our cabin or the other couple we were traveling with. We called and they had lost both our order tickets. The other two times there were no problems Entertainment and Activities-I know this is very selective but I found the five shows that I attended were enjoyable. As many have mentioned in past reviews, Cantare (take on Il Divo) were great. They only performed once but you were also able to see them in the other shows. I thought the Garage Band and beachy Avalon shows were also cleverly done with nice effects. The farewell show was a mix of music to appeal to all ages so some numbers I liked better than others. Sometimes the loudness of the music overwhelmed the vocals during all of the shows. Around the ship there seemed to be less entertainment than on other HAL ships. We like to dance but the only venue we found conducive was once when the HAL CATS were having a sing -with- the -band night. Most of the lounges were pretty empty after eleven which surprised us for this time of the year. We also were surprised that the outside SeaView Bar on the aft deck didn't offer anything later at night. We enjoy being outside on the ship but some nights the chairs and tables were mostly stacked up, the lighting was either off or quite bright, and not even any music from the sound system was playing. This was despite the fact that some people (yes I know....smokers can come here too) were ordering a drink and chatting. The only other activity I did was participate in the Olive Oil Tasting which was fun and attracted about 60 people. We found a large selection of current books in the library and a lot of people playing board games or using the internet....despite how slow the connection is. The flavored coffees at the cafe were also good and I'm sorry I never found time to come later for one of the after dinner varieties Ports-had two private tours scheduled but Athen's taxi strike canceled one; rest we did on our own Venice-A favorite city, as a return visit we went to the Maria della Salute church that you always see when sailing in and out of Venice; discovered the Royal Gardens behind the hustle and bustle of St Marco; Late flight back so stored our luggage at the airport and took the Alilaguna to Murano-not a picturesque island from the outside but the glassware makes up for it-be sure you look for the artisan symbol for true Murano glass if that is what you are after Split-a pleasant surprise! Lovely combination of seaside resort, ruins, cafes, and handicrafts in addition to the usual souvenirs; tendering seemed to take a long time as it appeared there was only one boat being used for independents when our tag was called Athens-the extended taxi strike canceled our tour (it's now over I understand) Being able to walk around the Acropolis was amazing but the lack of organization in dealing with the crowds at the site made this our least favorite port Istanbul-fabulous city with so much to see, wish we had more time there; would have paid a little more and skipped one of the smaller islands; on my land vacation wish list! Kusadasi-Ephesus-do a tour that includes the Terrace Houses! If you've been to Petra you will also like Ephesus. We used Celsus Tours and our group of seven also went to Sirince for lunch in a local's house. We met her at her stall in the winding streets lined with vendors and walked to her nearby home for a delicious meal and had an opportunity to chat more with our guide Murat about Turkey Santorini-always beautiful. We were here before so this time took the local bus to the Santo Winery. They drop you off right in front and the bus was around 1.60 Euro. The views are spectacular and you are close enough to see the ship. We did a "do it yourself tasting" were they gave us six generous pours with the name of each wine, a dish full of cheese and olives, a dish of crusty bread like crackers, a tomato paste dipping sauce all for 12 Euro. It was plenty for the two of us. You can also order other types of food and drink, tour the winery, browse in their gift shop. They have large tiered terraces so even if there are tour buses it doesn't feel crowded. It is a busy place so don't expect a great deal of personal service! It's a nearby fun alternative. The highway in front is one way so you have to cross over a bit to catch the bus back. We were able to flag a taxi for 8 Euro so didn't wait for the bus. Mykonos- known for its beaches, we went ashore to take some pictures of the windmills and then enjoyed a quieter ship as the cruise was port intensive Katakolon-charming island; enjoyed cappuccino by a cafe at the shore; opportunities for picturesque shots of fishing boats and blue trimmed houses; many shops some less touristy too. There is access to a public beach where the ship is docked but it is rocky, not sandy. There is a small cafe and some thatched coverings from the sun. Disembarkation was smooth and our airport transportation was already there waiting for us. Thank you if you are still reading my long review! We visited many nice ports and had a good time on a beautiful ship. There were nice touches like the Mariner lunch and the cocktail party hosted by our online travel agent. There was a special cocktail party and disembarkation luncheon for Dutch guests on board and I'm sure other events I know nothing about. My family also enjoyed getting the Dutch news recap in their mailbox each day too. Yet there was something that made us enjoy sailing on the Oosterdam and Noordam more. Those cruises were also during the summer. We know sailing during peak summer time will be more crowded. One other possibility was when we looked at the Cruise Log on our last day. The Nieuw Amsterdam is promoted as having a capacity of 2106 guests with a crew of 929. On our sailing there were 2320 guests with a crew of 926. That's 214 more people with 3 less crew. That might just sum it up. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Just finished a 12 day Mediterranean cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam. It was a total disappointment. The food service was very inefficient. We had to wait in long lines for all three meals since we don't like the slow service in the formal ... Read More
Just finished a 12 day Mediterranean cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam. It was a total disappointment. The food service was very inefficient. We had to wait in long lines for all three meals since we don't like the slow service in the formal dinning room. Once you got in front of the servers, they gave you very little servings of everything. Once a girl gave me very little veggies, so I asked for more. She picked up three more pieces of string beans and put on my plate....!!!!! The excursions were ok except one, which prompt me to write this review. We joined the Florence/ Pisa excursion after docking in Livorno. All went well in the morning until lunch time. We were taken to 'SABATINI' restaurant in downtown Florence. There were three groups from the ship. Each group had about 40 people. The restaurant only gave us one young boy as waiter. There were three more waiters busy serving their walk in customers. They whipped pans of pasta and chunks of meat in front of us, while we only had a dry roll in each of our plate. We asked for butter or oil/vinegar but was ignored. After about 40 minutes, the boy started serving a tiny dish of pasta. They ran out for our table. We waited another 20 minutes for a tiny plate of broken lasagna noodle in pasta sauce. We waited another 30 minutes for a meat dish with a piece of paper thin slice of meet with 5 potato wedges and 7 tiny pieces of squash. My eight year old was still hungry after the main courses. My mother asked the waiter if we can order from the menu and he pretended not understanding English. Totally we spent 2.5 hours in the restaurant watch them busy serving other 'paying' customers. We were treated like second class citizens who were there for free food. The excursion costs almost $200 per person!!!! Our trip to Pisa had to cut short because of the time spent in the restaurant. The tour guide only gave us 30 minutes once the bus arrived in Pisa. This included the time we walk from the bus station to the tower. So basically hi leaning tower and bye Pisa. We paid the cruise Line to provide transportation to the airport in Barcelona. When we got off the ship, HAL people told us they are one bus short. We had to wait for one to come. It's mind boggling that they had the exact count of people and still messed up. We stood in the hot sun waited fir 30 minutes while the people got off the ship with us were already in a taxi on their merry way to the airport. I reminded the HAL person that we paid triple the taxi fare to the cruise line so we can be on time for our fight. The person told me there is nothing she can do and she does not have a manager to report this issue. I should report this to the cruise Line after I get home. All in all, you think I'm going to take another HAL cruise???? Naaaaa....... Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
The Nieuw Amsterdam was a very nice ship and most things of exceptional quality during the cruise. That being said I will first address the things we did not like. One of the biggest things we did not like about the ship was the Crows ... Read More
The Nieuw Amsterdam was a very nice ship and most things of exceptional quality during the cruise. That being said I will first address the things we did not like. One of the biggest things we did not like about the ship was the Crows Nest. They placed the library in the front right side of the room and it took up a lot of nice lounge space that should be devoted to gatherings and evening music. People would pick up a book sit down in a chair and fall asleep leaving few spaces for people that wanted to gather in a group to visit, see the sites or enjoy music. The second thing we did not like was the entertainment offered. In our opinion the only entertainment worth attending was the evening performances which were generally good to excellent. The lounge performances were a waste with the exception of Mat Murphy who had a nice voice and played an excellent range of songs. The problem we had was we could never listen to him because they had him playing in the Crows Nest from 5PM to 9 PM. This was during our early dining seating and we could never listen to him without giving up our dinner time. The The third thing I would mention is our impression that Holland America has neglected customer satisfaction and is more about finding ways to squeeze every dollar they can from each guest. They constantly had someone trying to sell you a bottle of water, a drink or they were promoting some event that you had to pay for. They did not seem to schedule entertainment when people had time to attend. The biggest gripe we had abut the cruise was the Travel Advisor, Tom. When he was asked a question about a port he tried to discourage people from doing things on their own and tried to get them go book something through the ship. Things were always too hard, too far or too difficult. As an example, when we visited Santorini he told people it was dangerous riding the mules from the dock up to town. He made it sound like you were putting your life on the line by taking this mode of transportation and suggested that you take the ships overpriced excursions. On another occasion we asked him how far it was to walk to the train station and he told us it was a 40 minute walk. After we caught a bus we found out it was only three blocks and could be walked to in less than 10 minutes. Now that the disappointments are covered, we had a wonderful cruise. All of the ports had interesting things to see and do. We opted to do things ourselves rather than through the boat and found that to be much more satisfactory. We usually saw more than the ships tours did, got there faster, stayed longer and had fewer people to wait on. With a little pre-planning and effort we always got to do more for less. This is a port intensive cruise and we got little time to catch our breath but that is better than letting the ships crew try to entertain you. The ships crew was great. They provided a comfortable pleasant atmosphere throughout the cruise. Food on the trip was very good. There was always plenty of variety and the quality was generally pleasing. The cooks tended to overcook beef however I found that if I ordered it one level more rare than I really wanted it turned out great. I usually prefer medium but had to order medium rare to get the outcome I wanted. At the Lido buffet we enjoyed the theme meals offered in one section each day. They switched that section each day and featured a different country's food which we found enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
15 June 2011 Flew from Stuttgart, Germany to Barcelona using Air Berlin, discount flights no meals, no frills & pretty cheap. Upon arrival could not locate HAL rep so after waiting fifteen minutes luckily my husband loads all the ... Read More
15 June 2011 Flew from Stuttgart, Germany to Barcelona using Air Berlin, discount flights no meals, no frills & pretty cheap. Upon arrival could not locate HAL rep so after waiting fifteen minutes luckily my husband loads all the phone numbers in his phone so he called and was told they would come. After another ten minutes of waiting she appeared something about another client. Then she walked us out the doors where we waiting another five minutes for her specific cab driver who took us to the port. We could have saved all the waiting in this crowded area and taken a cab right outside the door, we will not use this overpriced transfer service in Barcelona again. Arriving at the terminal showing the boarding pass we printed from our home computer they took our luggage and we proceeded through security inside where they do basically what they do in airports minus the shoe removal. If you have bottles in your luggage they will open your luggage and check to insure it is wine. To prevent them opening your luggage you could have it in a smaller bag in your big suitcase and remove it before giving the ship your luggage and hand carry it through security. Wine is allowed and soft drinks just no hard liquors not sure about beer. Finishing security there is an escalator with a person to direct you up to the checking in area. I asked this person where the people for the suites were suppose to go and she just pointed up the escalator. At the top to the left is the table with forms to fill out asking if you have been ill, each person must fill one out to proceed so make sure you have a couple of pens with you to speed this up if your coming with companions. Also grab a Days Events paper from here. Then once you have this form filled out proceed to the roped lines to the long counter for check in. They will need your printed boarding pass and passports, and then they take your photo for the ships computers, this way if whenever you go off or back on the ship your photo will appear on the screen for the person to see you're really this person named on the card. We use a lanyard (of course HAL one purchased in the ships store) to make it handy to carry this card since it is basically a credit card and ID, you don't want to lose it! When you are leaving the ship and hands are full you have it hanging around your neck quick and easy, then removed while on shore of course. There is a neat slot on the door of your room to put them so as your leaving your room you just put it on and replace it when you come back in. So far we have only found the front desk will punch a hole in the bottom middle for the lanyard to go through. When you finish checking and getting your map of the ship etc you're ready to board if you are not too early. You cannot board until after 11:00 am and must stay in the big area across from the check in counter with limited seats and pay for refreshments. If you are in a suite you are allowed into the area upstairs. At the top of the escalator you came up it is on the opposite side of the table with the health forms you filled out. Take the elevator up and they will greet you with coffee, tea, and cookies. There are soft leather couches and chairs up there with TV but in Spanish of course. I think HAL could save money by doing away with this area and setting it up, just let the suite people be escorted up to the Neptune Lounge until their rooms are ready like NCL does for their villas. Now 11:00 am arrives and we are not escorted to the gangway but have to go ourselves sliding past the other passengers who have now crowded up to the roped area. On NCL they have a butler escort you to your room and show you the amenities, HAL your on your own and have to show the card you received at check in that you are in a suite. People in suites are given priority boarding. You also get champagne in your suite and can have canapEs delivered each day but most are seafood which I do not eat so we declined. Our suite is basically what you see on the web and this ship does not have the curtain providing privacy to anyone in the bed, we had hoped one was there since our granddaughter was with us; some of the other ships do have the curtain. Having a third person using the sofa bed makes for crowded conditions, when the bed is out you barely can make it out to the balcony since they stow the coffee table in front of the balcony door. We had so much storage space for all the clothes it was fabulous (this is where NCL fails in their villas they have very little storage and even less hangers). Our room was very well kept by Poni & Ilo our room stewards, they would make the sofa bed up when we went to dinner and have it picked up by mid morning. They did an outstanding job! Our only complaint was the big window never was cleaned and the glass on the balcony was covered in salt spray so sitting down in one of the two chairs made it hard to see through. The balcony also had a table and three chairs but it was too hot to eat out there in the afternoon. Next door was one of the penthouses with so many people the noise sometimes was a bit much including playing music. They had a hot tub but I never saw anyone use it, they had a very long balcony. I don't think we will get a room next to the penthouse again. In the suites you have amenities like laundry; this ship was the first that actually lost something, my husbands' favorite sleeping shirt. When asked about it they blew us off the concierge in the Neptune Lounge didn't appear to care asking how much it cost, it wasn't the reimbursement we wanted it was the shirt, like I said his favorite. If you have something you cannot part with don't put it in the laundry, lesson learned. Neptune Lounge was nice and well stocked; you could eat breakfast and lunch in there if you wanted. Most times had hot coffee and hot chocolate but had to dig for the latter for some reason. The coffee machine was not working at one point and I thought hubby would have a melt down, gotta have decent coffee, it was fixed by the next day. You also are given free breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill which was fantastic! Restaurants: The Manhattan Dining Room is free to everyone and we used it more this time then ever before. We eat early and it is less crowded. Our first server was horrid and it took two hours of sitting waiting for the meal to end. Geeze! For the first time we asked for a different server and got Andre, man is a Godsend! Nicely we let him know we liked to keep it moving and don't dally and he was fine with that. I can see if it is crowded but our area was not crowded since we were so early. The food was great with a wide selection, I only had one meal I did not like the food but no big deal. Our ten year old granddaughter was given a children's menu and she loved all the dishes, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, and ice cream and several more choices offered every night. Our favorite place on board is the Pinnacle Grill with "Sam the Man" a great server and show man who we enjoyed on previous cruises on different ships, Tony the "Wine guy" he is so much fun to chat with, and Anna the "The Wine Gal" they all made our meal times enjoyable. The food was outstanding! I just wish they had more variety. We also ate in the Lido a couple of mornings and it was delish! They have stations for Belgian Waffles to die for, and an egg station any way you want them. Sadly on this station the young man doing the toast was lacking. Lunch in the Lido was nice but the salad items were allowed to run out several times. The tables were kept cleaned off and the staff attentive. We also used the grill by the pool and they have some amazing choices of knockwurst for those out there who like that option, along with hotdogs, hamburgers and lots of fries. Out in the pool area we had a drink from the bar, a bit pricey but aren't all poolside bars? The Mohita was oooooh so good. Pool was dirty with balls of hair floating on the bottom and a used Band-Aid, gross! I had to get a young man to come scoop it out. I was amazed to see there is rust already forming on the pool sides in the metal area. Room service: It was nice that this was the first time on all the ships that the person could understand English, this is crucial in a phone order. We got all the items we requested for breakfast when it was too early to go to the Pinnacle Grill, but one morning something happened and they did not get our breakfast up to us nor our neighbor so we had to make due with some items from the Lido to carry and eat on the bus. We returned from our excursion to an apology and chocolate covered strawberries. Shows: We saw one with Grease not so great, it looked scary how they had these girls on shaky stands trying to dance, they looked frighten. The magician was fantastic granddaughter loved it. Walk for the Cure was fun and had such a great turn out, you get a pink wrist band and teeshirt for $25 donation, then enjoy the walk it isn't 5 km which is fine mostly symbolic to show your support. While onboard internet is extremely expensive, solution: in your first port if you find a phone store which you can look up at home http://enterprise.vodafone.com/products_solutions/mobile_broadband/cards.jsp and buy this Vodaphone Mobile Connect Card that you stick into your laptop and have access to the internet while in ports, (nothing works at sea but the ships internet). You may have to sit in the Lido deck by the pool where you get the best reception, while in our room it did not work facing out to sea, if your room is on land side it should work on your balcony. They have outlets to plug into by the pool near the windows to keep your battery going on the laptop. If you don't use the card up by the end of the cruise you may give it to one of the crew they can use them to contact people at home. HAL Club for kids: The children have clubs divided by age. In the one my granddaughter age ten was in the attendants were great and she loved being with the group. They did arts and crafts, treasure hunt, sports, movie night with popcorn, and gaming on Xbox. One night they had a dance down on another floor and Syd loved it! It does not open until 7:00 pm so the children don't mind eating with you but gets them moving to be ready to go to dinner and then on to their evening out. It closes at 10:00 p.m. and she stayed till they closed each night. You can give permission for them to sign in and out but not sure if that is only while out to sea but in port a parent must pick them up, I would check on that. We personally went to pick her up each time there are so many people on these ships it is like a small city. We really liked this ability for her to go off and play with other children it gets boring being with old people all the time and we had time alone to watch a show or just walk around. Photographers: We paid for one of the $200 packages and received all the shots. Sadly in many on one night a couple stood in the background so appear in all of them. Also the photographer didn't care that my husband's suit was all bunched up and some my eyes were closed. They also take one when you leave the ship in each port, no background, sun in our eyes most times, and a couple of stops no one was even out there. Just buy as you go is the best bet. Ports: Barcelona, fantastic a must see is Casa Batllo by Gaudi, the man was before his time in thinking. Also the Familia church but if you go go early the line was unreal by mid day we didn't go inside. We used Barcelona Bus Turistic (blue buses) for transportation once out of the port. You catch them in Christopher Columbus square. We have used both companies and like Hop & Ride (Red buses) better they had less broken jacks for listening and better seating, both were crowded. On the blue buses the bottom back is so low ceiling many folks kept hitting their heads. If the jacks are broken in your seat use your neighbors each seat has four. Monta Carlo, Monaco-We didn't enjoy this port that much. We hiked up the fort like structure near the ship and went through the little park but just did not see anything worth staying in the humid heat. We returned to an almost empty ship and went swimming, very nice. Livorno, Italy- We took the excursion to Pisa and Florence since our granddaughter wanted to see both. Florence they took us to the Santa Croce church then to down town where the guide just went on and on it would have been better to have been allowed to go through the marketplace. The lunch was alright nothing to get excited about in a hot restaurant. Barbara was our guide she was nice and allowed the kids to take turns holding the group sign. Pisa you cannot go up time is very limited and you have to reserve a time in advance. Plenty of shopping for souvenirs at booths along the route to the leaning tower from where the bus drops you off. Florence they have some cool vendors who can bend your name out of metal in three minutes for 2 Euro I think it was. Rome-Long bus ride of course but we had the best guide Alexandra, my granddaughter just loved her. We were allowed to go on our own from the Trevi fountain and walk to the Spanish steps which look nothing like the postcards with all the pretty flower boxes are gone. We went to lunch in the most beautiful of restaurants we loved sitting outside because of no seating left inside. Went to the Vatican in the afternoon when the line was shorter Alexandra was spot on picking when to go. We purchased a couple of 3 Euro parasols while near the Coliseum which proved very useful in Greece. Naples, Italy- they replaced the original port that was in Sicily, so we went to Sorrento to shop. It was a long bus ride and you're asked to stay for a sales pitch when you get off the bus but you don't have too and I suggest you skip it and go to the tiny stores their much cheaper, time is limited. We found a jewelry box maker with his Dad and purchased all of our boxes there and they even let us take a picture with them. The bus also stopped at a Cameo maker shop and we got the most pretty Cameo of a mother and a child, they have newer styled Cameo's not only the old fashion type and they have a demonstration on how their made, be sure to bargain with them, be strong but be polite. Katakolon, Greece- Took the Olympic tour and loved it even though it got quite hot the parasols really helped. Back in time for the pool and relaxing. Navplion, Greece-Another hot day starting early, granddaughter dragging butt after a night of dancing in HAL club, she had a great time. Spent the morning walking ruins and listening to the tour guide, then Greek lunch of lamb, fab! Corfu, Greece-Another hot day, granddaughter had a sunburn so we paid for the bus to go into town it's too far to walk, many tiny shops with olive wood items and assortment of all kinds of things. We found the drug store and got skin cream (to find they had Aloe in the ships store) and went back to the ship to watch a movie. I would like to go here again. Dubrovnik, Croatia- We went when the ship pulled in. There are two gangways and for some reason everyone goes to the front one we went mid ship and missed that pile up. What a cool city no tour guide needed use free online walking guide, you have to walk the wall! Once you cross the little walkway and go inside to the right is where you purchase the tickets for 70 kn then come out the door and go to the left and there are the stairs. They don't open till 8:00 am. There was only one other woman up there with us so no shots of the walls with all the people in them, later on we saw so many people they looked like ants climbing. We walked the wall all the way to the middle where you can come back down and now you're on the backside of the city right near the tourist attractions. We walked back towards the entrance down the main street but off to the sides you can climb the steep steps to shops nestled up among the homes. For children there is a man just outside the entrance where they swing a huge hammer and make their own coin, what a cool keepsake, the vendor will pose for you too. Venice, Italy-Last port, we took the people mover for 1 Euro to the city where your supposed to get the water Taxi. We could not find any signs to help here. We just hoofed it through the city since we have been here before and I really wanted my granddaughter to experience it all. Needless to say the heat may have made this a bad choice. We found a gondola for hire cost 200 Euro for the three of us. They have three routes to choose from; short I think was €100, longer €200, and even longer and into another area for I believe it was €300. Yes VERY expensive but hey when will you ever come back here and get to do this again? Do you want to be in the photos in the gondola or taking ones of other people??? We knew it would be expensive so we were prepared. Did the pizza and ice cream thing along with the pigeons although it appears the pigeons are less in number now then the last time we visited. Lots of construction going on and has been for some time, with big sheets of ads covering stuff, ruins the photos. Didn't shop just caught the crowded water Taxi back to the ship and then the people mover. Disembarkation: The airport is small so they do NOT allow you in the airport before three hours when your flight is scheduled to leave. The ship wants you off early they start disembarkation early and even if your flight leaves later they hustle you off way before you need to be to get the next group on. We paid for the transfer again not necessary, and boarded the bus then waited...went a ways and to keep us from sitting outside the airport we sat on the bus. Then they let us off and we sat outside the airport on benches. When we finally went inside no chairs and crowded. Air Berlin would not let us check in and had some snafu on another flight making things even worse. Could not even get word on what counter to line up at, this is important with flights that do not reserve your seats before you check in with three people. Needless to say hubby vowed never to fly in or out of Venice ever again. All in all we had a great time! This was our granddaughters' maiden voyage and she is needless to say hooked on cruising. Yes we have her booked on a Baltic cruise next summer with Princess! Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam March 13-20th 2011 on a Western Caribbean route. A group of 4 brothers with wives/SO...a total of 8. We booked a VF Guarantee but were upgraded to category V on the Navigation deck.This was the 13th ... Read More
We cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam March 13-20th 2011 on a Western Caribbean route. A group of 4 brothers with wives/SO...a total of 8. We booked a VF Guarantee but were upgraded to category V on the Navigation deck.This was the 13th cruise for my wife and me. Others had cruised anywhere from 0 to 6 times. We stayed at the Springhill Suites Dania Beach. Free parking, transport to the port and pick up for $8pp. My wife and I had been on one other HAL cruise...the Zuiderdam in 2005. The Nieuw Amsterdam, even though on the same hull, seemed larger than the Z and was definitely a much prettier ship. We cruised the Celebrity Solstice last year and the Nieuw Amsterdam compared very favorably to it. It does not have the large atrium like the Solstice and other newer ships. Arrived at the port around 11:00AM. On the ship before noon. One great thing HAL has done is to have cabins ready by 11:30. We were able to go the cabin upon boarding and drop carry-ons. It also seemed to spread the crowd around the ship rather than everyone gathering in the LIDO.CABIN: Category V on the port side Navigation Deck. It was great to be able to open 4 balconies and have a huge space. Cabin was designed well...nothing flashy but very comfortable and lots of storage. Bath was one of the larger ones we have had with a tub. CREW: The cruise director was Gene Young. I have to admit I don't remember many of our cruise directors an hour after leaving the ship and he was no different. Did not really add or detract from the cruise. Crew was friendly and efficient for the most part. Cabin Steward Diding did a great job even though we did not see him often. LIDO: The lido food was always good but I like the layout of the Solstice buffet much better. Seemed to be more congestion on the NA. And one of brothers also complained that he could never get anyone in the morning to fill his coffee. One thing we noticed...we always had coffee after dinner and found it odd that they NEVER offered a refill, even in Pinnacle or Tamarind. I did notice after returning to the ship after 3:00 there was not a lot of food and we were always hungry when returning from shore.MDR: Ate there 3 times with anytime dining. Food was very good each time but I agree the service was not as friendly as past cruises and sometimes slow. I just assumed it was because this was the first time we had experienced anytime dining and the wait staff does not get "invested" in you as much or get to know you. Not bad service, just a little detached. The NY Strip served every evening was a really nice cut of beef. TAMARIND: We felt it was the highlight of the dinners. So good we booked a second night. Service excellent as was the food. The only problem we had was trying to decide what to order. We tried to get in for lunch without reservations one day but there was a waiting list so we left. Everything we had was delicious. They also brought us a large platter of sushi for the table in addition to the meals.PINNACLE: While the food was very good, service was slow. I just can't understand why it takes almost 4 hours to complete a meal. We had 6:00 reservations and got out a little before 10pm. Other tables that arrived after our party were finished long before us.CANALETTO: We ate there the first night. The food was good, nothing special, but it was free and something different. Service was okay and we did get cotton candy.ENTERTAINMENT: We had a change in much of the cast at the beginning of the cruise. Cantare was one of the best shows we have ever seen on our 13 cruises. Go to this one! Rondell Sheridan was the comedian and we all recognized him from TV. Very funny. Just saw a short sample of the magician and he was amazing. Other stage shows were pretty good but the one exception was "The Two fo Us". This was a married couple who are part of the ensemble and had their own show. While the singing was excellent, the banter between songs was so corny and cheesy it ruined the show. Several in our party walked out. Matt Murphy played guitar and sang in Crows Nest...good and very nice guy. Gini and HAL Cats seemed to play everywhere around the ship, the pool, and on Half Moon Cay. Musically they were good but they really need a male voice to assist with vocals. But the band leader told us this was the same on every HAL ship...a band with only female singer.We enjoyed the Piano Bar mainly because of "Boozie" the waiter. You have got to meet this guy. All 8 of us met him one night and he remembered our names the rest of the cruise. David Seering (sp?) played and sang but was a little over the top...think Liberace without the glitter. Adagio Strings were good but selections seemed to be designed for bedtime. They played a great "RiverDance" type of number for the variety show one evening and we expected more of this but they seemed to stick just to the classics. The Jazz Trio called The Neptunes were also good but it seemed everytime we sat down to listen they took a break.It did seem that after the late show there were not many entertainment choices but we were never bored!! THE SHIP: We really liked the Nieuw Amsterdam and as mentioned previously it was so much prettier and more elegant than our last HAL cruise on the Zuiderdam. It is indeed a beautiful ship. There are some dead ends where you "can't get there from here" but that is the case on most ships. I know some have complained about the red in the MDR but we loved it, especially when compared to the stark white in the Solstice MDR. The NA is not as open with a large atrium like the Solstice but after a while we came to like it as well. On a sea afternoon there is no place better than lounging on the promenade deck. Kudos to HAL for keeping the wrap around on all of their ships. The Queens Lounge is a beautiful spot as are most of the numerous lounges. The one place we found that was really ugly in our opinion was the casino. Very dark and not colorful and very uninviting. Maybe it was just all the smoke (oh oh...I don't want to start THAT debate). MISC: If you like to hang around the pool be sure to bring some type of shoe to wear around the pool deck. You will get the bottoms of your feet burned within seconds by just going from the pool back to your lounger. Not sure why they did not use some sort of heat reflecting material or teak for the decking. The lido pool area also seemed really closed in when compared with the Solstice. Part of it comes from the fact they have the magrodome which can cover the pool. It is nice to have but does really cut into the deck space on the deck above the pool. One brother rented a Lido cabana for the week and really enjoyed it. Had a butler with great service, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and more. They felt it was well worth the $199 for the week. The Resort Cabana's were more private and up higher but cost $299.VERDICT: Book this ship. We had a great time. I think the NA and the Solstice are very comparable. There are some things we liked better on the Solstice and some we liked better on the Nieuw Amsterdam. But if you go on a cruise looking to find something to complain about you will. If you don't have a good time on the NA, or for that matter any cruise, it is your own fault!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
We recently returned from the eastern Caribbean cruise aboard HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam which sailed from Ft. Lauderdale January 23rd for seven nights. I would like to offer my comments about this vacation trip. For the record; we have ... Read More
We recently returned from the eastern Caribbean cruise aboard HAL's Nieuw Amsterdam which sailed from Ft. Lauderdale January 23rd for seven nights. I would like to offer my comments about this vacation trip. For the record; we have cruised approximately 14 times in the past on several cruise lines, mostly on medium sized ships such as the Nieuw Amsterdam. These cruises have included various destinations around the world, including a transatlantic trip. We had sailed once before with HAL on the Noordam in 2010 and loved it. We have always elected a verandah stateroom or mini suite as our accommodation, and spend a lot of time on the verandah for activities such as coffee and juice early in the A.M., reading, relaxing, socializing with the group that we generally cruise with, and taking photographs of scenery, ports etc. (I consider myself an advanced amateur photographer.) Just to be fair to HAL, we had originally booked a 14 night back to back cruise departing earlier in January, but reduced it to a seven day cruise to be in synch with our cruising group, who booked the seven night cruise. We had changed these accommodations at least five months before the cruise, and were assured that we would receive the same cabin class (superior verandah) that we had originally booked. I began to get suspicious when we were not given a room assignment until around 2 weeks before embarkation. Our travel agent had been checking with HAL and assured us that there would be no problem. Finally, we received an email from HAL allocating us a VQ stateroom on Deck 11. On the internet, it appeared to be a Spa stateroom with a verandah, but I called HAL just to confirm, because Deck 11 was a little isolated with only 10 similar rooms on that deck. The first person we talked to said that the verandahs on deck 11 were only "viewing verandahs" and didn't have room for seating etc. When I called our travel agent to complain, she also called HAL and was told that on the Nieuw Amsterdam, the Spa VQ verandahs were standard size, and not to worry! I also called and was told the same when I gave the agent our cabin number. She even asked me to hold while she confirmed that fact with her supervisor, who did indeed confirm a "regular" verandah. When we finally boarded, we found the VQ room to be fine, but the verandah on deck 11 was much smaller that other verandahs on the ship, or the VD cabin we had originally booked. Our cruise mates who were in VD rooms confirmed this observation. The two small chairs and tiny table barely fit. If you sat in a chair facing the water, your feet were practically in the drain gutter at the front of the verandah. Needless to say, we did not spend a great deal of time on our verandah and missed out on one of the prime reasons we cruise. When we registered a complaint at customer service, we were told that "you got what you paid for" and the ship was full. Technically, the service representative was legally correct, as with all the legal disclaimers in the contract, we probably could have been put up in a storage bin! My beef with HAL is that even after inquiring, we were misled about the balcony, and we could have been told when we changed our arrangements months before that we could wind up in such a cabin. I would caution anyone getting a cabin on Deck 11 to check with HAL about the verandah size before accepting a reservation there. Deck 11 otherwise is a neat location, being somewhat isolated but containing the Explorers Cafe and Crows Nest, one of our favorite places on the ship. Having been rather critical so far, I think in fairness to HAL (I wish they were as fair to me,) I should state that: The entire crew and staff including those in the cabin areas, food locations, venues etc. were all above excellent and helpful. The food and service in the main dining hall and Pinacle Grill was excellent. The food in the buffet areas was quite satisfactory. The ship itself was very elegant and ergonomically laid out. If it weren't for our verandah issue, we would have had a great time. Unfortunately, the cruise left us with memories of a poor experience, and a negative opinion about HAL. We did mention these complaints in out exiting comments document, but we have yet to hear from HAL. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Nieuw Amsterdam strengthens image of well run HAL Fleet. We took a previous cruise with HAL on the Westerdam in 2007 and enjoyed the service, efficiency and numerous stops. So when tasked with planning a family reunion vacation, HAL ... Read More
Nieuw Amsterdam strengthens image of well run HAL Fleet. We took a previous cruise with HAL on the Westerdam in 2007 and enjoyed the service, efficiency and numerous stops. So when tasked with planning a family reunion vacation, HAL was a quick pick for us. We knew what we were getting and our family wouldn't be disappointed. The Nieuw Amsterdam was HAL's newest ship and was just coming on stream in the Caribbean. Would they have worked their kinks out before our Jan 9th sail, as had been reported by other Cruise Critics? We flew to Fort Lauderdale the night before and stayed at the Westin Diplomat Resort. Its a little far from Port Everglades but we scored a great deal on Hotwire (125 a night) and booked enough rooms for our party. All I can say is wow! What a spectacular hotel! After the Westin spoiled my group, I was almost concerned that HAL might not be able to match up. I needn't have worried. We checked out of the Westin at around noon and leisurely made our way to the boat. The Nieuw Amsterdam was at terminal 26 and looked glorious as we drove up. Embarkation was absolutely seamless and we were in our room before you could say Queen Beatrix. Our family all booked the base verandah room, which was nice but tight for four people. We had young kids so we decided to upgrade for more space, with another HAL promotion we were able to secure room 7049 a deluxe suite with over 500 sq feet right across the hall from the Neptune Lounge. An absolutely phenomenal room, I've included a photo of our balcony on Joanie's website. Gorgeous patio and monster bathroom, with a wonderful adjacent powder room. The powder room was big enough to accommodate a standard collapsible playpen (joanie, please note ;) and this created a nice buffer zone for putting down our two kids. I highly recommend getting the bigger room if you have small kids, as you have the opportunity to enjoy dinner in your room more and won't be crammed. We took to the included nightly appetizers option in our room, starting at 5:00 p.m. and they went well with the bottles of wine my husband brought on board. HAL lets you bring on as much wine as you want so my husband brought a case. (The box ended up being used to store the 4 gift bottles of Champagne that each of our rooms received. We ended up shipping the box of Champagne to room 7049 for the Jan 16th sail date. Let us know if you got them! We don't drink Champagne.) Dinner on Sunday night was scheduled for a 5:45 p.m. early seating, but by the time our group got its act together we were stuck taking in the As you Wish dining on the second floor of the Manhattan dining room. We we're likely between seatings and so things went a little awry with a bit of a wait between courses. It seems every meal in the MDR was above par. Great taste and nice presentations. My husband ordered multiple entrEe's and they were brought promptly and laid in front of him like a personal buffet. The desserts were a stand out. The Dutch never miss the most important course of dinner. They had a solid "no sugar added" menu attached to the dessert list. That worked well for my husband who was avoiding sugar. All of the stops were great. Grand Turk started out the week with a bang. Perfect weather and only one other ship, which left as soon as we got there. Our gaggle of kids enjoyed Jimmy Buffet's pool, not sure my coke purchase covered our stay. San Juan was a lot of fun, nice walk around the west side of San Juan, don't bother with the free tram. Some of our group took the Rain Forest tour. It seems they all came back happy, and had great photos. Wednesday dinner was once again phenomenal, but I remember thinking to myself how this was the saddest day of the cruise as we were closer to home than to the beginning. Well, still not as sad as disembarkation, but close. Saint Martin was beautiful as usual, really hot and great shopping. However there were 6 boats in port including Allure of the Seas which really packs them in. The dock was a bit of a madhouse compared with past cruises, but really nothing to complain about. Friday, our last sea day, was fun as we planned a birthday party for our daughter in our room over the lunch hour. The Neptune Lounge staff did a great job of organizing this for us, even sending out invitations to our guests on our customized letterhead. Our family all showed up at about 5 to 12:00 and just as I was getting concerned about our food's arrival a seemingly unending parade of apps, lunch, desserts and cake arrived. The cake was amazing, though not too kid friendly. No complaints though, as Neptune waived all of the birthday charges and costs for additional guests at our party (app service is only for 6 guests). Friday dinner was the cruise standard Surf avec Turf, however again it was better than I remembered on Westerdam or the Celebrity cruise. The lobster tails were larger and tastier than other cruises and the steak was just as good as other nights that week. I usually would have ordered the jumbo shrimp as an appetizer but they sent a school to my daughter's birthday and my guests didn't eat too many...can't waste good shrimp! The chocolate and dessert buffet at ten pm was much superior to the last time I was on the Westerdam. I especially was impressed with the wall of custom Candy Apples. My husband also got a bridge tour from the Captain on Friday. He enjoyed it and was impressed to find out that the Captain personally moored the boat at every port, using the controls that were in the bridge that are present on each side of the bridge that jets out a little and has a glass floor. Half Moon Cay was the finale and our most anticipated stop. We secured the 4th Cabana (orange) about 6 months before sail date as cabana's were a hot commodity last time we cruised. On future visits to Half moon I would recommend getting Cabana 1 instead. Having the cabana was ideal for our shore lunch and putting our toddler down for a nap in his playpen. It warmed up in time for an afternoon swim, which was great cause we had snorkel gear for four included in our cabana rental. Our cabana was a short walk from the bbq food area, which was better than I remembered...they added a tasty steak to the menu. Hot steak on fine china, beachside? Nice. Only complaint for this stop was that with the second ship (Westerdam) it was a little crowded at tender-time for the return. If you miss the 1:45 p.m. tender you might as well stay at the beach and relax, the next tender isn't leaving till 2:20 and there is lots of room. This stop was designed I'm sure with the customer in mind. What do some guests often do when they get to a stop, they disembark but usually come back for Lunch and occasionally go back off the ship to finish their stay. Half Moon solves this problem with the awesome shore lunch/buffet. Providing your customers with all of the beach services they desire with a swipe of their room card is another amazing feature of this stop, including the new Captain Morgan Pirate ship bar. Half Moon may be HAL's greatest asset. Saturday night was the infamous Baked Alaska parade dinner. They even had a sugar free version, which my husband claimed was better than the real thing. Since we had an early lunch on shore, we decided to do an early dinner at the flex dining, and this time HAL nailed it. Everything came out fast and they even accommodated our big group of 16 with tables right beside each other. Sunday morning back at port started the same way with breakfast in the room and Lido. We had a nice get together at our usual table in Lido before getting off the ship. We asked for the last departure time 10:00 a.m. as we had no rush to our flight. At 10:00 our normally accommodating porter seemed a little less accommodating in his suggestion that 10:00 a.m. was the last disembarkation time (hint hint!). We complied and finally made our way down, though we probably could have chilled out in the Lido a little longer (note to self for next time). They want you out of your room by 10:00 am for the weekly full turnover, but there is no point going and waiting in the ghastly Fort Lauderdale airport. I'd recommend chilling out in the Lido, or if you are a suite guest stay in the Neptune. With the amount of traffic going through FLL you'd think they invest some money making it a little more accommodating. From their perspective I guess why would you care, Port Everglades isn't going anywhere. Oh well, Monopolies are hard to break. Some miscellaneous thoughts: The Museli is amazing for breakfast. The coffee is best in Neptune Lounge, as reported by other CC posts. The Pinnacle serves a great breakfast to Suite guests. I missed the Dutch late night buffet on the Saturday, but I hear it was good. Eating dinner in your suite should be done more often, especially on port night. We had a quick lunch in Pinnacle one afternoon, and the steak was spectacular. Blue cheese crust is a perfect balance of spark and tang. Worth doing at least once. The shows were well received by some of the older members of our party, but not the younger. A.J. the Magician was loved by all though. Conclusion: The heavy criticisms posted are NOT founded in reality. HAL delivers a solid cruise with fantastic food. Their stops are well planned and their private island is the envy of the industry. For the price Nieuw Amsterdam is well worth sailing anytime. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Sailed Nov 21, 2010 N.Amsterdam - first time Holland America. Daughter's wedding was held on Nov 21 at port before sailing. The wedding coordination handled by an HAL contracted service, Royal Ocean Events, went very well. That's ... Read More
Sailed Nov 21, 2010 N.Amsterdam - first time Holland America. Daughter's wedding was held on Nov 21 at port before sailing. The wedding coordination handled by an HAL contracted service, Royal Ocean Events, went very well. That's about all that went well on this cruise. We were a party of 16 (13 Adults/3 Children)- 6 cabins. We were under the assumption that HAL was a "premium" cruisline - far from it. There are so many cons to this new ship (cruiseline) it would take me a few hours to describe. Here it is in brief form: Service lacks in all departments. Manhattan Dining & Tamarind Asian - stay away. Pinnacle Grill was excellent the first night of sailing (held wedding dinner reception there) - booked for Thanksgiving and service went downhill! The food in the Pinnacle is the best on the entire ship. Lido Buffet repeats itself - everything tastes the same. We all mostly survived on hamburgers from the pool grill when opened. Food is EXTREMELY limited at all times including during the Half Moon Cay Island BBQ. At the buffet line you are served a limited portion. Phones do not work properly. Room service is very very slow, (up to 2hr wait) poor quality and limited menu. Coffee is awful - had to mix with 1/2 hot water everytime. Never met my room steward until the last night when he knocked at our door to give us a survey to be completed regarding the service...WHAT???? Cabins were cleaned everyday - no complaints there but we never saw by whom. This ship constantly rocks causing passengers to be sick. We recently sailed the Celebrity Solstice (Southern Caribbean) in June 2010 and never felt it move! New ship? Stabilizers? Don't think so! Staff is overworked and cannot possibly provide "excellence of service" as HAL boasts. No music whatsoever! Piped in 1920 jitterbug sounds by the pool instead of Caribbean calypso live band or CD! Employees continuously opened and closed dome over pool for no apparent reason - very annoying. Smokey vanity mirror in cabins - can't see yourself! Poor lighting in cabin.(Had floor to ceiling window and still dark). Ports are a waste of time unless stay is longer. We were shorted 1 hour in Puerto Rico. Half Moon Cay is a beautiful island however, if you book an excursion, you don't get to have lunch. It is served from 11:30am-1:30pm and if the food is gone before, it's over! Rented 2 cabanas (yellow & green) at $299 each. When booking it states you get sodas, water, snacks, snorkeling gear for 4 people. The snacks consisted of one dish with 1 slice of cantaloupe, 1 slice watermelon, 1/2 strawberry and some leaf on top as decor. Another dish with 2 sticks of celery, 2 long slices of carrots, 1 grape tomato and ranch sauce. 1 small basket of nacho chips with salsa, guacamole and ranch. 8 Cans of soda and 4 waters. This...for 4 people. It is a rip-off. Registered the three children (11,9,5) in camp which they enjoyed. However, at one point the 5 year old was allowed to leave with the parent although the child did not appear as attending the camp that evening. We found ourselves for the first time in 10 cruises having to adjust the automatic gratuity charges the last day of the cruise. We declined to pay this and only gave the "ghostly" steward his portion in cash. We certainly do not recommend this ship nor the cruise-line and will not be sailing to South America in March2011 on the Vandeem as planned. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Nieuw Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.5 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.5 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.1

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