12 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean

Having only cruised with Celebrity Cruise Line before we were a little apprehensive sailing with Holland America. We needn't have worried. Overall I would say that I just about preferred it to Celebrity but accept this may in some ... Read More
Having only cruised with Celebrity Cruise Line before we were a little apprehensive sailing with Holland America. We needn't have worried. Overall I would say that I just about preferred it to Celebrity but accept this may in some way be due to the fact that having sailed on the same class of ship for four years perhaps I'm just a bit bored with the same look, style etc. The ship was smart and well maintained, embarkation and debarkation both went well. The food, in my opinion, was slightly better on the HAL although I would have liked to have seen more variety. There didn't appear to be as much selection at breakfast than you get on the Celebrity but it was still more than adequate. Some reviewers have complained that as you cannot help yourself that the portions you get served are small. This is true however I found that you just ask for more and they give it to you so it really isn't a problem. One other area where Celebrity are better is that they have a coffee bar that serves different types of coffee in proper cups and glasses right up to midnight. I used this facility at the end of virtually every night. HAL have a bar that sells coffee in paper cups but only until 10pm which means if you want a coffee before going to bed you had to go back to your room and order room service. Stateroom was good with plenty of storage and the stateroom attendant was like a Ninja. If you left the room, walked to the lift, realised you had forgotten something and returned to the room, it had been cleaned !!!!! Demographic was a bit old but that may have been due to the time of year, we have never been on holiday at the end of September before. It wasn't exactly like "The march of the living dead", in fact most were quite spritely however I'm 54 which, let's face it, isn't young but I felt like a teenager compared to most of the other passengers. The overall age group on board may also have been the reason why in the evening the main bars were empty and laking in any atmosphere at all. It was as if we were the only people on board at times. There were exceptions however. The BB King Bar was great, fantastic music and singers, my favourite bar. The piano bar also had some good nights as well. Entertainment was poor. On introducing the comedian they mentioned that he had written for the BBC, I think they meant to say that he had written TO the BBC. He was poor unless you like material from the 70's. The only funny jokes we're recycled Tommy Cooper classics. But like the dancers and singers in the shows you can understand why they are working on cruise ships. But good luck to them, they are making a living. The quality of the tours were the same as on the Celebrity, probably because they all use the same shore organisations. What I didn't like about HAL is that if you cancelled your tour you were charged a 10% cancellation fee however if you cancelled less than three days in advance you had a 100% cancellation fee. On Celebrity you could cancel without charge unto 24 hours before the tour. Drinks package is not worth it. This was the first time we didn't take it and we saved money and still had a drink when ever we wanted. Transfers if your port is Venice - DON'T BUY THE HAL TRANSFERS. The transfers cost £126 per person, so £252. We bought them as we were told that this was "door to door" - yer right !! When we arrived in Venice we had to walk with our cases for about 15 minutes to reach the coach. We later found out that a taxi would have cost 45 Euro total each way, a saving of around £180 probably. Despite any negative comments I have made above, we did enjoy the cruise and overall I would say that our experience was just slightly better than that we have had on the Celebrity Line but only by the smallest of margins, not a lot in it at all. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We have travelled on a variety of cruise lines Ncl, Princess, Rcl and P&O and thought we would try a new line. We were very excited to be travelling on a 5 star line...what a disappointment! The good Large inside cabin, ports of ... Read More
We have travelled on a variety of cruise lines Ncl, Princess, Rcl and P&O and thought we would try a new line. We were very excited to be travelling on a 5 star line...what a disappointment! The good Large inside cabin, ports of call and the length of the stops. BB Blues singers and musicians were magnificient high energy and talented. Formula one tour was good. Drink prices were average and take advantage of the happy hours. Very efficient boarding and disembarkation. Arrived and departed ports on time and a smooth sail for the duration of the cruise. The bad Terrible food cold, under or overcooked and repetitive. Buffet serving areas were closed before the listed times. if you came back to the ship around 3pm following a day ashore or wanted a late night snack after 11pm the only thing to eat was room service or tortillas, burger or pizza every day this becomes very repetitive and unhealthy. Definitely not a five star experience. Entertainment does not compare with any other ship we have travelled on. Dire with the exception of the afore mentioned musicians. Most guest acts were 20 years out of date in particular the comedian. Very little entertainment activities during the day. The port shuttles offered by the ship were overpriced at 16 dollars for a 10-15 min journey. I wouldn't recommend this ship to travellers under the age of 55 as very little to do thank goodness we could spend most the time off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
The good: - service was pleasing and top-notch throughout the ship, but I felt that pool staff was considerably slow in removing empty plates/glasses; some individuals were better than others, just like on any other cruise line; our ... Read More
The good: - service was pleasing and top-notch throughout the ship, but I felt that pool staff was considerably slow in removing empty plates/glasses; some individuals were better than others, just like on any other cruise line; our cabin stewards were superb, but this is always hit-or-miss; - food was well above average, but portions have been substantially downsized; some of the appetizers in the main dining room were almost laughable (two dime-sized scallops one evening); build-your-own pizza kitchen by the adults' pool was really excellent; - cleanliness throughout the ship, especially in public restrooms; unlike previous cruises, I never saw a single used room-service tray waiting to be picked up on hallways; - Spa was decent -- nothing fancy, but the thermal rooms were nice enough; - Jeremy, on-board pianist at the Piano Bar, is a truly gifted entertainer The bad and the ugly: - we've always read about the predominance of older passenges on HAL, but had never truly experienced this issue in our previous cruises; this was most definitely a problem this time around, in what appeared to be the 80-80 cruise (80% of passengers in the 80-year old range); by and large these elderly passengers have a distinct sense of entitlement, move slowly and occupy tons of space, cut in front of lines; - The so-called cruise director; one rarely comes across such a useless individual occupying this type of position; well, unless you count "learming to use your Microsoft Office calendar" and "Salsa with host Sabine" as interesting activities at sea; - tenders: one of the most irritating systems ever devised in a cruise ship; you line up like cattle in a looooong hallway, just to receive a numbered card; after that you take a seat at a dancing hall with zero amenities and wait for your number to be called; no priority for Mariner-status or suite-level cruisers, no way to reserve a time-slot in advance; this must have been the idea of a Soviet-era planner; - let me emphasize that Jeremy the piano man was the only exception -- entertainment on the Nieuw Amsterdam varies from pitiful to non-existent; what an eyesore it was to see a bunch of ladies "learning belly dancing" at the Crow's Nest on at least three occasions. I felt bad for the hapless barman watching the scene and hearing the dreadful soundtrack. At night, all bars on deck 3 looked like ghost towns after 9:00pm; not a single source of music (not even Muzak) was available to entertain us on deck 3 after dinner; on two occasions the ship's "major" attraction was a musical show featuring... the Philippino crew. Seriously, who comes up with something like this and chalks it up as entertainment?!? How to please an audience with tastes predominantly adapted to a nursing home routine; - shore excrusions: waaaaaay over-priced and most definitely underwhelming; the interests and peeves of the elderly passengers just made them worse; on board shopping: not sure if it's a matter of laughing or crying; maybe both, unless you reeeeeaaaally like "replica sunglasses" or the sort of tawdry items that Bijoux Terner sells at airports; - little things, like the fact that Nieuw Amsterdam consistently docked at the farthest possible pier, even when larger ships took prime spots at every single port we visited; I didn't even bother asking about this because there would surely be some kind of lame and murky excuse along the lines of "berth depth" or "operational reasons"; in Santorini HAL clearly gave us the short end of the stick, with a late arrival of 9:00am and early departure at 3:30pm, then shamelessly blaming this on "Greek authorities", which for some reason appeared to be much more flexible with other cruise ships visiting the island on that day; our Captain then generously apologized for this "minor inconvenience" by offering each adult guest... a free glass of sparkling wine at dinner. Wow, how generous...tsc, tsc, tsc. - scheduling: what kind of cruise line manages to bring its passangers to Santorini on a constrained schedule (9:00am - 3:30pm) on the same day when four other major ships are visiting the island?!? I checked port-of-call website and learned that there were 13,000 cruisers visiting Santorini on that day, so you can imagine what a nightmare the island was -- not to mention the cable car lines. On the following day just a single ship was going to visit the island. It begs the question of what kind of useless staffer creates and manages itineraries at HAL (which changed a couple of times after we purchased the cruise); last but not least: by far (and I really mean by far) the worst and most disorganized emergency drill we ever experienced on a cruise; cruise drills are naturally annoying but this went several notches above (or below, if you prefer); if drills are a reasonable measure of survival in case of a real emergency, our odds of survival would be marginal, at best; My biggest regret? Having chosen HAL over Celebrity for this particular cruise, only because HAL's itinerary featured one additional day (12 over Celebrity's 11). Celebrity is not perfect, but it would have certainly offered us a better ship and a more interesting crowd to travel with. Bottom line? I don't think HAL will see us on board its ships any time soon. Never say never, because one day we'll turn 70 and then match HAL's prevailing demographics. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
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 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
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
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
We are a couple in our early fifties and have cruised a few times with most of the major lines over the years. We traveled with friends of the same age who are first time cruisers, our 24 year old daughter and her 78 year old grandmother. ... Read More
We are a couple in our early fifties and have cruised a few times with most of the major lines over the years. We traveled with friends of the same age who are first time cruisers, our 24 year old daughter and her 78 year old grandmother. We booked two staterooms that were the lowest level balcony guarantee and one inside guarantee and received aft balcony cabins 6177 and 6179 with adjoining balconies and an inside cabin directly across the hall. We were very pleased with our assignment and the fact that they were able to keep us together. This was our first time on Holland. Our most recent cruise had been on Celebrity Solstice and we found HAL to be similar in many ways to Celebrity. We arrived in Venice one day pre-cruise and spent our first night at Hotel Olimpia near Piazza Roma. The next day we wanted to spend as much time as possible in the city so we left our luggage at the hotel until around 4:30 p.m., walked to the People Mover and were on board the ship within minutes. At the time we arrived there were no other passengers in the terminal so we were able to walk right on with our luggage arriving just after we found our staterooms. The staterooms were spacious with plenty of storage. The beds were comfortable and we especially enjoyed being able to open the balcony partition between our two cabins for even more space. Our cabin stewards were very friendly and kept our room tidy. We had one small issue with the air conditioning not keeping the room as cool as we like and after a couple of days they were able to make an adjustment and the temp was comfortable for the remainder of the cruise. Since the ship is new I am sure they are still working out some of the small issues. I pre-ordered two bottles of liquor, a wine card, coffee card and specialty dining reservations and all were in our room when we arrived. The only issue was that the wine card that I ordered was for 20 glasses and the card was for 10. One visit to the front desk and this was taken care of. It does seem that they are phasing out the cards as they had some trouble locating a 20 glass card but we found them to be a good value for wine by the glass. We were assigned anytime dining which worked well for us as we were in port until late afternoon most days. This was our first time without scheduled dining and we were very pleased. We usually arrived in the dining room around 7:00 p.m. and never encountered any wait. We especially enjoyed the fact that the Lido had many of the same entrees as the main dining room and when we did not feel like dressing for the dining room we still felt like we had an excellent dinner. The food in all venues was among the best we have experienced on any ship. We dined in Tamarind for our daughter's 24th birthday and thought the meal was wonderful. If the cruise had not been so port intensive we would have definitely visited this restaurant again. The seafood lunch buffet in the Lido on the last sea day was especially good. The entertainment on board was enjoyable. We did not attend a show every night but the ones we did attend were entertaining. We spent some time in the piano bar and enjoyed having drinks in the evening in the various lounges but usually were in our cabin by 11:00 each night. We are all non-smokers but had no issues with the smoking policy on the ship. We never noticed any scent of smoke with the exception of a very small section of the aft pool dining area or the casino. We did not book any of our shore excursions with HAL. I am sure they were excellent but we prefer small group sightseeing. I used my research on this site and booked private excursions for our group of 6 at all ports and we were very pleased with all. I can only think of one thing that I was not pleased with and that was the internet service. I purchased the smallest package which was $50 +. I had a notebook and attempted to connect and spent about 20 minutes logging into one site. My patience wore thin and I never attempted again. I brought it to stay in touch periodically with our offices but we managed to get by without and wished I had not wasted the money. Debarkation in Barcelona was just as easy as embarkation. We walked directly off the ship, found our luggage easily and were out of the terminal in 10 minutes. Thanks to the wonderful crew and staff of the Nieuw Amsterdam for a wonderful vacation! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Our group of ten consisted of family and friends (6 male, 4 female), aged between 24 to 56 years. Most of us have cruised before. My wife, our son and I have cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean several times before. This is our 4th ... Read More
Our group of ten consisted of family and friends (6 male, 4 female), aged between 24 to 56 years. Most of us have cruised before. My wife, our son and I have cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean several times before. This is our 4th 12 night cruise in Europe and our first cruise with HAL. Ship Info : Lovely new ship - that's why we picked this cruise. Small atrium area - not as spectacular as other ships we have been on. Generally, the dEcor was tasteful and functional. Lots of very comfortable places to sit alone or to spend time together. Service : Room stewards were fabulous - always helpful and accommodating. Waiting staff were attentive and very professional. Tuxedo hire was a disaster. On Day 1, we purchased 6 tuxedos for the men, but only 1 tuxedo that fitted could be found. We are all fairly average in physique. Consequently, five men in our group had to attend the formal nights underdressed. We had been given promises and had been charged for the tuxedos, but it was right up to the hour before we had dinner on the first formal night that we realised that promises were empty. As it was, most people didn't even bother getting dressed up. Very disappointing compared to the tuxedo service and formal nights on other cruises. Internet service was slow and a little expensive. Laundry Service - We opted for the $85 Unlimited Laundry package. We got good value from this. However, others experienced some problems. Sometimes, the returns took 2-3 days. Clothing was not pressed (is that an extra charge?). The Front Desk are the single portal to all services. For instance, we were unable to contact the tailor or the laundry directly. This caused long queues and waiting times. On other cruises we could deal directly with the separate services. Port & Shore Excursions : Awesome ports. Split was interesting. Shopping around the Diocletian Palace is great. Athens is always good fun. Although the new Museum was a little disappointing - wonderful building but a little thin on exhibits. Mykonos - Party town - don't miss Paradise Beach after dark !! Istanbul - Awesome! The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Palace are just breath-taking. Also don't miss the Grand Bazaar - hours and hours of stalls. Catch the light rail from the dock to everywhere. Kusadasi - We travelled to Pamukkale- the Cotton Castles - the highlight of the cruise. The markets in Kusadasi are good too. Santorini - Plan to get to shore later than expected (thanks to HAL). Catch the Cable Car up. We hired open-top Smart cars - the roads are chaotic and the beaches are poor. More fun hanging around town. Beware of the trip back down to the tenders. Allow plenty of time. The Cable Car had a queue 90 minutes long. The donkey trail down was quicker, but very slippery and very aromatic !! Katakalon - small town. The beach 4km away is excellent. Hire a quad or a scooter for next to nothing. Last chance for cheap Ouzo. Tenders: We had tender services at Split and Santorini. HAL have a policy of giving priority to passengers going on HAL excursions. Consequently, if you were going ashore independently, you had to wait and wait and wait. For instance, at Santorini we "docked" at 8am, HAL excursions were given priority and had exclusive use of the tenders until 9:30, when independent passengers could start to queue. We were at the start of the queue, but still didn't get to shore until 10:30. We then had to queue for a Cable Car to the town. HAL were not interested in the fact that we had booked a private excursion for 9am. On top of this, HAL only revealed this "priority" arrangement late the previous night in the newsletter. Therefore we had little opportunity to change our arrangements. Stateroom : Well set out, with plenty of drawer and wardrobe space, but lacked lighting in the wardrobe. The walls are thin - we could clearly hear conversations, doors slamming and footsteps outside. Warning, Warning - do not book the following rooms: Cabins 7129, 7125 : a loud mechanical banging noise near the rear wall ceiling, starts randomly at about 4:00am and continues until the late morning. HAL could not identify the cause and we were moved after 5 sleepless nights. Cabin 5024: the air-cond was broken and was stuck on the coldest setting. It was like a meat safe and is impossible to sleep. I believe the Front desk already knew this room was problematic, but still moved us there. Both moves we had to do ourselves with no assistance and this wasted two mornings. Our final cabin, 6136 was great - we finally could sleep after 6 terrible nights. The Front Desk did not appear to care that this was inconvenient for us. Perhaps they are understaffed. We even had to forgo time ashore in order to try and catch up on sleep. Dining : We opted for Open Seating Dining - what a mistake. Although the food was excellent, the dining room booking system seemed to be tedious and the Madredie appeared to have difficulty driving the software. We had great difficulty getting a table for 10, when tables for 11 sat empty all night. Consequently we had dinner at the Tamarind on a couple of occasions. It was very pleasant, nice food, but twice was probably enough. Even here, we had to book for a 6pm or 9:30pm seating. Again, the majority of the tables were not used all night. We were unable to book the Pinnacle Grill - it too, looked as though it had empty tables. Perhaps people book and just don't turn up? Dining on the Lido deck was fine. Good variety and combinations of tasty food. Seating was ample. Entertainment : Good quality entertainment. The comedian was genuinely funny and the singers and entertainers were very professional. The band was super. Ample, comfortable seating in the main auditorium. The entertainer in the Piano Bar was outstanding. He really engaged the crowd and had a good repertoire. Most people on board were fairly conservative, hence places like the Northern Lights disco were very quiet and totally died before midnight. The Casino was small, but adequate. The croupiers were good, but again the atmosphere was quiet. It appeared that 90% of the 2000 passengers went to bed at 10pm !! Disembarkation : smooth, efficient and quick. We opted for the 9:45 exit. Summary : Disappointing response from HAL to the problems we had with our cabin(s) and suit hire etc. No real apology and no compensation, which spoilt our experience. HAL doesn't appear to be interested in problems, just maximising profit. Unfortunately, this means we will not cruise with HAL again. Better fun and value for money with other cruise lines.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My wife and I took our 12 year old granddaughter on the the Nieuw Amsterdam in July. It was the second voyage for the ship but the first time for these ports. (Maiden voyage was to the western Med). The itinerary included Split, Katakalon, ... Read More
My wife and I took our 12 year old granddaughter on the the Nieuw Amsterdam in July. It was the second voyage for the ship but the first time for these ports. (Maiden voyage was to the western Med). The itinerary included Split, Katakalon, Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykanos and Santorini. Other than Santorini, it's a great itinerary and we had terrific great excursions. I highly recommend the "Olympia and Zorba" excursion on Katakalon. Great viewing, great fun. Our granddaughter was so exhausted from the dancing she slept the whole trip back to the ship. The ship itself is OK. It seems almost identical to the Noordam which we took in Julu 2009. We had a Veranda suite on deck 5. These rooms have no desk drawers and limited shelf space in the closet area. The only drawers are in the nighttables and big ones under the bed which are not very useful and take up space for suitcases. The desktop fills very quickly with chargers, cameras, papers,flowers, etc.and there is only a very small coffee table to put anything on. The bathroom is small with very little shelf space and no medicine cabinet. There were some air conditioning problems for most of days but not too bad, considering the daily highs were about 95 - 100F. There are a lot more bars and eating areas than on the older, smaller ships which I much prefer. I don't understand the bars as HAL doesn't normally get a big drinking crowd and indeed most of the bars did not seem to get a lot of business. The Tamerind restaurant did not seem prepared for even a half full house, with extremely slow service by both the wait staff and the kitchen. The food was very good. The Pinnacle service and food were excellent as usual. Additional ports visited were Mykanos and Santorini. Mykanos was interesting. Santorini is extremely hilly and without interest. Read Less
Sail Date July 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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