1 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Group and Theme Cruise Reviews

Review Blues Cruise January 18 – 25 Nieuw Amsterdam This was our 6th Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. 2 on the Eurodam, 3 on the Nieuw Amsterdam, 1 on the NCL Sun. The cruise is fully chartered. This cruise is sold out every year, ... Read More
Review Blues Cruise January 18 – 25 Nieuw Amsterdam This was our 6th Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. 2 on the Eurodam, 3 on the Nieuw Amsterdam, 1 on the NCL Sun. The cruise is fully chartered. This cruise is sold out every year, and it is sold out for January 2016. Cabins do come up if someone cancels. These ships sails very full as many of the 3rd and 4th bunks are occupied. Many folks will share with strangers just to get on board. I was not able to find out the exact number of people on this cruise. It was not listed on the cruise log given out at the end. The ships senior officers were none too friendly and seemed to huddle together and not mingle (which was a bit odd, the usually do), so I wasn’t able to ask anyone. I was particularly unimpressed with Basheer the Beverage Manager, who actually did his very best to ignore hubby and I in an elevator. He seemed to be running away from folks all week. More on that later. The Blues cruise is quite a bit different from a regular snooze cruise. Essentially, we take over the ship and venues are tailored for music. The timing of dining venues is changed to be presumably more suitable for the hours of the music for the week. The onboard entertainment is suspended, and those folks are given the option on whether or not to stay on board. The spa and salon run pretty much business as usual. The week before the blues cruise the Nieuw Amsterdam lost power in one of the engines. I am not sure, but that may have been the cause of a few wonky power supply issues for the first day of the cruise. Our sail away party, which is a huge party that almost everyone attends, is a BBQ and has a one of the headliners playing. This year it was to be Charlie Musslewhite. The BBQ was put out but no music. HAL cuts back on dining room hours during the blues cruise. They aren’t open for breakfast or lunch and have open seating for dinner. The cafeteria is open much longer hours and stays open til something like 3am, the pizza place stays open til about 4am. There is self-serve and salt and pepper shakers all week, no restrictions. We have had the same cabin (8157) for three years in a row. 2013 we experienced the toilet not working most of the week and a grubby cabin. 2014, everything seemed ok. We had good cabin stewards, so the cabin was cleaner. 2015…sigh….toilet troubles, this time just a day, but we had A/C issues. It didn’t work for hours at a time for several days. The sewage smell in the deck 8 starboard aft hallway was horrible off and on for the whole week. There were several maintenance workers up and down the hall all week. The retractable roof was not properly operational. It clunked and screeched every time they tried to use it. The last day they opened and closed it about 15 times. We were stuck waiting to get off the ship, so it was annoying! On January 22nd it was a sea day. We did not move one inch. We sat in the water until the evening. I assumed that they were doing repairs on the engine. Late in the afternoon there were puffs of dark brown exhaust coming out of one stack. It wasn’t much and didn’t bother anyone, I guessed they were testing the engine. The broken engine didn’t affect the actual sailing or port time. Funny thing, most folks didn’t even notice we weren’t moving. There was so much going on with the music. The music starts about noon and carries on til the morning. The jams went on til 7am this year, Mr. Sipp and Tab Benoit saw to that! The music was great, so many talented musicians! To see line ups for the LRBC you can check the website bluescruise.com. The list is just too long! This cruise, we ate with friends in the MDR twice, which is very unusual for us. We only eat in the specialty restaurants, all ships, all lines. Oh dear. The food was horrible in the MDR. Awful. Blech. The first time I played it safe, I ordered a Caesar salad and a strip loin. I got wet lettuce, no dressing, and some kind of soggy grated cheese product. The strip loin was ¼” thick. I kid you not. It was laughable. I asked for a potato, it was cold. The next time I ordered a chicken breast. It was a tiny chicken supreme, covered in a really salty sauce. It came with really salty vegetables. I just couldn’t bear going back, so it was Tamarind three nights and one night at the Pinnacle. The food at the BBQ sailaway was awful as well. Wafer thin chicken pieces and some yucky butt rubbed meat with yucky butt rubbed potato salad. A comment about the Tamarind and the Pinnacle. We have eaten in both places many, many times, usually three nights in one, four nights in the other. Rarely have we gone into Canaletto. It drives me nuts that HAL does not staff the Tamarind or Pinnacle properly. I have been told this flat out by the restaurant managers. They don’t have the staff to run a full restaurant. One night at the Tamarind, we got there early at 6pm (we time dinner for when the musicians eat and not play) not one single person was in the restaurant. The manager told us he couldn’t seat us. He didn’t know how the evening was shaping up. Seriously. He told us to come back at 7pm. We did. The place was half full. They seated us, but it made no sense. They don’t have enough staff. HAL needs a kick in the butt to learn how to run specialty restaurants properly. I know much has been mentioned about staffing levels. I did notice a difference. HAL does not seem to have enough staff to clean. The cabin stewards are definitely stretched too thin. Ferry and Novy, our stewards just seemed to be overworked. From what I gather, I think HAL stewards have more cabins to clean than on other lines. They don’t seem to get much of a break during the day. It used to be late afternoon, there were no carts, it was quiet in the halls. Not now. Even with the odd hours folks keep on the blues cruise, this year it really seemed the stewards had too many cabins. There was minimal cleaning of public areas like stairways. The ship is looking grubby, it has been like that for the past two cruises, but now, some of the carpets are just disgusting. The carpets were dirty on deck 8 aft, but when I took a jaunt down to deck 4 aft, to see our friends, that carpet there is revolting. The ship needs to go to dry-dock. The white (cough cough) leather chairs in the crow’s nest should be pushed to the curb. They are disgusting. I definitely would not sit in one. Ewwwww. The crew worked their butts off. As per usual, there were requests to work the Blues cruise. Walter, drink server extraordinaire, was supposed to start vacation the week of the Blues cruise, but he requested to stay on for the week! Walter was everywhere! He got this huge glow in the dark skull necklace from somewhere, so you could see him coming from way off! Abel and Karen, other bar staff took little dancing breaks when they could. They have done three blues cruises and really seem to enjoy the music, hard work and great money they make for the week. I noticed lots of young officers on this cruise. Like 22 year olds. They were out in full force at night on their time off (judging by the beer and wine consumed!) dancing and having fun. The shoppies and the steiner girls were on the dance floor(s) after their shifts. The senior officers, were a little different story. On several cruises the senior officers come out to dance, have drinks, party and chat. Not so much this time. Yes, they were there on deck, with beers, but they seemed to be in a huddle, off to one side. It was odd. No friendly hellos. Or “are you having a good time”. It was very strange. As I mentioned before, Basheer seemed to run past people, not making eye contact, going out of his way to avoid guests. Yes, the food is pretty bad, but he didn’t need to run away. No one was blaming him. I have to admit, I am tired of the line ups in the cafeteria, since they won’t open the dining rooms during the day, tired of the greasy burgers and cardboard pizza. The ship is just not as well maintained as it should be for a newer ship. After the fall blues cruise on NCL where the senior officers really care and take an interest in their guests, it is disheartening to come back to HAL and the officers don’t even bother to say hi to anyone. I know after the fall cruise, a senior officer on NCL told me the reason HAL gets the blues cruise is they underbid other lines, that no one could match the cheap price of HAL. It shows. So many things just don’t happen on this charter. No fruit in the cabins (the bowl gets removed), no mariner perks (this time they relented on one or two things after they were called out by 4*mariners on board), no breakfast or lunch in the dining room, the cafeteria does not open both lines even with hundreds of people milling about, not enough crew cleaning or serving in the dining venues. I doubt the LRBC will change lines if HAL is so cheap. We are thinking of not going next January. I think we need a break from HAL. We absolutely had a blast on the blues cruise overall. It was wonderful to see friends, listen to music and dance the days and nights away! The weather was really good all week, just cloudy and windy the last sea day, so everything booked on the pool deck got moved inside. The musicians were fabulous. The actors in the Bessie Smith story were wonderful. The music, voice, songwriters workshops are great, something for everyone.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
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 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
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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