20 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam Holiday Cruise Reviews

We had a two week cruise around the Eastern and Western Caribbean on the Nieuw Amsterdam at the end of January 2015. After a flight from London Heathrow on an American Airlines plane, there was a weather system of some sort so hours of ... Read More
We had a two week cruise around the Eastern and Western Caribbean on the Nieuw Amsterdam at the end of January 2015. After a flight from London Heathrow on an American Airlines plane, there was a weather system of some sort so hours of turbulence made the flight uncomfortable, we made it to Miami. As the ESTA system was supposed to make life easier for tourists I don’t know what went wrong there but it took us over two hours to get through immigration. If we ever go on a Caribbean cruise again it will not be through the USA. We spent one night in the Sonesta hotel in Fort Lauderdale then boarded our ship. There was some problem at the boarding stage so it took over two hours to get through the system. We were in an inside cabin 7105 and it was quite comfortable. The air conditioning worked reasonably well but was slow to react when changing the dial, the bed was comfortable and the shower was very good. There was only one chair so being in the cabin wasn’t that comfortable. The first week we sailed the Eastern Caribbean to Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St Thomas and we were supposed to stop at Half Moon Cay but the weather dictated we didn’t so we had an extra day at sea. It was cold in the evening on that part of the cruise and seemed to rain every night. The second week we sailed to Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West. The weather was warmer for this week. We paid $45 each for a trip on Grand Turk and it was money wasted. There is very little to see there. On Tuesday January 27th we booked a trip for the following day on Puerto Rico at a cost of over $100 for two. I became ill the following morning so couldn’t go on the trip and my wife didn’t want to leave me. I spent two days in my cabin, missing Puerto Rico and St Thomas, and when my wife went to see the Shore Excursions team they said that we would have to cancel the excursion on the Monday, the day before we booked it, to get a refund. That made me mad. They have no idea of customer service so that makes me think I shall never use them again. We did several other trips with the ship and in the main they were ok, especially the one in Cozumel where we went to see the ruins at San Gervasio. However, on Key West we took an elongated trolley trip but there is very little to see outside of the main town. I had been led to believe that the USA was cheap but Key West is certainly not. The food on the ship was quite good with breakfast and lunch in the Lido being very good. However in the evening there was little on offer and I can only assume the management are of the opinion most people would eat in the main restaurants, which is not the case. We only eat in the main restaurant twice during our cruise. The first time it took two and a half hours and although the second time it only took an hour, we had a table for two, the restaurant was freezing so we were glad to get out of there. The entertainment was pretty good with the star of the cruise being a Steel Band from Trinidad called Island Magic. The BB King Blues Band are very good. Overall the Nieuw Amsterdam is a cold ship with air conditioning making many of the public rooms feeling inhospitable and on several occasions we had to leave an event because it was just too cold. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Are you looking for a show that is different and wonderful? I highly recommend the Cantaré show on the Nieuw Amsterdam that I have seen a total of five times on two cruises. (I got to see it so many times because my 14-day cruise is a sum ... Read More
Are you looking for a show that is different and wonderful? I highly recommend the Cantaré show on the Nieuw Amsterdam that I have seen a total of five times on two cruises. (I got to see it so many times because my 14-day cruise is a sum of two seven-day cruises, Western and then Eastern Caribbean. I've been on this cruise twice.) The show is simple. It is four male singers from the ship's entertainment company, but the choices of the music, the staging, and the arrangements are perfection. I got three CD's, one for my house, one for my car, and one as a gift. It all was part of a very lovely cruise over Thanksgiving on a very nicely laid out ship. There are great entertainment venues, and the ship is new and well appointed. The food was good. The staterooms attendants about the best we've ever had. Only one problem. Being Thanksgiving, there were 200+ children on board. They were more apparent than on most other cruise lines I've been on. Most were lovely and a pleasure to be around, but then there were a few whom the parents didn't even bother to try and control. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Two week Christmas /New Year back to back cruise of eastern/western Caribbean. Family group of grand parents, parents and two boys 11 and 8 from the UK.. Stayed at the Hyatt pier 17 before embarkation, well placed and relaxing. Embarkation ... Read More
Two week Christmas /New Year back to back cruise of eastern/western Caribbean. Family group of grand parents, parents and two boys 11 and 8 from the UK.. Stayed at the Hyatt pier 17 before embarkation, well placed and relaxing. Embarkation very easy and balcony cabin lovely and loads of storage. Tried all three speciality restaurants and loved the Tamarind. Main dining room a delight and food and service faultless. We also had breakfast in there most days .Kids club was a huge success, plenty of children on board and very well organised. Our boys loved all the activities and the staff were great. Christmas Day and New Years eve were excellent, and the activities brilliant. Father Christmas was wonderful. The New years eve party in the main showroom was great fun and our boys ended up dancing on the stage. The crew were lovely. I enjoyed all the shows. Half Moon Key as ever was delightful. Holland America should advertise it more. We did our own shore trips although on the back to back day at Fort Lauderdale, we did the airboat tour to the Everglades and that was very enjoyable. We had an early flight so were off the boat by 8am. Back in the UK with some wonderful memories Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We were three families 6 cabins. We did our Xmas/New Year’s Eve (14 nights back to back) cruise on Holland America’s (HAL) newer ship the Nieuw Amsterdam this year 2013/14. We switched from Princess to HAL a few years back because HAL ... Read More
We were three families 6 cabins. We did our Xmas/New Year’s Eve (14 nights back to back) cruise on Holland America’s (HAL) newer ship the Nieuw Amsterdam this year 2013/14. We switched from Princess to HAL a few years back because HAL is one of the few remaining cruise lines that allows you to have a smoke on your balcony otherwise we would still be on Princess. I just heard RCCL has also “outlawed” smoking on balconies also! I find this sad they cannot accommodate smokers in some manner in allowing balcony smoking. I guess the remaining cruise lines left to harvest of vacation dollars other than HAL that allow smoking on balcomies are the mother ship cruise line, Carnival and now NCL which we are happily exploring again as options. We have many cruises under our belt, maybe 50 since 2002. Cruising has been as very good vacation value over these years for us. Usuallly the airfare is the bigger consideration in determining whether we take a cruise. Let me get back to this cruise. This year was a cheap year for a holiday cruise. It must be the ecomony. The cabins were going for more than 65% off for the last few months before sailing. I find Holland OK but an older crowd for sure. I should say that I am 59 years old. I get the feeling (talking to the people in the casino) that most of the younger families with small kids on these Holland cruise, were there as invited guests of the grandparents and that is fine. It’s too bad the HAL cruise line would never give a thought to having one on the many countdown locations, for New Years Eve, on the open-air Lido deck. I still remember on our first New Years Eve cruise years back on Carnival’s Spirit(2003) what a great party atmosphere under the stars. I imagined at the time it was as good an atmosphere as being NYC in time square. I am so excited for the new NCL big ships that are coming out, having fireworks every cruise. What a simple marvel idea! The drink packages are a great NEW idea for those wishing to sign up for it. Obviously some young business analyst pointed this out to the finance people in the cruise industry. I think a no brainer as they say. Other than the other mega cruise conglomerates, the all inclusive resort competition is providing a holiday package where the cost of drinks is off the table. It is included! Worse than that when you think about it, booze on the high seas is tax free. That average drink they charged $8 for, cost them probably less than 20 cents gross before other expenses. Also missing on HAL is any late night adult entertainment as other cruise lines are often providing. Other than that, the chef’s, dining area/room and cabin steward staff is top shelf as they normally are with all cruise lines I have found. And that is the major reason today a cruise is better than an all-inclusive vacation. The 2nd reason is the casino staff experience is still better than anything at an all-inclusive. Watch out once they figure that out. Tip to HAL: take the lido deck extra tables you have tried squeezing in and have been placed in the walking pedestrian area in the lido desk out! Nothing worse than bumping into and walking around dazed people every single day of the cruise in the lido deck when it gets very busy. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We have a lovely time sailing with Nieuw Amsterdam. Ship was beautiful, clean and uncluttered. We did experience a few issues. The transfer from the airport to the ship (organized by HAL) was not good. Because of weather and flight delays ... Read More
We have a lovely time sailing with Nieuw Amsterdam. Ship was beautiful, clean and uncluttered. We did experience a few issues. The transfer from the airport to the ship (organized by HAL) was not good. Because of weather and flight delays we had to scramble to get the FLL in time. We arrived just before 2pm but were left waiting at the airport until after 3:30 pm (and the ship sailed at 4pm). The same with the transfer from the ship to the airport. We waited on the bus for more than an hour before we left for the airport. We have decided not ever to use transfers arranged by HAL. The entertainment on board the ship was also not great. Probably saw the most boring / terrible show ever on any ship/cruise liner ever (juggling act with a dog running across the stage - very amateurish). We also find the service during afternoon tea in the main dining room very slow and unfriendly. Food was excellent. We will sail with HAL again. Our next cruise is with Celebrity - will interesting to compare our experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Simply couldn't be happier with our cruise to San Juan, Grand Turks, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Had no problems in Ft. Lauderdale or the Port Everglades. We dropped our rental car off at Avis and then took the shuttle to the ... Read More
Simply couldn't be happier with our cruise to San Juan, Grand Turks, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Had no problems in Ft. Lauderdale or the Port Everglades. We dropped our rental car off at Avis and then took the shuttle to the Holland America terminal. The check-in and wait time weren't bad at all. Our trip ran from November 24 through December 1, 2013. Upon checking in, we went to the front desk and asked about upgrading to another room. We originally got an inside room and for $200 upgraded to an ocean view room. We met our Seward, Endganm, and went to explore the ship. The food on board was good and the servers were very pleasant. Also those who worked in the lido and main dining were very professional. Most os the cruisers on board were middle aged however there was a sprinkling of younger kids. During our stop in San Juan, we did the "stroll through old San Juan". Our guide was awesome! While in St. Thomas we walked around in town. Half Moon Cay was ok. Oh, rented a cabanah during the trip. Ed and Julius were outstanding,,, Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We sailed Jan 7 on the Nieuw Amsterdam with friends. The boarding process in Fort Lauderdale was seamless and quick (although it was a far walk from our hotel shuttle bus stop to the cruise reception desk) and as usual the greeters were ... Read More
We sailed Jan 7 on the Nieuw Amsterdam with friends. The boarding process in Fort Lauderdale was seamless and quick (although it was a far walk from our hotel shuttle bus stop to the cruise reception desk) and as usual the greeters were keen and warm. WE used expedited disembarkation for the first time and LOVED it. Smooth, easy and quick! Our cabin was ready immediately (11:30). While inconvenient, I appreciate Holland America's commitment to infection control as evidenced by not allowing serve yourself for the first two days of the cruise. Once again, serving the guests by minimizing the illness spread (especially this year with such high influenza rates) I love this ship for the size (very walkable) and the quiet areas that you can find in public spaces for privacy. We chose open dining and had a wonderful experience. We only had to wait once (formal night) and that was only about 15 minutes and we were provided a pager so we could wander about until our table was available. The food in the dining room was sensational - even better than our past cruises with HAL. I am gluten intolerant and they handled it extremely well - simple, no fuss, and lots of options. We participated in the beer tasting and pub crawl, which were both brilliantly arranged and alot of fun! We would highly recommend both of these planned activities. The front desk staff were helpful and clear. We chose not to attend the captain's lunch and a quick conversation had our HAL coasters sent to our room. The piano man and comedian were the best we have experienced cruising....bonus points for both. This cruise visited Grand Turk (great beach at the cruise pier dock), St. Martten (Orient Beach a hit as usual), San Juan (docked right in the wonderful old city to explore at will) and Half Moon Cay (such a great spot to walk, swim and rest). Although the Nieuw Amsterdam does need a refresh (carpets in public spaces for example) we truly enjoyed this ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
About us: Mid 40's couple. Our 4th cruise, first aboard Holland America, the previous three were all on Princess. We're pretty active, enjoy all sorts of foods and exploring new places. This cruise was simply a relaxation ... Read More
About us: Mid 40's couple. Our 4th cruise, first aboard Holland America, the previous three were all on Princess. We're pretty active, enjoy all sorts of foods and exploring new places. This cruise was simply a relaxation trip, we had no excursions planned when we left port. I originally posted much of this information in my live blog I kept during the cruise. (http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1741245) This Review re-organizes all the reports into categories instead of by day to make it easier to get the information you may be looking for. I'll give you the overview of each element followed by the in depth report. Before You Cruise A few quick tips that we have learned both here on CC and in our previous cruises. Closet space is generally a little tight on cruise ships so we bring an over the door canvas shoe rack with us that we put over the bathroom door. Not only does it hold the shoes, but we put toiletries and other supplies in there. http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/1/1/41853-over-the-door-24-pocket-canvas-shoe-organizer.html Bring at least two night lights with you, one for the stateroom and one for the bathroom. In the case of Holland America, I recommend at least one battery operated tap light for the closet. We found the closet nearest the door was too dark to see into as the light was too far away. Almost all staterooms have only one power outlet so bring a power strip, power squid or some other power adapter with you. We found this neat "butterfly" style adapter at Target that has two USB power ports on the end and then opens up to reveal two regular power outlets. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227600351/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227592615/ Ft. Lauderdale & Embarkation This cruise left from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. If you are arriving to Ft. Lauderdale in advance of the cruise like we do, cannot recommend Embassy Suites on 17th Street enough. It's an older hotel but the rooms are nice and they have an awesome complimentary breakfast that includes made to order omelette and pancakes. http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/florida/embassy-suites-fort-lauderdale-17th-street-FLLSOES/index.html It also has a nice shopping center behind it with a Publix, Wine Store and some really good eateries including Coco Asian restaurant where we each time. But there are some grills, Moe's and other places to eat that you can simply walk back to. A nice espresso and ice cream shop as well. We always arrive a day early and stay there. For your cruise, it's an easy drive / taxi / shuttle to the port or if you drive, you can park your car at the hotel for a fee. For us, we went with Park N Go which is an off port parking facility and they run continuous shuttles to the ships. We use their Park N Fly service here in Atlanta and have always been happy with them. In this case, it was a bit of an adventure. The shuttle broke down on the way to the ship, three times. The poor driver was trying everything he could to get the shuttle running again. As it as only 11:30 and departure not till 5:00, we weren't worried. Two new shuttles showed up within 5 minute and we were transferred for the last mile of the journey. All in all they did a great job handling the situation with humor and speed. http://www.bookparkngo.com/index.php?main_page=index Getting through the registration lines and onto the ship was handled very smoothly by the entire port team. No problems at all, except of course those absolutely annoying photos you need to pose for before you can walk through to the ship. Not sure why the cruse lines think that's such a great idea. Why not take it AFTER we get on the ship, topside somewhere? That's when we're pretty excited. :) WiFi If you plan to bring your own WiFi enabled device, it's definitely flaky even in good signal areas like the Exploration Bar/Crows Nest Area so bring a a good dose of patience. I used both my iPad 1 and iPhone 5 onboard and even when either device had a good solid four bars of signal, the wifi just disappeared for no apparent reason. The iPad is definitely worse than the phone at dropping the signal, but both devices do it. Fortunately all I had to do was go back to Settings >Wifi and reselect the correct wifi signal and I'm right back online. No need to log in again if the signal drops off during a session. The WiFi in our stateroom was the worst of any ship we have been on despite the repeater being just three doors down in the hallway. I used 20 minutes of Internet time over two attempts the first day to upload my first live blog to CC, and the wifi kept dropping off so I gave up. We purchased the 250 minute plan for $100 at Embarkation and got either 20 or 30 minutes added to the time. That time is good across any number of devices including the onboard computers. You just log in using your login and go. Obviously for these long reports I type up everything offline and the just copy / paste into CC. Definitely remember to Logout as instructed as soon as you are done so you don't waste minutes. The flaky wifi is probably a gentle reminder that we are on vacation so go off the grid for a while. :) The ms Nieuw Amsterdam & Stateroom. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228651238/in/set-72157632123116015/ In a word, beautiful. We chose the Nieuw Amsterdam primarily because we had originally booked a Mediterranean cruise for 2011 on this very same ship but had to cancel. When we made the decision to get away for the Thanksgiving holiday, we found this ship itinerary and jumped at the chance to sail on her. Being from New York originally, the Nieuw Amsterdam really appealed to me with the NYC motif. I have to say first off, take the time to explore the cabin hallways as there are many MANY incredible black and white photographs of old New York, and many of the older HAL ships in New York. In fact there are great touches of New York all over the ship, but the photos are really enjoyable. I especially love the shipboard photos of how folks used to cruise. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228647998/in/set-72157632123116015 We strolled around the ship and first impressions are beautiful. It's a bit more elegant with much more attention to the small details than what we've seen on Princess. Don't get me wrong, we still love Princess, but this ship feels a bit more like "classic cruising" than floating behemoth. Photo gallery, the screening room, main lobby, has a much smaller classic ship feel. We didn't try out the Screening Room on this ship, but that was a nice looking mini-movie theater with really comfy looking chairs and seating for about 30. 2nd run movies played the entire cruise. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227580223/in/set-72157632123116015/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228649154/in/set-72157632123116015/ Down on Deck 1 you'll notice what look like four movie posters on the wall just past the Shore Excursions desk on the starboard side. They are the history of the four Nieuw Amsterdams dating back to 1906. The posters are very cool and then turn around to see half of a glass panel engraved with all of the passenger signatures from the Nieuw Amsterdam IV maiden voyage in 2010. The other half of the panel is on the port side just past the Front Desk. Take a little time to check these out. The Northern Lights nightclub was pretty small as to be expected on this line, looked nice, just not a lot of room to dance Casino was a good size, though we don't play on the ships, not good odds and way too much smoke in the rooms. Be sure to take a look in the art gallery at the "bicycle tire" chairs. Literally chairs made from bicycle wheels. The shopping area is pretty nice with the shops all being and open floor plan, like one huge store. Had the usual assortment of jewelry, watches, liquor and women's clothes along with some fun T's and coffee mugs playing off a "dam good" theme. And they also had THE largest box of cigarettes I have ever seen in my life. I have no idea how many packs are in there, but wow.... http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228669202/in/set-72157632123116015/ Off the Lido pool on Deck 9 is the spa. DW noted that she likes the concept of the hydro pool area of the spa, but it's not private at all. There are large windows that look in from the Lido pool area. She commented that you pay extra to get the spa therapy and it'd be a little nicer if that pool area was more private like the spa in Princess. A small thing but something she noticed. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228649154/in/set-72157632123116015/ The Crow's Nest up front offers one of the most spectacular views on the ship along with just a wonderful seating area. Its also adjacent to the Explorers lounge and the library DW noticed that the lending library has far more books than Princess and there's even a paperback exchange if you want to trade out some books. Explorers Lounge is where you will find espresso and other coffees. Quite good. Our Stateroom was 4179 on deck 4 starboard. It's the very most rear cabin before the corner suite. The cabin was nice though there was an issue of the closet closest to the door not having any light. Makes it almost impossible to see in there so a battery operated tap light or something like that would be useful. And the overall layout of the closet setup is much better laid out on Princess, though its just a bit of a tight layout between the closets and bathroom Otherwise, the room and balcony are what we would expect for a cruise ship. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228669330/in/set-72157632123116015/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228647022/in/set-72157632123116015/ Actually being on Deck 4 our balcony is about a foot or so longer than all the other decks which is nice. This is because the lifeboats are directly below us and they needed a wider perch to hang from. So if you want a larger balcony for no extra cost, deck 4 is where you want to be. The cabin is a shower only room, no bathtub, which we knew going in. Have to say, one of the nicest showers we've had on any ship. Good pressure, plenty of room, and a really nice shower head. The triple dispensers in the shower with soap, shampoo and conditioner make for easy access to all. And I really liked the dual controls for temperature and water on/off. Makes it easy to set the temp quickly the next time. Not to mention the lush towels like you used to get in the nice hotels years ago, really nice. And the bathrobes provided with the cabin were really nice and soft and much thicker than the paper thin ones we get on Princess. We thought about buying a set to take home. Beds are relatively comfortable though DW (RebeccaC on these forums) did ask for an egg crate topper after the first night. The pillows were a bit too soft but we find that in almost every hotel and ship we go to. We at also had the mini fridge emptied so we could put out our own drinks in there. They have it preloaded with pay beverages. One thing you'll appreciate when it comes time for the cruise to end, is that the departure paperwork was waiting for us in the room. What? Departure paperwork before the cruise even starts? Yep, get it out of the way so you don't even have to think about it on the last night. Actually a great idea. Now the one thing we really noticed different about this ship compared to the three Princess ships we had been on previously is just how much you feel the engines and hear the noise in the ship. About the only thing that compares was one night steaming from Panama Canal a few years ago when the seas were a little rough and the captain was pushing us through. That ship had some rumble to it for one night. But decks 2, 3 and 4 on the Nieuw Amsterdam you really feel the vibrations of the engines and you can hear quite a bit of noise going through the lower promenade on deck 2. Even on the higher decks like up in Tamarind or the Cabana Club on deck 11 you still feel quite a bit of vibration from the engines. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just something we've noticed different from the other ships. About the only real negative on the ship was the carpeting in the elevator area was a bit rough and in need of being replaced. But we were told by a crew member that the NA is due for dry dock refurbishment in April of 2013 so the carpet will be replaced by that time. It really wasn't that big a deal. I will say the crew was incredibly friendly from the top down. Sure they have been friendly on the Princess ships but it feels a bit more inviting and genuine here. Lots of smiles, friendly folks and taking care of our every need. At the buffet I watched multiple stewards go out of their way to help folks carry plates and drinks to the tables, and the serving staff / chefs on the buffet lines are just incredibly friendly and tend to laugh a lot. That extends to our Cabana Stewards Mel and Maurice. Seems each crew member tries to acknowledge everyone and not just turn away and ignore us. Nice touch. As we have mentioned before (DW is RebeccaC here on CC) the crew has just been incredibly friendly and helpful from the top down. The Cabana Club & Lido Pool Cabanas, the Pools. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228652956/in/set-72157632123116015/ If you're just looking for a place to relax, the Cabana Club is well worth the price. This is the Eastern Caribbean cruise and as we have done a similar voyage on Princess in the past we decided to just make this a relaxation voyage. With excursions planned, DW booked a cabana for the entire week up in the Cabana Club. Even before we left Port Everglades we stopped up to meet our butler for the week and he made us feel right at home. Just sitting in port there was a beautiful breeze coming through. Though we were late for lunch service, he let us order from the menu and immediately got some champagne for DW along with chocolate covered strawberries. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227579661/in/set-72157632123116015/ If you don't know what these are, the cabanas are available for the day or the week and included are bottled water, fruit, lunch, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, ice cream in the afternoon, and more. Most of all for DW there is shade at all times from the sun and we don't have to get to the pool area early to get a spot in the shade. There an entire area reserved for cabana guests that includes sofas and outdoor dining tables. Gotta say coming back to the Cabana Club after a day in port is very nice indeed. They spoil you up here. There is almost zero shade around that pool and the Lido Pool has limited lounge chairs so shaded lounging is definitely a premium on this ship. The main reason DW booked this cabana for the week. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227582515/in/set-72157632123116015/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228650656/in/set-72157632123116015/ There are also cabanas available by the Lido Pool but note that these are tucked underneath the Deck 10 walkway and back up to a glass wall. In addition, the roof of the Lido Pool is closed from time to time. All in all, we found that these cabanas seem like they can get stuffy with not a whole lot of air flow due to being tucked under the walkway and the roof being closed, especially in the mornings. And of course these cabanas will offer almost no privacy or quiet because you're part of the Lido Pool area which can be noisy if a lot of kids are aboard like the week we were there. But if you want guaranteed shade near the pool, this is the way to go. It's obvious the pool roof requires a lot of maintenance as it seemed that they worked on it each day we were up in the cabanas. There is an alarm similar to a vehicle backing up that goes off when the roof is in motion which can be several times per day. Unlike the Island Princess, this roof is only one story up so it does get stuffy when the roof is closed, but they do seem to keep it open as often as possible. The neat thing is that you can walk around the outside of the roof on Deck 10 which on Princess it's an indoor walk. There is limited lounge seating around the Lido which is set up more for poolside dining. On the Starboard side of the Lido pool area is the grill that serves hamburgers and sandwiches. And for you Vegetarians, DW did say the veggy burger available at this grill is quite good. MUCH better than the one they serve on Princess. If you're looking to just lounge out by the pool, I would suggest the Sea View pool in the rear of the ship, plenty of lounge chairs, though note there is basically zero shade back there. It's all sun. Also a note that the Sea View Pool is Adults Only which makes it a bit quieter. But keep your sandals and other footwear handy as the deck can literally turn scalding on a hot day. A note on booking the cabanas: One of the CC folks we met on board told me one morning he wanted to get a Cabana Club cabana for the week but the front office told him they were sold out. It was clear to us at least a few were available so I brought him up to talk to one of the butlers, Mel. Mel confirmed that there were five cabanas available our week and said he could help arrange the cabana with the front desk Not sure why the front desk was saying none available. So if you want one of these and the front desk says they are sold out, I encourage you to go up to the Cabana Club and ask the butlers directly. They are awesome! The Beverage Card Fiasco A bit of a fiasco for us and in the end, we didn't need it. DW ordered a $250 beverage card well in advance of the cruise and per suggestions here on CC, she ordered it to be delivered on the first At Sea day which allows us to avoid paying Florida taxes. Generally the card arrives within a few hours of leaving Port Everglades but by 8am of day one at sea, it had not arrived. DW went to the front desk at noon and the attendant told her it would be delivered directly to the Cabana Club soon. At 1:30pm with no beverage card in sight, one of our fantastic butlers on the Cabana Club spoke with the beverage manager on the phone and was told there is "a problem with the system." What the manager told him to do was to run our beverages through and then the manager will remove the charges whenever the card gets issued. In reality, that never happened, the charges were never removed from our room and transferred back to the card. At 4:50pm this time I went down to the front desk.. Was told by the front desk it's usually delivered in the late afternoon around dinner. I explained we have been waiting all day for it and we were promised a card "soon" at 12 noon. The attendant promptly made a card on the spot. I have absolutely no idea why the person at noon couldn't do the same thing. A few days later, someone else here on CC noted that HAL changed their Beverage Card policy that very week we were cruising. We paid $225 for the $250 Beverage Card online before the cruise. That was the discount offer being made at the time. The very week we sailed, HAL dropped the discount so a $250 card cost the full $250. Perhaps this was the "problem with the system" our butler mentioned, but whatever the problem, it was definitely most irritating part of the entire trip and completely inexcusable. We will never pre order a beverage card from HAL again, I can assure you of that. What an ordeal for a piece of plastic that took 30 seconds to prepare. In the end, we ended up not using up the entire card anyway, but HAL does refund the unused portion of the Beverage Card back to your credit card, so no money lost. Dining and Food The food was a mixed bag on the ship. DW had read on CC prior to traveling that the HAL ships seemed to be inconsistent with their food. The Dining Room was a bit disappointing, but both the Buffett and especially Tamarind were outstanding. I found most of the dining room offerings dry, bland and just not well prepared. A few nuggets were good, but were it not for awesome dinner companions at our table, I would have opted to avoid the dining room after the first night. DW is a vegetarian and she ordered off the main menu each night we were in the Manhattan Dining Room and she was fine with that. There is a special Vegetarian Menu available, but she had plenty of choices on the main menu. Her food was consistently better as well. I think this is because fewer of those items are made than all the other entrees. We opted for the fixed, 8pm seating in the upstairs Dinging Room. We've never done fixed seating before and decided to try it out and it worked out very nicely. For those who go with the anytime dining in the lower dining room, once the dining room is full, they issue you those wireless notification units like you see in many restaurants. This allows you to head over to the bar and relax instead of standing outside the dining room. I will also say that it felt like the Dining Room staff was attending too many tables, at least in the upstairs, fixed seating Dining Room. The food was brought out smartly, but once we received our food, it was difficult to get the attention of our servers. So if something was missing, wasn't quite right, it might take 5 minutes or more to get the attention of the server. And they were so harried, a couple of times I mentioned problems with my dishes, but they didn't acknowledge what I said, simply smiled and moved on. With Princess the servers were always hovering near the tables. What follows here are details on each of the days. Manhattan Dining Room: Day One: We all had the four mushroom crustini and while the mushrooms were quite good, the bread needed to be toasted more. DW had the chilled carrot and citrus soup which she said was quite tasty. I went with the chicken and artichoke cream soup that was decent. For the entree I went with a chicken special (can't remember the name) that was wrapped in zucchini and served on couscous. It was decent, the chicken was moist but just not a lot of flavor from the entire mix. DW went with the eggplant Parmesan which had excellent fried eggplant. For dessert we went with the strawberries with balsamic reduction. This was disappointing. It was just sliced strawberries with some balsamic vinegar dripped on. Good strawberries, but the reduction sauce was less than desired. Should have been served on a plate too so the berries all sat in the sauce. It was served in an ice cream dish which didn't work. Day Two: DW went with the cream of mushroom soup to start, it was ok, not great, but ok. Caprese salad had a nice balsamic dressing on it, mozzarella was good too. Then she went with the veggie loaf for entree. While the loaf was pretty good, she thought the combination of the loaf, polenta and pureed carrots was a bit odd. Each item was pretty good individually, but together they made for an interesting combination. I went with the clams appetizer and had the smallest clams I've ever seen, but they were tasty. Then the Caprese salad with the Alaskan King Crab legs for the main course. The crab legs were good and thankfully they were split making them easy to eat, but be sure to ask for melted butter when you order. They don't bring it to the table, so as I mentioned at the start, it took a few minutes to get their attention again. Of course crab legs don't stay hot for very long so they had cooled a bit when the butter arrived. They were still good, but would have been nice to have the butter in advance. Dessert was rhubarb crisp for DW and the "Master Chef" special for me. The crisp was pretty good, but the special was a white chocolate chef hat stuffed with chocolate mousse and a small piece of chocolate cake type of thing. It was ok. Desserts were consistently a weak element on this ship. Day Three: The kitchen redeemed itself this morning with some good French toast for DW and a very good Frittata Italiana for me in the main dining room. Dinner on Day Three was in the Tamarind speciality restaurant, that restaurant is listed separately. Day Four: Dinner in the main dining room was better tonight, and I had the best dessert I've had so far. DW had a goat cheese appetizer that was quite good, a blend of the cheese and nuts. The soup was a pistou that was basically a veggy minestrone, very good. For entree she went with the gnocchi with Alfredo and onions. That wasnt bad, could have used a bit of Parmesan, but them I make homemade gnocchi so we are a bit spoiled with mine. Dessert was the biggest crime brulee I've ever seen. It was ok, not crispy enough on top, but the cream was good. For me I started with a crispy crab roll that was rather tasty. Soup was the corn and squash with crabmeat. An interesting combination. Dinner was the chefs special grilled duck salad. Quite tasty and probably the lightest thing I've ever eaten on a ship for entree. :) Now dessert was absolutely delectable. Flourless chocolate cake. Deep, rich dark chocolate. Just delicious, I almost ordered a second one. Best thing I've had in the main dining room. Day Five: DW started with the vegetarian citrus and avocado appetizer which was ok, then the Cream of Asparagus soup. The soup was not bad, not great but not bad. Entree was a vegetarian stuffed cabbage which she says was pretty good. For me I started off with dual appetizers as I could not make up my mind. An Ahi Tuna carpaccio was outstanding, one of the appetizers I've had on the ship. The genoa appetizer was also good. I skipped soup in lieu of the Bibb lettuce salad with sundries tomatoes. Quite good. Entree was a VERY dry red wine beef brisket with mashed potatoes. The potatoes made up for the beef, not a very good entree at all. We skipped dessert as the "Dessert Extravaganza" was this same evening up near the Lido Pool. Day Six: What a mixed bag, mostly lousy. I will give up on the main dining room for all future HAL cruises. DW had the dual vegetarian entrees which were Mushroom Ravioli (decent) and the grilled Tofu dish (better) and a salad for appetizer. I started with the shrimp cocktail that featured a mustard dip. It was ok. Chicken and rice soup had a few pieces of rice and the broth was not great so I didn't eat it. My table mates said the escargot appetizer was great so I ordered one of those. Probably the best thing I had in the dining room all week. If you like clams in garlic and oil, you will like this. Entree was a Parmesan crusted turkey loin with mashed potatoes. Turkey was cold and dry so I didn't eat it, but the potatoes were good. As I mentioned previously table staff has too many tables to wait on so i wasn't able to tell them about the problems. Then it was comical because this was the night for the baked Alaska parade, but our waiters had already served it to us before it started. Featured the same lousy ice cream, terrible cake (hardly any in it) and honestly the dessert was lousy. Maybe it's tradition, but if you make a big deal out of this dessert, then at least make a decent one. No other desserts were offered this night, so we went for cookies in the buffet after the show. Tamarind: Speciality Asian Restaurant. $15 charge per person Some of the best food we've had on any ship. Well worth the $15 charge. Remember earlier when I mentioned that we can feel the engines and hear the noise more on this ship than any other we've been on? Well it really came into play our first night in Tamarind. The Manager sat us directly up against the windows on the right side of the restaurant as you walk in. The floor was shaking so badly the silverware was rattling on the table and after about 5 minutes I was really starting to feel ill. This went far beyond just a vibration, it was literally pitching my chair up and down. And keep in mind this is all the way up on Deck 11. I finally had to ask the manager to move us or I was going to have to leave. Thankfully there were other tables available. Three other couples all did the same thing. Not really sure what happened that night but we experienced far more vibration, and in this case severe vibration than we've ever experienced, even on the higher decks. And I can tell you the seas were normal, no rough weather at all. Now once were got to a better table, we were treated one of the best meal we've ever had on a ship. Started out with shrimp crackers for me and rice crackers for her. Plenty of vegetarian options for DW. She started with vegetable Spring Rolls then Vegetarian Sushi. For main course she went with Sesame Udon Noodles and then Tamarind Chocolate which was a bittersweet chocolate and ginger mousse. Wow, that was amazing. For me, I went with the Jewels of the Sea soup (shrimp wontons in broth), Shanghai Ribs over pickled cabbage (we heard they ran out of that right after I ordered it). The soup was good and the ribs excellent. For main course I went with the Scallops and Prawns with garlic and ginger. Just sublime. For dessert I chose the Tempura ice cream which featured a Coconut and a Coffee ice cream with a vanilla sauce. Outstanding. The wait staff was simply outstanding in here as well Flying all over the place, very friendly and very helpful and quite beautiful. We booked a second reservation at Tamarind that very night. Tamarind Dinner 2: Dinner at Tamarind was simply incredible again and we noticed that the vibration issue along the windows was gone. Kind of ironic since we were going so much faster that night than the first meal. DW started with the vegetable spring rolls, then a vegetable sushi mix. For the main course she went with the Five Spice Sietan and Tempeh. She said it was excellent. Then for dessert she went with the Trio of Sorbets which was wasabi, passion fruit basil and lychee green tea. The passion fruit basil was her favorite of the three. I started off with the Chicken Pho with lime and rice noodles. I've never had pho with a coconut milk base before, usually it's broth. Absolutely incredible. Then the Shanghai ribs again because they're so darn tasty. For the main course I went with the Wasabi and Soy crusted beef tenderloin. I'm not a hot spice fan so I asked them to go light on the wasabi, which they did. I could taste the wasabi, but didn't have any of the heat. It was the best steak I have had in a very long time. Was also served with tempura onion rings which were a nice touch. For dessert I went with the tempura ice cream again because it's so good. The table next to us ordered the fortune cookie dessert which is an oversized cookie the size of a dessert plate. It's huge! We will be dining at Tamarind multiple times on our next NA cruise. Lido Buffet: The food in the Lido Buffet was consistently better than what we had in the dining room. Veteran HAL cruisers onboard told us the Buffet has been getting consistently better while the dining room has been dropping in quality. The Lido Buffet has slightly different offerings in the front most station. On the port side it was Mexican themed and on the other side it was Flavors of the World which varied between Asian, Japan, Thai and Indian. The Flavors of the World always included sushi for lunch which was quite good each day. DW wanted me to mention to the Vegetarians out there, the Lido Buffet does NOT label vegetarian items, you must ask the staff. The servers were very attentive about getting the information to know exactly what was and was not veggy friendly. She also noted that the best vegetarian options were usually found in the Flavors of the World area. The main entrees area rarely has a vegetarian entree though there are plenty of side dishes. All in all a very vegetarian friendly buffet. Note that the buffet is NOT open 24 hours, it does have set times and does close At 11:30pm I believe, though coffee and other drinks Room service is 24 hours though so you can still take care of very late night munchies. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228669462/in/set-72157632123116015/ BIG positive in the buffet is the coffee. It is real ground coffee, not the coffee syrup they use on Princess. I'm a coffeeholic and I have to say the coffee is quite good in the buffet and a nice surprise. Not as strong as a coffeehouse, but a whole lot better than syrup based coffee! Breakfast is excellent with made to order eggs, omlettes, crepes and most of the time pancakes and waffles. Lunches were very good when we had them here. Food is definitely much better and more consistent in the buffet than the main dining room. We also had lunch there upon our return and it was great. As we have mentioned before, check out both sides of the buffet as they are not exactly the same and the buffet is very long on both sides which really spread out people so you don't feel like crowded cattle. Now for dessert, the only way to describe the ice cream on the ship (and we tried it twice) is that it is odd. Seems like some weird cross between ice cream and ice milk is our best guess. Whatever it is, it's pretty gosh darn bad, at least for us, both in the dining room and here in the buffet. So we went with the cookies for dessert. The "Dessert Extravaganza": Held one night during a 7 night cruise around the Lido Pool. Quite impressive in how they set it up, but for us, the desserts were much more beautiful than they were flavorful. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228662972/in/set-72157632123116015/ You can go early and shoot photos of everything before they turn you loose on the food. Before they opened the desert line, the most intriguing thing for us was the candied apples. Well, they looked a lot better than they tasted for us. Well actually, the poor chef serving them didn't know the flavors correctly. The caramel he gave my wife was actually lemon coated and my cinnamon was actually cherry coated. Very sticky and not all that great. But they make for a beautiful photo! http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228662800/in/set-72157632123116015/ The rest of the desserts are a mixed bag and far too many to mention. Basically when they announce the buffet is open, The line grows immediately. One tip if you want to try the cakes, they have cakes set up on the stage area opposite the main buffet layout. People were mobbing the main cake display on other side of the pool, so I just walked up on the stage and had the chef give me slices of three different cakes, no line. Now here again, the chef didn't know what the cakes were besides the red velvet but it didn't matter, I was just sampling. Most of what we saw is the the same as is what is on the buffet. It's certainly a fun social occasion though the Lido Pool area does get stuffy when the roof is closed. It was open when we started but then it was closed and it got stuffy pretty quickly. Was MUCH more enjoyable when they had the roof open with the breeze. The styrofoam statues around are fun though. Big Ben (which kept falling into the pool), Pyramids, Leaning Tower of Pisa, all around the pool make for fun decor. All in all a fun event, but the deserts are definitely a mixed bag in terms of flavor. You'll definite find something you like though. For us it was a pudding cake I found on the stage next to the Sphinx. High Tea: We only did one of these the entire cruise, though we meant to do more. Each day at 3:00pm the NA has a High Tea with each day being a different theme. We attended the Dutch Tea. It consisted of a whole series of sweets from fruit tarts to mini cakes and pastries. All quite good and a nice selection of teas. It's served in the main dining room in the back of the ship. We would recommend showing up about 3:15 or so to let the initial rush of folks get through. This tea was much better attended than the ones we have been to on Princess so there was quite the dual lines when we arrived 5 minutes early. Slice Pizza: When we got back to the ship, we tried out the Slice pizza stand in the back of the ship. The best way to describe this would be a good frozen pizza. It's not frozen, but that's kind of what it tastes like. Not the best, but not terrible. Kids will probably love it. The Pizza on Princess is much better. Cannalletto's: Canaletto's is an added fee restaurant that operates in one portion of the Lido Buffet. Here on CC it gets mixed reviews and one of our fellow diners at dinner told us it was not to their liking. The problem I have with it is that it's just a part of the buffet space so there's no "restaurant experience" like Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind. Folks walk through the area on their way to the pools or to get drinks from the buffet area. So I honestly can't see a reason to pay extra for essentially a sit down dinner in a buffet area. If it was free, that'd be fine or just simply serve the Italian food as part of the buffet and leave it at that. Seems like a forced attempt to have a third "restaurant" on board. The Italian restaurant on Princess has been quite good and is set apart as its own restaurant. Drinks: DW ordered a bottle of wine at the first dinner, had it corked and at each successive dinner, the bottle has been waiting for her on the table. Very nice touch and better than the system on Princess where they have to go fetch it. And the dedicated wine stewards in the dining room are much more efficient allowing the food staff to get the meals out. When we dined in Tamarind, the wine steward went down to the dining room to get her wine, so you can have it anywhere on the ship. Again, dinner staff and the wine stewards just incredibly friendly each night. Speaking of drinks, we have been trying out various drinks and their "drink of the day." Really enjoying the standard Mojito the most along with the Strawberry Basil Belissimo. Another tasty drink is the Tropo Mango Mojito which is blended with fresh mango. The Cosmo is also quite good on here as well. For a nice place to have a drink, check out the Silk Den, it's directly in front of Tamarind on Deck 11. What a beautiful bar overlooking the Lido Pool with oversized couches and chaise lounges. A great place for a drink or conversation. When you order a drink they bring an appetizer plate with a spring roll and some sushi samples They also make the best Tropo Mango Mojito on the ship. We had drinks there before dinner at Tamarind both times. Entertainment Overall, the entertainment was decent. Nothing spectacular, nothing that we would have been disappointed to mix. And one just awful show that made us feel sorry for the performers. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228665540/in/set-72157632123116015/ The Showroom At Sea is a just a beautiful throwback theater with a lot of wonderful retro art deco touches. It really looks like a classic theater with full balcony, nice seats and great art deco retro vibe. We found some really nice love seats in the back row of the balcony where we watched a couple of shows. I'm also a techno geek (I work in television production) and I'm very impressed with the staging. They really squeeze a lot of capabilities into a small footprint. The second night we caught the Cantare show in the showroom. The live band really sounded great and the four singers were quite good. The Piano Bar is nice enough room, though a good portion of the seats on the right side have obscured views for some reason. The pianist is good and plays songs from different artists/genres each night which mixes things up. We were spoiled by Bert Stratton on the Princess ships who is a very talented and very funny pianist, but this gentleman is quite good on NA. The comedian on our cruise was Rod Long who put on a fun 45 minute show that was ship, family friendly safe. There was another comedian / magician advertised who didn't appeal to us so we skipped it. We missed Recycled Percussion but that sounded like it was a great show. Unfortunately, we DID see "NYC" which was a review featuring the ship's dancers and singers. The only way to describe this is one hour of my life I will never get back. We never expect much from the ship shows, but this was by far the worst show we've ever seen on a ship. We felt bad for the performers because they are talented singers and dancers, but whoever designed this show really doesn't have a clue. Poor song choice, poor arrangements, poor choreography, just a hot mess all around. People were leaving left and right from the balcony where we were sitting. We were trapped so we endured the whole show. So on this ship, the entertainment was just so-so for us. Excursions: As I noted in the beginning of this review, this was a pure relaxation trip so we really didn't do much in the way of planned excursions. First off, we loved the Self Serve Excursion Kiosks located on Decks 2 and 3 (maybe more) which allow you to book an excursion via an ATM type of machine anytime that's convenient for you. Simply swipe your room key, pick the excursion, select the amount of people and your tickets are printed on the spot. We did this one night on our way into the theater. This would be a great idea for more ships to pick up on. Grand Turk: The stunning thing about Grand Turk is that the ship literally pulls right up to the beach. This is the perfect, free, do nothing, convenient beach directly off the ship and with plenty of palm tree shade. Is is probably THE best set up port as far as a relaxing beach we have ever seen. It's now 10:45 and there are still hundreds of beach chairs available so don't feel like you have to "fight the crowds" for a chair. As Half Moon Cay requires tenders for that Island, we are thinking this is an even better beach experience in terms of convenience. So if you want a really nice relaxing beach day, plan to stroll off the ship and directly onto the beach in Grand Turk. No excursion required. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228651630/in/set-72157632123116015/ This is THE place to get a stunning photo of the ship in port. Walk over to the beach and shoot the ship through the palm trees, then walk down to the water line and get some shots from there. A remarkable sight to see a huge ship about 200 feet from the beach. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227583999/in/set-72157632123116015/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227584755/in/set-72157632123116015/ As a space and science nut I was happy to learn about Grand Turk's role in the early NASA Gemini and Mercury programs. There is a great exhibit in right hand side of the port shopping area with a replica of the Friendship 7 capsule and a John Glenn statue. He splashed down in the Grand Turk area after his historic first orbits. San Juan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228658954/in/set-72157632123116015/ The ship started a commentary about noontime on what we were seeing as we entered the harbor. A tip if you really want to get some great shots entering the harbor, about 30 minutes or so before arriving, the stewards open up the observation area on the bow, directly below the Bridge. Go to Deck 5 and walk all the way forward to get out. Great spot for taking pictures of the forts and harbor as you come in. This is our first time in San Juan so we booked the Old San Juan Walking Tour. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning as the bus that was supposed to get us to the starting point was 35 min late. But once we started we had a pleasant guide. It went the best walking tour we have been on but certainly not the worst. It was a great way to get the lay of the land of San Juan, see one of the forts and then get some good advice on where to go if you want to shop or eat in San Juan. As the tour was only 2.5 hours, we had about 3 hours or so to explore the city if we wanted. But the temps were about 86 and very muggy today so once the tour was over, we headed back for a swim. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228657466/in/set-72157632123116015/ Word of warning on this tour. This is a WALKING tour up and down hills, through the fort and then all the way back to the ship. The bus only takes you to the starting point and that's it. From there you walk the tour and all the way back down to the ship. Dress comfortably, have good shoes on and you'll be fine. St. Maarten: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228662070/in/set-72157632123116015/ St Maarten and San Juan are both extremely well set up for just walking though there is far less car traffic in St Maarten. When you do get out and walk, be sure to explore the streets back away from beach. There are great shops, street vendors and restaurants for about 5 blocks back from the beach and about 20 or so blocks across. And because all of the roads here are narrow and one way, it's very easy to walk around. There is a great water taxi service for $7 round trip that drops you off in the center of the shopping. Easy on/off, or if you prefer you can walk right out to the shopping directly. We had nothing planned here but i would recommend the America's Cup excursion if you are looking for something unique to do. We did that a few years ago and had a ball. They are the actual 12 meter boats from the mid 80's and you do a race out in the harbor. Good fun. And you still have plenty of time to explore the island. There are two MUST stops for us in St Maarten. The Guavaberry shop and The Yoda Man shop. We highly recommend the Guavaberry coladas though they are a little strong So be aware of that. All sorts of great flavored rums and hot sauces in that shop, it's on the right side of the beach about one block back. Can't miss it, it has the image of an Uncle Ben type of character with a top hat and a sign proclaiming the World Capital of Guavaberry. You can sample everything before you buy. I will say we came out with a bottle of their Mango rum as it was outstanding. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227593801/in/set-72157632123116015/ The Yoda Man shop is literally what it says. It's the guy who created the Yoda character for The Empire Strikes Back for LucasFilm. When we visited four years ago the shop was in the Old Street area, but he has moved to a larger space that now includes an interesting museum with Star Wars and other action film memorabilia. Today I got the chance to actually meet Nick and we chatted for about ten minutes. Super nice guy and if you are a Star Wars film fan at all, don't miss this shop. Very cool full sized Darth Vader among the neat things in the museum along with a host of facial masks of a lot of famous folks I picked up some artwork today too that he personally signed to me. Half Moon Cay Bahamas http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228666070/in/set-72157632123116015/ We opted to stay aboard this day and hang in the cabana instead of waiting on the tenders. The tenders hold up to 200 folks and it sounded most everyone who wanted to go ashore had made it by noon. It was announced some 1700 folks went ashore. From the ship Half Moon Cay looked gorgeous, reminiscent of Grand Turk's beaches. Looks like folks were having a great time, we definitely enjoyed our time in the cabana. All board was 3:30 and we got underway shortly thereafter. Shipboard Activities & Electronic Readers As for shipboard activities, well I can tell you there are a lot of them each day and there is a nice looking Culinary at Sea class area that we have contemplated at times. But honestly this has been a complete retreat for us so we have not partaken of any on board activities so far. I will say that there is only one announcement in the morning and then sometimes a second announcement in the later afternoon on the activities. So it's quiet out on deck with little distractions. I've already read through two books and working my way through a third. That's what we love about cruising. Lots of stuff to do if you want to, and no pressure to do anything if you don't. DW is saved all of the Explorers from each day and will post them separately. And on the subject of reading, I have the iPad 1 but DW has the Nook Simple Reader which is an E-ink device. That means the device works just like ink on paper and requires light to see the book. If you like to read and want to sit outside, these are the way to go. Lots of glare on tablets mean you need to sit in the shade to read. Her Nook Simple Reader works perfectly in direct sunlight. Not fancy for sure, but for pure reading, it's great. And on blustery days like the few we had, no struggling with the book pages in the wind. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227582911/in/set-72157632123116015/ On our way back from putting down a deposit on a future cruise, we happened upon a towel animal demonstration down on Deck 2. The room stewards leave a towel animal on the bed each day and HAL sells a book with instructions on how to do them. The demonstration showed how to make an elephant, and underdog, a swan, a peacock, a monkey and a gorilla. Gave us a better appreciation for how talented the room stewards are creating these each day. Photos, Regular and the "Black Label" private session: Looking at all the photos in the Photo Gallery, I really have to ask, where do these photographers go to learn these ridiculous poses they put us in? It's not just HAL, it's all the ships. Put your hand up here, turn your leg out like this, let's see how ridiculous we can make you look as a couple. There must be a "Ship Photographer Training Class" somewhere that all of these folks must go to :) NA does offer a "Black Label" photo session that's a one on one black and white portrait shoot. It's the same deal as the regular portrait photos, no cost for the shoot, no obligation to buy, but you MUST make a reservation for the photo shoot. They don't tell you any information on the pricing when you reserve, so it's up to you to ask. We had a good time at the Black Label photo shoot. You're in a private room with the photographer for about 25 minutes and it's all shot in black and white. The photographer kept showing us the photos as she was shooting which is nice. You are much more likely to get a good quality portrait this way than the usual quick photos they take around the ship. At the end of the session, we scheduled a photo review with the photographer for the next day. The review takes about an hour and I will say, these are definitely the best portrait photos you will get on board. The photographer went through 90+ photos with us today. Again, NO obligation to buy anything, but know that the photos start at $200 for a single digital image and go into the thousands of dollars quickly. Whether you just want only digital images, prints, or a combination of both, prices escalate quickly. Note that they do go in and clean up the photos in Photoshop before you get them so you are getting some retouching done. Definitely a good way to go for a special occasion, head shots, or you just want to get a really nice photo vs the regular ship photos. If you want a pretty much guaranteed excellent portrait from the ship, this is about as much of a sure thing as you'll get. Medical Emergency at Sea: On Day Six of the cruise, an At Sea day, captain made an announcement around 3:45pm that we would be making an unscheduled stop in Grand Turk to offload three passengers in a medical emergency. He noted that this would delay our arrival at the private island, Half Moon Cay, the next day by about 90 minutes but of course that was irrelevant. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228664866/in/set-72157632123116015/ Everything happened on our Starboard side of the ship so we got to watch the entire operation. The Carnival Glory and Ruby Princess were in port when we arrived so there was no room for the NA to pull in. The captain put the ship into a holding pattern at the edge of the bay. One of the diving tour boats from Grand Turk came out to meet the ship for the transfer at one of the drop down docks on the bow. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8228664500/in/set-72157632123116015/ Two people in wheelchairs and one other person were transferred to the boat along with some HAL medical personnel. I could see an ambulance waiting at the dock for the boat. After about 20 minutes ashore, the boat brought the HAL personnel back and we were immediately on our way again. Very professional operation by both the ship and the land crew, makes one feel really good when you know that in the case of an emergency, they've got you covered. Disembarkation The deadline on the final evening to get the bags out in the hallway is 1am. That's the latest time we've ever had on a ship. Nice to not have to rush before dinner to get the bags ready. Also, today we really appreciated HALs policy of having the departure paperwork in the room on the very first day. That was all out of the way early so we don't have to think about it today. The Lido Buffet opened on Disembarkation day at 5:30 am and the Dining room at 7am so folks can have breakfast before exiting. We were surprised to see the dining room as an option, but that's a nice touch. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscardicreative/8227600577/in/set-72157632123116015/ One GREAT thing HAL does is put the disembarkation schedule on the in room television. We've not seen that on the Princess cruises. In our case it was channel 26 and looking at it, we already knew our scheduled disembark would be between 9:30 and 9:45 as we did not have a plane to catch. It was nice to know that when we woke up so we did final packing and then headed up for a leisurely breakfast. All the stations were running just as if we were still at sea, nothing cut all elements available. A nice final impression of the ship dining. Disembarkation turned out to be a breeze and very well orchestrated by the ship. Our section got called at 9:50 so only five minutes later than scheduled. Got off the ship in short order and then found our bags quickly. Customs went quickly too, less than 10 minutes after we gathered our bags. We actually appreciated that NA kept us waiting on the ship and called folks down in smaller batches making for a smaller logjam at every step along the way. We spent the last 30 minutes or so of our wait down at the Explorers Bar on Deck 2. That's a good little tip by the way. The end of the line to get off the ship points back to the Explorers Bar so if you wait in there, you get directly into the line. When they called our section, about 50 or so folks came up from the Deck 1 seating area near the front desk and they had to work their way past us to get to the end of the line. Final Thoughts: Despite the disappointment with the dining room food, we do plan to cruise HAL again. As we have mentioned multiple times, the ship really does feel like you're on a classic ship. Attention to detail is well done and the staff is just ridiculously friendly. The bed is comfortable and the room was a good value for what we paid. Hope this review has been helpful. Happy Sailing Everyone! Walter Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This was our second cruise. Our first was for our honeymoon in 1979 with a cruise line that is no longer in business. We have not been interested in another cruise. It really is not our preferred method of seeing the world. Our good ... Read More
This was our second cruise. Our first was for our honeymoon in 1979 with a cruise line that is no longer in business. We have not been interested in another cruise. It really is not our preferred method of seeing the world. Our good friends invited us to join them. The cruise started in Venice, which we have visited before, but Venice is a town that one can enjoy multiple times. Once on board we were absolutely shocked at the elegance of the ship. We have heard that ships are now floating cities. We now fully understand that comment. We entered our room, which was a Verrandah, and once again was shocked. The room was spacious and luxurious. We spent a lot of time on our private deck, including several in-service breakfasts. We were on our deck, drinking wine, and listening to Venetian music when we sail out of the port. We will never forget that. The rest of my comments are probably not new to people who have been on a cruise or cruises recently. The ship has huge staff who is dedicated to making sure you are happy. The food at the buffet and other venues were nothing short of fantastic. We particularly enjoyed the ethnic food of the particular port we were visiting. The entertainment every night was superb. We couldn't wait for the nightly show. Not only was there first class entertainment nightly in the theater, but a string quartet played each day, there was a fantastic piano bar, and live music at the pool. The computer classes were informative and valuable. The procedure to disembark at each port were very organized. We did not experience any snags and there was very little wait (the ship was at about 22,000 people). The cruise director and activity director were very informative, articulate, and knowledgeable. All of the shore excursions we booked were flawless and awesome. Yes, they were expensive, but worth it. We were comfortable, safe, educated, and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. It was very hot every day. When we returned to the ship, staff was waiting with ice cold water, lemonade, and towels. Wow, was that special. We are educators who live on a budget. This cruise was a financial stretch for us. We both feel money well spent. We will always remember this cruise. We loved this cruise so much we booked The Midnight Sun Cruise with Holland America this summer. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We are veteran cruisers with several longer cruises under our belts. We have sailed on Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney and now, Holland America. Ship: The ship was beautiful. We had adjacent cabins on the upper verandah ... Read More
We are veteran cruisers with several longer cruises under our belts. We have sailed on Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney and now, Holland America. Ship: The ship was beautiful. We had adjacent cabins on the upper verandah deck. The rooms were in fantastic shape and well laid out. Couldn't have been happier with the cabin. I loved the Crow's nest and Explorations Cafe!! Great coffee and service on Deck 11. Cabin steward: The cabin steward was top notch. Our room was always clean but he often forgot to leave a few items that were needed, like a replacement laundry bag after we sent out the laundry and a breakfast tag for the door. Not a big deal but a slight hassle to track someone down to get another one. Dining room: Here is where the problems start. The service in the dining room was awful. We had anytime dining and we learned that this was probably why the service was so bad. The first few nights we had a server who NEVER even smiled at us. He looked mad the entire time. This made us a bit uncomfortable. We had empty tea and water glasses most of the time and practically had to beg for tea or coffee. Not once in 15 nights did anyone in the dining room ask if we wanted refills on our coffee or tea. NOT ONCE!! We always had to remember to ask when they went whizzing by. We never saw the head waiter nor did anyone ask us if we enjoyed the meal, if everything was alright or anything. I received a card in my room to report if there was anything that they could do to help make my cruise more enjoyable and I reported my poor experiences in the dining room. The head waiter called me in my room and we talked and he made a reservation for us for the following night. I figured since I complained, they would make extra efforts to stay on top of the service. That did not happen. The service was just as bad. Our dinners in the specialty restaurants were a little better but not much. Food: I always seemed to find something to eat. Of course, that is not hard on a cruise ship. The food was good I would say overall. Room service: My teenage son must have ordered at least one cheeseburger from room service everyday and no matter how hard we tried, we could not get a plain hamburger. Out of 15 calls in 15 days, only twice did room service get the order right. We had them even repeat the order back to us to make sure they understood that it was supposed to be plain. They just kept putting mayonnaise on those burgers. Entertainment: The shows I saw were okay but nothing out of the ordinary for a cruise ship. I really loved the cruise director and went to all the trivia contests and other "smaller" fun entertainment that J.C. put on. Kids club: My daughter enjoyed the kids clubs and there were a lot of kids on the cruise. Ports: We loved Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Roatan, I would go on a cruise that just went to those ports. I loved the beaches at these ports. I would probably not recommend the Nieuw Amsterdam because of my experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the ... Read More
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the port but we found for the 4 of us a cab was less money and more comfortable. Once at the port, it only took about 30 min to get on the ship. The ship itself is beautiful, our room was ready when we boarded at noon. Only problem I have with the outside window room was the bunk bed was over the queen bed and I kept hitting my head when I got in and out. Otherwise there was enough storage space for 2 teenagers and 2 adults. And now for the important part...the food! We find that the food on HAL is probably some of the BEST food on most of the cruise lines. This ship was no exception. We also found the service to be very good and we never had more than a 5 minute wait with the anytime dining option. The activities on the ship were good, not great. We have found that this is the only thing lacking with HAL. We assume that due to the average age on most cruises are older, that they don't have many options for family activities during holiday sailings. We enjoyed the Eastern Caribbean route. In Puerto Rico we all did the Segway tour and had a great time. At all the other Islands, we took cab/van/open bus tours. None were booked through HAL. All in all, we had a great time cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam and are looking forward to next years cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed ... Read More
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed true and it was disappointing that the social life on the ship seemed to end at 10pm, and you spend extra time walking behind wheelchairs and walkers much of the time. This cruise was different, probably because it was the holiday week, 12/18-12/26. More families and younger children...didn't make the night life better but the ship felt a bit more alive. Ship was very heavily decorated for the Christmas holiday...poinsettias everywhere...glad I didn't have the job of watering them. It was very festive and the ship's crew made it a point to remind us it was Christmas- even though it didn't really feel like it. Weather was a bit cool, windy and gray heading out to sea but by the time we arrived at first port of call, Grand Turk, weather was more in our favor. Also in San Juan, St. Maarten, Tortola and Half Moon Cat in Bahamas on Christmas Day. Ship is nice, food was ok- not great and I don't like the cafeteria line concept on these ships...The Solstice class at Celebrity has a more fun and functional buffet design with their food islands...these HAL cafeteria lines seem very old fashioned and time consuming. Entertainment on the ship was pretty weak...went to a few of the shows but really didn't think they did a very good of selecting and scheduling the acts. Evening pool party was canceled after 2 drops of rain, instead of closing the roof of the pool, which they did after everyone went away. Our cabin was in the spa-class...on the 10th deck...and way up to the front of the ship. Since the seas were a bit rough the first few days it felt like we were tossed around a bit...but we survived. Was often too windy to spend any time on our balcony but we got more use from it after the first half od the cruise. Cabin locale was convenient to the spa and to the Lido deck for breakfast/lunch buffet. Room service menu is very dull. Used a couple of activities events planned by the cruise line, and they wer pleasant- have had better but no complaints. After this cruise I might consider HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale on December 11, 2011. This was a seven day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had not been on this ship before so the first thing we did was explore so we could learn the layout of the ship. ... Read More
We boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale on December 11, 2011. This was a seven day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had not been on this ship before so the first thing we did was explore so we could learn the layout of the ship. It's also a great time to take pictures. We are spoiled and we only book cabins with a verandah. We love the beds on the HAL cruise line as sleep just needs to be comfortable and if it's not, we are not happy. HAL, in our opinion, has the best food and so we will be sticking with this cruise line going forward. I just hate to spend money on something that is not up to snuff. The ports on this cruise were; Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, San Juan and Saint Maarten. We had not visited Grand Turk before nor San Juan. Grand Turk was okay, very pretty beaches. I was not impressed with San Juan as it just reminded me of Mexico. We love Half Moon Cay and the weather was so wonderful while we were there. In Saint Maarten we had the same nice weather and we just shopped. We don't take many excursions because we have done them in the past and they are kind of expensive. We like to explore on our own. We did learn something on this cruise. If you book your next cruise while on board, you just put down a $100 deposit and you can select your cruise and your cabin. The deposit is good for four years. In addition, we got $50 each drink cards for the next cruise. Just little benefits to booking while on board. If it turns out that you cannot take the cruise you booked, the deposit can be used for another cruise. You don't lose that money. We booked a cruise for the next New Year so we can party on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My wife and I joined the Nieuw Amsterdam in Venice for a Collectors Cruise, 11 days cruising the Eastern Mediterranean followed by a 17 day cruise that started in Venice and terminated in Fort Lauderdale. We had a Balcony Stateroom on the ... Read More
My wife and I joined the Nieuw Amsterdam in Venice for a Collectors Cruise, 11 days cruising the Eastern Mediterranean followed by a 17 day cruise that started in Venice and terminated in Fort Lauderdale. We had a Balcony Stateroom on the 8th level which was small but comfortable and were looked after by very friendly cabin stewards. The first thing that struck us when we boarded was the average age of the passengers, with more over 70 than under 60. At 55 I felt like one of the kids but this didn't bother us as we like things pretty quiet. The first 11 days went very smoothly with calm seas, light winds and warm days. The ports of call were of great interest to my wife and I as we don't get to see any old ruins in Australia and the excavated sites at Ephesus, Delos and Olympia were simply amazing. On the day that the first cruise ended we spent the day in Venice. The city is very interesting but spoiled by the attitude of the locals who on the most part were rude and very anti tourist, a bit strange when almost the entire city survives on tourism. When we boarded the ship for the second half of our cruise we were in for quite a shock. We went straight to the Lido Deck to have a coffee and were confronted by what looked like a school canteen after a food fight. The staff were doing their best to straighten the place up but were fighting a losing battle. While the passengers on the first half of the cruise were mostly well spoken and polite the passengers that boarded for the second half of our cruise and the Atlantic crossing seemed very different. For a start the average weight of the passengers went up by at least 50lb with many unable to fit into the very generous dining chairs. One lady came on board with her pet dog which she allowed to eat from the dining table. One "lady" stood behind me while I was eating and broke wind driving my wife and I out of the Lido, very classy. The attitude of some of the passengers to the staff was disgusting yet the staff took it in their stride. We did strike a hurricane in the Atlantic but compared to the conduct of some of the passengers it was easy to handle. Unfortunately for the second half of the cruise, 17 days, we were unable to use our balcony due to having a chain smoking cigar smoker in the cabin next to ours. We did complain to the front office but they said he was allowed to puff on his cigars for 24 hours a day and they would move us to another cabin if one became available. At least 2 cabins did become available when 2 gentlemen were sent ashore for medical reasons but we were not offered their cabins. The Captain also stated the ship was at 100 passengers below capacity so it would appear the offer to move us was not genuine. Overall we did enjoy the cruise but we will not be cruising with Holland America again until they change their smoking policy and we would never consider another relocation cruise no matter how cheap it is. From Fort Lauderdale we drove to Orlando for 4 days at Disney World where our faith in the American people was restored. In 4 days we never struck one obnoxious person, most being more polite than the average Australian. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We (husband and I) were looking forward to this cruise as a relaxing end to 6 weeks of travelling around Europe. There was so much to see and do, however, that we didn't ever get into total relax mode, but we wouldn't have had it ... Read More
We (husband and I) were looking forward to this cruise as a relaxing end to 6 weeks of travelling around Europe. There was so much to see and do, however, that we didn't ever get into total relax mode, but we wouldn't have had it any other way. From embarkation to disembarkation at the end, we really couldn't fault HAL and we are already scheming towards another HAL cruise in the next year or so. We arrived by train at St Lucia station from Nice and managed our bags ourselves over the bridge (no ramps, whyever not??) to the people mover. From here the ship wasn't well signposted and we found others as confused as we were looking for the luggage drop. However we'll be fine next time. Very pleasant staff on check in, we were delighted to find we had been upgraded to a veranda stateroom (from oceanview, very nice) and took possession of a lovely stateroom which far surpassed our expectations. It was a disabled room which meant plenty of room and we made good use of the balcony at every opportunity, just fabulous entering and leaving port. Thank you HAL! Bags arrived after a couple of hours and we were able to unpack completely and store bags under the beds. Plenty of storage. Met our room steward later, and this was one of the few times we actually saw either of them as we were nearly always out when they worked their magic. We did enjoy the towel critters though, as we were travelling with a little stuffed toy "Spotty Dog" which we take photos of at lots of points on our travels, for our wee 2 year old grandson. When we get home I will create a story with pictures for him about Spotty Dog's travels, and there will be a special chapter on his encounters with the weird and wonderful animals met in our stateroom, created by our stewards. Thank you, boys, we loved them! I took photos each time. We chose anytime dining and had no problems being seated promptly at whatever time we wandered up to the MDR. We usually chose to sit with others and we met some lovely people on each occasion. The meals were extremely good, we thought, always beautifully presented and delicious, and not overly large which I think is good; by the time you've worked your way through three or even 4 courses, that's a seriously good meal. We also tried the Pinnacle Grill which was excellent, the fillet steak here was surpassingly good, and Tamarind which was something quite different and also exceptional. We ate in the Lido a couple of times and enjoyed that too, though it's a different kind of dining. The food was tasty and varied but the servers often provided very small servings unless you asked for a little more. I guess that's no problem, you can always go back, maybe they are saving us from ourselves! We did find that breakfast in the Lido on port days was a busy affair with so many people wanting breakfast at the same time but the service staff were unfailingly calm and courteous and the crowd thinned out after half an hour or so. we discovered that the MDR is the place for a relaxed and leisurely breakfast and went there a couple of times to avoid the rush upstairs. The thing that amazed us on this ship was the number of passengers whose attitude toward the staff was seriously lacking; we witnessed many occasions when stewards were spoken to rudely, snapped at, demanded for things and generally treated in a most arrogant and offhand way. Never once did we see any reaction to this behaviour on the past of ship staff and they should be commended for it. The words 'please' and 'thank you' are entirely missing from many people's vocabulary. I felt like apologising for them sometimes. Port excursions (the ship tours) were relatively expensive, we thought, though sometimes they were the most reliable way for us to see the highlights of a place and be sure of getting back to the ship on time. We joined a group of seasoned travellers on one occasion and had a most enjoyable private full day tour of Istanbul which covered a lot more than the ship tour offered, but once you know the ropes you can plan these excursions with confidence. CruiseCritic forums are valuable here, use the roll call to get to know your fellow travellers in advance. We didn't take wine aboard or buy soda cards etc, choosing to buy the 3-bottle deals of wine in the MDR. The bottles followed us around the ship, wherever we ate and this was great, if a little expensive but we knew it would likely be so. Can't see the point of taking bottles of wine aboard if you can only drink them in your stateroom, better to be socialising in one of the many bars. We met some lovely people this way. Overall we just loved our 12 days on Nieuw Amsterdam and have nothing but praise for the ship, its management and the whole ambiance of the cruise. I can't imagine that any other cruise line could offer more, but then as a first time cruiser I have nothing to compare it with. No matter, we are already looking at another cruise in the future Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We travelled with friends in August on Verandah cabins deck 4. The cabins are spacious, wonderful bed, plenty of cupboards and drawers, has all that you would need. We were greeted with a free bottle of champagne and gift vouchers of ... Read More
We travelled with friends in August on Verandah cabins deck 4. The cabins are spacious, wonderful bed, plenty of cupboards and drawers, has all that you would need. We were greeted with a free bottle of champagne and gift vouchers of $50.00 which we used for drinks. The food was consistantly of 5* quality as was the service. Embarking took 10minutes as did dis-embarking. The only wait was for a cab at the terminal at Barcelona, a nightmare! I never waited more than a minute for an elevator and all the tours and tenders were extremely well organised. The only con.........the ship has the most amazing bars, so beautiful, but the entertainment at night does not utilise them. The shows in the showroom were either fantastic or just horrible. The duo in the one bar were torable. The singer who moved from bar to bar had a fantastic voice but they only had her singing a few times. Think the entertaiment could be upped. That said, if you did not enjoy the Niew Amsterdam, there has to be something wrong with you. Lovely ship and the staff!! Go Boosie, and regards to Andy, Topic and Rodimere who made our dining experience so special. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We arrived at Port Everglades for boarding at about 11AM. It was the smoothest embarcation ever. In less than 15 minutes we were on the ship and shocked when shortly later it was announced that all cabins were now ready! We were slighly ... Read More
We arrived at Port Everglades for boarding at about 11AM. It was the smoothest embarcation ever. In less than 15 minutes we were on the ship and shocked when shortly later it was announced that all cabins were now ready! We were slighly underwhelmed at the ship. Our last cruise on Celebrity Equinox was a brand new ship and it was spectacular in very way. The cruise before that was Celebrity Solstice (sister ship) which was equally impressive. There is no grand staircase/atrium on this ship. The decorations are generally cheap looking black and white posters on the hallway walls of NYC. Clean and okay, but not spectacular. It appeared that most of the wall coverings, fabrics, art, etc., were done at a budget level and did not reflect what should be found on a luxury ship. Very impressed with the room. We had a superior veranda suite. More storage than any ship I can remember and very conveniently placed. Room included two sinks, jacuzzi tub and shower. Great bed, nice sized balcony. To order "in-room" movies, you have to check out a DVD which seems a little archaic for a new ship instead of ordering it on the set. For the most part, the staff was wonderful even if a little bit un-motivated. The bartender in the early part of the day at the lido bar at the rear of the ship was nicknamed lemon face by several passengers because of his surly nature. At one point I walked up to the bar, was the only patron while he spoke with an officer. When he finished he looked right at me and then turned to leave without acknowledging me until the offier called him and pointed at me and told him to wait on me. I was so angry that I just said never mind an walked away. I also had difficulty with the assistant manager of the Pinacle Restaurant. We had booked five nights and every time we went there was a problem. Lost "pre-paid" reservations, no tables available when clearly there were, etc. On every cruise I've been on, if you wanted a second entree or appetizer there was no problem. Not here! We were told that there would be an additional surcharge (in addition to the one we had already paid), to order anything extra! When we asked if we could have a dinner entre (macaroni and lobster) as a half portion appetizer, I was told, our chef will not be happy with that. I was floored. He came back and said he doesn't want to do it, but I asked him to make an exception. I told him that I could afford to eat in any restaurant that I chose and don't need to beg a chef to give me a bowl of macaroni" and cancelled all of the rest of my visits to the Pinacle. That being said, the Asian restaurant was friendly and the food spectacular every time that we ate there. The food in the main dining room (open seating) was also pretty good. Not the best in the world, but not the worst. The buffet on the lido deck was a bit of hit and miss. The omlette station for breakfast was great, but several times at other stations the employees were very unhelpful. When I asked if there was more turkey for lunch (dried bits and pieces were all that I could see), I got a curt reply of "no". I heard someone else ask if there was any more balsamic at the salad bar because the bottle was empty and she too was told "no". Pools were both very nice and plenty of nice deck chairs. The gym was a big letdown. Very small as compared to most ships and the free weight area could only accomodate about 3 people. there were machines to use if you wanted to, but often there was a line for them. The free area in the floor was often taken up by customers who paid for fitness classes. The sauna is a joke. It holds no more than three people at a time and every time I went, it had three people and others were walking away because it was full. Entertainment was very average. We have been spoiled by Celebrity doing Circus du Soleil performances I guess. There was one impersonator who was quite funny. I am not going to comment on the ports of call because we just went for warm weather and beaches. Weather did not cooperate with us a good portion of the trip and we missed several ports which one was made up by going to Key West. Cannot fault the ship for weather. Another "new inovation" which is a true rip off is that no longer are soda cards unlimited. You pre purchase a fixed amount and they punch a hole in the card. If you buy too many, you don't get a refund. Even worse is the "beverage card". You only save $5.00. The beverage card is supposed to be for any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage yet when we ordered the "drink fo the day" we were told we could not use the card for that since the drink had been discounted by one dollar already. MAKE YOUR POLICIES CLEAR BEFORE THE SALE IS MADE. I have to commend the disembarcation. For $19.00 per person, they took our bags, checked them in at the airport and left our boarding passes in our stateroom mailbox the day before. Very, very, very convenient. All in all, this was a very average ship with very average food and very average entertainment. The cruisers were generally older in the 50 - 60 year old age group. This is our second Holland America cruise and after the first we determined that Holland was our least favorite line. We decided to give it another shot because of the new ship but should have stayed with Celebrity, NCL or Royal Carribbean, all of which are far superior. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My wife and I read several reviews prior to our December 19th cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. I have to admit we became concerned about all the complaining about code orange, code red, noise in the rooms, a rocky ship, cheap furniture and ... Read More
My wife and I read several reviews prior to our December 19th cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. I have to admit we became concerned about all the complaining about code orange, code red, noise in the rooms, a rocky ship, cheap furniture and poor food. Now that the cruise is over, we found almost none of the complaints to be valid. I am happy that we remained healthy thanks to safe hygiene practices. Sure the ship rocked in rough waters, so has every other ship we have been on. My son said the sofa bed that he slept on was comfortable and the food tasted great. And for those who complained about the carpeting or the red MDR, get a life. They were fine. Besides, who goes around staring at carpeting? We arrived at the port around 1:10 pm and check in was a breeze. There was almost no line or wait during any part of the embarkation process. We were on-board by 1:30 pm. Never again will I try to get on the ship when the doors first open. Our room (1016) was ready as soon as we got on the ship so we were able to drop off our carry-on luggage immediately and check out the ship with free hands. The ship is clean and elegant. There is quite a bit of artwork throughout the ship that adds to elegance. There is always plenty of open seating around the ship. Except for the chairs on the rear Lido deck, we always found a place to sit in the sun or shade, inside or out. It seemed like nobody knew about the wooden lounge chairs on deck three until day six. The main showroom never filled up so finding a seat at the last minute was always possible. Aside from the usual peak times, food lines on the Lido deck were usually short. Our room was great. There is plenty of storage. I especially liked the tub in the bathroom. It was nice to be able to bend down in the shower without having the curtain stick to your butt. The open seating for the MDR worked well. We ate at 5:30 pm without a reservation and never had to wait in line. We chose to share a table every night and enjoyed the company. The food was great. We didn't try any of the pay for use restaurants because we found the food to be just fine on the Lido deck and MDR. My seventeen year old son said this was the best cruise he had ever been on. He and his friends had the Lido deck pretty much to themselves after 10:00 pm since the ship turns into a cemetery by then. I thought the shows during the first two nights were totally forgettable. The music was canned and the lighted screen for the NYC show was cheap and overpowering. The rest of the shows were top notch. Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on as long as you follow instructions. Once our number was called, it took about 3 minutes to get off and another few minutes to find our luggage. Disney World isn't this good at handling people. Finally, I will get a little picky. After sailing before on Carnival, I found the deli (sandwich counter) on this ship to be disappointing. I love my Reuben sandwiches for lunch. I got one first thing after getting on the ship. I was turned down for the rest of the cruise, saying they were not available. On Carnival, the staff would custom make any sandwich you wanted and the Reuben was quite popular. Come on, a ship named after NYC and no Reuben sandwiches. Finally, silverware and a clean table was hard to find on the Lido deck after the usual rush and at night after the first show. I don't recall every having to hunt down silverware on our Carnival cruises. Overall we found this ship to be more than we expected. The kids were well behaved and there were plenty of classes for the adults to keep busy. Don't miss the computer classes, they are great. If you want a faster pace and more of a night life, stick with something like Carnival. If you like a relaxing cruise with great food and where you can talk without having to yell over the noise, this is the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My wife and I are both 26 and chose to spend our honeymoon and first Christmas together on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We booked with Holland America to avoid hoards of kids that would be inevitable over the holidays, seeking a more relaxing ... Read More
My wife and I are both 26 and chose to spend our honeymoon and first Christmas together on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We booked with Holland America to avoid hoards of kids that would be inevitable over the holidays, seeking a more relaxing journey. We got married on the 18th and flew down to Florida the next morning on Southwest Airlines. We got to Ft. Lauderdale exhausted and ready for some post-wedding R&R! We departed on Dec. 19. Overall - We had a very relaxing and enjoyable time on this very classy ship. We expected a cruise full of those 50+ and were pleasantly surprised by the number of young people (20s and 30s) on board. Also, it's worth noting for younger people considering HA, that even though the average age is higher, many HA cruisers are experienced travelers and we really enjoyed talking with them (including some in their 90s!) With scarce nightlife and less than active activities, you have do make your own fun. But with good happy hours and events like the pub crawl, fun can be found! Be sure to try trivia and bingo, kind of family activities, but they can get competitive. Since it was Christmas there were more families and the children were occasionally unruly, but generally they were not a bother and seemed to be occupied by the Club HAL staff. The lack of nightlife and more exciting activities was good for us on our honeymoon - it forced us to relax and take it easy. Next time, we will probably go with Princess or Royal Caribbean, but if you're looking for a very laid back, classy ship and crew, the Nieuw Amsterdam is a great fit. It was what we expected and a very enjoyable experience. Airport Transfer - We reserved the Holland America airport transfer from Ft. Lauderdale. Basically a coach bus, nothing special. At $17 per person, a cab might be cheaper as the port is within a few miles of the airport. But it was convenient to just step on a bus and relax. Embarkation - Fast. We were in our stateroom within 15-20 minutes. No complaints. The longest line was for the stupid picture they took of you. The Ship - Very manageable layout, however, the maps and info provided fail to accurately layout the ship. Nothing informed us that the gym was in the Greenhouse Spa! It was absolutely beautiful for Christmas, with decorations everywhere! The boat was very nice, with a classic feel to it. Some of the decorations were artificial feeling, but generally it was a nice, romantic boat and reminded us of scenes from the pre-glacier Titanic. Some commented on the rocking of the boat. There were a few nights where it did rock and it was difficult to walk in a straight line, but we were on deck 11 and did not find it overwhelming. Verandah Spa Stateroom (deck 11) - We opted for a Verandah, which we absolutely loved! We did not book a specific stateroom and, as a result, we received one of the "spa rooms." These spa rooms were nice with complimentary Vitamin and Voss water as well as some spa treatments and a trickling water plug-in the wall appliance. It was a nice free upgrade for us, but certainly not worth the extra cost if you paid the full price for that specific room. We were next to the Cafe and Bar on Deck 11, which were both very nice and good places to spend the day and night. Cruise Info - Being first time cruisers, we were out of the loop the first couple of days. The ship was very manageable to explore, but the information provided was scarce. In fact, we didn't realize the Manhattan Dining Room was the main dining room until our third day! We didn't know there was a gym until the fourth or fifth day. There was no handbook or guidebook to all the ship offers. When we asked, of course, the crew was always willing to help. Dining - We enjoyed the Italian restaurant and the main dining room. We were "open seating." You could make reservations and be guaranteed a seating at a certain time, share a table with others, or just show up and wait for a few minutes. We did all three and have no complaints. The food was excellent. We never tried the Pinnacle or the Asian restaurant because we were pleased with all the dining options. The Lido restaurant was not as well managed. There was hardly ever a clean table with silverware available. The staff was not as friendly and the food not as good. But it was a buffet, so I guess that's all to be expected. In Room Dining - HA offers complimentary in room dining with a complete menu from salmon to cookies and milk. Very nice concept, poorly operated the first few days. We could not get through the first two days as the line rang busy!!! We simply wanted to order a bottle of liquor for our room (and pay for it.) Eventually the novelty must have worn off and we were able to get through. Bottom line, enjoy it if you can, but don't expect it. Alcohol - I mention this, because HA has some decent deals for you to enjoy a drink and not experience a shock when you get your bill at the end of the cruise. Liquor bottle/mixer service (part of in room dining) is a great deal, with a 1 Liter bottle of Bacardi and 3 cans of coke being $36, vodka/gin and tonic being $32. This is especially good when a can of coke is $2 itself! Also, there are happy hours where drinks are 2 for 1 throughout the ship at various times listed each day in the itinerary. "Double fisting" (ordering two drinks for yourself) is encouraged! They also offer a "drink of the day" special for a dollar off. Finally, the pub crawl. For $20, you receive 4 drinks at various bars, with college-type games along the way. It was a blast! Beverage cards are another way to save. For $45, you receive a card worth $50 of alcoholic beverages. A similar card is available for soda drinks. One negative aspect of alcohol service on HA, the bartenders are not very skilled. Most "mixed drinks" contained too much mixer and were overpoweringly sweet (even for my wife that loves fuzzy navels, amaretto sours, etc.) They were OK during the pub crawl, but that was because the head bartender was with us! Stick to simple drinks like rum and coke, gin and tonic, or just beer/wine. Entertainment - On par with a college drama department's productions. They try hard to appeal to all audiences, and succeed to some degree. We found ourselves attending because it was the only thing to do after dinner. The comedian was funny, the singers/dancers try hard. Overall not bad, but don't expect Broadway. Nightlife - The ship is truly a ghost town after 10 (except the casino). Even with more young travelers over the holidays, you have to create your own fun at night. Destinations - We traveled to Half Moon Cay, Curacao, Bonaire. Half Moon Cay was what we expected, tender to the HA-owned island for a beautiful beach and lots of fun excursions. The weather was a little cool in December, on par with south Florida. The latter two islands though were plenty warm, averaging the 80s. Holiday Celebrations - I was very pleased with all the decorations in celebration of Christmas and the holidays. The ship was beautiful. The crew also put on a Christmas Eve celebration and religious services were also held. We were served a complimentary glass of champagne on Christmas. Very classy and very festive. Cleanliness - The ship was very clean and excellent sanitation measures seemed to be in place. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We woke up Christmas morning to a e-mail from Delta informing us our 1:20 pm flight had been canceled. Even though it was 38 degrees and the sun was shining AND we were headed south. I still do not understand why! Since we were all packed ... Read More
We woke up Christmas morning to a e-mail from Delta informing us our 1:20 pm flight had been canceled. Even though it was 38 degrees and the sun was shining AND we were headed south. I still do not understand why! Since we were all packed and ready we loaded the SUV and made our way to Ft. Lauderdale, an 11 hour trip. Had we booked our flight the same day as the cruise we would not have made it in time to board at Ft. Lauderdale. Important tip, book your flight a day in advance and spend the night at a motel close to the port. We arrived at the port around 11 am. Somewhat of a line but the process was very organized and we were on board by 11:30. We made it to the Lido for lunch and then off to our cabin at 1 pm. Our cabin had a veranda which we always enjoy. Our cabin was exactly the same as the one we had last year on the Eurodam. We always have room service breakfast on our veranda. We prepared for the muster drill which is greatly improved, no life jackets required and no roll call! We read all the information concerning ports of calls. I immediately noticed we were not going to the ports originally thought. We were going to Belize City, which we went to last year in place of Turks. We were somewhat disappointed and immediately booked a snorkel excursion before it filled up. Our itinerary changed several times during the course of the cruise. We were not able to stop at Half Moon Cay, Turks or Costa Maya due to weather. The seas were rather rough until we made it around Cuba. The ports we did make were very nice even though we went there last year. Key West was our final port replacing Costa Maya. HAL gave each passenger a $50.00 credit a max of $100.00 per cabin for all the changes plus refunded port charges for the ports we were unable to make. The food on board was excellent, Tamarind and Pinnacle were both excellent. Service was first class equal to any 5 star. Dining room food was very good with a nice variety, service was exceptional all the time. Lido was very good with many choices, lines were sometimes long due to people not knowing what they wanted. Several people were very inconsiderate and rude, mostly foreigners and seemed like a simple thank you was not in their vocabulary. I must add this concerning the entertainment. We attended every show because they were all awesome. Great shows with lots of superior talent. The male singers were the very best! If there was any negative it would be the spa, way over priced almost 25% higher than at home and they automatically add 20% service charge no matter how good the service. I prefer to make that decision and will tip accordingly. We will probably not take any more holiday cruise due to the number of children on board. Way to many, they took over all the pools and hot tubs even though one was reserved for adults only. Parents seemed to allow their children to run rampant all over the ship. Most had no manners at all probably because their parents have no manners. Over all it was a fabulous cruise as all of our HAL cruises have been. Disembarkation was painless we we off the ship and on our way home by 7:30 am. We did the express disembarkation and handled our own luggage. Took all of 10 minutes to make our way to our vehicle.We will continue using HAL forever! Read Less
Sail Date December 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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