My wife and I were on Holland America's Niew Amsterdam for its 18-day cruise through the Panama Canal, departing San Diego October 3, 2018 and arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on the 21st. Though we had many good-to-great experiences on ... Read More
My wife and I were on Holland America's Niew Amsterdam for its 18-day cruise through the Panama Canal, departing San Diego October 3, 2018 and arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on the 21st. Though we had many good-to-great experiences on this voyage we also had far too many disappointing ones.
Highlights of the good-to-great experiences are as follows:
1. The ship's decor is spectacular, a feast for the eyes, beautifully color-coordinated with attractive furniture, fixtures and (especially) carpeting.
2. Staff universally were dedicated to pleasing passengers. Theirs was a "can do" attitude, always served with a smile.
3. Though a large ship (2,000+ passengers), it never felt crowded and there was never a sense of having to stand in long lines. Even entering and exiting the ship was an effortless process, always well-managed.
4. Even with winds and relatively high swells no one seemed to get motion-sick. The ship was wonderfully stable at all speeds.
5. Entertainment was excellent, especially the five young women (playing two violins, one viola, one cello and one piano) in the Lincoln Center Stage and the two individuals playing piano at night in the Billboard Lounge. The Holland America singers and dancers in the Main Stage also were excellent at their crafts.
6. There were many dining venues. Ratings below are from 1 (average) to 4 (excellent):
Food Quality Service Value
Lido Buffet--2 1 3
Main Dining--6 2 2
Tamarind--3 4 4 3
Pinnacle Grill--2 4 4 3
Canaletto--3 3 4 3
Sel de Mer--2 4 4 3
There were upcharges ranging from $15 per person at Canaletto to $49 per person at Rudi's Sel de Mer. A value rating was given only to the last four restaurants, which were the upcharge restaurants. The numbers following each restaurant's name are the number of nights we ate there. In total we spent $596 in upcharge costs on this trip.
Having one bad experience aboard a Holland America ship is understandable and acceptable. Nothing is perfect. However, we had eight experiences that were disappointing (spa, hydropool, food quality in Lido buffet and Main Dining, smoking on ship, bingo, ports of call scheduled, ports skipped and our excursion-related drop-off at the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
1.Spa services were seriously over-priced and spa staff members were unpleasantly aggressive in selling spa products and services. Spa promotions appeared at first blush to offer real bargains but the fine print said otherwise. My wife and I had two couples massages, both of which were fine for my wife. My first massage was so mechanical in was not at all relaxing, so I requested a different therapist for the second one and she was fine. The first therapist was extremely pushy in selling me skin products, which I promptly returned (unused) three days after I'd purchased them. The spa staff person reluctantly processing my refund made it clear she was not happy with my return.
2. The spa's hydropool was OK but was incredibly over-priced. We were not familiar with the Niew Amsterdam's hydropool but assumed it was as large and enjoyable as the one on the Holland American's Koningsdam, which it was not. At $599 for the entire cruise--no daily pricing offered-the hydropool was a total ripoff. We and one other couple apparently were the only two families naive enough to pay $599 so we had the hydropool to ourselves the entire cruise.
3. If the food in the Lido Buffet and Main Dining had been better we would not have gone to the upcharge restaurants so frequently, far more often than we originally intended to do, spending an unbudgeted $596 as a result.
4. Smoking was permitted on the aft deck of the ship on the same level as the Sea View swimming pools, one of the two pools on this ship. We would have enjoyed using that pool because it was not covered by a roof, and it was wide open in terms of views whereas the main pool was enclosed on four sides. Also, the main pool became hot and humid when the roof was covered, which happened frequently.
5. Bingo was over-priced and my perception is that it was literally impossible to win the large cash prize until the last day bingo was played. Consequently, passengers who played bingo daily in order to try winning the large prize (growing from about $1,400 to about $2,200 at the end) spent a lot of money buying cards that probably could not win until the last day, when numbers continued to be called until a winner yelled "bingo!" I say "probably could not win" for two reasons. First, to cover 24 squares (plus "free") within the first 50 numbers called is mathematically almost impossible. Second, because the ship knew which cards were being played it would be easy to program the electronics of the numbers being called to assure that those numbers ensure no one could win.
6. As readers can learn by reading the itinerary for this cruise, the ports of call are not all that great to begin with. We have cruised on Holland America at least seven or eight times and another 5 to 10 times on other ships so we should have known better than to select this cruise. It fit conveniently into our schedules, and included the Panama Canal, but we could have chosen better.
7. We had more sea days than planned (10 days on an 18-day cruise when we had no opportunity to go ashore, versus 8 days originally scheduled as Sea days). High winds prevented the ship from entering one port in Mexico and in another port (Coast Rica) high swells prevented passengers from boarding the ship's tenders for the ride to shore. Both decisions reflected the captain's concerns for the health and safety of the passengers and crew. Nonetheless, Holland America could have offered some token as recompense for the missed ports, but did not.
8. Because we would be getting off the ship October 21 at 8:30 a.m. and our flight home was not until after 5 p.m. we signed up for a four-hour land and sea excursion, which was delightful. The bad part about it was the tour director, Bonnie, having the bus driver take her back to her car, which was parked at the port, before the driver took 40-50 of us to the airport. When we got to the airport two things happened. First, there were some missed luggage issues, eventually corrected with the help of other bus drivers, because our driver spoke virtually no english. The tour director should have been on our bus, at the airport, to resolve those problems instantly. Second, in sending us off to the airport Bonnie said I was to exit the bus at the third of three stops, but using mainly gestures the driver insisted we exit at the second stop, which turned out to be considerably farther from our check-in counter than the third stop would have been. By dumping us out at the second stop the driver then had an empty bus and could skip the third stop. It was a long walk, up an incline, for me. And if a kind airport employee had not offered to get a wheelchair for my wife it would have been a much longer and tougher walk for her.
Overall our cruise had many attractive and enjoyable features. Unfortunately, it also had far too many disappointing experiences. Read Less