My husband and I just got back from our first-ever cruise together on the second sailing of the Nieuw Statendam. We chose HAL, a 4-night itinerary and this ship as a "test cruise" to see if we would like cruising as an alternative to a beach resort vacation.
We booked a Vista suite on Deck 5. We later got an email with the Club Orange offer which we signed up for. A few days before the cruise, we got an upgrade offer for a Neptune suite which after subtracting what we paid for Club Orange would have been a great deal, but we waited too long to call and they sold out.
Boarding went fine but the communication was a bit of a mess on this as to what time our ship would depart and what time to be there. Despite being told the week before that priority boarding would begin at 2pm, it started an hour or so earlier. No big deal, we got there in plenty of time and had a minimal wait in line. Seems like communication could be better - I would love an option to receive updates on boarding and departure via text rather than email.
The Vista Suites are only a slight bit bigger than the balcony rooms. Very nicely laid out but small. If we spent any time in the room we were tripping over each other. Our bed was comfortable and television worked fine. The bathroom was pretty amazing for such a tiny space. High quality fixtures, good water temp and water pressure in the shower. Balcony was small but nice - it had two adjustable-back chairs (not loungers) and a little table to put drinks on. Our two stewards were great and they came in multiple times per day to tidy up.
The Ship and Crew
It is a beautiful new ship that is well laid out. Most of the time, we did not feel that there were thousands of people traveling with us. At times, we would be outside walking around and run into only one or two other people. The crew was very professional and helpful and went out of their way to greet people in passing.
Restaurants and Food
One of the reasons we chose HAL was food - we are foodies and wanted a cruise line that had more than buffets. We ate at the Lido a few times - once for breakfast and twice for lunch. Food ranged from ok to good - similar to a buffet at one of the nicer Las Vegas resorts. Very crowded though - many stations had lines and it could be hard to find a table to eat at.
We also had burgers at Dive for lunch - good (not great) burgers and fries that took 20 minutes. Staff seemed overwhelmed by demand. One burger arrived undercooked. Another day I had a pizza at the New York Deli and it was excellent, but required a 25 minute wait. The issue at the Deli seemed to be more of an organizational issue with staff versus too many orders.
Two of our dinners and two breakfasts were at Club Orange which we really enjoyed because of the intimate environment and excellent service. The food was consistently good, good enough that if we had a do-over, we would have skipped the gala night MDR meal and just eaten here. Yeah - I know some people on other threads think that it looks uncomfortable or not formal enough, etc. This may be a generational issue though. We are middle-aged, not-retired professionals and it worked for us, but we typically like non-chain, chef-owned small restaurants.
The MDR was very pretty design-wise, but we did not enjoy our experience that much for the one dinner we ate. Our server was very nice, but service was uneven and our main course arrived after a lengthy wait and was not very hot. The food all tasted like it had sat for a while under the metal covers. We ordered glasses of wine and they arrived pre-poured. We skipped desert. The whole experience to us felt like the big company Christmas party or large wedding reception. Just not our thing.
The Pinnacle Grill was a mixed experience. Our food was fantastic - the best of the cruise. The dining experience was not as good - despite the restaurant being only 3/4 full we were seated next to a large party with two over-tired crying toddlers. We asked to be re-seated and they stuck us next to the service gallery (punishment for asking?) although our server told us we were the 2nd couple next to the toddler table that had asked to be moved. The dinner service was uneven with long waits between some courses but not others. We were not crazy about the decor, it felt outdated - too dark and formal. It also had the smell of old restaurant and the ship is brand new which is just odd.
Shows and Entertainment
Lincoln Center and BB King Blues Club were our favorites. We went to multiple shows for each of these and the performers were amazing. Luckily for us, Lincoln Center is daytime and early evening and BB King was later evening so we could see multiple performances in one day. Having musical entertainment like this will make us choose HAL again for a cruise.
We also went to a Rolling Stone Rock room performance which I enjoyed and my husband did not. I thought the band was good and he thought they were just ok and too loud. Your mileage may vary ... We saw the comic who pulled people out of the audience for more of an improv type show with nothing offensive or controversial.
We did not see the first dance show Humanity but saw the later one Stages. It was fine, if you like interpretive dance. Despite what I read elsewhere there actually were not a lot of people walking out. I saw one or two elderly people and a few teenagers leave. I thought the older people were heading to bathroom/bed and the teens to the dance floor 😉 . Just like I left a Lincoln Center performance because I had a dinner reservation. Each performance on the ship was just 45 minutes - so even if you don't like it you're not giving up hours of time if you stay to be polite.
Casino, Pools and Hot Tubs
We only walked through the casino, but it was busy. Very smoky. We did not use the Lido pool and pool deck. Because of the holiday, the pool and hot tubs were overrun with kids who all looked like they were having a good time. We went to the pool bar on the Aft deck and used the hot tubs out there since it was pretty much adults only. One evening we had it to all to ourselves!
Most of the folks we met were wonderful and luckily I saw no one in bathrobes except at the spa (which was fantastic for facials and massages). More puzzling to me was the number of people who announced their 4 or 5 star Mariner status as if it was supposed to mean anything to me. I was tempted to counter with my airline or hotel program status as a joke, but just let it go.
Beautiful new ship with plenty to keep busy even if the weather outside is not sunny and tropical. We are thinking about another longer cruise next year and will likely book on HAL in a Neptune Suite to get a bit more room.
We spent a little over ~3K total for our room, (including Club Orange), service fees, one specialty dinner, alcohol, lots of specialty coffees, 4 spa treatments, unlimited laundry service and internet and felt that it was worth it.