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  1. I appreciate the comments. What we feared (disliking a "large" ship) turned out to be the best ever. Undoubtedly, this was partly due to the fact that the ship is fairly new, and partly (well, more than partly) to our getting a good upsell to a Neptune, but mainly to the fact that the larger ship brought with it more venues and a more spacious feel in public areas. As to Amber Cove: we walked around the port area and returned. A taxi ride or tour is required to visit the nearest town, and from photos and other reports it appeared to us that Puerto Plata was much like other colonial Caribbean towns. We may have missed an opportunity by not going, in hindsight.
  2. My wife and I recently disembarked from the above cruise. In short – and to save you the trouble of reading what follows, we will state that the cruise was absolutely wonderful, and we would have to search for any negative points. The Ship. We had reservations about cruising on a ship as large as Nieuw Statendam, having in the past experienced Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Zuiderdam. Quite frankly, those concerns were completely unjustified. We simply loved this ship – its décor, cleanliness, “newness,” the extra venues, and the fact that at no time did it seem crowded. Rather, the public spaces seem wider and brighter, and we felt much less confined than on the smaller ships. It will be difficult for us to sail on anything other than a Pinnacle Class ship in the future. Reservations. We used the services of our HAL PCC, and found that she did a creditable and knowledgeable job as have her predecessors with Holland America. We also made various reservations online, and had no trouble doing so. Finally, we dealt with other agents by telephone in reserving a cabana and purchasing an “upsell,” and both were pleasant and patient. Embarkation/Disembarkation. We experienced no trouble with respect to checking in and leaving the ship at the end of the cruise (sad though that was!). The ease with which we did so was undoubtedly aided by our having opted for a Neptune suite. It is also worth noting that we used the Luggage Direct program and found it to be wonderful as has always been the case in the past. Accommodations. We had initially booked a midship veranda cabin, but wasted no time in accepting an upsell to a Neptune when it was offered via email a week or so before the cruise. We opted for one of the two available – an aft cabin with a wraparound balcony. We had enjoyed this cabin location in the past and loved it. Although the ship’s movement was a bit more apparent at this location, the veranda was wonderful, as was the room itself. Club Orange. We initially purchased Club Orange, because we had not used it in the past and wanted to sample it on a Pinnacle-class ship. Fortunately, the cost of Club Orange was deducted from the additional price charged for the Neptune when we opted for the upgrade. In any event, we enjoyed Club Orange thoroughly, although I am not sure that it is truly worth the price. The staff was wonderful, the food was well prepared and beautifully presented, and I enjoyed watching the chef handling the preparation of breakfast and final touches as to dinner. Still, the main dining room has always worked well for us and we will probably not opt for Club Orange in the future unless it is offered along with some other upsell. Lido, etc. We liked the bright appearance and roominess of the Lido, and found the food to be very good for its kind. We always look forward to Dive-In burgers, and ordered those immediately upon boarding the ship. The pizza was also decent. The Reuben from the deli was good, but would have been much better had it been heated. Oddly enough, the same cold Reuben was my very first lunch on Holland America in 2012 – it was cold then too! Sel de Mer. We skipped Pinnacle and Tamarind in favor of a more expensive blowout at Sel de Mer. We have dined there on three prior occasions. The first trip was wonderful, and the second was frankly pretty poor – so much so that we debated whether to spend the money on this trip. We decided to do so, and I am pleased to report that the ambiance, food, and service were all outstanding. Grand Dutch Café. This was a wonderful addition, although we attempted to avoid it whenever possible because of the calories inherent in the dishes offered! Retreat Cabana and Thermal Suite. We purchased both of these amenities before the cruise. The cabana was beautiful, as was the service and willingness to procure drinks and food. I also enjoyed the thermal suite. However, the fact that the cabana was on deck 12 and the thermal suite on deck 9 meant that I didn’t use it as frequently as I had the lido cabanas and thermal suite on the Eurodamand Nieuw Amsterdam. Frankly, the need to travel up and down 3 flights was just not worth the trouble. Although most would disagree, I will also confess to missing the hustle and bustle of the lido cabana on the pool deck. Signature Beverage Package. We do not consume enough beverages to warrant this purchase, but I nonetheless like it because there is no need to worry about unpleasant surprises at the end of the trip when the bar and wine bill is received. While the wine on the SBP is probably not terribly sophisticated, the bourbon selection was excellent, as were the mixed drinks preferred by my wife. Bars. We exclusively patronized the Ocean Bar for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. This was a wonderfully comfortable area, and we enjoyed joking around with the staff as they managed to keep the throng happy headed to and from dinner. Shops. Frankly, we saw little in the shops of interest, beyond buying a couple of Nieuw Statendam commemorative glasses that were on sale. Neptune Lounge. We have used and enjoyed this area in the past, but on this occasion visited only once or twice because of the distance between our cabin and the lounge. We did receive a couple of calls from the concierges in the lounge, which were appreciated. Itinerary/Excursions. We have sailed this itinerary several times in the past, and took no ship’s excursions. Frankly, we preferred the ambience of the ship to any activities onshore, and thus went ashore only at the Amber Cove and ssSt. Thomas stop. Entertainment. We went to virtually nothing on the Main Stage, with the exception of the “Origins,” which I very much enjoyed. The history of Holland America is not only interesting but also important, and I am glad that an effort has made to offer this as a program. Otherwise, we thoroughly enjoyed the Lincoln Stage performances. Overall, this may have been our most enjoyable cruise ever: the ship itself was magnificent, the accommodations wonderful, the food outstanding, and, most importantly, the staff was truly wonderful. We are looking forward to going again. By way of personal information, I will note that my wife and I are in our “early” 70’s, and consider ourselves to be active and still in possession of most of our faculties. Our first Holland America cruise was in 2012 (this same itinerary), and we have cruised at least once annually ever since. With the exception of a circumnavigation of the Hawaiian Islands on another line, we have never been interested in experiencing any other ships or companies. This loyalty on our part has led us to bring along various family members over the years, on one occasion including 14 children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. We are currently three-star mariners, and emerged from this trip only 5 credits shy of attain four-star status. We look forward to attaining that next goal.
  3. I always wear a coat and tie. We usually do the early seating. I wonder if the attire is a bit more formal at the late seating?
  4. Thanks for all the responses. They were a great help, and we will offer our two-cents’ worth when we return.
  5. We are 3-star mariners, and are scheduled to embark on the Nieuw Statendam for a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on February 23. Primarily because we have not tried it in the past, we signed up for Club Orange. One of the inducements for doing so is the "priority embarkation" offered though this program - especially since we are not 4-star or higher (yet), and (sadly) are not staying in a Neptune suite. Earlier this week, we received the expected email from HAL as to the staggered boarding times. We are on the Gershwin deck (5) and are informed that our boarding time will be 2:30 PM. In the past we have arrived at the port at 11:00 or so, and have been content to wait around a bit and enjoy the hubbub and excitement before boarding at 11:30 or 12:00. Although we are likely to do the same this time, that "excitement" may wane a bit if we have to wait 3 1/2 hours to board! We are also aware of the comments on this Board to the effect that the boarding times are generally ignored in practice. Our questions are these: (a) does the Club Orange "membership" grant early boarding in general, or does it just mean that we will be boarded before the rest of the 2:30 group? (b) does the Club Orange group have a special waiting area, or is that handled through the usual boarding number card issued when checking in? (c) does the Club Orange restaurant accept reservations and, if so, how is that handled? (d) although we enjoy meeting and talking with fellow passengers, my spouse and I prefer dining alone. Will that be possible in the Club Orange restaurant? (e) In the past, we have been issued a specific table number in the MDR. Will that happen on this cruise, or will it be assumed that we will dine in the Club Orange restaurant throughout the cruise? Thanks very much for your responses.
  6. I have always found the HAL pools to be too cold for my old bones, but the temperature doesn’t seem to bother many others.
  7. We have enjoyed Lido Cabanas on the Eurodam and N.A., but obviously they are not available on Nieuw Statendam. Instead, we have booked a Port side Retreat Cabana for our late February cruise on N.S., again to keep out of the sun, and have a predictable place to sit. We also hope that the excellent service we have enjoyed on the other ships will happen on N.S. That said, it appears to me that the cabanas are on deck 12 and the pool is on deck 9 -- obviously some movement required to get from one to the other.
  8. I have what will probably be viewed as a terribly naive or asked-and-answered question, and will ask for your patience in advance. We have booked hotels, cars, and flights through such sites as Travelocity, and have also booked travel directly with the hotel, airline, or car rental company -- more or less seamlessly. We are 3-star mariners with HAL, and love the line. We booked our first cruise online directly with HAL, and were assigned a HAL TA for all of the others. Those agents have all been outstanding in terms of knowledge and responsiveness. I recently noted an advertisement for cruise bookings through ***.com (I understand that we are not supposed to use the actual name, but am glad to do so if not forbidden). Upon pricing that cruise, I contacted our HAL agent, made her aware of the ***.com price, and asked to what extent HAL itself could match it. The price quoted by HAL exceeded the ***.com price by a measurable margin -- not a huge amount, but certainly enough to turn my head. So, I am interested in your experience and wisdom as to what is risked by booking through an entity other than HAL? Will our "veranda" room be located next to the engine room? Will we arrive at the pier only to be told that we have no booking at all? Stated otherwise, it is worth the extra money to book directly with a HAL agent?
  9. Most has been said already, but -- 1. Although the melee of scooters and the like is sometimes unnerving, I actually am heartened by the fact that older, less mobile folks still have the gumption to travel despite their physical limitations. We are still fortunate enough to walk about on our own, but I am not sure that I will have the nerve to travel when we are unable to move about with the assistance of other devices. In any event, there is hope for my future, as I see those so challenged living their lives and seemingly enjoying themselves despite their limitations. 2. Line-jumping is one of those things that absolutely drives me berserk, regardless of whether it occurs on the highway, at Panera, or other places. My spouse is aware of my incipient "rage" at such things, and has thus steered us into dining early when using the Lido, and otherwise having dinner in the MDR. I agree that it is difficult to locate the front of the line, especially at those stations that actually begin on either end, and feel that there could be better signage to point folks in the correct direction. 3. Our other favorite vacation spot is Disney World (yes, I know that it is expensive, crowded, tacky, food for the masses, etc., but so is a cruise), and one of the things I have observed is that the staff (aka "cast") seemingly never intervenes to deal with line jumping. Believe me, those who cut in line at Disney far exceed the miscreants on a HAL cruise. 4. As to the beverage package --- we have carefully calculated that this package is in no way economical for us -- and nonetheless seem to purchase it anyway! Once on a ship, I would prefer not to obsess about the cost of alcohol, and instead enjoy trying out different concoctions -- drinks that we would never have at home. Fortunately as an old Kentucky boy, I cut my teeth on cheap whiskey, and am thus happy with pretty much anything with an appropriate alcohol content. Sadly, however, my favorite bourbons are not embraced within the SBP, and I thus sympathize with the OP in this regard. That said, the beverages offered are pretty clearly stated in the material, and I wonder whether it would have been worth the cost for the OP to upgrade to the "elite" package? 5. We were on the same cruise on the same ship as to the OP last year, and loved every minute of it, but all of the points raised by the OP (limited booze selection, chaos in the Lido, insufficient computers and slow speed, line breaking, scooters), are entirely correct and it was proper for the OP to raise those points. We are just happy not having to make up the bed every day.
  10. Thanks much for the opinion. I suspect that 2020 will be "the year" for us.
  11. This is a marvelous review, from someone who obviously knows his "stuff." Copper 10-8 seems to one of the "go to" people for HAL information, and that makes it even more interesting. We have booked -- and canceled - a number of trips (cruise/land or vice versa) to Alaska, primarily for various intervening family-related reasons. At this point, we are considering much the same trip for Summer, 2020. That said, my question is whether, frankly, it is "too late" for a meaningful trip to Alaska. It seems that the ports are crowded with cruise ships on every review I read. Has the (literal and proverbial) "ship sailed" in terms of visiting that area, or does sufficient wilderness remain for it yet to be enjoyed in a meaningful way? Thanks for the thoughts.
  12. Thanks very much for all the advice. It sounds as if we wouldn't be "promoted" until after the cruise, regardless of the number of points involved. We typically purchase the SBP. Although probably not cost effective in our case, I like trying new drinks and not fretting about the invoice at the end of the cruise. We are also renting a retreat cabana, which might help. Anyway, this is a nice problem to have, and I enjoyed reading everyone's very helpful comments.
  13. The website excludes casino spending, which isn't a problem for us. The rest of the answers make sense, and I appreciate the quick responses.
  14. I apologize in advance if this question has been asked and answered in the past, but didn't see anything on point when doing a search. We have 19 points to go before attaining 4-star status, and are booked for a Caribbean cruise in February, 2020 using one of the non-refundable deposit promotions. As to the "onboard" purchase bonus points: (a) are they awarded for a pre-purchase of the signature beverage package based upon the total price; (b) if we do not purchase that package but instead purchase individual beverages on board, are points awarded based upon the total of those purchases; (c) do points apply to the "flight-ease" program and/or HAL-booked pre- and post-cruise hotels; (d) do points result from our pre-rental retreat cabana? Thanks much.
  15. Our meal at Rudi's on Nieuw Amsterdam last winter was among the best we have ever had -- shipboard or not. The sole, in particular, was absolutely perfect. In fact, we were so enthused by the experience that we twisted the arms of our traveling companions to ante up for the experience on our New England/Canada cruise aboard Zuiderdam in September. Sadly, that experience was so dissatisfying as to embarrass us. Although the waiter was lively and attentive, and while the first couple of courses were good, the entree was way too late in arriving and, once it did, the sole which I ordered (and which had been so outstanding earlier in the year) was so salty as to be inedible. By then, we were late in the evening and nobody was in the mood to wait any longer for the dish to be prepared anew. To cap it all off, the after-dinner brandy we ordered (while waiting for the entree) was served in a cocktail glass instead of a snifter. I am not sure that we will visit again if the meal was "comped" to us.
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