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Found 656 results

  1. In 2019 the Amsterdam is doing a one off unique itinerary: Round trip Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Cruising Tracy Arm. This is a one time cruise in July. I've been to Sitka 4 times now but not Skagway. Is it worth missing one of the glaciers to go through Tracy Arm? I haven't been up Tracy Arm on any past cruises but have been to both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. All opinions welcome, please. I've posted here rather than the Alaska board since the ship being the smaller Amsterdam may have some impact on whether or not this unique itinerary is a good choice. Thanks!
  2. Looking for others that are going to be on this trip
  3. For anyone who has not joined us on the roll call for her premiere sailing , I was just able to book Specialty dining online. Previously we were told it would not be able to be booked prior to sailing. There is no mention of Club Orange. Also,none of the restaurants show available for Dec 14th. Hope that means something special is happening that night. 42 Days to go🚢🍾😀
  4. Nieuw Amsterdam will be making her first FLL visit of the season. She will be at Pier 26 (port to) from 0530-1700. She is going on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise. Sunday, October 21 Fort Lauderdale, FL Monday, October 22 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Tuesday, October 23 At Sea Wednesday, October 24 Ocho Rios, Jamaica Thursday, October 25 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands Friday, October 26 Cozumel, Mexico Saturday, October 27 At Sea Sunday, October 28 Fort Lauderdale, FL Also in port are Adventure of the Seas at Pier 29 (departs at 1730), Allure of the Seas at Pier 18 (departs 1630), Carnival Conquest at Pier 4 (departs 1600), and Island Princess at Pier 2 (departs 1600). The PTZtv webcams can be found at https://www.ftlauderdalewebcam.com/ and https://www.portevergladeswebcam.com/. For those of you who can deal with the webcam, Eurodam will be in San Diego from 0700-1700. Eurodam will be doing a 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise. The webcam can be found at http://sundiegolive.com/. For the addicts: Rotterdam will be in New York City on 10/22 from 0700-1700 (http://www.nyharborwebcam.com/ http://www.portnywebcam.com/). Zuiderdam will be in Port Canaveral on 10/23 from 0800-1900 (https://www.portcanaveralwebcam.com/ ). Next up: Zuiderdam on 10/24.
  5. Hello Just wondering if the experts could give me an indication which cabin to choose. J cabins 148 sq feet 1017 1059 1063 1064 1073 K cabins 171 sq feet 1115 1116 1119 I cabins 185 sq feet 5074 Thank you
  6. CC has published pictures and info from Nieuw Statendam. New Specialty restaurant in place of Culinary Arts Center called Club Orange. Will server breakfast and dinner for NS and PS guests and offer for fee dining to all. Also more info on public areas. Evidently suites are larger and new design for Neptune Lounge. https://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=8935&source=99360
  7. Hi I'm looking at a cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam sailing 14th December 2019. I sailed on the Eurodam last year and loved her, I had a balcony but hardly used it so this time I am looking at an outside cabin. I did consider a inside but not sure if I would like one of these. Could I have opinions on the following cabins 6003 and 6004 (problem with movement) 1102,1112,1118,1120 (don't seem to be under anything) Regards Tiggipaws
  8. Years ago on the Veendam there was a bit of ballroom type dancing in the Oceans Bar. Is there still a dance floor and or the little combo called the Neptunes?
  9. We are sailing soon on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Two members of our group take a refrigerated medication at bedtime. I have had a few emails with HAL general customer service and Access & Compliance and have been told that the refrigerators in cabins are not meant for medication. However, we are welcome to keep our medications in the medical center. The issue is that these medications need to be taken at bedtime and the medical center is not open in the later evening. I am told that if we need to access our medication at a time when the clinic is not open, there will be a $35.00 fee to have the nurse open the medical center. Does anyone else have experience with this? We are trying to think of ways to possibly save the $245 total fee that this would cost over seven days. Maybe we can keep a cooler in our cabin and keep the medication cold with ice packs that we keep frozen in the medical center freezer? And have two sets of ice packs to rotate as needed? Any other ideas? Thank you!
  10. I asked this last week, but it was on the Floataway Lounge, so I'm not sure who saw it. I could use some help. We are booked on a 14-day cruise in cabin 4129. I understand that this cabin has a huge balcony. I have seen You Tube videos of a similar cabin on the Eurodam, but was wondering if anyone had pictures of this cabin. I saw some pictures posted on old threads, but because of read-only, it wouldn't let me open them. I'm worried about privacy... and the view? We were upgraded to this cabin, and I'm wondering if it is truly an upgrade. There is nothing I can do about it, but was just wondering.
  11. THE SUITE (PHOTOS ATTACHED) Our cabin (7080) was a little larger than most Signature Suites since it's located right were the ship juts back out from the center. The extra space extends the cabin quite a bit and might have been better suited for additional square footage on the balcony, but it's also a great spot to store empty luggage. Bed was comfortable and AC/heat both worked well. Hardly heard any hallway noise in the evenings, nor anyone in the cabins next door or above. Cabin was always attended to quickly in the mornings and in the evenings for turn-down service. THE FOOD Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind are amazing, both in quality of food and service. Main dining room and buffet also had great service, but the food was hit or miss (which is to be expected for mass production). Also to be expected: the buffet area can be a madhouse at times and finding a table for larger groups can be a challenge. The main dining room was just the opposite: most table around ours were empty on the two nights we ate there. ENTERTAINMENT Billboard Onboard was great fun, especially the request shows later in the evening. It was great to see everyone sing along and have a great time with the two performers. Only caught the illusionist on the Mainstage and was surprised at how great his show was. Didn't spend time at BB King, America's Test Kitchen, or Lincoln Center Stage, but did walk by during performances and all appeared to have standing-room only (Lincoln Center Stage sounded incredible, so sorry to have missed that performance). GREENHOUSE SPA Like any cruise, spa treatments on board aren't cheap, even when they offer special discounts. What's worse is the up-sell on products after every spa appointment. However, we did make great use of the "discounted" spa pass that allowed daily access into hydro-pool, saunas, and ceramic-heated loungers (for $149 per cabin with two passengers). What else would you like to know? Happy to answer questions if you've got 'em.
  12. A happy and unexpected upsell put me in this beautiful suite. https://frenchletters.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/halfway-there/
  13. Background: Nearly 30 years cruising. Diamond on Royal Caribbean, variety of other colors and jewelry across NCL, Carnival, MSC. Couple near 40, son will be a bit under age 5 at proposed time of sailing. Feel service is declining on Royal Caribbean. Don't care for some of the rowdiness have found lately on NCL and Carnival. Looking for decent kids club and activities; nightly entertainment until 10-11pm is plenty for us really. Good included in fare food; whether this be lido, pool deck, or MDR we expect good quality. Want to try a somewhat quieter and less crowded ship than the mega ships we have been going on. Like the Key West/San Juan/Grand Turk itinerary which can do on either ship it looks like. Which ship would you recommend, and why, for a young active family but not looking for a sports bar party like Carnival or NCL. Expecting something distinctly cut above Royal Caribbean, not necessarily fancy. Does NA have a full walking track around ship? That is something to consider for us also.
  14. Can anyone who has recently been on NA please tell me what times were the evening shows in the showroom. Thanks JC :)
  15. So, Wikipedia lists Nieuw Ryndam as the name of the third Pinnacle class ship. Rumor or fact? It's on the internet, it must be true!
  16. Hi Fellow Cruisers, We have never sailed Holland America but are looking at a December Caribbean cruise. Can anyone experienced with HAL tell me if there is any dancing on this ship? We are in our 70's so ballroom type music would be great but really we will try to dance to anything. Also at this late date I am guessing the early seating will be full. Any chance we could get early seating once on board. We always book far in advance so a last minute cruise is new to us. Any insider tips from seasoned HAL cruisers will be appreciated. Thanks, Minnie
  17. My DH and I are planning to book a 14 day Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam. We will be celebrating my 70th Bday and our 45th anniversary. For that reason we are going to splurge and book a suite. We would like to book an SB category suite as those are aft and we like that area of the ship. My concerns are the Lido overhang and noise from the Sea View pool deck. Are these legitimate concerns? We do not tolerate a lot of noise. We would book port side to avoid smoke from the deck above. I would appreciate any feedback on these suites. Thank you so much.
  18. How many specialty Restaurants are there on Nieuw Statendam ,what do they serve & what are the cover charges ? Which one is your favorite & why ? TIA
  19. Starting a roll call for Mexico cruise from San Diego.
  20. Sailing on Amsterdam in September and have booked a lanai room. Just wondering if anyone has pictures of this and new showers. Thank you
  21. As requested, here is my review of our recent, and first ever, cruise. We went to Alaska on Nieuw Amsterdam on 19-26 May of this year. I guess I should warn you, it's lengthy---because it's detailed. A review is like an evaluation; it's worthless without details, so I've included several personal observations and attitudes. (And if you think this review is long, you should have seen it before I took a blue pencil to some of the lesser items.) Hopefully, you'll find something of interest here. I'd love to give back to the posters information as valuable as what you gave the Good Mrs. Benson and myself. O.K., here we go! Pre-Arrival. Per the conventional wisdom, the Good Mrs. Benson and I flew into Vancouver the day before the ship’s sailing. Our travel agent made arrangements through HAL to reserve us a room at the Pan Pacific, which carried the additional benefit of HAL-arranged transportation for us from the Vancouver Airport to the hotel. The flight, with two connexions, was long and onerous, as air travel from the east coast of the U.S. could only be. There were no glitches with the air arrangements, but twelve hours of air, or air-related, travel is a long time. However, the HAL reps were there to greet us the instant we arrived at the Vancouver Airport baggage claim. As soon as we collected our luggage (which was unloaded pretty quickly), they had us in a taxi (on HAL’s nickel) bound for the Pan Pacific. The Pan Pacific was everything a five-star hotel should be. When we checked in, we discovered a gaffe had occurred. Our TA requested a standard room with a king bed; instead, we were booked into a standard room with double beds. I asked if a room with a king bed was available, and at no charge, the hotel upgraded us to the next level of room, with a king bed, and a view overlooking the harbour, where the GMB was able to see Nieuw Amsterdam pull in the next morning. (I opted to sleep in.) When we checked in, we also received a letter from HAL informing us that (1) a HAL rep would be in the lobby the next morning and at 0900, we should check in with him to confirm the number of bags we wanted transferred straight to the ship; and (2) at 1030, meet with the rep in the lobby and he would escort us to the port terminal check-in venue. Part 1 went off as planned. I found the rep, gave him the number of bags, and they were picked up and delivered to the ship without a hitch. Part 2 did not go so well, and that was the beginning of the only major snafu of the experience. The GMB and I got to the lobby at 1020, to await the HAL rep; he was not there at 1030. The hotel concierge came to our rescue by contacting HAL, and ten minutes later, a HAL rep showed up. However, he seemed confused on why he was there and what he was supposed to do. Eventually, he finally led us to the proper venue for check-in. But the delay turned out to be crucial, as the next section will reveal. Embarkation. All of the information I had read on embarkation, either on message boards or in articles, lacked sufficient detail to completely convey the experience. I’m going to describe the embarkation procedure for us as thoroughly as I can. First, I had been misled by virtually every write-up on the embarkation process I had reviewed. They had stated that the order of events was first, passing through security, then customs, then the actual check-in at the HAL counter. That was not how it actually progressed. The GMB and I were dropped off at the HAL check-in counter first. That part of it went just the way it was supposed to. There were about fifty to sixty people in line, but we were Neptune Suite passengers, and there was a special line for that status, with no-one in it.. We went straight to the counter and presented our boarding passes (printed from on line before we left) and our passports. Our photos were taken, and then we were presented with our key cards and a couple of green cards marked for U.S. customs. The girl behind the counter said, “Oh, you have green cards!” in a tone that indicated that it was a good thing. Then we were directed to the line to the security check, and that’s where the green cards came in. We were removed from what appeared to be a lengthy line of folks and directed to another room. I don’t know what those other folks, the ones who weren’t pulled out of the line, had to go through, but our experience went somewhat faster. The security procedures themselves weren’t any more rigorous than what you’d go through at a U.S. airport. Empty your pockets and place your carry-ons into trays to run through an X-ray machine; walk through a metal detector; and if the metal detector goes off, you get scanned with a wand until they find the offending object. At this point, the “somewhat faster” became a problem. The terminal employees began rushing folks through every wicket. It was “hurry, hurry, hurry”. Certainly, one doesn’t want to be held up by dawdlers, but at the same time, one doesn’t want to be shoved through so fast that he doesn’t have time to process what he needs to do or how to do it right. Security is my case in point. I have an arthritic knee. Normal walking around, I’m fine, but for long stretches, like going from Concourse A to Concourse E in an airport, I use a cane to get around better. I had my cane with me going through embarkation, but really didn’t need it. But we got rushed through security so fast, we were halfway through the next wicket, customs, before I realised that I had left my cane in the security conveyor. So we had to backtrack all the way back to security to retrieve it. Customs was pretty easy. You’re directed to one of about a dozen machines in which you insert your passport (turned to the page with your photo). The machine reads the bar code; you confirm your identity; answer the basic questions about items you are or are not bringing into the country; and get your picture taken. Then you receive a print-out with the photo just taken and hand it to the customs officer at the exit. Took about five minutes. Then we were directed to the holding area---for a Chinese fire-drill. Apparently, this was a staging area for on-coming passengers to wait to embark their respective ships. There were only two ships in port, Nieuw Amsterdam and Golden Princess, and their on-coming passengers were just directed to rows of chairs in which to sit, without any apparent order to the seating. A number of terminal employees, including one large fellow with a Stentorian voice that shook the rafters, were ordering various rows of passengers into a line. As with the seating, there seemed to be little rhyme or reason to which group of folks were selected to board. It was a total goat-rope. After a minute or so, it dawned on me that this was the line for boarding the ships proper, and there was no order to it, other than whichever row the big guy with the the big voice decided to call. That irritated me because one of the main perks that we wanted in selecting a Neptune Suite was the priority boarding,and instead, we being herded like arriving immigrants at Ellis Island. So, when the next row got called to board, I just told the GMB to come on, and we got up and got right into the line. If someone had called us on it, I would have flashed our gold-striped key cards and made an issue of it. But the whole operation was so disorganised that no-one noticed. As we got into line, I realised that, if the HAL rep assigned to escort us had been there on time, then we probably would have gotten through the check-in process in time to have been called first when the boarding commenced. One thing that all the descriptions of the embarkation process got right was the staged photo-op set up for customers in the boarding line. I don’t like my photograph taken, but I probably wouldn’t have made an issue of it---except that it held up the line, waiting for each couple/family to stand there, pose, and have three or four photos snapped. So by the time the GMB and I got to the smiling HAL attendant guiding us one of the two backdrops, I told him, “I’m not holding up the rest of the line for this!” To the man’s credit, he didn’t try to sell the photo-op; he simply said, “O.K.,” and guided us around. After that, a few more twists and turns, and we boarded the ship proper. A security officer at the podium scanned the bar codes on our key cards, matched our faces against the photos taken at the check-in, and welcomed us on board. We didn’t get on board as fast as I would have liked---and expected to, given that priority boarding was one of our perks. About half an hour from beginning to end,which wasn’t too bad, but the only reason it wasn’t worse is because I ignored the chaos in boarding passengers and just got in line. Settling In. Once on board, we were pretty much on our own. The GMB left it up to me to get us to our suite. Fortunately, years of steaming with the Navy taught me how to get around on ships (“Remember, folks: PESO---Port Even, Starboard Odd.”) Besides, I had spent ten months studying Nieuw Amsterdam’s deck plans. Finding our cabin wasn’t a problem at all. After ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the suite, we went up tothe Neptune Lounge, which had a nice supply of small sandwiches, finger foods, pastries, and beverages to tide our hunger until things settled down on board. About half an hour later, we returned to our cabin and found the GMB’s luggage waiting for us. At that time, our steward, Kus, introduced himself to us. He explained his duties, informed us of the ship’s various services, and of the perks attached to the Neptune Suite. My bags took quite a bit longer to arrive, but I used the time to study the location of our lifeboat station---it was an easy one to remember: deck three, just outside the starboard amidships elevator, which our suite was near. At the appointed time for the muster drill, the GMB and I took the ladder (for you non-nautical types, on a ship a stairway is called a ladder) down three decks, turned aft, and arrived at our station. Apparently, not too many folks dragged their feet in reporting to muster; we were secured in about fifteen minutes. But some of the passengers got under my skin. I can understand confusion overwhere their lifeboat stations were, but with a few, there was a distinct lack of urgency. I remember one fellow just ambling up to the lifeboat-station captain, looking for his station (which wasn’t ours) and after he got directed to where he was supposed to go, he just nodded and ambled off, like he was on a stroll on the park, looking for the hot-dog stand. Once the muster drill had secured, we were on our vacation! TheShip. Nieuw Amsterdam is a gorgeous ship, with lines that evoke the halcyon era of cruising. It looks like a vessel from the old steamship days, with none of the attractions or diversions that make many cruise lines’ ships look like floating amusement parks. That nostalgic grandeur is Holland America’s brand, and it should stick with it. Within, the décor is elegant, from the multi-deck Atrium, to the showrooms and lounges. Intermixed with the sense of Old World-design are modern touches, such as the Crow’s Nest’s interactive table screens which let you track the movement of the ship, or pull up maps of the scheduled port visits, complete with landmarks and places of interest. No doubt due to the recent refurbishment, I noticed nothing that looked seedy or threadbare. 1. Passenger Complement. To no surprise to you veteran HAL cruisers, the passenger population on board skewed to middle age. The age range was primarily 40 years of age on up, with many in their 50’s and 60’s. I observed very few adult passengers in their 30’s or younger, and just a smattering of children. The overall maturity of the passengers carries certain advantages, of course. We experienced no bacchanals, wild revelries, or stupid, outlandish behaviours that youngsters in their 20’s are heir to. The few children spotted roaming free were quiet and well behaved. That is, with the exception of one squalling toddler (uncontrolled by parents oblivious to the child’s disruption) in the Crow’s Nest on the next-to-last day. The GMBand I were happy to be among the older, more mature group of folks who prefer Holland America ships. Most of the cruisers with whom we interacted were bright, on-the-ball people who'd lived lives full enough to have their own fascinating stories. 2. Service. Exceptional. Not flawless; there were a few glitches which I will go over later down. But courteous, efficient service with an attention to detail that most Americans do not enjoy in service industries in the U.S., anymore. Kus, our steward, kept our suite immaculate. On our first meeting, I asked him what time he would prefer to handle the housekeeping chores for us---we would make sure we were absent from the space so he could do his work unencumbered---and he requested 0900. Most of the days, we were out some place else at 0900, but there were a few times we could not manage that. Nevertheless---sometimes it was earlier in the morning, sometimes it was later in the day---Kus always knew when he would be able to clean our cabin before we returned. And a few small things we requested of him, when we encountered him in the passageway, he immediately handled, dropping whatever he was doing at the moment to take care of it. Not only did Kus learn our habits, but that was routine with the staff ship-wide. The Good Mrs. Benson visited the smoking section, located near the fantail, aft of the Lido Market, a couple of times a day. On her first visit, the first night out, a waiter offered to bring her a cup of coffee, and the GMB told him how she liked it (light on cream, no sugar). From that visit on, the GMB never had to give those instructions, again. Whenever she was on the fantail and was given coffee, no matter who the waiter was, it was prepared precisely the way she asked for it that first night. But I have the best attention-to-detail example. Wherever we wandered on board, any member of the staff we happened to encounter would unfailingly smile and most greeted us by name. In a recent review of Nieuw Amsterdam I had read just before we took our cruise, the reviewer stated that his impression was that the courteousness and friendliness of the staff was genuine, that their smiles didn’t disappear once the guest’s back was turned. That was my impression too, in most cases. Their graciousness and courtesy felt like a genuine part of who they were, rather than a pose to keep the guests happy. Now, I said that wherever we went, the staff greeted the GMB and myself by name. That was true most of the time, even from staff members who would have no reason to know our names, such as waiters in the Ledo Market and main dining room, or various bartenders. We constantly heard “Goodmorning/evening, Mr. Benson, Mrs. Benson!” Now, that’s impressive enough. But here’s why it’s my top attention-to-detail story. I detest the practice becoming so common in America of addressing everybody---stranger, patient, customer, even the most casual acquaintance---by his first name. The stories of how I’ve responded to being called by my first name by some receptionist or clerk make the GMB cringe. (She agrees with my attitude toward it, but prefers to just go with the societal flow.) There’s an additional twist with me, in that I hold a military rank. (Yes, I’m retired, but a U.S. military officer’s commission is for life---unless he resigns it, or it is stripped from him in a disciplinary action, neither of which applies to me.) Generally, I don’t stand on being addressed as “Commander Benson” by someone who would have no reason to know. “Mr. Benson” is a bit less accurate, but it’s a proper level of protocol, and I had no problem with the Nieuw Amsterdam’s staff addressing me that way. Here’s where it gets interesting. On our second night, I had made dinner reservations at the Pinnacle Grill. For that dinner, and for the last Gala night of the cruise, the GMB gussied up (she cleans up wonderfully!) and I wore my service dress blues. (Yes, after fifteen years, they still fit; though it wouldn’t have hurt to have dropped five more pounds before the cruise.) Ribbons, SWO pin, command pin, three gold stripes on the sleeves---the whole show. On the night of our dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, the GMB and I swung through the Neptune Lounge for some incidental reason, then went down to dinner. (A wonderful experience, which I’ll mention below.) Other than being in uniform, nothing came up about my service or rank or anything Navy connected. The next day, the ship went pierside in Juneau. The GMB and I did a whale-watching excursion, and when we got back, she decided to wander through some of the shops, while I went back to the ship. I walked down the pier and approached the security kiosk, the one where you have to show your keycard and photo ID before you can go up the brow. I showed my key card and identification, and the guard said, “Welcome back, Commander Benson.” From that moment on, I discovered most of the shipboard staff now addressing me as “Commander Benson”. Without a word from me, other than wearing my dress uniform for dinner the previous night. Now that’s attention to detail. 3. Shipboard Activities. As you HAL veterans know (and prefer), if a prospective cruiser is looking for water slides, rock-climbing walls, mob flashdances, and (body-part and description) contests, Holland America is not the cruise line for him. The diversions on board are sedate. Cooking demonstrations. Lectures on local wildlife and culture. Art displays. Wine tastings. Daily movie showings. A spa and a fitness centre (well appointed, too). There’s a casino,of course (which we went to, and then stopped after losing two hundred dollars---which I chalk up as the price of gaining experience at a real-life blackjack table), with various tournaments and nightly lottery drawings. Every afternoon and evening, there were trivia contests of some sort, hosted by the cruise director or his assistant. The GMB and I went to one of these, toward the end of the trip, and I realised the canny purpose behind such contests. The prizes were negligible---bragging rights and, maybe, a HAL key chain---but the games helped break the ice for people to socialise. As for shipboard entertainment, I equate it to, for you folks with long memories, The Ed Sullivan Show. On any given night,you have some variety acts (comedians, magicians, ventriloquists), some B- and C-list musical acts (Billboard Onboard, B.B. King’s All Stars), and some classical performances (Lincoln Center Stage). Like Sullivan’s programme, it’s aimed at middle-age, middle-America tastes; you won’t find anything cutting edge or new generation. That’s not a criticism. It appeals to the widest degree of passengers on board. If you’re a fan of popular music after rock groups stopped naming themselves in the plural, then you’re in the fringe demographic. (And, in fact, the music didn’t go back far enough for my tastes.) Our Neptune Suite. We stayed in # 6061, located on the Upper Verandah deck, starboard side, amidships. When we stepped into it for the first time, I discovered that this was the first occasion that I can recall where something was actually bigger in real life than it looked in photographs. In fact, it was larger than the hotel room we had at the Pan Pacific. I know the arguments for and against staying in a suite,and I’ll admit, it was an indulgence. I like perks, but more important, this was our first pleasure cruise, and while it probably won’t be, it may be our only one. With that in mind, I wanted to go big. From older photographs from which to compare, the renovations done to the staterooms during last December’s refit were definitely an improvement. The décor boasted softer, more elegant tones. We loved the picture window, which gave us quite a view of the Alaskan shorelines and ranges from our king bed, when we woke up in the morning. The bed was one of the most comfortable either the GMB, or I, have ever slept in. And the pillows were the most comfortable I’ve ever laid my head upon. The balcony was spacious, and it was convenient, especially for uncrowded, unimpeded viewing during our day at Glacier Bay. While we enjoyed it often, we never were able to do the one thing we anticipated: room-service dining at the balcony table. It was either too cold or raining every day of the trip. If I had any criticism of the suite, it lurked in my choice of a Neptune Suite on the sixth deck, away from the “millionaires’ row” of Neptune Suites on the seventh deck. I chose # 6061 because of its amidships location and because it was one of the suites with the most square-footage. A comparable suite on the seventh deck would have cost four hundred dollars more, and not be any bigger or have any more benefits---except being closer to the Neptune Lounge, and I could live with taking an elevator up one flight. We enjoyed all the perks and status of occupying a Neptune Suite; we weren’t short-changed there in any way. However, over the week, a vague suspicion began to gnaw at me: that Neptune Suites that weren’t on the seventh deck were kind of treated like bastard step-children, in small ways. There were slight foul-ups that didn’t seem to fit the notion of the impeccable service for Neptune Suites. Things like the coffee cups for the coffee machine weren’t ever replaced after we used them the first night. Laundry was also a problem. At the airport, during our travel to Vancouver, I had accidentally put a small tear in the seam of a pant leg of my trousers, just below the right pocket. In our inaugural chat with Kus, he informed us that there was tailoring available on the ship, and all I had to do was make a note of what needed to be done in the comment box on the laundry form. I did so, when I bagged our laundry/dry cleaning from that first day. It came back the next afternoon,nicely laundered and pressed---but the small tear had not been repaired. Two days later, I sent out my white dress shirt for cleaning and pressing, to ensure that I would have it back in time for Gala night in the MDR, and it was lost. We found work-arounds, such as bringing coffee cups with us from the Lido Market, but it struck me that such small, to be sure, but annoying glitches were not in keeping with the level of service one occupying a Neptune Suite would expect. Which made me start thinking that maybe suites on the sixth deck didn’t get quite the quality of service that the suites on the seventh deck did. To be fair, having never stayed in a NeptuneSuite on the Rotterdam deck, maybe such minor failings occurred there, too. The saving grace in most of those circumstances lied in what I am about to cover next. The Neptune Lounge. In reading the various threads regarding the perks attached to a Neptune Suite, I saw quite a diversity of opinion regarding the Neptune Suite guests’ exclusive use of the Neptune Lounge. Some stated that it was a great benefit, for the available appetiser-level foods and the presence of the concierges, who would answer questions, take care of dining and excursion reservations, and handle other tasks usually performed by Guest Services---without having to wait in line at the Guest Services desk down on deck one. Others insisted that the Neptune Lounge was overrated and wasn’t that special. That got me thinking. We had already made, on line, all the dining and excursion reservations we were going to make. And I had done my research, on cruising, on Holland America and on Nieuw Amsterdam, so while we might have a small question or two, I couldn’t think of anything we would have to ask the Lounge concierges to handle. But, I’ll tell you now, by the end of our cruise, I can honestly say that having access to the Neptune Lounge and its concierges was one of the high points of the entire cruise. True, the Neptune Lounge itself is no big deal. It resembles a very nicely appointed waiting room at the doctor’s office, along with a large dining table surrounded by shelves with board games and the daily newspaper digests, culled from the wire services. There’s a section for a fairly extensive selection of finger foods and appetisers, along with drink dispensers with water, cranberry juice, iced tea, and orange juice. And the concierge desk occupied a corner on the same side as the food. The GMB and I made use of the available food a great deal. It was perfect for those times when we were feeling peckish between the operating hours of the regular dining services on board. All of that falls under the category of nice-to-have stuff. What really made the Neptune Lounge an invaluable perk for us was the access to the concierges. For our cruise, they were Paula and Christine, and they were worth every penny we paid for our suite. There was the stuff you’d expect, of course: from our first day on board, Paula and Christine knew our names, welcomed us on aboard, invited us to enjoy---and even offered to bring us---the food from the serving counters. On the first night, they explained their duties, and even while I listened, I was thinking that I probably won’t need them much. It goes to show that I’m not much of a clairvoyant. Remember that problem with the torn seam in my trousers? After I discovered that it had not been repaired, as I had asked on the laundry form, I immediately took the trousers up to the Neptune Lounge. Paula was on duty and, without telling her that I had already made a request to the laundry to fix the torn seam and it had been ignored, I asked her if there was tailoring service on board. She replied that the ship had an excellent tailor. I showed her the torn seam, explaining that it had not happened on board ship, and asked if the ship’s tailor would repair it. Paula replied that certainly the tailor would repair it, and that she would make it so. I gave her the trousers. Then I went back to our suite, and the GMB and I went first back to the smoking sponson, so she could light one up. Then we stopped by the Crow’s Nest. We got back to our suite about an hour after we had left it. My trousers, expertly repaired, were lying on the bed. That was only the first thing that she or Christine handled for us. For the first port visit, in Juneau, the ship was scheduled to tie up at 1100. The GMB had scheduled us for a whale-watching excursion that required us to meet at the designated mustering point for that excursion at 1115. If the ship docked on time, there would still be some time required to get the brow over, so the schedule was tight. That morning, I went to Christine and explained the situation. She told us to be in the Neptune Lounge at 1030, and she would ensure that we got off the ship in time to make that 1115 muster. She did and we did. And then there was that other laundry snafu---where the laundry had lost my white shirt. It was the only one I had brought, and I needed it to wear with my dress blues for Gala night. It was noon of the day of the Gala night, and still no white shirt. I went to Paula and explained the situation. I also informed her that the shirt could be identified by a thumb-length stain on the shirttail, an orange-and-black stain (a combination of gun oil and metal filings; don’t ask) that my dry cleaner at home had never been able to remove. But that didn’t matter, because the stain was below the belt line. I just needed the shirt to get a regular dry cleaning and be back in time for dinner that night. Paula said she would take care of it. At about 1400, she called our suite and told me that I would have the shirt by 1600. At 1555, a steward showed up with the shirt. Not only was it cleaned and pressed---in fact it was strikingly white---but that previously indestructible orange-and-black stain was almost completely eradicated. This is what they do. The Neptune Lounge’s concierges are troubleshooters not for the two thousand passengers on board the ship, but for the comparatively small number of guests staying in Neptune Suites. They have the knowledge, the mandate, and the wherewithal to get things done fast. Of all the many, many things which made our cruise an absolute pleasure, Paula and Christine unquestionably top that list. Food. The thing that everybody who talks about a cruise talks about. You can eat twenty-four hours a day. You can have as many portions as you want. You’ll gain ten pounds by the end of the cruise. Most certainly, on our cruise, food was certainly prevalent. Between the main dining room, the Lido Market, the specialty restaurants, room service, and, for us, the Neptune Lounge, there wasn’t a minute of the day that we couldn’t have gotten something to eat. The quality of the food was uneven. It depended on the venue, on the bill of fare, and even which meal of the day it was. The GMB and I took our meals from the following availabilities: 1. The Neptune Lounge. As noted above, this was the first place we ate after boarding. The fare tended to be appetiser-sized selections, geared toward breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as appropriate: yoghurt, fruit and vegetable plates, finger sandwiches, chips and salsa, pastries, that sort of thing, along with coolers of juice, water, and iced tea. All of it was quite good, and if one was willing to make a few trips to the counter, there was actually quite a meal there. 2. The Lido Market. Our initial notion was that we would not dine at the buffet much, if at all. Curiously, it proved to be the venue at which we ate most often. Usually when our schedule let us get there right when it was opening for the next meal, in order to find a place to sit. The Market was the most popular service of the ship. It was never uncrowded; it was simply crowded or more crowded. That made getting there early an absolute must for me. I have little patience standing in line behind a half-dozen people who have their minds in la-la land until the server asks them what they want, and then they try to make a decision. It also slows things down that, as a sanitation precaution, most of the foods are handled by the servers, not the passengers. So a diner just can’t use the tongs to grab his own piece of chicken and be on his way. I understand, and agree with, the health concerns involved, but it does impede progress somewhat. The food at the Lido Market itself widely varied in quality. Some of it, such as the red meat (prime rib, beef tenderloin) and the deli sandwiches provided at lunch were quite good, and the made-to-order omelettes were the best on the ship (including the Pinnacle Grill). But other things were dismal. I noted grilled-cheese sandwiches on the luncheon menu twice, tried them both times, and both times they were stone cold (and one of these occasions was at the very start of the lunch service that day). The pasta bar offered made-to-order selections, along with some pre-prepared dishes; the former were reasonably tasty, while the latter were cold and unappetising. If one arrived at the Market at the right time and put the right choices on his plate, it would be a very satisfying meal. But show up in the middle of service and choose the wrong selections, and it was like going to a Golden Corral, only with worse food and more crowd. The service was uneven, as well. On some visits, our waiter was Johnny-on-the-spot from the moment we sat down and every time we needed refills or plates cleared away. Other times, we had to practically trip one of them to service our table. 3. The Pinnacle Grill. This was the culinary gem of the ship. The GMB and I had dinner there on the second night of the cruise, and everything about it was impeccable---the ambiance, the service, the food. It’s the kind of restaurant where, back on land, rich people go to be spoilt. From the moment we arrived, we were treated royally. The waiters were attentive and gracious, friendly without over-familiarity, and put us right at ease. The restaurant manager stopped by (between courses, rather than when our mouths were stuffed with food, the way it usually happens) and, noting my dress blues, engaged in a little semi-shop talk. The food was outstanding, easily the best food on the ship. The Good Mrs. Benson started off with the lobster bisque which was essentially prepared tableside and served with an artistic display on the surface of the dish. My appetiser was the shrimp cocktail, but it more appropriately should have been called a “prawn cocktail” because the shrimp were nearly twice the size of my thumb. For entrées, mine was the ten-ounce filet mignon, while the GMB had the fourteen-ounce lobster tail, accompanied by the eight-ounce filet. Both filets were beautifully cooked to the right temperature and so tender that no steak knives were provided; a butter knife did the job perfectly well. And the sides were every bit as well prepared and tasty. We returned to the Pinnacle Grill twice more, for breakfast (a perk of Neptune Suites). The service was just as outstanding. The manager and staff remembered us and called us by name. The food was again of high quality, but not quite as stellar as our dinners had been. Both times I got hash browns with my meal, and they were tepid to cold, rather than being hot. The omelettes were cooked exactly as the best cooking texts say to do, but I prefer mine cooked a little harder. I like that light brown patina on the outside of the omelette---like the way they were served at the Lido Market. But those are quibbles. Overall, the best food experience on Nieuw Amsterdam was the Pinnacle Grill. 4. The Main Dining Room. We visited the MDR only once, on the second Gala night, and that was because I knew the dinner menu would include surf and turf. Going by the nightly menus, the MDR distinguishes itself from the Lido Market by providing a more upscale bill of fare, with fresh chef’s creations every evening. The only dinner menu that really appealed to us was the second Gala night’s steak-and-lobster offering. Of course, Gala night meant dress blues, again, for me,and a cocktail dress for the missus. The MDR is elegantly appointed, if a tad rococo. However, the tables were arranged too close to each other, as I imagine they had to be, to accommodate a large number of diners. We couldn’t help feeling cramped, though. We both got the steak and lobster, excellently prepared. The portions were significantly smaller than what we received for a similar meal in the Pinnacle Grill. I would have been dismayed,except for the fact that we could have as many repeat orders as we wished. Still, both of us were satisfied by the single plate a piece. The service was excellent, just what one would expect from a fine-dining establishment (albeit, a shade less attentive than from the Pinnacle Grill; I requested iced tea that never arrived at our table). Our waiter was gracious and accommodating, particularly when the motion of the stern (the MDR extends all the way aft) made the GMB queasy, and he provided our desserts under cloches so we could retreat with them to the relative stability of our suite. I noted, with approval, that nearly all of the female patrons of the MDR that night were dressed to the nines, and the plurality of the men wore suits, or at least a sport coat and tie. I’ve read the various threads on the issue of what to wear on Gala nights, and while I’ve never weighed in on any of them, my thoughts on the subject are traditional, but tempered with practicality. Tradition calls for semi-formal attire for the men. But the considerations of packing, particularly with the “weight of bag = more money charged” standard imposed by the airlines, make packing a tuxedo impractical. A tux would be worn aboard ship only on the two Gala nights. A suit, on the other hand, is appropriate for almost any occasion. (That rationale is, in fact, why I brought only my dress blues, and not a mess dress uniform.) So I have no issue with the men wearing a suit, instead of black-tie, on Gala nights. To the traditional end, given the refined setting of the MDR, I would insist that a suit was de rigueur for men any night they dine there. I, for one, would find it awkward dining in an establishment where the staff is better dressed than I am. To the backward-baseball-cap/t-shirt/blue jeans-wearers who insist that suits are uncomfortable and that it really doesn’t matter what one wears to a restaurant, I reply, “Nonsense!” to both points. A suit is not inherently uncomfortable. If a fellow is uncomfortable wearing a suit, it’s because the suit is ill fitting. Either he selected the wrong size to begin with, or he’s added too many extra pounds to his girth. Either way, it’s not the suit’s fault. I’ve often heard men proclaim, “I feel like I’m being choked when I wear a necktie.” It’s not the tie that’s choking you, guys; it’s your buttoned shirt collar. Either you bought a shirt with a too-small collar, or you’ve made it too small by too many between-meal meals. And as for whether it matters, wearing a suit to a fine-dining establishment shows respect for the establishment, for its staff, for your fellow diners, and---most important---for yourself. End of soapbox. Room Service. We ordered room service twice. On our first morning underway, we ordered breakfast from room service. It arrived on time, with all of the requested items (including those pen-and-ink changes or additions I made to the card left on the outside door handle of our cabin the night before), and properly prepared. It was a satisfying meal, with no complaints. Our second occasion to order room service was late one evening, when we ordered burgers from the Dive-In. The food arrived quickly and the burgers were cooked as we requested. But we found them rather ordinary. Not bad, but not world-beating, either. We could have gotten better burgers from Red Robin. New York Pizza. Over the course of the cruise, we got four pizzas from New York Pizza. As with the Lido Market, the quality of the food was uneven. On two occasions, the crust was cooked enough to give it that slightly crispy, light brown toasting that allows for a good, satisfying bite. Those two pizzas were superb. The other two times, the crust was somewhat undercooked, which caused the individual slices to collapse, sliding the toppings off. I’m not a fan of gloopy pizza. Excursions. We took an excursion at each of the three port visits of the cruise. In Juneau, we went of the whale-watching and wildlife tour. After a bus ride through the town, we and our fellow excursioners boarded a ferry-type watercraft which took us into Stephen’s Passage. The operators guarantee whale sightings, and that’s no idle boast. Not too long after hitting open water did we spot whales. I’d seen surfacing whales during my active-duty Navy days. You see their water spouts, their backs and dorsal fins, and occasionally their tails. We saw plenty of these during the excursion, one whale even surfacing about a foot away from the starboard side of the vessel. Overall, there were sixteen-to-twenty whale sightings, so from that standpoint, the excursion delivered. What was off-putting was the constant sales-pitching by the crew. Buy their smoked salmon. Buy their kelp salsa. How about a t-shirt? Tips are graciously accepted (expected). A certain amount of promotion is understandable, but they never gave it a rest. In Skagway, we took a trolley tour of the town. It turned out to be quite interesting. The driver/tour guide had a colourful spiel, providing a vivid account of the history of Skagway, reïnforced by stops at various locations highlighted in her account. Our hostess went a bit over the top at times; still, hers was an entertaining narrative. We tipped her. Ketchikan saw us on another tour---a duck tour. A duck, in this context, is an amphibious vehicle that drives on land and but can also motor through the water like a boat. This was also an entertaining and eye-opening experience, thanks to a knowledgeable and light-hearted tour guide. Ketchikan, for our money, was the most picturesque of the three towns, and we enjoyed it. One precautionary note: because of the logistical problems in delivering commodities to such a remote region, expect to pay considerably more for goods and services in Alaska. For example, in Ketchikan, a simple two-piece meal of fish-and-chips runs eighteen-to-twenty dollars. Tipping. Speaking of money, I also read all of the threads on tipping on board ship. In the final analysis, whether one tips or not, and how much, is a matter of one’s own standards. In our case, while we were fine with the scheduled hotel service charges, we felt that our steward, Kus, and the two Neptune Lounge concierges, Paula and Christine, deserved more personal expressions of our appreciation, which we gave them in envelopes on the morning of our arrival back in Vancouver. Debarkation. Nieuw Amsterdam docked at 0700, Saturday, 26 May, and we were scheduled for an 1100 flight out of Vancouver Airport. Because the cruise line had arranged our air travel, it also arranged our transportation to the airport, and the GMB and I were included in the first wave to depart the ship. We debarked in a timely manner, and we were deposited, with our luggage, at the airport in time to make our flight. It would have been nice, though, if something, somewhere, had provided details on the evolution itself. For example, when we left our bags outside our cabin, we expected them to be ultimately transferred to the vehicle taking us to the airport. Instead, once we crossed the brow, we found our luggage, and that of everyone else in the first group, waiting in a terminal bay. The GMB and I had to lug our four bags as we were herded into a creeping line to a waiting bus. O.K., there was nothing terrible about that, or about riding to the airport in a bus. But, like with the embarkation, there was that aspect of “rush---rush---rush!” and having to figure things out as we went. With all of the other ship’s evolutions explained on the stateroom televisions, there’s no reason a video on debarkation can’t be included. Miscellany. A few random thoughts thathave occurred to me since we got home . . . . 1. I felt that beverage cards would be more economical than a beverage package, and I pre-ordered three $50 cards that were waiting for us at check-in. But the GMB and I didn’t turn into the two-fisted drinkers at sea that I thought we would, and by the fifth night, we still had fifty dollars or so left on the cards. My expectation was that, if we didn’t burn that last fifty bucks, we’d get stuck with it. So the next day, our last full day on board,we downed more cocktails than we had the first five days. We still managed to leave $5.75 on a card. When we received our final bill of charges, I was surprised, pleasantly, to see that the $5.75 had been credited back to us. That’s something to remember for the next time. 2. I didn’t notice, until a couple of days before we left home for the cruise, that the list of amenities one could purchase from the Holland America web site included shipboard credit. If I had noticed that earlier, and been thinking, then in the eleven months between booking the cruise and departing, I would have purchased two- or three-hundred dollars’ worth of shipboard credit every month. That would have blunted the sudden outlay in covering our final bill. 3. Over the months we waited to leave on the cruise, I wondered if I shouldn’t have held out for a longer cruise, maybe one of nine, twelve, or even fourteen days. That went back to my thinking that, if this should be the only cruise the GMB and I ever take, go all out. But as it developed, as good a time as we had, especially in being treated like I wore stars on my collar, instead of silver oak leaves, both the GMB and I developed a sort of “vacation fatigue” after seven days. As much as we enjoyed our getaway, we were kind of weary of it and were ready to go home after a week. That’s a lesson noted, as well, for the next time. 4. Hey, what happened to the personalised stationery we were supposed to get? The Verdict. We both badly needed a vacation; it had been a decade since we took our last real vacation, and this cruise, overall, rose to our needs. It was a near-outstanding experience! We could not have been treated better or enjoyed ourselves more or, most important, relaxed more. There is nothing as unburdening in the world as waking up in the morning with absolutely nothing to do but what one wants to do. The only hard downcheck was the mishandling of the embarkation. That zoo was the only real disappointment. The other glitches were just that: minor flubs that were swiftly remedied by the ladies in the Neptune Lounge. More important, none of those oversights were due to anything I had not anticipated. I had learnt from my on-line research and, as I said three weeks ago, thanks to the invaluable information provided by you fine folks here on this board. You made us canny voyagers. The things that matter most to us, quality of service, reliability, and attention to detail, were exceptional. Crowded buffets and food that occasionally misses the mark .. . well, that's just part of life (and kept me from gaining that ten pounds that everybody talks about. Heh.) Neither one of us was wild about the long, multi-stop air travel to Vancouver and back. So our next cruise will launch from somewhere on the east coast. That will probably be in 2020. Next year’s disposable income is slated for home renovations. In the meantime, we will relive this one many times.
  22. Is "HAL" demographics right for me? It has been asked 1000 times. The clear meaning is: "I've heard that “HAL” clients are very old and tend to travel with their parents". Well, it's a really important question if you are going to look for a fiancée on a cruise ship. Is there anything else that may draw your attention? Let’s say, such small things like a beautiful ship, good food, amazing itinerary? How old is the Caribbean Sea? Not too old for you? Maybe you need to look for a newer, more ”technologically advanced” sea? Unfortunately the sea is very old. It’s even older than the sandy beaches on paradise islands. And the Caribbean sun? The sun is terribly old. Now let’s be seriuos and discard that garbage about “HAL” clients. Have you been (like us) tired of the hustle and bustle of your work, lectures, exams, driving, phone calls, company’s reports? Yes? Then be my guest. I will show you how to ‘dam it! So.... Before I share with you my short review of the wonderful 7-nt cruise of love and romance on the #1 luxury cruise ship at sea, let's bear in mind something important about "HAL". First of all, never, never, say "HAL", say what ship. Of course, if you want to confuse someone, or be confused – say “HAL” and ask about “HAL” on cruise forums. Lack of information feeds stereotypes. The sleep of reason produces monsters. One of a few most reputable brands in maritime history (from 1873), Holland America Line is now a cruise line that actually operates four different groups of ships - more different than some cruise lines differ from each other! What is different: size, amenities & comfort, atmosphere, dining options, itineraries, clientele, cruise length, prices, etc. The whole experience is different. Please note that saying"I have cruised on HAL", "I decided to try HAL", “HAL vs whatever cruise line” means nothing really unless you say what ship. Let’s see my photos... 1. Holland America's Top League - Luxury resort cruise ships. Most advanced cruise ships for self-sufficient cruisers of all ages. MS Nieiuw Amsterdam (2010) MS Eurodam (2008) Both ships have tonnage about 87,000 GT and carry about 2,100 passengers. Nieuw Amsterdam Eurodam 2. HAL workhorses AKA Vista-class ships (four close sister ships: mid-size, mid-age) Who is it for: mature clientele get quality product for reasonablemoney. Zuiderdam 2002 Oosterdam 2003 Westerdam 2004 Noordam 2006 All four ships are near 83,000 GT and carry about 1,900 passengers Zuiderdam Oosterdam Westerdam Noordam
  23. Just checking about drinking water available on the NA. Is there a place on board that has water for filling water bottles other than the tap in the nearest sink?
  24. I was looking at the deck plans for the Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, and did not see the Lido Cabanas, Did they do away with them?
  25. My wife and I have sailed several times on the Nieuw Amsterdam and on our last trip from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, via the Panama Canal we booked a family cabana for the entire cruise. It was delightful and I would be glad to answer questions on the Cabanas if anyone is interested.
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