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  1. It will be another busy day in Port Everglades. And we have 2 of our newer blue hulled beauties set to sail for this one. Nieuw Amsterdam is scheduled to leave from pier 19 and leave at 5:00 PM. She is doing the 10 day Southern Caribbean. She is also scheduled to do a 13 day cruise which doesn’t show on itineraries, basically returning back to HMC. Here are her itineraries: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (20 Jan d1700); Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (21 Jan 0800-1500); Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos (22 Jan 1100-1800); Amber Cove, Dominican Republic (23 Jan 0800-1800); Kralendijk, Bonaire (25 Jan 0800-1800); Willemstad, Curacao (26 Jan 0700-2300); Oranjestad, Aruba (27 Jan 0700-1700); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (30 Jan a0700) Nieuw Statendam is scheduled to leave be at pier 26 and leave at 4:00 PM. She is doing a 7 day Soul Train Charter. No map for this one, but here is her itinerary: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (20 Jan d1600); Amber Cove, Dominican Republic (22 Jan 1000-1800); Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (26 Jan 0800-1600); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (27 Jan a0700 Also in port is: the the Celebrity Edge at pier 25, Celebrity Silhouette at pier 29, Harmony of the Seas at pier 18 and Royal Princess at pier 02 The websites to see the sail a ways are located at https://www.porteverlades.com and https://www.ftlauderdale.com For those that like to check out San Diego, the Eurodam is leaving from there for her Mexican Rivera cruise. Here is the link - http://www.sandiegolive.com And, for the Addicts - the Koningsdam is in Aruba https://www.portarubawebcam.com Next up - January 22nd, the Amsterdam as she and all her lucky passengers set sail on their WORLD cruise.
  2. We loved the Taco Bar on the Zuiderdam last month. Is it on the Oosterdam and/or the Nieuw Amsterdam?
  3. Hi. We are leaving on our first HAL cruise this Sunday on the NA. My wife always brings her own hairdryer. Not having much hair, I don't. She would like to not pack hers but is always worried about the quality of the in-cabin dryers. I would appreciate any comments on the quality of HAL's dryers? Thanks and Cheers
  4. Our family of five, grandparents (60s) in a balcony cabin, and us (2x early 40s, 1x age 9) in a Neptune Suite Aft Corner (Port side, deck 6, 6164). This was the grandparents first cruise - we have done several over a decade or two and achieved two-star mariner status on this cruise. We have previously cruised HAL, Norwegian, and Celebrity - our favorite is Celebrity. We chose this cruise because it left out of San Diego (our home) and matched up exactly with our spring break from school. We booked after final payment (which is our MO) so only had a month or two to plan. We have done Mexican Riviera before, several times - it is an inexpensive getaway from San Diego. Embarcation in San Diego was smooth - we arrived around 11 - there was a monster line to enter the terminal but it moved very quickly. Once past security, there was virtually no line for Neptune guests (this was our first Neptune cruise!) and in fact my parents who were in a regular VA also had no line. They had just announced general boarding (around 11:30) and suites were ready as soon as we were aboard. We dropped carry-on luggage in the room and proceeded directly to the lido. The lido was (as expected) chaotic on the first day - we ate at the Dive In burger restaurant, poolside, and found the service speedy and efficient. The burgers were amazing, easily 8 out of 10 as far as the best burgers I've ever had. The burger was easily the best thing we ate all week in taste, efficiency, and presentation. Our Neptune suite was very nice, spacious, and worth the cost upgrade. The corner aft balcony is our favorite. This corner aft is much smaller than those we've experienced in the past. We later noted that the corner aft on decks 5 and 4 is notably larger (though 4 has the window washing equipment, which I'm not sure is that much of a problem). Still though, plenty of room on the balcony for 5 people to hang out, sit, stretch, chat, eat, and never have to "squeeze past" each other - just walk around effortlessly. Inside, the room is spacious and the living room gives room for 5 to sit, though more than 5 would be a little cramped. The Bose speaker provided in the room was surprisingly useful. It delivered great sound and we used it a lot. The TV also had great sound and was a good size for the room. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards and with the tub/shower combo we often utilized the dual-shower combo to get two people ready at once. The stand up shower is just the least bit cramped and tends to get water everywhere, though if you mind it, you can control it pretty well. The makeup room between the bathroom and the livingroom served well as an office for a few conference calls I had to take but went largely unused otherwise. The couch was comfy and the room steward switched it back and forth from bed to couch daily. The room was serviced twice daily although we seemed to be at the end of the list for morning service, often it didn't occur until past noon. The suite comes with fruit delivered daily and we partook in this regularly. Our steward must have noticed that we were eating a lot of grapes, as each day the pile of grapes atop the fruit basket would be larger, until 3 or 4 days into the cruise a separate fruit basket appeared that contained nothing but grapes, piled so high they nearly wouldn't fit. We laughed, and of course, gorged ourselves on grapes. This was the only noticeable sign of our room steward (other than, of course, the twice daily bed making and the fresh towels) - we've noticed over the years that some stewards you don't see much of, and some, by the end of a week or two, you're lifelong friends. This particular team would always greet us in the hallway but was overall pretty invisible and unassuming. Neptune Lounge, we didn't expect to use much, but we did - a lot. The coffee machine in there is really great, the teas are better than those offered elsewhere, the snacks are a little more refined than lido food, and the concierge - which I wasn't sure what on Earth I would use them for - we used them a lot. Re-make a lost key card, make a dinner reservation, find something out, etc - they would do just about anything you asked. We really enjoyed this amenity and we'd have a hard time going without it in the future. I got the unlimited internet package for the cruise and it worked as expected - slowly, but without issue. We paid for the 7-day pass in the thermal suite for two - generally didn't have a problem finding a hot chair and used them daily. The lido food was good - service is mostly handled by the lido attendants - there is not a lot of serving yourself. This really seemed to help our perception of hygiene (so many fewer dirty hands everywhere) but generally slowed down service and made lines longer. My standard breakfast is a DIY breakfast sandwich - get two pieces of bread toasted, put a piece or two of cheese on them, get two eggs over medium, slide them onto the bread, then bacon or sausage on top. I don't really know how to say this, but I feel like my *perception* is that lines were longer (because of the full-service handling), but in reality I don't feel like it took me any longer to get my regular breakfast than usual. The lido seemed more crowded than past experiences but even though it was generally packed, I didn't have a single instance of not being able to find a table - it was full, but turnover was quick and cleanup was efficient and even when you'd look up to see every table taken, by the time you got your food you could always find a place to sit. Similarly, it seemed like every station had a line but you never seemed to wait for more than 3-4 people to clear and it never took more than a minute or two. We had pinnacle for breakfast once, and were turned away on a second attempt later in the week because we'd taken my parents and it's suite guests only. We retreated to the regular restaurant to find the identical breakfast menu there. I feel like I try sit-down breakfast once or twice each cruise and always find I like the lido better. We returned to the lido after that. The sit-down restaurant food seems to have taken a significant decline in recent years - the china they used to use is now relegated to the Neptune Lounge, and they just use regular dishes in the dining room. The food was good (though uninspired). They did seem to be enforcing the "2nd entree $10" rule, but I am not a two entree guy, so it didn't bother me. I did order an appetizer, a soup, a salad, an entree, and a desert every night without issue. I did turn away a main dish one night (wasn't to my liking) and had it replaced with something else without question or charge. The lighting in the dining room (I'm sorry to nitpick something so basic, but it really is a core thing) was downright bad. The fluorescent lighting makes it look like the inside of a k-mart and only accentuates the declining food presentation. Our stewards were pretty good and quite friendly. "Smart casual" is now basically "don't wear flip flops", there are lots of jeans, t-shirts, etc. "Gala night" is now "anything with a collar" and cargo pants and a polo shirt was not uncommon... for *gala* night. Those of you who've followed my reviews for a decade (I assume you're a small crowd) will now have witnessed my full transit from "why do I have to bring a tuxedo" in my 20s, to "seriously, cargo pants and a polo shirt on gala night?" in my 40s. It's a spring break cruise and there were 300+ kids on board. There are a LOT of kids and a LOT of families and it showed. Kids club sometimes feels like it has a lot of individual attention, but this cruise it felt like they were trying to just keep it all under control. There were regularly 20-40 kids in the tween club - three sessions per day. Again, sometimes it feels like the kids club staff and I become family by the end of a cruise, but generally speaking this time around, I hardly knew their names, they hardly knew mine. My daughter seemed to enjoy it and kept going back, so there's that! There was room to spare at the string quintet performances but the magic show was standing room only. The America's Test Kitchen was packed every performance (and I really enjoyed it). BB King's Lounge was hopping - there was a male lead vocalist who ROCKED the house. The dueling piano bar seemed to satisfy the older crowd with standards but had a hard time getting a vibe going. Trivia was offered a couple times a day but you grade your own paper and it just didn't feel very competitive. None of the bars were really very full and they didn't develop that "regular crowd" feeling that some cruises have. Mexican Riviera hasn't changed in 20 years. Cabo still has the glass bottom boats and they're still $10/head. We got a good one and had a great tour. Mazatlan we took a taxi into the historic district and walked around. Puerto Vallarta we took a taxi to the Malecon and walked around. It was nice being in Puerto Vallarta until late (11pm). HAL was my first cruise line and for many years was my favorite, until we found X. We still enjoy HAL but as an upper-crust line it seems to be slipping. We would happily cruise HAL again if our dates lines up, but we wouldn't seek them out. 7/10 overall.
  5. I've never been on Holland America. We'll be in a Signature Suite for our upcoming voyage. Will there be many differences between the Signature Suite experience versus the experience in a regular balcony cabin? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide. 🙂
  6. Hello, I have a question about the position of the sofabed. Because of the lifeboats i prefer to have first the bed and the sofa by the window. I am looking for Cabin 4123. Does somebody knows where the sofa is? I found picture of 4115 and the 4117 and they have both the bed by the window. Other question about the noise. Below of the cabin('s) is the photo gallery. What do you think about the noise level? Thanks a lot
  7. Hello, all! We are sailing on the Nieuw Amsterdam in an SS Suite and have two questions about the sofa bed for the 3rd person: 1. Does anyone have any pictures of the sofa bed made into a bed? 2. Does anyone know how long the bed will be or the maximum recommended height of the person sleeping in it? This information would be helpful, as we are considering upgrading to a Neptune Suite, thinking the sofa bed might be a bit longer --- that might not be the case, though. Any insight would be appreciated! Thanks! 🙂
  8. Lots to see on our last sail-away of 2018! Nieuw Amsterdam will be at Pier 21 (starboard to) from 0545-1700. She is going on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Holiday cruise. Fort Lauderdale, Florida (30 Dec d1600); Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos (01 Jan 0800-1500); San Juan, Puerto Rico (02 Jan 1300-2300); St Thomas, US Virgin Islands (03 Jan 0800-1700); Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (05 Jan 0800-1500); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (06 Jan a0700) Nieuw Statendam will be at Pier 26 (port to - and hidden behind Edge😞) from 0530-1700. She is doing a 7-day Western Caribbean Holiday cruise. Fort Lauderdale, Florida (30 Dec d1600); Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (31 Dec 0800-1600); Ocho Rios, Jamaica (02 Jan 0800-1700); George Town, Grand Cayman (03 Jan 0800-1600); Cozumel, Mexico (04 Jan 1100-2300); Fort Lauderdale, Florida (06 Jan a0700) Also in port are Adventure OTS at pier 29 from 0430-1730, Carnival Conquest at pier 4 from 0400-1600, Celebrity Edge at pier 25 from 0600-1600, Harmony OTS at pier 18 from 0515-1630, Island Princess at pier 19 from 0445-1630, and Regal Princess at pier 2 from 0500-1600. The PTZtv webcams can be found at https://www.portevergladeswebcam.com/ and https://www.ftlauderdalewebcam.com/ . Rotterdam will be in Tampa from 0700-1600 heading out on a 7-day Western Caribbean Holiday cruise. She is the only ship in port. The PTZtv webcam is at https://www.porttampawebcam.com/ . Tampa, Florida (30 Dec d1600); Key West, Florida (31 Dec 1100-1800); Trujillo, Honduras (02 Jan 0800-1700); Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala (03 Jan 0700-1700); Costa Maya, Mexico (04 Jan 0800-1700); Tampa, Florida (06 Jan a0700) Eurodam will be leaving from San Diego at 1700 for a 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise. She is the only ship in port. http://sundiegolive.com/ For the Addicts: Rotterdam will be in Key West on Monday 31 December from 1100-1800. https://www.keywestharborwebcam.com/ Next up: Prinsendam, Veendam, and Koningsdam on Friday, 4 January. I want to really thank Jacqui (kazu) for volunteering to take over the sail-away threads while I am cruising. Happy New Year to all of the addicts!!!
  9. We are considering a cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We have sailed on the Vista class ships (Westerdam, Zuiderdam) but not on the Signature class. We really liked the aft balcony cabins on Deck 5 (like 5185) because of the extra long balcony with loungers as well as a table, chairs and footstool. We also liked the fact that these balconies are fully covered. Can someone tell me, are the aft balconies on NA similar? Does choosing an aft on deck 5 (like 5193) similar to those on Vista class, and do the balconies get smaller and more exposed as you go up? Also, does anyone know when Explore 4 usually starts? We are looking at cruising in Dec 2019 and can't decide whether to book now (and purchase drink package later) or wait for Explore 4. Thanks! Sharon
  10. Nieuw Amsterdam will be at Pier 21 (starboard to) from 0545-1700. She will be doing a 7-day Western Caribbean Holiday cruise. Sunday, December 23 Fort Lauderdale, FL Monday, December 24 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Tuesday, December 25 At Sea Wednesday, December 26 Ocho Rios, Jamaica Thursday, December 27 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands Friday, December 28 Cozumel, Mexico Saturday December 29 At Sea Sunday, December 30 Fort Lauderdale, FL Nieuw Statendam will be at Pier 26 (port to) from 0530-1700. She is going on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Holiday cruise. Sunday, December 23 Fort Lauderdale, FL Monday, December 24 At Sea Tuesday, December 25 Amber Cove, Dominican Republic Wednesday, December 26 San Juan, Puerto Rico Thursday, December 27 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Friday, December 28 At Sea Saturday, December 29 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Sunday, December 30 Fort Lauderdale, FL Other ships in port are Celebrity Edge at pier 25 (blocking our view) from 0600-1600, Harmony OTS at pier 18 from 0515-1630, and Regal Princess at pier 2 from 0500-1600. The PTZtv webcams can be found at https://www.portevergladeswebcam.com/ and https://www.ftlauderdalewebcam.com/ . Rotterdam will be in Tampa from 0700-1600. She will be leaving for a 7-day Western Caribbean Holiday Cruise. December 23 Tampa, FL December 24 Key West, FL December 25 At Sea December 26 Trujillo, Honduras December 27 Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala December 28 Costa Maya, Mexico December 29 At Sea December 30 Tampa, FL Also in port are Carnival Miracle and Norwegian Pearl. The PTZtv webcam can be found at https://www.porttampawebcam.com/ . Oosterdam will be in Key West from 0800-1600 (https://www.keywestharborwebcam.com/ ). Zuiderdam will be in Aruba from 0700-1700 (https://www.portarubawebcam.com/ ). Eurodam will be in San Diego leaving on a 7-day Mexican Riviera Holiday cruise departing at 1700 (http://sundiegolive.com/ ). For the addicts: Rotterdam will be in Key West from 1100-1800 on 24 December (https://www.keywestharborwebcam.com/ ). Next up: Zuiderdam on Boxing Day. Happy holidays to all my fellow sail-away addicts! I am still looking for someone to take over sail-away duties starting on January 6 and running through March 26. I can resume sail-aways from 27 March on.
  11. Just off the Nieuw Amsterdam yesterday, a one week Eastern Caribbean itinerary as an anniversary getaway with my DW. Below is the review that I just posted, and happy to answer any questions. In short, we had a wonderful time - highlights were the onboard service, high tea, and Lincoln Center Stage. Lowlights were the embarkation process in Port Everglades, and service at Half Moon Cay. Begin review: The Nieuw Amsterdam to the Eastern Caribbean was an excellent choice for an anniversary getaway - we enjoyed exceptional service, good to very good food, a quiet stateroom with a spacious balcony, and extended time in the four ports of call. My wife an I are in our mid 40s, and found that we were definitely younger than the average age, there was a wide range of passengers from young to old on our mid-november sailing. Embarkation: from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale was organized, but slower than previous HAL cruises. We arrived at the port at 10:30, were fully checked in by 11, boarding began at 11:30, and we were finally onboard by 12:15. On previous cruises we were onboard by 11:30. Our cabin was ready when we boarded, however, and disembarkation was quick and efficient. The Ship: we have sailed on Holland America's R-class vessels previously; this was our first cruise on a larger Signature class ship. While we enjoyed the additional dining and entertainment options, and found the Nieuw Amsterdam to be very well maintained, the larger size and passenger numbers were noticeable at times. My wife and I prefer traditional, uncrowded ships -- and while we greatly enjoyed our cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam, we concluded the smaller ships are more to our liking. Cabin: We had a forward VE class balcony stateroom, 7013. The room was just right for two passengers, well appointed, very quiet, and with a wonderful balcony. We spent every evening and many hours of the day on the balcony, enjoying sound of the sea and the view of the water and stars. There were two reclinable chairs, separate footrests / ottomans, and a small table on the balcony. As there are staterooms above and below deck 7, we never heard noise from other areas of the ship. The interactive TV has 150+ movies on demand, the daily menus, five live TV channels (all news), and information about weather, ship position, and ports of call. The bathroom features a single sink, tub/shower combination, and Elemis toiletries. Service: Outstanding, as always for HAL. We were greeted by name by our cabin attendants, and everyone on the ship looked for opportunities to attend to and anticipate our needs. The one exception was staff onshore at HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay. Some of the Half Moon Cay staff were helpful, but several were brusque or rude when we asked questions or requested directions to places on the island. When a horseback riding shore excursion on Half Moon Cay ran long, we were dropped off at the island BBQ at 12:50, ahead of their 1 PM closing. Staff were already taking down the buffet, and refused to serve us lunch. As a result, we had to head back to the ship early for lunch rather than enjoying Half Moon Cay's beach. Dining: Food ranged from good to very good. As a foodie, none of the dishes were outstanding, but none of them were poor either. Dinner in the Tamarind restaurant was the best meal and dinner service we have experienced on a Holland America ship. Room service was efficient and complimentary - we enjoyed two dinners in our cabin, and had coffee and tea delivered to the room every morning. We also loved the high tea, served in the main dining room on fine china at 3 PM each afternoon. Entertainment: We loved Lincoln Center Stage - world class, classical chamber music performed in a dedicated concert venue - and attended their performances almost every night. BBC Earth, highlights from the series set to a live performance of the score, was wonderful. We also attended two enjoyable, if simple, America's Test Kitchen cooking demonstrations. HAL does not have the showy, nonstop entertainment offered by some other lines, and young children would find entertainment outside of the kids club to be limited to swimming in the pool, but we loved the more sophisticated approach to entertainment.
  12. So confused about HAL cruise offerings. I am between these two sailings on August 3 Nieuw Amersterdam Vancouver Roundtrip and August 4 Westerdam Southbound from Seward to Vancouver. We only have time to do the 7 day cruise, so no land addons. Which itinerary is overall better? Which ship? What sorts of things should I be considering?
  13. A short review of our 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Embarkation: We normally aim for an 11:00AM arrival at the port, but for a variety of reasons didn’t get there until 1:00PM. Coincidentally, this was the assigned time on our Cruise Docs, and based on the line spilling out of the terminal and snaking along the sidewalk, I’m convinced that a great Manu others were given this time slot. Nevertheless, things moved quickly and from drop off at the terminal till dropping off our bags in the cabin was under 45 minutes. The only mildly negative comment I have to offer on the entire embarkation process is that the setting on the security walk through metal detector must have been set to its most sensitive level. I’d twice passed through airport security with the same clothing with nary a beep, but I set this one off, then heard it go off over and over and over again as other passengers went through the same detector. Oh, I also missed my glass of bubbly that Celebrity offers upon embarkation. On the other hand, having immediate access to our cabin is a fair trade for the bubbly. Stateroom: We were in VC 8171 on the Navigation Deck, an aft cabin immediately below the Lido Deck. Although we prefer the bed by the balcony, we were very comfortable in this well appointed cabin with lots of closet space and adequate shelf space. We missed the overhead cupboards, but found a place for for everything nonetheless. The bathroom, still with a tub, is small and inefficient compared to what we find in Celebrity cabins in the same general category but was adequate for our needs. While the bathroom may be smaller, HAL’s cabin space is greater and we are quite happy with the trade off. Cruise ship refrigerators are typically cool rather than cold, so we were very pleasantly surprised to find ours was truly cold. We had purchased a bottle of vodka and kept it and our mix in the refrigerator and we could have had our drinks without ice had we ever run out. We had read conflicting information about noise overhead from the Lido Deck, in particular the noise of the loungers being put out in the wee hours of the morning. Ours was a last minute, spur of the moment booking after final payment, and we were quick to jump on the aft cabin, always our favourite, noise or no noise. As it turned out, there were a couple of mornings when I heard the loungers being moved, but I’m a light sleeper. Besides, it was barely perceptible and only lasted for a couple of minutes, so I was able to roll over and quickly go back to sleep. I’d never reject this cabin because of it. Aft cabins sometimes experience a bit of vibration when the ship is entering or exiting a port, but in 8171 it was minimal. Again, nothing that would dissuade us from taking this cabin in future. The balcony is quite large and has footstools for both chairs, an arrangement I prefer to a lounger. Unfortunately, as is the case on most HAL balconies today, there is no decent sized table at which to eat breakfast. The teeny table they provide has room for a couple of drinks and very little else. I’ve never understood HAL’s rationale for the dramatic downsizing of the tables. Cabin Stewards: Excellent, as has always been the case on HAL in our experience, and I was happy to see that they haven’t reduced the staff to a single steward as is frequently the case elsewhere. Mind you, they seem to have a greater number of cabins to care for, but their standard of service remains impeccable. Dining: We first discovered Tamarind aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam a few years ago. We had made a reservation in advance of the cruise, but enjoyed it so much that we booked a second dinner during that cruise. We now book two Tamarind dinners for all of our cruises on ships having this restaurant. We weren’t disappointed this time around, and these were by far our best two meals during the cruise. The service was every bit as good as the excellent food! Rudi’s Sel de Mer, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. While the bouillabaisse was excellent, we were put off a bit by how it was served. The waiter brought his cart to our table with two empty soup dished and two plastic bags full of soup. He then proceeded to place the bags in the bowls (where had the bags been previously???) and to cut them open with a pair of scissors, dumping the contents into the bowls before pulling out the bags. Other than the fact that this whole service schtick was rather off putting, it raised the question of whether the soup is made, bagged and frozen, then microwaved before serving. Maybe we’re old fashioned, but hot bouillabaisse brought from the kitchen already in bowls is our preference. My wife’s rack of lamb was passable, but not as good as the same dish served in the MDR a couple of nights previously. It was just lacking in flavour according to her. My Dover sole meunière was so-so. We cook a lot of fresh fish at home and this barely passed muster. The saving grace was dessert, the profiteroles as good as any I’ve eaten in France. Overall, a disappointment, particularly given the fee charged. Mind you, we received our loyalty discount without even having to ask, something I was unsure of given the recent thread here. Our meals in the MDR were good. Perhaps not the same as a number of years ago, but still good, and we never had trouble finding something appealing on the menu. Gala night offerings were no better than on other nights in our opinion, however, and we can understand why some passengers question why they should make an effort to make this a Gala evening when HAL no longer does so. On the question of dress, the vast majority of men wore a jacket and/or tie on Gala Night, but I didn’t observe any tuxes. At the other end of the scale, a gentleman attempting to enter the dining room just in front of us on the first Gala Night wearing slacks and a nice but collarless shirt was intercepted and told that he would not be allowed in unless he changed. Good to see. We had most of our breakfasts in the Lido Market, enjoying a variety of offerings. What struck us this time around was the level of service, with ongoing offers for juice, coffee, or to clear plates. Finding a table was never a problem, either for breakfast or lunch. My only complaint about the Lido relates to the number of passengers who are completely clueless when it comes to touching the food in the buffet. I was shocked to see a woman take one of the bagged, pre-made sandwiches and pull it our of the bag, check the filling and return it to the bag before putting it back on the counter. When I pointed out that, having handled the sandwich, she should take it, she was totally oblivious to the hygiene issues and said that it just didn’t look as tasty as it sounded in the description. I decided that pursuing the issue would simply be a waste of time, so instead I asked one of the servers to throw it away. We only used room service once, for breakfast, and our food and coffee arrived nice and hot. With a decent sized table on the balcony, we would have ordered room service more often. For all dining venues, we were disappointed to find that wine prices have gone up while the pour size has gone down. We will need to rethink our approach, including bringing onboard multiple bottles and paying the corkage fee. We sail this summer out of Amsterdam, and will have to research purchasing wine there for our Voyage of the Midnight Sun. Guest Services: Our few visits to Guest Services were handled promptly and efficiently, with one unfortunate exception. On the final full day, I went to withdraw $120 in refundable OBC, rather than have it credited to my credit card. Slips were signed, I was handed the $120 and off I went. Later that day, I turned on the cabin TV to check my account and discovered that the withdrawal had been input as a deposit. I returned to Guest Services, explained the issue and they called the woman with whom I had dealt to come to the front desk. She was so thankful that I had noticed the mistake and had come to have it corrected. Shore Excursions: As is our wont, we enjoyed DIY time ashore. This was our first visit to San Juan, we walked along the shore path out to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, then wandered back through Old San Juan in the general direction of the port. When the rain started, we hopped one of the free buses back to the terminal. We’d like to see much more of San Juan and Puerto Rico, so we’re starting to take a look at cruises from the island. Explorations Café / Crow’s Nest: Most mornings we would have a coffee and enjoy the view from the Crow’s Nest, and on sea days or when arriving in port only in the afternoon, we’d sit for hours and read, along with the occasional game of backgammon. We rather like the new configuration, but can understand those who miss having a library. Gym: I worked out daily, usually in the late afternoon, and I was impressed with the equipment. It looks to be quite new and in good condition. It could do with stronger air conditioning, but otherwise is a good little gym. I was amused to see signs on all of the treadmills limiting running speed to 3.5 MPH during the times that the officers and crew on the bridge, immediately underneath, were taking the ship into or out of port. Entertainment: For this cruise, we didn’t take in any of the shows, other than in the Lincoln Centre Stage performances, which we enjoyed. The configuration of this long, narrow venue isn’t ideal acoustically, but the quintet played to enthusiastic, appreciative audiences.
  14. Can someone tell me does the NA still have a Library. And does it have Lincoln Center and Tamarind ? OP thinking of taking the cross Atlantic.
  15. We are looking to book a scooter accessible cabin on NA. Seems there are no fully accessible cabins available, but 5001 shows up as partially accessible. I've tried searching for pictures or descriptions but found nothing. Has anyone been in 5001? Would it be suitable for someone with a scooter? Thanks for any feedback.
  16. 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.
  17. We are our cruise in June - 7 day Alaska Inside Passage on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Can anyone give me some idea of how long it is likely to take to disembark in Vancouver? We arrive in Vancouver at 7am on 29/6. Is there some system they use for disembarking? Thanks
  18. Aloha Fellow Cruise Critics, My wife and I are contemplating a 1 week cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam, I'd like a Signature suite but all that is left is an adjoining SS cabin or one next to the elevator. Does anyone have any insight to the pros and cons; an adjoining cabin with extra noise or an elevator that is next to our balcony. Thank you
  19. Hi, could someone tell me how many electric plugs in the NA verandah cabins and where they’re located? Thanks!
  20. We will be sailing on the Nieuw Amsterdam at the end of the month and are looking forward to catching up on our movies. We know there are a bunch of movies that you can watch on the TV in your stateroom, but we like to go to the little movie theater to watch the movies. Anyone recently home (or on the sailing now) that can tell me what movies they are currently showing? Thanks!!
  21. Same itinerary, same price. Which one would you pick? One thing I know is Nieuw Amsterdam has a nice big promenade, right?
  22. What are the prices right now. We leave in a month.
  23. Hi, I have booked a July sailing on this ship. Have only been on the Westerdam years ago. How does this ship differ from the Westerdam? Is there a therapy pool on here and if so does anyone know the charges. Also how are the specialty restaurants? Opinions of this ship for the Alaska itinerary? Do they have onboard lecturers, etc. Also is the MDR food good. The staterooms as well opinions. Thank you
  24. We were told footprint wise they are bigger rooms is there a window room the same square footage ? Not counting the veranda or Suites?
  25. Is the Nieuw Amsterdam charted the week of 1/19-1/26/2020?
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