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Rominesh

Review- Nieuw Statendam - Thanksgiving week 2019

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Greetings! We just got home from our Thanksgiving week voyage on the Nieuw Statendam, and wanted to do a little write up on our experiences. This was our first HAL cruise, and our second cruise ever (first was earlier this spring on the Celebrity Equinox), so we are still relatively new to cruising as a whole.  

 

Before I start, a quick preface to my upcoming wall of text. We tried very hard to not directly compare this experience with our first experience on Equinox, because different ships, different lines, different expectations. That said, sometimes it proved difficult to not say, "well, this thing was much better on this ship".  I just want to make it clear that despite any negative aspect I may talk about, we still had an incredible experience and we would still sail on HAL again. As someone else has said, one has to try VERY hard to not have a good time on a cruise.

 

The Stateroom:

We had an inside cabin near the aft elevator banks on deck 6. Aft elevators are very convenient for access to the Dining room, the Lido buffet, and the aft pool area, as well as the Sun deck for great views. We felt very little in the way of vibration or noise, and although we encountered some choppy waters occasionally, not really much movement. What little there was just made for a good night's sleep. Our room stewards were almost always visible and their work was excellent.  I had only one complaint about our room location, but I'll detail that in this next section.

 

The Ship: 

Nieuw Statendam was utterly gorgeous with very classic lines. The ship is filled with museum quality artwork almost everywhere. Almost all of the artwork on-board is themed to tie into music and performance. I loved the amount of open deck space, as we frequently like walk around the ship, especially in the evening. For the most part I think they layout of the public rooms were well designed and flowed naturally. My one single gripe about the design, tied into our room location, was the frequent necessity to have to travel either through cabin corridors or to traverse multiple elevator banks/stairwells to access other public spaces or open decks. To go from our room to the the crow's nest or sky deck we either had to go down to deck 2 or 3, then walk all the way forward, then take another elevator up, OR go up to deck 11, walk past the sports court area, then enter more cabin corridors to access the forward elevator bank. I didn't like having to enter cabin corridors from public areas just to access public areas.

 

Also, while beautiful and well designed, the Lido pool area was almost always oppressively hot and humid with little breeze despite a partially open roof. Some of the public rooms also seemed to struggle with adequate cooling.

 

The Entertainment:

This was the absolute highlight for us, and was completely unexpected. We knew going in about the music walk,  and was anticipating enjoying the offering, but we were not prepared for how it turned into a must-attend affair each evening. On any given evening, we went from enjoying a classical string quintet playing various selections, then traipsing over the the rock room to enjoy some really good classic rock tunes, then moving over to Billboard for the dual pianos (and the two artists here, Colin and Rachel,  were AMAZING), and then finishing up with some blues and jazz at BB Kings. At one point I think I muttered that this was like being at a floating music festival.  Elsewhere, in the theatre, we got a high-tech experience with several offerings that delighted us. The use of the 270 degrees of screen was well utilized with the BBC oceans presentation, as well as the dance troupe that used the screens and projectors as an interactive aspect. We also attended a few of the new EXC presentations and these also used the screens and projectors and were both informative and entertaining.

 

Before I go on, I want to inject a quick note here.  I've heard and read some complaints about the lack of production shows on HAL. I get it, big shows are what some people prefer. But I think this is good for both HAL and the cruise industry in general. HAL is doing something different and innovative by offering something others don't.  And if/when we cruise with HAL again, this is going to be a huge part of why.

 

The Food:

Our single biggest disappointment. Not because of quality; everything was cooked and presented perfectly. It was the taste. Almost everything in the Dining room and Lido was bland. We are not people who frequently add salt to food, but we found ourselves adding salt and pepper to our dishes, more often than not. Deserts tended to be boring and slightly tasteless, and simple-to-make foods like eggs tended to be watery and rubbery. The exceptions were specialty dining; we ate at Tamarind, Nami Sushi, and Canaletto (couldn't get Pinnacle sadly) and all were on par for what we expected the food to taste like. Also the Deli and Dive-in were excellent.

 

Service:

For the most part, service met or exceeded our expectation, with a handful of exceptions. Service was a mess in the dining room (and lido) for the first 3 days, and it was bad enough that a table next to us actually got up and left with frustration. We had breakfast on day 2 in the dining room, and people were waiting upwards of 20 minutes for their drink orders, or in one case, a person getting their food served, but not their dining partner. Then, magically, it was if a switch was flipped on Wednesday and everything was suddenly working, at least in the Dining Room (Lido was still hit or miss with drink service). We actually ended up speaking with a senior staff member about this on the last day of the cruise, and before we could tell them we noted the service level seemed to have reversed itself midway, they asked, "Did it seem to improve by day 3 or 4?".  Turns out there was 3 major events that hit them simultaneously: the transition from European to American cruising (they had just completed their transatlantic crossing), Thanksgiving week, and most notably, quite a few new contracts had just started this week. It was just an unfortunate storm of timing, and as I noted above, almost everything was moving at or above expectations by mid-week (except Lido - man, at times that was an exercise in frustration).
 

Ports:

We aren't beach people, we're more into exploration and adventure into local culture and history. We didn't book any excursions for this as we were just looking for some relaxation and doing things on our own. That said, Half Moon Cay was a pleasant surprise. Clean, gorgeous, and well maintained, we had much more fun than I thought we would. The cookout was also very good. The other ports were Grand Turk, Amber Cove, and Key West. Grand Turk was...not a lot. There was some history to delve into, but the island is so depressed and poorly maintained. I understand there are some wonderful beach-y and water-y type things to do, but...yeah. Amber Cove was fantastic, and the area made for some fantastic panoramic pictures. Key West is Key West. 

 

Summary:

We had high, but guarded, expectations. We came off an almost magical first experience with Celebrity Equinox, and we didn't want to try to project similar expectations onto this cruise. First cruise, that new car smell, etc, we understood nothing will probably beat that first impression and tried to not let us influence this experience. And I think we succeeded, for the most part. We ended up being pleasantly surprised by a few things, thoroughly enjoyed the ship, the staff, and the entertainment.  Service was a disappointment at first, but that improved, and now having the knowledge of the why behind the first few days, we're at peace with that. I can only hope the food issues (blandness) was just an isolated incident and not indicative of food typically served on HAL. We look forward to sailing on Nieuw Statendam and with HAL again.

Edited by Rominesh

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Thank you for your detailed review.  We haven’t been on that ship but have on the sister ship Koningsdam and loved  her.

 

Funny about the food-we have always found it too salty, until this cruise that we are currently  on.  Also, some items we’ve found spicy!  Must be different chefs etc.  

 

HMC is one of our favourite spots-always wish we had longer there.

 

Thanks again for your input.  

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Great, detailed review. 

 

I wonder if the culinary staff was a bit new, too. Did not have a flavor issue on my recent cruise on a different ship. And I love spice and pepper, etc.... Hope they figure that one out soon.

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Thank you for your well-rounded review.  We're looking forward to our first time on the Nieuw Statendam in January!

 

Smooth Sailing!  🙂🙂🙂

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Thank you for taking the time to write a great review. Glad to hear your first HAL Cruise was a good one. We were on the Nieuw Statendam the week before you. We had breakfast in the dining room every day except one and never experienced any of the service issues you mentioned. We did go to breakfast as soon as or shortly after they opened, so maybe that may have been the difference. We always got great service in the dining room, for both breakfast and dinner. 

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Thanks for your review. 
 

We were also on this cruise. Question— did you have Anytime Dining in the MDR? I only ask because last year on the Oosterdam our dining experience (service wise) mirrored yours nearly exactly. This year on NS we insisted on fixed seating and service was fantastic— preemptive, responsive, and dare I say practically perfect. We did not personally experience issues with service in the Lido, but we saw others who did, so I know that this definitely was not the normal this go around. I will add that I think our particular situation was helped by having a five year old in tow (doesn’t always work to our advantage but in this case, it did). 

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Thanks for your insights.  Glad you had such a positive experience that you plan to sail on a dam ship in the future.  We're sailing on NS Christmas/New Year's and expecting a great cruise, similar to last year at this time.  NS was a brand new ship then.  Now, she's a year old, so all the kinks, the few we noticed, should have worked themselves out, mostly crew unfamiliar with working seamlessly together, especially in the dining room.  At the time, we understood there can be some hiccups on those first sailings.  Nevertheless, that aspect obviously didn't detract enough from the cruise for us to back away from sailing on this ship again.

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Welcome to HA. We're doing a cruise on NS in July, so thanks for your balanced review of your cruise.

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Thank you for such wonderful review and welcome to HAL.  I was on deck 6 at on the Koningsdam and definately agree its a great location and quiet.  My family and I are booked in this area again for the NS and cannot wait.......

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Thank you for taking the time to write your review.

 

Appreciate all the details.

 

Glad you enjoyed your first HAL cruise in spite of a few problems at the beginning of the cruise.

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Thanks for your review.  Interesting to read your perception of  HAL and X from a new cruiser perspective.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I was on Koningsdam 2 years ago and just loved it!  I'm hoping to book NS before too long (although I have 4 cruises booked on another line that I was going to quit a couple of years ago), so not sure when that might happen.

 

I've usually found that the MDR food tends to be over-salted.  You can always add seasoning.  Can't remove it!!

 

I'm always a little surprised when I read comments (usually from people posting about HAL on other boards) about how there's very little to do in the evenings.  I haven't found that to be the case at all.  There was no rock when I last sailed HAL, but I thought the string quintet was fantastic and the Blues groups on both K'dam and Zuiderdam were amazingly good!  I'm not a piano-bar person and avoid them when possible.

 

HMC is paradise.  I'm not a "beach person" either, but after my first visit there (on a Carnival sailing), I came home, told friends, and we booked the same exact cruise for 6 months later, which I never do, just to return to HMC.  It's one of the reasons I want to sail HAL more often.

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14 hours ago, Dulciana8 said:

Thanks for your review. 
 

We were also on this cruise. Question— did you have Anytime Dining in the MDR? I only ask because last year on the Oosterdam our dining experience (service wise) mirrored yours nearly exactly. This year on NS we insisted on fixed seating and service was fantastic— preemptive, responsive, and dare I say practically perfect. We did not personally experience issues with service in the Lido, but we saw others who did, so I know that this definitely was not the normal this go around. I will add that I think our particular situation was helped by having a five year old in tow (doesn’t always work to our advantage but in this case, it did). 

 We had set dining, the 5:00 seating to be precise.

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2 hours ago, Pokeymon said:

Did you clear immigration in Key west then just disembark in Ft Lauderdale the next day?

Yes, exactly that. No customs in Ft. Lauderdale to go through.

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1 hour ago, NCTribeFan said:

 

 

I've usually found that the MDR food tends to be over-salted.  You can always add seasoning.  Can't remove it!!

 

 

It wasn't so much the salt levels, as much as the food was devoid of any seasonings, period. For example, on the first night my partner ordered the Shrimp Diablo, as did the table next to us. It came out well presented, but both my partner and the other table both agreed it tasted like they just used a jar of generic tomato sauce. The crusted prime rib I had later had no crusting at all, and the sauce they served with the jumbo shrimp cocktail was basically mayonnaise. I can forgive the lack of salt, and could understand why that would be cut down, but the lack of basic herbs in the dishes was disappointing. That said, the premium restaurants had no issues, so I know they have these things on-board. We were mystified since there tends to be many wonderful reviews of HAL food on these boards and elsewhere. I'm hoping this was just an anomaly for this one voyage.

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1 hour ago, Rominesh said:

It wasn't so much the salt levels, as much as the food was devoid of any seasonings, period. For example, on the first night my partner ordered the Shrimp Diablo, as did the table next to us. It came out well presented, but both my partner and the other table both agreed it tasted like they just used a jar of generic tomato sauce. The crusted prime rib I had later had no crusting at all, and the sauce they served with the jumbo shrimp cocktail was basically mayonnaise. I can forgive the lack of salt, and could understand why that would be cut down, but the lack of basic herbs in the dishes was disappointing. That said, the premium restaurants had no issues, so I know they have these things on-board. We were mystified since there tends to be many wonderful reviews of HAL food on these boards and elsewhere. I'm hoping this was just an anomaly for this one voyage.

 

I hate it when they serve shrimp cocktail with that nasty white stuff! Next time, ask your server when you order for regular cocktail sauce and they will gladly swap it out.

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