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jb008

Trip report - Nieuw Statendam 12/29/19 - 1/5/20 Holiday Sailing - FLL, Amber Cove, San Juan, St Thomas, Half Moon Cay, FLL

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I wanted to post a trip report on our recent HAL Nieuw Statendam sailing.  The TL;DR version was that we enjoyed the cruise and purchased future cruise credits.

 

As a bit of background, DW and I are both mid-30s and experienced cruisers with this being our 4th New Year's holiday sailing (RCL 12/08, PCL 12/17, HAL 12/18).  I wouldn't describe us as food or entertainment "connoisseurs", but we've been to various broadway shows, eaten at a few fancy restaurant, and lived in the "big city" for a while.

 

Embarkation went smoothly.  I think we got to the port about 9:45 AM and waited outside in line for about 15 mins, then were allowed in to clear port security, get cruise cards, and then wait to board the ship.  Boarding started right around 11:30 AM and we were in group 1, which boarded following handicap and "priority" boarding groups (e.g., suites and multi-star mariners).  When they allowed us to board they said that rooms were already open for guests. 

 

We booked as a balcony guarantee and were assigned Cabin VD7049 about 3-4 days before embarkation.  This was a forward cabin basically in line with the elevator hallway of the front elevators, it was also a "ambulatory accessible" room which had a shower (no tub) with fold down chair and some grab handles in the shower.  The room was also a connecting room, meaning there was a door that could be opened to the adjacent stateroom (VD7051).  I think the room size and layout was fine.  The downsides to this cabin were that the door seemed less soundproof than a full wall (we could hear muffled phone calls and talking from our neighbors, but nothing too disruptive) and there is a butler closet opposite VD7047 so we got some noise from the stateroom attendants in the AM.  We aren't normally trying to sleep in on a cruise so not a biggie for us, but could be a frustration for some people.  This is very subjective, but I never got comfortable on the bed the entire cruise and felt like the mattress had an indent and already felt worn out - in contrast DW said she thought the bed was fine; as I said though this is a very subjective thing.  Stateroom attendants were FANTASTIC, and they even did towel animals starting the 2nd day and onward.  

 

We did the fixed 8p seating for dinner and requested a table for 2.  Our table request came through, but one thing to note was that the table was a 6-person table for the early seating and then they removed the table expander and got two 2-person tables at the same spot for the  late seating.

 

Food in the MDR was all tasty and well executed, I've got pictures/pdfs of the menus and will try to get those posted sometime soon.  Breakfasts in Lido got repetitive, and it felt like it could be hard to find seating during busy periods.  We ended up doing room service for breakfast 3 of the mornings.  Dinners in Lido were good, some dishes overlapped with the MDR (although they suffered from being served buffet style versus plated for MDR service) but the menus were by no means identical.  Service in the MDR was attentive with prompt delivery and clearing of plates, they also took care to remember food preferences and even seating.  Service in the Lido was slower and not very impressive, but nothing overtly bad.  Just slow and gave they impression that they weren't trying very hard there.  We remarked that these were some of the best MDR dinners we remember having.

 

The rollout of the "cruise and travel director" w/EXC talks is interesting.  Our C(T)D did a good job delivering the EXC talks (e.g., history of HAL, and a couple nature themed talks, plus one on off-shore banking and cryptocurrency focusing on the Bahamas).  But it felt like there was less offered during the day on the ship than previous years.  I liked the talks and learned something from them... but also felt a little bored other parts of the sea days in particular.  If you like reading it was fine, but if you like programmed activities you may find it a bit sparse.  In contrast, I preferred where the CD did more programming and then a separate person did additional talks (we were lucky last year on Oosterdam and we had a naturalist on board who did some talks on marine biology and ecology).  Naturalist in the Caribbean is unusual though, and for cost reasons I get how the new CTD role is a way to help reduce overhead.

 

Nieuw Statendam has a nice sound and visual system integrated into the main theater.  Instead of a live band/orchestra they used canned music and then had a dance troupe of 6 people called Step One.  The first show, "Humanity", was more of a dance show and was great.  The second show, "Stages", attempted to be more of a narrative show told through dance and was not at all engaging or entertaining (DW fell asleep, and I may have nodded off a few times).  Talking to another couple the next day, they also thought it was a pretty lackluster show.  Nit picky, but even the costuming was poorly thought out for stges as one of the guys was in a light gray suit that had horrible sweat marks all over by the end of the show.  We skipped the magician and the other performance done by a musical duo, but chatter was that both were solid and the magician was especially entertaining/good.

 

Being a holiday sailing I think the pax population skewed younger and more multi-generational than your average HAL sailing.  I wouldn't hesitate to travel with kids during a holiday sailing, but I imagine kids might feel like a small minority outside of the traditional kid-heavy sailings like holidays and school breaks.  We also had two affinity groups on board, Dancers at Sea who would take over Billboard Lounge to practice dancing during the day (and who displaced our Meet and Greet I might add), and a Baptist christian group called "Turning Point Ministries".  TPM didn't displace any of the entertainment as far as I could tell, but I definitely heard some weird conversations in elevators and public spaces.  I've always been taught that religion is not considered polite conversation in public, and hearing people randomly start pushing both religious and political views in the public spaces on a ship is not my cup of tea.  I will actively try to avoid affinity groups like TPM moving forward.  Helpfully, they all had distinctive cruise cards they wore on board and also often carried their TPM specific programs.  


Ports were Amber Cove, San Juan, St. Thomas, and HMC 
AC
: we did the taste of Dominican tour through the ship which involved tasting coffee, rum, and chocolate across several different stops, as well as learning about cigars and how they're hand rolled.  It also included a stop for lunch at a local "farm" (more of a touristy farm than actual farm imho) which consisted of rice over sancocho (a local meat and veggie stew).  
San Juan:  We were there on New Years Day, so I think we had fewer tour options than other times of the year.  Most stores and shops were open, but closed earlier due to the holiday.  We just walked Old San Juan as we've been to SJU/OSJ several times including a long weekend visit there.  El Morro is always a fun spot to visit, and OSJ is easy to tour on your own.  We also hit up CVS for some small toiletries and gifts - CVS and Walgreens are both close to OSJ port with CVS prices running a little cheaper (but little further from the port).  I picked up local PR coffee at the drug stores and it was cheaper than any of the coffee options at gift shops.
St. Thomas: We just did a taxi independently to the beach, and then taxi back.  Taxi prices are fixed, but you may end up waiting a bit if it's a bigger bus taxi as they'll try to find a few more pax before they head out, or try to add a few pax as they pass through town back to the ship.
HMC: We were lucky and cleared to tender, the previous week they had to scrap this stop due to weather.  We had two ships in port, so it was fairly crowded (although not terrible) and if you want more space just keep walking further down the beach.  Our ship was first on site, so we had the pick of the chairs and clamshells.  Clamshells were sold out by the time we embarked on the ship, so that's one I'd recommend pre-purchasing and especially if there's 2 ships visiting.  The line for the tender at the end of the day was long and slow, we got in line at ~2:40 (last tender was posted as 3:30 for our ship) and I think we took a solid half hour to get loaded and actually leave the island.  I think we'd have been better either leaving earlier, or just waiting to take the last tender at 3:30.

 

New Years Eve:  Surprisingly, NYE was not a gala night but instead was noted as "festive attire".  They did a fancy gala-style dinner in the MDR that evening, complete with fancy menus (which did say Gala <shrug>). NYE dinner was also the lobster tail night, so what I would consider the fancier of the two gala night menus imho.  The main event was a party on the pool deck that was scheduled to start at 10:45.  They had reserved the couches on the deck overlooking the pool deck (not sure if it was held for suite guests or a separate "vip" pkg) and seating around the deck was pretty sparse.  Entertainment was the BB King blues band and singers, and they may have been handing out some free beverages around midnight?  As parties go, this was nothing close to what we experienced on Crown Princess a few years back - but I'd give it a solid 7/10.  If you want a lively party with a DJ and dancing I'd look elsewhere though.

 

Disembarkation was smooth, with no complaints.  We did Luggage Direct, form was left in our door "mailbox" something like 2nd day and was due mid-week to guest services.  Price is still $25/pp plus luggage fee and only certain airlines and flight times were eligible.  I have a copy of the form if anyone needs more details.  One thing to note is that Terminal 26 at Port Everglades does not support mobile passport, so clearing US CBP took about ~30 minutes and we were one of the earliest groups to disembark.  I think from leaving our stateroom to being curbside at the FLL airport was less than 1 hour though.

 

I hope the above was helpful.  I saved the daily When & Wheres and have all the MDR dinner menus saved as either pics or PDFs and I'll try to get the menus uploaded over the next week or so.

 

We had a great cruise, met some fun people (especially at trivia, shout out to afreudgirl and her traveling companions), and we are looking forward to sailing on Holland America Line again!

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Thank you for your review, we are on the NS next year and are looking forward to it.  We sailed her sister ship, the Koningsdam last year and loved the ship.

 

i will agree with you that sea days are a tad bit boring, just wish they would have a few more options on sea days.......

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Thanks for your review, we are on her in July. 

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Thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree that activities on sea days could use a boost - at least on some sailings.

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Thank you for posting!!  Looking forward to the when & where and menu postings. Happy to hear you had a nice sailing.

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