Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
10/28/17 to 11/4/17

Due to the length of the review, it is in 3 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 –  Embarkation, Ship, Dining, Entertainment, Activities 
Page 2 -  Ship (contd), Cabin, Dining, Entertainment, Activities, Ports of Call:  Cap Cana, Dominican Republic
Page 3 - Ports of Call:  Amber Cove, Dominican Republic, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, Disembarkation


We had only been on one HAL cruise, and that was on the Westerdam in 2014.  We enjoyed it; but hadn’t had the opportunity to try out more of their ships.  Since we had booked a cruise on the HAL Zaandam for January 2018, I thought it might be worth going on one of their other ship classes, too.  With the Nieuw Amsterdam being HAL’s second newest ship and pricing being very attractive, we decided to book it.

The original itinerary included St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay.  After two major hurricanes severely damaged the first three of the four ports, two ports in the Dominican Republic were added, Cap Cana and Amber Cove; and Nassau.  So, our cruise was going to consist of two ports in the Bahamas and two in the Dominican Republic.  It wasn’t an itinerary we would book; but we would enjoy the ship anyway.


With Port Everglades only being a 45-minute drive south for us, we don’t have to hassle with airlines to do a Caribbean cruise.  But we do have to deal with where we will park our car.  Parking at the Port can be very expensive; but we recently started using a different parking company for both our flights and cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Park'N Go https://bookparkngo.com/ftlauderdale.php.  I had heard about them on Cruisecritic.com; and couldn’t be happier with them.  When we arrived at the lot, we got out of the car, they took our luggage, loaded it on the bus for us and parked our car.  With the area being covered, it also protected us from the rain we had been having that morning.

The bus dropped us off at the terminal, where they gave our luggage to the baggage handlers.  We then entered the building, went through security and walked right up to the counter to get our cabin key cards.  It was one of the easiest and quickest embarkations we have had.  We were on the ship at 11:40 AM heading for our first meal in the Lido buffet.



We were very impressed with this ship.  Although it is the same basic ship as the Vista Class Westerdam we previously cruised on, it seemed much nicer to us.  The only major change is that it has one more deck of cabins.  It was tastefully decorated, and the public areas were not crowded.  Part of the reason might be because the ship wasn’t full.  We had 1,865 passengers, which is 11% below the 2,106-passenger double occupancy capacity.  Even being full, I still think it would have a reasonable space to passenger ratio.  The staff throughout the ship were just outstanding.  Everyone was so friendly and pleasant.  They really seemed to enjoy their jobs and the guests.  That can be hard to do with many of the guests on cruises.  The many favorable comments I had read about the great service with HAL, was certainly confirmed to me on this cruise.  I was impressed and look forward to enjoying it again.  The various public rooms are shown below by category.

Restaurants (Link to Menus)-

I have included copies of all restaurant menus in the link just above and at the top of each page of the review.

Manhattan Dining Room – This is the ship’s main dining room.  It is located at the back of the ship on decks two and three.   For this cruise, the anytime dining was on deck two and fixed seatings on deck three.  The room is decorated in red; and made for a very pleasant dining environment.  We were particularly pleased with the chairs, that were quite comfortable.  There was also plenty of room between the tables where the waiters could easily move between them.





Lido Market – This buffet is located near the back of deck 9.   I do prefer the separate food stations like they have on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships; but these buffet counters did work out fine.  They had enough separate counters with different food types at each of them to keep the lines flowing nicely.  We were also pleased that there was never a problem finding a table.  This is probably partially a result of the nice weather we had most of the cruise, with people staying by the pools and/or eating pizza or burgers at the separate venues. 





Some food items were not easily found, unless you knew to ask for them.  They did have floor plans showing where the stations for the various food items were located.  I have put small versions below for breakfast and lunch.  Larger versions are located on the page with other menus.  For breakfast, you had to go to a different counter than where omelets were made to ask for fried eggs.  The eggs benedict was available at a different counter.  There was no mention of either of these items being available at the counters.  To get HAL’s wonderful bread pudding, you had to ask the attendant at the ice cream/dessert counter for it, since it was out of the way behind the attendant. 


One thing that I did miss during lunch was that they didn’t have plain chicken, tuna or egg salad available that wasn’t already in a sandwich.  I prefer to have them as a salad type plate for lunch.  They also had complementary sushi at the buffet. 


I was very pleased that each group of tables had a specific waiter/waitress assigned, with their names shown on the tables.  This way there was someone specifically responsible for your needs, rather than having to wait for someone to just walk by. If you liked a particular person, you could eat at their tables every day.  I believe that this is a major reason that the service was so good in the buffet.

Pinnacle Grill – This is the steak house specialty restaurant.  It is the most elegant restaurant on board and has the highest price at $35 per person.  It is located just off the atrium on deck 2.  We didn’t get to eat there this cruise; but will on our next HAL cruise in two months.



Canaletto – The Italian specialty restaurant is actually a section at the front starboard side of the Lido buffet.  It is separated by glass partitions and does maintain its individuality from the buffet.  By using part of the buffet for this restaurant at night, the buffet can use the tables for breakfast and lunch to provide more eating area.  At night, the buffet is not as busy, with people in the main dining room, so it works out quite well.  The charge to eat there is only $15.  We just didn’t have time to eat there on this short cruise; but look forward to trying it on the Zaandam in January.


Tamarind – This is the Asian specialty restaurant.  The décor doesn’t feel that Asian, but it is still a comfortable restaurant.  It is broken up into two main sections in the center of deck 11, which maximizes guests being able to look out the windows to the ocean.  The cost per person is $25.  Since the Zaandam doesn’t have a Tamarind restaurant, we did eat here one night to try it out.  From comments I had read on Cruise Critic, this is the most popular of the specialty restaurants.   We enjoyed our meal; but it wasn’t as great as I was hoping for.  The food presentation was just outstanding; but the taste was a little bland for us.  I probably should have chosen some of the items that looked more appealing to me, rather than trying a few that people had raved about in other reviews.  Everyone’s taste is different.  I will say that we had the most wonderful service at Tamarind.  Our waitress, Renny, was just so sweet and helpful.  She was a gem.




Dive-In -  This is the place for hamburgers and hot dogs.  It is located on deck 9, just outside the Lido buffet in the Lido Pool area.  Unlike most of the hamburger venues on other lines, HAL makes the hamburgers when you order them.  It makes it take longer, but it is worth it to have a freshly prepared hot burger, rather than a cold one that has been sitting in a tray for a while.  When you place your order, they give you a buzzer with flashing lights, as do many restaurants these days.  But because they make them to order, it takes from 10-20 minutes to get your order, depending on traffic.  They have several different standard burgers and hot dogs, or you can customize them how you like.  With the burgers being a third of a pound each, they are a decent size meal.  They also put on lots of veggies to make it a very good burger.  The hot dogs were also just outstanding.  They use Nathan brand hot dogs, and they were really good, especially the Dunkin' Dog with melted cheese sauce and jalapenos.  I ate there a couple times when I got back too late to eat in the buffet.  Carol liked the Dog Paddle, with sourkraut and bacon bits. There is no charge for any of the food in this restaurant.



New York Pizza - This pizza restaurant also makes your food when you place your order.  It is located outside in front of the Seaview Pool.You also receive a buzzer and it can take from 10-20 minutes depending on demand.  Unlike most cruise lines, you actually receive a full small pizza, rather than a slice.  I personally prefer just one slice, since I don’t want a full pizza for myself.  The one day, I ordered one, a friend was sitting near me, so I was able to give him part of it.  The pizza was OK, but not great.  Like Dive-In, they have several standard pizzas, or you can customize one.  There is also no charge for the pizzas.


Explorations Café – This coffee shop is located at the front of the ship on deck 11 at the back of the Crow’s Nest.  There is a charge for the drinks, but the appetizers in the counter are free. 


Lounges (Link to Menus)-
I have included copies of the lounge menus in the link just above and at the top of each page of the review.

Crow’s Nest - This lounge is located at the very front of the ship on deck 11.  It is a great place to just chill and watch the sea from the best viewing spot on the ship.  Since it is a large room, it is used for many purposes during the day.  It also has a dance floor.  This was one of two lounges that has happy hour from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  At happy hour, the second drink of the same kind only costs $2.00.  It is a good deal that was quite popular.



This is also where the library is located, along with some computer terminals.



Ocean Bar -  This is located on deck 3 around the atrium.  This is the other lounge that has happy hour.  I made it here almost every night.  On our first HAL cruise, I was introduced to a drink called the Royal Manhattan.  It is made with Jim Beam Red Stag bourbon.  It has a black cherry flavor that makes a very nice Manhattan.  I have never found this drink on other lines, so I took advantage of the opportunity.  I rarely drink mixed drinks at home; but it just seems the thing to do on a cruise. 



Every night I would sit between the same two enjoyable couples and chat about the day’s events, while our outstanding bartender, Walter, made drinks and entertained us. 

Pinnacle Bar -  This is located on deck two on the other side of the atrium from the Pinnacle Grill.  It was popular with people waiting to eat dinner at the Grill.

Casino Bar – This bar is on deck 2, right next to the casino.  It stayed pretty busy at night.  It was particularly popular, since they had TV’s turned on to the World Series games each night.  It is being removed during the upcoming drydock.  There was an unusual decoration just outside the bar.


Piano Bar – This popular entertainment venue is also located across from the casino.  Each night, Pianist Damian, played to a packed house.  It was always full when I went by or tried to go in.  There was standing room only, and many people were standing.  This venue is getting ready to be changed to the Billboard Onboard venue, during the upcoming drydock, that has two pianos in it.  In order to have more room, the Casino Bar will be taken out to make it a much larger room.  I hope it does, since on my two HAL cruises, I have not been able to sit in the Piano Bar to listen to the entertainers due to there being no room.



I do hope that when they redo this room that they are able to keep all of the old photos on the wall.  It is interesting to walk around and see all the celebrities from many years ago.

Northern Lights Club -   This club is also on deck two next to the casino.  This is a bar with a large dance floor, which is primarily used for later night entertainment.  With the layout of deck 2 on this ship and the Westerdam we previously cruised on, this club was always kind of out of the way.  You had to look for it to find it, unlike the other bars that are on the main walkways.  I guess HAL realized that also, since it is going to be replaced with the Gallery Bar. With it being next to the casino, it will replace the soon to be removed Casino Bar.


Explorer’s Lounge – This large lounge on deck 2 is just in front of the main dining room.  It is used for the group Adagio, which is a pianist and violinist duet; as well as other events during the day. 



It has a huge painting of Manhattan on the wall.  When you get close to the painting, it almost looks like a double exposure, with a map of Manhattan in the clouds. 


Lido Bar – This is the pool bar for the Lido Pool.  It is also used by people eating at Dive-In, since it is next to it.

The fish stools are an eye catcher.  But they weren't that comfortable.

Sea View Bar - This is the Seaview Pool bar, so when the sun is shining, it is a popular place.  Being at the back of the ship, in front of the pool and totally covered, it doesn’t get much air flow.  So, when it is hot outside, to me, it was a bit uncomfortable to be out there.  I guess if I had been swimming in the pool, it might have been fine.

Silk Den – This is bar in front of the Tamarind Restaurant in the middle of deck 10.  During the drydock, the name will be changed to the Tamarind Bar, which makes sense, since it is decorated in the same motif.  The view out the windows is of the Lido Pool below.  However, since it was a bad weather day, the top of the pool was closed, so I didn’t take a photo of the view.  It would be a nice place to sit during the day to watch the ocean.


Entertainment -
The Showroom at Sea – This is the main showroom located on decks 2 and 3 at the front of the ship.  It is a large show room, but small enough where all seats are close enough to the stage to be able see the performers.  There are obstructed views from the pillars in some places; but for the most part it is a very guest friendly theater.



Unlike on the Vista Class ships, guests can sit in the center of the balcony, since the engineer’s space has been moved further up.  This provided a lot more good seats in the theater.

There is plenty of leg room between the seats.  I forgot to take photos of the drink holders that extend out from the armrests on each seat.  I didn’t see people using them, so I assume that most people didn’t even realize they were there.  Most evenings, shows were at 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM.  On the first and last nights, they only had one show at 9:30 PM.

I was impressed with the models of two acrobats at the back of the theater.  They were quite pretty; and they were so lifelike.


B.B. King's Blues Club – This space is on deck 2 and shares it with the Queen’s Lounge & Culinary Arts Center.  Most nights, there were shows at 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM and 10:30 PM or 15 minutes later on a few nights.  The group of 6 musicians and 2 singers were just outstanding. This room looks totally different at night from the Queen's Lounge and Culinary Center that is it used for during the day. 


I watched them every night and enjoyed every show.  This group alone is a good reason to cruise on HAL.  Obviously, the group is different on different ships and contracts change; but I hope they are all as entertaining as this group.  I know the group I saw on the Westerdam was also quite good.




Queen’s Lounge & Culinary Art Center – It is amazing how different the space looks in the daytime with a kitchen on the stage.  Since I am not into cooking, I didn’t get to see any of the shows; but people did seem to enjoy them.



Screening Room – This room is primarily used for showing movies.  During our cruise, in addition to the movies, they had daily shows from the BBC Earth series.  They were very good.  The problem was that the screening room has very comfortable reclining leather chairs; but only 36 of them.  For some of the shows, there was standing room only.  But it is a great room to watch a movie in, if you can get a seat.


Other -
Atrium – Although a small atrium, covering only three floors, it is tastefully done. The New York City skyline chandellier, with its changing colors is an eye catcher. 


We regularly walked past the atrium on decks two and three were we would get nice views of the pretty area from different angles.


On deck one there are comfortable chairs that I rarely saw used.  I guess there were enough in other parts of the ship that were easier to get to.  Most people coming to deck one were interested in solving an issue with guest services or for excursions. The view looking up to the chandellier was also quite pretty. 


Guest Services – This is a well-staffed area on deck 1 with pleasant and competent people.  I needed to visit there a few times.  I never had to wait, and my issues were resolved quickly and with a smile.  They have a great team.


Future Cruises -  This small area also on deck 1 is for booking future cruises.  I never did see it staffed, but then again, I wasn’t on deck 1 very much.  I also didn’t need to book a future cruise, since I will be on the Zaandam in January, when I will have more time to consider one.


Journeys Ashore – This is the area to book excursions for the different ports.  I try to book private excursions, so I normally don’t visit the excursions desk.  This cruise I did need it one time while visiting Amber Cove.  They couldn’t help me that time, but I am sure that folks that use ship excursions frequent this desk.  It is also on deck 1.

Promenade Deck - Holland America is one of the few cruise lines that has promenade decks that go completely around the ship.  Unfortunately, the newest ship in the line, Koningsdam, only has a partial promenade deck; so this will probably be a thing of the past for HAL also. A major benefit of the full promenade deck is that it makes for a great walking path.  Three times around is a mile.

With it located on deck three, it is a great place to just relax and watch the ocean go by.  It allows you to feel closer to the ocean, than viewing it from higher up on the ship.  It also provides those without veranda cabins to be able to enjoy the ocean more. 



In addition to lounge chairs along the promenade deck, they have wooden life vest lockers that can be used to sit on.


Where the promenade deck goes across to the other side at the front of the ship, I was surpirsed to find the small dog relief area with sod.  I am sure that the guests with service animals were very happy to see that HAL had considered their pet's needs also.


My favorite area along the promenade deck is at the aft.  It provides the best view of the ship's wake.


Casino -  Since we don’t gamble we don’t visit the casino except to pass through it to other places on deck 2.  Unfortunately, HAL still allows smoking in its casinos, so there was a slight smoke smell while walking through, but it wasn’t offensive.  I don’t know if they have a great ventilation system or there just weren’t that many smokers on this cruise.  It is a small casino for this size ship and it was very popular at night.



Elevators – I normally don’t have a section devoted to elevators in a review; but this ship deserved it.  I loved that there were three banks of elevators.  It meant that an elevator bank was always close by wherever you were on the ship.  Unfortunately, many times several of the elevators were out of service for some reason.  In some cases, it was 2 of 4 in one bank or 3 of 6 in another.  That was just unacceptable.  It really slowed down the people flow.  I also have another beef about the center elevators.  There are 6 elevators in the center, two on the port side, 2 on the starboard side and 2 in the center.  If you push a button on any side, it is only applicable to those two elevators, rather than all elevators.  So, if you want to increase your chances of getting an elevator, you have to push the buttons on the other side of the ship and/or in the center.  Or of course, you can just wait for one of the two in the bank you pushed the button for.  It is inconvenient.  I can see where it might be a problem for some of the guests to walk over to an elevator on the other side of the ship before the door closes; but at least they would have the option.  I did like the design of the elevator doors, rather cool looking.  Another positive is that each elevator had an inserted rug which told you the day of the week.  I also liked that the walls were not mirrors.  Some of the elevator areas had nice decorations also.


Photo Gallery – This ship has the old-style photo gallery on deck 3 that produces hard copies and puts them in racks.  I much prefer ships that have the photos digitally available for review on a terminal or in your cabin.  We don’t buy many photos these days; but still like to see what the few we have taken look like.  It is much easier to find them digitally and it saves the cruise line money by not printing them and having to throw them away.


They also had their Black Label Photography studio, where they set up private sittings for custom packages.

Art Gallery – The Art Gallery, located on deck 2 is quite an attractive spot with lovely paintings on the wall.  The paintings cover rooms on both sides of the hallway.  However, we are no longer interested in the auctions, so the gallery is not something we pay a lot of attention to anymore.


Digital Workshop – This is the computer lab where during the cruise there were many classes related to Windows software.  Since I have been using Windows for over 30 years and am computer literate, I have never before attended a computer class on a ship.  They are quite beneficial for those that are still learning.  The team did have a short seminar on the GoPro 5 camera, which I was interested in.  It was well done, and I learned a lot about a piece of equipment I knew nothing about.


Hudson - This is one of the three meeting rooms multi-purpose on deck 3 that is used for various activities during the cruise.  It is the largest of the three.


Half Moon – This is one of the three multi-purpose meeting rooms on deck 3 that is used for various activities during the cruise.


Stuyvesant - This is one of the three multi-purpose meeting rooms on deck 3 that is used for various activities during the cruise.


Fitness Center – The fitness center, located at the front of deck 9, has lots of nice workout equipment.  I really liked that with it being at the front of the ship, there were lots of windows to look out of in front of the aerobic machines.



Greenhouse Spa & Salon – This is a small spa area on deck 9.  I didn’t get to see the therapy rooms; but they aren’t normally that photogenic anyway. 


The Relaxation Room appears to be quite a comfortable location with a view out to the sea.


Hydro Pool – This is a very nice area that I would have enjoyed trying out.  You need to purchase a spa pass to use it and the thermal suites, that I was not able to get into to take photos. 



There were many large penguin statues throughout the ship.  This one at the Hydro Pool was my favorite.

Lido Pool – This is the pool on deck 9 that has a retractable cover that protects it during bad weather. 




It looks quite different with the sun shining in than when it is covered.  It was quite a popular area all during the cruise.


They had a cabana area on the starboard side of the Lido Pool area.


Sea View Pool – This pool is at the back of the ship on deck 9.  It was the most popular sun bathing location on the ship. Our first sea day was very windy, so the lounge chairs were not set out.  It showed what a large expanse of area was devoted to this deck. 


Once the winds died down, the chairs and loungers came out, the empty space quickly filled up.



It has a nice wide-open view of the sea with no obstructions at one end, with the Seaview Bar and NY Pizza at the other end.


Cabana Club – This area can be used for a fee.  It is nicely appointed and looks very comfortable.  I was able to get inside the area on the first day while it was raining. 


When it was sunny, I could only get photos from above.


Basketball/Volleyball Court – This area is on deck 11.  It is a multipurpose totally enclosed netted area.


It is accesed by a staircase on deck 10 near the aft of the ship.  This area is also used for sun bathing when the weather is good. The area is also where you can get the best view of the ship's twin smoke stacks.


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