This was our second Holland America cruise, after being on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean ships for a few years. I had wanted to come back to HAL because I remembered the excellent food, great service and beautiful decor of the Zuiderdam. In most ways this cruise lived up to my expectations. Except for one night I was very pleased with the food. We dined in the Pinnacle Restaurant for a celebration dinner and it was exceptional, from s'amuse bouche to decadent dessert. The busy Lido buffet was great for breakfast with made to order omelets and a different version of Eggs Benedict every day, also made to your order.
The pizza at the Lido pool area and the burgers, hotdogs and fries amidships were really good, far exceeding what I had experienced on other ships.
We made dining room table reservations immediately upon boarding the ship and enjoyed delightful table companions, which definitely enriched our experience.
I enjoyed the shows, performed by talented singers and dancers with live backup band, very high energy and always professional.
I did not miss things like wave pool, rock climbing or ice rink found on the big ships. I liked the cooking demonstrations especially.
We purchased two shore excursions through which we enjoyed very much. However, the ship personnel were not helpful when we asked simple questions on how to find the starting point for the tour. We had to walk a short distance or take a taxi to get to the location, rather than being met by a guide at the pier.
After having sailed on larger ships, I found the smaller Nieuw Amsterdam rocked and pitched noticeably more. There was annoying vibration in the dining room which is all the way aft, even on the upper level, when the ship traveled at close to top speed. Our cabin was also at the very back of the ship on deck 8. We were given this cabin as a "guaranteed" selection; we did not choose it. I had heard that these were prized because of their privacy, which was true. However it suffered from noice and motion. Our table companions told us this was true in other parts of the ship, on lower decks, as well. We were directly below the Lido pool area, so early every morning and evening we heard the crew moving deck chairs, scraping and bumping around.
One of my favorite things about Holland America ships is the many quiet places one can sit with a book. The library has a good selection of materials.
I also liked the Silk Den for a before dinner drink with new friends, and the Crow's Nest day or night.
So, another Holland America cruise? Probably, but next time I want to choose my own cabin.
This was a much better experience than I had a few years ago, when cost-cutting was obvious and service suffered. This time everything was back up to the levels I was accustomed to, and above. Service was attentive, staff were cheerful and every request received quick response. Menu choices in the dining room were varied, well prepared and attractively presented. It was hard to decide whether to go to Windjammer for the many choices, or to the dining room for quiet service at breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at Chops, with a level of food and service above that in the dining room. My mother really enjoyed her massage in the spa, and the masseuse was very caring and attentive. Our cabin steward was efficient but unobtrusive, and available whenever we needed him. The stage show was up to the professional standards we have always enjoyed, and the ice show was dazzling and amazing. I was glad to see it is now offered on two different days, twice each day, because it is so popular. We frequented the Cafe Promenade for a cup of coffee or tea, or a cold drink, and a comfortable place to sit and people watch in the Royal Promenade. I also enjoyed the R Bar whose delightfully personable bartenders bantered with the patrons and each other as they expertly mixed elaborate creations. We went ashore for the beach day at Coco Cay, finding lounge chairs in the shade, enjoyed one of the day's beverages and a lunch with many selections to choose from.
We had a chance to avail ourselves of the ship's medical facility when an elderly member of our party had a minor mishap. The staff were attentive, professional and reassuring. The center itself was well equipped and not cramped but comfortable enough to serve a number of people at one time.
I left the ship with good memories and ready to go again.