porkwerks

porkwerks
Second Mate

Hometown: NYC
Joined: 12/11/2014
11
Cruises
3
Reviews
93
Helpful Votes

porkwerks's Past Cruises

Nieuw Amsterdam

November 2014 - Nieuw Amsterdam to Caribbean

Two Fun Weeks in the Caribbean

This cruise was the first “collector” cruise we’ve taken and the fourth on HAL. We’ve cruised on several other lines including Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian and Carnival. Celebrity and HAL are our favorites, as they seem to fit the more classic, classy and laid back cruise experience we prefer. Previously on HAL we were on the Zaandam, Zuiderdam and Noordam and enjoyed them all.

Who is HAL & the N.A. going to appeal to?

Middle-aged to older cruisers or vacationers looking for a quieter, laid back classic cruise experience with warm, friendly service and a professional staff on one of the world’s most experienced cruise lines. Plenty of fun or just plenty of relaxation – you’re choice.

Itinerary & Ports:

The itinerary was interesting as it was basically two cruises back to back starting in Ft. Lauderdale and doing the Eastern Caribbean for a week, followed by a return to Ft. Lauderdale then out to the Western Caribbean for a week. Ports included Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay (private island), San Juan, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West. We were scheduled to stop at Half Moon Cay twice – once on the return during week one and once on the outbound to the western Caribbean on week two.

The ports all provided a good range of things to do and see. We’d been to St. Thomas before but being there on a major US Holiday (Thanksgiving) is to be avoided. Many things were closed and the shop vendors all seemed to have been forced to stay open for cruise passengers. Overall not a great experience on that day.

Grand Turk has a small shopping village and a beach at the pier but otherwise you need an excursion or tour to really see anything. It’s not a walk-off and wander stop so much. We hiked El Yunque rain forest when we stopped in San Juan and loved it. Bring rain gear! It’s a lot of fun and the sites are beautiful. Mayan ruins shouldn’t be missed in Cozumel or the beautiful Mexican Riviera beaches.  Grand Cayman’s dolphin encounter was a lot of fun but the gem for me is the Turtle Farm. It’s been expanded over the years and you can easily spend a day there. Key West never disappoints  - something for everyone.

I’m not sure I’d do this kind of back-to-back itinerary again. The stop back in Ft. Lauderdale felt a little odd and an unnatural break in the flow of the trip – it felt a bit like once cruise stopped and another started. Though we loved being on the ship for two weeks I think we’d both prefer a continuous itinerary every if shorter like a 10 or 12 day.

The Ship:

The Nieuw Amsterdam is what’s considered a mid-sized ship. It was clean, well kept and very nicely appointed with artwork celebrating New York City history and the various incarnations of the ships in the HAL fleet that have borne the Nieuw Amsterdam name over the years. Aside from the usual business of the Lido Restaurant the ship doesn’t feel crowded.

We could always find a seat by the pool, in the lounges, at the shows etc. The wrap-around Promenade deck is something we really enjoy. It’s great to grab a chair and read, listen to music or just watch the ocean go by on what’s a nice quiet deck closer to the waves. We found plenty of nice lounges or quiet places to sit insides, lots of open air decks outside to suit our mood each day.

Stateroom:

Out stateroom was well maintained and with the exception of the temperature, it was very comfortable. We had the temperature control to full cold for two weeks and don’t think it ever got below 68-70. If you like it warm you’ll be fine but we found it hard to stop sweating enough after showering to get dressed in formal wear comfortably, and sleeping at night was an exercise in kicking covers off.

Otherwise the room appointments were spacious and nicely laid out (we had a verandah cabin on the Upper Promenade deck port-side aft). Stateroom attendants were exceptional, as we’ve come to expect on HAL. Kept the room tidy and always friendly, asking us how we were doing, what we needed etc. The verandah was especially roomy – no hitting the furniture with the door on the way in or out.

Dining:

Dining was a bit of a mixed bag. By far the best food we’ve had on the five cruise lines we’ve been on was on Celebrity. HAL seems to have upped their game a bit over the years but could still use some improvement.

My wife is vegetarian and has a specific food allergy; she found the vegetarian options, while providing a reasonable number of choices, unimaginative and frankly boring. The dining staff was awesome and worked with her every day to do everything they could to make it more enjoyable for her.

I am not vegetarian and have no food allergies; for me the options were reasonable in number and the food quality, while not what we experienced on Celebrity, was still very good. Dishes were varied each night so you usually had a chicken, fish and red meat option, often a pasta dish, always one vegetarian option on the main menu. I should mention there was a separate vegetarian menu with more options as well but the vegetarian menu was the same for the entire cruise.

We were on for two weeks and the menu essentially repeated itself after a week, so it could have used more variety in that regard. We’ve been on cruises over 12 nights before and never had a repeating menu before.

The only specialty restaurant we tried was the Tamarind – the Asian restaurant. It was reasonably priced at if I recall $20 each. You ate a lot and the food was noticeably more varied and of better quality than the main dining room. We prefer the main dining room since we enjoy the nightly coming of our waiters, but I’d recommend at least once doing the Tamarind in a 7-day trip. Lunch is served as well and is slightly less expensive.

Lido dining was typical of most lines - bustling, a bit busy but with a wide variety of choices every day. Lunch had an International station that rotated Indian, Japanese, Indonesian and predominantly Asian cuisines and included sushi most if not all the time. It was a solid choice that we used most of the time. A pasta station and Mexican station were daily staples that were both good. A carving/sandwich station, salad stations and other hot food stations (we didn’t try them so I don’t recall what they were) were also available so the choices gave you plenty of options. Quality was very good and service, as it usually is all over a HAL ship, was very good to excellent.

The Dive-In Grill by the Lido pool was surprisingly good. My wife had a Portobello mushroom burger that was good enough she tried it more than once. They have a variety of burger, hot dog and French fry options – it was probably the best grill of its kind we’ve had on any ship.  Rather than have you stand in line they give you a pager so you can wander a bit until it buzzes and your order is ready, though that was generally a short 5-10 minute wait even when they were busy.

Pizza station by the aft pool was very good. The pizza chef there when told about my wife’s food allergies made us custom pies – very much appreciated! Their stock options everyday was varied and usually had at least 4-6 choices.

Coffee and tea (for a fee) in the Explorer’s Café were very good. I’ll admit I’m a coffee snob and don’t much dig the standard coffee served in the Lido on most ships, but even that wasn’t bad on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The library is next to the café and is a great place to sit, relax, read and drink coffee. The library was the best stocked we’ve ever seen.  Nice job HAL! If you forgot to bring books or load up the Kindle, you’ll still be fine.

Gym:

We used the fitness center quite a bit and found it well stocked with a variety of equipment. Free weights, machines of all shapes and sized, stationary bikes (recumbent and upright), spinners, yoga area and plenty of treadmills were to be found there. We never waited to use anything. Aside from a climate control issue – we found it a little warm and without enough air movement – it’s a solid fitness center with a nice view outside from the equipment around the perimeter of the room.

Embarkation and Debarkation:

Great and probably the most seamless we’ve ever had. We were on the ship within 15 minutes of getting to the pier and our luggage was at the room with plenty of time to unpack before the lifeboat drill and explore the ship. Debarkation day we were allowed to hang out in our rooms until our group was called, room service was provided and once our number was called we went down and were off the ship in less than 10 minutes. HAL really has their act together getting you on and off without a hassle.

Overall Comments:

We had a great time; I’d recommend HAL, the Nieuw Amsterdam and Caribbean itinerary and we’d certainly consider doing it again in the future. We tend to match the cruise line we like based on demographics, your fellow passengers, the style and size of the ship (while not opposed to big ships – we’ve been on Celebrity’s Solstice class ships twice – we have to interest in the Gargantuan of the Seas or anything carrying 4000-5000 people not to mention Crew) and what overall experience they cater to.

We’re not into flowriders, zip lines or rock climbing at sea. The hard drinkers on some cruise lines don’t appeal much to us either. We’ve settled on Celebrity and Holland primarily as our favorites (Princess occasionally as well). HAL has always been a solid choice and doesn’t disappoint. If the above sounds good to you and you haven’t already, give them a shot. I think you’ll be pleased with the experience.

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Norwegian Breakaway

January 2014 - Norwegian Breakaway to Cruise to Nowhere

Caribbean Princess

October 2013 - Caribbean Princess to Canada, New England, New York

Norwegian Gem

November 2011 - Norwegian Gem to Caribbean - Bahamas

Celebrity Eclipse

October 2010 - Celebrity Eclipse to Transatlantic

"First cruise from England"

Eclipse Maiden Transatlantic Westbound

We booked our transatlantic 13-night cruise on the new Eclipse from Southampton visiting Le Havre & Cherbourg, France then Vigo, Spain and Ponta Delgada in the Azores. This was our third transatlantic trip on Celebrity and the maiden crossing for the Eclipse. We've cruised about a dozen times with four different lines. This was our 6th trip on Celebrity. We'd been on the Solstice from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale the previous year and this trip was just as good if not better. The Solstice class of ships are classy, clean and modern yet very inviting and comfortable. The selection or artwork is interesting and the decor is sophisticated. Celebrity's staff is efficient and welcoming - everything was done right, well and with a smile. The enhancements to the cabins such as the shower doors versus curtains is highly welcomed. Food in all venues from the specialty restaurants to the main dining room was varied and excellent - we always had several meals we liked to choose between. If you're a vegetarian like my wife there are many options to choose from - she didn't feel like she was settling or missing out in any way and in fact loved the menus. We especially like the Bistro on 5 for lunch with it's assortment of crepes. Our only gripe was our cabin steward seemed a bit unmotivated - we had to ask several times for things like extra towels and he didn't seem to clean all that thoroughly. The ship is new and we're neat people so it wasn't an issue but it was also not up to the standards we've come to expect from any cruise line much less Celebrity. On the other hand all the other stewards in our wing of the ship were hustling, literally polishing the brass in the rooms and deep cleaning every day so I think our experience in that regard was a fluke and I wouldn't let it deter us in the future from booking again. I don't know if it was the duration of the trip (13 nights) or the itinerary but being our third transatlantic it seems to attract an older crowd. Being in our 30's we were from our estimates younger than probably 99% of the passengers; often mistaken for crew and asked question we nevertheless had a great time. All in all a wonderful trip and a ship we found hard to leave. Looking forward to planning our next trip with Celebrity!

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Celebrity Solstice

November 2009 - Celebrity Solstice to Transatlantic

"First time in Italy"

Carnival Triumph

June 2009 - Carnival Triumph to Canada, New England, New York

Celebrity Summit

January 2009 - Celebrity Summit to Caribbean - Southern

"Shortened due to ship maintenance issues"

Celebrity Constellation

September 2008 - Celebrity Constellation to Transatlantic

"First transatlantic cruise!"

Carnival Miracle

October 2007 - Carnival Miracle to Cruise to Nowhere

Golden Princess

October 2003 - Golden Princess to Canada, New England, New York

porkwerks's Tips

Key West, Florida - Conch Seafood Company - forget the fritters and try the cracked conch! Willie T's for great drinks and music.
Cozumel, Mexico - Mayan ruins - we enjoyed Tulum. It's on the coast, breezy and scenic.
Nieuw Amsterdam Nieuw Amsterdam - If you like the classic dining experience where you get to know your dining staff well and enjoy their company skip the "as you wish" or open seating. We found the staff busy and harried and the service lacking. We were able to get assigned seating for the remainder of the cruise which was great.
Cherbourg, France - We had a wonderful tour to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery which we would suggest is a must-see if not done before. The tour was an all day affair so we didn't see anything of Cherbourg so online reviews we'd read prior to leaving didn't make it sound too interesting.
Ponta Delgada, Azores - Green tour and eco-lovers paradise! The Azores are beautiful, friendly and a great place to visit. Ponta Delgada is a walking friendly city with no need for car or bus if you're spending the day downtown. There's plenty to see just strolling around between the parks, churches, squares and cafes. The waterfront pier is only a few years old and is filled with shopping and food from cafes and gelato bars to restaurants. We took a 4x4 trip around the western crater and the town of Sete Cidades and would love to come back and spend a week hiking, biking and swimming.
Vigo, Spain - We spent the day with friends who showed us around the old parts of the city, the beaches, the fort and old Celtic ruins. I think we ate our weight in fresh seafood tapas and Galician wine. Any easy to walk off the ship and stroll around though bring an umbrella - the locals tell us despite the constant sunshine the day we were there it rains a lot in Vigo.
Le Havre (Paris), France - We saw none of the actual city - all the reviews we'd read online agreed and even used the same phrase that people came to Le Havre to "go somewhere else". Instead we booked an all day tour to Mont-Saint-Michel which was excellent and we would highly recommend. Either that or to the D-Day beaches though we did that tour from Cherbourg.

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