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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We ... Read More
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We splurged this year on a Neptune suite. We have had one in the past, and really enjoy the bigger room, but especially the larger balcony. They are twice the size of the Vista suite. The extra perks of the Neptune Lounge and the Concierge service is excellent. We met quite a few other Neptune suite passengers, and had many interesting conversations. The room steward was top notch. Always had ice, coffee and fresh fruit. Laundry service was top notch and was always ready by the next day. Embarkation was very smooth. Neptune passengers go through the same embarkation as the 4 star Mariners. There is virtually no line. For tender ports, there is no need to go for disembarkation passes. You simply hold up your room key, and you're put on the next tender. Unfortunately, there is no priority disembarkation after the cruise. We travel with our daughter, who has a learning disability. She gets her own room. But, she gets to know everyone on board. Her favorite breakfast was an omelet. The Lido omelet chef knew her by name, and what she ate. The same goes for the salad bar crew. We chose to eat in the dining room, along with another couple. Our daughter ate salmon nearly every night, and she had a chocolate mint mocktail every night. For desert, it had to have chocolate. Our dining staff went our of their way to accommodate. On the last night of the cruise, there was no chocolate deserts. But, they went back and got one for her. In addition, my daughter had told them previously that she liked carrot cake. They brought out 2 pieces of carrot cake. She ate one, and carried the second one back to her room. You can't find service like that just anywhere! Every evening, the wine steward would make an origami animal. We did have a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. It was very good. It was more than I would normally eat. Steak done to perfection. The only thing I regret is that I didn't try breakfast at the Pinnacle. It was included with the Neptune suite. But, I did have breakfast at the dining room. It is a step above the Lido and I would recommend it. Lunch is also very nice. Lido is a typical buffet. I didn't eat breakfast in the Lido, but opted for a light breakfast from the Neptune Lounge. Lunch offered an International option. They rotated national foods, and it was interesting to try foods from other nations. They were all Asian offerings. The ports were very nice. Some of the places aren't as developed as much as on the Caribbean ports. Cabo San Lucas is a tourist trap, and we didn't have a bunch of time there. We booked a glass bottom boat tour on Viator. A long walk to get there, but well worth it. We didn't book anything in Guatemala, and their port area was very relaxing. On Honduras, we booked with a local guide and it was very informative. In Costa Rico, we booked the eco tour, which took us to a rive to see crocodiles. We visited the aviary in Cartengena, which was very enjoyable. Entertainment was very good. John Wing was the comedian on board. He was runner up in America's Got Talent. I'm not big on production numbers, so I didn't attend. We did spend several evenings at the Crows Nest. Some nights we were the only ones there, some nights there were quite a few. Happy hour at the Crows Nest is always a lot of fun, especially the 2 for 1 drinks. The crew was very accessible, even the Captain. The team at the Neptune Lounge couldn't do enough. I would definitely travel this itinerary again, and would definitely would travel on the Volendam. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies ... Read More
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies between our cabin and our friends next door. We had a mag makeup mirror and a small note pad on the night table (which I used a lot). Our friends didn't have these things. We had the open dining and because of the great dining room hostess, had the same wait staff each night, whom we loved. Dining room food was usually ok. There was a meal or two we traded in, the red snapper being one. Great presentation, small quantity. We were disappointed that we were on one of 4 HAL ships in an experimental dining mode, charging $10 for a second entree. I hope this initiative fails as trying different foods is one of the best parts of cruising. We did the buffet twice for breakfast and a few times at around 3pm for a snack. We are never fans of the buffet. This one wasn't too bad though. TAMARIND is by far the best dining experience on the ship. Try it early on and go often. So pretty up there too, at the bar. Weak entertainment, disappointed at how poor most of it was. There were three nights of 14 in which we thought the Main Stage entertainment was up to cruise ship standards. BBKing All Stars consistently great in the BB King lounge. Gets people up and moving and happy. More activity choices needed, especially on sea days. America's Test Kitchen could be better with another cook/demonstrator. Same with the EXE talks by Jeanette, boring. Cruise director Nick also lackluster. This may all be by design as the clientele, at least on this cruise, much older. Many over 80. At 58 I was definitely in a minority decade represented by the guests. All services were *impeccable* EXCEPT for room service and the wait staff at both Canneletto and Pinnicle Grill restaurants. In fact room service breakfast on port days was as if it was the first day they ever offered room service breakfast on a port day. Many complaining. We had a snafu where we never did get any breakfast on a port day waiting for pre ordered room service which never arrived. I must mention they did make it up to us with hand written notes, a bottle of wine, follow up phone calls and priority delivery of room service breakfast the second (and last) time we ordered it. Loved the unlimited laundry service and they did a superb job. Passing through the Panama canal was wonderful, being served the Panama rolls and coffee throughout the early morning hours. I recommend you don't miss the early up at 5:30am to experience the canal at the beginning. I was going to skip it, BUT am so very glad I decided to get up for this once in a lifetime experience. We headed to the back of the ship on deck 9 by the pool as we left the first set of locks. Nice perspective, and not many thought of doing this. Central America hot & humid . Costa Rica our best day using a private tour company call Thumbs Up tours, their 10 in 1 day tour.Ten folks in a nice, cool van. Perfect. We loved our day at Huatulco, MX with the sandy beach and restaurants right off the ship. Great swimming cove. We did enjoy all ports. Did not do a tour in Guatemala, only walked around the "faux" town just off the ship. But with food, bars, entertainment and shopping, we had a great time there. This was my 5th cruise. Probably would use another line (Royal Caribbean again maybe) for our next one in a year or two. HAL was very good, but just a bit too low key for us. I would suggest another itinerary which may cater to younger guests or maybe not choosing HAL at all if under 45. Research it. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I chose this cruise because it the most interesting, historical cruise to celebrate my retirement! Loved every minute of it. We are big fans of Holland America, especially the Nieuw Amsterdam ship. Embarkation and disembarkation always ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it the most interesting, historical cruise to celebrate my retirement! Loved every minute of it. We are big fans of Holland America, especially the Nieuw Amsterdam ship. Embarkation and disembarkation always go smoothly. People! There are thousands of people in the cruise terminal. You have be patient and get a grip! You are not the only person on this ship! The ship is always clean and the staff is outstanding. Our cabin is comfortable and exactly what we need. We have a suite on Deck 7 and have access to the Neptune lounge. The concierge (Christine and Kim) are helpful and friendly. Lucia and Martin always cleaned out suite quickly and thoroughly. Always greeted us with a cheerful Good Morning. My husband I went to the entertainment each evening and enjoyed it very much. Yes, there are hit and misses (comedians and magicians), but you have to remember that the Holland America ships do not have a large guest list like other cruise lines. Therefore, the entertainment they can hire will not always be the highest, but it’s the best they can obtain. I loved the orchestral accompaniment to the Earth film. Outstanding! Restaurants are always the best. We love the Pinnacle Grill for formal nights, Canaletto has really stepped up the menu, the Tamarind so lovely - it’s one of our favorites! Lido buffet is always good for lunch or a snack. We’re fine with them serving, rather than self serve if it helps in keeping the ship healthy and no waste. Pinnacle Grill staff - wow! Amin, David (the magic!), Tamas, Anne, Rosalina (!) and Aris. Thank you! The bar service is always outstanding and we’ve made many friends. Louis in the Pinnacle Grill bar - the best mixologist and now friend! The Panama Canal is so outstanding and amazing! Over 100 years and still working! The people of Panama, thank you! I would do this cruise again and again. And best for last our cabana crew! You guys are so awesome! Christian and Joseph - friends forever! We didn’t do any excursions as we have started using the ship as a hotel. However, we did get off on the piers to connect with the people and walk around town. I think that you have to go into your vacation with an optimistic attitude yet not think everything has to be perfect. There will be situations that aren’t ideal, but remember, you are on vacation! You are in the Panama Canal, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Columbia!! If you can’t be excited about that amazing opportunity, then maybe you need to sit on a Florida beach and wish you were here. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and ... Read More
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and treatments way too expensive. Watch your bill - we had multiple charges for other people's alcohol and for things that were included in our beverage package. They did reverse the charges, but it took time away from our cruise to get the items corrected. The cabin was comfortable and clean and the cabin stewards were wonderful. We were on the 8th deck near the bridge and had no issues with rolling seas or noise from any of the entertainment. We did have to walk through the spa area every time we went to higher decks - odd set up. We are 60 and felt like we were the babes on this cruise. This appeared to be an older group that was in bed by 9PM. The first night at sea we expected to be wowed by the entertainment. Instead we got a movie on the main stage and the sound system was not good. We saw perhaps 3-4 entertainers that were good, but this was highly disappointing for a 14 day cruise. We arranged our excursions a month or so before cruising. The descriptions were somewhat misleading - "a motorized catamaran" was actually a booze cruise with 150 other passengers - not what we pictured. We thought we were going to a nice cove to swim where we could snorkel and see the native fish. After cruising with everyone else drinking we got perhaps 30 minutes in the water with no fish at all (didn't need to bring our snorkeling equipment or the rolls we took from breakfast to feed the fish). We did sign up for one excursion on the ship and then chose not to go because we were not feeling well. HAL has a 14 day refund policy - not very accommodating on a 14 day cruise. We couldn't get a refund but could trade to a lesser priced excursion, but still lost the money. We did have a wonderful time with our dinner table - table for 8 at the 8PM seating. Overall we did enjoy our cruise. We chose the itinerary for this cruise and not the cruise line. For a number of reasons we perhaps will not cruise with HAL again. They are way too focused of making a buck. For example - every cruise we've been on before with other lines we've been able to use all of the spa facilities on the day we had a treatment. Not on HAL. Everything had a separate price tag. As a last thought - we completed HAL's online survey after our cruise and indicated that they could contact us for clarification or comments. It's been a month and there's been no attempt on their behalf to follow through. Aside from the on board cruise staff, HAL needs a lesson in customer service. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 ... Read More
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 days, because of weather we where delayed by over 24 hours. We embarked the ship in groups and met up in the buffet for lunch. Our bags arrived quicker than expected, so we sorted ourselves out, then went for a group party in one stateroom. We where on decks 4, 6,8. And we where very happy on deck 4. Turns out to be a good location to scoot out for the safety drill, a nice walk around deck 3, and also easy to run up to deck 3 if there was something to grab a photo of. We kept the tv on in our room when we where there, tuned to the forward cameras. Loved the option of viewing the Canal crossing on the TV, that was a long hot day. Every morning we enjoyed the buffet. You can’t go wrong, everything you can imagine plus some extra surprises. Lunch was by the pool at the burger place, or pizza. We only attended tea in the afternoon one day, but it was a very nice treat. Dinner we had a group table in the dining room for 8. We didn’t dine there every night, but made sure we all attended the gala nights. Other times we tried some of the different specialty restaurants available. The Pinnacle was a dinner that made you feel like you won the lotto. But our true favourite was the Tamarind. The staff made the dinner fun, and you felt truly welcomed. Plus the exceptional food, and presentation, made it a feast for the eyes. Most days, pre dinner, we attended the martini tasting, or the happy hour in the various bars. But be pre warned, the happy hour bars get full fast. We had beverage cards, so we didn’t worry about happy hour pricing. And I am glad we did, the cards where good for everything we wanted to drink, from sparkling water, to special coffees ,and drinks all around. Every day we had wonderful coffees made in the exploration area, the staff there knew your name and coffee within days. Days we didn’t go on excursions, we spent at the pool, loved the unobtrusive music. But there does need to be more shady areas. We found often people pulling chairs into doorways for shade, but that made it very inconvenient for others. Our group had all been at most of the locations on this cruise, so we didn’t depart at every port. But we really enjoyed the small markets they set up by the ship, for those who just want to purchase a souvenir. The casino was very quiet the entire trip, we did go to the bar there and lost some money at the machines. They did have some very nice piano players there as well . After dinner, it was usually a walk around deck 3 , before seeing what was on the show that night. Most nights we didn’t stay, we all found the entertainment to be lacking, the jazz band was not a group to dance to, so most just sat and listened. We all loved the national Geographic show, with the live performance. Disembarkation was a slow process, they called groups by colour, and there was even colours called that were not on the list, we where close to last. The whole finding your suitcase thing and getting in line , seemed confusing for some. Enjoyed a lovely night in San Diego before flying home. Staff who made this trip memorable: Jerry and Jenny in the martini bar. Janny in the exportation cafe. My perfect mocha. Abdul and Made who made our cabin home. Miguel and Joel who had the wine knowledge. Wayo, Davee, who served table 91 with grace. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about ... Read More
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about cruises, on their misuse of obsolete maritime transport laws to create tax free tourist resorts. Or their bypass of immigration laws and hiring cheap labour from around the world. However, listening to enthusiastic cruise adepts, we expected that this trip will made us change our minds. On the positive side, we found the international staff very kind and helpful. But we did not meet many Spanish speaking staff. This HAL cruise surprised us by the very similar customers aboard: mostly white couples in their seventies. As cosmopolites, somewhat younger, we enjoy more age and racial diversity, and it was strange to be in such finely targeted crowd. There was a double talk when it comes to environmental creeds, which are emphasized by HAL especially when it comes to save money for the operation, like to remind you avoid changing your towels frequently. The plastic water bottles sold in your cabin are from Europe. Fortunately, there is little plastics items used for the food service. Food is not supplied locally, everything came from US, for the whole cruise. Quite some paper spoiled with the leaflets advertising for the shops aboard. To be serious about environmental virtues, we should bear in mind that this form of sea transport use four time more fuel per passenger than a modern airplane. The 750 litres of fuel used by passenger for this 2 week cruise correspond to what I use a year with a car. And worse, after the booking, I had the feeling to be framed in a well rehearsed marketing process, with an objective to make me spend a maximum as I spend time with this company. A lot of staff and accessible surfaces on the ship are meant to bring additional income. I would have preferred a better service. The number of additional charges, and the high price of them perfectly reflects this financial objective. The time to spend on shore is very limited and the excursions highly priced. Come on, why charge $120 pp for a short visit to San Diego zoo? Before the cruise The call centre did not properly answer our questions before booking, as we noticed later. The booking process is cumbersome, with too many computer glitches encountered with browsers (I tried Microsoft explorer, Edge and Android). Some beta testing by HAL would be beneficial. Even we booked long in advance, HAL’s website, contrary to claims, did not allow us to book an hotel in FLL. The only choice offered was at $12000 per night. We booked elsewhere at a reasonable cost. Due to a light handicap, HAL requested additional documents for the cruise, and the details about these documents was not provided by HAL. We had to consult elsewhere. Due to the same condition, we booked our flights directly, and had also to organize our own transfers. The web checking process difficult, again with too many issues with browser. And finally, the departure flight information was requested again by HAL on the ship. I had also to sign an abusive long contract, which I should better have read before booking. In a summary, it reads ‘HAL is not responsible’. Eg the amount covered for lost luggage are ridiculous low. Embarking Very noisy hall at FLL terminal, it was hard to sustain a conversation in it. Luggage handling was OK, but with some delay. At the counter, it took long because person there did not know how to handle our special documents. Finally, we were asked to go to customer desk to have copies of our extra paperwork (even they had to be emailed to HAL before the cruise) For doing so there was a long waiting line at the customer desk. The customer desk clerk made copies of these documents, but forgot to return one original. Glad we checked, so we could get it back. The dinner time requested at booking was changed by HAL to less favourable to us, without explanation or excuses. It was difficult to have it changed afterwards. Even so, we were surprised by the absence of hosting from staff, in the sense of grouping people by affinities or languages. The second day of the cruise the customer desk requested again these documents. We had to elevate the tone and threaten to file a complain about harassment before we suddenly got to talk to somebody reasonable. In conclusion, the customer desk staff is not competent for anything but routine. The coordination between headquarters and the ship seems poor. Too long waiting time to access the customer service desk. Ship More than 2000 passengers. A dining hall and a self-service restaurant (plus 3 speciality restaurants, accessible at an additional high charge). Large surfaces devoted to shops, casino, photography, spa, wine cellar and other income generating activities. Not much space left for sports. Outdated decoration, interior brass and gold plated, in fifty shades of beige. Display of art not curated. More than 800 employed on the ship. Seems quite a high figure, but a share of staff is in income making activities at casino, spa, jewellery shops, excursions. And there is also the sailing, navigation crew, and the maintenance crew counted in it, so we understand that the customer service crew or hotel staff was overwhelmed. As welcome drink, we observed the desk selling beers, bottled water and soft drink cans. One day as we returned to the ship we were offered a glass of water and a refreshing towels. The other days nobody was around. The number of elevators is insufficient with such high proportion of customers with mobility issues. Expect to wait. The best spots for seating outside on the deck are covered with a tent and named ‘cabanas’ and accessible only at an additional fee, and left empty most of the time. The Neuw Amsterdam is not so new anymore, and the maintenance was done during the cruise. Unfortunately, we were nauseated by the smell as the whole hull was getting a new coat in Puerto Vallarta, or as the handrails were varnished, or at sea when the upper part of the ship was repainted. More precautions should have been taken to avoid unhealthy solvent be pumped in the air-conditioning system. We had to vacate our cabin. And so, HAL saves on ship yard. Last day ‘at sea' we refused to leave the stateroom to allow for more scheduled maintenance, in that case, a wet carpet cleaning. On the day of arrival, we could not access the patio again, as the outside of ship was undergoing more M&R. Cabin (called stateroom) Small. Balcony (pompously named verandah) allows for two chairs. The safe was not ok, as its battery was low. We had to wait quite long in the room to have it fixed. Clean, except stained sofa, walls and bed cover. On windy days, to avoid draft and strong whistling, we patched the patio door joints with duck tape. Fridge hardly cold. TV entertainment not as good as on an airline. Sink with cracks. Cabin due for an update. As the weather got colder at the end of the cruise, we were surprised that the air-conditioning could not to be disconnected, even temperature went too low. With a non-responsive customer desk, it took 10 hours to be fixed. Food & beverages Generally speaking noisy restaurants. Room service at no additional charge for a limited selection of dishes or drinks, or with an additional charge for others. Breakfast was delivered half an hour before requested time, with the explanation ‘It is a busy day’. Slow on some other days. Breakfast time at restaurants should have been adjusted for early arrival at port of call. Dining hall The dishes served did frequently not correspond to the pretentiously redacted menu, with ingredients listed missing or substituted. Obviously, the cooks did not read the menu, or tried to do savings on ingredients. Eg Grand Marnier, truffles, half avocado, maple syrup. Meal after meal, the comparison of the dishes with the ‘fancy’ menu became a subject of laughter. We had fun with the leftover potato soup was renamed Sunchoke Soup on Gala Night. Generally speaking rather poorly presented dishes with bland taste. Service was kind, but staff overwhelmed. Not trained to handle dishes, bottle and glasses quietly. It generally took 1 ½ hour for a seated dinner. Nice white tablecloth and tableware, and even a flower. Too many breaded dishes like scallops, sweetbread, sole, chicken ‘pillard’. Large parking area for scooters. Self service restaurant Lido No available tables as many tables for 4 are taken by couples or singles, even for filling the daily (free) crossword. To choose your table, arrive early! Chairs adapted for high BMI. Large choice of food, put on a plate by the staff at the stations where you line up. Due to communication issues, we frequently got too large servings. By the end of the cruise we got the impression that some buffet dishes were left exposed too long, like dried out mexican rice or sour smelling beans. Exaggerated additional charge for speciality restaurants. The ginger lobster served at the ‘fusion’ Tamarind was excessively salted. We did not visit the two other ones, as we got the same feeling of pretence from their fancy menus (Escargots? canned or frozen?). Not much spices used and the bland food served is compatible with dentures, except short ribs or striploin. Selection of sugar free dishes. We did not have the impression that many clients had digestive troubles, but be prudent about complaining about it at the medical facility, as you may get quarantined. In short, pretentious menus and mediocre food. Drinks Drinks are highly priced and another service charge added on each bill, on top of the daily $15 pp obligatory service charge. Wine or beer billed at 5 to 6 times the market price. Water, tea or filter coffee are complimentary. Unlimited fountain drinks for $8 per day. Other daily passes for unlimited alcoholic beverages. Unfair and peculiar rules about these passes, as they have to be bought for the whole cruise, or that everybody in the cabin has to buy the same pass. ‘Enrichment’ activities onboard Quite a high proportion of activities with additional charges, e.g. Half an hour meditation for $12. Many activities are meant to showcase the shops, casino, bars or spa. Bingo cards at $5. The cycles at the fitness are only meant for cycling classes at 12$. No fitness instructors besides classes. Very slow internet access at an excessive price. At the arrival, on a day of disrupted air travel, it would have been kind to make the wifi free for everyone. The mainstage had some pleasant shows, by professionals, but they lacked spontaneity. As we travelled during Carnival week, we vainly expected some reference to it. The sound on the BBKing club and the mainstage is set so loud that if you do not wear hearing aids, you will soon need some. Better use protective ear plugs. Small shows with local dancers on the rear deck. We liked the dancing classes. Excursions Long waiting before departure. The EXC staff selling them seemed overwhelmed, and there was a long waiting line. Anyway, they could not provide us the practical information about where was the supermarket we needed or where to get a fast web access. We had an enquiry about an excursion, and were told that we will get the answer later… we did not get it. Generally speaking the excursions are highly priced. E.g. in Huatulco, a snorkelling tour was offered for $80 pp. We took a taxi to this same beach and rented the equipment for a total of 300 pesos for two. Unfortunately, in three ports of call the ship was moored along a similar sized cruise ship, the Coral Princess. This was not a smart, as it brought quite a crowd getting ashore. A port of call, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala was very unpleasant, as the ship moored in a polluted coal harbour. Taxis were not allowed to access to the ship there and we had to walk a mile way from the entrance of the port to the ship. The time allowed ashore was short, and we made the best of it with a local taxi or just by walking. So, we had the chance to practise some Spanish, and we could adapt to the weather and our envy. And got also quite some authentic memories or photos. Disembarking The announcement on the PA were not very audible, as the are mixed with music and static on TV. It was delayed, and service staff impatient to get to cabin. The questionnaire we received by email after the cruise did not cover all the sides of HAL’s services. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that ... Read More
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that there was so good ratings with HAL with travelers with similar preferences we did not hesitate to book this trip, our first on HAL. Our preferences were quite traditional: Piece and quietness, well mannered co-passengers, dining experiences with lots of choices and styles, civilized onboard activitities and entertainment, interesting excursions, kind and friendly staff and responsible shipowners with competent crew. Particularly we were not after activities some other latest cruise ships may offer for families and younger clientele, We tried to avoid cruse lines with all-day partying and noisy teens and kids around. As a summary HAL offered all this in very sophisticated way. Onboard staff exceeded any of our previous experiences. Based on recommendations on the CC HAL group, before boarding we visited at the Total Wine iand picked up a 6 bottle box of selected wines based on their recommendation of "a taste of America". However, after the trip found that the selections onboard was perfectly adequate, if not US-centric. Check-In Fort Lauderdale was done in breeze by very helpful officer, particularly noticing we were not that experienced cruisers on HAL. We boarded soon before noon and had a wonderful lunch served in the MDR after settling in to our cabin. The VD Class cabin was on the 7th deck with a veranda. It was not a suite, but spacious enough for two of us. For our surprise, there was enough storage space even for a much longer trip. There was absolutely no noise from neighboring cabins or from the corridors. Completely quiet, apart quiet hum from the AC. We found ship interiors very nicely designed and we felt being at home soon after boarding. Most of the fellow passengers were naturally from US and Canada, also quite big part, probably a few hundred passengers from Europe and from South America and Far East.. Based on the Skipper's, Jeroen van Donselaar's note, there were some 2100+ passengers and 800+ crew members onboard, so the ship was practically fully booked. Cruise itself offered everything and beyond we expected. For our surprise the seadays were anything but boring. The days were full of activities, e.g. starting from presentation of the ports we were going to call, Digital Workshops, recitals on the Lincoln Center, stand up shows and other performances after dinner at the Main Stage ending upto enjoying the B.B. King's Club. BTW, they played really well. About dining experience, we had dinners in all the restaurants, twice in the Pinnacle Grill, once in Rudy's, once in Tamarind, once in Canaletto and Lido, rest in the MDR. In general, we were fully content with the MDR, but Pinnacle offered us the something to remember for long time. My personal favorite was the Sole Meunier at the MDR, but it was available only once soon after departure, Based on our experience it's difficult to fully understand those who in CC HAL Forum have complained MDR being not upto their standards. Dover Sole in Rudy's; the Maine Lobster, Tartar Steak and Filet Mignon at the Pinnacle. Tamarind was excellent, but as have traveled lots in the far east, we found it a (little bit) too westernized. Sushi was available daily at the Lido. And now we still miss Hamburgers in the Dive In. They were special. Really. Shore excursions we pre-booked, were mostly as expected: In Cartagena the old town was really nice and worthwhile to visit, could have spend a lots of more in the town. Passing Panama Canal was a really highlight of the day. For an ex Sailor (Master Mariner), like me, this was a really meaningful event. We passed the Canal through the old locks, far more interesting than the new ones, which were apparently not that busy on our day of passing. In Costa Rica we chose an Exc to flower gardens up to the mountain having a magnificent view over to the Pacific. We managed to see a pair of macaws not too far away in the garden and a number of crocodiles on the way. It was most beautiful landscape. Time to visit there was far too short, again. In Nicaragua we had a trip to a banana plantation owned by a local prominent family, supplying their products to major brands. Lots of manual, minimally paid work needed before products can be shipped. Highlight of that trip was to see the landscape with active volcanoes on the way. Local people were extremely friendly with us. Really difficult to figure out how they manage to struggle with the average salaries paid in that country. We hope they will manage with their struggle with economy, e.g. expanding from agriculture to tourism. In Guatemala we had another trip to a Coffee Plantation and a small city on the mountain area. Was really beautiful, again. There were also two Mexican ports, Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta on the way. Enjoyed both excursions to the country side. Street vendors in Cartagena and Guatemala were some degree of nuisance, but nothing unexceptional for 'seasoned travelers'. Before the trip we had concerns, e.g. how to cope potential 'cultural differences' during the two weeks with the fellow passengers mostly from US and Canada since we are not that extrovert. That proved to be a non-issue. With all people we spoke with were most friendly curious and knowledgeable what's going outside US. Quite a number of them had visited even to our home country, Finland, on their previous cruises or careers. So overall, would wholeheartedly recommend Panama Cruise with HAL anyone expecting a classy experience to pass the Canal, see beautiful countries with friendly people of Columbia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, spend time with fellow most nice passengers on a well maintained ship with a stellar crew. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the ... Read More
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the late winter or early spring when it was cold in the Washington, DC area. Celebrity no longer offered this cruise during this time of the year. So, we reviewed the ships that sailed during this time and decided that the Nieuw Amsterdam would be our choice. (Note: We did compare the Nieuw Amsterdam to the other Holland America ships that provided this itinerary. The Nieuw Amsterdam was reviewed best by Cruise Critic.) How did we like the cruise? Staff. The service staff in all areas of the ship were wonderful, especially their personalities and how they strove to accommodate all requests. Of course, we would only politely ask for something that our experience indicated was reasonable and also within the prevue of a particular service person. We particularly were impressed with the towel creatures left on our beds at night and learned onboard about how they were created and surprisingly how little time each one takes to create. Stateroom. We thought the stateroom size, bathroom (with tub), balcony, comfort of the bed, sitting area, and storage areas were all quite nice---certainly not to be outdone by the Celebrity Infinity which was their ship sailing this itinerary. The stateroom attendants kept the cabin clean and neat daily and were very responsive to requests; although, we had few. Dining. We were pleased with the breakfast and lunch buffets in the Lido; although, we thought the choices and quality of the food were good, but not exceptional–choices and quality for breakfast better than for lunch. The poolside hotdog/hamburger and pizza options helped to make some of our lunches enjoyable. We were not so satisfied with the Lido evening dining because of the limited selection and quality of the food the one night we dined there. Of course, the staff was attentive and friendly. Our regular evening meals were in the Dining Room on deck 3. We thoroughly enjoyed the staff. However, there were only a few dishes that we truly enjoyed eating. We found most of the food unappealing, often inadequately prepared, and providing unsatisfying pleasure. The wienerschnitzel and the surf and turf were the two entrée selections that we found quite appealing. We particularly enjoyed the desserts which had plentiful choices and were mostly prepared well and quite tasty. The entrees we selected in the Pinnacle Restaurant, particularly the Alaska King Crab, was by far the best entrée enjoyed during the cruise. We would have expected that the regular Dining Room would have provided more of this level of quality. Entertainment. The performers in the Mainstage theater were just ok, especially in comparison to our Celebrity experiences. That said, the comic John Wing and the English piano player/comic, Brett Cave, were quite enjoyable. We wouldn’t want to see any of the other acts twice. The cruise’s backup band and the classical quintet were superb. Playing together on the Mainstage to provide the musical background for the featured nature film was a great way to highlight their talents. A particular performance highlight was the Columbian Ambassadors who provided a show on the Mainstage one afternoon. In our opinion, they provided the best performance of the entire cruise and should have had more exposure--perhaps an evening performance. Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance featuring members of the wonderful Filipino staff performing with great enthusiasm. Shore Excursions. We enjoyed the excursions we selected which included city highlights, horseback riding, rafting, snorkeling, zip lining, nature watching on a river, and an equestrian show. The only excursion we were quite disappointed with was the Lake Atitlan full day excursion which required a 2 ½ hour, extremely bumpy bus trip followed by a 45 minute boat ride across an average-looking lake to an unexceptional resort for a basically enjoyable lunch followed by a 45 minute return boat ride exactly the same as the first one, followed by a 2 hour return bus ride exactly the same as the first one, but a half-hour shorter because of driving downhill, and less bumpy apparently due to the lighter loads of trucks going toward the port. All in all, this excursion included too much traveling with very minimal enjoyment for the effort. We also noticed that the Holland America written descriptions of the shore excursions that we took were often not truly reflective of the actual experiences. That said, it was still only the one excursion mentioned above that was disappointing and perhaps a more accurate description of the excursion would have helped us to make a better decision. Informational and Cultural Lectures. In particular, the Shore Excursion informational leader, Jeanette, was superb. Her presentation describing the next day’s experience of sailing through the Panama Canal was clear and comprehensive, allowing an enjoyable understanding of the next day’s experience. Additionally, Jeanette’s other presentations providing information of what we’d see upon arriving in other destinations was thoroughly well done and appreciated. Holland America Onboard Internet. The Holland America onboard internet that provided information about daily activities and dining menus, person-to-person onboard texting, and enabled us to keep track of our own cruise itineraries was extremely effective, reliable and useful. That said, access from our cell phones were not up to the exemplary level of the in-cabin TV access and the technical staff should strive to make both access pathways equally effective. In Conclusion. The purpose of the trip was to enjoy the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary during the late winter or early spring. Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam provided the desired itinerary. The stateroom, the Lido breakfast and lunch buffet along with the hotdog/hamburger and pizza poolside options, the shore excursions, the informational/cultural lectures, the Pinnacle specialty restaurant, and the entire staff were, in our opinion, quite good. The entertainment and the evening dining were, in our opinion, just average. Will we sail with Holland America in the future? Probably not, particularly because the entertainment and evening dining we’ve experienced on Celebrity ships—which we consider to be extremely important parts of the cruising experience—are much better. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We have cruised with Princess 4 times. This embarkation was quick and easy. We weren’t early and had no queues or waiting. The mini suite was very comfortable- the bed was wonderful! The dining room food and food in general, was ... Read More
We have cruised with Princess 4 times. This embarkation was quick and easy. We weren’t early and had no queues or waiting. The mini suite was very comfortable- the bed was wonderful! The dining room food and food in general, was better than our cruise experience in the Baltic however the menus in the speciality restaurants didn’t appeal so we passed on trying them. The shore excursions - we did one in nearly every port - can be a bit hit and miss depending on your guide. We did a boat trip back through the Miraflores locks. The guide was nice but extremely difficult to understand and the organisation of the tour was a schemozzle with the captain/ship pilot and or the food all being late causing us to sit on the boat for an hour before we even left the dock! We did an excellent walking tour with hop on-hop off option in Cartagena. The ship staff have generally been great. Miranda the cruise director is just lovely. We are a retired couple from Australia and have enjoyed our Princess cruises and am sure we will enjoy many more Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This cruise fit our timeline/desired dates (we chose March) and what we were looking for in a cruise through the Panama Canal. We had read about the size of the ship relative to the number of passengers and it was just right; we never felt ... Read More
This cruise fit our timeline/desired dates (we chose March) and what we were looking for in a cruise through the Panama Canal. We had read about the size of the ship relative to the number of passengers and it was just right; we never felt crowded or squished. There were plenty of activities and good variety to choose from. There were also spots to just sit and read quietly if desired. The quality of entertainment was excellent and the cruise staff made us feel welcome to try something new and not feel awkward about it. We really enjoyed our dining room food and service but the awkward set times of traditional dining (5:15 or 7:30) had us wondering if 'anytime' dining would have been a better choice (but we really liked our regular servers and table company). We chose the early time and ended up missing most of the sunsets unless we skipped our dining room dinner or dessert. The ship's staff and crew were so pleasant and helpful and they are one reason why our overall experience was so wonderful. We booked four Princess shore excursions and feel we received good value for our money and every excursion was smoothly and professionally run. Obviously, there are times when you wish you had a bit more time at one site or another but that is balanced by knowing that your group (we had 2 elderly travellers) would be able to see more without the uncertainty of how much walking or time would be needed to get to one site or another. It pays to research the excursions and choose something appropriate for your group (think of air conditioned coaches, level of exertion, what you really want to see and experience). Read the fine print description that details length of bus ride, number of minutes at each site, distance to walk, number of steps, and also whether US cash or credit cards are accepted (everywhere we went, US cash was accepted). We would look at doing another Princess cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
The entire trip was magical! Cruising the Canal ocean to ocean was the experience of a lifetime. Our cabin was comfortable and the food was very good - lots of choices and well prepared. The staff was personable, no matter what their job ... Read More
The entire trip was magical! Cruising the Canal ocean to ocean was the experience of a lifetime. Our cabin was comfortable and the food was very good - lots of choices and well prepared. The staff was personable, no matter what their job function, and they bent over backwards to ensure we had a great trip. The entertainment included outside folks, who were very good, and they were supported by cruise personnel. Some of the excursions were average at best, but we thoroughly enjoyed Cartagena, Huatulco, and Panama. Weather caused us to bypass our port in Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur), which was a shame, but better safe than sorry. We received lots of information about the ports prior to arrival and info about ship happenings through their Princess @ Sea app, their Princess Patter daily newsletter and their morning TV show called the Wake Show. Would highly recommend having a balcony to avoid the crowds on deck while cruising through the canal and the perks of Club Dining were very nice and well worth it. Despite several days at sea, we were never bored and found lots of activities to participate in. While embarking and disembarking are not the most exciting parts of a cruise and are often frustrating and long processes, Princess agents were well organized and the processes were streamlined, painless, efficient and completed fairly quickly with little wait times. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We wanted to see the original Panama Canal locks and the experience did not disappoint. Although the Coral is small and older, she has been dry docked and the common rooms looked very new and clean. However, I wish they would redecorate ... Read More
We wanted to see the original Panama Canal locks and the experience did not disappoint. Although the Coral is small and older, she has been dry docked and the common rooms looked very new and clean. However, I wish they would redecorate the state rooms as they are the same décor as years ago. But our stateroom was kept very clean and our steward was exceptional and attentive to our every request. All the staff were friendly --we never experienced any negativity. The food in the main dining room, buffet, and poolside was great. We had no need to eat in the specialty restaurants. I especially love the dinner rolls and desserts!! The entertainment was very good. The broadway production, Silk, was excellent and Encore was superb. The comedians we really enjoyed, too, as well as Bayou. Only one entertainer, the juggler, didn't meet our expectations. I would have liked some more activities during sea days as I don't play bingo, trivia, shop, or use the spa. But I enjoyed the library and learned Sudoku so my time was enjoyable. We also joined people in trivia at times and enjoyed the cruise games hosted by the assistant cruise directors. We also found a casino machine that we enjoyed. It was the quietest cruise we've been on as the majority were retired couples who didn't care to party into the night. That suited us perfectly so it wasn't a problem as it might be for younger people. We only did one excursion. We used Ricky Ricardo in Costa Rico and were satisfied with him. It is the hot, dry season there so the rain forest wasn't very impressive. The monkeys and crocodile safari were very entertaining. We took a taxi and went to the Miraflore Locks in Puerto Amador and we were happy we did as we enjoyed the museum and the I-Max film narrated by Morgan Freeman showing the building of the new and old locks. It was a day well spent. In the other ports, we taxied to the old towns. In Puerto Vallarta we took the city bus to the Malecon which was an experience in itself as the bus drivers drive fast and furious! We love the Malecon and the vibe there. Embarkation and debarkation couldn't have been better! We have priority embarkation and we walk off with our luggage so we were one of the first people to disembark. All in all this was another great cruise with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. We had already taken a partial transit cruise through the Panama Canal previously on the Coral Princess. Some of the ports we had not been into yet. Really did enjoy Cartagena and Huatulco. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. We had already taken a partial transit cruise through the Panama Canal previously on the Coral Princess. Some of the ports we had not been into yet. Really did enjoy Cartagena and Huatulco. Only disappointment was not being able to get into Nicaragua because the choppy seas. Apparently this happens often. It was one of the few ports that I was really looking forward to seeing. I understand the safety aspect, but if this happens more often, then look for a different option to get passengers off the ship. We enjoyed the commentary that was presented while we were transiting the canal. It was very informative. Being on the Cora once before, it was fun to be cruising on her again. I enjoyed the newly refreshed ship, but our cabin had some issues. Enjoyed the Lotus Pool area. It was quiet and relaxing. I feel because of the frequent sea days that there could have been a little more variety of intellectual programs and activities during the day. I really enjoyed the Movies Under the Stars with the recent movie releases. We went to the movie almost every night. Really enjoyed the blankets and popcorn. I really enjoyed two of the production shows, The Secret Silk and Encore. Motor City is getting a little old. They also had a production show that was staged in the Universe Theatre, instead of the Princess Theatre that was unique. The rest of the main entertainment was average. We had fixed dining and had a wonderful waiter and assistant waiter. Our waiter sang to us during Italian night and sang an anniversary song to a couple at our table celebrating their 68th anniversary. Our assistant waiter made us napkin animals several times. It made dining fun. The food was good. We enjoyed the galley tour along with the show ahead of the actual tour. Embarkation went smoothly, we were later getting onto the ship, so there wasn't any waiting what so ever. Disembarkation went fairly smoothly. There was a back up in the terminal, but they keep us comfortable on the ship and well informed. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We had a balcony cabin which was big enough except for the shower, but we lived through that. The ship was recently remodeled in the passageways and I am assuming that various other parts were remodeled also. The cabins had large ... Read More
We had a balcony cabin which was big enough except for the shower, but we lived through that. The ship was recently remodeled in the passageways and I am assuming that various other parts were remodeled also. The cabins had large TV's installed on the walls but other than that not much looked new in them. The ports were great but we were disappointed that we missed San Juan, Nicaragua due to bad weather. The food was good and we tried several restaurants on board. DO NOT PRE-PAY for restaurants as they are easy to get reservations for daily and although we cancelled one reservation forty-eight hours in advance, we are fighting to get our pre-paid money back. They claimed that they refunded us but they also charged us again for the reservation. If it wasn't for that I would give the ship five stars. Watch your room bills closely. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Unwelcoming excursions for wheelchairs and unsafe, uncomfortable handicap washroom. The excursions was unadaptable, unwelcoming for wheelchairs and all our water excursions was cancel out, without letting you see fit to make your own ... Read More
Unwelcoming excursions for wheelchairs and unsafe, uncomfortable handicap washroom. The excursions was unadaptable, unwelcoming for wheelchairs and all our water excursions was cancel out, without letting you see fit to make your own decisions. It was disappointing because we were so excited for the island princess to enjoy some water and the island feeling. We did not get to do any snorkeling or any water activities and been deprive from it because of wheelchair unfriendlyness and discrimination. However, the diamond princess excursions allow you to have freedom in choosing your excursions and you can decide if the excursions is right for you in real time or can choose to sit out if you feel uncomfortable. Whereas, Island princess excursion will just cancel you out without gaving you the freedom to choose. Handicap washroom was unergonomic, uncomfortable, unsafe because the handrails was design horizontal poking at your back. On comparison, the diamond princess to Japan with handicap washroom was design much better and the excursions was helpful than “ Island princess cruise for being wheelchair unfriendly.” Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Overall the cruise was very good. The dining room service (Komang) and room steward (Andre) were exceptional. Embarkation was hampered by fog and the Carnival representatives at Houston Hobby did a good job of keeping order and ... Read More
Overall the cruise was very good. The dining room service (Komang) and room steward (Andre) were exceptional. Embarkation was hampered by fog and the Carnival representatives at Houston Hobby did a good job of keeping order and organizing the shuttle to Galveston. Processing at the Galveston terminal went smoothly. Although the crew had a short turnaround time, our cabin was ready when we arrived. The dining room menu offered a variety of meat, seafood and vegetarian options. Lobster was served twice and both times a second lobster tail was offered. Cruise Elegant dinners that did not require a coat and tie were appreciated. The appetizers and desserts gave us an opportunity to try foods we were not familiar with. We sat at a table for four in the Washington dining room. There was one hiccup with early dining. Ordering, being served and eating took nearly 90 minutes. As a result the 7:30 PM shows were started by the time we reached the Ivanhoe Theatre. Shows that featured the Carnival dance and song team were high energy and very enjoyable. Unfortunately we did not get to see the entire productions. The Panama Canal partial transit was an experience we looked forward to and we’re glad we booked this cruise. Limon, Costa Rica and Cozumel, Mexico provided good tours. In Limon we took the Bus, Boat and Train tour. In Cozumel we took the San Gervasio, Island Tour with lunch. Both tours had well-spoken and knowledgeable guides. Counting the canal transit as a sea day, there were six sea days. For some people that was too much time at sea without getting off the ship. If this cruise is continued it may be wise to add a stop in Panama. Valor was underway on Ash Wednesday. A last minute schedule adjustment permitted an Episcopalian Priest to distribute ashes. Over 100 people met in the Eagles Lounge to receive ashes. After the distribution we were waiting for the elevator with the priest and people lined up to receive the blessing. Carnival should be congratulated for this service. Tying to move 3,000 passengers off the ship and through customs is a challenge. It seems something could be done to reduce the stress and extended time of standing in line. Thank-you Carnival for the good service and making our 50th wedding anniversary cruise enjoyable. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
10 day Panama Canal. Feb 28 - Mar. 10, 2019 Boarding was good in Ft. Lauderdale. Immediate impression:, cozy, intimate ship. Public areas are small but pretty. Mini suite was spacious. Wow, 2 TVs.... Don't let 2 tvs fool you ... Read More
10 day Panama Canal. Feb 28 - Mar. 10, 2019 Boarding was good in Ft. Lauderdale. Immediate impression:, cozy, intimate ship. Public areas are small but pretty. Mini suite was spacious. Wow, 2 TVs.... Don't let 2 tvs fool you - THERE IS NOTHING TO WATCH. Pathetic choices on tv. The bathroom looks like a dumpy Motel 6. Honestly, they should be embarrassed to have guests in these bathrooms- at a charge, no less. Linoleum floors that are curled up on the edges, tile on the tub wall that is rusty, discolored, peeling, moldy-looking. Grout falling out between the tiles. Just awful. Water pressure in shower is great and the water is hot. The shower curtain attacks you and you can't keep it down on the tub. Keep in mind, there is no exhaust fan in the bathroom... which might explain the gross grout. Internet is a freaking nightmare. Who wants to spend an entire vacation trying to figure out cellular, wifi, internet, messaging? It's beyond frustrating. The Princess at sea messaging system is utterly, completely useless. There is no way to know if you have a new message- no notification. If you have the messaging system on- on your phone, you can't use the internet on your laptop. Princess at Sea (internet) can only be used on one device at a time. The ship should have new technology installed. There is no excuse for this. We've been on several ships where you could use your phone's text messaging to communicate (you cellular provider charges a minimal cost) - not on the Island Princess. NOTHING works on this ship to communicate. Dont even try, you'll end up frustrated and angry. I pre-paid for an internet package (240 minutes). Only 220 showed up on my account. I'm sure they do this on purpose and many people never notice the difference I didn't notice until the 3rd day. Seemed like we were constantly down to the internet cafe or Passenger services straightening out some mess. Not how I want to spend my cruise. Horizon court is crowded. Don't bother with it unless you go at an odd meal time. The food is pretty good but, the long lines and exposure to contaminated tongs just isn't worth it. Lunch in the MDR was always good, and uncrowded. The dinners in the MDR were very good. We were on the Royal 4 years ago and a Celebrity ship 2 years ago and the meals on this cruise were hands down, the best. Beds were pretty comfy and the rooms are very quiet so a good night's sleep is quite possible. If you are next door to friends or family and like a shared balcony, forget it. They only have a small door that they remove between the two balconies. It's pretty much useless. Furniture on the balcony is unimpressive and dirty. We did go to a few trivia games. Overall, the questions were pretty hard and everyone seemed to enjoy the challange. I like the ship size... not too many people, and not too small, It is old but public areas are elegant and have fresh, nice carpet. Most of our MEALS we ate in the Main Dining Room, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. 90% of the meals were excellent. A couple were so-so. We avoided the Horizon crowds and noise and really enjoyed the MDR. SERVICE is excellent everywhere on the ship. My impression of the evening shows was pretty positive. The secret silk was an interesting show. Vocals were off pitch a few times and too loud, but the show overall, was well worth seeing. Costumes, backdrops, props, dancing were just beautiful. Second show was soloist, Colleen Williamson. I enjoyed her entirely. She had a beautiful stage presence and an amazing voice. Being a vocalist myself, I could appreciate her range and control. Didn't particularly like the songs she chose, but she did an excellent job, held the audience in her hand, and flawlessly performed the show. The Bayou Show was very good. They amaze with the costumes and dancing. The Encore show was also very beautiful. Some of the vocalists were occasionally off pitch, but the shows are well worth seeing. Colleen Williamson starred again in the Encore show and she is stunning. The set was jaw dropping and the orchestra was something else. Also went to Luke Hefner's show. It was very good. I especially liked his performance of "O Sole Mio" and his duet with a female singer of "All I Ask of You" was flawless. One of those unforgettable moments. They were both amazing. I didn't particularly care for his country music. We did not go to the comedian or magician shows as they did not interest us. Attended 2 craft sessions. Do they think we are in kindergarten? First was buttons and the second was box making. My pre-school grandkids are way, way beyond these projects. Don't even bother with them. Good Hope House tour "Taste of Jamaica" Great tour overall. Very hot. Bus ride up was 20 minutes, and air conditioned. Pretty interesting guide. House is no longer used, but very nice. Lunch was outstanding. Traditional Jamaican food. Also did the open train ride to banana plantation In Costa Rica. Save your money on this one. HOT, humid and boring. We had a great guide and pleasant driver and learned a few details of Costa Rica, but there must be better tours here to choose. DO NOT waste your time or money on the wine tastings. VERY boring. Wines were good, but my $12 HandCraft Malbec from California is still my favorite. Wine Tasting for $25 - waste of money. Wine was good, speakers were boring, canapes were so-so. Spend your money on internet !!! Wine Tasting for $10 - waste of money. Same boring speakers, cheese was so-so. Spend your money on internet ! Disembarking was efficient. Then we got in the port area and the nightmare began. We docked at a different dock far away from where we began our cruise. They had a couple of small shuttles to take you back to the parking garage 2 miles north of pier 19. Everyone got pretty aggressive getting on, piling all the luggage into a van that really was not equipped for this. Our plan was for 1 of our group of 4 to get on the shuttle, get the vehicle and come pick us up (and our luggage). Well over an hour later, he arrived at the passenger/luggage pick up. Really not a good situation, at all. After 10 days on this ship, major complaints are still: grungy bathroom, worthless on-ship communication, lack of tv choices, and internet, internet, internet. It's unfortunate Princess won't address these issues because the Island Princess is a lovely ship for people who don't care for the mega ships. She deserves some TLC. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
EMBARKATION: On 2/28/19, only two cruise ships in port, and little traffic. The area was well marked and parking was easy. At Terminal 2 there isn’t a line for Priority boarding for Platinum and Elite from outside. Everyone enters in ... Read More
EMBARKATION: On 2/28/19, only two cruise ships in port, and little traffic. The area was well marked and parking was easy. At Terminal 2 there isn’t a line for Priority boarding for Platinum and Elite from outside. Everyone enters in one line and staff checks Passports and Boarding Passes. Then the line splits for Priority. We’re Platinum, and it took less than 30 smooth minutes from driving through the Port Everglades main gate, off-loading luggage, parking the car, checking in, and sitting down for lunch in Bordeaux Dining Room. Weather was great; seas were calm. Most passengers were over 60. Saw only two children. No illness as far as we know, and there are good prevention procedures in place. SHIP: We were on “Island” for 15 days in 2006 when it was quite new. We’ve sailed on brand new ships since then, but we like “Island” best. We prefer its understated elegance over the newer ships’ wretched excess. Sadly, some of it borders on shabby now but the good bones are still there; the basic design and décor is gorgeous. The beauty of her glory days are still evident in spite of the age. She deserves a full makeover. The elevator situation is odd, and not every elevator serves every floor. Stairs are convenient. With the last refurbishing, they added cabins to accommodate ~225 more people. Public venues weren’t expanded to handle the overload, so Princess Theater, Horizon Court, etc., are crowded. DINING: We had early seating in Provence. The food at every meal was outstanding - much better than Princess food in 2013 and Celebrity in 2017, and it brought back of the good ol’ days of cruising, before specialty restaurants, when dining rooms were the only option and food was amazing – even back to Sitmar. Our waiters, Santiago and Louie Gene, did a great job. We got the hard-sell at dinners to buy wine tastings. We did one, and the speakers were more focused on hearing the sound of their own voices than on the wine. Sadly, even in the dining rooms, if you want the best, there’s an up-charge for some meals. Horizon Court can be chaotic and overcrowded. It’s a beautiful room with wrap-around windows. Having coffee at 6 a.m. is peaceful. We ate there only a few times. The food was much better than at Horizon Court the last few years. The scrambled eggs were sloppy, but that was the only down-side we noticed. INTERNET: It was stable and fast enough for a ship. Usually we use minimal Internet, but relied more on it this trip for email because Cellular At Sea was dreadful. CELLULAR AT SEA: If you need cellular to keep in touch back home, on this ship you may have a problem. On past cruises on other ships we used it, and texting was our group’s tool to keep in touch during the trip when at sea. It had worked flawlessly 24/7 everywhere – decks, cabins, and interior theaters, but not this time. About 95% of the time, the display showed, “No Service” or “No SIM card - emergency calls only”. Even if you glanced at the screen and saw the “Cellular At Sea” provider notice and tried to sneak in a text or a call, it wouldn’t go through. A tech at Internet Café told us that Cellular At Sea on this ship is weak and we shouldn’t rely on it, even in our cabins. “It might work on Deck 7”, he said. It didn’t, except a few times a notification beep would come through and you might have a text from someone sent days before. Or it might be notification of a voice mail, which you couldn’t listen to because there was no service. The Internet Cafe people say they aren’t knowledgeable about cellular, so don’t expect help. These days, people expect good communication while vacationing. If Princess is paying fees to MWS / Cellular At Sea, and passing those fees to passengers, that’s a problem. We have family with serious health issues, and we needed to be in touch via cell but we couldn’t. We overheard one gentleman who had been told that cell service was available on the ship when it wasn’t. A staff member rigged a way for him to make one call through some Apple app. We overheard everything, and it was obvious a close relative was dealing with a life-and-death situation. Without cellular, he panicked. Other passengers complained. When in or near different countries, notifications for text messages might pop in, having been hanging in cyberspace for days. We had good reception using other countries’ cell service, even Cuba’s. But with the ship’s network while at sea, reception was slim to none. Princess MUST inform passengers of this situation to provide “truth in advertising”. After arriving home, I emailed Customer Relations about this and was contacted by phone a couple days later. The rep was personable and kind, but couldn’t say why it’s a problem or how to remedy it. So we won’t sail on Princess again until/unless we’re certain this won’t be an issue. She suggested using Wi-Fi calling, but you’d have to be connected to their internet 24/7 onboard to receive incoming calls or texts, and who can afford that? PRINCESS@SEA: Oh, dear. You have no clue a message is waiting. No value for us. The rep said that all ships are transitioning to Medallion class this year. The Medallion gadget can replace the cruise card for cabin access, and provides useful apps while onboard for directions, locating people, ordering, etc. It sounds great! But it seems it has no app for communicating (I could be wrong). So must passengers be connected to Medallion AND Cellular At Sea, AND Princess@Sea all at the same time? It can’t be done due to the Airplane Mode issue. PUBLIC SPACES: Overall, they are well cared for, with a few places needing TLC. This ship has many nooks and crannies with cozy seating areas just calling out to you to sit down and relax. STAFF: Great assistance from Guest Services, Tour Desk, and pretty much everyone. We were impressed how they maintained composure even when dealing with high-maintenance passengers. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: MUTS … Watching evening movies in wind and cold wrapped in blankets is a bad idea; my friend lost her voice. (The better movies used to be in small, cozy theaters.) They play concerts and movies during the day when it’s hot and generally uncomfortable. Colleen Williamson, Soloist: Our favorite of the shows. Amazing vocal range and stage presence. Get a seat close to the stage to appreciate her tons of personality. Production shows “Encore” and “On the Bayou” were very good. Great dancing, with stunning costumes and sets. Sometimes voices were a bit flat, but not too bad. Colleen Williamson sang again in “Encore”, and it doesn’t get better than that. The ship orchestra is fantastic. Didn’t see “Silk”. Luke Heffner, Soloist: We enjoyed his show with a mix of country, opera, and Broadway. About 15 passengers put on a choral concert in the Atrium on the last at-sea day after a few rehearsals. They did an excellent job and had fun. We were impressed with the conducting abilities of Cruise Director Loney – sharp and tight. Great conducting is an art, and he’s good. In-cabin TV hasn’t kept up with technology. There is no guide as to what’s showing, and no information. Newer Princess ships are much better in this regard. GYM: It used to be in a beautiful area of “Island”, with ocean views. Now it’s small, and in the bowels of the ship. Attendants used to “attend”; now they just give you a paper cup for water and tell you to get your own. LIBRARY: This always has been a beautiful place on the ship reading, listening to music, etc., and it still is. PORTS/TOURS: Falmouth: No tender required. Just off the ship is a nice collection of shops. We took the Taste of Falmouth / Good Hope House tour by Chukka. The bus was clean, with a restroom and A/C. The guides were fine, and gave a lot of history about Jamaica. Lunch was wonderful. Cartagena: No tender required. There’s a decent shopping facility nearby, with a bird sanctuary. It isn’t immediately off the ship as in Falmouth and there’s a shuttle that will take you. The Princess info sheet says it’s “an easy walk”, and it is for some. I’m 70, and for me it wasn’t “easy”, but I did it. A man with a heart condition also had trouble. You can’t judge the distance when exiting the ship, as the shops are around a corner. If in doubt, opt for the shuttle. The landscaping is beautiful, with gorgeous and friendly birds. The shops are typical. I was looking for jewelry, but couldn’t find any. (Just kidding!) Restrooms are convenient and clean. Panama Canal: Going through the locks was exciting and interesting. So glad we did it. Costa Rica: No tender required. In easy walking distance is a souvenir market. Some of the items seemed to be of a higher quality than in other ports. Grand Cayman: The only port using tenders. Hubby took the bike ride/Hell tour. It was interesting and the biking wasn’t strenuous. He said Hell gave him “the creeps” -- as it should, I guess; it’s Hell. DISEMBARKATION: A few days in to the trip we were notified that even though we had sailed from, and parked at, Terminal 2 we would arrive at Terminal 21 (later changed again to 19). Complimentary shuttles would run between 19 and 2. There was a 30-minute delay leaving the ship’s waiting areas. Many ships were in port so Customs was overloaded - not Princess’ fault. Princess staff did a great job under the circumstances. After that, the process was smooth to the doors leading outside. Porters with large carts waited where luggage is placed, so we took advantage of that. The porter piled everything on to his cart for the four of us and was our Sherpa to and through the Customs line. Then he escorted my friend to the shuttle going to the Northport garage. A godsend. Then things came to a screeching halt with chaos created by the 2-to-19 switch. I sat on a bench next to an elderly lady traveling alone. Her travel agent had arranged for transportation to Miami airport, but it never showed up, most likely cruising around Pier 2, per original arrangements. There was no way to reach her agent on a Sunday. We looked for a Princess rep who might help, but couldn’t find any. I wish I knew what happened to her. Another woman’s husband is diabetic and she was worried because the process of waiting a long time for the shuttle, riding to Terminal 2, getting the car, maneuvering out of the garage (a maze, coned off in many areas), getting to Terminal 19, and finding her, was taking far too long. He needed food, but you can’t take food off the ship and he had nothing to eat. She was concerned that he might have gone into insulin shock, and was going to speak to a Sheriff across the driveway to see if there had been any reported emergencies. He finally came, but a serious medical situation had been possible. (Again, no Princess reps to be seen.) A few times I heard the comment, “I’ll never use Princess again.” It may not have been Princess’ fault, but it reflected negatively on the cruise experience and Princess. We’re confused about the terminal switch. It looked like “Royal” was at Pier 2 where we should’ve been. Ships’ schedules are set two to three years in the future. It makes no sense. It should be a smooth operation. Overall, we had a good trip. Would have given 5 stars if not for hiccups of communication and no Princess reps assisting passengers with terminal change. Will definitely sail Princess again, assuming communications issues are remedied. MAJOR PROS: Food. Production shows. Staff. MAJOR CONS: Communications/technology. Gym. Overcrowding. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Outstanding value for the cuisine that is included and onboard entertainment. I would not recommend the premium restaurants as many have complained about the food quality for the extra price. Long wait times for Anytime Dining. You need to ... Read More
Outstanding value for the cuisine that is included and onboard entertainment. I would not recommend the premium restaurants as many have complained about the food quality for the extra price. Long wait times for Anytime Dining. You need to reserve your dining times to avoid. Ports of call on this itinerary are below average and the excursions are not worth the money. This cruise is clearly targeted for senior citizens. It is not recommended for ages 55 and below. Very laid back vibe. The staff on this ship are very well trained and accommodating. Countries represented are mainly from the Philippines, India and China. They have the most pleasant demeanor and disposition unlike some cruise lines that represent Eastern European cultures. Princess has an amazing reputation for providing excellent quality food and highly skilled chefs that prepare a variety of international dishes. Our new preference for cruise companies is clearly Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Taking a cruise to the Panama Canal was on our bucket list however this ship is a rust bucket that has not been updated since it's inaugural voyage and it shows ! The entertainment is done by the same six people for every night, and ... Read More
Taking a cruise to the Panama Canal was on our bucket list however this ship is a rust bucket that has not been updated since it's inaugural voyage and it shows ! The entertainment is done by the same six people for every night, and is horrible. Every show ended with fewer show goers than it started with. Since Carnival has added the "tips" to your bill -- the service has significantly diminished -- no incentive for top notch service. Like no table clothes on the dining tables, meals delivered at different times for people at the same table, service taking over two hours to complete, cabin service was minimal, etc.. Don't bother purchasing the WIFI -- it's spotty to non-existent. Departure took three hours (Disney takes about 30 min.). We have been on 12 cruises and this was the worst. Take a few minutes and look for a cruise that still provides an excellent cruise experience. I'm not sure if this cruise was representative of the overall Carnival cruise experience, or just this ship however this cruise ship is not worth the money or representative of what a good cruise experience can be Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
On my bucket list for years and could never convince my past wife to get on a ship and the timing was right. I have read some of the reviews and cannot agree with them as they sailed at a bad time. My cruise was FANTASTIC, the Panama Canal ... Read More
On my bucket list for years and could never convince my past wife to get on a ship and the timing was right. I have read some of the reviews and cannot agree with them as they sailed at a bad time. My cruise was FANTASTIC, the Panama Canal visit was the highlight, on board service was excellent and I never had to wait to be seated. The waiters did not hover over you but watched and knew when attention was required.I was not pressured into buying more drinks than I wanted. Ten days and not a bad meal, food was top notch. The buffet on deck 14 was all anyone could hope for. Housekeeping was above and beyond, I had an ocean view cabin (605) and it was always kept neat and tidy, any time that I left for a walk or a meal, things were tidied up while I was away. There was always something on the go for entertainment and the movies under the stars helped end the evening on a high note.I am giving it some serious consideration for an Alaskan cruise and it if possible definitely be on the Island Princess. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Interesting destinations. Panama canal, Cartagena, and Limon well worth seeing. Great snorkeling on Grand Cayman. Well organized and executed tours. As usual service on board and embarkation and debarkation very good. Rooms were well ... Read More
Interesting destinations. Panama canal, Cartagena, and Limon well worth seeing. Great snorkeling on Grand Cayman. Well organized and executed tours. As usual service on board and embarkation and debarkation very good. Rooms were well appointed and clean. Ship is unique in that it offers and indoor pool and lounge area along with a sauna. There is also a top sun deck with a splash pool. Additional outdoor lounge seating can be found along lower outdoor passageways. Dining and entertainment is top notch. On board activities are well organized and presented. For those selecting Princess be aware that this cruise line is generally not suitable for children, young adults and young couples. The majority of passengers are elderly (many over 70), white and American. Although the band was excellent and played up-to -date music, most passengers do not participate in dancing. Woe betide the person who does not get up early, especially on at sea days as passengers tend to reserve deck seating despite ship policies to the contrary. This ship was my favourite in the Princess line as it is somewhat smaller and service and seating is more accessible. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout ... Read More
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout especially at the elevators and Old wooden deck chairs on deck three of which 50 percent were broken. Attitude of the Hotel manager was not his problem. Staff throughout the ship in restaurants, cabins, bars etc. A 10 +++. The main dining room meals were over cooked much of the time during dinner hour though breakfast was fine. First night of cruise turkey was served bright pink ( scary !). One night tuna was so overcooked , it was like saw dust and most left it on their plates uneaten. On another evening the wiener schnitzel was served and waiters came around suggesting that we add gravy before we even tried the dish and through the gravy was not part of the menu the waiters were trying to correct another bad meal. Now the Pinnacle Grill was a great experience but we were forced to pay the extra charge to have good food compared to main dining room and we ate there four nights. Entertainment was very good and we enjoyed every performance. The shore experience in Costa Rica called canal tortuguero was a 100% waste of time. When we arrived by bus, there were bathrooms on the second floor of the building that were so unbelievably filthy that I perferred to not use since thing did not flush and one small sink to wash hands shared by men and women with nothing to wipe hands. The boat tour showed two iguanas,three birds and a couple monkeys. The second part of the tour was a banana plantation which consisted of the bus pulling off the main road to point out a few banana plans and return us back to the ship. So much for a plantation. Holland America charged 100 plus dollars and does not care how bad it is. Now it explains why Holland America does not even get mentioned in many ratings and independent reviews. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so ... Read More
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so welcome and enjoyable Rene our drink guy , was so informative of drinks , wines ,if you weren’t sure what you liked he was sure he’d bring something you like and he did Zeri, our mint man after dinner was so entertaining and such a comedian , he even went out of his way to take a picture with the professional photographer. Lucky, our waiter was so deliteful to see every evening, how he remembered everyone’s name was amazing, so astonishing. Aguhn, our server, was so remarkable how he knew everything on the menu. Olivia in Lido restaurant, was so sweet and pleasant. It was a delightful day to see her smiling face every morning and afternoon who went out of her way to make sure you got what you wanted and came and talked to see how your day was going. Sweet as cotton candy, I told her. I will cruise again with Holland American. One complaint, was the evening menu, seem to be a lot of the same, except each night things were changed a little. We did start with the norovirus, it was amazing to see how well everyone was sure not to make it spread. , very well accomplished so our cruise was deli. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary - full traverse of the Panama Canal and lots of stops in countries other cruise lines don't stop in. We have travelled with other companies, Celebrity, RCI, Cunard, P&O and now NCL. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary - full traverse of the Panama Canal and lots of stops in countries other cruise lines don't stop in. We have travelled with other companies, Celebrity, RCI, Cunard, P&O and now NCL. The reason for the low score for NCL is that there were lots of little things which were not as good as other cruise companies and they added up to make a big difference. Firstly the good: The organisation of the Freedom dining is fantastic. We only had to wait (briefly) for a table on a couple of occasions - the rest of the time it worked like clockwork. This is down mainly to the ladies who work at the front desk. They do an exceptional job. The staff in the dining rooms were all fantastic. Hardworking and always cheerful. No mean feat! The chinese restaurant is included rather than the usual cover charge and we thought the food was superb. The presentation of the food in the main dining rooms was the best we have seen There were proper showers in all of the rooms (not just shower curtains) The bad: The menus in the Chinese and O'Sheehans never changes nor does it in Grand Pacific at lunch time. Not too bad if you are on a 7 day cruise but this was 19 days of the same choice. The drinks are very expensive The ship was late in to nearly every port. Sometimes just by 15-20 mins but it messed up our plans (and on two of the occassions this was when the ship was only travelling a short distance between ports) Disembarkation was a shambles with poor communication. They put on too few tenders when needed so that it took us until after 1pm to get off the ship when we had to be back on board by 4pm. We paid for an upgrade to an ocean view room and yet all we could see was a lifeboat. There was no warnings about it being a partial view. There was insufficient shade on the ship so there was always a battle to be up early enough to grab some. They have a great lounge at the front of the boat where you can sit in the shade and cool and look at the view but insisted on running bingo and other talks in there all through the day despite having other areas that would accomodate these things. They even had to draw the blinds in the room to make it dark enough to see the projector. The talks about the ports and countries we were visiting were awful. The entertainment in the bars was not to our taste and hardly varied. No gala type dinners so no lobster or other special food. Food was the worst we have had on a ship (not bad like other reviews have said - just not as good as other ships) The food in the buffet was not great and was very repetitive. All of the entertainment was geared towards Americans (even though they were in the minority on the ship). I understand that they are usually the majority so I guess it would be too much trouble to change things cruise by cruise. Guest Relations were terrible. They handled a minor complaint so badly that it ended up being a big issue. They have zero authority and a terrible attitude. One thing that isn't the ships problem but is worth mentioning is that we like to share our table with others in the evening. Clearly most people who choose NCL don't like to so it was rare that we managed to get a table with other people on it. Read Less

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