Last night I slept in my own bed for the first time in nearly a fortnight. It was pure bliss! For the previous 12 nights we were cruising aboard the Holland America Lines ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ sailing out of Venice and returning to the same port after visiting a number of destinations in the Adriatic and beyond, with Istanbul the furthest extent of the journey.
For several years we have really heard nothing but praise for Holland America, whose passengers are predominantly American, supplemented by a few stragglers from Australia and New Zealand and even fewer from Britain. With 2100 passengers, this is a large ship and is luxuriously appointed, with excellent cabins/staterooms, superb dining facilities and entertainment venues and, most importantly to Holland America, a thousand and one ways of separating the passenger from his/her money. As I ate my breakfast this morning I realised that I had been out of bed for almost an hour and for the first time in two weeks, I had not been attacked with a sales pitch.
We would rate the three most important assets of any cruise ship as: Accommodation, Food and Entertainment, but not necessarily in that order. The accommodation on this ship is of a very good standard. Cabins are reasonably spacious and equipped with mini-bar, TV, CD Player and iPod dock, although on a fine weather cruise with few days at sea, they get very little use. Wifi is available, but at more than the price of gold. The beds are of a good size and comfortable and there is more than adequate wardrobe space. Finally, bathrooms are modern and, for a cruise ship, spacious. Unfortunately, information about the general operation of the ship and passenger facilities is poor, probably reflecting the commercial imperatives driving the operation. However, despite having an inside cabin, we did get timely notification and an apology for any inconvenience that would be caused when they came to clean our balcony!
Not Nieuw Amsterdam wares, the quality is too high!
On a ship of this size one would expect very good standards of entertainment, but Nieuw Amsterdam fails woefully in this regard. Experienced cruisers will recognise that if you have a lacklustre Cruise Director you are likely to have lacklustre entertainment. This was certainly the case on this cruise with John Mann starring as a cruise director whose focus was directed at achieving sales rather than quality entertainment. He was described in one piece of literature as a Timpanist who had made (wait for it) 'the natural progression to Cruise Director'. Strangely enough, our garbage collector is on the same ladder, but still on the first rung. He's actually funnier so if there is any justice in this world he should be on the Queen Mary by Christmas!
Our first visit to the show theatre was to see ‘Cantaré’, described as ‘The Power of Voice’. This group turned out to be what can best be described as and ageing boy band without instruments. My immediate thought was that they must be strong swimmers on the premise that they must have been thrown overboard and made it back to the ship on several occasions! Never mind, perhaps they will get off at the next stop and inflict themselves on another audience. No such luck! They were recycled almost every evening in some guise or other and the very low standard they set was only surpassed on three occasions: by the Indonesian Crew Show, by English Comedian Martin Beaumont and Flautist Tara Whittaker. ‘Cantaré’ proved beyond doubt that when you dress very average singers in shiny suits and teach them a few dance steps, they remain very average singers. Their agent must be brilliant and should be booked to do marketing lectures.
A ‘Nickel and Dime’ operation was how one American passenger described Nieuw Amsterdam and there really is something quite objectionable about the constant hard sell. Drinks stewards are on commission and are almost as intrusive as the ‘looky looky’ man on the beach at Cannes,