We've been on 25 plus cruises on a variety of mainstream and premium lines and most recently reached Elite level on Celebrity. We decided to try the Nieuw Statendam for a back to back 11/10/19 to 11/24/19 since we have enjoyed HAL cruises on older ships in the past. This was our first time back to back and we were excited by the idea of staying onboard.
No excursions were planned since we had a crazy summer and decided to make the ship the destination plus we'd been to the ports many times. We looked forward to a pampered 2 weeks with great food, music, sea watching from our huge balcony and cocktails at night.
Our first observation was the food quality. Bland or dried out food from the Main Dining room. Buffet was boring, crowded, loud and more like S&S cafeteria at night rather than the nice ambience and selections offered by Celebrity ship buffets for dinner. The Pinnacle Grill was fabulous. Our steaks were cooked perfectly and lovely service.
Tamarind offered a tempura shrimp appetizer that covered the palm of my hand with grease when I pick it up. The server was shocked and replaced with another choice but unfortunately the rest of the meal was equally uninspiring. Too many sugary sauces offered. Ugh! We planned to go back to try again but our 2nd week was a bad one as I describe later.
The Dive In burgers and fries, and the pizzas and sandwiches at the New York Deli were delicious.
Bar service ranged from friendly to surly. The Dutch cafe coffees seemed watery to us but we like strong expresso flavor. The young man working there barely made eye contact and spent more time flirting with coworkers. In contrast the young women there were very personable and service oriented. The pastries offered there were delicious.
The Seaview pool area had a smokers "punishment" area....tiny, cramped, hot and filled with chain smokers. My "once in a while" cigar smoker husband was disgusted after 2 attempts to enjoy a bourbon and cigar. Compared to the spacious lawn view Sunset Bar portside smoking area on the Celebrity ships this was hell.
The V category cabin was average size and storage wise but the bathroom was tiny. We had an oversized angled balcony similar to our Celebrity cabin choices but the balcony furniture on NS was uncomfortable. The 12 inch diameter table held 2 coffees or drinks. Eating out there required moving furniture out of the cabin to the balcony or using the footstools as tables while you hunched up over your food like a cave man over his fire.
Fellow passengers ranged from over 65 seniors some of whom appeared ill to tatooed bored millennials and families with kids. Dress code is a hot topic but really people...do you have to wear sloppy shorts and t-shirt to listen to the Lincoln Center players at 5pm on Gala night? We found out their is no dress code so HAL why bother even suggesting. Just tell people to cover up their naughty bits and let that be your dress code. And old men... Please put on your big boy pants on gala night inside nice venues! Sad to see women dressed nicely walking with sloppy dressed guys.
The music at the BB Kings, Billboard and Rock N Roll venues was SO loud that we had to sit in other seating areas away from them if we wanted to enjoy the music. The RNR band was great! The Lincoln Center players were fabulous. Unfortunately the upstairs casino doors over the main player stage were open and as they played a quiet Brahms piece, the casino marketing person starting screaming over the mic about the big contest, must be present to win. My husband tried to track down someone to close the doors but staff didn't seem to care.
We enjoy interacting with crew on our cruises but not lengthy chats while we try to eat. Unfortunately the service trainer must be telling crew to ask passengers personal questions...where do you live, how many cruises, etc seeming to believe this is great service or bonding exercise. Our room stewards in contrast were so pleasant, smiled and welcomed us, greeted us in the hallway and did a fantastic job meeting our simple requests for extra towels and ice. They were too busy for long talks. Kudos to Yancie and DitDit!!! The buffet service quality varied but the need to talk constantly to us while we tried to eat there was annoying.
Guest services had 3-4 reps who contradicted what the others told us. I spent 6 days out of the 2 weeks trying to get mistakes fixed in person at the desk or over the phone. My favorite is the back to back situation we had.
We had 2 booking numbers, one for each week. The first week cabin card said right on it that it "expired" 11/17/19 (end of week 1). We did the turnaround walk off on 11/17/19 and despite the card being invalid, it registered OK at the security check point and allowed us back on the ship after we walked through customs area. We went to guest services immediately and the guy there said, "no, your card is fine.". I showed the date and then he said, "Oh...ha...I guess I'll print you a new one". wow!! Just wow... couldn't believe his cavalier attitude about security like that.
And if HAL reads this, please find a new service phrase for your guest service team. Telling a guest "No Worries" is insulting. You may not be worried about what I shared, but I sure am.
Communications by hotel director staff was very poor. On the turnaround day at the end of the first week, we were dressing in the cabin and had only the light privacy drape closed. I looked outside and saw a maintenance man had opened our balcony divider and was dragging a hose through to the other balcony divider. He proceeded to wash everything down including our glass door to balcony. Now, kudos for the cleaning, but anytime we've had maintenance or washing done on other cruise lines, we always receive a notice in the cabin the night before letting us know. Surely Guest Services knew which cabins were still occupied for back to back and could've sent out a notice alerting to the cleaning being done the next morning. What if we had our coffee out there while we had stepped inside or a book on the table?
I've saved the best for last. On day 4 of the first week, I started to have a scratchy throat and a slight cough. I went to the medical center for cough medicine suggestion and ended up with a $22 bottle of cough meds. I found out they sold similar in one of the shops for $16. Oh well, when you need it, you need it.
After a few days the cough got worse and now my husband had it. At the start of week 2 we ended up going to see the med center doctor and diagnosed both with Acute Upper respiratory infections. We could only sleep 2-3 hrs at a time, couldn't use our drink cards or go out for our booked specialty dinners. It's obvious from the timeframe of start during the first week and the fact we never left the ship, that the illness was passed to us by crew or passengers. At the med center there were 3 crew members coughing and sniffing the same as we were while waiting. The visit and meds cost us $300. My prescription did nothing and I ended up with another doctor visit when I came home and spent another 10 days on better antibiotics..
Now accidents and illnesses can happen, but what irritated us was several things:
- The med center never called to check on our status (what good service should require),
- The med center said, "no there isn't any type of outbreak or others with this sickness" but we later read reviews on cruise critic HAL board about the transatlantic right before we boarded having major issues with colds, upper respiratory issues, coughing everywhere, staff with laryngitis (one told us this in a shop). We boarded early the first day when they should've been deep cleaning the ship post transatlantic.
- We self imposed cabin restriction for the last few days of our 2nd week. No one even bothered to tell us we should stay in cabin to avoid spreading. Room service chicken soup was greasy and tasteless. There was nothing on the lunch menu for "sick" appetites. I had to run up to the buffet to get some edible things for us and probably spread our germs to others while having to do this. I lost 8 pounds on a two week cruise!
In the end, we realize that the new HAL under new leadership is just a notch above Carnival or NCL in terms of quality and a premium experience. We haven't been on either of those lines in years, but can only assume that the HAL leadership is trying to woo Carnival people by offering something a little better, but no where near the HAL we experienced on past cruises.
We know Celebrity and other lines aren't perfect but this cruise with HAL really paints them in a more positive light for us. We've decided to book Regent Seven Seas and are considering Oceania for more upscale experiences. We have no plans to return to HAL again but understand that others love it. "Chacun à son goût! (to each his own!)"
Small cabin with huge balcony. Balcony furniture not conducive to large balcony enjoyment. 12 inch diameter low table not for eating. Balcony drain by railing poorly designed so water always standing on floor there. Bed very comfortable with the added egg crate topper we requested in advance. Shower worked well but bathroom and storage in bathroom very small.