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New to Holland America? This is for you...AKA "HAL For Dummies"

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Depends on the airline. Flying West Coast US to Europe, we were able to immediately choose seats on both United and Delta. I was glad especially now that the return flight, on a Sunday, is almost full five months out. Best of all, these were Business Class seats which are well less than half the current fare on Delta and United--and cheaper than the Business Class fare I thought was such a spectacular deal six years ago. (We first booked on United last fall when no Delta flights were available, then in January Delta was available at a slightly cheaper fare.)

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It would be nice to be able to select a seat already. Now we have to make up our mind which city we want to go to before the cruise. It was Nice but now we are leaning towards Florence 🙂

 

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12 hours ago, oceanmom said:

Depends on the airline. Flying West Coast US to Europe, we were able to immediately choose seats on both United and Delta. I was glad especially now that the return flight, on a Sunday, is almost full five months out. Best of all, these were Business Class seats which are well less than half the current fare on Delta and United--and cheaper than the Business Class fare I thought was such a spectacular deal six years ago. (We first booked on United last fall when no Delta flights were available, then in January Delta was available at a slightly cheaper fare.)

 

3 hours ago, Louise245 said:

It would be nice to be able to select a seat already. Now we have to make up our mind which city we want to go to before the cruise. It was Nice but now we are leaning towards Florence 🙂

 

 

I agree with oceanmom.   It does very much depend on the airline.  I should have been a bit more clear perhaps.  I was able to select certain seats when I booked but the connecting flight was code shared so Flight Ease couldn't assign a seat just as my own airline couldn't.

 

Once I was ticketed, I was able to select the seats with the other flight which was taking care of the connection.

 

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I am doing my first HAL cruise, and first Alaska cruise. I’m going southbound from Seward. I want to take a sightseeing tour on the day we leave port, with a Major Marine Tours. It gets back at 5:30 pm. Do I still have plenty of time for the initial boarding for an 8:00 pm departure. TIA

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4 hours ago, Teeter87 said:

I am doing my first HAL cruise, and first Alaska cruise. I’m going southbound from Seward. I want to take a sightseeing tour on the day we leave port, with a Major Marine Tours. It gets back at 5:30 pm. Do I still have plenty of time for the initial boarding for an 8:00 pm departure. TIA

Probably. You have to be checked in 90 minutes before departure, so as long as 1.) the tour doesn't come back late, and 2.) you are back in time for muster drill, you will be all right.
What time is muster?

Is there time to check in, leave your luggage, and maybe drop off your carry-ons, then go back out for the tour? That would help speed things along.
You'll also want time to unpack at some point, so figure that in, too.

Have a great time in The Great Land.

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If you book air through Flight Ease then later when you check Flight Ease (to see if the price has gone down) you find that the price has gone up, do you really get charged the increase?

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22 hours ago, cruises42 said:

If you book air through Flight Ease then later when you check Flight Ease (to see if the price has gone down) you find that the price has gone up, do you really get charged the increase?

I am not sure of the answer to this, but I have read that if you have booked and then go in to price shop it can cause problem with your original booking. You may want to double check that your original booking is still there by looking at your record locator number.

 

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23 hours ago, cruises42 said:

If you book air through Flight Ease then later when you check Flight Ease (to see if the price has gone down) you find that the price has gone up, do you really get charged the increase?

 

Hasn’t happened to us us and I’ve seen no report on the boards about it.  Everyone says (when the question is asked) that your price holds.

 

18 minutes ago, kscarpetta2 said:

I am not sure of the answer to this, but I have read that if you have booked and then go in to price shop it can cause problem with your original booking. You may want to double check that your original booking is still there by looking at your record locator number.

 

 

Good point.  Be careful about playing with the booking as it can inadvertently be cancelled without asking you.  No biggie if the flight you want is still available but since there are usually only a few seats on each plane, you can end up losing your flight.

 

and once your final payment is done, you definitely do NOT want to lose that flight 😉 

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1 hour ago, kscarpetta2 said:

I am not sure of the answer to this, but I have read that if you have booked and then go in to price shop it can cause problem with your original booking. You may want to double check that your original booking is still there by looking at your record locator number.

 

Do you mean actually going to the airline website to see if you are still booked?

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47 minutes ago, kazu said:

 

Hasn’t happened to us us and I’ve seen no report on the boards about it.  Everyone says (when the question is asked) that your price holds.

 

 

Good point.  Be careful about playing with the booking as it can inadvertently be cancelled without asking you.  No biggie if the flight you want is still available but since there are usually only a few seats on each plane, you can end up losing your flight.

 

and once your final payment is done, you definitely do NOT want to lose that flight 😉 

Thanks.

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Posted (edited)

As I am getting closer to my first HAL cruise via the Nieuw Statendam, a few more newbie questions:

 

(1) I understand that the big movie screen  is by the main pool which has a retractable roof. Can I safely assume the roof will be closed in the evening when the movie is playing during our transatlantic voyage? Kind of curious how they will make that decision whether to close the roof in the evenings as we are going from warm Florida weather to colder temperatures (on Princess, I packed warmer clothes since the movies were outside but I won't on HAL if the roof is normally closed in the evenings).

 

(2) Where do I go to request a switch from late fixed dining to early fixed dining upon boarding the ship (on Princess, it was one of the MDR)? If they cannot make that switch, we will "test drive" the late sitting for 1 or 2 nights but was wondering how difficult is it to changer permanently to Anytime dining (do I go to the service desk for this or speak with the Maitre-D)?

 

Cheeze

Edited by cheezenip

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, cheezenip said:

As I am getting closer to my first HAL cruise via the Nieuw Statendam, a few more newbie questions:

 

(1) I understand that the big movie screen  is by the main pool which has a retractable roof. Can I safely assume the roof will be closed in the evening when the movie is playing during our transatlantic voyage? Kind of curious how they will make that decision whether to close the roof in the evenings as we are going from warm Florida weather to colder temperatures (on Princess, I packed warmer clothes since the movies were outside but I won't on HAL if the roof is normally closed in the evenings).

 

(2) Where do I go to request a switch from late fixed dining to early fixed dining upon boarding the ship (on Princess, it was one of the MDR)? If they cannot make that switch, we will "test drive" the late sitting for 1 or 2 nights but was wondering how difficult is it to changer permanently to Anytime dining (do I go to the service desk for this or speak with the Maitre-D)?

 

Cheeze

(1) We sailed on the Nieuw Statendam's Inaugural trans Atlantic from Rome to FLL and the roof was closed at night.  You can get blankets if you are cold.  Personally, we found the screen too pixilated to enjoy watching movies on both the NS and its sister ship Koningsdam. 

 

(2) Check in with the Maitre-D at the MDR to make any changes. 

 

Enjoy your time on the NS, we sure did.

Edited by Btimmer

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Posted (edited)

We sailed on the NS last December. They usually close the roof at night & lounge chairs are turned to face the movie screen. The staff also place blankets on the chairs In case you get cold, Popcorn is available to complete your movie experience.

You can change your dining options in the MDR. We have chosen the Anytime Dining option for the last few years and our average wait for a table has only been a few minutes, if that helps.

Edited by HALover

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20 hours ago, HALover said:

We sailed on the NS last December. ..

You can change your dining options in the MDR. We have chosen the Anytime Dining option for the last few years and our average wait for a table has only been a few minutes, if that helps.

 

On Princess cruises, we have found fixed dining provides better MDR service than anytime dining and we are extrapolating the same idea on HAL NS (rightfully/mistakenly) til proven otherwise. We just hate the idea of eating so late and may end up w/ anytime dining since the likelihood of getting early sitting is probably small. We plan to enjoy our cruise whatever ends up happening!!

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On Princess cruises, we have found fixed dining provides better MDR service than anytime dining and we are extrapolating the same idea on HAL NS (rightfully/mistakenly) til proven otherwise. We just hate the idea of eating so late and may end up w/ anytime dining since the likelihood of getting early sitting is probably small. We plan to enjoy our cruise whatever ends up happening!!

Our experience is it's very easy to get early seating using Anytime Dining. We love eating at 5:15-5:30.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Posted (edited)
On 1/6/2019 at 8:44 PM, iwingy said:

Hello everyone! Thank you for your invaluable advice and answering so many questions. I've read through the last two dozen pages and have picked up a lot of very practical advice and suggestions. I really appreciate it.

 

I do have a question, and it is a more conceptual/philosophical one, I guess. We have not done a sea/ocean cruise in three years, and one and only time on HAL was in May 2012 on Eurodam, so almost seven years ago. We are going on Rotterdam in 4 weeks.

 

In your opinion, what has fundamentally changed in that time, and what can we expect in terms of differences with our first HAL experience? Eurodam was lovely and definitely stood out in culinary experience (as probably top 2, a tie with Aida for us). It was lacking in service, but seemed to be a fluke based on other reviews at the time. Overall, HAL was a wonderful fit in terms of ambiance and demographics. Although, we were in our mid 20-ies in 2012, so not quite the target audience, I guess.

 

Thank you in advance for any thoughts!

I am a recent joiner to this thread, but I would like to respond to this question based on our recent Feb./Mar 2019 14 night Oosterdam E/W Caribbean cruise. Our previous HAL cruises were 10 night Southern Caribbean on Zuiderdam (March 2011) and 14 night E/W Caribbean on Eurodam (Feb/Mar 2018).


The most significant changes we noticed had to do with what I think of as the "soul" of Holland America, and what makes it unique: its Dutch/Indonesian heritage and traditions.  Our most recent sailing, while offering afternoon tea every day,  no Royal Dutch Tea or Indonesian Tea, two traditions my husband and I very much value, were offered.  In addition, there were no crew shows, Indonesian or Philippino. These were a loss to us as well, as we always enjoyed the talents and humor of the crew members and service staff exhibiting aspects of their cultures and traditions and "strutting their stuff" onstage. We were told by crew members on Oosterdam that all these Dutch/Indonesian traditions had been eliminated from 7 night cruises (we were on a 14 night back- to-back), but might perhaps still be available on longer cruises.  If it is true that these traditions have been eliminated from 7-night cruises, the change happened between Feb. 2018 and Feb 2019, since we enjoyed all these activities on our back-to-back Eurodam cruise last year.

 

On Oosterdam, there was no no Tea Dance and no evening dancing other than in BB King's Blues Club, a very loud venue playing music not particularly well-suited to the sort of traditional dancing --waltz, foxtroot, swing, cha cha, etc.- available on Zuiderdam and Eurodam.  Though it was not our preference, BB King's was very well attended and many people told us how much they liked it, so HAL seems to have a winner with that innovation.

 

Something else we noticed this year and last year was no solo singer/accoustic guitarist in the Crow's Nest in the evening.  We had enjoyed such entertainment on Zuiderdam in 2011. But this might have been unique to Zuiderdam rather than a fleet-wide tradition?

 

And speaking of the Crow's Nest: one good change, we thought, was the seating in the Crow's Nest now only faces the bow: on Zuiderdam, there were bench seats along the windows, which when people sat on them, not only were they sitting with their backs to the sea, they were blocking the view others had of the water.  These backward-facing bench seats are gone -- well, again, at least on Oosterdam... The "bad" change in the Crow's Nest was the enormous screens placed directly in the center of the bow windows, completely blocking a significant percentage of the view; and what images were on the two screens? The weather conditions and the ship's itinerary!  Exactly the same info available on all ship's screens in passageways and cabins!  Since this change seems to be associated with the EXC Excursions area now located in the Crow's Nest, I imagine it is to be found fleet-wide -- an electronic eyesore ruining a good part of one of the best views on the ship.

 

We have learned to expect differences from one HAL ship to another, including differences in enforcement of fleet-wide policies such as the corkage fee or dining room attire, as others have pointed out.  For this reason, some aspects I and other posters have noted as changes may in fact have been different only on the ship I or they sailed on at that time.  For example, someone posted that bread and rolls were available in the dining room by request only .  That was not the case on our recent sailings, and indeed, has never been our experience. 

 

In addition, contrary to what other posters' observed, specialty coffees were available in the dining room on both our 2018 and 2019 sailings, but at extra cost. However, on Eurodam last year, our waiter brought me a cappuccino every night because he knew I liked them, and never charged me. On Oosterdam this year, I was charged for every specialty coffee I ordered.

 

On Zuiderdam in 2011 the happy hour special was 2 for 1. On both Eurodam and Oosterdam, it was buy-one-get-the-second-for-$2. On Eurodam we were told we could get the discount on any two equivalently priced beverages; on Oosterdam we were told we had to get identical beverages in order to take advantage of the discount.

 

Someone mentioned that a string duo had replaced the string quartet; HAL now has the Lincoln Center Stage concert program which features a string quartet with piano accompaniment. The musicians were excellent and the performances were extremely well attended on both our Eurodam and Oosterdam sailings. This is a distinct change from our Zuiderdam 2011 cruise, where most of the time my husband and I were among only a handful of listeners to the Addagio Strings performances in the same venue as is now used for Lincoln Center Stage: the Explorer's Lounge. This venue is less than ideal for the quintet: first of all, it is too small with too few seats; second, the location is immediately adjacent and completely open to the passageway to and from the dining room, where lots of talkative passengers walk by and disturb the concert. The "Quiet, please - concert in progress" signs placed in the nearby passageway are generally either unseen or ignored. In addition, the ventilation equipment in the low-ceilinged lounge  was noisy and quite distracting, especially on Eurodam.  HAL would do well to have a quiet, acoustically appropriate purpose-built venue for these concerts, IMO. Even so, Lincoln Center Stage was a highlight of both our recent cruises.

 

We still like Holland America, but since 2011, the line seems to have made such a concerted effort to "modernize" and draw in non-traditional HAL clientele that it felt to us even in 2018 to be considerably less like Holland America and more like both Princess and Celebrity, which I believe are its main competitors. Activities and entertainment seemed to depend too much on commercial tie-ins: Oprah, America's Test Kitchen, BBC -- it's almost as if in some respects I might have stayed home and watched TV with an "ocean waves" sound machine playing in the background as be on a Holland America ship. Happily, HAL has not gone all the way to climbing walls, ice skating rinks, carousels and Lido jumbotrons -- oh, wait, maybe they have those on the new ships?  We appreciate that HAL still seems to be trying to attract a mature, intellectual, experienced traveler, even while attempting to dip its toe into what seems to be the world of modern "amusement park at sea" cruising. HAL is still our number one choice for value, service, ship size and design (we like a ship to feel like a ship), food, and accommodations, so we try to simply adjust gracefully to the changes we perceive as losses.

 

Edited by SeagoingMom

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47 minutes ago, SeagoingMom said:

In addition, there were no crew shows, Indonesian or Philippino.

 

Just wondering if that is because of the short duration of the 7 day cruises?

 

We have certainly benefited from them on our cruises but they are longer.

 

It really depends on the ship for your experience with the Adagio.  Not all ships have Lincoln Stage centre.

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Sorry, but the implication that "mature intellectual" cruisers don't enjoy all these "things" that HAL hasn't gone to is insulting to say the least.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Bootman4U said:

Sorry, but the implication that "mature intellectual" cruisers don't enjoy all these "things" that HAL hasn't gone to is insulting to say the least.

Your comment is based on an error in logic. To say that “mature, intellectual cruisers” MAY enjoy something in no way implies that they would NOT enjoy something else. 

Edited by SeagoingMom

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19 hours ago, SeagoingMom said:

I am a recent joiner to this thread, but I would like to respond to this question based on our recent Feb./Mar 2019 14 night Oosterdam E/W Caribbean cruise. Our previous HAL cruises were 10 night Southern Caribbean on Zuiderdam (March 2011) and 14 night E/W Caribbean on Eurodam (Feb/Mar 2018).


The most significant changes we noticed had to do with what I think of as the "soul" of Holland America, and what makes it unique: its Dutch/Indonesian heritage and traditions.  Our most recent sailing, while offering afternoon tea every day,  no Royal Dutch Tea or Indonesian Tea, two traditions my husband and I very much value, were offered.  In addition, there were no crew shows, Indonesian or Philippino. These were a loss to us as well, as we always enjoyed the talents and humor of the crew members and service staff exhibiting aspects of their cultures and traditions and "strutting their stuff" onstage. We were told by crew members on Oosterdam that all these Dutch/Indonesian traditions had been eliminated from 7 night cruises (we were on a 14 night back- to-back), but might perhaps still be available on longer cruises.  If it is true that these traditions have been eliminated from 7-night cruises, the change happened between Feb. 2018 and Feb 2019, since we enjoyed all these activities on our back-to-back Eurodam cruise last year.

 

On Oosterdam, there was no no Tea Dance and no evening dancing other than in BB King's Blues Club, a very loud venue playing music not particularly well-suited to the sort of traditional dancing --waltz, foxtroot, swing, cha cha, etc.- available on Zuiderdam and Eurodam.  Though it was not our preference, BB King's was very well attended and many people told us how much they liked it, so HAL seems to have a winner with that innovation.

 

Something else we noticed this year and last year was no solo singer/accoustic guitarist in the Crow's Nest in the evening.  We had enjoyed such entertainment on Zuiderdam in 2011. But this might have been unique to Zuiderdam rather than a fleet-wide tradition?

 

And speaking of the Crow's Nest: one good change, we thought, was the seating in the Crow's Nest now only faces the bow: on Zuiderdam, there were bench seats along the windows, which when people sat on them, not only were they sitting with their backs to the sea, they were blocking the view others had of the water.  These backward-facing bench seats are gone -- well, again, at least on Oosterdam... The "bad" change in the Crow's Nest was the enormous screens placed directly in the center of the bow windows, completely blocking a significant percentage of the view; and what images were on the two screens? The weather conditions and the ship's itinerary!  Exactly the same info available on all ship's screens in passageways and cabins!  Since this change seems to be associated with the EXC Excursions area now located in the Crow's Nest, I imagine it is to be found fleet-wide -- an electronic eyesore ruining a good part of one of the best views on the ship.

 

We have learned to expect differences from one HAL ship to another, including differences in enforcement of fleet-wide policies such as the corkage fee or dining room attire, as others have pointed out.  For this reason, some aspects I and other posters have noted as changes may in fact have been different only on the ship I or they sailed on at that time.  For example, someone posted that bread and rolls were available in the dining room by request only .  That was not the case on our recent sailings, and indeed, has never been our experience. 

 

In addition, contrary to what other posters' observed, specialty coffees were available in the dining room on both our 2018 and 2019 sailings, but at extra cost. However, on Eurodam last year, our waiter brought me a cappuccino every night because he knew I liked them, and never charged me. On Oosterdam this year, I was charged for every specialty coffee I ordered.

 

On Zuiderdam in 2011 the happy hour special was 2 for 1. On both Eurodam and Oosterdam, it was buy-one-get-the-second-for-$2. On Eurodam we were told we could get the discount on any two equivalently priced beverages; on Oosterdam we were told we had to get identical beverages in order to take advantage of the discount.

 

Someone mentioned that a string duo had replaced the string quartet; HAL now has the Lincoln Center Stage concert program which features a string quartet with piano accompaniment. The musicians were excellent and the performances were extremely well attended on both our Eurodam and Oosterdam sailings. This is a distinct change from our Zuiderdam 2011 cruise, where most of the time my husband and I were among only a handful of listeners to the Addagio Strings performances in the same venue as is now used for Lincoln Center Stage: the Explorer's Lounge. This venue is less than ideal for the quintet: first of all, it is too small with too few seats; second, the location is immediately adjacent and completely open to the passageway to and from the dining room, where lots of talkative passengers walk by and disturb the concert. The "Quiet, please - concert in progress" signs placed in the nearby passageway are generally either unseen or ignored. In addition, the ventilation equipment in the low-ceilinged lounge  was noisy and quite distracting, especially on Eurodam.  HAL would do well to have a quiet, acoustically appropriate purpose-built venue for these concerts, IMO. Even so, Lincoln Center Stage was a highlight of both our recent cruises.

 

We still like Holland America, but since 2011, the line seems to have made such a concerted effort to "modernize" and draw in non-traditional HAL clientele that it felt to us even in 2018 to be considerably less like Holland America and more like both Princess and Celebrity, which I believe are its main competitors. Activities and entertainment seemed to depend too much on commercial tie-ins: Oprah, America's Test Kitchen, BBC -- it's almost as if in some respects I might have stayed home and watched TV with an "ocean waves" sound machine playing in the background as be on a Holland America ship. Happily, HAL has not gone all the way to climbing walls, ice skating rinks, carousels and Lido jumbotrons -- oh, wait, maybe they have those on the new ships?  We appreciate that HAL still seems to be trying to attract a mature, intellectual, experienced traveler, even while attempting to dip its toe into what seems to be the world of modern "amusement park at sea" cruising. HAL is still our number one choice for value, service, ship size and design (we like a ship to feel like a ship), food, and accommodations, so we try to simply adjust gracefully to the changes we perceive as losses.

 

 

Very well written response. Thanks for your input!

 

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On 4/1/2019 at 6:11 PM, kazu said:

 

Just wondering if that is because of the short duration of the 7 day cruises?

 

We have certainly benefited from them on our cruises but they are longer.

 

It really depends on the ship for your experience with the Adagio.  Not all ships have Lincoln Stage centre.

We had the Indonesian crew show on our 20 day cruise on Maasdam last year. But 11 days on Zuiderdam in December, no crew show. 

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On 4/1/2019 at 6:11 PM, kazu said:

 

Just wondering if that is because of the short duration of the 7 day cruises?

 

As I mentioned in my original post, we were told by crew members that the crew shows had been dropped from 7-night cruises but might still be available on longer ones. Really, though, crew members aren’t good sources of info about the reasons behind decisions nor about what may be happening on other ships, even ones they may recently have worked on, since policies change. 

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4 minutes ago, SeagoingMom said:

As I mentioned in my original post, we were told by crew members that the crew shows had been dropped from 7-night cruises but might still be available on longer ones. Really, though, crew members aren’t good sources of info about the reasons behind decisions nor about what may be happening on other ships, even ones they may recently have worked on, since policies change. 

 

Actually, I find crew members a very good source of information.

 

And, in this case, they are the ones putting on the show so they should know.

 

they practice long and hard for these performance.  It just might be that there isn't the time on a 7 day cruise without putting them through too much stress?

 

Remember they practice after the dining room is cleaned up, after the staterooms are done, after all the drinks have been served.  Perhaps with embarkations & disembarkations every 7 days (and that is a lot of work), it's too much for them?  

 

Just a thought.

 

We've always had a performance on our cruises but our segments are usually 12 - 15 days + and we are usually on for 2 of them.

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Hi everyone... we are doing our first holland cruise on the nieum amsterdam.... we have only cruised Celebrity so far... we booked an inside cabin this time... category M 7133... just wondering if anyone would have stayed in this cabin..and was it really small.... thks for any help this thread is very informative!!!   :)

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