Imagine: You’re standing on deck, sipping wine, with the cool breeze blowing across your face. You’re passing by majestic mountains, watching graceful birds soar and swoop, over crystal turquoise waters dotted with flying fish. You’re travelling on a premium cruise ship, a singular way to see new parts of the world.
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I recently took my second Caribbean cruise with extended family aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam.
As the ship sailed away from Port Everglades, we stood with the crowds on an observation deck and watched Fort Lauderdale recede into the distance. Several other cruise ships waited their turns under the clear blue sky and warm sun as we glided past them out to sea. I noted the big bright water slides on other top decks, and was glad that our ship remained among the more elegant. The days ahead promised a relaxed and refined brand of fun.
MS Nieuw Statendam is a Pinnacle-class ship, meaning that she’s one of Holland America Line’s largest vessels, with the most amenities. She can accommodate 2,666 passengers on 12 decks. Her service speed is 18 knots, but she slows down for “scenic cruising” through especially spectacular places.
She put me in mind of an upscale Las Vegas resort on the ocean — big and glitzy-glam, with unique art and non-stop activity.
Here are the main ways we’ve discovered to enjoy our time on board:
Wow, is there a lot of food! You could spend an entire cruise restaurant-hopping and not eat the same thing twice.
There are two main restaurants:
- The Lido Market is the buffet. The food is good. Individual stations offer varieties like pasta and sushi for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is like an upscale hotel brunch, with standards like omelets to order, meats and potatoes, breads and pastries. It’s also the most efficient spot to find coffee. Breakfast in the Lido Market can work out well for groups, as the casual atmosphere makes it simple to straggle up one or two at time and find one another. The setting is pleasant, with tables lining the floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can watch the ocean while you eat. It was popular, but only annoyingly crowded on disembarkation day.
- The Dining Room offers several appetizers, entrées, and desserts that rotate throughout the week at dinner. It has a country-club feel to me, with white tablecloths and something-for-everyone cuisine.
There’s also breakfast daily, with options ranging from cereal to Lobster Benedict. On days at sea, there is also lunch and afternoon tea. Lunch is lighter but still a multi-course meal. Afternoon tea is lovely, with its assortment of sweets and crustless sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the acoustics make conversation challenging, especially at dinner, but naturally the atmosphere becomes quieter and more refined after about 7:30.
There are three fast-food restaurants:
- Dive-In is a burger bar, which also offers hot dogs and brats, as well as fries and milkshakes. Our favorite burger is the Cannonball, which is served with Gouda cheese, applewood bacon, and caramelized onions.
- Grand Dutch Café pays homage to HAL’s Netherlands roots, with hearty snacks like an Apple and Bacon Pannenkoek, a big pancake served with powered sugar and stroop — one of my favorite treats on the ship.
The fries were also quite good, though they come with mayonnaise.
- New York Pizza offers — you guessed it! — pizzas, as well as salads and sandwiches, breakfast bagels, and nighttime snacks like popcorn and kettle chips.
There are four specialty restaurants:
- Canaletto is a casual Italian spot with entrées like chicken cacciatore and shrimp ravioli.
- Pinnacle Grill is a David Burke steakhouse, which also offers seafood, as well as the chef’s well-known Clothesline Candied Bacon.
- Rudi’s Sel de Mer is a French brasserie where I enjoyed the best mahi mahi I’ve ever tasted.
- Tamarind is an Asian fusion restaurant where I had an excellent wasabi-crusted beef tenderloin and a fabulous eggplant side dish. Located within Tamarind is the Nami Sushi bar.
There’s also 24-hour room service and lots of bars. Our family enjoyed gathering in the open atmosphere of the Ocean Bar on Deck 2.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to work off so much food. There are classes and competitions. A fitness center with lots of cardio and strength equipment offers great views of the ocean through the fore windows. There are also some exercise machines outdoors, as well as a jogging track. Having put on a couple of pounds during our previous cruise, I resolved to log at least 5,000 steps, according to my fitbit, on the jogging track in the morning of every day at sea during our latest voyage. Located on Deck 11, the open-air track offers fabulous views of the sparkling sea, the gliding birds, and any other nearby ships. (And I came home two pounds lighter this time!)
Play at the Casino
Options include classic blackjack, poker, and 140 slot and (surprisingly loose) video-poker machines. Don’t know how to play? No worries, there’s complimentary instruction. There’s also a bar.
Learn Something New
Several educational presentations pepper the daily schedule. There were nature talks and an off-beat lecture on three writers who were shaped by the Caribbean: Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming, and Jimmy Buffett.
One of the most interesting presentations is “Ask the Captain”, when the ship’s top officer fields questions about navigation, engineering, and operations on board.
But one of our favorite ways to learn was by playing in daily trivia competitions. Questions ranged from “How would anybody know that?” (What is the collective noun for a group of butterflies? A kaleidoscope) to “How could anybody not know that?” (Who was King of England during the American Revolution? George III). Prizes were usually HAL pins, though we won branded kaleidoscopes on butterfly night. It’s a fun way to learn a new fact or two, while enjoying time together over pre-dinner cocktails.
Enjoy Live Entertainment
Nieuw Statendam focuses on music. Even the decks are named for composers. (Our group has stayed on the Mozart and Schubert decks.) HAL’s signature Music Walk features four venues with live music:
- We spent the most time in the Rolling Stone Rock Room, listening to its live band cover classic rock songs.
- We also enjoyed classical music at the Lincoln Center Stage.
- There’s also B.B. King’s, where we never did listen to blues, though we did catch a couple of comedy shows.
- And there’s Billboard Onboard, where we played Team Trivia.
With all this activity, sometimes you just want to take it easy. There are a few good spots for relaxation:
Your stateroom. Balcony cabins are the most popular choice for premium cruisers, according to the cruising Web site CruiseCompete. Our group stayed in Verandah Staterooms. This cabin category features a queen-size bed, which can be divided into two; a sitting area with a small desk and a pull-out couch; a small bright bathroom with a large shower; efficient storage, and — best of all — a private balcony. It was equipped with a hair dryer and bathrobes, but not an iron and board or a coffee maker (just like Las Vegas). The cabin itself was pretty small, but suitable for a brief reprieve from all the stimulation. The balcony was comfortable, and since family members were staying in the adjoining rooms, we had the dividers pulled back to create a joint private space for us to chat while we savored the ocean breeze and scenic views.
The pool decks. There are two swimming pools — a smaller one aft and a larger one mid-ship under a retractable roof. There are also several hot tubs. Movies play most nights on a big screen above the mid-ship pool deck; on our most recent voyage, the films ranged from It’s a Wonderful Life to Top Gun: Maverick.
The Crow’s Nest. (Don’t worry; it’s not a look-out basket perched atop a mast.) Located on the observation deck, this lounge area offers plenty of chairs, including some facing the forward windows, making it a lovely spot to read. There are also several tables, and our family had a good time playing games like Settlers of Catan more than once. Its Explorations Café offers specialty coffees as well as bar drinks.
The hallway outside the Club Orange dining room. Club Orange is HAL’s priority program, with perks including a dedicated dining room on Deck 2. Just outside the small room is a row of paired club chairs alongside windows overlooking the sea. There’s no over-head music and little foot traffic, and it’s the most peaceful reading spot I’ve found on the whole ship.
bonus: Go on shore.
A big draw of cruising is seeing new parts of the world when your ship docks in different ports. In most places, you can go off on your own, or you can join a shore excursion provided by your cruise line. Possible excursions can range from cooking classes (which I’ve enjoyed) to scuba diving with sharks (no, thank you).
Where does Nieuw Statendam sail?
Pretty much all over the northern hemisphere.
Our 2021-22 Western Caribbean cruise called at:
Our 2022-23 Southern Caribbean Wayfarer cruise visited:
- Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
- Castries, Saint Lucia
- Bridgetown, Barbados
- Fort-de-France, Martinique
- Basseterre, St Kitts (and Nevis)
- St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
- Half Moon Cay
She also explores many other regions, including:
Nieuw Statendam offers travellers a wonderful way to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, while enjoying food and fun. If you’re looking for a refined adventure, a cruise aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam is a great choice.
For two decades, I worked at political jobs. Then my parents got sick, and I went home to help care for them, and they died, fourteen weeks apart, in their late 60s. And I decided that life is too dear, and too uncertain, to fritter away in political offices. I fought back the sorrow with travel, and started this blog. I believe that passions are more fun when you share them with others, and my hope is to share my passions for travel and culture with you. Welcome! Read more …