Holland America’s newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, was officially welcomed to the fleet at a naming ceremony in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 2.
Oprah Winfrey is the ship’s godmother, and she joined her best friend Gayle King and more than 2,500 women (and about 80 men) onboard during the Girls’ Getaway three-day theme cruise just ahead of the ceremony.
I was among a handful of media members sailing to review the new ship.
While you can’t expect to enjoy a voyage with Oprah and Gayle on Nieuw Statendam, the 2,666-passenger ship offers plenty to look forward to whenever you take your cruise vacation on this new ship, which is a sister to Koningsdam, which debuted in 2016.
Faithful Holland America cruisers know very well that the line offers a handful of high-quality and dependably excellent things that it does well. Holland America is not trying to be everything to everyone. You won’t find boisterous pool games, waterslides, ziplines or gimmicky tech features.
Instead, passengers enjoy the excellent dining and wonderful entertainment and enrichment options. Also, Nieuw Statendam features the vibrant Music Walk venues that Holland America has developed over the past several years that pull the nightlife together on the ship.
During my cruise, I noted that passengers have low-key fun in an environment designed to let you set the pace for your day in any way you like.
The ship offers great spaces to just relax indoors or out. The lido deck and Sun Decks outside place you in the Caribbean sunshine, and Explorations Central includes a bar/café and large lounge with scenic views at the top of the ship.
The ship sails out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and typically includes a visit to Holland America’s private island Half Moon Cay. We enjoyed a day ashore there at the only port stop during our three-day cruise. We were able to swim in the clear waters on a sunny day that featured 80-degree temps.
We also got in a little bit of snorkeling after renting the equipment on the island, and we bought a shore excursion from Holland America. Our pick was the horseback riding adventure.
Half Moon Cay has a small horse ranch with stables, and visitors can ride the horses along the shore and into a bit of the jungle setting along the sandy trails. The highlight is at the end of the experience when riders head off into the sea on horseback, with our steeds carrying us confidently and briskly through the waters. It’s quite a rush to be riding high as the horses easily trot through rolling waves that reach up to their shoulders.
Back onboard, passengers enjoyed the food, from casual fare for lunches and late-afternoon snacks at New York Pizza and Deli and Dive In burgers. These eateries are located in the lido deck area by the main pool. You also have the Gelato ice cream parlor conveniently and tantalizingly close by.
Cuisine is an important part of any cruise – and especially a Holland America sailing – and Nieuw Statendam pleases foodies with excellent choices. Rudi’s Sel de Mer is the namesake restaurant for Holland America’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, and it features French-Mediterranean seafood.
Steak lovers enjoy Pinnacle Grill, and you can get Asian specialties at Tamarind, which also is the home of the Nami sushi counter. The Italian eatery Canaletto is located in the Lido Marketplace area.
We were able to eat great meals at Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and the main dining room (for breakfasts, lunches and dinner) during our voyage. We even had a room-service breakfast on our veranda one morning. Cruisers are really spoiled for choices on Nieuw Statendam.
These types of restaurants and meal options are available on many major cruise ships these days, but the quality and service levels we enjoyed on this new ship points to the emphasis that Holland America puts on the dining experience.
Our fellow passengers spent their time in a number of ways while we sailed. The shops and small casino were bustling with activity, and the pool area was busy as people enjoyed the fine weather in the middle of winter off the coast of Florida. The main pool has a retractable glass roof that allows for all-weather use. A second pool and hot tub area is placed at the aft of the ship on Deck 9. This area was our favorite, as it offers cool views of the wake and has a convenient bar and tables to use for your lunch from the buffet.
The ship also has a full-sized sports court and short jogging track (12 laps to a mile) that we were able to use a bit. We didn’t make it to the spa and thermal suite, but passengers can buy a cruise-length pass for access to the Greenhouse Spa Retreat.
Night time is when this cruise ship really shines. The World Stage main theater is a technical marvel with a theater-in-the-round setup and a wraparound digital screen and light displays that brings the shows to life in innovative ways.
The Music Walk offers something for all musical tastes, with four different genres on display in three distinct venues. Lincoln Center Stage and B.B. King Blues Club share a stage and alternate performances. The dance floor was filled up at night for the blues music late into the evenings.
Rolling Stone Rock Room offers classic hits from an excellent house band, and Billboard Onboard is a venue with a dueling piano and sing-a-long theme. Cruisers love wandering from performance to performance each night on this stretch of the ship on Deck 2.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.