While some cruise lines are testing the waters with wow-factor rides and showy slides on their newest ships, Holland America Line is sticking to its traditional, successful style. On its newest vessel, Nieuw Amsterdam, HAL lives up to its premium status, as the cruise line continues to upgrade enrichment courses and menus and expand restaurant choices.
Holland America describes the 2,100-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam as midsize. The designation seems like a bit of a stretch until you compare it to the ships of 3,000 and 4,000 passengers, introduced by other, competing premium lines. Despite its girth, Nieuw Amsterdam feels like a midsize ship. However, if your cabin, like mine, is at the aft end, you may want to pack a sandwich for your trek to the Crow's Nest, on Deck 11 at the bow.
Passengers will find friendly service and top-quality dining. The staff, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, is well trained. With the addition of the Master Chef's Table, which serves an outstanding tasting dinner in its own classy room, Nieuw Amsterdam now offers four different gourmet menus, including those found at the Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and the weekly Le Cirque presentation. When mixed with fine-dining experiences in the other restaurants, passengers can count on a variety of choices for longer cruises in Europe and back-to-back voyages in the winter season to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.
Plus, thanks to a huge collection of artwork and welcome design changes from its sister Eurodam
, the ship is much easier on the eye than its sibling.
This was my second sailing on a ship called Nieuw Amsterdam, as Holland America has launched ships with that name in 1906, 1938, 1983 and 2010. I found occasional faults on the newest of the Nieuws. The Lido restaurant is over-tabled and, thus, too crowded at peak dining hours, which diminishes the sparkling style of this buffet restaurant. I smelled cigarette smoke in areas like the Showroom, where it wasn't allowed or appreciated, and wished the line would do more to enforce smoking rules or force fresh air into areas with a staler atmosphere.
Despite these minor gripes, I found Nieuw Amsterdam to be a warm, comfortable and friendly ship that speaks to Holland America's steady but subtle climb in style and substance during the past half-dozen years. Cruisers looking for familiar Holland America -- a traditional vacation at sea with such standards as two dress-up nights per week in the main dining room, fancy afternoon teas and evening dancing to a string quartet -- will have their expectations met.
HAL ships tend to appeal to a mature crowd, with a mix of North Americans and Europeans.
During the day, dress is casual. In the evenings, dress is categorized either as smart casual or formal. Smart casual for men is slacks and a collared shirt and perhaps a jacket (not required). For women, it's a skirt or trousers and sweater or blouse. Formal is a tuxedo, dark suit or jacket and tie for men, and a suit, cocktail dress or gown for women. In the Lido, on formal night, I saw men dressed in jackets and ties, while others were in sports shirts. There are two formal nights each week.
The ship adds $11.50 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts. Passengers may adjust the amount. A 15 percent charge is added to all bar bills.