Nieuw Amsterdam Entertainment
Much of the action onboard takes place on decks 2 and 3, between entrances to the Showroom at the bow and Manhattan at the aft. On these decks, you'll find bars, lounges, the casino, a 36-seat cinema and rooms for culinary and computer classes. Deck 11 is home to our favorite bar, the Silk Den, which offers a great view of the sea from curtained booths, all in a swanky, dimly lit setting.
If you want to learn about cooking, entertaining, technology or health, this is the ship for you. Holland America provides opportunities for classes in its Culinary Arts Center, built like the set of a television show and presented by Food & Wine magazine. There are also free photo (operating your camera, editing photos, etc.) and computer classes at the Digital Workshop, in partnership with Microsoft. Most enrichment programs take place during the day and are free, with the exceptions of food classes with alcohol and some sessions at the Greenhouse Spa.
At night, the three-deck 890-seat Showroom at Sea presents Las Vegas-style production shows and guest performers, including vocalists, comedians and illusionists. The Holland America dancers and performers are some of the best we've seen at sea.
The casino on Deck 2, with the usual game tables and slot machines, is often packed.
The ship's multiple lounges -- the Queen's Lounge, Ocean Bar, Piano Bar, Explorer's Lounge, Crow's Nest and Northern Lights -- are full of opportunities to play games (perhaps trivia or Liar's Club), listen to music (everything from Motown to classical) and dance. The Queen's Lounge is also where live sports can be enjoyed throughout the day and where the ship's house band performs. Five nights a week, the venue hosts the talented B.B. King's Blues Club band from the renowned Memphis club. The Ocean Bar is packed before dinner, the Piano Bar later in the evening. On some late nights on our cruise, the Northern Lights disco was abuzz; on other nights, it was empty.
Holland America offers a variety of shore excursions, ranging from low-key motorcoach tours to semiactive walking tours and more adventurous options like kayaking and snorkeling. One nice touch is an emphasis on port history in almost all of the ship's excursions.
Nieuw Amsterdam Public Rooms
The ship pays homage to its name with subtle nods to New York in some of the ship's major public rooms. The most obvious example is in the atrium; from Deck 1, passengers can see the impressive Manhattan skyline sculpture that hangs upside down, and from Deck 3, they can see a mirror image, the same sculpture pointed skyward. More subtle design elements include the "Big Apple" red Manhattan Dining Room and framed vintage photographs of New York City throughout the corridors.
The shore excursion and reception desks are located on Deck 1. Deck 2 houses the art gallery, and Deck 3 is home to the photo gallery, meeting rooms and shops that sell souvenirs, jewelry and typical cruise clothing.
Deck 11 is where you'll find the Crow's Nest and Explorations Cafe, which combines a coffee house (drinks for a fee), computers for surfing the Web, a card room and library. Internet costs $0.75 per minute for a pay-as-you-go plan, or $55 for 100 minutes, $100 for 250 minutes, $175 for 500 minutes or $250 for 1,000 minutes. There is a $3.95 activation fee, and printing is available at the workstations for $0.25 per page.
There is no self-service laundry onboard.
Our only gripe (and this is a stretch) on this ship was the smell of cigarette smoke in various bathrooms, where it's not allowed. It wasn't a one-time thing, and we wish the line would do more to enforce its smoking policies.
Nieuw Amsterdam Spa & Fitness
Once you climb to Deck 9, you might want to stay for the day. It's home to the Greenhouse Spa, the main midship Lido pool and three hot tubs, which can all be covered by a retractable magrodome roof in inclement weather. It's also home to the Sea View Bar and adults-only pool (with two hot tubs) at the aft. The adults-only pool area is a nice retreat for digesting after breakfast or lunch in the adjacent Lido Buffet, and we never had a hard time finding chairs.
For privacy, curtained cabanas line one windowed wall of the Lido. They each contain a chaise lounge for two and small table. They can be rented for $30 for the day when the ship is in port or $50 on sea days. The price includes beverage and lunch services, as well as iPods uploaded with music. More exclusive are the cabanas in the private Cabana Club, which overlooks the Lido Deck from Deck 11. These are large open-air tents that are furnished like living rooms with dining tables. Available by the day or by the week, they tend to be booked up before the cruise at $45 to $115 per day, depending on size. Corner units are the largest.
The Greenhouse Spa & Salon offers all the usual services, such as massages, facials and pedicures. Its relaxation room is a treat, with a quiet view of the sea -- reason enough to come early for your massage and leave late. It also offers a thermal suite, hydro pool and sauna. Single visits to the hydro pool and thermal suite costs $20 each, while passes for the duration of the sailing are $99 each. The thermal suite also offers a couple's pass for $150. The adjacent fitness center, which features cardio machines and free weights, offers sunrise stretches each morning at 7 a.m. Many of the fitness classes are free. A few -- yoga, Pilates, spinning -- cost $12.
Volleyball and basketball courts can be found on Deck 11. The outside promenade on Deck 3 is perfect for a brisk walk or jog, as it's fairly wide and goes all the way around the ship.