We were eager to experience this new build after sailing on the first Holland America Pinnacle class ship, the Koningsdam, the previous year. The Nieuw Statendam (NS) is nearly identical to the K’dam and we had a wonderful, relaxing cruise to the ABC islands of the Dutch Caribbean. The most noteworthy change for us over the K’dam was the reconfigured Crow’s Nest, where we spent many hours enjoying the views, reading in comfortable lounge chairs, playing Canasta, and drinking cappuccinos. HAL moved the shore excursions desk to the Crow’s Nest and added numerous interactive digital displays with large maps and photographs of destinations as well as information about the ship’s itinerary, location, speed, etc. There appears to be more seating in the Crow’s Nest than on the K’Dam, with more tables for playing cards and games and an overall roomier feel. There are also two large bookcases with a selection of illustrated “coffee table”-type books focusing on travel, music, fashion, and the arts, so the library that was missed by some on the K’dam has been restored to some extent. Even better, the NS has moved activities such as trivia challenges to Billboard Online so the Crow’s Next is nearly always available to those seeking a pleasant and serene environment to relax in. The other notable change is the area that housed Lincoln Center Stage on the K’Dam (which now shares the Queen’s Lounge area with the B.B. King Blues Band), is now the Rolling Stone Rock Room with a rock band. We enjoyed the classical quintet but otherwise found the entertainment unexceptional (as we do on most cruise lines so we are not singling out HAL or the NS). As usual, the food on HAL was the highlight and the service was satisfactory in all dining venues despite a significant language barrier with some of the staff in the Lido Market buffet. We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido Market buffet except for one Mariner’s Society lunch in the main dining room (which, alas, wasn’t as special as one would expect for a luncheon honoring repeat customers). Tea was served daily at 3:00 pm in the main dining and was much better than the tea served on the K’dam the previous year in the Queen’s Lounge. We had five dinners in the main dining room and the food was quite good for the most part. But by the end of the cruise we opted for the comfort and convenience of dinner in the Lido Market. The best dinner in the main dining room was an unannounced special menu one night with each dish created by a member of HAL’s Culinary Council. We also ate once in Rudi’s Sel de Mer and once in the Pinnacle Grill. I have to agree with Cruise Critic’s official reviewer that the specialty restaurants are not worth the upcharge, but I could say the same about our other go-to cruise line, Celebrity. We ate in all the specialty restaurants on K’Dam the previous year and were disappointed by all of them. We decided to give Rudi’s Sel de Mer another chance because of our fondness for Parisian brasseries, but the food, while perfectly fine, is uninspired, about which the same can be said for the Pinnacle Grill. The best thing we had in Sel de Mer was the tarte tatin for dessert. Specialty restaurants are all about charging you extra for expensive proteins like lobster, Dover sole, caviar, and dry-aged steaks, but no protein will save a dish that lacks creativity and flavor. In an effort to appeal to everyone and offend no one, they play it too safe. We were hoping the addition of David Burke items on the new Pinnacle Grill would save that experience, but the tenderloin with lobster dumplings was an epic fail. I had to search with my fork to find the pea-size morsels of lobster in the Chinese-style dumplings. (I have to take their word for it that it was lobster as it lacked any flavor). Worse, the French fries we ordered as a side arrived cold, limp, and greasy. (The no-extra-charge French fries in the Dive-In Grill by the pool are awesome.) Immediately after dinner at the Pinnacle Grill we headed to Guest Services and canceled a second reservation we had made before sailing. We enjoyed our veranda stateroom and the superlative and friendly service provided by our attendants Dede and Sius. The pleasing décor is the same as on the K’dam and the room has ample storage for clothing and other items (though bathroom storage is minimal). There is a good-size television directly opposite the bed with an excellent selection of recent movies (some still in theaters) available at no additional charge. The bathroom seemed a bit smaller than on K’dam but I don’t know if that’s faulty memory on my part. Overall, we wouldn’t hesitate to sail again on this beautiful ship.
Plenty of storage in the stateroom but not so much in the bathroom, which is tight. The water pressure in the ample glass-door shower was sufficient but not the fantastic pounding spray on the Koningsdam. The temperature of the water in the shower was also inconsistent. Hot water would suddenly become hotter or slightly cooler, but it wasn’t a huge deal. There also was not a good seal around the door to the veranda and when it was windy outside the air screamed through the gap into our room. And while the new mattresses were comfortable, my spouse and I felt that the single mattresses joined in the center to create a large queen bed both sloped slightly from the center to the sides. We had to adjust to the feeling that we were sliding toward the edge of the bed. Perhaps the worst thing about the room was that when we closed the stateroom door to go out it didn’t close tightly enough to lock itself so we literally had to slam the door (sometimes two or three times) to shut it. This wasn’t just us but our neighbors as well, so there was lots of door slamming throughout the cruise, which caused the shared walls of our stateroom to reverberate. This wasn’t a problem at night but trying to nap during the day was impossible. This is a brand-new ship and we hope HAL will address these issues as they become aware of them.
Purchased the Puerto Plata Cultural Adventure excursion. It was a nice overview of the city. The highlight was an al fresco lunch in a local restaurant, Mares Restaurant and Lounge, followed by a tour of the owner’s orchid garden and art studio/gallery. The visits to the rum factory and a local museum celebrating the life of some general were boring. But our guide, Chuck, was very good.
Half-day snorkeling trip with Woodwind Bonaire. Not a HAL excursion but Woodwind was highly recommended by someone on Cruise Critic. They know what they are doing. And the lunch they served on board after snorkeling was an unexpected treat.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Decided to skip excursions and explore Willemstad. Enjoyed the market but not much else to do there once you’ve walked around a while and the shops consist mainly of poor-quality tourist stuff. We were surprised by the number of empty, derelict businesses along the ocean. There are some more upscale shops right by the ship. We heard about some good restaurants in Willemstad but most were open only for dinner and we wanted to get back to the ship early.
Amazing, beautiful scenery. The two-person UTVs are open air without a windshield so you have to bring wrap-around sunglasses or goggles or purchase the goggles for $15 from the tour operator. The ride is very bumpy over steep hills overlooking the ocean in places. Not for the faint of heart but we loved it.View All 22 Arikok National Park Reviews