Holland America has long been known for its excellent, comprehensive itineraries and for an expertise in Alaska cruising driven by its long history offering cruises -- and land tours -- in the state. In recent year, the line has also earned a reputation for some of the best live music in the industry.
But when Cruise Critic was invited to experience the line's romantic offerings, we have to admit to be caught off-guard. Sure, we knew the line offers vow renewals and many older couples choose to celebrate double-digit anniversaries, but we'd never have described Holland America as romantic.
Turns out romance can be carved out almost anywhere and HAL's Nieuw Statendam made it so much easier than we expected, with several secluded and intimate opportunities for couples to experience true romance on the high seas.
After a week at sea, here are just a few things we learned about finding romance on a Holland America cruise.
Just being together is the first step.
Cruising naturally brings couples together as they trade their busy home lives that often keep them apart, for a more confined space that allows them to be together. We enjoyed many quiet moments together on Nieuw Statendam, sunning by the pools, dining at a table for two or simply sipping coffee on our balcony as the sea rolled by. We shared in the excitement each time the ship slowly sidled up to a new destination, rife with an array of new adventures to be had. a romantic experience.
Look for opportunities to get away from the crowds.
It's not hard for couples to spend time together on a cruise ship, but on bigger ships, finding places to be alone -- or at least feel like it's just you and your honey -- can be a challenge. This is one area that Nieuw Statendam exceeds at with plenty of chances to get away from the rest of your shipmates. There are lovely, curved couches in various secluded recesses and getaway spots, including areas above the Lido Pool that can be curtained off. There are several restaurants with private tables for two for an intimate dinner. We particularly liked the extra-fee cabanas in the Deck 12 Retreat, which also has lounge chairs and sunbeds, along with bar service so you can toast each other.
Doing things you would never do at home makes it extra special.
Doing things that take you out of your routine, away from the day-to-day of regular life is always special and makes those experiences extra memorable. Cruising, by nature, does just that. Our one-week Caribbean itinerary has us well outside of our daily life. We scuba dived in Turks and Caicos, went canyoneering in the Dominican Republic and flew over Key West in a helicopter. And, of course, we spent every night out at dinner together at one of the many restaurants onboard, followed by concerts that ranged from chamber music in Lincoln Center Stage to Memphis blues at B.B. King's Blues Club and the decades' biggest hits at Billboard Onboard. On sea days we blended wine together and sampled whiskeys and martinis.
Make the most of sea days for "we" time.
While we had lots of fun together exploring the ports we visited, the two full days at sea included in our itinerary have been outstanding opportunities for us to reconnect. Without the option of a destination to explore on those days, we've had more time to talk, lounge about, read, talk some more, pamper ourselves with a spa treatment, throw a few dollars at a slot machine and just generally be us. As much as we love our home life -- two teen daughters, a menagerie of pets and the tribulations of a home built in 1908 -- being away from it all, with no excuse not to be together was just what we needed.
Splurging on a romance-themed package puts the icing on the cake.
Holland America offers several packages that come with a variety of romance-themed amenities. We recommend the "Just for Us" package, which comes with a dozen roses, a bottle of Champagne, a couples' aromatherapy massage, an afternoon tea served in your stateroom, an included reservation for two in a specialty restaurant, and a decadent dessert with sparkling wine served in your stateroom one night.
For couples not-yet-married, you can even do the most romantic thing all couples can do -- get married (by the ship's captain, no less); already married couples can renew their vows.