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Main dining room on Nieuw Statendam

The biggest highlight on Nieuw Statendam is the excellent musical entertainment, but there are many other great features to enjoy on the ship. We sailed on the inaugural 14-night voyage across the Atlantic which gave us time to fully experience everything that was available onboard. We also got to find out first hand how the ship handled high seas although, fortunately for us, the crossing was predominantly smooth with lovely weather. Here is our Nieuw Statendam review which includes plenty of tips for making the most of this beautiful ship. On boarding Nieuw Statendam, we immediately began to get a feel for Holland America Line’s new vision of cruising.

Quirky art work
Quirky art work on Nieuw Statendam
Nieuw Statendam art
But is it art? We thought so! This piece was one of our favourites onboard

It was certainly a change from the more traditional Noordam. Light and bright public areas incorporated avant garde artworks that were fun and thought-provoking and there were more live music venues than ever before, including a stage designed especially for rock and roll. While some Holland America traditionalists might initially miss the old world style, the many mature Holland America loyalists onboard our Transatlantic sailing were loving the new ship. If you have enjoyed the good food and excellent service on other Holland America sailings, don’t be put off by the fact this ship is a little different to the ones you may have sailed on previously. Nieuw Statendam is a fabulous ship.

Nieuw Statendam Music Walk

The Music Walk area on Deck 2 of Nieuw Statendam includes everything from a string piano quintet on Lincoln Center Stage to the hard rock tunes of the Rolling Stone Rock Room. Mixed in are the stars of the popular Holland American Line BB Kings Blues Band, plus two pianists which play simultaneously. If you’re lucky, guest bands like the swinging Tiny Little Big Band which we enjoyed listening to on our Transatlantic sailing, will also make an appearance while you’re onboard.

Band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room on Nieuw Statendam
Band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room

One thing that is evident with all the venues is the ultra high standard of musicians, all of whom are seasoned pros who know how to put on a stunning performance. The trick with the Music Walk is to try everything and not too get caught up in your usual musical tastes. Even our teenage son enjoyed the classical quintet, especially their blistering version of Stairway to Heaven. The Music Walk offers plenty of surprises so it pays to be open to the idea of giving everything a try while you’re onboard.

B.B. King Band
B.B. King Band on Nieuw Statendam

Then there is the Nieuw Statendam Rolling Stone Rock Room which keeps fans of old school rock dancing into the late hours. For regular cruisers on Holland America, the B.B. Kings Blues Club is always a favorite that will have you on the dance floor and singing the night away. Other musical offerings include two dueling grand pianos situated in Billboard Onboard. This is opposite the Rock Room and luckily next to the Billboard bar so that you can request a tune and chill with a cocktail.

Classical piano quintet
Lincoln Center

Nieuw Statendam World Stage

Along with the expanded Music Walk, you will also find more entertainment on the World Stage. This area is different from most other cruise ships in that it skips traditional Broadway-style theatre shows in favour of complex sound and light presentations. These feature a troupe of talented dancers and large digital wraparound screens. Some passengers were disappointed with the departure from traditional shows, but they seemed to be in the minority.

We also enjoyed the guest speakers and were surprised and delighted to see a departure from the typical history and destination talks featured on other ships (although these were also available on Nieuw Statendam for those who wanted them and very well received). We especially enjoyed the talks on ‘Street Art Around the World’ and ‘Pirate Radio’.  Just one more way Nieuw Statendam is looking towards the future when it comes to cruising.

Nieuw Statendam dining

Nieuw Statendam has a choice of eight dining venues. Some of these are inclusive with others having an additional charge, as is the case on most cruise lines. The quality of the dining is high as you would expect from a 5-star cruise ship and you generally get what you pay for. Having said that, there are some things to consider, particularly when it comes to cost versus value for money with some of the specialty restaurants on Nieuw Statendam. With such good quality dining available at the complimentary venues, the specialty restaurants were rather quiet on our cruise.

Lido Restaurant onboard Nieuw Statendam
Lido Restaurant onboard Nieuw Statendam

The Lido Market offers a very good complimentary buffet-style experience perfect for breakfast and lunch, although it is a little soulless in the evening for dinner. If you are dining here for breakfast, our top tip is dining in the Canaletto Restaurant area of the Lido Market. This looks more like a private dining area for suite guests during the day, perhaps due to the restaurant reservations desk at the entrance, but it’s open to everyone for breakfast and lunch.

Canaletto on Nieuw Statendam
Canaletto on Nieuw Statendam

Get there early for one of the window seats. Another ‘secret’ brekky spot is at the New York Deli & Pizza cafe. This area serves bagels, pastries and even breakfast pizza plus coffee and juices in the morning and is blissfully quiet. Lunch at New York Deli & Pizza is also a highlight but, in our opinion, the Dive In burger bar is the place not to be missed for lunch. These are the best burgers on the high seas. You can also enjoy hotdogs and fries served several different ways at this venue. 

New York Deli & Pizza on Nieuw Statendam
New York Deli & Pizza

Another lunch tip for sea days is Pinnacle Grill which serves a US$10 lunch with a limited menu. If your budget won’t stretch to the evening dining experience at Pinnacle Grill, lunch gives you the chance to experience this specialty restaurant at a fraction of the price. The main dining room on Nieuw Statendam is exceptional and combines stunning decor with an above average menu and food quality plus good service. Nieuw Statendam has some of the best main dining room fare we’ve had on any ship.

Main dining room on Nieuw Statendam
Main dining room on Nieuw Statendam

Overall the food onboard is of ultra-high quality from the main dining room to the other free dining venues and the specialties. Having experienced all the dining options during our 14 night cruise, the standout was Pan Asian fusion dining spot Tamarind Restaurant at the rear of the ship. Sel De Mer was superb but it’s easy to rack up a substantial bill due to the a la carte pricing and the fact everything on the menu sounds so delicious. Order wisely and you’ll be fine, it’s just something to keep in mind.

Nieuw Statendam Tamarind
Asian fusion at Tamarind Restaurant

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Nieuw Statendam Tamarind
Dessert at Tamarind Restaurant
Dining at Sel de Mer
Dining at Sel de Mer

Our only disappointing dinner experience was Pinnacle Grill which had some teething problems on the night we visited with incorrectly cooked steaks and order of service issues. Our main courses arrived barely a minute after we had taken the last bite of our appetisers. Even if you factor in the speedier American-style service, this was much too soon for a fine dining restaurant.

We also weren’t keen on the Dutch Café which served below average for-a-fee coffee with a side order of barista attitude. A shame as the decor was lovely. We went here a few times and never had a good experience, despite trying to be friendly to the staff. If you want good coffee and charming service, head to Explorations Café insted. This venue has fabulous views but you’ll need to head downstairs to the Dutch Cafe if you want one of their delicious (complimentary) jumbo cookies. Cookie flavours change daily; we loved the choc chip.

Nieuw Statendam Public Areas

The public areas on Nieuw Statendam are beautiful with light, bright tones and modern art works throughout. Our favourite area on the ship was the Crows Nest on Level 12 which incorporates the library and Explorations Café plus the shore excursions desk. Touch panels provide guides to destinations the ship is visiting and fun passenger quizzes which are displayed on the video screens around the lounge so everyone can see them. Think ‘What is the most remote destination you’ve ever visited?’ and other questions which passengers can answer and then view their fellow travellers’ responses. You could spend hours playing around on these touch panels.

Nieuw Statendam
Explorations Central on Nieuw Statendam

The standout feature of the Crows Nest is the 180-degree views plus the ultra comfy lounge chairs with footrests around the edge of the lounge. The trick is to get here early to grab one of these chairs or hang around at lunch time when people tend to pack up and vacate their seats. It was great to see no ‘chair hogging’ with these prime seats which were in hot demand during our cruise which included eight sea days in a row. We used noise cancelling headphones while we were in this area so we could listen to music and read. If you are like us and have trouble concentrating on a book when people are chatting around you, this is a good idea as the noise can be a bit distracting. You can always take your headphones off and leave them on the table beside you if you feel like socialising.

Some other standout public areas are Level 10 on the balcony overlooking the pool. You will find lounges that are quiet and comfortable. If you’re a smoker, the smoking area surrounding the aft pool is also fantastic with plenty of seating to choose from. This smoking area leads directly to the Lido Market which makes it perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner as there are nice tables for alfresco dining. If you are sensitive to cigarette smoke it is best to avoid this area for meals as the smoky smell is quite noticeable.

Nieuw Statendam pool deck
Below this sundeck you’ll find plenty of seating in the smoking area

Nieuw Statendam cabins

As with any cruise ship, booking the right cabin on Nieuw Statendam is essential. Perhaps surprisingly, the inside cabins are our top pick on this ship when it comes to value for money, provided you don’t mind doing without a window. With so many lovely spaces to sit and relax or spend the evening on Nieuw Statendam, there is no need to spend much time in your cabin. It was no surprise all of the inside staterooms on our Transatlantic cruise had sold out long before the sailing date.

If you’re wondering about the space in a standard balcony cabin, even with two adults and a 15 year old in our room we didn’t feel cramped. The overall inside area is generous and the modern decor and floor to ceiling balcony doors add a feeling of extra space. If you appreciate extra bang for your cruising buck, it is worth noting that balcony staterooms on Deck 4 have an extra wide balcony. However, opting for one of these balcony cabins is a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette.

Some Deck 4 balcony cabins have a solid sheet of metal as a railing instead of the usual clear balcony divider. If you don’t mind the metal sheet blocking the view, you get a lot of extra space for no extra spend. However, you probably won’t see much if you’re sitting on a chair. Our biggest surprise was the standard balcony cabin versus the vista suite which we saw during a stateroom inspection. While the vista suite was lovely it was hard to justify the cost which was almost double that of a balcony stateroom for what amounted to little more than some extra floor space.

Nieuw Statendam also has family cabins that sleep up to five but be warned they’re a very cosy fit. Unless you’re an easy going family on a port intensive itinerary, you might be better off booking adjoining cabins for you and the kids if the budget can stretch. We had a guarantee cabin and ended up in the far forward section of the ship. When we saw our cabin’s location we were concerned it might make us seasick on the Transalantic crossing which can often be quite rough. However, Nieuw Statendam handled the seas like a dream. Even when the ocean got lively during our sailing and sick bags appeared around the ship, we were comfortable in our room and didn’t notice any excess movement.

Nieuw Statendam Club Orange

Nieuw Statendam has a new dining area called Club Orange which has taken over the America’s Test Kitchen space. Club Orange has wraparound floor to ceiling glass windows. It’s a bit like a fish bowl and not very private which could make some diners uncomfortable as everyone looks inside. Club Orange is decorated more like a bistro than an exclusive dining area, and nothing like the secluded and refined premier lounge/dining areas on other cruise lines. Perhaps this was the intention for Club Orange – it is certainly different – but we aren’t convinced this area has currently got what it takes for passengers to pay $50 per person per day to access it.

Club Orange serves the same breakfast and dinner menu as the main dining room, with additional Club Orange specialty dishes prepared in the open kitchen each evening. There is a higher staff to passenger ratio in this dining area and you can get to know staff during the cruise. Suite passengers automatically get access to Club Orange as part of their cruise fare. Access was also being trialed at US$50 per person per day for non-suite passengers during our cruise but not many people seemed willing to take up the offer.

Nieuw Statendam Club Orange
Club Orange

Nieuw Statendam Spa

Nieuw Statendam has a stunning spa and extensive fitness area with shiny new gym equipment that made my muscles hurt just looking at it. There are complimentary fitness and stretch classes, plus additional classes such as pilates for a fee. Attached to the spa area is an extensive thermal area which has a hydro pool, steam room and heated lounge section. This is a pay-per-use area or you can purchase a pass that lasts the duration of the cruise.

Hydro Pool on Nieuw Statendam
Hydro Pool on Nieuw Statendam
Nieuw Statendam spa
Heated Lounges

It was virtually empty on our sailing but could be more popular on shorter voyages when the unlimited use pass which lasts for the whole voyage will be more affordable. Adjacent to the Crows Nest on Deck 12 you will find the Retreat, a pay-per-use outdoor area with shaded lounge cabanas and dedicated staff when the space is in use. The Retreat was practically deserted on our sailing due to the cool weather but will likely be a hit when the ship is in the Caribbean. If you would prefer to lounge without paying any extra, check out the Deck 12 area at the rear of the ship which has a secluded sun deck with a bar. It is a bit of a hidden secret, particularly early in the cruise when passengers are still finding their way around the ship.

Nieuw Statendam drinks

We found the wine on Nieuw Statendam to be more expensive than on other lines, particularly when we factored in the additional 15% gratuity on top of the price by the glass. We ended up skipping wine with dinner in favour of a few drinks during the Music Walk happy hour each evening. During happy hour passengers could buy one drink and get the second for $2. If you are enjoying the musical entertainment at Lincoln Center Stage during happy hour, the table service bartender can charge your drinks at happy hour prices if you ask.

We also bought two bottles of wine onboard at one of the ports and were impressed that we could pay a US$18 corkage charge per bottle and enjoy local wine from one of the destinations we visited on the cruise instead of having to bring it home. It’s a great idea being able to connect with the destinations you’re visiting in this delicious and authentic way and we really appreciated the fact that Holland America permitted it. We haven’t come across any other cruise lines which allow this.

Choose the right cruise

Holland America has traditionally been known as a line that attracts mature cruisers but this looks set to change with Nieuw Statendam. The ship’s contemporary design combined with sailings out of Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean means there will likely be many families onboard. If you would prefer to enjoy this beautiful ship without the pitter patter of little feet, book a sailing outside the American school holidays or a longer Transatlantic crossing as these seldom have many children onboard. We loved our 14 night journey across the Atlantic on Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam and would have gladly turned around and done it all again for another 14 days if we could have.

Disclosure: The writers sailed as guests of Holland America on this voyage which was also their first Transatlantic crossing.

Want more great cruise advice? Check out our tips for choosing the perfect cruise, cruising with grandchildren, cruising with tweens and cruising with kids of all ages, solo cruising, the best activities on Ovation of the Seas, doing a Transatlantic cruise with kids, cruising in Australia or Papua New Guinea, Iceland cruise tips, cruising on a megaship, scoring a bargain cruise fare, cruising the Mediterranean, making the most of a cruise ship kids club, luxury cruising with kids, and the Byron Beach Club onboard P&O Cruises. We have also reviewed Disney Wonder, Pacific Adventure, Celebrity Edge, Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, Pacific Encounter, Carnival Splendor, Voyager of the Seas, Nieuw Statendam, Viking Helgrim, Pride of America, Coral Expeditions in Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef, Celebrity Solstice, and Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.