Tourism & Cruises

Traditionalists won’t recognize this historic cruise line — and that’s the idea

The atrium aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam features a geometric stainless steel sculpture — part of the new ship’s $4.1 million art collection.
The atrium aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam features a geometric stainless steel sculpture — part of the new ship’s $4.1 million art collection.

There’s no way to be certain which artworks on Holland America’s new Nieuw Statendam will draw the most attention.

Is it the clear plexiglass, 4-foot-tall statue of David, a copy of Michelangelo’s masterwork with a cellphone in his lowered arm? Or is it the collection of everyday objects — a camera, eyeglasses, high heels, scissors — that are snugly wrapped in bright cloth covered in embroidery?

Might it be the Day-Glo-colored, standing electric guitar that seems to be melting at the base (even though it is made from nonflammable flooring materials used on the ship?) Or could passengers’ favorite be the massive but delicately curved bands of stainless steel reaching through the three-story atrium and reflecting the changing colors in the overhead lighting panels?

These and the other 100-plus works by the 63 emerging artists throughout the ship’s public spaces were created to visualize “the themes of fashion, art history and music and how they are depicted or adopted by other media,” said Tai Danai, founder of the firm ArtLink.

The plexiglass statue of David aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam replicates Michelangelo’s masterwork, but with a twist: he’s holding a cellphone in his lowered arm. Robert N. Jenkins

Total value of the art collection aboard the 2,666-passenger Nieuw Statendam: $4.1 million.

Nieuw — new — is right. This is not its 1993 namesake, nor the four other ships that have carried the Statendam name since 1898. Gone are Asian inlaid furniture, cloisonne keepsakes and delicately painted screens recalling the Dutch days as traders with the Far East.

“Those original artifacts are being phased out,’‘ said Jerrol Golden, deputy director of international public relations. “We need to change and update the ships.”

Gone, too, are stage shows, musical reviews and condensed Broadway plays. They’ve been replaced with solo acts including comedians, musicians and magicians.

And along a central corridor dubbed the Music Walk are three anything-but-sedate lounges: Billboard Onboard, home to dueling pianos featuring sing-alongs with pop faves by the likes of Billy Joel and Elton John; the Rolling Stone Rock Room, where a five-piece band plays chart-busting hits in honor of the iconic magazine; and B.B. King’s Blues Club, home to Motown and R&B favorites. When the eight-piece band and singers aren’t playing the blues, the room is transformed into the Lincoln Center Stage for chamber music.

The BB King Blues bar aboard Holland America ships features Motown sounds and R&B. Holland America

Some of Holland America’s veteran passengers may not like the changes, she says. But for them, there are still regular performances by a classical pianist, guest soloists and a chamber music quintet — though its repertoire includes an album-length version of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

The music venues and bold art displays are designed to attract younger guests. For decades, Holland America’s average passenger age was in the upper 50s. It’s programs were determinedly decorous, with longer itineraries aimed at retirees.

But in the past couple of years, the line has sought out younger (and younger-minded) travelers looking for more experiential vacations. In 2014, Orlando Ashford joined Holland America as CEO. In the years since, the company has added lively music clubs, new culinary venues, cooking demonstrations and tastings of wine and whiskey. Tour options now include physically active adventures like kayaking, horseback rides and mine and cave tours, along with cultural excursions to UNESCO World Heritage sites, monasteries and wineries.

It’s new Explorations Central (EXC) has created tours for deeper learning, including presentations on history and culture. And on some voyages, EXC also offers lectures on relevant topics such as a region’s contemporary art, city history and local music.

For passengers who simply want to relax, Nieuw Amsterdan boasts a spa with saunas and a hydrotherapy pool. The pool deck features curtained-off cubicles on the pool deck, sofa-sized vinyl-covered lounges facing the pool and private cabanas with waiter service. By night, the pool deck becomes an outdoor movie venue, where popcorn is free and films (black-and-white classics and recent features) play on a giant screen.

Like other newer HAL ships, Nieuw Statendam features a range of specialty restaurants and refreshed menus in the standard dining areas.

The refined Pinnacle Grille ($35 a person surcharge at dinner, $10 at lunch) boasts a menu chosen by Chicago steakhouse impresario David Burke. At Rudi’s Sel de Mer, created by Miami chef Rudi Sodamin, a la carte diners can indulge in salt-crust baked branzino, cheese souffle and duck cassolet while gazing at the chef’s visage in a wall-length mural painted by Sodamin’s son. (There’s also a Rudi bobble-head in the front window.)

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Sel de Mer, one of the specialty restaurants aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam, features French cuisine and seafood dishes created by Miami chef Rudi Sodamin. Robert N. Jenkins

The exquisite Asian cuisine restaurant Tamarind ($25 dinner) has a junior sibling, Nami Sushi, so intimate its lobby alcove has a fainting couch. Elevated by décor and side panels that define its space from the adjacent corridor, Italian specialty restaurant Canaletto ($15) offers garlic shrimp ravioli, seafood paella and braised chicken cacciatore al forno.

Exclusive to Nieuw Statendam is Club Orange. For $50 per person per day, passengers can have breakfast and lunch in this private, 74-seat dining room, use a dedicated line at guest services and receive priority for shore excursions and embarkation. Club Orange — name for the Netherlands’ national color — is being tested on this newest HAL ship.

While Tamarind and Nami Sushi are tucked discreetly away on an upper deck, the ship’s three other specialty restaurants are set on major traffic ways through the vessel. Decorated glass walls separate passersby and diners, providing some degree of privacy while also sometimes making them the objects of curiosity. Diners nearest the exterior walls may feel a bit like fish in an aquarium.

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The main dining room aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, which debuted in December 2018. Robert N. Jenkins

With 1,339 cabins, Nieuw Statendam is Holland America’s largest ship, boasting eight cabins more than its closest sister ship. On Nieuw Statendam they include 32 family cabins for two adults and three children (a bed descends from the ceiling) — a new option for HAL. With two bathrooms, the suites are suitable for grandparents, though they do not have a verandah and can feel snug. The cabins start at $937 per person for a seven-night Western Caribbean voyage in March — less than the slightly larger Verandah class.

The most-spacious category of cabins are the 45 concierge-level Neptune suites, which range in size from 465 to a relatively huge 855 square feet. These suites have exclusive access to the mid-ship Neptune Lounge, larger than on previous ships and in lighter colors. The lounge has a library, work tables, complimentary refreshments and also alcoholic beverages for a fee.

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More than 100 artworks by emerging artists aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam give the ship a fresh, contemporary feel. Robert N. Jenkins

But standard staterooms also come with the conveniences required by a digital world: bedside USB ports, numerous electrical sockets for recharging electronic devices, video-on-demand for the flat-panel TVs and a mini-fridge. Guests can also order room service and reserve shore excursions through the interactive TV.

All the cabins have at least one artwork inspired by music. Corridors continue the theme with ceiling-to-floor photos of old microphones, a single ear bud, a needle in the groove of a record — an orchestra’s worth of music for the eyes.

Robert N. Jenkins is former travel editor of the Tampa Bay Times.


Line: Holland America

Launched: Late 2018

Capacity: 2,666 passengers double occupancy

Size: 983.6 feet long, 99,836 gross registered tons

Itinerary: The ship is in Europe until late October 2019, when it will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for six month of Caribbean cruises, then head to Amsterdam in April 2020 and spend the summer in northern Europe.

Class: Nieuw Statendam is the second of Holland America’s Pinnacle-class ships. The first, Koningsdam, returns to Fort Lauderdale in November for Caribbean cruises, then in March travels around South America and up the West Coast to Alaska, then to San Diego in fall of 2020 for six months of cruises to Mexico and Hawaii. A third, Ryndam, is expected to be delivered in May 2021.