Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam is the cruise ship for music and food lovers

Nieuw Statendam - Holland America LineIt’s a blue-sky December day as we drive past the fishing boats and ancient Roman wall to the old fortress that guards Civitavecchia’s cruise terminal, where Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam is waiting.

This is her inaugural voyage from Italy through the Mediterranean across the Atlantic to America. She will spend winter based in Florida’s Fort Lauderdale cruising the Caribbean, before returning to Europe in May to homeport in Amsterdam for the summer.

The 2,666-passenger Nieuw Statendam, like her sister ship Koningsdam, retains a classic ship shape; the familiar inky-black prow a link to cruising’s glory days. But she’s also full of modern comforts – most importantly in the staterooms. Seventy per cent of these have balconies and all cabins – inside or out – have a good-size bathroom with a glass-cubicle shower, a large TV showing free films and a Mariner’s Dream bed that comes as a queen-size double or twin singles.

Nieuw Statendam StateroomHolland America Line attracts a broad range of passengers, from families to 50-plus couples and singles so there are 12 Ocean View Staterooms for solo passengers and Family Ocean View cabins that sleep five and have two bathrooms (one with a bath, the other a shower) plus inter-connecting cabins throughout the ship for multi-generation groups.

Passengers with mobility problems can choose from 13 ambulatory accessible staterooms with easy-access showers and 27 accessible staterooms for those in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. These have roll-in showers and space to turn.

Patient lifts and other mobility aids are available and guide dogs are allowed – there’s a magnificent big standard poodle on board during my trip – and those hard of hearing can get assistance with gizmos such as portable receivers in the show lounges.

Nieuw Statendam dueling pianosHAL is positioning itself as the go-to cruise line for musical entertainment and foodie fulfilment so if you like music you’ll love Nieuw Statendam.

I’m bowled over on the first night by the band in BB King’s Club – the original club in Memphis hand-picks all the entertainers – and amazed by the non-stop music of the dueling pianos in the Billboard Onboard bar next to Rock Room – HAL’s new rock n roll live music collaboration with Rolling Stone magazine. There’s also a quartet performing at Lincoln Center Stage, again provided by the original (Lincoln Center in New York) and HAL is replacing mediocre cruise ship musicals with Step One Dance Company and Post Modern Jukebox performances.

The other Nieuw Statendam debut is The Orange Club, a $50 per person per day restaurant (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for anybody wanting intimate dining and concierge-style benefits without having to book a suite (its free for suite guests).

Nieuw Statendam main dining roomThat first night we eat at Rudi’s Sel De Mer, an intimate a la carte paid-for restaurant where the Dover Sole is a speciality. It’s next to the equally delicious Pinnacle Grill, which has a $35 cover charge for steaks as big as your plate.

The other speciality restaurants are the sophisticated oriental-fusion Tamarind and Nami Sushi restaurant at $25 each, while the charming Canaletto Italian is $15. But most people will use the waiter-served main restaurant, a two-deck cream and yellow-themed dining room flooding with natural light during the day that takes on a warm glow at night.

The complimentary Lido Market buffet restaurant has been split into several serving sections to reduce queuing and the food on offer reflects the itinerary – it’s mostly Mediterranean on our sailing. But for lunch I’ve been tipped off about the made-to-order veggie burgers from the free Dive-In kiosk beside the larger of the two pools.

Nieuw Statendam Lido Market self-serve buffetI bag a seat in the complimentary New York Deli and Pizza restaurant on the Lido Balcony overlooking the pool and sit in the sun under the retractable glass roof, summoning a wine waiter with a table buzzer – a system also debuting on Nieuw Statendam.

There’s free tea and coffee in the Lido Market but it’s worth paying for proper coffee in the Grand Dutch Café near Deck 3’s shops, which are to offer products selected by the ship’s godmother Oprah Winfrey.

As a mid-size ship Nieuw Statendam is not so much a floating resort as a moving upmarket hotel, so the gym is state-of-the-art and The Greenhouse Spa restful – especially the hydrotherapy pool filled with mineral water beside the sauna and steam rooms. There’s also $4million of original art work around the ship with an Art Gallery shop that’s refreshingly interesting and affordable, unlike those on most ships.

Nieuw Statendam main pool with retractable roofFirst stop on this cruise is Cartagena in Spain and after meeting at the World Stage theatre for my excursion I’m directed to the gangway, which is wide enough for most wheelchairs and scooters and has staff to help out. The 50-something guide in Cartagena is passionate about its Roman ruins – a theatre, wall and forum – as well as the economic woes now facing his home town.

As I leave the ship at Malaga the next day and wave goodbye to passengers heading for their Atlantic crossing, it’s this authentic insight into another culture that stays with me.

That and the ease of discovering the world by cruise ship.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Holland America Line.

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Deborah Stone

Travel writer & journalist

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