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Review: Caribbean Cruise on Holland America Nieuw Statendam

For spring break with my college kid this year we headed to the Caribbean. I’ve been on over a dozen cruises with different cruise lines and wanted to see what it was like to cruise the Caribbean with Holland America Line. They’re experts in Alaska cruises, but what is their Caribbean cruise experience like?

nieuw statendam holland america cruise ship in port

I will mention that we were cruising during peak spring break season. Our boat had many more families than I expected! I also chose this cruise because it was visiting some ports of call that I have never been to, so that might appeal to you if you’re comparing cruise options.

And a big thank you to Holland America for hosting me for this cruise – all experiences and opinions are my own based on my experience.

Our Holland Cruise Caribbean Itinerary

As I mentioned above, I was excited to have the chance to visit a few islands I haven’t been to before. Here’s what our 7-day cruise itinerary was:

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • At Sea
  • Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos
  • Amber Cove, Dominican Republic
  • At Sea
  • Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (private island)
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL

Our Ship: Nieuw Statendam

lido pool on nieuw statendam holland america cruise ship

I’ve been on the sister ship to the Nieuw Statendam when I cruised the Koningsdam on my Alaska Cruise with Holland America. So, I felt very comfortable on the ship and became oriented quickly. The ship is considered mid-sized in the industry and can accomodate 2,666 passengers (based on double occupancy).

There are 12 decks, with the main entertainment areas being on decks 2 and 3, and on 9 through 12. There are three elevator/stair sections and it’s quite easy to get around the ship. The ship is also beautifully decorated and has an upscale simplicity. I enjoy that there are many seating areas around the interior of the ship.

The Nieuw Statendam has two pools, including one that is in an atrium of sorts. It has a basketball court where many played pickleball, and a jogging track that is kind of hidden making it less congested than other ships I’ve been on.

One of our favorite features of the ship is the Crow’s Nest lounge where you’ll find lots of seating and games and puzzles, as well as a cafe bar. We spent many hours in this area! They also have an Art Center with big tables in this area and classes are offered each day.

putting together a puzzle in crows nest lounge on nieuw statendam

Lastly, there are also four main entertainment venues, the World Stage theater, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, and the Rolling Stones Lounge.

Our Room: Balcony Stateroom Nieuw Statendam

holland america cruise ship cabin

We had a balcony stateroom on the 8th floor. The cabin is pretty standard with the balconies I’ve stayed in on other ships. Our room had a queen/two twin bed split with a loveseat and desk.

There was a mini bar fridge and three drawers in the closet area. There was a small minibar area as well with glasses and an ice bucket. Plus, Holland America does provide blankets in the rooms (in a corner cabinet) that I loved using on our Alaska cruise but didn’t need on our Caribbean one.

Our balcony had two chairs and a table. And the bathroom had a nice sized shower (for a cruise ship) but limited storage. However my toiletries bag was able to fit on the slim shelf next to the sink. And there is a shelf below the sink although the space is used for the garbage can, extra TP, and feminine product disposal bags.

There was a hair dryer provided at the desk, which was at the opposite side of the room from the bathroom. And there were plug outlets provided next to the bed and at the desk. When we had the beds separated, the plug outlets on the far bed become covered with pillows from the bed.

Choosing a Cabin / Stateroom Location

view of cruise cabin on nieuw statendam

In regards to room location, we did hear rolling cart noises when we were in our room (8th floor) as the Lido Market buffet was located above us. We also over looked the life boats below our balcony and had two bumped out sections of the ship to both sides of us, making port views limited but otherwise it was an unobstructed view looking straight out.

When we sailed on the Koningsdam we stayed in a room on deck 6 in this same section of the ship (6146) and found a lot of engine noise and vibration in this area. We also heard a bit more of noise walking to our room from the other parts of the ship on deck 8 of the Nieuw Statendam as well.

The engines must be in this mid-aft area (narrow section) of the ship and the lower you are, the louder and more vibration that will be felt. If I was able to choose my cabin location on one of these Pinnacle Class ships, I would definitely avoid this area if you don’t like vibration and engine noises, especially on lower decks. I would try to book a balcony cabin in the middle or front bumped out sections of the ship.

I would also likely choose deck 7, although being on mid-aft deck 8 was convenient for the buffet, if you don’t mind being underneath the buffet and having rolling cart noises. One area I was thankful not to have a room was the front of the ship on decks 10 and 11. People will leave the sundeck pool area and pass through those room hallways to get to the elevators and I felt there was likely more foot traffic and noise outside these rooms.

Dining Options on the HAL Nieuw Statendam

salmon dish on nieuw statendam holland america dining room

There are quite a few dining options aboard the Nieuw Statendam, and they’re the same as their sister ships like the Koningsdam. The food is pretty standard for what I’ve experienced aboard other cruise lines and all-inclusive properties. The food at the specialty restaurants was certainly better than our dining room experiences.

My daughter was disappointed that there were no lobster nights in the main dining area beyond paying an additional fee. Which is getting very common with many cruise lines these days.

Something nice about Holland America is that you can choose what type of dining schedule you want. They offer a set dining time at 530 pm and 715 pm if you’re the type who enjoys dining at the same time every day. But they also have an As You Wish dining option which allows you to show up whenever you want to the dining room. If it’s during peak dining hours you might have a small wait but it’s negligible.

I will say that the portions were on the small side, which was fine with us since we never felt like we left hungry and we both appreciate not wasting food. :) There is only one main dining room for guests, unless you’re Club Orange level as those guests have a private dining room.

My biggest disappointment with the main dining room on the Nieuw Statendam (and Koningsdam) was the size and loudness of the dining room. It has two levels, but the upper level is reserved for the set-time diners, and the As You Wish diners are placed in the lower level of the dining room.

There are bussing stations mixed in with crowded tables and it’s a cacophony of noise that was an issue for me as I have sound sensitivity issues. This is something to keep in mind if you’re sensitive to loud dining spaces.

I will say that the hostesses worked their hardest to help accommodate me by finding tables towards the back and not near bussing stations, but those did come at their own expense as we felt the service was slow and neglected when seated there.

Complimentary Restaurants

These are the restaurants that are complimentary on the Nieuw Statendam. I’m happy to note that room service is included! Which is becoming less common on other mainstream cruise lines.

Dining Room

The dining room is located on decks 2 and 3 at the back of the ship. The deck 3 dining room is for the set-time diners and is open/empty in the middle with a staircase and overlook to the deck 2 dining room. The tables are pretty crowded, but they may remove some when the ship isn’t so full? As I mentioned above, we were cruising during spring break (end of March) and I believe the ship was very full.

Menus at the Dining Room vary each evening but also have a few items that are available every night. There was one evening that was a special chef curated menu and had some really upscale dishes and made that night feel different than the others.

Dress codes are not necessarily enforced, but I would say the MAJORITY of cruise guests in the dining room did dress according to the theme, i.e. Orange Night, Dressy, Casual.

Keep in mind that the Dining Room is only available for breakfast and dinner (at least on our cruise). For lunch you’ll have to go with one of the other options.

Lido Market

This is the buffet for the ship and is located on deck 9. I love that Holland America has many of the dishes served by workers and limits the amount exposure spread by public hands. However, there are no workers encouraging hand washing or sanitizer at the entry and I saw many people walk into the buffet without cleaning their hands.

Dishes vary from themed cuisines like stir fry and tacos with classics like salads, meat carving, and of course desserts. I do think that the buffet is a bit smaller than I am used to on larger ships, and overall seems to have good options but they might get repetitive over a weeklong cruise.

There are water, lemonade, and iced tea available for free and servers come to your table to serve you complimentary drinks or take your room key to get your premium beverage from the bar.

Dive-In

French fry lovers, this is a must visit for you! This burger and fry pool joint is very popular with families and Lizzy and I both fell in love with their french fries and secret sauce. The burgers were just ok.

New York Deli & Pizza

We really loved the pizzas here, they’re a great lunchtime meal. You can order one of their menu pizzas or build your own. They are thin crust pizzas. You can also get salads here, but the serving size is very small.

Room Service

breakfast room service plates on holland cruise

As I mentioned above, room service is complimentary on Holland America Line. We loved that for the mornings. Each evening a door card is placed on your bed for you to order breakfast room service if you wanted. We did it EVERY day! I also ordered coffee to come earlier as I often woke up early compared to Lizzy.

The breakfast foods were always good. We did try room service once for lunch and the food wasn’t quite as good. It seems that your food will often be delivered early sometimes, but the level of warmth varied.

Additional Charge Restaurants

If you’re looking for some variety, you might consider booking one of the specialty restaurants.

Rudi’s Sel De Mer

Seafood and French-cuisine lovers will enjoy eating here, but it is the most expensive specialty dining add-on at $55 per person.

From Holland: “Named for Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, Rudi’s Sel de Mer is an intimate brasserie featuring classic French dishes reimagined with contemporary flair. Menu selections include whole Dover sole meunière with shaved pink Himalayan sea salt, oysters on the half shell, fruits de mer, and salt-crust baked branzino, as well as favorites such as steak frites, duck cassoulet and coq au vin.”

Pinnacle Grill

Looking for a steakhouse? Pinnacle Grill is where you’ll want to go, plus they have a lower priced lunch option! Dinner is $46 per person and lunch is $19 per person.

“Pinnacle Grill is the ultimate steakhouse at sea, where an exceptional menu and impeccable service make for one of finest meals you’ll ever have. The refined menu features a selection of 28-day wet-aged USDA Prime steaks — meticulously chosen to guarantee the finest quality — as well as classic steakhouse dishes and innovative recipes.”

Nami Sushi

Book an earlier dinner appointment here if you want to eat with a view as this restaurant is situated at the back of the ship next to Tamarind. The menu is al a carte and you can expect to spend about $5 to $15 for rolls and plates.

“Nami Sushi offers a tempting array of the sushi rolls he’s created. Choose from such delectable selections as Tempura Lobster Roll with soft shell crab tempura; Dragon Roll with tempura shrimp, unagi sauce and avocado; Tsutsumi Roll with snapper, green olive, caper and avocado; Futomoki Roll with crab, yamagobo, avocado and cucumber; Volcano Roll with sesame-marinated salmon and Thai chilis; Nigiri sushi with tuna, salmon and ebi shrimp; and more.”

Tamarind

Nami Sushi is part of the Tamarind restaurant that sits on deck 10 at the back of the ship. Tamarind does have it’s own menu and is a $35 per person upcharge.

“The sensuous flavors of the Far East await at Tamarind. In this serenely elegant setting, dine on such exotic fare as wok-seared lobster and sushi created from the highest-quality seafood.”

Canaletto

On my most recent cruise we did pay to eat at Canaletto, which is an Italian-inspired menu. The cost is $25 per person, one of the most affordable specialty options. The restaurant is located inside the Lido Market buffet and can offer a fabulous view of sunset if you time your reservation right!

“In Italy, there’s nothing more important than coming together to celebrate the joy of great food. This is the inspiration for our onboard Italian restaurant, Canaletto. Enjoy amazing Italian classics like braised chicken cacciatore al forno, branzino ai ferri or garlic shrimp ravioli. And for dessert: tiramisù, cannoli alla Siciliana, gelato, and more. Including pasta made fresh daily. Buon Appetito!”

Grand Dutch Cafe

grand dutch cafe on holland america cruise ship

For coffee lovers, your beverage package will include drinks like coffee and beer here otherwise they are an added cost. You’ll also find yummy pastry treats here that are complimentary.

Gelato

For a small $3 charge you can enjoy some fresh gelato while aboard.

Club Orange Dining Room

Club Orange is an elevated booking option that grants you various luxury services while onboard, like room upgrades and priority embarkation. But you’ll also have access to the small, private Club Orange Dining Room.

Entertainment & Activities

Entertainment Shows

show on world stage on holland america

In my opinion, Holland America Line does put an emphasis on live music. There are four main entertainment venues, and three of them focus on music.

For the World Stage shows, I have to admit to being underwhelmed. On our Alaska cruise we had two nights of a fabulous BBC nature instrumental documentary. But for the Caribbean cruise, it was a couple of stage shows and a comedian and we honestly left early from all of them.

Instead of the World Stage we started spending our evenings at the Billboard Onboard Piano Bar. Here two pianists played and sang popular cover songs every evening, and their shows alternated perfectly with the Rolling Stone Lounge across the way where rock music covers were played.

piano players at billboard onboard on nieuw statendam

B.B. King’s Blues Club is the other music venue that was the largest one and featured various activities and entertainment during the cruise.

Our Caribbean Shore Excursions

One of the things I’ve noticed most about cruising with HAL is that they price their shore excursions well. Compared to other lines, I feel like they have very little markup on some of the premium excursions.

Nassau, Bahamas

sea view pool on back of nieuw statendam cruise ship
If you skip a port of call, you’ll find the pools less busy!

We stayed onboard and had pre-booked spa appointments – if you book in advance you get a discount. In the past when our girls were younger, we’ve done excursions to Atlantis, which is a big hotel waterpark.

The Bahamas is also famous for the swimming pigs, however the famous Rose Island spot for this is too far from Nassau. Skipping going ashore also offers the best chance to find the pools less busy.

There is currently a US travel advisory for Nassau, so if you’re cruising there and planning to go ashore, be alert to your surroundings and consider booking your excursions directly with the cruise for an added level of safety.

Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

driving a mini electric hummer convertible on grand turk cruise excursion

For this island, we booked a mini electric hummer excursion. We were given a brief tutorial to the vehicle and then played a game of follow the leader around some of the roads of Grand Turk. We pulled over halfway at their “downtown” which was a very limited main street area for shopping.

Our next stop was supposed to be for a wildlife interaction which turned out to be a roadside stop where some locals had a fountain of sorts where they kept sea creatures like urchin, conch, and sea cucumbers to take out and show our group. It was cool to see the animals but just know it’s similar to a zoo experience. Then we all hopped back in the cars to head back to the ship.

While we loved our mini hummer experience, the beaches at Grand Turk looked great. It appeared that there was ample beach space with chair rentals just to the left of the cruise ship dock. I would have likely preferred to visit the beach on this stop as the water was gorgeous and the beaches looked nice. We did our beach day at Amber Cove, DR, which I’ll talk about below.

grand turk beach by cruise port

Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

amber cove beach getaway cruise excursion beach and chairs

We booked the All-Inclusive Amber Cove Beach Getaway, and I have a mixed opinion about the experience. You’ll be loaded onto busses from the cruise port and make your way to the resort. TIP: try to be on the first bus as you’ll get first pick of beach chairs. You’ll also be with people who didn’t book the all-inclusive package option and you can upgrade to all-inclusive at check in or on the bus.

When we arrived we immediately headed towards the beach chairs. The location is on a tip of a bay and the water was a bit rough plus we were told not to swim due to riptides and undertows. I’m not sure if it was just due to bad weather or if this is common place as the location is not on a smooth straight section of beach.

With our all-inclusive package, we had a server who introduced himself and checked on us regularly to bring us drinks. We had an umbrella that covered some parts of our chair but definitely had hot sun and we both ended up with some sunburns on our shoulders and my feet!

The service was fabulous at the resort and our package included the lunch time buffet which was actually pretty good food. The resort also had security watching out for us and when my daughter was past the sign, they asked us to come back. So while we never felt unsafe being there, it is something to be mindful of.

If I could do it again, I’d do a beach day at Grand Turk and on the private island and choose a different type of excursion for Amber Cove, DR.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (private island)

half moon cay private island view from cruise ship

We had booked a clamshell beach chair rental for Holland’s private island of Half Moon Cay, but due to our sunburns from Amber Cove we chose to stay out of the sun and skipped the island. Which I sort of regret!

You do have to tender onto the island from the ship, which I never enjoy. But the island looked absolutely beautiful with turquoise waters and sandy beaches. I wish we didn’t have our sunburns because this would have likely been the best beach day of our trip. Something to note, there is food on the island but your drink package does NOT apply on the island.

Spa

Before I get into my spa review, I want to mention that to my knowledge, all cruise spas are run by a third-party company. So my experience isn’t reflective of the Holland America Line, but does reflect what our spa experience was like.

I prebooked a massage and facial for Lizzy and I for our day when we were stopped in Nassau. We’ve visited Nassau before on a cruise stop and felt since we would be dealing with a 3-hour time change, it would be best to avoid an early morning wake up our first day of the cruise. When you prebook a spa service you’re also given a 20% discount on most services.

Lizzy enjoyed her massage, but I was not impressed with my facial. My facial was booked for 50 minutes. 10 minutes of the start of the facial was spent talking about why I should upgrade my facial to the machine facial.

I finally agreed for an additional $30 charge. My facial was fine but nothing to rave about, and at the end of my appointment I was left with cotton pads on my eyes for 5 minutes while my esthetician wrote up a paper and gathered Elemis products. Which she then proceeded to try and sell me at a “package” deal for another 5 minutes. I said no and she left me to get dressed and bring me a water.

When I left, I checked my phone and I had been in the room for 50 minutes, so my facial was actually only about 30 minutes of actual hands-on treatment on my face. I left feeling disappointed and unhappy, the opposite of relaxed and rejuvenated.

It’s good to know the spa is operated by a separate company and they are contract workers for the cruise lines. I’ve heard from others before about this heavy sales tactic and while I’ve been offered simple upgrades before for say a special eye cream or aromatherapy for a massage, this was the first time I was sold so hard and that it took a significant about of time away from my treatment.

There is also a Thermal Suite in the spa which is an additional fee. Our first day aboard we toured the suite which includes a pool with water therapy jets, a steam room, sauna, and heated relaxing benches. You can pay $49 for a day use for the thermal suite or at the beginning of the cruise we were offered a rate of $189 for access the entire week of the cruise.

Kids Clubs

While we didn’t need a kid’s club for either of my Holland cruises, I wanted to note that they do have kid’s clubs. There are three main club groups by age: kids 3 to 6, kids and tweens 7 to 12, and teen program for 13-17. From what I could tell, kids club activities only happen during the daytime hours, so you can’t rely on kids club as a babysitting service for a couples dinner.

What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

printable cruise packing list overlay over cruise ship deck with sunset over the ocean horizon

You’ll want to read my cruise packing list post and get my free printable. But a couple of things I want to emphasize to bring (plus I have to make sure they’re on my packing list):

  • Hanging organizers – we’ve always used a shoe organizer for cruising but with only two of us, these smaller hanging organizers were amazing for keeping clutter in our cabin in check. And they’re easy to pack along with some magnetic hooks for hanging on the cabin walls.
  • Aloe – I mentioned we got sunburns and unfortunately I didn’t pack aloe and the onboard shop only had a full-size bottle for $21, that was too much in my opinion and wouldn’t be carry-on allowed.
  • Frisbee – if you’re traveling with teens, or even as a couple and you’re planning some beach days, pack one of these lightweight frisbees. We would have loved to have one of these while on the beach.
  • Sun hat – I brought a ball cap which worked well for the sun and can give a cute casual look, plus it’s easy to pack. BUT, if you’re planning a lot of beach days, I’d recommend a packable beach hat and perhaps one that has no brim on the back for lounging in beach chairs.
  • Phone lanyard – when you’re on the cruise ship you don’t really need to carry a purse, but it is nice to have your phone handy and you’re not always wearing something with pockets. A phone lanyard with a little pouch is extremely useful onboard and on excursions. It also helps you get those over-the-edge ocean shots without worrying about dropping your phone!

    I recommend the Bandolier brand or save some money and support a women-owned small business with one from Save the Girls which is what I used on my cruise.
  • Beach bag – I brought a tote bag, but forgot how it’s nicer to have a sand & water proof bag. Aloha bags are the best and perfect for cruises plus they come in lots of great prints, but you could save some money with a generic waterproof beach bag.

Final Thoughts from our Caribbean Cruise with HAL

I think Holland America offers cruisers the chance to save a little money on a mid-size cruise ship while still enjoying ships that are in nice condition and have an upscale decor.

They also have some unique itineraries for ports you might not have been on before that they can access easier because of their slightly smaller size. And for Alaska, they are the OG (aka Original) and have the best contracts and port docks for cruising to the 49th state.

If you’re comparing cruise lines, know that with Holland you’ll get a mid-ship experience with fewer guests and well priced shore excursions. However, if you’re searching for a large variety of onboard activities and high-end entertainment, you may want to go with a larger ship on a different line.

collage for pinterest of nieuw statendam cruise review

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Tuesday 14th of May 2024

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