TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
FORT LAUDERDALE — The 2,666-passenger Nieuw Statendam, second in the Pinnacle Class line after 2016’s Koningsdam, is Holland America Line’s newest, largest and most modern vessel to date.
On a seven-day voyage through the eastern Caribbean in January 2019, Travelweek discovered why the ship is also making waves as the fleet’s most luxurious ship.
Taking on the role of ship godmother for her first time this past weekend was none other than Oprah Winfrey, who presided over the new ship’s gala celebration and who celebrated Nieuw Statendam’s inaugural cruise by hosting a sold-out three-day ‘Girls’ Getaway’.
Holland America Line’s partnership with Oprah Magazine continues onboard through its programming which includes workshops, morning meditation and book clubs.
As Travelweek found out on a January 2019 sailing on Nieuw Statendam, though many of the preferred features from Koningsdam have been carried over, there are a few subtle differences between the two sister ships that reflect the ongoing evolution of the Holland America experience.
The Nieuw Statendam features eight additional cabins bringing the total stateroom count to 1,339, while a redesign of the ship’s ocean-view family cabins provides more living space. Fan favourites including cabins for solo travellers, the two-tier Lido Deck with outdoor movie screen, Blend wine-making venue, and a compressive kids’ club are back, as is an expanded and interactive Explorations Central & Café.
Music and art continue to influence the Pinnacle Class in bold ways. Nieuw Statendam’s curated collection of art by ArtLink includes 2,000 pieces and is the largest collection to grace any of Holland America’s ships, quickly turning it into a topic of conversation among guests.
The multi-venue ‘Music Walk’ hits all the notes. “The Pinnacle Class fleet is the only one to feature all four of HAL’s open lounge music venues,” says Vice President of Entertainment & Enrichment, Bill Prince.
Lincoln Center Stage and B.B. King’s Blues Club (which share the same stage), Billboard Onboard, and the Rolling Stone Rock Room – the line’s newest venue, developed in partnership with Rolling Stone – will have guests singing and dancing the night away.
“Music Walk has changed the entire dynamic of how the ship works and has become more of an overall concept,” added Prince. With various combinations of these clubs slated to appear fleet-wide over the next couple of years and more guests on the floor exploring other venues, the World Stage is shifting its focus towards partnerships with touring units such as Step One Dance Company and the internet phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, that are also attracting younger guests.
A noticeable difference between the sister ships is the change to the Culinary Arts Center. “We’ve found that America’s Test Kitchen is a bigger success now that we have moved it to the World Stage,” says Prince. “We can accommodate a larger audience and give them the full TV show experience in a way we could not in the Culinary Arts Center.”
The World Stage boasts an additional 100 seats holding a total of 800 passengers.
The new Club Orange restaurant, which replaces the Culinary Arts Center, is a private dining venue for breakfast and lunch, offering an expanded menu to suite-class passengers and a limited number of guests who pay the US$50 per person per day up-charge for the full Club Orange premium experience.
Club Orange is slated to roll out across the fleet throughout 2019. Some other perks include priority boarding and tendering, deluxe room service menu at breakfast and a dedicated concierge.
Nieuw Statendam takes luxury dining at sea to new horizons with over a dozen venues, including five speciality restaurants that appeal to cruisers with a finer palate. Rudi’s Sel de Mer has a permanent home onboard; Tamarind became the first restaurant in Holland America’s history to offer alfresco dining and has added a space for the brand new Nami Sushi Bar; the Lido Market is no longer self-serve to provide guests with a first-rate dining experience throughout.
Wine connoisseurs will celebrate the ship’s new wine list that has been restructured and recategorized by James Suckling, one of the world’s most influential wine critics. While over at the Ocean Bar, guests can savour a seafaring selection of cocktails created by one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts, Dale DeGroff.
“There are new technological advances as well,” says Hotel Director, Don Habets. “We have faster Internet, a new version of tablets in the dining rooms, a descending sphered dome in the World Stage, a call button at tables in the Lido Market, and there is a new interface for TV and video-on-demand.”
With the majority of cruisers booking their cruises through a travel agent, cruises remain a lucrative business and the 99,500-ton Nieuw Statendam is one of the year’s most anticipated additions.
The ship will spend its inaugural season on roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruises to the western and eastern Caribbean that will include a stop at Half Moon Cay. Come April, the ship will reposition to Europe sailing Norway and the Mediterranean, before returning to the Caribbean in October.
Agents can also keep an eye out for the third and final Pinnacle Class ship to debut in 2021.