In Fifty Clicks, Seven Nights Cruising The Caribbean Onboard Holland America's Nieuw Statendam
I've been sitting here long enough in the privacy of our stateroom balcony to witness the inky night sky fully hand over to a warm, sunny, Caribbean morning. Dawn.
My bare feet accept the caress of an easy breeze, the same way the hem of my robe agrees to billow in it.
Onboard, it appears no one else is as wakeful, seeing how empty of life it is leaning over the balcony, looking from stern to bow, top to bottom of Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam. Though I know no one would bat an eye, should I call room service to add piña colada number three to number two from last night? No one but myself or Mr PWT next to me.
Just what a balcony is for.
A cruise on Holland America Line's (HAL) Nieuw Statendam is no start to the end of the cruise party scene. If you have been following my current work in production, you'll know what I mean. If not, then click on that link to check it out. Want to drive bumper cars, zip line across the ship, have robots make your drink? Then you're looking for an activity cruise, and that's not this ship or cruise line. With its clientele more emptied nesters than the ticktock flock, this cruise is more about the ports of call, lounging around the pools, catching a show or two in the evenings and of course, dinners in the main dining room with all your newfound friends.
Nieuw Statendam is twelve decks high, ten eateries stocked, sailing half full on a seven-night cruise around the southern Caribbean. Her passengers, mostly from the US. There's a kids club on board too, though sightings of kids were like snowdrops in the summer. Nieuw Statendam is a four-year-old ship, and her very well maintained spaces reflect this.
Already one night into the seven, we'd eaten brunch, lunch, snack, and pre-dinner treats, all before the ship set sail out of Fort Lauderdale.
Our exercise, a walk through the gym, a lay down in the spa, our respite.
But as opposed to telling you about our Caribbean cruise, here it is in just a few photos (fifty plus) of the near thousand we took.
On the outside, she's a head-turner for her classic, timeless lines.
Inside, no one space overly calls out for attention. However, the art pieces in the stairwells and elevator lobbies garner many conversations.
See that Starry Night on the right? It's all recycled toys.
Where We Ate
It is the biggest decision we made on any day. That and whether or not to attend the Bill Withers Appreciation Society Meet Up. It's fair to say we never made it to the meetups as deciding which of the ten bars, restaurants, cafés and speciality diners to choose from, always 'ate' into our time.
We recommend Tamarind (a speciality restaurant) for an elegant and romantic dinner, a special celebration. Nami Sushi (another speciality restaurant) for glamorous sushi dining and generous portions that leave you presidentially stuffed. The Explorer Cafe for a quiet afternoon of reading or playing board games to find out just how competitive your other half is.
A Dining Tip: Reserve your table in Tamarind early doors. It books up quickly.
What We Ate
With steak available at breakfast, a side of bacon to go with a bowl of fruit, cereal, ice cream; a side of bacon with a side of bacon, turn down service and Pina Coladas, it's more a case of, what didn't we eat? What can I say? They had the best bacon.
Had the cruise been any longer, there's a sense my arteries may have become unthankful.
The standout breakfast, the Bento Box.
The best coffees we found in the Explorer Cafe.
In between all of that, we found comfort in the burger joints, pizza parlours and the all-you-can-eat buffet bars walking from one pool to the next and back again.
And by a unanimous vote, the most exceptional dining experience onboard was in the Tamarind Restaurant with its atmospheric lighting. Sea view window seats or centre of the restaurant, the decor as well as the wholehearted service from staff will make your dining experience feel special.
And then, there's the food. Each plate, a smile-inducing and taste bud exciting Asian cuisine.
Tamarind truly deserved an individual, mouth-watering review, but in the absence of this, I'll let the photos above do the trick.
And When We Weren't Eating?
You could find us at one of two pools closest to a restaurant. Catching a comedy sketch or dance performance in the state of the art theatre, pre-meal, or shaking a leg or four in BB Kings Live, post-meal.
That or losing very badly at a game of Connect 4 to Mr PWT and his espresso martini.
Moving to the rhythms in 'BB King Live' past midnight one night and staying out on the balcony to watch dawn give way to the day on another were the most outrageous things we did. Attempts to attend morning pottery classes with a master potter was another. And these were usurped by comical conversations with our stateroom attendants, Made and Gus.
With relaxation topping the agenda, other than getting off the ship at the ports of call, we attempted nothing else.
Half Moon Cay, Aruba and Curacao
... The ports we called at.
Let's face it, away from the all-day lounging and the recurring dining, the stops on an itinerary are the other reasons you cruise. The chance to visit a plethora of new places. This Nieuw Statendam itinerary, the opportunity to speed date the regularly heard of Dutch Caribbean Isles of Aruba and Curaçao.
A marriage of all things Dutch.
Ooh, Ahh, Wow!
Yes, I know.
Guess which destination stole our heart chambers? Yes, the sun-dappled Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. (photos 1, 2 and 7) Paradisiacal! It's the only word for it.
Only another cruise with Holland America Lines will see us visit this island again. Why? They own the entire island. Not just the crescent beach in the photo above, but all 2400 acres of it. It, therefore, means the people (staff or passengers) on the island are there as a result of the cruise line. The excursions too, are those of the cruise line.
We regretted not having the opportunity to horseback on Half Moon Cay.
So here's an excursion tip, should your HAL cruise call at Half Moon Cay, book your horse riding excursion asap. You can only book this excursion via the cruise line and it books up quickly! Plus, it would be a shame if like us you missed out too.
We suggest beachside dining at The Old Man and The Sea Restaurant at Aruba Ocean Villas in Aruba. Another romantic venue.
In Curaçao, we recommend a stroll from the ship, keeping right for the 'Swinging Old Lady'. That's the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. With time to spare, you may well see her swing open. Even better if you happen to be standing on the bridge at the time.
In both Aruba and Curaçao the ship docked. At Half Moon Cay, we tendered back and forth not on the ship's tenders but designated island tenders.
Dressing For The Cruise
Holland America suggests, casual during the day and formal (tuxedo's, dark suits for the men and evening gowns pant suits for women) especially on gala nights.
Yours truly expanded on the above with resort casuals, casual chic during the day and more dressy resort casuals and semi formals for the evenings.
Here's a Look at my Cruise Fashion Runway and what I mean.
Include lots of reds, blues and stripes. Some days we even twinned in pinks and whites. After all, every colour looks good under the Caribbean sun.
A Fashion tip: Bring lots of linen and cotton clothing for a Southern Caribbean cruise in December. Shorts, skirts and dresses that are floaty. And for the evenings, at least two elegant outfits (one sparkly) because HAL gives you two gala nights on a seven-night cruise as opposed to one.
Besides, you can never be overdressed on a cruise.
These are some of the pictures capturing our seven-night cruise. Lots of laughter, eating, picture taking, getting dressed up to go eating and more picture taking.
Eighth cruise but the first time with Holland America Lines, and we found it a very, very relaxing cruise. Just what cruising is about. That and for another chance to dine in Tamarind and another visit to Half Moon Cay, we'd cruise HAL again.
For sure, we'd cruise Nieuw Statendam again if only to listen to Captain O'Driscoll's daily midday public announcements. Comical, plus that Irish accent gets me every time!
There's something about a cruise holiday that you don't experience anywhere else. Maybe having the ocean as your neighbour is part of it. The sound of the waves. That oceanic air opening your lungs, allowing you to breathe more freely. Or perhaps it's all of the above.
Holland America Lines operates eleven ships in ninety-eight countries and are regularly voted Best for their Alaska itineraries. So perhaps this is the next cruise we need to book.
Have you cruised with Holland America Lines, or are you planning to? What is your favourite thing to do on a cruise?
Let me know in the comments below.