My husband and I recently took our first Holland America cruise, choosing it for its Canada/New England itinerary, which we were hoping would give us a front row seat to beautiful fall foliage. We were excited about spending a couple of days in Quebec City at the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac before embarking on a cruise that included three stops in Newfoundland, which has been on my bucket list since seeing Come From Away many years ago.
Well, the best laid plans …
Because we booked so last minute, all the shore excursions were sold out, which was a little disconcerting. It turned out to be a blessing, though, because two of the Newfoundland stops were rerouted to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and Sydney, Nova Scotia due to weather conditions and we were able to walk around the towns on our own in pretty much all the ports.
We spent time in great bookstores in Charlottetown and bought a painting at D’Alessio Gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, where we fell in love with both the art and the owners. Although we didn’t really see any leaves changing colors, we had delicious lobster rolls and found so many local artists and shops we wanted to support, we ended up having to check our carry-ons so we could carry our new purchases on the flight home.
What was interesting to me about this cruise was that our fellow guests didn’t really seem to care about the destinations as much as the journey. They were there for the ship itself and, as frequent cruisers, we were happy to embrace that philosophy.
We spent a lot of time exploring Nieuw Statendam, which has so much to offer, including some stand-out features that really make it special. Here are the ones that will make us come back again soon:
Yes, like half the world, we discovered pickleball over the pandemic and are obsessed. We were very excited to find two pickleball courts on the ship and played almost every day. It was a fun way to meet people and burn off some of the million or so calories we consumed daily. I wish every cruise ship would add pickleball courts.
Grand Dutch Café
My favorite spot on the ship, the cheery Grand Dutch Café was a great place to settle in with a book and enjoy a specialty coffee (additional charge) and a snack (complimentary). Because we had the non-alcoholic beverage package, I came here a couple of times a day, usually alternating between iced chai tea lattes and hot chocolate, always accompanied by a pastry or, okay, Dutch pancakes. I hesitate to introduce more guests to this little gem because it already seems to have a strong cult following.
We were really intrigued by the vast selection of live music every night, all taking place on Deck 2, from Lincoln Center Stage to B.B. King’s Blues Club to the Rolling Stone Rock Room. I have to admit it felt weird at first to see so many older people rocking out to the live entertainment but it also literally brought us to tears to see the smiles on their faces as they sang every lyric of the songs they grew up with at Billboard Onboard – and to realize many of these people were our peers. We gave in and joined the dueling piano players in celebrating the soundtrack to our lives.
We tend to eat most cruise meals at the buffet, where we can enjoy a little of this and a little of that – many times over. On Nieuw Statendam, however, we often found ourselves at specialty dining restaurants for dinner, maybe because we hadn’t spent any money on shore excursions and were willing to splurge a little. We were crazy about the three we tried – Nami Sushi, Tamarind and the lovely Rudi’s Sel de Mer – and will definitely try the others next time.
As a spa fanatic, ship spas are a big deal for me. For some reason, though, I never found the time to check out the Thermal Suite at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon – maybe because we were playing so much pickleball and stuffing ourselves with pastries at the Grand Dutch Café. But, as soon as our stateroom attendant left us discount coupons good for any services at the spa, we ran over there to beat the crowd so I could a book massage and pedicure and my husband could schedule a haircut – which turned out to be free other than the tip. Honestly, I would have used as many coupons as they were willing to give me so I hope they continue this generous practice on future cruises.
Ah, the Dive-In. This poolside grill was our midday staple and our daily decision was, “Burger or hot dog?” The side of fries was a given. All were delicious and we always knew when it was lunchtime because we could see the line starting to form. The Dive-In is conveniently located outside of the Lido Market buffet so you can add to your plate as you wish.
There was always a nice size crowd curled up on lounge chairs by the Lido Pool on movie nights when recent releases (Elvis, Downton Abbey:A New Era) played on the giant outdoor screen. It was fun to cuddle under a cozy blanket with bags of popcorn and other snacks from New York Deli & Pizza, like nachos, sliders and wings.
I know but I have to include the bread because my husband mentioned it every single day. In fact, he even made sure to seek out the Lido Market chef to share his praise. And he’s right. I don’t know how they pulled it off but there were so many varieties of bread, from focaccia to sourdough to seeded rolls, and each one was so good, so different and so full of flavor, we might have gone home a little rounder than we left. Pro tip: stretchy pants.