Both historic and sophisticated, Holland America Line is nevertheless forward-thinking. Throughout 2023 it is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its first sailing between Europe and America. Marking the occasion, the Nieuw Statendam visited Dover on September 15 to stake its claim as a major player in the revamp of a port that is far better known for ferries than heading to faraway places.
It’s been half a decade since Holland America sailed from Britain but from spring 2025 the ship will spend a five-month season in Dover with 10 voyages between April 19 and September 6, starting with a 14-day trip to the Canaries and with other adventures going as far as Greenland.
By then Dover aims to have been reborn. Already there is a new seafront promenade and yacht marina but the historic brick warehouse-like terminal building, currently used as a car park, is to be transformed into a colourful mix of restaurants and shops, making the cruise port attractive to all. A new road from the seafront will make access more direct while a bus service is promised between the clifftop castle and cruise terminal, via the town’s Dover Priory station.
We sailed for the sun, visiting the colourful Portuguese river town Porto – docking at the fantastical, octopus-like terminal at nearby Leixões – the country’s exciting capital, Lisbon, the Spanish city of Cadiz, its star-shaped forts bookending sheltered La Caleta beach, and ever-stunning Barcelona. This is what travellers can expect when Nieuw Statendam returns…
Who is Nieuw Statendam for?
While understatedly refined, with more than a touch of Cunard in the classic cruise ship décor, Holland America understands that folk want to have fun. Not in the waterslide way of the fun park ships but recognising that so many passengers while not necessarily young are young in spirit and grew up with rock and soul music and like something more than variety show singing and dancing for their evening entertainment. And good food, too…
Your stateroom or suite
A balcony room – which is what more than half the 2,666 guests would have – is a mixture of creams and woody browns with engagingly patterned carpet. There’s a decent-sized washroom with sizeable walk-in shower, plenty of wood-effect wardrobe space, then a large bed. On the far side is a sofa opposite a desk/dressing table, then glass-walled balcony, not huge, but with two chairs, footstools and little coffee table.
There’s a goodly number of rooms with windows – some with sofa beds for families – plus several hundred interior cabins and a dozen petite single cabins with windows. There are also varied suites, some with bath and shower, including Neptune Suites with access to a cosy interior lounge.
The Dining Room is exactly that, the main restaurant with grandiose style. On two floors, with entry on each, there’s a curving slit through the middle and white rib-like columns, rather like a whale skeleton in the Natural History Museum, beneath hundreds of translucent red and white baubles creating huge chandeliers. Plenty of salmon, New York strip steaks and local dishes such as mezze plates as well as items, at a cost, from the extra-charge restaurants.
Of these other restaurants perhaps the nicest – and most like a cosy standalone restaurant – is Rudi’s Sel de Mer, a seafood treat, with dishes such as the grilled seafood platter (scallops, shrimp, salmon). It does, however, cost $55 plus the 18 per cent service charge for all these restaurants, meaning it is almost £60 for the evening even if you don’t go for extra-extra-charge items such as lobster (another $28).
Pinnacle Grill steakhouse is $46, Tamarind (pan-Asian) $35 and Canaletto (Italian), a sectioned-off area of the Lido Market buffet, $25. Nami Sushi, within Tamarind, charges by the dish.
Lido Market is a vast free buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can find roasts, stir-fry, burritos, sandwiches, pasta and much more. Running along both sides of the ship there are great views plus outdoor tables at the back and at the mid-ship pool. The latter also features Dive-In, chunky third-of-a-pound burgers and chunky hot-dogs made to order, while the New York Pizza bar is nearby. All are free.
It’s a different world to the usual cruise offering, a constantly moving smorgasbord of live music in a clutch of smaller venues. Much centres on the Music Walk, three ‘clubs’ – open venues that nudge up against one another. BB King’s Blues Club wasn’t strictly blues, more jazz-funk with a house band mixing up soloing with soulful hits. The Rolling Stone Rock Room was home to a long-haired Brit-American band playing hard-hitting favourites, from Beatles and Stones to something from Black Sabbath’s debut and US stadium act Foreigner. Billboard Onboard was less in-your-face; dubbed Duelling Pianos it was more piano duets, driven by the gaily-dressed and coiffured Keiji, taking requests such as Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and, I’m told, something from Frozen.
The circular World Stage theatre also features acts most evenings, notably on our trip the RKs, a neatly-dressed, well-choreographed, impressively twangy and charmingly amusing Brit guitar band playing 50s and early 60s rock ‘n’ roll. Other days saw a Portuguese musician, Aussie comedian, an illusionist and a glossy greatest hits collaboration between the piano duo, BB King singers and a dance troupe. There are movies on the big screen by the pool in the evening, game shows and comedy quizzes.
Places for a drink in all the music clubs plus other favourites… notably the deckside Sea View bar at the rear, a great spot for a pre-dinner drink watching the sun sink. A drinks package gets you free access to all but the posh brands ($54.95 a day, plus 18 per cent service charge). Often better value is the Have It All package which adds things like a $100 excursions credit, some extra-charge dining and wi-fi depending on cruise length.
The Grand Dutch Café, by the striking atrium, is a popular spot, reflecting the company’s heritage. It combines coffee bar and light meals, everything from a bowl of pea soup to a ridiculously chocolatey cream cake, plus bar with Dutch beer.
The Greenhouse Spa features a thermal suite and hydropool (an extra charge, along with the treatments) but the gym, which curves around the front of the ship, high up, is free. A netted sports court features pickleball (tennis with plastic bats and balls) and basketball shootouts. Some exercise classes are free, some not, but plenty of tai chi and pilates. Varied rooms and quiet spots have bridge tournaments, mahjong and board games. There are wine-tasting sessions plus cocktail-making classes, $15 but you get to quaff the results of the shaker-juggling session.
What does it cost?
New Statendam’s first 2025 voyage from Dover, departing April 19, the 14-Day Canary Island Enchantment With Morocco & Portugal, calling at Leixões (five miles from Porto and with a splendid beach and a €5 return waterfront double-decker bus into the city), Tenerife, Lanzarote, Madeira, Casablanca, Agadir and Rotterdam, starts at £2,809pp. Hollandamerica.com