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Cruise Ship Information

MS Nieuw Amsterdam is a Signature class cruise ship for Holland America Line. Nieuw Amsterdam is the 81st ship to enter Holland America's service and the second largest Holland America ship to date.

Atmosphere on board

When Holland America launched Nieuw Amsterdam in 2010, the line unveiled a fresh take on its successful style: a traditional cruising experience, which steers clear of rock climbing walls and waterslides in favor of timeless touches like fancy afternoon tea and elegant formal nights (when most passengers go above and beyond with their ensembles). Several years post-launch, the ship still focuses on continually growing entertainment, enrichment and dining options while still embracing the past. (Note the vintage art and black and white photographs highlighting notable moments throughout the line's history.) Nieuw Amsterdam lives up to the line's standards with its friendly and relaxed atmosphere and attention to service. The ship also pays homage to its name with subtle New York-inspired elements in its art collection and design (notably the atrium chandelier and main dining room).

Ongoing enhancements have included the fleetwide "Dancing with the Stars: at Sea" program, pairing the cruise ship tradition of ballroom dancing with a popular television trend. Passengers can partake in complimentary dance classes, based on the ABC hit show, and compete for a chance to earn a spot on a championship theme cruise held at the end of the season. Also new to the entertainment lineup are world-class musicians from B.B. King's Blues Club; the Queen's Lounge aboard Nieuw Amsterdam is transformed to resemble the renowned Memphis club.

Friendly service and top-quality dining are also hallmarks of this line. With the addition of the Master Chef's Table, which serves an outstanding tasting dinner in its own classy room, Nieuw Amsterdam offers four different gourmet menus, including those found at the Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and the weekly Le Cirque presentation. The menu at Canaletto has also been enhanced with a small plates option to make sure passengers continue to have a variety of choices.

Nieuw Amsterdam's layout is well designed, and passengers will quickly learn their way around the ship. The combination of classic, understated elegance, a relaxed vibe and easy walkability will make first-time cruisers and repeaters both feel right at home.

Family with Kids/Teens

Holland America ships tend to draw families with children during summer and school holidays.

Children's programs, supervised for ages 3 to 12, take place in Club HAL on Deck 10. There, kids can enjoy activities like tie-dyeing T-shirts, candy bar bingo, pajama parties and storytelling. Eight- to 12-year-olds also have their own Club HAL area, equipped with air hockey, foosball, karaoke, family-safe Internet access (for a nominal fee) and Sony PlayStation. Kids can also participate in sports on the outer decks, pool parties on the Lido Deck and other video games in the arcade.

Teens (ages 13 to 17) enjoy a separate area adjacent to Club HAL on Deck 10, dubbed The Loft, which resembles a New York artist's loft. It offers stuffed chairs and sofas, music, a disco area and video-editing equipment, among other amenities.

All children's programs operate through sea days, with meal breaks. There's no need to sign up in advance. Kids can simply choose to show up during regular hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., signing in upon arrival and signing out when their parents arrive to pick them up. On port days, kids and teens must be signed up the day before.

Group baby-sitting services are available as part of the Club HAL Afterhours program, from 10 p.m. until midnight, for kids ages 3 and older. The cost is $5 per hour. Limited in-cabin baby-sitting is available for children younger than 3 and can be arranged through the front office. This service bears a $10-per-hour fee and is $7 per hour for each additional child.

Past Passenger Programs

The ship pays homage to its name with subtle nods to New York in some of the ship's major public rooms. The most obvious example is in the atrium; from Deck 1, passengers can see the impressive Manhattan skyline sculpture that hangs upside down, and from Deck 3, they can see a mirror image, the same sculpture pointed skyward. More subtle design elements include the "Big Apple" red Manhattan Dining Room and framed vintage photographs of New York City throughout the corridors.

The shore excursion and reception desks are located on Deck 1. Deck 2 houses the art gallery, and Deck 3 is home to the photo gallery, meeting rooms and shops that sell souvenirs, jewelry and typical cruise clothing.

Deck 11 is where you'll find the Crow's Nest and Explorations Cafe, which combines a coffee house (drinks for a fee), computers for surfing the Web, a card room and library. Internet costs $0.75 per minute for a pay-as-you-go plan, or $55 for 100 minutes, $100 for 250 minutes, $175 for 500 minutes or $250 for 1,000 minutes. There is a $3.95 activation fee, and printing is available at the workstations for $0.25 per page.

There is no self-service laundry onboard.

Our only gripe (and this is a stretch) on this ship was the smell of cigarette smoke in various bathrooms, where it's not allowed. It wasn't a one-time thing, and we wish the line would do more to enforce its smoking policies.

Fitness And Spa

Once you climb to Deck 9, you might want to stay for the day. It's home to the Greenhouse Spa, the main midship Lido pool and three hot tubs, which can all be covered by a retractable magrodome roof in inclement weather. It's also home to the Sea View Bar and adults-only pool (with two hot tubs) at the aft. The adults-only pool area is a nice retreat for digesting after breakfast or lunch in the adjacent Lido Buffet, and we never had a hard time finding chairs.

For privacy, curtained cabanas line one windowed wall of the Lido. They each contain a chaise lounge for two and small table. They can be rented for $30 for the day when the ship is in port or $50 on sea days. The price includes beverage and lunch services, as well as iPods uploaded with music. More exclusive are the cabanas in the private Cabana Club, which overlooks the Lido Deck from Deck 11. These are large open-air tents that are furnished like living rooms with dining tables. Available by the day or by the week, they tend to be booked up before the cruise at $45 to $115 per day, depending on size. Corner units are the largest.

The Greenhouse Spa & Salon offers all the usual services, such as massages, facials and pedicures. Its relaxation room is a treat, with a quiet view of the sea -- reason enough to come early for your massage and leave late. It also offers a thermal suite, hydro pool and sauna. Single visits to the hydro pool and thermal suite costs $20 each, while passes for the duration of the sailing are $99 each. The thermal suite also offers a couple's pass for $150. The adjacent fitness center, which features cardio machines and free weights, offers sunrise stretches each morning at 7 a.m. Many of the fitness classes are free. A few -- yoga, Pilates, spinning -- cost $12.

Volleyball and basketball courts can be found on Deck 11. The outside promenade on Deck 3 is perfect for a brisk walk or jog, as it's fairly wide and goes all the way around the ship.

Food & Dining

Like Eurodam, this ship has more dining options than the smaller ships in Holland America's fleet -- seven choices for dinner, plus a pizza stand that's open until after midnight.

The two-story Manhattan Dining Room, which spans decks 2 and 3, boasts a "Big Apple" red color scheme that's hard to miss. The service is top-notch, and the food is equally high quality.

Breakfast (usually 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) is open-seating. The menu is huge. It includes not only the usual morning items, but also spa suggestions (muesli and a frittata) and a serious collection of international selections titled Dutch, Scandinavian, full English and Japanese.

At lunch, at least one of the three primary sit-down restaurants -- Manhattan, the Pinnacle Grill or Tamarind -- is open, typically from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Manhattan's lunch menu features soups, salads, appetizers and entrees like grilled tuna melts and cordon bleu burgers.

For dinner, under Holland America's As You Wish seating plan, passengers choose a set early or late serving with the same seatmates each night, typically starting at 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. at tables on the upper level on Deck 3. Or, they may choose to sit at any open table on the lower level on Deck 2 between 5:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. We arrived two evenings at about 8 p.m., and no one was waiting for a table.

Evening menus in Holland America's main restaurants offer a great deal of variety. The Manhattan Dining Room offers 10 entrees -- from pasta to spa cuisine with plenty of meats in between -- and daily recommendations from the line's Culinary Council, which consists of Master Chef Rudi Sodamin and renowned international chefs David Burke, Jonnie Boer, Elizabeth Faulkner, Jacques Torres and Charlie Trotter. Each night, one chef features his or her signature menu items along with Culinary Council dishes offered daily.

The MDR also provides a 22-dish vegetarian-only menu for lunch and dinner; it consists of appetizers, salads, soups and entrees. Options include dishes like portobello mushroom and chipotle quesadillas, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls, and spicy lentil and garbanzo salad.

The Lido is Nieuw Amsterdam's buffet restaurant on Deck 9, between the main Lido Pool, midship, and the Sea View pool at the aft end. Waiters are always ready to help with table selection, beverages and other needs. Unfortunately, at peak dining hours, the Lido Buffet can feel more like an obstacle course, due to a few scattered tables placed in what should be a table-free walking area. Conversely, the design of the Lido's generous and well-staffed food stations makes for efficient serving, though, alas, some passengers still don't get the modern serving station approach and begin lining up for a buffet in an area where there is nothing they want to eat. If you can't find a place to sit, take your food to the adjacent adults-only pool area, which, at times, can be more easily accessed than most tables in the Lido Buffet. Don't fret if the weather's not great; the retractable roof will shield you.

Continental breakfast begins in the Lido at 6:30 a.m. The full buffet is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Separate stations include fruit, cereal, beverages, waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs and such side dishes as carved ham, made-to-order omelets, and cold meats and cheeses.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., depending on the timing of port calls. Stations are set up for soups and salads, hot dishes with a carving spot, a full sandwich bar that includes a panini maker and gluten-free options, and desserts (including HAL's famed bread and butter pudding, which can be found opposite the other desserts, by the taco station). Lunch is followed by a small sandwich snack presentation until 5 p.m.

Dinner in the Lido is a casual buffet from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., featuring appetizers, soups, salads, six entrees, a pasta station with a selection of sauces and desserts that include a make-your-own sundae bar. Those who are hungry for a later meal will find the Lido open again at 11 p.m. with Mediterranean, Dutch, Southern U.S., German, Indonesian, Spanish, Caribbean and other themed spreads.

On the same deck, toward the Lido pool, the Terrace Grill serves hamburgers, hot dogs, croques monsieur and fries from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Slice, outside and aft of the Lido restaurant, serves several flavors of pizza with a heavy crust from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

The Pinnacle Grill is the signature restaurant on Holland America. The 112-seat dining area feels upscale, from its sophisticated decor and Bulgari china place settings to its visible wine collection. It bears a $10 fee at lunch (select days from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and $29 at dinner (5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), and reservations are required.

Pinnacle Grill is the go-to restaurant for a classy evening of steaks, chops and seafood, with some additional items like spicy chicken coconut soup, lobster macaroni and cheese, and assorted skewers, including a mixture called vegetarian Zen. Our filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce was exquisite. We were torn between that and the king crab legs (a $20 supplement), but we discovered the crab entree makes for a great shared appetizer and nice way to get a taste of both land and sea if you're indecisive. Steaks come with any of the classic sauces, including green peppercorn, as well as bearnaise, horseradish mustard, sundried tomato, hollandaise and garlic butter. The lunch menu varies slightly, with the majority being lighter items like soups, salads and sandwiches, although you still have burger, steak and pasta options along with an extensive dessert menu.

Once a week, the Pinnacle Grill switches its menu, wine selections, table decorations and place settings to present An Evening at Le Cirque, in partnership with the famed New York French restaurant. Enjoying the work of Le Cirque's skilled chefs, even on a cruise ship, is a special treat. It's also a bargain at a fee of $49, which is less than the cost of some appetizers at the restaurant in Manhattan. Reservations are a must.

The Le Cirque menu is a set menu that includes a choice of three appetizers (poached lobster salad, a plated assortment including caviar and smoked salmon, and Caesar salad), two soups (butternut squash and chilled yogurt and melon), five main courses (seared Alaskan black cod, rack of lamb, chateaubriand, three-cheese ravioli and chicken under a brick) and four desserts (creme brulee, chocolate souffle, fresh berries and an assortment of sorbets). The appetizer course alone is worth the reservation. Standouts include the lobster salad and the butternut squash soup served with huckleberries and sage Chantilly.

The Master Chef's Table, held on select nights, is Holland America's way of showing off the culinary expertise of Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. On Nieuw Amsterdam, the reservations-only Table gets its own room off the Pinnacle Grill. Seven courses are served on Versace china and paired with four premium wines. The fee is $89, which includes the tastings and wine pairings.

Tamarind, the popular Asian specialty restaurant that debuted on Eurodam, is a triumph on this ship, as well. The dinner menu is fun, instructive and greatly inspired by Indonesian cuisine -- a tip of the hat to the majority of crewmembers onboard. Main courses are separated into four categories: water (seafood, such as pompano baked in rice paper), fire (spicy, like the red curry coconut chicken), wood (wasabi- and soy-crusted beef tenderloin) and earth (a mix of vegetarian options). There's a fee of $20. Dim sum lunch is also available and complimentary, and it consists of Asian dumplings (dim sum), soup, salad and dessert. Reservations for dinner are required; reservations for lunch are not required but are encouraged.

Canaletto is a family-style Italian restaurant, tucked into a corner of the Lido and transformed each evening with white tablecloths for a filling, three-course meal. The entrees rotate nightly and include an assortment of pastas and large plates like veal, braised chicken, roasted pork and grilled sea bass. A small plates section was added in January 2014 when price changes were made to Canaletto fleetwide; it includes assorted meats and cheeses, seared beef carpaccio and vermouth-braised clams (a tasty option, even if you're not a huge seafood fan). Once complimentary, the venue now charges a $10 fee per person. Doors are open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and reservations are recommended.

Tip: Consider booking a night at the specialty restaurants online before leaving for your cruise. Both Le Cirque night at the Pinnacle and the Master Chef's Table are sold out on each cruise, and other specialty restaurants tend to book up by the second day of each sailing.

Room service is available at no charge, 24 hours a day, for such items as salads, sandwiches, omelets and plates of chocolate-chip cookies. From noon to 10 p.m. you can order a full four-course meal, and, during dinner hours in the Manhattan restaurant, passengers may order from the dining room menu. Room service does well with breakfasts, as our scrambled eggs, sliced ham and English muffin arrived on time, and hot.

There are three afternoon teas, presented on alternating days: Traditional Dutch High Tea (desserts and cakes with tea and coffee), an Indonesian Tea Ceremony (featuring local tea varieties and sweets from the Indonesian Archipelago) and a Cupcake Tea (a dozen different flavors are served).

Entertainment

Much of the action onboard takes place on decks 2 and 3, between entrances to the Showroom at the bow and Manhattan at the aft. On these decks, you'll find bars, lounges, the casino, a 36-seat cinema and rooms for culinary and computer classes. Deck 11 is home to our favorite bar, the Silk Den, which offers a great view of the sea from curtained booths, all in a swanky, dimly lit setting.

If you want to learn about cooking, entertaining, technology or health, this is the ship for you. Holland America provides opportunities for classes in its Culinary Arts Center, built like the set of a television show and presented by Food & Wine magazine. There are also free photo (operating your camera, editing photos, etc.) and computer classes at the Digital Workshop, in partnership with Microsoft. Most enrichment programs take place during the day and are free, with the exceptions of food classes with alcohol and some sessions at the Greenhouse Spa.

At night, the three-deck 890-seat Showroom at Sea presents Las Vegas-style production shows and guest performers, including vocalists, comedians and illusionists. The Holland America dancers and performers are some of the best we've seen at sea.

The casino on Deck 2, with the usual game tables and slot machines, is often packed.

The ship's multiple lounges -- the Queen's Lounge, Ocean Bar, Piano Bar, Explorer's Lounge, Crow's Nest and Northern Lights -- are full of opportunities to play games (perhaps trivia or Liar's Club), listen to music (everything from Motown to classical) and dance. The Queen's Lounge is also where live sports can be enjoyed throughout the day and where the ship's house band performs. Five nights a week, the venue hosts the talented B.B. King's Blues Club band from the renowned Memphis club. The Ocean Bar is packed before dinner, the Piano Bar later in the evening. On some late nights on our cruise, the Northern Lights disco was abuzz; on other nights, it was empty.

Holland America offers a variety of shore excursions, ranging from low-key motorcoach tours to semiactive walking tours and more adventurous options like kayaking and snorkeling. One nice touch is an emphasis on port history in almost all of the ship's excursions.

Fellow Passengers

Holland America ships tend to appeal to a mature crowd, with a mix of North Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Australians. Look for more families and multigenerational groups during summers and school holidays.

Tipping

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is the third ship to bear the name of the Dutch capital in Holland America Line's over 135-year history. Built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, the ms Nieuw Amsterdam blends the very latest in shipbuilding technology with the artistry, personalized touches and superior service that has made Holland America Line one of the highest-rated cruise lines in the world.

Our recommendation

Our crew works very hard to make sure that every aspect of your cruise meets the highest standards. This includes those crew members who serve you directly, such as our dining room wait staff and the stewards who tend to your stateroom each day. There are also many others that tend to your care that you may never meet, such as galley and laundry staff. To ensure that the efforts of all of our crew members are recognized and rewarded, a daily Hotel Service Charge of US$11.50 per passenger for staterooms & US$ 12.00 per person for suite guests is automatically charged to each guest's shipboard account. If our service exceeds or fails to meet your expectations, you are free to adjust this amount at the end of the cruise. The Hotel Service Charge is paid to Holland America Line crew members, and represents an important part of their total compensation package. A 15% service charge is automatically added to bar charges and dining room wine purchases. In terminals, airports, ports of call and on shore excursions, we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary local practices.