Cruising is one of the best ways to see the world, as well as one of the friendliest settings in which to socialize, relax on vacation and get the most out of the journey. From decadent cuisine to engaging activities and games, a cruise offers the perfect place to stay connected with the world as you voyage across it. As the Director of Sales with Cruise Specialists, I’ve had the fortune to be with the company since 2005, and I have worked in the cruise industry since 1984. I have sailed with Holland America Line before and was looking forward to sailing with them again. Needless to say, I was ready for another cruising experience with this premium cruise line. So, in January of this year, I and 2,000 other women—and a few men—set off on a 3-Day Girls’ Getaway Cruise aboard the Nieuw Statendam led by none other than the ship’s godmother, Oprah Winfrey!
My daughter accompanied me on this unforgettable journey—we were lucky enough to get reservations the day that they went on sale. This was no easy feat, as the ship sold out within 24 hours. I was looking for a different kind of meaningful trip with my daughter, and this weekend cruise fit the bill perfectly. Here is just a taste of this incredible experience in my Nieuw Statendam review.
I stayed in the Vista Suite aboard the Nieuw Statendam, which is slightly larger than the standard Verandah Suite. This was my first time staying in a suite located on the aft side of the ship, but I truly enjoyed it. As this location isn’t frequented by a large number of passengers, it was overall very peaceful. Plus, I was able to view gorgeous sunsets from the comfort of my suite.
For those who would like to get to and from the many things to do aboard the ship, I would recommend booking accommodations mid-ship. This is simply due to the sheer size of the ship, and centrally located suites would make it easier to access everything.
While I had a wonderful time on my cruise, there were some aspects of the Nieuw Statendam that I was especially drawn to. If I had to narrow it down, my top three favorite things about the cruise were:
- The onboard artwork
- The flowers that decorated the ship
- B. B. King’s Blues Club
While every Holland America Line ship features beautiful décor, the artwork of the Nieuw Statendam took things to an entirely new level. All of the art was inspired by music, no matter the medium. Additionally, the artwork often featured individual musicians from all sorts of genres, from Bach and Beethoven to the Beatles and David Bowie. Among these were sculptures, paintings and more. It was lovely to admire and created a unified theme, visible throughout the ship.
There is an abundance of flowers on every Holland America Line ship and sailing, used as tasteful centerpieces and for other decoration needs. However, the staff went all-out on this voyage. There were noticeably more flowers throughout the ship, in all shades of blue, lavender, pink and white. These simple yet gorgeous arrangements included hydrangeas, lilies, roses and peonies. Overall, these provided an additional layer of ambiance to set a relaxing mood for the weekend.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
Getting to dance and have a great time at the B.B. King’s Blues Club was an amazing experience in itself. The sound system was incredible, and the passengers were ready to have fun and dance the night away together. On top of that, Oprah herself—and the staff—were handing out tequila shots. I had so much fun at this club!
As with almost everything that they do, Holland America Line had remarkable service throughout the ship. The room stewards were absolutely fantastic. I didn’t see them once, and yet my suite was impeccable. I was never left wanting when it came to its cleanliness, fresh towels and the overall appearance.
As for the dining rooms, the care was noticeable there as well. My favorite dining experience was at Pinnacle Grill, with French à la carte restaurant Rudi’s Sel de Mar being a close second. Pinnacle Grill was staffed with attentive servers in a subtly elegant setting. The alternative dining choices in particular were staffed with excellent servers. While the sommeliers were moving about constantly, their recommendations were always on point. Every time I ordered what they suggested, I was not only satisfied but also impressed.
We only had one port on an already-packed itinerary: Holland America Line’s private island, Half Moon Cay. Early in the morning, Oprah’s instructors led a yoga on the beach session, which was very well attended. Other than that, the island was careful to not over-commercialize or overcrowd. Instead, it was a beach lined with lounge chairs, bungalows and shade screens. There were some things for children to do as well. The water was perfectly warm and the ideal temperature for swimming. All in all, it was a lovely and low-key private getaway island.
Book the beach bungalows as soon as you can prior to boarding if you prefer to lounge in the shade. I found that all of the bungalows were booked—and with extremely long wait lists—three weeks before sailing. There are smaller, umbrella-type shades available at about $75 per day, as well as full-size, one-room cabanas for about $200-$600 dollars for the day, depending on the size of the cabana. The same goes for the onboard, shaded cabanas in The Retreat as well.
My other recommendation is to pack light! When I was packing for this cruise, I put everything that I wanted to take on my bed and sorted the clothing by category. From there, I kept my color scheme to black and white items only and limited my accent pieces to those with color. That way, I could mix and match as I pleased and was able to keep my amount of clothing to a minimum.
Lastly, if you can check in later in the day, do so. It seems as though all of the passengers come to board at noon, which can make for a lengthy process. Instead, my daughter and I arrived at 2 p.m. and nobody was there. Boarding was very easy this way.
Having Oprah sailing with us was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All of Holland America Line’s executives were on board for the weekend, including Micky Arison, chairman of the Carnival Corporation, and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America Line. We had one day at sea, and it was filled with meetings, seminars and self-improvement classes. Clearly, this wasn’t like the average cruise. Among these events included:
- Wellness seminars
- Book signings
- Fitness classes with Oprah’s experts
- Make-up classes with experts from Oprah’s team
- Fashion shows and one-on-one dressing tips, thanks to Oprah’s partner, Talbots
- TV-streamed interviews and discussions on Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and other female role models and women who have had a hand in shaping history
- And a gift shop filled all day with women who were buying clothing and jewelry from Oprah’s line
The biggest event was the “Conversation with Oprah” talk, which lasted an hour and a half led mostly by Oprah, although her lifelong best friend Gayle King was able to join her for the last half hour. Throughout the session, Oprah spoke conversationally, as if she was simply hosting an extremely large get-together from the comfort of her own living room. She touched on a range of topics, including meditation, her role in “The Color Purple,” and even about how she handled her mother’s passing. She spoke to us in a way in which we could easily relate to her with our own experiences. I was certainly moved, as were the other 300 women in the room.
If you’re ready to experience a cruise with Holland America for yourself, take a look at our upcoming sailings.