Cruise Review - Holland America Line

Posted August 27th, 2013

For more than 140 years, Holland America Line has been recognised as a leader in the cruise industry, offering guests some of the most spacious and comfortable ships at sea, award-winning service, five star gourmet dining, extensive activities and enrichment programs, and compelling itineraries to destinations worldwide.

But, how do you know if it is the right cruise line for you?

Read our Cruise Review of Holland America Line for some top tips and insights about their ships, itineraries and much more.

About Holland America Line:

Holland America Line is laden in history and tradition, and this permeates all aspects of its cruising experience. Originally names the Netherlands-America Steamship Company, the cruise line soon became known as the Holland America line because it carried large numbers of immigrants from Holland to America. Throughout the 1970’s the company focused on transatlantic passenger trade, as well as commercial freight shipping. Its first purpose-built passenger ship was constructed in 1973, and since then, its focus has been on cruise holiday travel.

In 1989, Holland America Line was acquired by Carnival Corporation, and has grown from strength to strength. Although it is a US-based cruise line, it still has strong ties to its Netherlands heritage, with all the ships in its fleet bearing the suffix “dam”. Most of the names are inspired by actual dams that traverse the rivers of the Netherlands, but others – such as with its Vista-class of ships – bear the names of compass points.

HAL is committed to expanding its fleet, and while its last new-build was Nieuw Amsterdam in 2010, a 99,000-ton, 2,660-passenger ship has been commissioned for launch in February 2016.  Its current ships are also going through a series of upgrades and enhancements via the line’s “Signature of Excellence” initiative, which focuses on enhancing the accommodations, public rooms, dining, service and enrichment programs of each ship.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Holland America Line Fleet:

Holland America Line currently has a fleet of 15 ships, with a 16th being built at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard for delivery in February 2016.

Let’s look at the ships within each class. First up – HAL’s pair of Signature-class ships, Eurodam (July 2008) and Nieuw Amsterdam (July 2010). Each carrying 2,140 passengers, these ships were inspired by the Vista-class design, with plenty of extra’s added on. Among the highlights are an Asian-themed restaurant called Tamarind and 56 spa cabins that are close to the Greenhouse Spa and boast a Zen decor.

The Vista-class ships boast a contemporary look and feel, which was first introduced to the line with the 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam (2003). This ship was then followed by Oosterdam (2003), Westerdam (2004) and Noordam (2006). Highlights of this class include ocean views in 85% of the staterooms and balconies in 67%, as well as data port connections in all staterooms. Each ship features glass-walled exterior elevators that ascend up 10 decks and provide spectacular panoramic views, as well as a larger alternative restaurant, spa, entertainment lounge and internet cafe than on the older ships in the fleet. The Vista-class ships also boast extensive Club HAL children’s facilities.

ms Eurodam - Hydrotherapy Pool

The fleet’s older ships are much more mid-sized. The Rotterdam-class vessels, including Volendam (1999) and Zaandam (2000) feature a convenient third staircase for easier access to public rooms, a very spacious and well-equipped gym and more of the popular balcony suites than any other Holland America ship. The Rotterdam-class of vessels also includes the line’s two flagships – Rotterdam (1997) and Amsterdam (2000). As flagships, these vessels were designed to show off Holland America Line at its best, so these ships are decorated in dark woods, ornate dining facilities, elaborate atriums and impressive, original artwork that is the line’s hallmark.

Finally, there is the Statendam-class of ships, including Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam and Veendam (entering service between 1993 and 1996). These ships carry between 1,260 and 1,350 passengers, boasting a nice configuration that feels more spacious than some of the other ships. The Statendam-class of ships feature two-level dining rooms and large atriums, while Statendam and Ryndam were the first ships to get the Pinnacle Grill restaurant in 2002 before it was rolled out to the rest to the fleet in 2003.

All 8 older ships have received upgrades in recent years as part of the line’s “Signature of Excellence” enhancements, and now all offer the Explorations Cafe, culinary arts centre, Eurotop mattresses, upscale bedding, massage showerheads, lighted makeup mirrors, salon-style hair dryers and expanded kid’s centres. Since early 2009, the 4 Statendam-class ships have received even more extensive upgrades, including an adults-only pool area, spa staterooms and a new bar.

Not to be left out, as it is unique in its own right, is Prinsendam, the 793-passenger ship dubbed as the line’s “Elegant Explorer” ship. Primarily used for longer sailings, this ship has an old-world feel about it, with lots of dark woods and brass accents. However, it also boasts plenty of modern amenities, including an internet cafe with wireless access in hot spots throughout the ship and a small, but lovely, Pinnacle Grill Restaurant.

Onboard Experience:

All of the ships in the Holland America Line fleet boast an onboard atmosphere that is arty and colourful, with each one carrying an individual decorating theme. The theme is most notable in the ships’ onboard collection of artwork, and art tours are a definite highlight, with self-guided iPod tours also available.

The line holds numerous traditions close to their core offering, such as afternoon tea, gentleman hosts for dancing (on select cruises) and a quaint “chime ringing” to announce dinner. Holland America has also long been one of the more traditional lines when it comes to main restaurant dining, but it does now offer guests more flexibility with “As You Wish” dining, whereby one of the two levels in the main dining room is dedicated to traditional early or main-seating, while the other is open for walk-ins and reservations.

HAL was also a pioneer in introducing the alternative restaurant concept with the introduction of Odyssey Restaurant onboard Rotterdam. Since then, the line’s signature restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, has been placed onboard each ship as the main alternative dining option. This reservations-only venue has a small cover charge for lunch and dinner, and offers guests an elegant atmosphere and a menu of meat and seafood dishes.

ms Westerdam - Pinnacle Grill Restaurant

Holland America has also recently added the Master Chef’s International Dinner option in the main dining room. Offered once a cruise, this menu features cuisine from six continents crafted by the line’s Master Chef. Guests can then design their own three-or four-course meal by choosing each course from a menu of 20 selections that represent a variety of countries and cultures.

In the evenings, entertainment is key, with pre-dinner cocktails offering a lively atmosphere, and carrying on after with disco-style dancing in the Crow’s Nest, movies in the cinema or Vegas-style revues in the main theatre.

Fellow Passengers:

Holland America has a reputation for catering to somewhat traditionally-minded, well-heeled travellers, which stems from their onboard traditions of main-seating dining, elegant afternoon tea, ballroom dancing and on-ship tennis courts. However, in recent years the line has also been making an effort to cater to a younger, hipper crowd, by integrating some of cruising’s new features – internet cafes with wireless access, alternative boutique restaurants, concierge services for upper-level accommodations and indoor-outdoor pools for year-round use. The needs of younger families have also been met with upgrades to the kids facilities, although Holland America Line still wouldn't be considered one of the major family-friendly cruise lines.

Is Holland America Line the right cruise line for you? Then call one of our Cruise Specialists on 1300 954 661 today!

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