For families who love to travel, there is nothing quite as wonderful as a cruise. You enjoy picturesque sunsets over a beautiful seascape, exotic ports of call, delicious food any time of day, and a clean room with fresh towels every time you return for a nap. Basically, you are pampered and entertained every waking moment. Cruises take the worry and stress completely out of your family vacation; all you have to do is show up with your luggage and let them do the rest!
With so many different cruise lines to choose from, there is sure to be one that best fits your family’s style, personality, and budget. After having spent the past week aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam from Holland America, I can safely say that if affordable luxury is your thing, there is no need to look any further.
The Nieuw Amsterdam is one of Holland America’s Signature Class ships and one of the largest in the fleet. Launched in 2009, it boasts over 85% of its staterooms with an ocean view and almost 70% with balconies. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know that is an impressive number! Of course, that’s just the beginning of what the Nieuw Amsterdam has to offer.
The staterooms on the Nieuw Amsterdam are comfortable, spacious and beautifully decorated. I found myself blissfully sinking into fluffy bed linens each night and waking each morning as the sunrise peeked in through the balcony window. Happily, my friend and I also discovered that there was plenty of closet space for our clothes, shoes, and everything else we managed to cram into our luggage for a 7 day Caribbean cruise!
Beautiful décor can be found throughout the ship. Fresh orchids adorn every dinner table (and bathroom!), beautiful pieces of art and sculpture are found around every corner, and even the metal elevator doors have a lovely etched floral design on them. The attention to detail on the Nieuw Amsterdam is like nothing I’ve seen on past cruises. She is truly spectacular!
If great food is your thing, Holland America does not disappoint. Even if you never leave the buffet line on the lido deck, you’ll experience fabulous food at every meal. I was treated to fresh blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast while my friend Amy enjoyed their crepes and fresh guava juice. For lunch, I frequently noshed on the rotisserie chicken topped with the best guacamole I have ever tasted. Oh, and the sweet potato French fries were amazing! Finally, the Nieuw Amsterdam has an ice cream and cookie bar so you never have to leave without satisfying your sweet tooth.
The specialty restaurants on board are some of the best I have ever been to (really, it was a disappointment to come home; eating out is now boring by comparison!). For those of you who love Asian food, you can make a reservation at the Tamarind. If decadent surf and turf is your style, try the Pinnacle Grill. Or you can dive into some soul-soothing Italian food at the Canaletto. Really, I didn’t have a single less-than-amazing meal on the ship during the entire week-long cruise.
When you’re not too busy eating, there is plenty to keep you entertained. Holland America has several partnerships to bring you the very best in cruising fun!
Want to learn how to make that fabulous meal you ate for dinner last night? No problem; their Culinary Arts Center (presented by Food and Wine Magazine) offers cooking classes, many of which are kid-friendly. Itching to try that awesome dance routine you saw on Dancing With The Stars? You can do that too; in fact, if you learn the routine and win the crowd vote, you might even have the chance to return on a future cruise to shake your hips with the real dancers from the show! If relaxing is your thing, head upstairs and grab a book from the library/cyber-coffee house, presented by The New York Times. You’ll be spoiled by beautiful panoramic views of the ocean as you dive into the latest bestseller.
For evening entertainment, they have a piano bar, dance club and live band. I personally had a hard time choosing which one was my favorite, so I settled for all of them. Every night.
No, I’m not kidding. This girl (and her awesome friend Amy) enjoyed live music and DJs and danced until our feet couldn’t take any more! And you don’t have to worry that you won’t hear your favorite music; we sang and danced to music from the 50’s all the way to today’s hits.
Lastly, check your schedule each day and be sure to visit the Showroom At Sea for some incredible performances. You’ll be treated to comedians, musicians, and colorful cultural experiences! There’s something for everyone in your family to enjoy!
Health and Wellness
We know that cruising is all about the food, but what do you do when you’ve had too much (I mean really, is there any such thing?)?
Honestly, I’m a bit of a fitness buff, so I did want to try out their exercise classes (I swear, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I tried every different type of cheesecake on the ship). Their gym is currently the largest in the Holland America Line and has an impressive selection of equipment; they also have a variety of fitness classes offered throughout the day.
I am a huge fan of spin (also called indoor cycling) and I have to say, they have one of the best spin classes I’ve ever tried. I also signed up for their boot camp, and the next day I felt muscles in my body I’d forgotten I had! The instructors were fun and motivating, leaving you excited to come back the next day. I got some of the best workouts of my life that week at sea.
If you’ve had your fill of fun with the family and need some time to unwind, the Greenhouse Spa and Salon is the place to go. They offer a nice selection of services from massages to facials (and beyond). They also have a thermal suite and whirlpool area where you can rest your tired, sore muscles from boot camp or a long day of walking at your most recent port of call. This little room, tucked away from everything, was about the most luxurious part of the entire week. Imagine the best ice cream sundae you’ve ever had, and then top it off with the prettiest, juiciest cherry in the world. Well, the cherry is the thermal suite; it tops off one of the most pleasurable cruising experiences you will ever have.
Yes, that was a food analogy. You can compare almost anything to food.
We can’t forget about our junior cruisers, right? Of course not, and you don’t have to! Enter Club HAL (Holland American Lines). According to parents on board, once children enter they never want to leave! In fact, I overheard a conversation between a mom and her son as we were walking off the ship to Cozumel, Mexico and it went something like this:
Kid: “I want to stay at Club HAL today, mom! It’s way more awesome than swimming with dolphins, or sea turtles, or snorkeling in a gorgeous lagoon with stingrays and starfish. I don’t care if we do get to kiss Flipper; Club HAL is the BEST.”
Mom: “Sorry, but this is where I step in and force some family fun time. I know it’s a hardship to enjoy the white sandy beaches and palm trees when you think about all the awesome activities you’ll miss on board, but I think you can manage. Club HAL will be here when you get back!”
Kids have it so tough these days.
Okay, so maybe I exaggerated that conversation a tiny bit, but you get the point. Kids really, truly love it there. And parents love it too, because they feel confident that their children are enjoying themselves and making friends. Club HAL is open most of the day, and kids can come for all or part of that time. They also have extended evening hours (for a fee) so moms and dads can enjoy some of the nightlife on board or at port.
Ports of Call
Last but not least, we can’t talk about a cruise without at least mentioning the awesome places you get to visit. The Nieuw Amsterdam is based out of Ft. Laurderdale, FL and travels to 4 ports during your 7 day cruise: Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West (or you can choose a 14 day cruise and add on St. Thomas, Grand Turk and San Juan!).
Each of these destinations has something wonderful to offer, whether you want to shop, relax on the beach or try an adventurous shore excursion. I booked all of my excursions through Holland America and was pleasantly surprised at how organized and efficient it was to book, find my tour and get back to the ship afterwards. The shore excursions were great fun and not over-crowded, so I was able to really relax and enjoy myself. Oh, and I did get to kiss Flipper! It was the icing on the cheesecake.
Another food analogy, but whatever.
A few more random thoughts
Holland America really knows how to make luxury cruise travel affordable to everyone. The staff on the Nieuw Amsterdam clearly takes great pride in making sure every detail and moment of your trip is perfect, right down to the neatly rolled cloth hand towels in the ladies room or the fact that the cooks serving your food remember your name and that you want butter AND strawberry jelly for your English muffin. It’s the little things that make the biggest impression.
Every guest that I met was relaxed and happy, even the sober ones. Like me, they didn’t want the cruise to end!
I could keep going for another 2000 words about how utterly fantastic the experience was, but I don’t want to ruin ALL the surprises. I’ll leave a few for you to discover for yourself. The next time you decide on a cruise for your family vacation, definitely consider Holland America.
For more information on booking your next Holland America cruise, visit www.hollandamerica.com.
Thanks to Holland America for sponsoring us on this fabulous trip!