Discovering the Nieuw Amsterdam & The Western Carribean
It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. It fell to me and a few select staff to explore, experience and report back on the Nieuw Amsterdam, the newest cruise ship in the Holland America stable of cruise liners and our mid winter charter for 2014. Nancy, Melanie and Alina Joined me in this undertaking. Our task was to make sure that the ship and her staff would be ready for our charter and that the small adjustments that enhance a clothing optional cruise would be made. We would also be visiting each port of call to be sure that the very best shore excursions would be available to our passengers. Our primary task would be to assure that the quality of the ship remained the same as it was in 2007. We all agreed. The quality was even better.
Bare Necessities is no stranger to Holland America ships, having marketed a cruise to the Caribbean on the Maasdam in February, 2007 and to Alaska on the (old) Amsterdam in July of the same year. These were two of our most successful offerings and based on our passengers comment cards they were better received by our passengers than any other larger ships we had previously chartered. Based on our history with the cruise line the four of us expected royal service and we were not disappointed. We are assured that this same level of service will be made available on our cruise February 2014 aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, just as it was on the Maasdam and the (old) Amsterdam.
The girls and I would start each morning on the balcony over coffee, tea and assorted breakfast items. We could join our decks together since our staterooms were next to each other. Each deck was large enough for a party of four with room to spare. Breakfast could be ordered in the morning or the night before, with no charge. We would plan our day and set about making the choices that would shape our enjoyment of the cruise while downing a fresh cup of coffee or tea and freshly baked pastries.
The Nieuw Amsterdam differed from the previous (old) Amsterdam we chartered 6 years ago in several important ways. If I had to narrow it down to one main difference it would be choices. There were more choices on the Nieuw Amsterdam than on any ship I had previously sailed- bar none. Take the culinary arts for example. Where most cruise ships have their main venue, a Lido and a specialty grill, the Amsterdam has the main venue- the Manhattan, the Lido, its buffet style smorgasbord, plus three additional major specialty restaurants and several not so major spots to pick up a piece of- fresh out of the oven- pizza, a burger or a hot dog at the pool grill (with or without chili).
The Pinnacle grill is the equivalent of “Nick and Norah’s” on the Carnival Miracle. For starters I would recommend the Dungeness crab cakes followed by a filet Mignon or rack of lamb chops and “the real deal” key lime pie or cream brulee served with mountain grown coffee or hot green tea. All the specialty restaurants can be reserved via computer before the cruise. All but a few tables remained by the time we boarded so we were lucky to have the cruise director as a friend to pull a few stings to get us seated. There is an additional price of $25.00 for the evening meal and $10.00 for lunch. Both were well worth the cost. Suggestion: if you are looking for an intimate dinner with only the best cuisine, book the Pinnacle as soon as you get your booking number. Times between 6 and 8 p.m. will be taken within one or two days.
In a complete departure from the ordinary the Nieuw Amsterdam presents the Tamarind, a specialty restaurant featuring the best Asian entrees from the mind of master chef Rudi Sodamin who created a style of dishes he calls “Asian fusion”, taking the spicy yet savory flavors of the best of Asian cuisine and combining them with favorite western plates to come up with truly remarkable entree’s. $15.00 per person is the price, no additional charge for lunch but reservations are required and like all specialty restaurants, bookings begin on line and the choices tables and times are taken before the Amsterdam leaves its birth. The Tamarinds large array of sushi easily puts this restaurant on an equal footing with the Pinnacle. I had Shanghai ribs as an appetizer. The meat was beautifully seasoned and tender enough to fall off the bone. For an entree I chose the Asia Pacific hot-pot which was presented in a flavorful lemongrass stock with fresh scallions, shallots, garlic and cilantro. It featured shrimp, scallops, manila clams, basa, crab legs and squid. I had two servings.
As if that was not enough the Nieuw Amsterdam has yet another specialty restaurant, the Canelleto specializing in Italian cuisine. $10.00 per person covers the ships extra expense and like the Pinnacle and Tamarind seats are gone in a flash. So before your day begins you will have a choice of which restaurant- the Pinnacle, the Tamarind, the Canelleto, the Lido or the Manhattan. Or perhaps something from pages of the extensive room service menu- a quick casual stop at the pizza stand or burger grill.
The Amsterdam has the best menu of any ship we have hosted. Her menu and commitment to quality is on a par with the Paul Gauguin. It may take more determination than I possess to gain less than ten pounds by the first of May.
More information on the Amsterdam will follow.
– Tom Tiemann