I just returned from a Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Statendam and wanted to share our thoughts on this ship, as I have benefited from many reviews posted here from you all.
A little background about us, I am 41 years old and my husband is 37 years old, we have twin boys who are 6 years old. We have previously cruised on Royal Caribbean, but were looking for something "classier" with better food and drink options, so we tried out Holland America's newest boat. We also had my parents, his mom, my siblings (late 30s, married, no children and a single sister in her late 30s) and his aunt (late 50s) in our group. Everyone in our group had balcony rooms, non obstructed.
We arrived to the port around 10:45am, the process was super easy. We brought on board 2 bottles of wine and a case of water, noone said anything about it. We were on board in less than 45 minutes and it was very smooth.
We had a VA Cabin 6055. It was smaller than the cabin on Royal Caribbean, but adequate. The balcony was very tiny and a few cabins over we could see in to their balcony. We "upgraded" from a VC to a VA, and in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done this. The rest of our group had VC cabins and no other balconies were visable from their balconies. The shower was AMAZING and there was plenty of storage for all of our stuff. We ended up not having to use the pullman bed since the sofa bed was closer to a full size vs the twin that they said it was. The boys never complained about the size or the comfort level. Our bed was excellent and we slept awesome the whole vacation.
We only ate in the main dining room the first night, it was just ok. I know food is subjective, and we are probably pickier than most when it comes to restaurants. We did not buy any specialty dining packages, but if i was to do it again, I would have just eaten in specialty restaurants the entire time. We tried Tamarind twice, the first time was fantastic, the second time was just ok, but I think we just ordered the wrong items. We ate in Canaletto, with the kids, and it was good. The vibe was a bit strange being in the Lido Restaurant, but the view was nice. We also did Pinnacle Grill (excellent) and Rudi's Sel De Mer (the one I was least excited about, that ended up being our favorite meal). For lunches, we ate at Dive In and NY Pizza (which were ok) and the Grand Dutch Cafe (that was better). Breakfasts we enjoyed room service, but truthfully, we mainly just got dry cereal and coffee as we are not big breakfast eaters. Service was a bit strange in the specialty restaurants as they never really came over to ask how things were or at the end of the meal. It always felt awkward at the end just leaving the table.
The wine offerings on board seemed slim and the pricing was all over the place. Some wines that are definitely less expensive were offered at higher prices than others that are more expensive at lower prices. I work in the wine industry, so maybe I'm just nitpicking here. We ordered a few bottles on board, but mainly drank cocktails since the offerings weren't what we were looking for. We did not buy a drink package, and I think it was the right decision as we came nowhere close to the price it would have cost us for it (and we drank every day and never limited ourselves). In the future, if I was to cruise again with HAL, I would bring more bottles on board and just pay the $18/per bottle and corkage.
I cannot say enough positive things about Club HAL. They were AMAZING and my kids never wanted to leave (they went every single day). My one complaint was that the hours were not posted on the dailies and you had to find the hours on the TV.
We went to a few shows, America's Test Kitchen, Rolling Stone Rock Room, BB Kings and watched a movie under the stars. The daytime activities were LIGHT at best. Without many things to do, most people are around the two VERY small pools on board. We still felt that the pools were nice and the drink service was excellent.
Our fellow Cruisers
We did have a few "comments" about the kids. Most people commented on how well behaved the boys were and how lucky they were to be on a cruise, but we did have some comments that were just odd and rude for no reason at all.
We were very happy and will most likely consider HAL in the future. We want to do Alaska next and are considering the Nieuw Statendam sister ship, Koningsdam.
Hope this helps and I'm happy to answer any questions.