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Nieuw Amsterdam

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Nieuw Amsterdam is a ship whose name is associated with a rich and celebrated history for Holland America Line, and being on the ship gives you a sense of the classic age of cruising, back when Hollywood starlets graced the pool deck and dressing up for dinner was a time-honoured ritual.

In December 2017, the ship underwent upgrades throughout, and several public spaces feel refreshed and contemporary. People who have previously travelled on Nieuw Amsterdam might breathe a sigh of relief to know that the ship has now banned smoking everywhere, except the outside Sea View Bar at the ship's aft. Carpeting has been replaced throughout the ship's public areas, and even the casino smells fresh and clean.

The ship lacks the flashiness or overwhelming size of some mega-cruise ships, but its unique entertainment options make up for any missing bells and whistles. For example, Nieuw Amsterdam's Music Walk creates a three-punch hit list of rich musical venues all within a short walk of each other on Deck 2. From the symphonic orchestral beauty of the Lincoln Center Stage to the soulful, dance-floor-burning hits of B.B. King's Blues Club to the sing-along atmosphere of Billboard Onboard, you're guaranteed to find something your ears will enjoy.

You might notice the small details, such as the cool towels provided at the dock before you return to the ship from a day at port, the wrapped silverware in the buffet restaurant and the way crew members and even passengers in the hallway are more likely to say, "Good afternoon" or "Good evening," rather than a more informal "Hi!" The whole effect is dignified and unrushed.

Another feature that we greatly appreciated was Holland America's Navigator, an internet-based application that allows passengers to see daily scheduled events at a glance, book dinner reservations and shore excursions, and chat with any family and friends who are traveling with you -- all without paying for internet access.

Holland America's clientele skews more toward older adults, and this ship fits that profile, with retirees accounting for a large number of the population. Though there weren't many younger cruisers or families during our trip, a friendly atmosphere and ample opportunities for getting to know fellow passengers over meals or on shore excursions led us to meet many interesting people along the way.

The biggest downsides of the ship were related to the number of people onboard compared to the size of the public spaces. For example, it was often very difficult to find pool chairs at either the main or the aft pools and waiting in line for meals or popular events was very much the norm. If peace and quiet is what you're seeking, the key is to find spaces of solitude wherever you can.

Daytime: Casual clothing is the norm during the day.

Evening: On a seven-day itinerary, you can expect two formal evenings (called Gala Nights), while the rest of the nights are designated "smart casual" in the Dining Room and speciality restaurants. On Gala Nights the majority of women wear dresses (similar to what you might find at a daytime wedding), while men wear button-down shirts -- occasionally paired with jackets on formal nights. A small percentage of people dressed to the nines, with one group on our sailing even donning tails and top hats.

Not permitted: Swimsuits and other pool wear, men's tank tops, shorts and distressed jeans are not allowed in any of the restaurants during the evening hours.

 

Theatre

Every night of your cruise there will be at least one live performance (usually a main seating show followed by an encore performance) in the Mainstage theatre. The theatre spans three levels -- Decks 1, 2 and 3 -- in comfortable tiered theater seats fanned out around a majestic-looking stage, and there was never any problem finding a good seat. Performances range from comedians and jugglers to traditional singer-and-dancer shows supplemented with stage special effects from giant video screens.

These shows don't have the high production value of big-ship cruise lines -- there aren't any pyrotechnics or a lot of aerial tricks. The performances are best viewed as a supplement to the other great evening entertainment elsewhere on the ship. There are also shows you might not expect to see on a cruise: One evening the Filipino crew members performed a homespun talent show of songs and dances; on another night, orchestra players performed the score to footage from BBC's wildlife documentary "Planet Earth II." On the whole, these performances ran from mediocre to great -- with the comedian and juggler earning the most rave reviews around the ship the next day.

On select days of the voyage, Mainstage hosts bingo and is used to screen current films, so check the When & Where for listings of upcoming movies.

Daily Fun

Your When & Where, a trifold guide delivered to your room nightly by your stateroom attendant, is a handy overview of all the day's events. We also highly recommend using the Navigator on your cellphone, which allows you to scan and select which events interest you, generating a personalized daily planner -- you can even preview all of the events for the full week of your cruise ahead of time.

Though the schedule doesn't include an overwhelming number of activities, chances are you'll find at least a couple of things that interest you each day. There are several branded activities, including "America's Test Kitchen," BBC Earth Experiences and O, The Oprah Magazine.

"America's Test Kitchen" transforms the B.B. King's Blues Club into a TV-ready cooking stage, complete with professional stove tops, ovens and prep space, as well as cameras that track and zoom in on the presenter. These events show passengers how to prepare a variety of items (with themes like "We Love Chocolate" and "Lunch for a Rainy Day") using often nontraditional but thoroughly tested techniques for cooking and baking. You'll also be provided with a recipe and a website for learning more.

O, The Oprah Magazine has lent its name to a series of onboard activities related to health and wellness, including an early morning yoga/mindfulness session, a book discussion and seminars on healthy eating. BBC Earth programs showcase groundbreaking nature documentaries and even the occasional trivia game.

A Microsoft Digital Workshop, which offers regularly scheduled classes on a variety of digital photography and Microsoft products (such as OneNote, Cortana and Windows 10), is offered up to six times daily and was always well attended.

Explorations Central (EXC) is another great source of onboard enrichment -- the EXC guides give interesting talks throughout the cruise on everything from the history of Nieuw Amsterdam to the legends and lore of pirates in the Caribbean.

At Night

One of Nieuw Amsterdam's greatest strengths is the Music Walk on Deck 2, where you'll be treated to a variety of live music from the early evening hours to late into the night. If you're a classical music fan, you'll want to check out Lincoln Center Live, where a quintet of classical musicians performs chamber music. Each night features performances with different themes: "Piaf to Peanuts," "Bernstein to Buble" and "La Musica Latina." The performance space was updated in December 2017 and features lovely acoustics.

Billboard Onboard is another new addition to Nieuw Amsterdam. The sleek, modern stylings of the lounge, with plentiful comfortable seating organized around a bar and stage with duelling pianos, lends itself to a relaxed atmosphere where you join in the songs you know and love from the '50s to today. Most days will include three scheduled performance times with a loose theme, such as "Great Standards," "Hot 100" or "All Request." The two pianists have great chemistry and rapport with the audience, and their passion for music was apparent.

Finally, we can't overstate the quality of the B.B. King's All Stars, now an entertainment staple of the Holland America Line available on several ships in the fleet. Though this particular club -- with a small stage and modest number of seats and booths -- isn't as grandiose as the B.B. King clubs on other ships in the line, the calibre of entertainment brings down the house. If the three evening sets of blues were the only form of entertainment we received during the entire cruise, it would have been enough. More often than not, you'd be hard-pressed to find a good seat if you showed up late -- and forget about a space on the dance floor on popular nights. This was THE place to be in the evenings for standing ovation-inspiring covers of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and, of course, B.B. King. And, if you couldn't get enough dancing in those three sets, there would be a DJ playing popular music in the same location later in the night.

The casino on Nieuw Amsterdam (Deck 2, across from Billboard Onboard), includes a few dozen slot machines, in addition to games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, Texas Hold'em, plus regular bingo tournaments.

Nieuw Amsterdam Bars and Lounges

Explorer's Lounge (Deck 2): Located directly across from a stunning mural of New York City (formerly called Nieuw Amsterdam), this lounge is a favourite among classical music fans because of its proximity to Lincoln Center Stage. During the day, there are occasional spa-themed talks here on topics like acupuncture.

Pinnacle Bar (Deck 2): This warm wood-toned bar offers an excellent wine selection and hosts Sip & Savor, a great wine tasting event that pairs a different food with a specially selected wine pairing each day for a $5 fee. During the day, you might find the occasional talk hosted by the spa or jewellery team.

Gallery Bar (Deck 2): One of our personal favourites, this newer bar is tucked behind the casino and generally doesn't get a lot of traffic. Its hip ambience, with funky mismatched portraits and cloche lamps, plus a beverage menu from celebrity mixologist Dale DeGroff (including an epic spiced daiquiri, hand-shaken Cuban mojito and frosty chocolate mint buzz) make it a fun place to spend a few hours. This bar sets the stage for evening trivia, O's Reading Room book discussions and also singles meet-ups throughout the cruise.

Ocean Bar (Deck 3): This elegant bar is located in the atrium area near Pinnacle Grill and makes an ideal place for a predinner cocktail. A solo pianist plays here in the evening.

Sea View Bar (Deck 9): If you're hanging out at the aft pool area, this bar is ideally located for a deck drink. Daily specials are posted on a board at the bar, and wait staff will deliver your drinks to your spot in the sun (or shade).

Lido Bar (Deck 9): This bar is located right at the main pool and features beautiful silver mermaid tail-shaped chairs organized around the counter. Order from the bartender or have a waiter deliver your frosty cocktail to your lounge by the pool.

Tamarind Bar (Deck 11): This Asian-inspired bar is tucked away next to the Tamarind restaurant, which makes it feel more exclusive than other bars throughout the ship. Order a saketini and enjoy the beautiful ocean views. The bar hosts martini and premium wine sampling events and also group meet-ups.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 11): Formerly called the Crow's Nest, this area is a bit of a hidden gem on the ship, but certainly one of the most scenic. Sip some gourmet coffee or enjoy a little something extra while you take in the panoramic view at the top of ship.

Nieuw Amsterdam Outside Recreation

Pools

There are two main pool areas on Nieuw Amsterdam: the Lido Pool, considered the "main pool" at midship, and the Sea View Pool, which is for adults only and located at the back of the ship.

The Lido Pool, featuring three hot tubs and a water feature, has a limited number of padded deck chairs arranged around it, with dining tables and chairs at the outer areas. There are also extra-fee cabanas available by reservation on the right-hand side of the ship. It can be hard to snag a chair here, particularly on busy sea days, and this area is occasionally noisy due to the amount of foot traffic. There is a retractable roof over this pool so it can be used even in inclement weather.

The Sea View Pool area includes two hot tubs and a large soaking ledge for passengers who just want to cool off and not swim. There are a larger number of non-padded deck chairs available here, and this area is a bit quieter than the Lido area, but there isn't a ton of shade to be had. There are a handful of umbrellas if you can snag a spot under one.

Recreation

Up for a little friendly competition? Passengers can choose from Ping-Pong at the Lido Pool area, or a sports court on Deck 11, aft, which includes a basketball/volleyball court covered with netting to prevent lost balls.

Sun Decks

Passengers can reserve a cabana space at The Retreat on Deck 11, forward, which is exclusively for paying cruisers. The daily fee includes the use of a private cabana in the quiet area, a catered lunch as well as complimentary Champagne. The charge is $75 for port days and $120 for sea days; Lido cabanas (the ones by the main pool) -- which do not include Champagne -- are $50 and $95. There are several padded lounge chairs covered with soft terry and plush towels here, as well. If you want to reserve these, you can do so through guest services or by inquiring with the bar staff, but do it as soon as possible (or even before your cruise), as they do book up quickly.

In our quest for a fee-free, quiet and partially shaded lounge area, we stumbled upon Deck 12, forward, which can be a bit challenging to get to (take the outside stairs from Deck 10). There were never more than a couple of people here, and it was very peaceful.

Nieuw Amsterdam Services

Nieuw Amsterdam has one of the most inviting and visually pleasing library/game spaces we've seen on a cruise ship. Make your way to Deck 11, forward, where the cruise line has placed the EXC desk (the shore excursions team), an appealing small library of current books and various board games in a space that gives you a great view from the Crow's Nest. There are also interactive maps that allow you to see where you are along the route and take quizzes that crowdsource where passengers are from, favorite foods, etc. and display them on a digital map.

This is also the space where you can listen to lectures from the EXC staff, book an excursion (though this is also easily done on the Navigator app) or grab a cup of coffee or a drink from the Exploration's Cafe.

There are a variety of conference rooms located on Deck 3, and religious services are held here, including a Catholic mass every day, plus the occasional game of Party Bridge.

You'll find a small collection of shops on Deck 3, midship, including Merabella, a high-end jewellery boutique, as well as shops with Oprah-branded items, perfume, clothing, souvenirs and sundries.

The Art Gallery is located on Deck 2, aft; the Photo Gallery is on Deck 3, aft; and Microsoft Digital Workshop is located on Deck 2, aft. Guest services is on Deck 1, aft, and there are kiosks located nearby for printing your statement or booking a shore excursion.

There is no self-service laundry, but you can pay a per-item fee to have clothes laundered.

Wi-Fi access runs on the slower side. The fee is 75 cents per minute or you can purchase a discounted package (500 minutes costs $175).

Spa

The Greenhouse Spa and Salon is a retreat space where you are greeted by the soothing sounds of trickling water on Deck 9, forward, behind the Fitness Center. Along with hot stone massage ($149 to $229), the spa also offers treatments you might not find stateside, like a Thai Herbal Poultice Massage ($195) or the Elemis Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage ($195 for 75 minutes or $259 for 100 minutes), which includes two separate body wraps (one seaweed, one foil), during which you are cozily enveloped in a weighted blanket while relaxing on a heated water table, followed by a full body massage. Men's services include an Elemis Pro-Collagen Grooming Treatment with Shave ($95) or an Elemis Urban Cleanse Facial ($129).

There is a fee-based Greenhouse Retreat with four "monsoon" showers, a thalassotherapy pool (also known as a hydropool) and warm ceramic-tiled lounge chairs and saunas. You can purchase a pass that grants you access for the cruise (about $249 for two people for a seven-night cruise).

The spa also frequently offers lectures promoting its medi-spa services. The salon offers manicures, pedicures, tooth whitening and blowouts with haircuts (from $175). We recommend taking a tour of the spa on the first day to check out the treatment rooms, get a feel for the offerings and maybe scoop up a deal. You can also try asking for a discount when you book your appointment -- often if you book a longer treatment, they will give you a deal. The spa also offers stepped discounts for multiple services -- for example, 10 percent off your first treatment, 20 percent off your second and 30 percent off your third when you book three at once.

Fitness

Located on Deck 9, forward, the Fitness Center is a fairly basic, no-frills gym with a variety of weight machines, treadmills (overlooking the water), stationary bikes, free weights and a small area for group fitness classes (paid classes for indoor cycling, yoga, etc. are $12). Hours are generally 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the minimum age for use is 16. Our favorite thing about the gym: the chilled rolled towels available from the refrigerator near the door -- so refreshing after a workout.

Many people walk on the track on Deck 3 (three laps equal 1 mile), but jogging is not permitted there. A smaller jogging track is located on Deck 10, where four laps equal 1 mile.

Holland America has a well-earned reputation for its cuisine, from the food that is delivered to your stateroom (a pot of coffee and a fresh omelet on your balcony is a fine way to start your morning) to the variety of fresh and indulgent cuisine options in the Lido Market and the seaside Gala Nights in the Dining Room. There are also three great options for paid dining if you want to get away from the crowds. And, afternoon tea is served in the Pinnacle Grill from 3 to 4 p.m. daily. In each case, wait staff pay careful attention to particular dietary needs. The experience is effortless and relaxing, just as a vacation should be.

Dining Room (Decks 2 and 3): A circular space with plentiful window-side seating, the Dining Room (the ship's main headquarters for traditional cruise dining) is appointed in a modern global theme with bright pops of orange, mirrored accents and fresh floral arrangements. It spans two decks (traditional seating on the upper level and open seating on the lower) and is generally open for breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast (and lunch, when it is available) is open seating. Breakfast is served from 7:30 or 8 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 a.m. and includes classics (including Dungeness crab Benedict, corned beef hash and eggs, All American breakfast, kippered herring and Pan-Asian breakfast), three-egg omelettes, skillet breakfasts, waffles, pancakes and baked goods.

An express lunch was only served one day of our cruise, in addition to an invitation-only Mariner Society lunch.

Traditional dinner seating times are 5:45 and 8 p.m. each night, with open seating between 5:15 and 9 p.m. Even if you are booked for open seating, you can call to make a reservation time each night -- the advantage of doing this is that you'll likely avoid a line of people waiting at particularly busy times.

Dinner in the Dining Room typically consists of four courses -- starter, soup or salad, followed by a main dish and dessert and coffee. On formal nights, you might be served an amuse-bouche to start your meal. There's always a full basket of fresh bread and rolls on the table. Your waiter will offer recommendations for dishes each evening, and assistant waiters are always quick to refill water and iced teas.

A team of chefs, the Holland America Line Culinary Council, working alongside Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, including Elizabeth Falkner, David Burke, Jacques Torres, Jonnie Boer and Mark Best, created the menu. Each of them offer dishes with unique flavours, and their recipes are highlighted throughout each menu. There is always at least one vegetarian entree, one "no sugar added" dessert and designated "responsible seafood" dishes, a result of the cruise line's partnership with the Marine Conservation Institute. Though we didn't see any expressly stated gluten-free options, servers were careful to ask about any allergies or dietary restrictions prior to each meal.

Examples of starters include salmon tartare with baby zucchini, gazpacho with crab and coconut, and carrot and radish salad with creamy black sesame vinaigrette. Main dishes included black sesame jumbo shrimp baharat salad, pan-seared rainbow trout and vegetable curry with forbidden rice. Desserts might include devil's food cake and caramelized pear crepe.

Overall, the food quality in the Dining Room was above average, with the super fresh seafood and delectable sauces being particular standouts for us. We quickly learned to order shrimp whenever it was available (and even if it wasn't available, we occasionally sweet-talked our waiter into "finding" some in the kitchen), as well as the featured fish. From the hollandaise on eggs Benedict to the delicate creams found atop fruits and desserts, the sauces stole the culinary show.

Explorations Cafe (Deck 11): This cafe, presented by The New York Times, mainly serves as a for-fee gourmet coffee shop, but there are usually plates of cookies and other baked treats placed on plates for the taking -- a quick free snack if you're curled up here with a good book or playing a game of chess.

Lido Market (Decks 9): The Lido Market spans the aft of the ship between the two pools. Here you'll find fast, casual international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are buffets lining both sides, port and starboard, with some repeats on each side, but also a few different options. Drink stations with coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea and water are available in two locations. The Lido is generally open 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., but sometimes service is scaled back to select stations throughout the day. Check your When & Where daily program for closures.

If you're used to the grab-and-go buffet hustle and bustle of larger cruise lines, the Lido is a bit more dignified. For starters, rather than being serve-yourself, kitchen staff man most of the stations, and the food is assembled or prepared to your liking. This includes everything from cooked-to-order omelettes in the morning to freshly made salads. Some passengers may not like the extra time this takes (or the lines it creates during peak times), but it does feel a bit more refined and also presumably reduces a lot of germ-sharing associated with buffets.

Another difference from other cruise lines is that waiting staff are quick to take your drink order and provide wrapped silverware (you'll never have to get this yourself). You can still grab a quick lunch, but the sit-down service is as outstanding here as it is elsewhere on the ship and deserves high marks.

The food here is fresh, with several healthy options and international flavours. For breakfast, one station offers waffles, crepes and eggs Benedict. Another station includes eggs and a variety of meats, as well as hot cereals. Several passengers commented on the tastiness of the Swiss muesli and other traditional cereals that were just somehow more delicious onboard. For lunch or dinner, you can grab a plate of sushi or a Thai noodle dish, one of the featured hot Italian or Mexican dishes, a fresh salad or even grab a prepackaged market sandwich and potato chips.

One of the most popular stations is the dessert station, where you can order a waffle cone filled with hand-scooped or soft serve ice cream, plus your choice of toppings.

Dive-In (Deck 9): If you're looking for run-of-the-mill burgers and hot dogs, this little poolside restaurant (open 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) just might inspire you to think outside the bun. Dive-In's gourmet take on these American staples is mouthwatering -- and worth the line you'll sometimes endure at peak times of the day. But, don't worry -- they'll give you a beeper to let you know when your order's up.

Dive-In's burger menu includes fresh beef patties plus the cruise line's zippy Dive-In Sauce and toasted brioche buns. The most popular is reportedly the Cannonball, featuring Gouda cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato. The restaurant serves Nathan's Famous beef hot dogs, with equally inventive toppings, including crispy onions, bacon, queso and jalapenos. Don't forget to order fries, too -- and if you really want to throw dietary caution to the wind, add some cheese to them.

New York Pizza (Deck 9): The pizza here was the talk of the ship -- passengers seemed to enjoy the variety of toppings, the inventive featured pizzas and the way they could order a pie or three late into the evening (open 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.).

There are five standard pizzas served daily, from the Wall Street (prosciutto, arugula, olive oil, white sauce, gorgonzola and mozzarella), the Bronx (capicola, pepperoni, smoked ham, sweet Italian sausage, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella) and the Central Park (red peppers, red onion, mushroom, artichoke, kalamata olives, tomato sauce and cheese). There's also a featured pizza, or you can make your own. Put in your order, and they'll fire up a personal-sized thin crust pie of about six slices (enough to share with a friend). You'll receive a beeper that tells you when your food is ready.

Don't overlook the fresh salads here -- we particularly enjoyed the caprese salad -- as well as the desserts in the case, including panna cotta and ricotta bomboloni.

Room Service: You can order room service 24 hours a day from a limited menu. Morning options include classic eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, cereals and omelettes (there's a small upcharge for a few items, such as smoothies, steak and eggs or a smoked salmon Benedict). Midday to evening options include soup, chili, salad, sandwiches, pasta, chicken and desserts; late-night selections include quesadillas, sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. There's a special kids' menu, too. If you want something from Dive-In or New York Pizza, there's a $5 upcharge.

 

Fee Dining

Pinnacle Grill (Deck 3); $35 ($10 for lunch on select days): One of the ship's most posh-looking venues, this steak and seafood restaurant glimmers with mosaic mirrors, glass chandeliers, beautiful tiled floors and rich fabrics. If you are lucky enough to score a table by the window, order a glass of wine and settle in for a romantic evening by the sea. The menu features sustainably raised beef from the Double R Ranch in Washington. It's also the location for afternoon tea every day from 3 to 4 p.m. (free) and is open on select days for lunch ($10). One night per week, the menu changes to Rudi's Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie, for a $49 cover charge. 

From the regular menu, first courses include lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes and Caesar salad. Main courses include petit filet mignon, crab legs and lobster tails. Unlike the Dining Room, you'll be charged extra for ordering more than one entree (this is the policy throughout all the paid restaurants). You are encouraged to order multiple side dishes to share: asparagus, French fries and Brussels sprouts were among the options.

Desserts include a Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake, Pinnacle Souffle and fresh berries with sabayon sauce (our favourite dessert from the entire cruise).

We found the menu to be hit or miss and spoke to several fellow passengers who felt the same way -- we had high expectations for the steaks, but they were cooked inconsistently (a nearby passenger sent his back twice while we were there), and we weren't sure the menu merited the highest upcharge compared to the other speciality restaurants onboard.

Rudi's Sel de Mer (at Pinnacle Grill, Deck 3); $49: One night per week, the Pinnacle Grill becomes the French brasserie Rudi's Sel de Mer. Its seafood menu is inspired by the cuisine of the French Riviera. Appetizer options include steak tartare, Rudi's Seafood Tower (an assembly of lump crab, shrimp, octopus and a brandy cocktail sauce), bouillabaisse, foie gras and escargot. Featured entrees are a broiled catch of the day, broiled Maine lobster, rack of lamb persillade and duck cassoulet. Desserts are profiteroles, crepes Suzette, petits fours and Rudi's Souffle.

Canaletto (Deck 9); $15: This restaurant is located in a cordoned-off section of the Lido Market and is open for dinner each night. The concept of this Italian restaurant revolves around sharing small plates -- the menu describes it using the word "spartire," which means sharing. The menu is split among small plates like antipasto, zuppa di pesce, Canaletto salad and beef carpaccio; pasta such as spaghetti with clams and shrimp; garlic shrimp ravioli; potato gnocchi; large plates of vitello al forno (slow-roasted prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin); braised chicken cacciatore and more.

Though walled off with glass partitions, the area gets more traffic than the other specialty restaurants during dinner from buffet-goers to the Lido, but the food earned rave reviews. Canaletto was among the most popular restaurants, and at times it was hard to get a reservation, so we recommend making one early on in your cruise.

Tamarind (Deck 11); $25: Among our favourite dining experiences onboard Nieuw Amsterdam, Tamarind has quite possibly the best view from the ship on Deck 11. The restaurant is simply decorated in an Asian motif with soft lamp lighting, velvet-covered chairs and quiet music. You'll start your meal with a cup of "welcoming tea" and a compressed towel that expands when wet to cleanse your hands.

The menu is inspired by the four elements: water, wood, fire and earth. Appetizers include Indonesian-style laksa, Thai chicken and rice soup, crispy vegetable spring rolls and trail of spices satay sampler. You can also order sushi or sashimi as an appetizer (highly recommended). Main courses include ginger and garlic wok-seared lobster, Vietnamese-style lamb with mint and Korean duck breast bulgogi with sticky rice cake.

Though the food was delicious -- particularly the sushi -- the whole experience of dining at Tamarind, including the very attentive service in a secluded part of the ship, was what made it special. If you have the inclination to go to just one specialty restaurant, we'd recommend this one.

Every stateroom aboard Nieuw Amsterdam includes two beds (which can be converted to a queen-sized bed) with Sealy Euro-Top mattresses and upgraded cotton bedding. You'll find a flat-screen TV in each room, programed with a limited number of stations and movies, plus interactive options for previewing the nightly dining menu, as well as forward and aft ship views. There's a small desk and chair, couch/sitting area with table, a three-door closet space with interior full-length mirror, adjustable shelving, a safe and storage cubbies above the couch. A mini-fridge is stocked with sodas and liquor, available for purchase.

Two bedside tables include a shelf and two drawers (one drawer can be locked), and there are also adjustable bedside reading lights. A recent ship refurbishment added useful cellphone charging ports and plugs right at the bedside table areas. There are bathrobes hanging in the closet and a hair dryer with an above-average power level compared to other cruise dryers. There are also several hooks for hanging robes and towels.

Sofa beds are only available in suites and staterooms with third- and fourth-person capacity (which are available in every category).

You'll insert your key card into a slot by the door to turn on power in your cabin, which is both a clever green energy solution and also a good way to keep track of your key.

Each bathroom includes an upgraded showerhead and Elemis-branded bath amenities (from wall-mounted dispensers to bottles of lotion). There are three small shelves that run alongside the bathroom mirror for toiletry storage.

The expanded storage options (in particular, the closet area, which is spacious for a cruise ship room) combined with extra service touches from your stateroom attendant make you feel truly pampered. Complimentary fresh fruit, such as bananas, apples and grapes, is provided to your stateroom daily (ask your stateroom attendant), and your ice bucket is refilled regularly. A nightly turndown service includes chocolates and towel animal creations, and 24-hour room service is complimentary.

Interior: About 156 interior cabins on Nieuw Amsterdam range from 141 to 284 square feet. Among these are a group of Spa Interior cabins that include organic cotton bathrobes and slippers, a yoga mat, a tabletop water fountain and other spa-inspired amenities. The bathrooms in interior cabins offer showers only (no bathtubs).

Oceanview: You can reserve either a Standard or Large Oceanview, which provides a window overlooking the ocean; light can blocked by closing the drapes. Cabin sizes range from 169 to 267 square feet. Some rooms have fully or partially obstructed views, depending on the location on the ship; Spa Oceanview rooms are also available, featuring the amenities listed above.

Balcony: Over two-thirds of Nieuw Amsterdam cabins feature balconies, which provide a seating area with two chairs and a small table outside with a glass-paneled balcony overlooking the water. In most of these cabins, the bathrooms include a bathtub/shower combination (there are exceptions on Decks 1, 4, 5 and 6). These cabins range from 213 to 379 square feet, which includes the veranda (which measures, on average, 54 square feet). On Deck 11 forward, you can find 10 Curved Verandah cabins, with balconies measuring 22 square feet.

Suites: There are 114 suites aboard Nieuw Amsterdam: Signature Superior Verandah suites, Neptune Suites and Pinnacle Suites. Each suite includes a large balcony and sofa bed. Bathrooms include full-sized whirlpool tubs with separate showers and double vanities.

Passengers in Neptune and Pinnacle suites enjoy complimentary mimosas with breakfast delivered to their room, a state-of-the-art sound system, premium bedding, bathrobes and slippers, binoculars to use while at sea and an in-suite coffee and espresso machine. Other amenities include complimentary laundry and pressing services, corsages and boutonnieres for formal nights, predinner hors d'oeuvres, priority boarding and tender service, high tea service served ensuite and more. They also have exclusive use of the Neptune Lounge and a 24-hour concierge service.

Signature Suites: These suites measure 300 square feet, plus they have private 98-square-foot verandas, a large sitting area with a sofa bed that sleeps one, chairs and a large desk. Two beds can be converted to a queen-sized bed, and the bathroom includes a dual sink, a full-sized whirlpool bath and shower, and an additional shower stall. There's also a dressing room.

Neptune Suites: These suites range from 510 to 700 square feet including the veranda. Two beds can convert to a king-sized bed. The bathroom includes a dual-sink vanity, full-sized whirlpool bath and shower, and an additional shower stall. There's a dressing room, large sitting area and a sofa bed that sleeps two.

Pinnacle Suites: There are two of these suites, which measure 1,000 square feet and have a 318-square foot private veranda with four lounge chairs and a whirlpool tub. There are separate living and sleeping areas. The bedroom includes a king-sized bed and the bathroom features a whirlpool bath and shower, additional shower stall, dressing room and powder room. There's a guest bathroom, butler's pantry and living room with a sofa bed that sleeps two.

Deck 1
Deck 2
Deck 3
Deck 4
Deck 5
Deck 6
Deck 7
Deck 8
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Deck 11
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