Review: Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam

Holland America Line is steeped in maritime tradition, with a history of sailing going back to 1873. Their elegant ships, with promenade decks and clean nautical lines, appeal to sophisticated world travellers. Despite such a conventional backdrop, the cruise line is thoroughly modern in focus: embracing global travel, enrichment, fine food, music and culture.

Nieuw Statendam seen from Hotel Jakarta, Amsterdam

Recently I visited Holland America Line’s, Nieuw Statendam, which was dedicated by Godmother, Oprah Winfrey in February 2019. Built at the Fincanteri yard, there are 1337 cabins to accommodate 2666 passengers. It is a beautiful ship, with a very relaxed atmosphere. There are many quiet spaces, as well as lots and lots to do. That’s a tricky balance to achieve. The essence is on travel, so Laser-Tag and water-slides are shunned in favour of great destinations and a true cruising experience.

Murano Glass in the Main Dining Room

As the second Pinnacle class vessel in the fleet, many of the successful features found on sister ship, Koningsdam, are carried over. The World Stage Theatre is a highlight, showing BBC Earth documentaries on giant LED screens, and the two-tier Lido deck transforms into an outdoor cinema at night, complete with blanket-covered loungers and popcorn. BLEND is a wonderful venue, where guests create their own wine to drink during the cruise, and Rudi’s Sel de Mer holds its place firmly amongst the other fantastic speciality restaurants. The Dutch Cafe, serving delicious coffee and local Dutch snacks, is incredibly popular as is the serene Greenhouse Spa.

BLEND

Of course, the Music Walk is a key feature on the Nieuw Statendam, as it is throughout the fleet, bringing the trademark Holland America Line world-class live performances every evening. Seasoned HAL cruisers will be familiar with duelling pianos at Billboard Onboard, classical recitals from Lincoln Centre Stage and B.B King’s Blues Club’s Memphis soul sounds. In an exciting move, Nieuw Statendam adds another dimension to the experience. The Rolling Stone Rock Room, in collaboration with Rolling Stone magazine, brings a top-class rock band to the stage until late, belting out one classic after another at this superb new venue.

Contemporary Art Work

The onboard art collection, worth over $4 million dollars, is one of the finest at sea. Unique contemporary works are found around the ship, some in prominent places, other more hidden. It could take a whole cruise to discover them all.

One of the most astonishing aspects of Holland America Line, and the Nieuw Statendam in particular, is the dizzying array of high-quality partnerships offered as part of the brand. The music-related collaborations, seen along the Music Walk, as well as partnerships with BBC Earth, leading Chef Rudi Sodamin and Chateau Ste. Michelle at BLEND are only part of the story. ‘O The Oprah Magazine’ is now fundamentally involved in the Holland America Line cruise experience; bringing meditation classes, a book club and workshops together to improve wellness.

Sail-Away Party

Suites have been re-designed in response to customer feedback, as have family cabins. Solo rooms are given as much importance as any other. All staterooms have Mariner Dream beds, glass shower screens, Elemis toiletries, free movies and USB sockets.

Club Orange is a programme introduced on Nieuw Statendam, where guest can access a range of priority perks and an exclusive eatery for $35 per day. I don’t feel entirely convinced by this addition to the Holland America Line brand, as the cost is quite steep and not really necessary on a ship offering such a high standard of services already. Time will tell if this addition goes the distance.

Gelato Ice Cream Parlour

Nieuw Statendam is an enhancement of an already great Holland America Line cruise experience. This is a lovely ship: perfect for adults but still suiting families, peaceful yet packed with interesting activities, based in tradition and still embracing modern values. All in all, this is a perfect way to travel.

For further information see Holland America Line

Japan: Experience a Traditional Tea Ceremony in Osaka

Osaka is Japan’s second largest city and the birthplace of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Maikoya, a former geisha house, hosts professionally taught introductions to this ancient cultural pastime.

Visitors, sitting on tatami mats, wear authentic kimono robes and learn to make the unique green match tea. Japanese sweets, specially made to complement the flavour of the tea, are served during the ceremony.

Taught in English by a Japanese Tea Master, the ceremony lasts around an hour. Guests can choose to experience the ritual in a group setting or pay more for a private lesson.

The artistic form of this ritual, from adopting the correct posture to learning how to pour and sip the tea, requires focus and concentration. It is a contemplative process, with periods of silence as the tea steeps, settling the mind into a zen-like calm.

Maikoya is a cultural hub, intent on preserving and educating people on Japanese culture. The six-storied traditional building, complete with rickshaw outside, was once home to Osaka geisha who were highly trained in the arts and conversation. Calligraphy tools and artwork decorate the space, giving a taster of the the Samurai tradition which is so integral to Japanese culture.

For further information see Maikoya.

Radar: Hurtigruten target dead fish as power source of the future

Hurtigruten, the Norwegian expedition cruise line, intends to use cutaways from fisheries and other organic waste to power their fleet of ships.

The company has made strong moves in the sustainability field over recent years with the intention of becoming the world’s greenest cruise company. Liquified biogas (LBG) – fossil-free, renewable gas produced from dead fish and other organic waste is another step in this direction.

CEO Daniel Skjeldam says, “Renewable biogas is a clean source of energy, considered the most eco-friendly fuel currently available. Biogas is already used as fuel in small parts of the transport sector, especially in buses. Northern Europe and Norway, which has large fishery and forestry sectors that produces a steady volume of organic waste, has a unique opportunity to become world leader in biogas production.”

After celebrating the 125-year anniversary by being the first cruise line to ban single-use plastic, 2019 will mark two green milestones for Hurtigruten:

  • Introduction of the world’s first battery-hybrid powered cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen, custom built for sustainable operations in some of the world’s most pristine waters such as Antarctica.
  • The start of a large-scale green upgrade project, replacing traditional diesel propulsion with battery packs and gas engines on several Hurtigruten ships.

In addition to liquified natural gas (LNG), these ships will also be the first cruise ships in the world to run on liquified biogas (LBG).

www.hurtigruten.co.uk

Prana by Atzaro: Indonesian Island-Hop on the Ultimate Phinisi Super-Yacht

Owned by Atzaro, the luxe Ibizan hospitality group, this stunning Phinisi super-yacht is the largest of its kind in the world. Voyages explore the remote Indonesian Coral Triangle, following the trade winds to some of the world’s most inaccessible and dreamy islands.

Prana Indonesia map
Indonesia

Designed to reflect the ancient Indonesian double-masted Phinisi sailing vessels, this 180-foot ship is entirely handmade from ironwood and teak according to traditional methods.

Prana overhead
Prana

Beyond this authentic backdrop Prana gives way to pure luxury. Nine beautiful suites, with en-suite bathrooms and deluxe furnishings, are carefully placed across four decks ensuring privacy and wonderful sea views from floor-to -ceiling windows.

A Prana Suite
A Prana Suite

Daily sun salutations on the yoga deck start the day followed by an outdoor breakfast and a leisurely rest on one of the sumptuous day beds; perfectly placed to watch the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean drift by.

Prana yoga
Morning Yoga

Days are as active or restful as you like. A range of water sports and spa treatments are offered on board as well as carefully curated shore-based adventures.

Relax on deck
Relax on Deck

During May to October, Prana visits the Komodo National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the famous ‘dragons’, stunning pink beaches and pristine waters. If you seek adventure, the ship’s resident dive expert hosts specialist diving trips to explore the protected reefs.

Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park

In the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, Prana traverses the remote Banda Islands. Famously part of the colonial spice trade, this heavenly part of the world is rich in myth and legend. Dominated by the grand Mount Api, the landscape gives way to virgin rainforest, white-sandy beaches and coral cliffs plunging deep into an ocean brimming with marine life.

Prana Spice Islands
The Banda Islands

The islands of Raja Ampat are Prana’s destination from December until April. Nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle, these lost islands are home to prehistoric caves, hidden lagoons, forgotten tribes and some of the best diving in the world. There are ten times the number of hard coral species here as found in the Caribbean.

Diving the Reefs
Diving the Reefs

Prana is quite simply a haven after such exhilarating days ashore. Chefs prepare the very finest regional dishes served either under the stars, in the elegant lounge or on a deserted island beach. Old and new wines complement the cuisine along with a collection of carefully chosen cocktails, beers and spirits. After dinner the open-air cinema beckons or simply an early night to the sound of gently lapping waves.

Prana sunset
Sunset on Prana

What we like ….

  • guided access to remote areas of the world
  • a perfect balance of nurturing rest and adventure
  • a unique private charter

www.pranabyatzaro.com

Photos courtesy of Atzaro

 

 

Radar: Azamara introduce new ship Pursuit

Azamara is a leader in small-scale luxury cruising with an emphasis on destination immersion. This summer sees the introduction of Azamara Pursuit: the third in the Azamara fleet. This Renaissance-class ship was built in 2001 and acquired by the line’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) in March after 12 years with Carnival. With a history as Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, and most recently as P&O Cruises’ Adonia the Pursuit is firmly moving forward with its own identity after a major refurbishment in Belfast.

Azamara Pursuit in Belfast
Azamara Pursuit in Belfast

The maiden voyage for Pursuit will depart on 1 August 2018 and travel to eight Norwegian destinations, including Kristiansand, Flam and Haugesund, with overnight stays in Oslo and Bergen. Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said: “We’ve seen unprecedented support from the UK market for Azamara Pursuit, so we are delighted to be able to show our recognition of this by allowing its transformational journey to take place here. We’ve seen double the UK demand for Azamara Pursuit than we usually see for its sister ships, so this is a really exciting time for us as a brand. The maiden voyage will depart from Southampton and provide travellers with the opportunity to enjoy a country-intensive voyage to Norway, visiting eight destinations in the Scandinavian country. We launched our country-intensive series last year as an opportunity for guests to explore countries on a more in-depth level, which is part of our commitment to Destination Immersion.”

www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk

 

Explore California with exciting new expedition cruise ship – National Geographic Venture

Lindblad National Geographic
Lindblad National Geographic

Lindblad Expeditions introduce the exciting new National Geographic Venture with two new and unique itineraries to California. These inaugural voyages explore the Pacific coast, before Venture begins her season in Baja, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Cannery Row, Monterey, CA.
Cannery Row, Monterey, CA.

The first inaugural voyage, COASTAL CALIFORNIA BY SEA, departs from San Francisco on December 2nd 2018. Joined by Sven Lindblad, CEO and Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, this is a five-night tour stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Catalina Islands.

Highlights include:

  • A stunning sunset cocktail cruise through San Francisco’s picturesque harbour
  • Behind-the-scenes access to Northern CA’s acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium and Southern CA’s architecturally stellar Catalina Casino
  • Exploring key coastal sites and islands including Angel Island, Sausalito, Monterey and Point Lobos, Avila Beach and Catalina Island.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery and Inn, Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery and Inn, Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe.

The second trip, FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO BAJA: SAILING THE PACIFIC COASTdeparts from San Francisco on December 7th 2018. This 12-night cruise travels from Los Angeles to La Paz in Mexico bringing together fine food and wine, snorkelling in Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, visiting the Vizcaino Biosphere and the residents of Isla Natividad. Migrating whales and nesting birds are commonly sighted in the area and National Geographic naturalists are on hand throughout the voyage.

Blue Whale
Blue Whale

Highlights include:

  • Snorkel in Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, the only hard coral reef in North America; featuring over 220 species of fish
  • Learn about the region’s culture with exclusive visits to the world’s largest salt mine in Guerrero Negro; and tour the small fish processing plant of Isla Natividad’s fishing coop
  • Explore the ever-shifting sand dunes of Isla Magdalena and count the 40 species of birds inhabit this area
  • See why everyone is talking about the vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe
  • Watch the sunrise illuminate El Arco de Cabo San Lucas
National Geographic Quest
National Geographic Quest

National Geographic Venturesister ship of National Geographic Quest is designed as a 50-cabin coastal expedition vessel. Sweeping views from the lounge and deck encourage wildlife and shoreline viewing at close range. Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructors accompany passengers on the voyage, offering advice and experience for the ultimate photo captures.  Zodiacs take guests on specialist trips to explore coastal areas and marine mammals; the ship will also change course to follow wildlife sightings  when possible. Kayaks, snorkelling and hiking allow guests to explore the fascinating marine and remote landscapes while the onboard facilities offer respite in the form of a well-stocked library, spa and a wealth of enrichment lectures and activities.

Sunset of Anacapa Island
Sunset of Anacapa Island

www.expeditions.com

 

 

Radar: Mariner of the Seas offers mini-cruise breaks and lots of fun

Mariner of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas takes to the water on June 25th following a $120 million refurbishment. Embarking on a series of 3 and 4 night mini-breaks from Miami to the Bahamas, this thrill-packed cruise ship hopes to entice Millennials on board with the promise of fun and adventure.

CocoCay
CocoCay

By offering short holidays to tropical destinations, Royal Caribbean intends to lure the younger cruising generation away from traditional road trips and beach holidays. In 2019 Mariner of the Seas will sail to the new Perfect Day at CocoCay – the first destination in Royal Caribbean’s recently announced collection of private island experiences around the world. 

MARINER OF THE SEAS SKY PAD
Sky Pad

The re-imagined Mariner of the Seas has a wealth of new ways to play:

  • Sky Pad – Thegravity-defying bungee trampoline experience amped up with virtual reality
  • The Perfect Storm – A thrilling pair of three-floor-high racer waterslides called Cyclone and Typhoon
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z – An epic glow-in-the-dark battle for the last planet in the galaxy
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium – Royal Caribbean’s newest escape room challenge
  • FlowRider – The cruise line’s signature 40-foot-long surf simulator
MARINER OF THE SEAS PLAYMAKER SPORTS BAR AND ARCADE
Playmaker Sports Bar & Arcade

There are also new restaurants and bars introduced to take guests effortlessly from day-to-night:

  • The Bamboo Room – A laidback Polynesian watering hole with a throwback vibe and kitschy-cool craft cocktails like the Island Old Fashioned and Tiki Tea – the first in Royal Caribbean’s fleet
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade – For fans watching their home team on one of more than 25 TV screens, making their own legendary plays at the arcade, or refueling on game-day favourites
  • Jamie’s Italian – Serving fresh, handmade and rustic Italian fare by British Chef Jamie Oliver
  • IzumiHibachi and Sushi – Asian-inspired dining featuring hibachi, sushi and sashimi and more – made to order with authentic flavors, the freshest ingredients and impeccable presentation
MARINER OF THE SEAS FLOWRIDER
Flowrider

 

www.royalcaribbean.co.uk

5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic

Stockholm archipelago
Stockholm archipelago © 2017 Louise Farquhar

I am delighted to be featured today on Helm – the Cruise Cotterill blog. Click over and discover my 5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Last summer I enjoyed a fabulous 14-day tour of this fantastic region with Celebrity Cruises on the superb Celebrity Eclipse. Read my full review here.

Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse

Monster or Marvel: Symphony of the Seas takes to the water

With a capacity for nearly 9000 passengers and crew, the largest cruise ship in the world has finally taken to the sea for its inaugural cruise. The colossal size of this floating city is difficult to contemplate; imagine roughly four Titanic ships in volume or, if put on its end, this giant would match the dizzy heights of the Shard or Eiffel Tower.

Symphony of the Seas Pool Deck
Pool Deck

Miami-based Royal Caribbean, who are widely responsible for shaking the cruise industry free from the “the newlywed and the nearly dead” image, have brought fun-loving cruise aficionados most of the mega-ships on the water today. Symphony of the Seas doesn’t disappoint on that scale. There are 22 restaurants, 24 pools, a Manhattan-esque park with 12,000 real trees, two West End-sized theatres, a climbing wall, nine-deck-high zip line, ice rink, surf simulator, fairground carousel, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, spa and other countless entertainment and shopping opportunities.

Symphony of the Seas Ultimate Abyss
Ultimate Abyss

Self-proclaimed as ‘The World’s Most Instagrammable Ship’, chances to take that perfect wow-factor snap are everywhere; from the Flow Rider surf simulator and 10-storey Ultimate Abyss slide to the lush Central Park and Robotic bar.

Symphony of the Seas Central Park
Central Park

In response to the launch of Symphony of the Seas, some critics are using words like ‘brash’ and ‘gimmicky’ … and they don’t need to try hard to make their point. It’s easy to see this behemoth as a gargantuan amusement park, which certainly won’t appeal to everyone. However, regardless of such negative feedback, the reality of Symphony of the Seas lies with the fact that Royal Caribbean listened to their customers. They created exactly what these thrill-seeking, happy people want – to the tune of $1 billion. Its true purpose, as well as being the largest cruise ship in the world, is to be the best cruise ship for families. In this respect, Symphony of the Seas is an undisputed success.

Symphony of the Seas Suite Deck
Suite Deck

The bias towards families is epitomised by the Ultimate Family Suite. This two-tier laugh-a-minute paradise, in eye-popping colours, comes compete with a slide between the two floors and full size Lego Wall. Although only in reach of the lucky few with too many dollars in their pocket – one family have booked Christmas for $65,000 – the experience is enhanced by a Royal Genie to meet ‘every wish’ (within reason) as well as an ‘Instagrammer-in-Chief’ to assist with those perfect pics … and, not being too cynical, to also ensure Royal Caribbean get maximum coverage across the social media network … they are clever.

Symphony of the Seas Ultimate Family Suite
Ultimate Family Suite

But the real triumph of Symphony of the Seas lies beyond the smiley faces and the multitude of dollars flowing into the bank account of Royal Caribbean. Elevated above the brash lights, bright colours and unending noise is a masterpiece of design and engineering. This 228,000 ton ship floats; and it does so safely, in style and embracing the very latest technology. Created by Harri Kulovaara, a Finnish naval architect, Symphony is built to withstand Russian winters, Caribbean summers and North Atlantic storms. It generates energy and cleans water. Flow of movement is optimised both above and below deck to ensure passengers and crew efficiently move around the ship. From a guest perspective, the 18-decks are dividend into 7 neighbourhoods, naturally segregating personality-types and giving the feel of a smaller, more intimate experience despite the scale of the vessel.

Symphony of the Seas Innovation
Innovation

After a summer season in the Mediterranean, Symphony of the Seas will head to Miami to set up home. Royal Caribbean International can surely expect lots and lots of happy customers as the company moves forward with plans for the next ‘largest cruise ship in the world’.

Symphony of the Seas Master Rob Hempstead, Captain
Master Rob Hempstead, Captain

Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean 

www.royalcarribean.co.uk

Radar: EUR 300 available for greening the cruise industry

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Dutch financial institution ING are supporting green innovation in European shipping with a new EUR 300 million fund. 

Sustainability is a key factor in the future of the cruise industry as consumer awareness of green issues grows and stricter regulation compliance increases. This, combined with impressive advances in technology and a genuine understanding amongst cruise operators of the importance of environmental sensitivity, brings a welcome injection of funding for sustainability measures.

Over the next three years, clients incorporating green elements in either the construction of new vessels or the retrofitting of existing vessels can apply for support. The programme applies to both inland shipping and seagoing operators. With both the ocean and river cruise industry in a state of unprecedented growth, the financial support to incentivise greener fleet renewal and incorporate more sustainable technology intends to project the industry on an environmentally harmonious trajectory.

According to the programme founders, “This agreement forms part of ING’s wider sustainability strategy, which aims to facilitate and finance society’s shift to sustainability – environmental, economic, and social. To this end, we are helping to develop and promote sustainable business models and explore how sustainable financing can help support energy transition and combat climate change.”