There’s no way to be certain which artworks in the brand-new cruise ship Nieuw Statendam will draw the most attention:
Will it be the clear plexiglass, 5-foot-tall statue of David, a copy of Michelangelo’s masterwork, except this one is holding a cellphone in his lowered arm? Or is it the collection of everyday objects — a camera, eyeglasses, high heels, scissors — that are covered in bright cloth that is heavily embroidered?
Might it be the vividly colored, standing electric guitar, seemingly melting at the base — though it is made from nonflammable flooring materials used on the ship?
Could passengers’ favorite be the massive but delicately curving bands of stainless steel reaching through the three-story Atrium and reflecting the changing colors in the overhead lighting panels?
Or any of the 100+ other works by the 63 “emerging” (i.e., mostly 20-40 years old) artists chosen to visualize “the themes of music, fashion and art history and how they are depicted or adopted by other media,” said Tai Danai, founder of the firm ArtLink. (His name and company are cq)
But music is not only in these static pieces of art (budgeted at $4.1-million) but also in multiple, energetic, live-music venues emphasizing pop music from the ’60s into this century.
Along a central corridor dubbed the Music Walk are three lounges: Billboard Onboard, home to dueling pianos playing pop music, the Rolling Stone Rock Room, in which a five-piece combo plays selections from the iconic magazine’s five decades of chart-busting hits, and B.B. King’s Blues Club, where an eight-piece band backs up male and female vocalists belting out Motown and R&B favorites. By dropping a curtain at the rear of B.B. King’s stage, the room becomes the Lincoln Center Stage, venue for classical music played by a chamber music ensemble.
That chamber music quintet — listen for their album-length version of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven — plays both afternoons and some evenings, a classical pianist plays for hours each night in a quiet nook that has beverage service, and there are soloists in the main World Stage, a two-deck-tall venue where the seating nearly makes this a theater in the round. Recently featured here were a pianist-comedian, a magician, a female vocalist, and an imaginative dance troupe whose choreography brilliantly matched a laser light show on both the surrounding walls and stage floor.
But gone, at least for now, are that cruise-line staple, the condensed Broadway show or 45-minute, twice-nightly, musical revue featuring vocalists and a dance troupe of 12 or more.
Much of this is a major change from other vessels in the Holland America Line fleet. For instance, nowhere are the traditional Holland America displays of Far Eastern artifacts: Delicately painted screens, cloisonné objects, inlaid furniture, a platoon of replicas of the “terra cotta army”, such items represented the Netherlands’ centuries-old Asian trade routes.
“Those original artifacts are being phased out,” said Jerrol (cq) Golden, deputy director of international public relations. “We need to change and update the ships. Some Mariners (veteran HAL cruisers) will not like the changes.”
But those folks might be assuaged by the increase in specialty restaurants, and refreshed menus in the standard dining areas.
The refined Pinnacle Grille ($35 a person surcharge for dinner, $10 at lunch) boasts a menu chosen by Chicago steakhouse impresario David Burke. Noted chef Rudi Sodamin, chief of HAL’s advisory council of chefs, presides over his 48-seat, seafood French brasserie, Rudi’s Sel de Mer. (Diners can’t miss the wall-length mural painted by Sodamin’s son, but you have to study the front window for the chef’s tiny bobble head doll.)
The exquisite Asian cuisine restaurant Tamarind ($25 surcharge for dinner, smaller-menu lunch is free) has a junior sibling, Nami Sushi, so intimate its lobby alcove has a fainting couch. Elevated by décor and side panels that better define its space from the adjacent corridor and Lido restaurant, Italian specialty restaurant Canaletto ($15) offers garlic shrimp ravioli, seafood paella and braised chicken cacciatore al for no, plus a daily entrée special.
And exclusive to Nieuw Statendam is Club Orange. For $50 per person per day, passengers can have breakfast and lunch in a 74-seat restaurant, use a dedicated line at guest services and receive priority for shore excursions and embarkation. Club Orange — it refers to the Netherlands’ national color — is being tested on the newest HAL ship.
While Tamarind and Nami Sushi are tucked away on an upper deck, the other specialty restaurants are situated on major traffic ways through the vessel. Decorated glass walls keep diners and passersby separate. This provides the diners some intimacy while also making them the objects of curiosity — perhaps leading to future reservations.
The extra restaurants are needed not just for dining variety but for the additional seats at the tables. Nieuw Statendam is Holland America’s largest ship, carrying 2,666 passengers. It’s 1,339 cabins are eight more than sister Pinnacle-class ship Koningsdam.
Included are 32 family cabins; designed for two adults and three children, they include a bed that descends from the ceiling, and two bathrooms.
The most-spacious category of cabins are the 45 concierge-level Neptune suites, which range in size from 465 to a relatively huge 855 square feet. Passengers in these suites have exclusive access to the mid-ships Neptune Lounge, larger than on previous ships and in lighter colors. The lounge has a library, work tables, complimentary refreshments and also alcoholic beverages for a fee.
But staterooms throughout the ship include bedside USB ports, plus numerous electrical sockets for recharging electronic devices, video-on-demand for the flat-panel TVs, and a mini-fridge. Guests can also order room service and reserve shore excursions through the interactive TV.
Highest-end suites have significantly larger shower stalls that boast a fixed shower head, three vertical shower heads on one wall, plus the hand-held shower head found in other cabins.
All the cabins have at least one piece of music-inspired wall art, and there are ceiling-to-floor photos in the corridors of old microphones, a single ear bud, a needle in the groove of a record — an orchestra’s worth of visualizing music.
If you go, the Itineraries
Based in Fort Lauderdale, the Nieuw Statendam is sailing three- and four-day cruises to the Bahamas, seven-day trips to the eastern and western Caribbean, and one 10-day Southern Caribbean voyage. It returns to Europe in late April; based there in Amsterdam, it will sail itineraries from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean.
By Robert N. Jenkins
He is former travel editor of the Tampa Bay Times.