Cruise report: HAL Nieuw Statendam transatlantic with teens

The kids and I sailed with Holland America Line once before, when they were fairly young. Embarking on HAL’s Nieuw Statendam in August 2022 was my husband’s first cruise with this company. We spent 24 days together on this grand vessel, visiting four countries in addition to the United States, and briefly crossing into the Arctic Circle.Certificate signed by Captain Barhorst showing crossing Friday, 8/12/2022 at 20:25

The experience was good enough for us to purchase Future Cruise Credits (FCC)—a minor commitment to future travel with the same company—while still on board.

Link to explanation of FCC’s at The Points Guy site

Our transatlantic (TATL) cruise itinerary called for boarding the ship in Boston, calling in several Canadian ports, followed by stops in Greenland, Iceland, Greenland again, Canada again, France in the form of the island of St. Pierre, Canada third time, then Bar Harbor, Maine, and finally back to Boston.

The round trip itinerary—no flights required from our New England home—absolutely sold us on this particular itinerary. HAL transatlantic cruise itinerary round trip Boston

If we hadn’t had a credit to use from a scheduled 2020 trip cancelled due to the pandemic, it’s unlikely we would have gone anywhere during the rampant snarling of summer travel in 2022. If we’d had an international flight planned, I can guarantee we would have called off any trip as reports of hours’ long lines snaking outside of airports proliferated in the lead up to our departure.

While our cruise wasn’t perfect, the hassles were fairly minimal and we found the experience well worth the bumps in those road that we did encounter.Holland America line vessel, rear view

I plan to publish a series of posts covering ports we visited, but, today, I’ll begin with an overview of embarking on transatlantic travel on HAL as a family with teens. I hope this perspective is helpful to other potential family cruisers since Holland America has a reputation for catering to an elderly crowd.

My kids enjoyed the trip, but there were very few people their age on the ship. We socialized with each other and with adults with whom I’d become acquainted on Cruise Critic prior to the voyage.

In addition to a lack of youth-oriented trip reports, I also couldn’t find much information for travelers with special needs regarding Polar-adjacent travel in the North Atlantic. I live with a chronic condition that sometimes affects my mobility and energy levels. Here’s hoping I can offer relevant tips for future adventurers with similar limitations in this and future posts.

First impressions

As it happens, one of the first SNAFU’s of our trip occurred at its very beginning: embarkation from Boston’s Flynn (formerly Black Falcon) Cruise Port was a mess. More frequent cruisers than I commented later that they’d never endured such a poorly executed boarding elsewhere or in Boston.

Here’s the official Massport site for the cruise terminal.

It’s easy to mock social media and blame it for many of society’s ills, but the utility of crowdsourced information cannot be denied. If I weren’t an active member of Cruise Critic—and a participant in a Roll Call for our August voyage—my embarkation experience could have been even worse. Tips from passengers who arrived at the port earlier than we did saved us at least a couple of hours of unnecessary waiting on site since we could elect to leave our home later to drive to the terminal.

To begin with, HAL sent notification a day ahead of boarding offering a completely revised boarding plan with new times for each passenger, all of which superseded the information given on one’s boarding pass. By not updating boarding passes—offered in digital format for cruise passengers just like most of us use on flights!—Holland America missed an opportunity to reduce confusion instead of sowing it.

Screenshot of HAL's recommended cruise app, NavigatorHAL reaped what it sowed. Thousands of people waited outside for hours beyond the embarkation time on their documents.

Nowhere in their last minute, change-of-plans missive did HAL inform embarking passengers that their digital documents would fail to update to reflect the new instructions. It’s bad to have a communication system that can’t update digital docs in real time; it’s worse not to confess to this fact up front to help reduce confusion!

At least two ambulances were required to whisk away people who weren’t up to the physical demands of standing in line for so long. We were incredibly fortunate that a recent heat wave ended before this marathon queue, but even 80°F became uncomfortable to many, and, while much of the line was shaded by adjacent buildings, there was no other shelter. Almost no seating was available, either.

Purple aluminum HurryCane walking stick freestanding on a wood floorBecause my own mobility limitations wax and wane, I always register a request with common carriers at the time of booking for wheelchair assistance. I’m often well enough to decline the requested service upon arrival at a terminal, but it is harder to get help on demand when it is needed if I haven’t initiated the process in advance. At Boston’s cruise port, it was lucky I was having a pretty good day.

When we arrived at the port, I checked in with an employee and noted we’d requested wheelchair assistance. According to that agent, “So did 1/3 of the people here waiting to board!”

Massport was short by at least dozens of personnel to offer wheelchair assistance. I believe that the lack of “timely assistance” was in violation of U.S. law. It reflected poorly on the port and on the city of Boston.

While the kind Massport employee I’d encountered couldn’t do much for me or anyone else, this lady did find folding chairs for a few of us who were concerned about walking the length of the line that disappeared out of sight across at least two long city blocks. Later arrivals sat on the curb.

My husband and kids trekked to the back of the line, and I waited in tolerable conditions if not comfort with the “special assistance” crowd. It was from that vantage point near the entrance that I saw one woman collapse and get taken away by ambulance.

By the time I boarded, I had yet to see a single passenger escorted onto the ship via wheelchair pushed by port employees. That period of time extended for well over an hour. The fortunate disabled passengers were those traveling with their own mobility aids and friends or family members capable of providing assistance.

After about an hour waiting alone, my family made it to the front of the line where I was sitting. Since no wheelchair assistance passengers were being taken aboard the ship as far as I could see, I rejoined them. My kids took my carry on bag, and I walked myself carefully through the disorganized thicket inside the terminal building with an occasional hand from one of my able-bodied relatives.Embarkation crowdThe gangway with which we boarded Nieuw Statendam was set at a particularly steep angle, too. A fellow passenger said they’d heard that the usual “jet bridge” style boarding ramp for Boston was broken and awaiting repairs, but I have no confirmation for that rumor. I was glad I’d brought my cane to help negotiate boarding, though, fortunately, I didn’t need it much once we were at sea.

Again, according to people who have cruised Boston more than I have, there is a port building here with some features of a modern travel terminal. We were not in that space! Instead, the Nieuw Statendam passengers were being processed in an open, warehouse-like space that might’ve felt familiar to our forebears’ experience at Ellis Island.

The flooring was uneven asphalt, there was no climate control, and there was no reasonable signage to help anyone self-select the correct lines. With various levels of “self check in” one might have performed prior to arriving at the port, there were at least three different types of confirmations that might be required to complete check in on site.

Through dumb luck, we were in the correct line for those who had performed the maximum online steps ahead of time, and we spent only ten to 20 minutes finishing up the check in process before preceding to the gangway that led onto the ship. The new facial recognition software did speed up check in, and, interestingly, could identify ³⁄4 of us with our N95 masks still in place.

One member of the family had to remove a protective mask to be correctly ID’d by the computer.

Some of the confusing requirements befuddling our embarkation day may be laid at the feet of COVID-19. There are national directives demanding certain steps or paperwork, it’s true. Failing to post signage to correctly direct thousands of boarding passengers into the correct lines based upon the status of government and health requirements, however, was entirely the fault of the Flynn Cruise Terminal and its staff.

The communication from HAL that changed boarding times at the last minute stated that a mandatory Coast Guard drill was the cause of the adjustment. That is probably true, but the Coast Guard didn’t prevent HAL from updating information on our virtual boarding passes or within the cruise line’s own app which they tout as an innovation in cruising convenience.

Neither was the Coast Guard responsible for inadequate staffing on the part of Massport, the government agency that runs land-side port operations.

Once we made it on board, the giddy relief of dropping our bags in our beautiful staterooms quickly eased the frustrations of the long morning day. Running the gauntlet of Boston’s cruise terminal was sufficiently exhausting that all of us—even the teens!—spent some part of our first afternoon aboard napping instead of exploring or reveling.

We were told in advance that we would board at 11:40; the port actually seemed to begin embarkation proceedings closer to 14:00 from our vantage amongst the crowds. My first photos from our cabin were taken at 15:45. We were scheduled to sail at 16:00. Nieuw Statendam actually cast off from its Boston mooring at 19:31.

port employees releasing ropes holding Nieuw Statendam to dockI think I’m being generous when I say we experienced a delay of at least three hours. For those who view lunch on the ship as the start of their vacation, our embarkation must have been particularly painful. It was certainly debilitating to those of us with health issues, and proved tiring even to young travelers.

Aside from mentioning that disembarkation three weeks later was similarly hideous—with poor communication again being the element for which HAL itself should be held fully accountable—I won’t go into detail for the latter fiasco. Suffice to say that I will still sail in or out of Boston because “not flying” remains on my list of “good to have” vacation characteristics, but I will always travel through this port carrying as little as possible to preserve my energy, and I will assume zero mobility assistance will be offered regardless of what’s legally mandated or promised.

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend embarking on a cruise out of Boston’s port for anyone with severe mobility restrictions at this time unless that person can afford to travel with sufficient personal assistance to cover all boarding needs. I hope the situation will improve if staffing levels recover, but I wouldn’t bet a friend or loved one’s comfort on it personally.

Also, on the subject of advance communication, I think it is worth pointing out that Holland America Line mandated the wearing of masks indoors, when not eating or drinking, for all passengers as well as crew for the duration of our sailing. This was not announced in advance of embarkation, though it could have been. The captain announced the policy on board the ship, and reminders were broadcast by him and other officers once or twice a day over the public address system.Disposable surgical mask

Most destinations, and all excursions, appeared to have dropped all COVID prevention rules or requirements, though the majority of our fellow travelers opted to wear masks on the one tour bus we joined.

Our group enjoyed a much greater degree of relaxation and feelings of safety due to the enhanced precautions, but some cruisers felt deceived and complained bitterly about the unexpected need to mask. At least one Cruise Critic member in my Roll Call group bragged about “always carrying a drink” in order to intentionally and spitefully subvert the protocols as much as possible.

Most Nieuw Statendam passengers appeared to make a sincere effort to adhere to the mask rules, in our personal experience on the ship. We elected to exceed HAL’s requirements, and we all avoided catching COVID-19, testing negative on our own home tests multiple times during and after the journey. There were reports of viral spread on the ship, however, and visibility of guests in isolation increased over time.

We believe that it was possible for cruise passengers to make personal choices to increase the odds of avoiding getting sick, but that the mask mandate made it many times easier for cautious travelers to do than it would have been otherwise. For example, I would have felt far less comfortable without the face covering requirement when I squeezed onto any of the crowded ship’s tenders required to visit the smaller ports on which we called.

Our family felt fortunate that HAL mandated masks; other passengers felt cheated out of the freedom they thought they’d been promised on the same voyage.

Our cabins: corner aft Neptune Suite & Inside stateroom

Two of us were booked into the corner aft Neptune Suite SB 4211 while the other pair originally had L4215 immediately across the hall. For operational reasons, HAL switched our inside cabin to room K4195, a “rotated” stateroom a few doors further toward the bow.

If I’d been a nervous mom with little kids who’d lost connecting staterooms, this adjustment might’ve bothered me, but my college and high school aged kids were fine with five more doors between them and me.

Our rooms were on Deck 4, Beethoven Deck. Nieuw Statendam is decorated with a music theme, and most of the passenger decks are named for famous composers.

Deck plan map with fire doors and cabin we stayed in markedOne interesting thing about Deck 4 on our voyage is that the fire doors just ahead of our staterooms, near the aft elevator bank, were closed for the entire voyage. The midship section—between the aft and midship elevators—was set aside as a COVID quarantine area. This meant a short learning curve for navigating to our area at the rear of the ship because passengers weren’t allowed to pass through the isolation hallways.

We learned to go up or down a deck before attempting to go forward toward venues closer to the bow. This proved mildly frustrating only once, when I wanted to drop off a note to an acquaintance in a cabin on my same deck, but beyond the barrier. Otherwise, it had no effect on our enjoyment of the location we’d chosen. If anything, it probably resulted in less foot traffic than might otherwise be encountered.

HAL Deck 4 closed isolation area door at end of hall with stateroomsOur group was grateful that HAL continued to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 between passengers, and grouping those quarantined means keeping potentially contagious people within a single HVAC zone. The presence of small tables, regularly cluttered with room service trays awaiting pickup, was a visible reminder when staff passed through those doors in our presence that people occupied some of those rooms. The increase in those little tables demonstrated the growth of COVID cases on the ship.

Review of K 4195 Interior Stateroom

Prior to embarkation, we were curious about the layout of 4195 since one enters in the center of the long wall instead of on the short side like most cabins. There were no reviews I could find for it online, so I’m posting extra pictures to show its details to future passengers.

Modern cruise ship staterooms can be very similar within a given category, but the demands of cramming so much living, dining, and entertainment into a constrained space means that quirky layouts do occur.Beds in a rotated inside stateroom on cruise ship

In practice, K4195 on Nieuw Statendam was a small inside stateroom made even harder to navigate with the beds separated for two singles. One bed was parked tightly up against the side wall. Standing at the foot of that bed, your backside would brush against the TV on the wall. I could only pass between the kids’ two beds turned sideways.

There was no loveseat nor even a chair to sit on; a storage ottoman that tucked under the desk/vanity was one’s only option for seating aside from the beds. If pulled out, the ottoman completely blocked all passage from the area at the foot of the bed to the bathroom.

A potentially nice feature of the rotated stateroom design of 4195 is that opening the hallway door doesn’t expose anyone coming out of the bathroom to public scrutiny from the public corridor; on the other hand, one enters the room looking straight at the two beds.

The bathroom door is down a tiny hallway to the right past the desk. That passage is near the head of the innermost bed. The closets open across from the bathroom door. This makes for a modicum of dressing privacy when compared to the more standard stateroom design with the closets and washroom right by the entrance, but that comes at the expense of recumbent privacy if your roommate opens the door to the corridor while you are sleeping.

Door to corridor barely clears corner of bed when openedRoom 4195 had plenty of storage for two teens, but neither of my children saw fit to put much away in the available closet space. That space consisted of two hanging closets, one cupboard above the minibar fridge, and three drawers.

Instead, my kids piled a mountain of possessions atop their minuscule nightstands and the one small desk. They did make use of the bit of triangular open shelving at the end of the run of closets just across from a bed.

HAL Nieuw Statendam Inside Stateroom K 4195 closetsThe bathroom in 4195 was petite compared to the gracious one in our suite, but my teens didn’t pack an excess of toiletries. They found plenty of space on the three small glass shelves for their necessities, and a hanging kit with a hook contained the rest up and out of the way.

The size of the stall shower wasn’t uncomfortable for either of them, though they are both slim, and my youngest commented that our suite shower was “fancier.”

One nice feature of the smaller facility was easy access to the towel rack when reaching from inside the shower. My only complaint about the Neptune Suite bathroom was no good place to hang my towel while I bathed; it had to drape over the shower stall wall where I feared it would get wet, but it did not. There’s no tub, only a glassed in shower, in this inside stateroom.

HAL Nieuw Statendam Inside Stateroom K 4195 bathroomFor the most part, I avoided entering my kids’ disorderly cabin so I could enjoy my vacation without worrying about their mess. I did insist that they keep the floor and bathroom counter tidy so the stewards could do their job with less hassle, however. I also asked the stewards to alert me if the kids’ possessions got in their way.4 people shown in disorderly inside room; 3 sit on beds while 4th stands near tv wall

On the few occasions when all four of us were in the interior cabin, it definitely felt cramped. Being slightly claustrophobic, I felt a need to sit down on the bed and try to get everyone else to sit or lean against the wall as well. The above photo of the kids’ mess reflects one of the few times we gathered in this room.

As one should expect for an inside stateroom, it was extremely dark in 4195 with all the lights off. My teens slept much longer than usual, and waking up my youngest was a daily challenge. Being modern young people, they probably embarked somewhat sleep deprived, but the lack of natural light was certainly a factor.

If I sail with my youngest in an interior cabin ever again, we will pack a sunrise lamp in hopes of keeping his sleep cycles more normal. I’m sure I would need that intervention to enjoy travel in that stateroom category.

Bedside clock nightstand Mg - 1There’s a trick where one leaves the television set on and tuned to the bow camera to defeat the lack of natural light. The natural sunrise will be broadcast into the room by this medium. My youngest, however, is like me, and the excess light from the glowing TV screen even showing a dim night view prevented him from falling asleep.

Be very cautious with interior staterooms if you are highly sensitive to light or a lack thereof.

We weren’t certain we would have the same room stewards between 4195 and 4211, but we did. Rudy and Mikael took wonderful care of us on our journey, and we felt fortunate to have them. They even folded towel animals for my kids many extra times.

Note: I did ask if their duties would allow for that extra service, and I tipped extra to show my gratitude. Towel animals are usually only offered on formal nights now as a cost cutting measure. They used to be seen most evenings even on cheaper cruise lines like Carnival.

2012 Carnival cruise Saint John NB Canada - 2Since those special surprises were one of the great joys of our first HAL voyage when the kids were little, it was a meaningful reminder of a pleasant memory. Our trip would not have been as good without our fantastic stewards, but HAL’s staff is almost uniformly exceptional.

I will try to call out those who most impressed me here, but, even more importantly for their job performance reviews, I also used the Navigator app while still aboard the Nieuw Statendam to report directly to the cruise line when a crew member really made my day.

Review of SB 4211 Neptune Suite

Another blogger, Teresa, published a fairly comprehensive review on her blog, Desert Girls at Sea of  4211, and it was a tremendous help to me as I planned my packing for this lengthy voyage. I can never have too much information about a space before a vacation, so, thanks Teresa!

For a family of four, the added space of a corner aft Neptune Suite was put to excellent use on our long voyage. This was our first time upgrading to a suite on a cruise ship, and it will not be the last.

Note: If I couldn’t afford a suite with a second stateroom for my kids, I personally would choose two basic cabins over cramming four people into one room, even if that room could be a lovely Neptune Suite. That said, a suite plus an interior room appeals to me more than two balcony cabins would assuming costs were similar. I prefer one large and one small space over two equal ones.

Why?

Because, perhaps the best part of the overall great Neptune Suite, according to this mom, is that when the kids sat on the couch or any of the chairs in our stateroom, they were too far away to put their feet on my bed. I hate that! Instead, they would use the coffee table or just stretch out their legs, yet we would all have plenty of room to move freely about the cabin.

We may not have gathered in the kids’ interior room, but we spent a lot of time together as a family in our suite. Being comfortable encouraged everyone to come together.

Bluetooth Speaker perk

A “suite perk” I’d hardly considered provided our most unexpected leisure activity. On sea days, or in the late afternoon after an active day when everyone felt inclined to relax, we listened to several audio books together using the Bose Bluetooth speaker available in every Neptune Suite. HAL's speaker charging by stateroom phone, room service menu, daily program, and a cup of teaThe tiny speaker on a mobile phone or iPad can’t compare to a larger model for enjoyable sound quality, but I’ve given up traveling with my own Bluetooth speaker as I’ve had to dispose of too many poor quality ones that failed in short order.

Luckily, I’ve used the same Bose model at my father’s house. There were no instructions for it in our stateroom, and its behavior was occasionally finicky. If you’re unfamiliar with pairing Bluetooth speakers to your device(s), consider downloading instructions from Bose customer support before you travel since WiFi could be spotty at sea.

Here’s a link to the Bose site to download the manual for the SoundLink Color II speaker.

Book recommendation for cruising to Iceland: I Remember You, a ghost story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. My link is to the Audible version, but I read a paper copy from my local library before taking this trip. Heysteyri village on excursion from Isafjordur, Iceland - 1This is especially apropos if you’ll be visiting Ísafjörður and can take your own excursion to the abandoned village of Hesteyri, shown above, in which the story is set.

Every penny spent upgrading our main living space was well spent for this, the final trip before my eldest left for college. Everything that made it easier to hang out together was worth it.

I have yet to regret paying for any travel up-sell that includes more space, and that streak continues. On our canceled 2020 cruise, we were booked in one of HAL’s Signature Suites. The Neptune Suite to which we upgraded for 2022 was larger with additional perks, but even more expensive.

Balcony bonanza perk of the Aft Wrap

This particular room—like other “corner aft” or “aft wraparound” cabins—has a truly phenomenal balcony, and, on this ship, the largest balconies of the type are on the lowest decks. They grow gradually smaller with each level up.

Remember, on a ship, Aft means towards the back, which is also known as the vessel’s stern.

Note: Some motion sensitive cruise passengers strictly avoid aft cabins because there can be more movement than with a midship location.

We really hesitated about taking an aft cabin for this reason. Two of us are highly prone to seasickness! In the end, over the counter meclizine* was sufficient to defeat even our worst sea day, and the giant balcony made any increase in experience of ocean motion well worth it. You will feel the seas a bit more in this location, but, for us, it was less noticeable between midships and aft than was the difference between higher decks and our relatively low, Deck 4 position on the ship.

I also read occasional reports online of unpleasant odors, noises, or shimmying motions offending people in Aft cabins on lower decks on cruises. We had no such experience on Nieuw Statendam. I am highly sensitive to strong scents, and DH is similarly so to motion, though your response could differ from ours.

4211’s balcony is large enough to hold a dining table with four chairs, two chaise longues, a small side table, and two upright/adjustable cushioned lounge chairs with ottomans. It also hosts the window washing equipment for this part of the ship, but that hangs off the outer edge of the balcony, and it never bothered us or ruined any of our photos.

I intentionally sought pictures that featured the window washing equipment to expose its absolute maximum impact because most of my photos were not affected.

Four people could dine at the outdoor table even on the “small” side of this gigantic space, though I only got photos of the full size table positioned on the wider side area of the balcony. We moved the table based on wind direction and our desire for sun/shade on a daily or even by-meal basis.

Binocular perk

The binoculars provided in Neptune Suites seemed to be of excellent quality, though I have no expertise on the subject. They really enhanced a trip as scenic as this one. I tended to keep them on the balcony with me anytime I spent an extended period of time outside.

Set up to work on balcony with iPad, bluetooth keyboard, cup of tea and HAL's speaker and binoculars visible behind my tabletBecause the Bose speaker was a portable/rechargeable model, I carried it out to listen to my own music as well.

Entertainment space in 4211

Moving back inside, the open shelf under the coffee table gave me a perfect place to store the puzzles and games I brought along on this journey. Since these items were clearly visible, there was a better chance the kids would remember we’d packed them. Because there was the risk of COVID exposure and a mandatory isolation period, I packed more family diversions than usual.

View of jigsaw puzzle in progress on coffee table with seating for four nearbyYou can see an Artifact wooden jigsaw puzzle I was working on in this photo. Its Arctic whaling theme related to the voyage. Since their heavier pieces shift a lot less, I find wooden jigsaws much safer to do when traveling. I could even work a puzzle outside on deck on mild days without losing a piece.

This may be where I have to confess: as well as buying jigsaw puzzles with appropriate subjects months in advance, I also mapped out all of the storage in room 4211 before we even boarded. It’s really hard to understate how much joy I get from the planning process; anticipation of travel truly delights me.

Unpacking as a couple in 4211

My husband is a superlative human being, but he and I have different notions of what makes a vacation lodging comfortable and homey. I’m far tidier on vacation; he doesn’t like to put things away in strange drawers and likes living out of an open suitcase. These tendencies do not reflect our daily habits at home.

When we boarded the ship, I handed DH a printout with photos of the room indicating where he should put his stuff, and where I would stow mine. One of the benefits of measuring your marriage in decades is knowing when to pick your battles, and how to head them off before they start!
Click here to download a PDF of my visual unpacking guide for NS 4211 if you feel it could help you, too.

I assigned the large built in minibar/coffee cabinet as DH’s space for his non-wardrobe belongings, and he took the two closet units closest to the beds. His open suitcase lived inside the closet without the safe, but I could shut the door when I didn’t want to look at his jumble. Closet next to bed with haphazard arrangement of items, some still in suitcase

A fairly large spinner case in a checked luggage size will fit inside a closet. We did move one of the life jackets under the bed to make more room for shoes in the closet; as long as you can find it in an emergency, this should be a safe choice.

My own electronics and personal items went in or on the desk. I also used some of the desk drawers—as well as my nightstand drawers—for my smaller items of folded clothing. These are narrower than the closet drawers, but generous enough for many items in ladies’ sizes.

Slippers lived in the cubby adjacent to the bed where they were easy to access. Because I am a stickler for emergency preparedness, I always keep some kind of footwear and a battery powered light within reach of where I sleep. I also memorize the number of doorways between my room and the emergency exit in a new environment, and I suggest everyone do the same.

My hanging garments occupied the two closets closest to the stateroom door.

Floral perks of a Neptune Suite, plus extra bouquet orders from the florist

Neptune Suites are furnished with a small bouquet of fresh flowers as a perk. By default, these were placed on the coffee table, but ours saw too much action to make it a safe place for even a modest glass vase. When DH surprised me by ordering a larger floral arrangement—not once, but twice before we returned home, because drooping daisies make me misty!—placing them on the desk made even more sense.

Add the florists to the list of sterling employees on Nieuw Statendam.

Hooks are good; give me more hooks!

There were two sturdy hooks on the wall between the entrance door and the bathroom, whose door faced almost directly onto that of the corridor. As always, I object that two hooks is not enough, and the long blank wall in this particular stateroom begged for half a dozen, at least.

Fortunately, the strong magnetic hooks I carried aboard adhered well to this wall, giving us room to leave hats, gloves, rain pants, etc., outside of the closets with our clean clothes. I bought these 60 lb magnetic hooks from Amazon, and they held up to the weight of outerwear.

They are almost too strong for me to remove from a flat surface, however, due to the arthritis in my hands!

Magnetic hook visible between stateroom lamps and within reach of bedI also used a magnetic hook on the wall alongside the bed, by the built in reading lamp.

This gave me a clean, safe place to stow my face mask when we were in the room, and I would also hang my room key on a lanyard I brought aboard from my bedside hook overnight.

In the event of an emergency, one should always carry a room key if evacuating lest conditions warrant a retreat to the relative safety of the stateroom. I felt that a bedside hook made finding my key card in the dark more likely and much easier.

Neptune Suite bathroom enhanced the cruise experience

The bathroom in 4211 was ample, and we had more than enough room for everything required by a family for a multi-week trip. Because it had dual sinks in the vanity, DH and I could arrange our things as we liked on either side and we could both get ready without interference.

I travel with a small, rechargeable USB light with motion sensor that we kept in the bathroom. It sat on the lower of the two glass shelves between the mirrors, and had enough clearance to light up when we entered the room. This lets you use the facilities at night without waking up your partner or ruining your night vision.

The four shelves in a nook as one entered the washroom gave me a visible place to put extra face masks and COVID tests and everything else I wanted the teens to be able to find for themselves. Chewing gum and a few sealed, packaged snacks suitable for taking ashore on hikes lived here, too.View of back of bathroom door with 2 robe hooks and four glass shelves in a floor to ceiling nicheThere was enough room beneath the glass shelves in this niche that a large suitcase could have been stored in the space. We found plenty of room for all of our myriad cases, hard and soft sided, in the main room, however. Most luggage will fit under a cruise ship bed, though you may have to lift the frame to fit very large, deep, hard-sided suitcases.

You can see my Red Oxx Laundro bag hanging—ready for the day’s dirty duds—from the chrome safety rail, next to the ship’s wooden clip hanger from which I’d hang my damp swimsuit to dry between uses.

If I could improve one thing about the Neptune Suite bathroom, it would be… yet more hooks! DH and I each got one of the two back-of-door hooks for our ship-provided bathrobe, but a towel hung there for re-use would slither to the ground when the door swung shut.

These were also too far from the shower to be useful for a drying off towel. My arms weren’t long enough to reach from the shower to the storage shelves in the niche, either.

An over-the-door hook could have been useful here, though it wouldn’t fit tightly on the thin glass partition. Maybe next time I will pack an oversized metal S hook and see if that would hold a towel.Towel draped over shower doorAnother Cruise Critic member suggested bringing a strip of velcro to use to hold the shower door open, and that was great advice. I didn’t have a long strip of velcro, like a giant cord wrap, sitting around, but I did find an oversized version of the familiar grocery twist tie similarly useful. That object was just sitting around my house.

I believe the twist tie I have is intended as a plant support, but I don’t recall when or where I got it so I can’t check.

My giant twist tie might be an 18 inch Nite Ize Gear Tie like this one on Amazon. The same object let me hang my wet swimsuit on the balcony to dry a couple of times without fear of it sailing away into the sea. This was a perfect thing to pack for an ocean voyage.Orange rubber coated flexible wire binding shower door handle to

Propping the shower door open is helpful when moving one’s toiletries around during un-/packing, but also seems to encourage drip drying laundry on the pull-out line in the shower to desiccate that wee bit faster.

Showering the suite with compliments

The shower in a Nieuw Statendam Neptune Suite has three settings: overhead rain shower, a handheld wand, and three horizontal wall jets. This was the first time I’ve tried a body jet in a shower, and I thought the addition was a nice touch. I would have liked them better if you could use more than one of these shower modes at once, but the selection mechanism is a rotating dial that forces you to choose one or another.

Even better than multiple water sources in the shower is the separation of temperature selection from the mode of water delivery. Having set your desired bathing temperature, rotating the selection dial would change the source but not how hot the water would be. A brief burst of cold water was common when switching between modes, however, so I learned to step aside as I adjusted the shower jets.

All in all, the shower in the Neptune Suite elevated the overall passenger experience in my opinion. It was more elaborate than I expected, so it exceeded my expectations.

Concierge is the superpower in the Neptune Lounge

Since only half of our party had access to the Neptune Lounge, and because we were lodging several decks away and outside the area with most Neptune Suites, we never lingered there. I didn’t view it as a particularly valuable perk up front, but the Concierges proved me wrong.Business cards for Shiela and Lorraine,

Even if you never hang out in the Lounge, the Neptune Concierge has the power to do anything you would otherwise wait in line to do at Guest Services. I found both ladies working there to be amazing at their jobs, and very proactive.

Lorraine and Sheila treated me like royalty every time I passed through the door or if I reached out by telephone. They answered questions, made reservations, exchanged currency when I forgot to go by an ATM, and solved any problem where others had failed.

It’s a silly example, but I forgot to pack my usual stationery or even boring notepaper. My Cruise Critic pal was a semi-Luddite who chose not to carry a smartphone, so she was unreachable via the Navigator app. When I asked Guest Services for “stationery, for writing a letter,” in order to send her a note, the gentleman on the phone didn’t understand what I meant. In the Neptune Lounge, however, I was given HAL letterhead and envelopes and asked if I needed for them to print a letter on my behalf.

I may have consumed one coffee there, once, and perhaps a single canape another time. I didn’t use the Neptune Lounge as a snack bar or a hang out space. I found better matches for my tastes elsewhere on Nieuw Statendam for those functions. It did turn out to be a powerful resource for making my trip more enjoyable, however, and I will never again underestimate the value of these highly skilled crew members.

Laundry service lets vacation ease linger

Upon returning home, mothers like me often find that recovering from a vacation requires an enormous effort as everyone’s suitcase disgorges its own mountain of dirty clothes. HAL’s laundry perk—for its suites, or available on a per piece or by the bag basis—means Mom can bask in a post-vacation afterglow with the rest of the family.

I took full advantage of my laundry perk on this trip, and I asked my family to do so as well. The laundry staff on Nieuw Statendam handled even delicate items with care, and they were able to remove a couple of stains that would have been permanent if left until we got home.

It’s easy for people who don’t wash anyone else’s clothes to dismiss the value of great laundry service, but Holland America not only gave me clean, well-pressed garments, the crew also sent a gently worded thank you note with most orders.

That’s right; someone thanked me for the privilege of doing my laundry.

As the typically un-thanked lady taking care of the task at home, I was floored by this little touch.

I wear a lot of silk and other delicate natural fibers. Following a Cruise Critic tip, I packed my usual mesh bags and sent some items to HAL’s laundry in those bags with instructions to “Launder delicate; no heat.” While the items sometimes returned inside the bags, other times, they were removed. In all cases, however, I got back clean clothing, intact, in excellent condition.

The single item I had dry cleaned came back looking fantastic as well.

Other perks for Holland America suites overview

When researching cruises, one hears that Holland America offers fewer “suite perks” than other lines. For this reason, I tried to point out subtle ways the suite experience earns its premium on HAL. Let me conclude today’s post by attempting to address the rest.

The list of suite perks on Holland America Line that are only offered in Neptune Suites and above is commonly defined to include:

  • access to the Neptune Lounge with its exclusive Concierge
  • Club Orange premium services included in cruise fare
  • complimentary laundry & dry cleaning service
  • a Bose Bluetooth speaker in the room
  • fresh flowers in the suite
  • priority tendering in tender ports
  • binoculars for use in the room
  • a free mimosa every day with breakfast
  • coffee machine in the room
  • upgraded tote bag to take home from the voyage

You can learn more about any of these perks elsewhere, and many are self explanatory, but I ranked them in roughly the order of the value I got from them myself. I suggest Cruise Critic for past passenger reviews, or going direct to HAL’s website to learn more.

HAL’s suite perks that I didn’t detail were all nice to have—with the exception of my total disdain for any coffee produced from a pod—but they don’t warrant further exploration from me.

Club Orange was better than I expected, and I was grateful to have it. It’s been almost a decade since I dined in a cruise Dining Room on a line other than Crystal, and the experience is less elegant than it used to be. Club Orange brought things back to the level I’d consider a minimum for a worthwhile experience.

It was easier to keep social distance in the C.O. space than the main Rotterdam Dining Room as well.

In most tender ports, my family wasn’t in a rush, but not having to wait in line to retrieve a ticket to be assigned a place in line was, well, obviously, significantly better. I’d rather cruise on a line where tender tickets are never necessary, quite frankly, but having “suite” status alleviated that concern while I sailed with HAL.

Breakfast mimosas are by no means a requirement for me, but I definitely enjoyed a few during our voyage. If I hadn’t booked my trip with a beverage package that offered more booze than I believe I ought to consume, starting my day with something sparkling might have been more fun.

I’m not sure most cruise passengers actually need any additional free alcohol, but the idea of being offered an adult beverage does have a certain appeal.

We ended up taking home our free tote bag, but mostly so I could corral all the souvenirs in one place, just in case U.S. customs wanted to see any of my purchases. The bag will be given to a relative as a container for a few more personal selections we carried back from our travels for her. The canvas tote bag provided in the Neptune Suite was obviously higher quality than the plastic one given to our teens in their interior stateroom.

Nieuw Statendam a stately home-from home, but ports shone

Our family had a marvelous time aboard Holland America Line’s Pinnacle class ship, Nieuw Statendam. These are HAL’s newest, largest vessels.

Though the staterooms ranged from comfortable to luxurious, and the staff tended to be exemplary, the voyage itself managed to be even better.

As a person with a chronic health condition, I highly value quiet sea days between more active visits to intriguing ports. Nieuw Statendam offered everything I could want for recharging, and I will speak at length another day about how I made optimal use of the ship’s facilities to keep myself in peak health to maximize my energy.

For families with disparate interests, or travelers requiring special meals, there’s an ease to vacationing by cruise ship that can’t be duplicated. There are few other options for visiting multiple countries while one waiter confirms your allergen-free meal is on deck for tomorrow.

Iceland was known to us, but Greenland was new. DH and I loved it so much, we’re already booked to return in 2023.

There are places on Earth few ever talk about. Did you learn, in school, that France maintained a tiny presence in the northern New World after abandoning most of its colonies? I certainly didn’t! Yet St. Pierre et Miquelon stands off the coast of Canada, proudly and unequivocally French. It’s only 800 miles from where I live, but a mystery to my neighbors.

A cruise ship, on its own, is a theme park. In that sense, Holland America pales compared to some of its bigger, flashier cousins. There exist vastly more elaborate ships.

A cruise ship—when it deposits you on the pier of a new-to-you place—can be a portal to adventure. For those of us who struggle with mobility limitations, this might be the single most accessible option to reach new shores, or the undiscovered country.

Look for future posts where I’ll describe every port at which we called.

Other links to information about HAL’s Nieuw Statendam ship

I saw one of the ambulances take away a person with my own eyes as I waited, and I heard the second emergency vehicle’s siren. I also know personally, and trust the report of, another Cruise Critic member who witnessed the second evacuation.

*a.k.a., Dramamine Less Drowsy/Dramamine II or Bonine in the U.S. market

HAL’s Signature Beverage Package, as included in my cruise booking, covered up to fifteen (15!) extra charge drinks per day, provided the beverage in question cost ≤ $11. I never once feared hitting that daily limit, even though espresso counts as a beverage. I did wish my preferred mass market cognac, Remy Martin VSOP, were priced to fall within the package on Nieuw Statendam. Fortunately, the red wine I drink more frequently included multiple reasonable selections included in the S.B.P.


This post includes a review of a company in which I have a financial interest. I own enough shares of stock in Holland America Line’s parent company, CCL, to earn their Shareholder Benefit when I travel with any of their subsidiaries. This post is not intended to offer financial or investment advice; it represents my personal experience as a paying cruise passenger.

My cruise was booked through a travel agent at a standard, published rate.

I will never post an opinion behind which I’m unwilling to stand, but I promise to always be transparent about whether I will realize monetary gain from a reader taking my advice on a product or service.

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