Cruising in Style

Andrea Gross | Sep 10, 2012, 6 a.m.

The steward knocks on the door of our cabin. “Your breakfast, ma’am,” he says. “Perhaps you’d like to eat on the veranda.”

Well, yes, now that he mentions it, I would.

I gaze across the indigo water to an almost empty beach. As soon as I finish my steward-delivered breakfast, I’ll take the tender over to Half Moon Cay, a private Caribbean island that is available only to passengers of our cruise ship company, the Holland America Line. I sit down, coffee in hand. I feel like royalty.

I’m aboard the ms Nieuw Amsterdam, the 2,104-passenger cruise ship that is the largest and newest ship of the Holland America fleet. Launched in 2010, it is splendid indeed. In fact, it’s so nice that I’m tempted to skip the private island and just luxuriate in the amenities on board.

But no, the idea of a secluded island, replete with sugary sand and coconut palms, is too tempting. My husband and I take the short boat ride to the shore and stroll along the beach, reveling in the 82-degree weather. Off in the distance, other, braver passengers are parasailing. Some are snorkeling or scuba diving; a few have rented catamarans, sailboats or kayaks; and still others are taking a horseback ride that leads them over the sand and through the surf.

But where we are, people are relaxing in private cabanas, reading, chatting and sipping frozen drinks. About noon the ship’s crew sets out a barbecue buffet, and we amble over to our second meal of the day.


It’s impossible to go hungry on a cruise where an afternoon tea is squeezed between lunch and dinner.

Eating, I’m soon to learn, is a major activity aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Top-notch food is always available. We can eat white-tablecloth style at The Manhattan, Italian at the Canaletto, casual at the Lido Buffet, and fast food at The Slice (pizza) and Terrace Grill (burgers). For a slight surcharge, we can dine on Pan-Asian delicacies in the new Tamarind Restaurant, or enjoy an elegant eight-course banquet at the upscale Pinnacle Grill.

Still hungry? We can get caffeinated at the Explorations Café, go to afternoon tea, a mid-day ritual of mini-treats and tea, and indulge in sweets during late night snack. Or, if we don’t want to get dressed, round-the-clock room service is just a phone call away.

For someone who has trouble making decisions, who wants to do it all (to say nothing of eating it all), this cruise is presenting problems. Every night we receive a copy of “The Explorer,” a four-page newsletter showcasing the activities for the following day.

If we’re going to be in port, the cruise line offers a choice of excursions — some active, some cultural. Of course, we can also explore on our own, with one caveat. If we’re late getting back to the ship, it will sail without us. Being cautious, we opt for the sponsored trips, taking a semi-sub ride in the Cayman Islands, visiting a fishing village in Costa Maya, Mexico, and going deep-sea fishing in Roatan, Honduras.

But there would have been plenty to do if we’d stayed on the ship. On days when we’re going to be in port, the newsletter lists 50 or more activities. If we’re going to be at sea, the list runs to more than 70.

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