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What’s NIEUW Pussycat? Part Three

Posted on Friday, February 18, 2011 by

More from Peter Knego aboard Holland America Line’s “Nieuwest” ship, the 86,273 gt MV NIEUW AMSTERDAM as the seven night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean continues with visits to St. Maarten, San Juan and Grand Turk.

Holland America Line

What’s NIEUW, Pussycat? Part One

What’s NIEUW, Pussycat? Part Two

Keep up to date with MaritimeMatters’ Peter Knego on Twitter by clicking here

Please click on image to see larger version. All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2011 unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011, ctd.

MV NIEUW AMSTERDAM at St. Maarten.

I spent the rest of my time on St. Maarten at Telecom, the friendly internet cafe in the cruise terminal. When it shut down at 6:00 PM, I stepped out into the twilight to enjoy a dramatic view of the two brilliantly lit ships. Her gangway already stowed, RUBY PRINCESS hoisted her lines and slowly backed out as I re boarded the NIEUW AMSTERDAM.

Canaletto, facing forward.

With the multiple dining options on the NIEUW AMSTERDAM and a mere seven nights in which to try them, we didn’t want to let more time pass without sampling Canaletto. Every night, the forward/starboard portion of the Lido Restaurant is transformed into a stylish 64 seat Italian dining venue. It’s free of charge but reservations are recommended, especially at peak dining times.

Antipasti plus garlic bread equals bruschetta.

Since the ship was still under a “code red” due to a few cases of gastrointestinal illness, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar were not at our disposal but our waiter made sure the bread plates didn’t dry up. Canaletto starches include fresh-baked bread sticks, foccaccia, garlic bread and deliciously flaky rolls. Before the first menu courses arrive, there is a round of antipasti with all sorts of tantalizing choices, from marinated bell peppers to roasted eggplant, chunks of reggiano parmesan, olive tapanade, artichokes and more.

Magical minestrone in Canaletto.

Dinner began with a tangy Minestrone (with white beans, pasta shells, fresh veggies and thyme) and an Insalata Canaletto (seasonal greens with tomato, cucumber and olives) before graduating to a main course of Chicken Marsala Scaloppini (tender scallops of chicken breast glazed with marsala wine seried with linguini pasta tossed with tomato and roasted garlic). We both chose a simple gelato for dessert but alternate choices included a Trio of Tiramisu, Limoncello Creme and a Mille-Feuille of Madagascar Chocolate. Unique to Canaletto is a cloud of Limoncello cotton candy, served after dessert and, if desired, with a specialty coffee.

Northern Lights, facing forward.

The headliner in the Showroom At Sea was “The Marriage Game”, a live take off on television’s Newlywed Game, hosted by cruise director Dan Bernbach. All in all, an amusing show with some unexpected twists from three brave couples pulled from the audience.

After a circuit or two of the promenade, we decided to see what was going on in the Northern Lights Disco. On prior nights, it was abuzz with revelers but tonight, only the lights were dancing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday mat.

It was painful when room service knocked at the cabin door. Our bodies were just not ready for the 7:15 wake up call and neither of us were terribly hungry but we gorged on a multi course breakfast to fuel what was supposed to be a morning of horseback riding in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest.

CLUB MED 2 at San Juan.

Meanwhile, NIEUW AMSTERDAM was entering San Juan harbor. I checked the bow and stern cams in case a quick run up to deck was necessary to capture the panorama of ships in the normally bustling cruise hub. Not today, however — the only other ship in port was the already-berthed CLUB MED 2.

MV NIEUW AMSTERDAM at San Juan.

Just as we headed off to muster for the excursion, the cabin phone rang. It was the Shore Excursions office offering us an alternate tour since ours was canceled due to lack of interest (?!). After that huge breakfast, there was no way we could get back to sleep, so we decided to venture ashore and explore Old San Juan on our own.

Racies Fountain, San Juan.

It was a short walk from the cruise terminal to Paseo de la Princesa, a picturesque promenade that meanders along the outskirts of the old city wall. In a square near the harbor entrance, the centerpiece is Racies Fountain, with its many sculptures celebrating San Juan’s heritage.

San Juan spires.

The Paseo continues along the edge of the harbor towards the sea. On our way to the base of El Morro, we passed several small parks, one with a series of with druid-like metal spires.

El Morro greenery, San Juan.

Lush greenery did its best to scale the stone walls of the six level fortress, built between 1570 and 1783 by the Spanish to guard the harbor entrance. Abandoned cats have taken residence in the foliage and rocks on either side of the paseo.

El Morro corner in San Juan.

In addition to a prison, El Morro has many a spire-topped outcrop among its six levels of ramparts.

Breakers and boulders at San Juan.

Paseo de la Princesa ends at the water’s edge, where large breakers periodically slam into the rocky shoreline.

Skeletal Cardinal, San Juan.

We retraced our steps to a break in the wall and entered the old town near a square with an intimidating bronze sculpture of a skeletal cardinal. The figure was a bit frightful but quite spectacular, if not a cuddly mascot for Catholicism.

Turned to stone.

A rigor mortized gecko facing the staff-wielding figure seemed frozen in terror.

Braced up in San Juan.

For the next hour or so, we meandered the wonderful stone streets of Old San Juan. Many of its crumbling facades are being restored while much of the real estate behind them is being gutted.

Our stomachs were beginning to growl and we considered stopping in one of the inviting cafes for a bite to eat, but the food on the ship was too good to pass up…

Pizzeria.

First stop, the pizzeria on aft Deck 9 for a margherita to go. Next:  the usual salad and sandwich from the Lido.

From the pool...

Such a gorgeous day was all the better enjoyed with a refreshing dip in the aft pool. With so many people still off on tour, it was nice to just relax on the uncrowded ship.

Coastline, San Juan.

Up in the Crow’s Nest, I perked up with a cappuccino and did some writing, inspired by the great view over Old San Juan, all the way across to El Morro and San Cristobal forts. At 4:00 PM, as NIEUW AMSTERDAM blew her whistle and cast her lines, I headed back to our cabin to watch from the balcony as the ship podded into the turning basin and slipped out of San Juan harbor into the Caribbean.

Le Cirque Versace charger.

There was the usual workout, followed by another gourmand’s dinner with the press group. Tonight, the Pinnacle was transformed in Le Cirque at the Pinnacle. In special collaboration between famed Le Cirque restaurant’s founder Sirio Maccioni and HAL’s award-winning executive chef Rudy Sodamin, it features a fixed menu with a selection of Le Cirque courses once per week. And so far, so good — the 120 seat venue is a consistent sell out, even with a cover charge of $39 plus an extra $20 for wine pairing.

Le Cirque foie gras amuse bouche.

The amuse bouche was foie gras. A bit cruel for my personal taste but the presentation was splendid.

Le Cirque lobster salad.

The appetizer was a gobsmackeringly good Lobster Salad “Le Cirque” (poached lobster with haricot vert and citrus).

Le Cirque corn soup.

The soup course, Sweet Corn Soup (corn fritters, wood ear mushrooms and basil) is a two stage production. First, the fritters are served and then the piping hot broth is poured on. Rich and tasty…

Le Cirque cod main course.

A choice of three main courses included Rack of Lamb (goat cheese panisse, artichokes and arugula) and Cote de Boeuf (aged prime rib strip steak with horseradish flan and sweet and sour baby beets) as well as my selection, the Wild Halibut (leek fondue, Rocca Di Frasinello sauce). All main courses come with a side dish of seasonal veggies or Pommes Dauphine.

Le Cirque sorbet trio.

The dessert choices were a very indulgent Chocolate Soufflé (tempting but trumped by a need for sleep) and a highly caloric Creme Brulée Le Cirque. We wrapped it up with a selection of sorbets:  sweet, tangy and kinder in the morning.

After watching a portion of the comedy show in the Showroom At Sea, we walked around the ship before finally calling it a night.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday mat.

After a good night’s sleep, nothing beat yet another in-cabin breakfast and coffee. Out on the balcony, we could make out the faint outline of Grand Turk on the starboard horizon. By 10:30, NIEUW AMSTERDAM was thrusting her starboard side towards the end of the long jetty.

MV NIEUW AMSTERDAM at Grand Turk.

At 11:00, we disembarked and rendezvoused in the Cruise Center for our bike riding and snorkel tour.

RUBY PRINCESS approaching.

Meanwhile, a very familiar ship silently appeared on the horizon and gradually maneuvered to the other side of the jetty. I was beginning to think there was “something going on” between NIEUW AMSTERDAM and RUBY PRINCESS. The two Carnival Corp. cousins seemed to be shadowing each other for the greater part of the week.

Bike riding in Grand Turk.

After 20 years, I wondered if I could even still ride a bike.  Barely.  But the flat island was hardly challenging terrain. Our first pit stop was a nice cove but the rest of the ride, which took us in and out of Cockburn Town, was somewhat less scenic. Still, it was a beautiful day.

Triton and Chapel, Grand Turk.

We stopped for a few minutes outside the island’s oldest church, St. Mary’s, built in 1900. Damaged by a recent storm, its contents have been temporarily stored in adjacent containers while repairs are underway.

Conch shells and cruise ships at Grand Turk.

The tour ended with an hour spent at Governor’s Beach. The water was gorgeous but there was no sea life to speak of, so we ditched the masks and snorkels and just enjoyed floating in the pristine surf.

"Rear Window" (2011), maritime style.

Once back aboard NIEUW AMSTERDAM, our balcony faced a beehive of balconies on the RUBY PRINCESS.

Shortly after sunset, NIEUW AMSTERDAM slowly backed away from Grand Turk and headed into the Caribbean. We were prepared for some relatively rough seas as the captain announced our upcoming encounter with a force seven or eight on our northwesterly course to Fort Lauderdale.

The press group went off to what must have been a spectacular “Chef’s Dinner” in the Pinnacle but the fixed menu was not-so-well-suited to my semi-vegetarian palate. We headed to the Asian-themed Tamarind, our favorite restaurant on the ship and one of the best at sea.

Rob and Ani in the Tamarind.

With Deena and Ani waiting on us, our already high expectations were still exceeded. These fabulous Indonesian ladies are not only thorough, energetic and attentive, they have that special gift of making guests feel, well…special.

Deena in the Tamarind.

Tamarind Gyoza appetizer.

I sheepishly asked if I could have all chicken gyozas (versus the trio of pork, chicken and shrimp) as my appetizer. “Of course!”, Deena, exclaimed. Meanwhile, Romeo, the wine steward, had brought out a champagne bucket to give our Kirin Ichiban beers an extra icy chill.

Tamarind side dishes.

We navigated through many of the same perfect courses we enjoyed on our first night at Tamarind. All just as good: Chicken Pho (with wild lime and rice stick noodles); Green Papaya Salad and the drop dead-wonderful Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken.  Polished off, once more, with that palate-cleansing trio of exotic sorbets.  How do they do this for a mere $15 cover?

Although we had a busy final day at sea scheduled, we made a point to return for the Dim Sum lunch the next day.

"...Avalon..." in Showroom At Sea.

We enjoyed what we saw of the “Garage Band” show featuring the ship’s talented company earlier in the cruise, so we didn’t want to miss tonight’s show, “Live At The Avalon Ballroom”. I’ve become a bit jaded about most Broadway style cruise ship shows for featuring more flash than substance with their revolving sets, fiberoptics, LED lighting and sound effects but the talented cast outshone all of it. Great voices, superb dancing, innovative staging and a terrific selection of jazz standards. There was a deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.

8133 towel lobster?

As NIEUW AMSTERDAM plunged and shimmied her way back to Florida, we returned to the latest in a series of expert towel animals in stateroom 8133. I was certain it was a stingray but Rob guessed it correctly as a lobster.

End of “What’s NIEUW, Pussycat?”, Part Three.

Click Here For “What’s NIEUW, Pussycat?” Part Four

17 Responses to What’s NIEUW Pussycat? Part Three

  1. philippe

    February 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Concerning the carpet daily changed in the elevators, I was wondering if this tradition come from Royal Viking line. However, used aboard the original trio : ROYAL VIKING STAR/SKY & SEA it was never used in the beginning years of the ROYAL VIKING SUN nowdays sailing under HAL colours as the PRINSENDAM. Having sailed a year aboard the SUN as waiter in her extra charged Royal Grill operated under Paul Bocuse’s name. Possibly this tradition has been brought by the company at the time of introduction of the ex Norwegian ship under the Dutch operations? Who knows?

  2. Mage Bailey

    February 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Captcha and I aren’t dancing well together tonight. I’ll leave you a longer note later. Thanks so much for all your miles of efforts with typing, foods, and recording every corner of the ships for us. Bravo!

  3. Janet

    February 20, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Superb! What a delightful preview of my cruise to come! But oh, the agony of determining which of the succulent menu items to choose!

  4. bob durino

    February 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    While I enjoy the blog for niew ships galore, I have a problem with an evolving conflict of interest. Are your romps aboard comps? If so why aren’t they disclosed.

    If you are the mouth piece for management, then I understand your reluctance or failure to discuss the wage scale of hotel staff aboard. Again, completely avoidable had you disclosed your relationship to the operators.

    This is not a pretty world you are tracking in. Coincidental to the beauty of the Caribbean is it’s history as the terminal distribution center for the slave trade. And how awkward to be discussing slave wages juxtapose slave trade.

    I look forward to a reply.

  5. Peter Knego

    February 20, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Bob, I am a cruise journalist and not an undercover agent for Amnesty International, so yes, my romps are comps. I have never stated otherwise and I have answered this question on several prior occasions. If this is a problem for you, then perhaps you should not ready ANY articles about cruising that you see published in any consumer or trade websites, magazines or newspapers and stick solely with feedback from fellow cruisers in the wold of cruise forums. For what it is worth, I do not get paid to write these blogs and they take a lot of effort to compose and post, far more time than most people would care to or be able to devote, especially if they were working around the clock to pay for the cruises they write about.

    As for the pay scale of the staff, were I even to tread on this subject, do you think I would get honest answers from either side? In some 200 cruises, I have only been on one ship where I was able to determine the staff was not getting fair treatment. Fortunately, that situation was quickly resolved by the cruise line.

    Many thanks,

    Peter

  6. David L. NYC

    February 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I greatly enjoy reading Maritime Matters, and I visit the website almost on a daily basis. While I have a passion for cruise ships, I’ve never actually taken a cruise and Peter Knego’s reviews, insights, historical surveys, and photographs have all been very valuable in helping me decide not only to take my first cruise, but which ship I think I’d like to make my “maiden voyage” on! So thanks, Peter, and please keep up the good hard work.

  7. Avery

    February 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Bob, what you are seeking you will not find here. This series and website are intended to provide information for the avid cruiser and entertainment for the rest of us. I have my opinions about the cruise industry, but here is not the place. If you want to know about the dark side of the cruising industry, and make decisions based on not the quality of the services provided but on the morals of the company providing them, then you will have to look elsewhere. It isn’t right to expect Peter to obtain that information on your behalf. That’s just not what this site is about.

    Peter, as always, brilliant post. I think I like Nieuw Amsterdam best of all the ships you’ve covered since I started reading your series. Aesthetically she’s very pleasing on the inside, she doesn’t have the tackiness that has taken over as the dominant aesthetic in other newbuilds. This just serves to reinforce my belief that if I ever take a cruise, it will be on HAL.

  8. bob durino

    February 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I am not going to split hairs. You are a critic not a journalist. I have been tracking your blog for several years and I have never seen a disclosure statement. You get no sympathy from me over the trouble or expense you bear fulfilling your illusion as a journalist. Had you seriously undertaken journalism as a profession, grammatical errors would not jump off the page like fleas and you would have memorized the New York Time Manual of Style and Usage.

    You Sir are a critic, aspirations to a higher calling are without foundation.

  9. Peter Knego

    February 20, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Thank you for your declaration, Bob but I really have no interest in pursuing this matter with you. I would strongly suggest you stop wasting your time with my missives since you find them so lacking. Hope you can find a cruise blog that lives up to all of your investigative, disclosure and grammatical standards.

  10. Peter Knego

    February 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Thanks, David! Appreciate your message and hope you have a wonderful “maiden voyage” soon!

  11. Peter Knego

    February 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Avery, thank you. I was really impressed with the NIEUW AMSTERDAM in terms of food, service and entertainment. Just superb. The ship is not a trendsetter like the Celebrity ships but she holds her own.

  12. christopher Kyte

    February 21, 2011 at 9:49 am

    It seems unfortunate and churlish to me that someone who goes to such effort and clearly loves ships as Peter Knego does is attacked in such a pompous and priggish way. Compare Peter’s articles on ships to those by almost any other writer and the fact that he has a passion for ships, their history and their design that is far greater than 90% or so of those writing about ships is beyond dispute. One wonders, given the large amount of time and effort, why one would even bother when others who have little or nothing to contribute, see fit to eviscerate these efforts.

    It would be interesting to take a poll of regular visitors to Maritime Matters to see who most readers here would rather share a dinner table on a ship with: Peter Knego or the aforementioned Bob Durino. My suspicion is that Peter would be the clear favorite.

    I believe all frequent sea travelers have met someone like the gentleman that critiqued Peter on a voyage at some point, generally learned to stay clear of them after the second day.

  13. Dave

    February 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Christopher, not to give more voice to a comment that deserves none, but your rebuttal is very eloquent.

  14. Janet

    February 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Oh, my, how we digress. As a former middle school principal, let me just state that I know jealously when I see it. Bob, if you want to cruise for free like Peter does, you should attempt to do so. We are awaiting your in-depth report.

    In other words – put up or shut up. (Those middle schoolers taught me a thing or two, too!)

  15. John

    February 22, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I just got off the N Amsterdam. Wow what a spectacular ship! I have taken over 15 cruises around the world and this was my first time on a Holland America ship. I am very impressed!

  16. Peter C. Kohler

    February 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

    bob durino says:
    “This is not a pretty world you are tracking in. Coincidental to the beauty of the Caribbean is it’s history as the terminal distribution center for the slave trade. And how awkward to be discussing slave wages juxtapose slave trade.”

    Balderdash. One would presume you don’t, won’t or can’t travel then to see the Pyramids (built by slave labour), the Colosseum (where Christians and slaves were brutally killed for entertainment) or Berlin, liberated at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. Indeed, you sound like the perfect candidate for the new cruise destination, the artificial, contrived and cloying “beach islands” that have no history, no purpose and provide no venue for political correctness. Banality is, if anything, not controversial. And surely you don’t dine in restaurants ashore, either, if “slave labour” is an issue for you.

    Nope, the world isn’t a pretty place. One can either make the most of it whilst exploring itt or pull the covers over one’s head and stay home. Or contribute petulant political polemics on it. Which, come to think of it, is about the same thing.

  17. RufusBig1

    February 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Dats put good! Tellin it like it be!

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