Table of Contents
- Our Holland America Norway Cruise Experience
- The Ship
- The Food
- What to Pack
- Final Thoughts on Our Holland America Norway Cruise
- Hungry for More Norwegian Food?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Norway may be the ultimate cruise destination for a summer cruise. Sound crazy? Hear us out.
First and foremost, the scenery on a Norwegian cruise is jaw-droppingly amazing. When you cruise through Norwegian fjords, the views don’t stop for hours, and the days last even longer. Norway is the land of the midnight sun after all.
Norway’s fjords are the stuff of legend, Nordic legend, to be exact. Seeing rocky-faced fjords that practically explode from Scandinavian waterways is the main reason that there are so many cruises around Norway.
Vikings originally coined the word fjord to describe 1,000+ glacially-formed inlets that strikingly define Norway’s coastline. Other parts of the world have similar geographic formations, but Norway’s fjords are particularly striking.
Taking a Norwegian Fjords Cruise is the ideal way to experience Norway’s landscape in all its glory. During our week-long Vikings Saga cruise, we sailed through the Oslo Fjord and then hit the motherlode when we traversed Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord, to reach the tiny village of Flåm. Many travelers consider Sognesfjord to be one of the best fjords in Norway.
Beyond viewing fjords, there’s the cost factor.
In 2015, The World Economic Forum ranked Norway as the 5th most expensive country to visit in the entire world. Exploring Norway on a cruise is a cost-effective way to experience this pricey country without paying for pesky items like hotels, gasoline and restaurant dinners.
To put expenses into perspective, a single serving of fish soup cost us the equivalent of $23 during a port stop in Oslo. While many travelers can afford those prices, a trip through Norway can be a budget-buster for others.
Norwegian Fjord cruises are so popular that multiple cruise companies offer cruises in Norway. Despite Norway’s numerous cruising options, the window is relatively limited for travelers who want to take advantage of optimal Norway weather during the summer months.
We opted to sail through Norway with Holland America on a week that straddled the end of July and the beginning of August. Based on our previous Asia cruise with the cruise line, we knew we would travel in comfort and eat great food – two important components for these two culinary adventurers.
Our Holland America Norway Cruise Experience
Starting in Amsterdam, our week-long Viking Saga cruise whisked us to four exciting Norwegian port cities – Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Flåm. These cities were awesome to visit, but our time on the Nieuw Statendam was equally satisfying.
Now that we’ve embraced our inner cruise selves, we deeply appreciate sea days that allow us to linger over breakfast in bed while we gaze at views that literally take our breath away. These leisurely days force us to relax, gearing up our energy for intense port days.
In many ways, spending a week on a floating hotel can either be heaven or hell. We choose to spend our time in the former, preferably with excellent food and beverage service. As we detail later in this article, our Norwegian cruise with Holland America did not disappoint in this regard.
With a capacity of 2,666 guests and a length of 975 feet, the Nieuw Statendam is an impressive addition to Holland America’s fleet. The ship first sailed in December 2018 and was officially christened by its godmother, Oprah Winfrey, the following month.
During our mid-summer cruise, the ship was filled to capacity with a diverse collection of passengers in terms of both age and nationality. Ranging from toddlers to octogenarians, the crowd hailed from 52 countries with most from the Netherlands (34%), USA (27%), Belgium (13%) and Canada (4%).
Like most cruise ships, the Nieuw Statendam features pools and whirlpool jacuzzis in addition to a fitness center, spa and casino. But this Pinnacle-class ship shines when it comes to its stylish design and vast art collection.
With 12 decks, the ship has ample room to showcase diverse art that varies in style from classic to more avant-garde creations. We loved exploring this collection during our week-long cruise, often going out of our way in search of new pieces to admire.
Another differentiation is the ship’s culinary program which includes multiple specialty restaurants in addition to its formal dining room and more casual Lido market buffet. A week was just enough time for us to experience every restaurant on the ship, though we don’t blame passengers who found their favorite eateries and stuck with them.
The Nieuw Statendam is one of the first Holland America ships to offer Club Orange to its guests. This premium program offers perks like a private dining room and priority access, both of which we highly appreciated during our cruise, as well as extras like special robes and tote bags. Participants also get extra room service choices for breakfast each morning.
At the time of our sailing, Club Orange cost $50 per person per day, capped at $100 per room per day. However, the value of skipping the lines for check-in and special onboard services was priceless.
Our home for the week was a spacious Verandah stateroom (#5061) on the ship’s fifth floor, otherwise known as the Gershwin deck. Designed with clean Scandinavian design elements, the room’s highlights included a comfortable double bed, cozy seating area, full en-suite bathroom, multiple electrical outlets and enough USB ports to charge our phones each night.
Not only did we have adequate space to unpack our clothes, but we also had areas to work and charge our electronics. And, as a bonus compared to previous cruises we’ve taken, the Wi-Fi worked well in our room. Winning!
Our favorite feature inside the room had to be the HUGE television loaded with and even HUGER selection of channels and movies. When we weren’t watching live MSNBC feeds, we watched movies like Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians.
Seriously, if we had such an awesome TV in Lisbon, we might never leave the apartment. It would be a problem.
However, our absolute favorite feature of the Verandah stateroom was an attached balcony that wasn’t technically inside the room. Yes, we loved the room’s private balcony most of all.
Accessed by glass doors, this balcony provided us with awesome views of fjords and sunsets. It was also the ideal spot to enjoy our first cups of coffee each morning.
We weren’t fortunate enough to have a private balcony during our Asia cruise and we survived just fine. Though this perk is not critical to cruise enjoyment, having a balcony was a bit of a game-changer that ramped up our Norway fjords cruise experience to the next level.
Nothing matches relaxing with a book and listening to music on a balcony just steps away from a comfy bed.
Staff and Service
Much of any cruise experience despends on staff and service. With a global team focused on hospitality, the Nieuw Statendam excelled in serving our various needs. We rarely had to ask for anything since the staff seamlessly executed the many functions that keep the floating hotel from sinking.
From a hotel perspective, we enjoyed daily room cleanings as well as nightly turndown service. Each evening, we returned to little chocolate treats and creative towel art creations. Our favorites awaited us on the cruise’s last night when we returned to find chocolate truffles on our bed and a terry cloth monkey handing above from a hanger.
With 991 employees on the ship, it’s fair to say that a good portion keeps busy preparing and serving food. During a fascinating galley tour, we got a first-hand look at the ship’s super clean kitchen.
During this tour, we learned that the ship sources its beef from the US and much of its fish from Norway. We also learned that the ship serves lots of eggs – 36,132 during our cruise to be exact. That’s probably more eggs than could fit in the ship’s two swimming pools!
We never got bored during our cruise. Not only did we keep busy during the day, but we also spent many evenings rocking out at the ships various entertainment venues.
We split our time at B.B. Kings Blues Club, Rolling Stone Rock Room, Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Center Stage. Though each venue offered different experiences during our cruise, the musicians were all pros.
Each venue offered a different style of entertainment. We experienced masterworks by Brahms in the Lincoln Center Stage and dueling pianos at Billboard Onboard, but Rolling Stone Rock Room and B.B. King’s Blues Club were where we rocked it out.
We weren’t alone. Passengers filled the ship’s Music Walk each night until the wee hours, singing and swaying to tunes from every decade.
The great part about eating on a big ship like the Nieuw Statendam is the variety of dining options. Some venues are ultra-casual. Others charge a fee and require advance reservations.
We made a concerted effort to dine at every single restaurant during the week. The various cruise food options delighted and, in some cases, impressed us during our Vikings Saga cruise.
With its Culinary Council leading the charge, Holland America has elevated the typical cruise food experience by offering a diverse selection of specialty dining options. These chef-driven restaurants offer higher-end dining experiences, each with a different theme and price point.
Eating at each Holland America specialty restaurant during our week-long Norway cruise gave us a chance to travel the world from a culinary perspective. We share the highlights below:
If you splurge on one meal during your Holland America cruise, do it at De Librije. Offered just one night during our cruise, this multi-course meal shocked us with its impeccable execution and extraordinary food.
Chef Jonnie Boer has created a floating three-star Michelin dining experience based on his De Librije restaurant in Zwolle, Netherlands. Though the cost may seem steep at $69 (or $89 with a wine pairing) at the time of our cruise, the value is excellent.
As a comparison, the cost of dining at the chef’s land-locked Dutch restaurant can run around $200 per person or even more after ordering wine.
Our four-course meal was a whirlwind of memorable dishes, each served with panache and a story. Starting with Foie Gras Lollipops in our Amuse Bouche samplers, the hits kept coming to our table while we gazed at an ocean view and sipped California Chardonnay.
It’s a struggle to narrow down meal highlights. We’ll start with Oysters on the Beach served with a trompe l’oeil of silver-painted foie gras oysters, real oysters, Oloroso sherry foam, pickled ginger and sand made from crispy rice. Both a showstopper and a signature dish, this starter is an absolute must for food travelers who love creativity and the element of surprise.
Other memorable dishes included King Fish served with watermelon and avocado, Lobster Bisque poured over Alaskan king crab chunks, Crispy Pork Belly and Baked Pike Perch. We ended our meal on a sweet note with Deconstructed Apple Pie and Lemongrass Caramel desserts.
Rudi’s Sel de Mer
No longer a pop-up like we experienced during our Asia cruise, Rudi’s Sel de Mer has its own dining room on the Nieuw Statendam. Helmed by Holland America’s Master Chef and Culinary Council Chairman Rudi Sodamin, Rudi’s Sel de Mer is a fish-forward restaurant reminiscent of bistros typically found in France’s Provence.
We embraced the restaurant’s seafood theme and ordered dishes like Tuna Salade Niçoise, Bouillabaisse Marseillaise and the restaurant’s signature Whole Dover Sole Meunière. Though technically too full for dessert, we shared Rudi’s Face to Face chocolate fruit creation pictured above. What can we say? The smiling food face made us happy.
Norway is known for its seafood, but Holland America also offers meat options including US-sourced prime steak. True meat lovers can eat their weight in steak at Pinnacle Grill, celebrity Chef David Burke’s Pacific Northwest steakhouse, while sailing on the Nieuw Statendam.
Burke is yet another member of the cruise line’s Culinary Council. Additional members include chefs like Jacques Torres and Ethan Stowell.
This specialty restaurant sources its meat from Washington’s Double R Ranch and cooks it to juicy doneness. Steak options include Filet Mignon, New York Strip, Bone-In Rib Eye and Porterhouse.
Pinnacle Grill serves more than steak. We also ate dishes like a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail served with brandy horseradish cocktail sauce and an Iceberg Wedge Salad with buttermilk dressing, gorgonzola, bacon, tomato, red onion, chives and toasted walnuts.
Adding some fun to our meal, we shared Burke’s unique Clothesline Candied Bacon starter with maple, black pepper and half-sour pickles. We also indulged in a few bites of the restaurant’s Not-So-Classic Baked Alaska with Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ic cream and bing cherries jubilee before we rolled back to our room.
Chef Andy Matsuda, another Holland America Culinary Council member, developed the menu for Tamarind, the cruise line’s fusion Asian restaurant. Rather than showcasing one type of cuisine, Tamarind’s menu features food from Southeast Asia, China and Japan.
During our meal, we took a took our tastebuds on a trip down memory lane with dishes like Chinese Five Spice Baby Back Ribs and Tom Khakai, a Thai soup featuring coconut chicken and chili oil. Though not as spicy as food we’ve eaten in Asia, these dishes made for a fun dinner option.
The surcharge for dining at Tamarind was $25 per person at the time of our cruise.
An over-achiever, Matsuda also developed the menu for Nami Sushi, a small sushi restaurant attached to Tamarind’s grand dining room. Menu options include Nigiri, Sashimi and Sushi Rolls as well as cooked options like Shrimp Tempura and Grilled Atlantic Crab. All dishes were priced on an A La Carte basis ranging from $3 to $7.50 at the time of our cruise.
We enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar while we dipped reasonably priced sushi into wasabi-laced soy sauce. In full disclosure, this sushi paled in comparison to the excellent raw fish we ate during our port stop in Stavanger (see below). But it was still a fun experience to eat sushi on the ship.
The Dining Room
The Nieuw Statendam’s Dining Room offers a refined dining experience in a stunning setting. Each member of HAL’s Culinary Council contributes dishes, with options for vegetarians, vegans and full-on carnivores. On gala nights, the Dining Room offers extra-special menus.
True Confession: The only meal we ate in the Dining Room was afternoon tea. We simply ran out of time in our quest to dine at the ship’s many specialty restaurants during our seven-day cruise.
This confession makes us sad. No, there was nothing wrong with the tea service. Rather, we have fond memories of our Dining Room meals during our Asia cruise and wish we had created new ones on our Norway cruise.
As fun as it is to dress up and eat multi-course meals, casual dining can be awesome during a week-long cruise. We checked out the following casual dining options during our Nieuw Statendam cruise:
As the saying goes, membership has its privileges. In our opinion, one of the main reasons to join Club Orange is to dine in the private Club Orange dining room. This restaurant serves both breakfast and dinner daily.
Despite its exclusivity, the Club Orange restaurant is a casual space with big glass windows and an open kitchen. Not surprisingly, the decor includes some orange touches. Dishes are similar to those served at the ship’s Dining Room and Lido Market.
Lido Market & Canaletto
The Lido Market offers a fast-casual venue with dozens of themed stations serving sandwiches, salads, sushi and more. Not your stereotypical buffet, the popular Lido Market has healthy options as well as decadent desserts.
Available on a first-come-first-serve basis, many tables have sweeping ocean views. The Lido Market serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a late-night bonus meal.
Located right next to the Lido Market, Canaletto serves Italian food for a small surcharge ($15 at the time of our cruise) in a family-style setting. We ate Lasagna Bolognese and Spaghetti Alle Vongole Veraci E Gamberi during our Canaletto meal. Making it there just under the wire on the last night of the cruise, we didn’t have room for dessert after a week of eating cruise food.
Grand Dutch Cafe
We’re not sure how it happened, but we didn’t eat at the Grand Dutch Cafe until the last day of our cruise. Perhaps we were burnt out on Dutch food after a week eating our way through Amsterdam. Either way, it was a mistake. A big mistake.
As it turns out, the Grand Dutch Cafe serves the best beer on the ship and banging apple pie. Between 4:30 and 8 pm, the popular cafe adds snacks like bitterballen (fried Dutch meatballs) to its menu. Food is complimentary at this venue and drinks are sold for a surcharge.
The more we travel the world, the more we appreciate the simple things in life. And by simple, we mean hamburgers and french fries.
The Nieuw Statendam clearly gets us. Their Dive-In serves juicy burgers, crispy fries and Nathan’s hot dogs at a stand located next to the pool. Dive-In also serves sandwiches with chicken and portabella mushrooms if that’s your thing.
As for us, our thing is burgers made with all-American ground beef and topped with special sauce. Yum!
New York Pizza & Deli
We love pizza so much that we spent a month eating Neapolitan pies in Naples. Needless to say, we were pleased to discover New York Pizza & Deli on the Nieuw Statendam.
This casual pizzeria serves a handful of specialty pizzas until midnight and also provides an option to build your own pie from a selection of sauces, meats and veggies. Other menu options include sandwiches, salads, desserts and movie night snacks – think popcorn and nachos.
Discovering G Gelato was dangerous considering our love for Italy’s creamy ice cream product. Somehow, we limited ourselves to just two visits during the week, perhaps because we kept ourselves busy eating all the other food on the ship.
Just like us, the G Gelato staff trained at Caripigiani Gelato University in Bologna. Beyond ice cream, Gelato serves gourmet popsicles and milkshakes for small surcharges ranging from $2 to $5 at the time of our cruise.
Despite the overwhelming number of dining options on the Nieuw Statendam, sometimes the best option is none of them. In other words… Room Service.
We loved having breakfast delivered to our room most mornings. It was as easy as choosing our options and leaving a marked-up menu outside our door. The cost was free but the reward was huge since we were able to enjoy breakfast in plush bathrobes and a view of Norwegian fjords.
During our Norway fjords cruise, we enjoyed cocktails at the Ocean Bar and an international beer tasting at Billboard Onboard. We also sipped coffee at the Explorations Cafe.
Ironically, we found the ship’s best beer at the Grand Dutch Cafe (see above). Drinks are also available at the ship’s various entertainment venues.
Our Holland America Norway cruise started and ended in Amsterdam before sailing to four unique ports in Norway. Cruising and eating our way through Norwegian Fjords was half the fun; visiting the following Norwegian cities was the other half:
Port 1 – Oslo
Oslo provided us with a rainy introduction to Norway, but we didn’t let the rain slow us down or dampen our spirits. Instead, we had a great time taking a self-guided tour of Oslo with a focus on the city’s culinary delights. While in Oslo, we sampled traditional Norwegian food as well as hot dogs, specialty coffee and waffles.
As Norway’s capital city, Oslo has an abundance of culture including its Viking Ship Museum, Akershus Fortress and Royal Palace. We saved all of these destinations for our next visit to Oslo, though we took a few minutes to peek into the historically rich Oslo Cathedral between food stops.
Port 2 – Kristiansand
We never heard of Kristiansand until our Norway cruise. As it turns out, this charming port city is one of the most populous cities in all of Norway.
Rumor has it that Kristiansand is also one of Norway’s sunniest cities. Since it rained the day we docked in Kristiansand, we spent the day exploring a gentrified fish market at Fiskebrygga, drinking specialty coffee at Cuba Life and wandering around alleys filled with little white houses.
Port 3 – Stavanger
Famous for petroleum oil and fish, Stavanger is Norway’s fourth-biggest city. Both quaint and cosmopolitan, Stavanger has plenty to do from museums to shops. We, however, focused our exploration on the city’s culinary offerings.
Stavanger has excellent specialty coffee shops, bakeries and sushi bars. We started our tasty day with excellent flat whites at Kokko Kaffebar, continued it with Norsk Kannelboller (Nordic cinnamon buns) at Renaa Xpress and ended it with a bang with sushi at Sabi Sushi.
Port 4 – Flåm
With just 350 residents, Flåm attracts a lot of tourists due to its natural beauty and scenic train. While outdoor enthusiasts can explore the area by boat or bike, we opted to take the ride the Flåm Railway through waterfalls and mountains before eating waffles in Vatnahalsen.
We have no regrets with how we spent our day. The Flåm Railway lived up to its description as one of the world’s most beautiful journeys. We also spent some time walking around the Flåm harbor, an idyllic spot for both selfies and reflective moments.
During our cruise, Holland America offered dozens of shore excursions in all four port cities and Amsterdam. Since we love independently eating our way through cities, we ultimately decided to participate in just one excursion – the Flåm Railway.
We knew we had to take the Flåm Railway tour after we randomly met Lisa Ekhall Stentvedt, the blogger behind Fjords and Beaches, just a month before the cruise Originally from the tiny town of Flåm, Stentvedt easily convinced us that this train ride was not to be missed.
We’re super glad that we did the Flåm Railway excursion. Priced at $179.95 per person at the time of our cruise, this excursion includes a roundtrip ride through 20 tunnels to Vatnahalsen with a stop at Kjosfossen, an epic waterfall. It also includes waffles served with sour cream and jam at Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell.
Though we would have been able to navigate the train on our own, taking the tour simplified our journey and ensured a comfortable return before the ship departed for Amsterdam. Plus, as previously noted, the excursion includes waffles. And who doesn’t love waffles?
What to Pack
Packing for a Holland America cruise is the opposite of stressful. If you forget something important, you can easily purchase it on the ship. Further, the dress code is flexible, with an emphasis on comfort, except for gala nights.
These are our suggestions for items that you’ll want to pack and others that you’re better off leaving at home:
Don’t Forget These Items
- Clothing for All Types of Weather: Since Norway’s weather is volatile, you’ll need to be ready for both sunshine and rain as well as various temperatures. To be safe, pack short sleeves, long sleeves and jackets.
- Gala Attire: Gala nights are the time to put on your fancy duds. We recommend suits, or at least a sports jacket, for men and cocktail dresses for women; however, you can go as fancy as you like.
- Swimsuit: Bring a swimsuit regardless of the weather forecast. It will come in handy for both the pools and jacuzzi hot tubs.
- Comfortable Shoes: Pack walking shoes for excursion and port visits. Also, don’t forget sneakers if you plan to work out at the ship’s fitness center.
- Adaptors: Unless you’re based in Europe or the US, you’ll want to bring adaptors to plug your electronics into the electrical outlets. Our room had outlets that supported both European and US plugs.
- WiFi Hot Spot: Holland America offers attractive internet packages. However, you may want to bring a hot spot if you’re an extra-heavy internet user.
- Books or Kindle: Upload a book or two to your Kindle before the cruise. You’ll have time to read on the ship
Leave These Items at Home
- Towels: Holland America provides beach towels for the pools as well as bath towels in the staterooms.
- Basic Toiletries: Holland America provides shampoo, conditioner and soap. However, you’ll want to pack personal items like sunscreen, shaving lotion and toothpaste.
- Maps: The crew handles the ship’s logistics. However, you may want to bring maps to navigate your way around the port cities unless your phone has data coverage in Europe.
Final Thoughts on Our Holland America Norway Cruise
We’re fans after cruising twice with Holland America. Both cruises offered unique touring opportunities and outstanding food. We’re still shocked by the excellent meal we ate at De Librije – it was that good.
Click here to research and book a vacation with Holland America that meets YOUR personal preferences and budget.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.