Princess Names Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Ship

Princess Maxima of The Netherlands officially named the cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam in a ceremony in Venice, Italy.

Elegant and smiling, the Princess took the stage in the ship's classy, red and black Art Deco-inspired theater and recited the traditional blessing before pulling a lever, setting a large bottle of champagne smashing against the 86,000-ton vessel's side (the outdoor activity seen on a screen in the theater).

The ceremony also featured an onstage appearance by captains from all 15 Holland America Line ships, the first such gathering, according to officials of the venerable line.

But Argentina-born Princess Maxima, wearing a short gray dress, high-heeled sandals and a big brimmed summer hat, was the star of the day. She also spent time touring the ship, having lunch in the ship's Manhattan Dining Room and meeting the crew.

The Dutch princess' mother-in-law, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, served as godmother of sister ship Eurodam in 2008.

After Princess Maxima left the vessel, the ship departed on a 10-day maiden cruise in the Mediterranean.

The 2,106-passenger ship, with its classic blue hull, is the fourth in HAL's 137-year history to be called Nieuw Amsterdam, the original name the Dutch gave New York.

And in a tribute to the Big Apple, the vessel is done up in lovely, contemporary and Art Deco-inspired decor with special touches such as the New York skyline depicted in the large, hanging glass sculpture in the atrium (like several objects on the ship the sculpture features changing color lights).

Holland America president and CEO Stein Kruse said the latest ship wasn't the only good news for the premium line. At a press conference, he said Holland America's prices were also on the upswing, which he said was "encouraging," especially given the global economic climate. Of course that may come as less than good news to consumers; prices are inching up.

The Nieuw Amsterdam in layout is exactly like Eurodam - both were built at the Fincantieri Marghera shipyard outside of Venice - with officials deciding not to mess with a good thing. There is one impressive new feature, a chef's table, available for 18 guests nightly. It's priced at $89 and includes many courses of fancy food with accompanying wines.

Like its sister ship, Nieuw Amsterdam has two, for-a-fee alternative dining venues, an upscale steakhouse and fancy Tamarind Asian restaurant, in addition to a choice of several free dining venues.

The ship has a lavish Greenhouse Spa where treatments include a massage and facial using precious jewel dust. There's a lavish hydrotherapy area (again a fee is involved) as well as private cabanas you can rent for private, open-air lounging.

The Nieuw Amsterdam's $3 million art collection includes works by big-name contemporary artists as well as antiques. The disco has video screens everywhere including in the tables. The ships kids' center has the super cool feature of a real New York cab kids can climb in. Cooking classes are offered at an impressive culinary arts center. And the Internet cafe includes a coffee bar and living room-style seating.

Something for everyone, for sure.

Holland America is based in Seattle and owned by Carnival Corp.

Photos by Fran Golden. Top photo, Princess Maxima (in hat) with Stein Kruse, Captain Edward G. van Zaane and a greeter. Ship photo courtesy of Holland America Line
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