Holland America’s premium style of cruising is very popular. From the high-quality food to the comfortable, spacious accommodation choices, the ships are well-loved by loyal Holland America fans.
But what if you’re not already one of those loyal cruisers? If you’re looking to try your first cruise, which ship should you pick? They aren’t identical, so how do you know which one is most suited to you, and also which one is thought of as the best?
Those are the questions I’m going to answer in this guide.
How I gathered the data
In this guide, I’ve ranked all 11 Holland America ships from best to worst, but I wanted to clarify exactly how I’ve done that.
Because, unfortunately, I’ve not yet had the pleasure of sailing on every Holland America ship. So to base it on my opinion alone would be a little unfair.
Even if I had sailed on every ship, my opinion won’t be the same as everybody else’s, so while you might be interested in my thoughts, they might not paint a wholly accurate picture.
So instead, I’ve visited three of the biggest cruise review websites in the world – Cruise Critic, Cruiseline.com and TripAdvisor. And using those websites I’ve found the average review score for all 11 ships in the fleet, and I’ve based this ranking on putting those scores in order.
A couple of interesting points before I get started, just to add some context.
Firstly, something I always like to make clear is that “worst” ship does not mean “bad” ship. In fact with Holland America, the review scores are all pretty high. The “worst” ship on this list has an average score of 3.77 out of 5, which is pretty solid.
Secondly, the scores are also very tight, and so the difference between the best ship and the worst ship isn’t huge. The best ship on this list has an average of 4.07 out of 5, which means for the entire fleet, there’s only a difference of score of 0.3.
So as I take you through the list, just remember that we’re not talking about huge gulfs in class between each ship. The scores are based on thousands of reviews, so the ranking is accurate, but each ship is only marginally better or worse than the other.
With all that in mind, let’s find out which is the best Holland America ship (just), and which ship is unlucky enough to be in last place.
What is the best Holland America cruise ship?
The best Holland America ship according to customer reviews is the MS Nieuw Statendam, although her average review score is only 0.4 better than MS Eurodam and 0.7 better than the newest ship in the fleet, MS Rotterdam.
The Best Holland America Ships By Reviews
1. MS Nieuw Statendam
The MS Nieuw Statendam is the second of the Pinnacle-class ships to sail for Holland America, and in the review scores, she has come out on top.
The Pinnacle-class ships are very popular with the cruise line’s regular guests, since they offer more spacious public areas and staterooms without really losing the feel of a smaller ship, even if they’re somewhat larger than the older ships in the fleet.
MS Nieuw Statendam is widely praised in customer reviews, with particular focus paid to just how beautiful the ship is. Artwork plays a big part of every ship in the Holland America fleet, but the choices made for MS Nieuw Statendam particularly wow guests. If the paintings and sculptures are worthy of being mentioned in a review, you know they’re special.
The service and food are also highly rated, while reviews of the cabins are majority positive, with just a handful saying that they are “adequate”. The biggest negative for the ship is the entertainment options during the day and evening, with some guests finding them to be a little bland.
Read more: MS Nieuw Statendam Cabins To Avoid
2. MS Eurodam
Despite the popularity of the newer Pinnacle Class, it’s actually a slightly older ship that is the second most popular in the fleet – 2008’s MS Eurodam.
Despite her age, she has been carefully refurbished to a high standard so that she still offers a comfortable ship environment, even if the decor isn’t quite as sleek as the later ships.
Guests love MS Eurodam because she epitomises everything that is good about Holland America. She’s a mid-sized ship that mostly doesn’t feel crowded, with a great variety of food and excellent service from the crew who really go out of their way to make guests feel special.
The entertainment on MS Eurodam is well-reviewed too. The bigger criticisms are more towards the couple of spaces that can feel a little busy at times – namely the Lido Marketplace buffet, and the reception area at the (very popular) spa on-board.
Read more: MS Eurodam Cabins To Avoid
3. MS Rotterdam
The MS Rotterdam is the newest ship in the Holland America fleet and she shares a lot of the same positive feedback as her earlier sister ship MS Nieuw Statendam, with the artwork of the ship again being notably popular.
Overall, Holland America ships are seen as some of the most stylish in the world, without being overly glitzy or kitsch.
I think MS Rotterdam scores slightly lower than MS Nieuw Statendam due to teething problems. A lot of the reviews that talk about negatives mention slow service, the food not being the best, or problems with communication from the cruise line or ship – things which should be improving now that the ship has had more than a year in service.
There are some reviews that mention a perceived change in the service levels – as if the crew on MS Rotterdam aren’t quite as willing to care for guests as those on smaller ships, which could be a sign that as the ships are getting larger, guests are missing the really intimate feel of smaller ships.
Read more: MS Rotterdam Cabins To Avoid
4. MS Nieuw Amsterdam
MS Nieuw Amsterdam is the sister ship of MS Eurodam and is an almost identical size – officially she is marginally smaller by just 3 gross tons.
She launched back in 2010 and then underwent an extensive refit and refurbishment in 2017 to bring the public spaces more up-to-date.
The results are really positive, with reviews mentioning how clean and welcoming the ship feels. What also stands out is the service – while some people aren’t as happy with the standards on the slightly newer ships, on MS Nieuw Amsterdam the crew are very highly spoken of.
Criticisms of the ship mainly focus on how she is tailored towards an older market, and so late-night entertainment is limited, with some noting that the food has some issues and some of the popular public areas did still get a little crowded at times, despite the overall space of the ship.
Read more: MS Nieuw Amsterdam Cabins To Avoid
5. MS Oosterdam
The MS Oosterdam is one of four ships that make up the Vista class, each one named for a point on the compass in Dutch (“oost” = “east”). She launched in 2003 and remains a very popular ship in the fleet, thanks to her comfortable atmosphere and balance of the traditional and modern sides of cruising.
MS Oosterdam is not a big flashy ship although she does feature Holland America’s Music Walk which features live music in the evening. During the day things are more sedate, which may suit some people more than others – if you like a long list of activities, you might feel a little bored.
The ship feels like classical cruising, but with a more modern update thanks to careful renovation. There are still some parts of the ship that feel a little dated though, which is noted in some reviews.
Read more: MS Oosterdam Cabins To Avoid
6. MS Koningsdam
I would say that I’m a little surprised MS Koningsdam is so low on this list, but going back to what I said at the start of the guide, the scores are very tight between the ships and MS Koningsdam does have an average score of 3.9 out of 5, which is still very good.
The ship debuted in 2016 to a lot of pomp – this was the first new ship to launch for Holland America in six years and she helped to really bring the cruise line up to date with her stunning interior design.
However, the reason she is a little lower is something I alluded to with MS Rotterdam – to guests, it feels like the newer, bigger ships have lost a little of the Holland America magic, and the crew service isn’t quite as good when there are more passengers to handle.
Guests criticise the quality of the entertainment too, which may be a sign that guests of other cruise lines with Broadway-style shows are trying the newer Holland America ships, and feeling disappointed with the comparison.
Read more: MS Koningsdam Cabins To Avoid
7. MS Westerdam
MS Westerdam was the third ship in the Vista Class to launch, first setting sail in 2004. She has been carefully renovated and updated over the years, including the addition of the Music Walk entertainment for the evening, which has helped to give her a new lease of life.
That’s not to say she’s completely modern – there are parts of the ship that very much have the decor of the time, but if you want a ship that feels cosy and comfortable, that blends the feelings of a classic ship with the cleanliness of a more contemporary one – then MS Westerdam could be ideal.
Reviews mention how good the service is, although the food does have some mixed reviews – more related to the service of food rather than the quality, which is widely regarded as excellent.
There isn’t a lot to do during the day and, like most Holland America ships, the kids’ areas are a little dated and dull. But if you enjoy exploring ports or don’t mind spending your day poolside, you’ll like the atmosphere of MS Westerdam.
Read more: MS Westerdam Cabins To Avoid
8. MS Zuiderdam
MS Zuiderdam is another Vista-class ship – the first to launch, back in 2002. And she shares many of the similar positives and negatives as her sister ships do, including decor that has been suitably updated but does remain a little bit dated in places, as does the pool area, as called out in a handful of reviews.
Like her sister ships, she has good quality evening entertainment thanks to the Music Walk, but her daytime activities are a little lacking. Guests on Zuiderdam do comment on the quality of the enrichment offerings, including lectures on the ports being visited and the library resources, but it’s certainly not a ship that is thrill-a-minute during daytime hours.
The standards of service are still overwhelmingly high, with just a few minor comments from those who’ve had a bad experience with the food or who’ve had issues during their stay. Most people find the ship to be relaxing, but definitely tailored to a more mature audience.
Read more: MS Zuiderdam Cabins To Avoid
9. MS Zaandam
MS Zaandam is one of the older ships in the Holland America fleet, and one of two ships still remaining from the R Class.
She’s also quite old in style, which has pros and cons – she’s not got many balconies or indeed much choice at all when it comes to cabin options, but she’s also really easy to navigate.
Guests don’t seem to mind the lack of balconies, which is understandable since they know what they’re booking when they choose their cruise. The dated style of the ship doesn’t get much of a mention either – again, guests on Zaandam seem to have a good idea of what to expect, and love the ship for her smaller, more personable atmosphere.
Negative reviews tend to focus on the entertainment – both the lack of choice and also the quality, with some reviewers talking about how the evening acts are average but not particularly exciting.
Read more: MS Zaandam Cabins To Avoid
10. MS Volendam
MS Volendam is the oldest ship currently sailing for Holland America Line, having first launched back in 1999.
Sister ship to the MS Zaandam, her design is very similar, meaning she has a very simple layout and she is lacking in a lot of entertainment facilities and cabin options, including those with a balcony.
And while she may be the second-worst ship on this list according to customer reviews, her average scores are still high. That’s because people know what to expect from her, and are generally really happy with the experience. This is traditional cruising – exceptional service and a focus on the core relaxation and exploration experiences rather than a lot of flashy facilities to fill your day.
The negative reviews of MS Volendam do focus on the age of the ship though – she has been through renovations, but there are a lot of signs of how old she is, and passengers do notice them. If you don’t mind her feeling a little worn-in then you’ll still have a great time.
Read more: MS Volendam Cabins To Avoid
11. MS Noordam
MS Noordam is the final ship in the list, considered the “worst” by customer review and yet still rated quite highly.
Launched in 2006, she was the last of the Vista-class ships and many of the reviews are similar in nature to her sisters.
This means customers love the size of the ship, and the balance between spacious public areas and a more intimate cruising experience, helped by the high standards of service from the crew who take the time to learn everyone’s names and drink orders, making you feel special.
Negatives are the lack of real excitement during the day, and limited options at night, including a lack of quality to the evening entertainment when compared with other cruise lines. Some reviews do mention her feeling a little older too, but it’s a minor quibble generally – more reviews comment on how clean and well-kept she is.
Read more: MS Noordam Cabins To Avoid
Choosing The Best Holland America Cruise Ship For You
When it comes to choosing the best Holland America ship for you, it really depends what you’re looking for.
The newer ships are very popular, with the added size used to good effect to increase the spaces where you can relax. But a lot of passengers prefer the feel of the smaller, older ships where the crew feel a touch more personable.
Three Holland America ships share the title of largest in the fleet. The MS Koningsdam, the MS Nieuw Statendam and the MS Rotterdam are all the same size, with an internal volume of 99,863 gross tons and a passenger capacity of 2,650.
The smallest ship in the Holland America fleet is the MS Volendam, which was launched in 1999. She has an internal volume of 61,214 gross tons and a passenger capacity of 1,432. Her sister ship MS Zaandam has the same passenger capacity, but a slightly larger internal volume by just 182 gross tons.
The newest ship in the Holland America fleet is the MS Rotterdam. The third ship in the Pinnacle Class, she launched in 2021. She is the seventh ship in the Holland America fleet to have ever been called the MS Rotterdam, although she was originally due to be called the MS Ryndam.
The oldest ship in the Holland America fleet that is still sailing for the cruise line is the MS Volendam, which launched in 1999. She was launched as the third ship in the R Class, although the two ships that came previously (the old MS Rotterdam, and MS Amsterdam) have since been sold to Fred Olsen Cruise Line.
Many of the Holland America ships sail to Alaska – the cruise line offers various itineraries to the region throughout the year. The ships that sail to Alaska are the MS Eurodam, MS Koningsdam, MS Nieuw Amsterdam, MS Noordam, MS Volendam, MS Westerdam and MS Zaandam.
Most ships in the Holland America fleet have cabanas, including MS Noordam, MS Oosterdam, MS Westerdam, MS Zuiderdam, MS Eurodam, MS Nieuw Amsterdam, MS Koningsdam, MS Nieuw Statendam and MS Rotterdam. The latter three also have family cabanas.
The three Pinnacle-class ships in the Holland America fleet – MS Koningsdam, MS Nieuw Statendam and MS Rotterdam – have Single cabins for solo travellers. Unlike on other cruise lines where solo cabins tend to be Insides, on these ships they have an ocean view.
The bottom line
It’s worth remembering what I said at the start – the score difference between the ships in the Holland America fleet is relatively minimal, and on pretty much any ship you’ll have a great time.
Still, it’s worth bearing the review comments in mind because the ships are different, and will suit different cruise guests. The larger, more modern ships have more to do onboard, and they’re much more contemporary, but you can expect to pay a price that reflects that.
Meanwhile, choose an older ship and you’ll still get the great service and food standards that the cruise line is known for, but with a much more intimate atmosphere and potentially a lower fare.
Your experience onboard will also be dictated by the type of cabin you choose, so make sure you read my guides on the best and worst cabins on each ship, and check out the Holland America suite perks too, to see if upgrading is worth the cost.
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