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Nieuw and Improved

Holland America Line’s Frits van der Werff and Rudi Sodamin detail the latest F&B innovations aboard the brand’s newest ship, the Nieuw Statendam.

By Michael Costa

Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam is the 15th and most recent ship in their fleet, launching last December and measuring 975 feet in length with a capacity of 2,666 passengers. It’s the second of the brand’s Pinnacle Class—their largest-size vessel—with a third scheduled for 2021. Aboard the Nieuw Statendam, voyagers will discover a music theme throughout, reflected in onboard artwork and décor, as well as nightly live performances by musicians in a variety of venues, satisfying a wide range of guest tastes.

Those guests also can satisfy their taste for fine food and beverage, with more than a dozen upgraded and elevated offerings, combining streamlined Holland America classics with brand-new concepts. Here to detail those initiatives are VP of F&B Frits van der Werff, and Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is chairman of Holland America’s Culinary Council, and has been with the brand for nearly 14 years.
 

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What’s the overall strategy behind the F&B program aboard the Nieuw Statendam?

Van der Werff: The overall strategy is to really anchor ourselves further into the premium segment with this Pinnacle-Class vessel, which is our second after the Koningsdam launched in 2016. We’ve always considered ourselves a premium cruise line, and now we have premium food and beverage offerings to match. Our goal is to create more wow moments and push ourselves to elevate everything beyond what we’ve done before. This strategy transfers to the rest of our fleet, since the F&B innovations aboard the Nieuw Statendam are being implemented onto our other ships.


Rudi’s Sel de Mer is perhaps the most prominent of those F&B innovations. How did the concept evolve within Holland America over time?

Sodamin: Sel de Mer began as dedicated restaurant venue aboard Koningsdam and was rolled out as a pop-up menu in our Pinnacle Grill on several of our ships. After the pop-up concept was proven successful, Holland America’s senior executives decided to celebrate my name and rename the venue Rudi’s Sel de Mer.  This is the first branded restaurant for Holland America Line that was launched on Nieuw Statendam December 2018. It has 54 seats, and the dining room was designed by Adam Tihany, with artwork by my son, the artist Magnus Sodamin. Rudi’s Sel de Mer has since been added to the Koningsdam, and will be on our next Pinnacle-Class ship, Ryndam.


What’s the menu concept at Rudi’s Sel de Mer?

Sodamin: It’s based on a South of France bistro concept. Originally, I didn’t want to open a bistro, as this had already been done on other ships. But I thought a seafood venue with a limited selection of meat and some French specialties would be welcomed by guests. It’s a well-balanced menu, featuring top-sellers like the Seafood Tower; our Fresh Fish of the Day—sourced from our most recent ports of call; Sole Meunière; and our signature Rudi’s Soufflé. Without a doubt, this concept is different from any current venue at sea, and is a success—our revenues are on target, and we’re sold-out every night.

One other unique aspect to Rudi’s Sel de Mer is my Food Faces artwork that adorns the dinner plates. I’ve been creating and photographing food that I’ve arranged into “faces” for several years as a hobby, and we’ve put 12 of my “seafood faces” onto dinner plates in the restaurant. It’s a perfect fit for the concept and is a great talking point for guests.
 

What new ideas are being incorporated into the wine program aboard Nieuw Statendam?

Van der Werff: We have Blend, which is a partnership with Château St. Michelle, where guests can sign up for a wine blending session and experiment with different combinations of Château St. Michelle varietals and vintages to create their own custom blend tailored to their preferred flavor profile, then name and label their wine, and have it bottled right there at Blend. The venue also doubles as an approachable tasting room where travelers can just sit and enjoy a premium glass of wine if they don’t feel like participating in a blending session.

For the overall wine program aboard Nieuw Statendam, we partnered with James Suckling to curate and condense our wine list, and move it away from just price and varietal categorization, and toward keywords he picked to pique guest interest, like Light Conversation, Mealtime Favorites, and James’s Rock Star Wines, for example. We found it breaks down boundaries to wine selections for our passengers and stimulates sales. It was subsequently rolled out across our fleet, so ease of procurement to replicate that core program was a consideration in the wines chosen. 


What established Holland America concepts have been upgraded aboard Nieuw Statendam?

Van der Werff: We partnered with Chef David Burke to create an exciting new menu for Pinnacle Grill aboard Nieuw Statendam. Pinnacle Grill is a staple on all our ships, so those changes have been rolled back to the rest of the fleet since then. In fact, I was just aboard the Oosterdam, which has been in our fleet since 2003, and we launched the David Burke Pinnacle Grill menu there to overwhelmingly favorable comments, especially from our repeat guests that have been eating at Pinnacle Grill for years. They noticed the upgrades to the menu while still keeping their staples and favorites. So we’re pleased with how we’ve taken an already very good concept and elevated it further.

Tamarind is another concept we upgraded for Nieuw Statendam. It’s a pan-Asian restaurant currently on five of our vessels, and for Nieuw Statendam we added al fresco seating, and we partnered with Chef Andy Matsuda for a sushi concept called Nami Sushi, which is adjacent to Tamarind. Nami Sushi is being added to our existing Tamarind venues on four other vessels.


What sort of feedback have you received about the F&B options aboard Nieuw Statendam since it launched last December?

Van der Werff: The guest satisfaction in scores, ratings, and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive. I have a team of about 20 food and beverage professionals either in a corporate or in a traveling corporate role, and we spent a lot of time the past two years to create an F&B experience for guests at a whole different level aboard Nieuw Statendam, and I think we really delivered.

Photo by Tim Boyles

To learn more about best practices for F&B and upcoming trends in marine catering, join us at Marine Catering Forum on June 19-20 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.


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