Following 12 days in dry dock in Palermo and a budget of almost £50 million, the ‘refreshed’ MS Westerdam has returned to the seas with a new look, a virtual captain’s bridge and the world’s first floating Rijksmuseum featuring amongst its star attractions.

As the first of several planned dry docks intended to upgrade Holland America Line’s 14-ship fleet in line with the 2016-launched MS Koningsdam, the refurbishment enhanced several areas on board the already popular MS Westerdam.

One of the most notable enhancements and a biggie for anyone who has ever fancied themselves as the captain of the ship is the debut of a virtual bridge as part of the brand-new Explorations Central, or EXC, in the Crow’s Nest. The virtual bridge features a real-time display mirroring the information being screened to the captain himself on the ship’s bridge. Other features in the contemporary EXC lounge include a state-of-the-art TV system offering information on the ship’s location and interactive screens designed to offer guests a new way to learn about their destinations and how to make the most of their time in port, minus the pressure to book the ship’s excursions.

Destination is a huge focus for Holland America Line, with the fleet sailing to over 400 ports in 100 countries and holding a reputation as one of the best at sea for destination immersion.

Speaking about the importance of not only the journey but the destination, Holland America Line President, Orlando Ashford, said: “Travel has the power to change people in a positive and important way. In ways we don’t even realise. As our perspective shifts, opinions and values shift too and we become fundamentally changed. Travel has the potential to change the world.”

Holland America Line’s Music Walk centres around the theory that there should always be live music somewhere on board the ship at all times. The refurbishment sees enhancements to the existing musical offering, with music venues Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Centre Stage joining the existing BB King’s Blues Club. The popular blues bar also hosts the new look America’s Test Kitchen. Inspired by one of the longest running programmes on US TV, the cooking show is recreated on stage under the expert guidance of the ship’s resident America’s Test Kitchen chef, with guests sampling his experimental recipes. Elsewhere at Blend, guests will be able to ‘blend’ their own bottle of wine and enjoy it with dinner that evening.

HAL America's Test Kitchen

Lincoln_Center_Stage MS Westerdam

The Northern Lights nightclub has been replaced with the sleek, sophisticated Gallery Bar; one of our favourite spots on board when we were invited to join the ship in Barcelona last month for a reveal of the new features.

The Retreat has been relocated from deck ten to deck 11 as part of the refit, with 15 private cabanas welcoming guests who book the private space for their whole cruise or a single day. Unlike similar areas on other ships, The Retreat is family-friendly, with family cabanas available. They are the same price as regular cabanas but be warned; there are just a handful available and they are extremely popular, so get in there quick to book yours! The pool is just steps away from The Retreat, with a climate controlled roof meaning you can have Antiguan sun even in Stavanger.

When it comes to accommodation, a further 25 staterooms have been added to deck ten, increasing MS Westerdam’s passenger capacity to 1,964. Existing suites have been upgraded with polished stone bathroom surfaces, new soft furnishings and carpets, and bedside USB ports.

Following the dry dock, MS Westerdam now boasts the first Rijksmuseum at sea, a nod to Holland America Line’s Dutch heritage. The cruise line has sponsored Rijksmuseum since 2015 and whilst restrictions such as climate control, security and insurance meant original works from the Amsterdam museum couldn’t be displayed on the ship, they are recreated in stunning definition on a huge high-resolution LED screen. The Rijksmuseum at Sea is exclusive to Holland America Line and is a very serene space just below the main atrium.

Rijksmuseum MS Westerdam