Savoring Fine and Culinary Arts

On Holland America's Westerdam

By Judy Colbert

It’s one thing to sail the seven seas in search of fine art and antiques. It’s quite another to travel among those works of art. That's precisely what you can do today, though, on many cruise ships including those of Holland America Line. 

Launched in 2004, the 1,916-passenger Westerdam, for example, is a virtual floating gallery. The ship is shown at right.*

Many of the 82,500-ton ship’s public areas are decorated with striking works of art.

But a master's degree in fine arts is not required to appreciate these works.

Self-Guided Art Tours

As part of Holland America's onboard enrichment program, passengers can take a self-guided iPod art tour of the ship. This iPod tour includes descriptions of the artwork and directions to each piece. 

Radio personalities Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman serve as narrators. Stein Kruse, Holland America's president and CEO, introduces the tour. The recording is also peppered with comments from Frans Dingemans, the ship's interior architect and designer, and others associated with the art program.

That said, on water as on land, art is open to the individual interpretation of the viewer.

For example, a life-like bronze dolphin statue flanks the mid-ship Lido Deck pool (*shown at right).

But is it one dolphin shown through a series of movements? Or, is it several dolphins?

If you want the official answer, click your iPod. You'll learn from Sedona artist Susanna Holt that you're looking at one dolphin.

The iPod tour also features interviews with artists like Holt, appropriate music (cue the ocean sounds as you look at Holt’s dolphin statue) and photos of the objects. 

What if you don't have an iPod? No problem.

Just check one out at the Internet area of the Explorations Cafe powered by the New York TimesThere is no fee.

If you want to get a head start in previewing the art before you even sail, just access the online recordings at

Dutch Heritage in Art

Passengers perusing the Westerdam's public areas will soon discover that the primary art theme onboard the Westerdam is Dutch heritage in the New World.

For example, guests will encounter paintings of such historic Dutch ships as Henry Hudson’s Half Moon. Among the many wonderful pieces of maritime art sprinkled around the ship is the sculpture shown at right. To view it, head for the ship's Sports Bar.*    

Gracing the atrium is this Waterford-designed crystal sculpture of the Half Moon (shown at left)*

You'll also discover other works with a Dutch theme, such as an original Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Beyond the Dutch themed art, other artistic jewels onboard include a magnificent chandelier that adorns the Vista dining room ceiling. In contrast, Architect Frank Gehry created a cardboard chair.

Be sure to take a gander at the silver doors with inlaid bone (from a 17th century Indian Palace) located  near the entrance to the Vista dining room. Elevator doors evoke the Art Deco mood of New York City’s Chrysler Building. Maritime paintings by Stephen Card grace the main stairwells.

Waiting for an elevator? The chairs in the elevator lobby shown at right are clearly as much "art" as "furniture" but guests are free to sit!*

Art of the Kitchen

While the Westerdam's artwork is a feast for the mind, onboard culinary activities are a feast for the palate. You might also garner some impressive culinary skills -- perfect for impressing family and friends after you return home from your cruise!

Start by attending demonstrations on sushi preparation and vegetable and fruit carvings. Check your daily program for the various offerings. 

For example, you might enjoy a tour of the ship’s galley. Here chefs and kitchen crew prepare dishes for hundreds of hungry diners.

Culinary Arts Center

Usually at least once on a weeklong cruise, Executive Chef Michael Sabourin, Pinnacle Grill Chef Philip Heise, other onboard chefs or any of up to 60 celebrity chefs that sail annually with the line perform a complimentary cooking demonstration in the Culinary Arts Center, a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. 

Resembling a TV cooking show set, the Culinary Arts Center is located within a $1 million theater. Large plasma video screens bring the chef’s talents up close, regardless of where you’re sitting. In addition to the free demonstrations, guests may sign up for cooking classes and workshops that carry a fee.  

So you might take home the secrets of a chocolatier extraordinaire, fromager, wine visionary, pastry chef, cookbook author or celebrity chef. On our cruise, we enjoyed the chef's preparation of chilled raspberry soup and Dungeness crab cake with a sweet Thai chili sauce.

Often food and wine selections for the culinary programs reflect the local ports of call or signature items from the kitchen’s repertoire.

Recipe cards are available at the demonstrations and also within the Lido restaurant (definitely grab the recipes for Dutch cheese fondue and bread pudding). This way, participants can fully appreciate the cooking presentations without taking notes.

Culinary mastery is not limited solely to adults.

New 45-minute sessions are offered as part of Club HAL, the line's supervised children’s activity program.

So your kids might learn to prepare breakfast, dinner and snack recipes.

Above, the kids are clearly having a ball as they dig into a Club HAL culinary project.* 

Whether your taste is more toward the fine arts or the culinary arts, the Westerdam fields eclectic options to satisfy both mind and palate. 

For More Information

Holland America Line: 877-724-5425 or

Freelance writer Judy Colbert is a native of Washington, D.C. She is the author of  "Virginia: Off the Beaten Path" and "Maryland and Delaware: Off the Beaten Path."