Having been loyal Celebrity Cruises guests and becoming tired of the brand´s service decline, we were looking for an adequate alternative in terms of a luxurious resort ship cruise experience, yet with a classy and more conventional touch. And without being dusty, Holland America Line´s newest fleet addition, MS Koningsdam, provided us with a modern approach to traditional cruising that we were looking for and a quality that had been long-lost on all the Celebrity Cruises vessels. Step onboard with me and experience MS Koningsdam, HAL´s new flagship.
Let´s begin in the Atrium on Deck 1. Koningsdam features a lot of design elements linked to the world of music with some decks carrying the names of popular composers such as Beethoven, Schubert, Gershwin or Mozart. The construction framing the open deckspace is based on guitar strings. It is highly controversial along the passengers and some even call it a bread basket (I actually do see some similarities to designs of famous Italian brand Alessi). But apart from that, this is the place to be if you want to book any shore excursions personally.
World Stage on Decks 2 and 3 is the ship´s main theatre and serves as interactive stage for shows, artists and concerts. The stage itself can be individually adjusted and the open design allows you to fully engage in any performance that takes place here. One of my favourite details of this theatre is the surrounding LED wall that allows amazing visual effects during shows! While in general I did enjoy the entertainment program onboard, I do have to admit that Celebrity Cruises is superior in terms of show cast and productions.
Right behind World Stage lies Lincoln Center Stage and the Explorer´s Bar. This platform has been established in cooperation with the world renown Lincoln Center for Performing Arts and offers classical chamber music concerts during the day and in the evenings. It is particularly busy on Gala evenings, yet I personally dislike its open design. In my opinion, a separately accessible room would pay more tribute to the quality of this facility and the musicians in general.
Across from Lincoln Center Stage lies Billboard Onboard. This interactive platform allows guests to actively take part in the history of music where two pianists, one DJ and a guitarist present their very own shows and take you on a musical journey through the centuries. You can sing along or simply enjoy, a very busy spot in the evenings!
If you love Whiskey, you will love Notes. This tasting bar teaches you all you need to know about one of the most popular distillates in the world. It lies right in the heart of the Music Walk and comes with an additional charge.
An absolute design highlight and hotspot for selfies is the dramatic staircase linking the Music Walk on Deck 2 with the Casino on Deck 3. Rumors have it that the stairs may be removed in the near future as complaints about noises and cigarette smoke have come up. While I do understand the complaint´s origins, this would be a great loss in my opinion.
Right behind the Music Walk on Deck 2 lie The Shops of Holland America. This exclusive collection of boutiques offer a wide array of luxury goods.
Koningsdam´s Signature shop Merabella holds extraordinary watches and jewelery for the affluent cruiser.
Attention to detail can be found in all of Koningsdam´s interiors. The ship aims to combine the traditional maritime design elements that Holland America Line stands for with a more modern and contemporary approach. While I personally like this mixed approach, I found out in many talks that the classic HAL passenger had trouble to identify with the design. Many were missing “their” typical Holland America signature in the interiors. As this was my first ship of the cruise line, I do not have any comparison at this time.
The iconic Queen´s Lounge onboard Koningsdam extends over two decks and is home to the B.B. King´s Blues Club in the evening. During the day, it is used for various events. My favourite one is the High Tea in the afternoon which is an absolute must for everyone! If you have sailed on Cunard before, you will find many similarities in the design of the lounge as well as the delicious offerings during the afternoon tea (which is free of charge).
Koningsdam is equipped with altogether three staircases. Each of them offering four elevators. The design is elegant with contemporary crystal chandeliers and high-end finishings. Carpets inside the elevators are changed on a daily base, always revealing the current day of the week.
Ocean Bar on Deck 2 borders to the second level of the Atrium with interesting flower arrangements.
The ambiance of the bar is quite reminiscent of the era of great transatlantic liners. With every drink, small bites and nibbles are served on china or neatly draped on a rack.
Pinnacle Grill is Holland America´s luxurious steakhouse serving prime cuts of Pacific Northwest beef complemented by boutique wines grown in the same region. The cover charge is 35 US-Dollars for a dinner per person as of November 2016. On sea days, lunch can be booked at 15 US-Dollars per person.
The adjacent quite impressive wine cellar holds something for every taste!
Sel de Mer is the newly introduced intimate Seafood brasserie concentrating on French classics with a contemporary twist and is exclusively available on MS Koningsdam. Prices are à la carte and range from 2 US-Dollars for fresh vegetables to 49 US-Dollars for the Fruit de Mer plate serving two or 39 US-Dollars for Lobster tail and claws. We did not try any of the speciality restaurants this time as we wanted to focus on the basic product that Holland America Line delivers. As detailed and intimate as the interior design aims to resemble the atmosphere of an authentic Marseillais brasserie, I personally did not like the fact that the room does not offer direct views onto the sea. Large windows facing the hallway let sunlight inside, yet everyone passing by can literally check out what is on your plate. I would have expected a little bit more privacy for an exclusive dining experience like this one.
Something very cool is the wine blending venue called Blend. In collaboration with Chateau St. Michelle, Washington State´s founding winery, you can try yourself out in tasting and blending your very own Cuvée right onboard MS Koningsdam. Select from five original Chateau St. Michelle reds and create with a little help your own wine. Ready to drink on the balcony of your stateroom or a nice souvenir for home. Sounds like big fun for a wine enthusiast like me, just the price is a little handicap: 129 US-Dollars per bottle when participating as single, 179 US-Dollars per bottle as a couple.
Food & Wine magazine presents the Culinary Art Center aboard Koningsdam. This interactive venue offers cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes hosted by the onboard chefs or visiting celebrity cooks. These classes are available mainly at extra costs, some demonstrations are free of charge. In the evenings, the Culinary Art Center transforms into a new dining concept: Dinner at the Culinary Art Center. Each course´s preparation is showcased by the chefs in the show kitchen and is served freshly like a farm-to-table experience. The surcharge of 39 US-Dollars includes as much house wine as you can drink.
Passengers participating in one of the many cooking classes at their own working table.
The hallway along the Culinary Art Center towards the lower level of the main dining room features interactive displays with insight information from celebrity chefs about food, preparations and recipes.
The Dining Room extends at the stern of the ship over decks 2 and 3. The open design and color concept are reminiscent of Celebrity Cruises´ Solstice class ships, yet the fabrics are a little different. Both levels feature set dinner times as well as open seating. As we were traveling in a group of four, we first opted for open seating and changed after the second night back to late seating (8:30pm).
Service quality was far superior and constant in direct comparison to our experiences over the last five years on Celebrity Cruises. There, we were either extremely lucky or it was pure punishment. The HAL staff was thoughtful and comforting, wherever we had different tables during the open seating or the fixed one for the late one. The quality of the meals and their preparation were more or less on the same high level, yet they were served hot and portions were considerably bigger.
The Dining Room is also highly recommendable for breakfast or lunch! Generally said, the gastronomical level that Holland America delivers here is very high. In other words, no need to visit any of the other speciality restaurants if you do not feel the urge to. For me, I cannot wait to try them out during the next sailing!
Deck 3, the Promenade Deck, holds the ship´s Casino. Being not a gambler at all, this is always the place that we spend least time during a cruise. Yet casinos are always eye candy in terms of interior design. The one on Koningsdam is rather small compared to ships of similar size of other cruise lines. It seems quite cozy though and one thing I have noted was the midnight buffet that was served there every single night consisting of small bites like sandwiches, warm nibbles, cakes and other delicious looking snacks.
I particularly liked the art works being on display around the ship. Wherever it is sculptures, paintings or photography, Koningsdam offers lots of modern artistic approaches hanging on the walls and on display worth being explored on a day at sea. This crystal covered globe is one of my favourites.
Guest Services lies on one side of the Atrium on Deck 3. The staff had been very helpful at any time we had a question or an inquiry. As this was the first time for us on Holland America Line, we were eager to purchase the line´s selection of cookbooks for our collection at home. The first batch of books that were delivered to our stateroom had quite a few scratches on the covers. They were exchanged without a problem and the bright young lady even called later during the day to reassure that everything was in well order. Next to the desk are two onboard account terminals where guests can check their stateroom accounts on a regular base.
The Grand Dutch Café on the other side of the atrium serves any sort of coffee and tea specialities along with sweet and hearty snacks, some of them being typical Dutch. It is included if you purchase the Alcohol free Quench package, which I can highly recommend. Cakes and sandwiches are served on beautiful white and blue Delft china and the seating with the promenade view is particularly cosy (but also highly popular!).
Watch the people walk or the ocean pass by from the Grand Dutch Café.
Even if MS Koningsdam is HAL´s largest ship so far (Pinnacle class), the hull is similar to the ones of earlier ships such as the Eurodam or the Nieuw Amsterdam, for example. The ship class is called Vista class and is also sailing with other Carnival branches such as Cunard, Costa or Carnival itself. The Vista class normally holds enough room on the Promenade Deck to accommodate sun loungers. Unfortunately, on Koningsdam the space has been noticeably narrowed leaving only room for a few wooden benches with the ship´s name imprinted on them. Big advantage on the other hand: You can still the deck entirely from one side to the other.
Rear views from the Promenade onto the ocean. One of my favourite spots aboard the Vista and Pinnacle class ships.
Decks 4 to 8 feature staterooms only. Everything you need to know about a balcony stateroom onboard Koningsdam can be found in this post. We stayed in 4017, a VF category verandah cabin.
Hallways aboard MS Koningsdam reflect the bright and airy design of the staterooms. Lots of light wood paneling and neat little details like the tulips on the carpet. Well done, Holland America. Walking down these aisles spreads bright and positive energy.
On Deck 9 forward you will find the well-appointed and very modern Fitness Center. Most of the cardio equipment offers panoramic views over the bow…
….others to the side. State-of-the-art Muscle toning machines and free weights are nestled in-between.
Heavier workout equipment including push up/pull up, cable pull and a full bench press are found on the other side of the gym. All include impeccable views!
Right adjacent: The Greenhouse Spa with the luxurious Thermal suite. Take a photo tour of the wellness retreat here.
The “Big Blue” leads the way to…
…Koningsdam´s Lido Pool. This is the ship´s main pool located in the center of Deck 9 and it can be used as indoor and outdoor pool as it features a retractable roof.
This is the place where Holland America´s popular outdoor barbecue is held with lots of delicious grills! Something that most other premium cruise lines have abolished long time ago.
The Lido Pool extends over two decks and can get very busy during sea days. The lower level holds sun loungers, the pool, three whirlpools and outdoor seating for the buffet restaurant Lido Grill.
The upper Level of Lido Pool offers various seating spaces on a circling gallery as well as comfortable sun beds with reading lights. These areas become particularly cramped and overcrowded on sea days and are therefore not to recommend.
This is also the place to be if you enjoy a game of table tennis and the colorful changing rooms come quite handy if you do not want to go all the way to your stateroom in order to get changed to grab a little something to eat.
There is another bar called Panorama Bar with additional seating available…
… and one of my favourite snack spots called New York Deli & Pizza. Like in the Dive-In downstairs, all sandwiches and pizzas come at no extra charge and are made-to-order. I recognized many people being irritated about the waiting time, which I find hard to understand as this guarantees the best and freshest quality of the dish. Furthermore, you may comfortably find yourself a seat and pick up your meal when your buzzer informs you to. I can highly recommend the Reuben sandwich and the Lox Bagel. The pizza was great, too!
In the evenings, Lido Pool transforms into a movie theatre with fresh popcorn being served. To be honest, most of the films on display did not interest me at all (too many Girl´s movies), but I still liked the atmosphere. It can get a little sticky and humid here whenever the roof is closed.
Lido Market on Deck 9 is Koningsdam´s buffet restaurant and one of the most beautiful and elegant self-service venues onboard any cruise ship that I have seen so far. Reminiscent of the design of the era of grand ocean liners of the 1960´s, this hotspot offers a little different approach: The buffet stations are not self-service.
Plates are filled by crew members at each station at one´s individual liking. I particularly enjoyed the offerings of the sandwich and salad stations where you can either opt for the daily special or select the ingredients at your personal taste. The salad/sandwich is then prepared made-to-order. Again, a lot of people complained about the waiting time. I see this approach positively as it helps to reduce the amounts of food being tossed out and it definitely reflected in the taste and the general quality of all warm and cold meals on offer. By far, the selection of European style breads has been superior to any other large cruise line I have experienced. In addition, all tables featured fresh orchids and on Gala Night, Lido Grill served freshly grilled Lobster tails as many as you could eat in addition to the offering down in the Dining Room!!!
A little section of Lido Market houses Canaletto, Holland America Line´s Italian speciality restaurant. It could be a little more secluded, in my opinion, but the merry design invites at a modest cover charge of only 15 US-Dollars p.p.to enjoy all the typical Italian dishes that you could wish for.
On the aftdeck of Deck 9 you will find outdoor seating of Lido Market, the Sea View Bar as well as the rear swimming pool Sea View Pool.
In direct comparison to the modern and elegant design of Lido Pool, the Sea View Pool and deck area appear a little bit too sober for my taste. While the pool itself is of large size, the two whirlpools can hardly fit more than three people at a time.
The two adjoining galleries to the sides a deck up hold additional sun loungers. In order to change sides you will have to take the stairs down and cross over the pool deck. The entire area could have been arranged in a much more appealing way, I believe. A rather subtle piece of work with lack of attention to detail.
The view is unbeatable though…
In for a game of shuffleboard? The outdoor deck on Deck 10 between the Lido Pool and Tamarind restaurant feature one board on each side.
Tamarind on Deck 10 is another speciality restaurant of Holland America Line. On Koningsdam, the venue lies on the aftdeck with views over the Sea View Pool underneath.
Cover charge is 25 US-Dollars p.p. and the menu serves Pan-Asian delicacies with a newly added Sushi and Sashimi bar on Koningsdam.
The design of the public toilets and bathrooms by the way is very much similar to the one you experience aboard Celebrity Cruises.
While the forward section of Deck 11 is reserved for further balcony staterooms, the gallery circulating the retractable roof of Lido Pool is reserved for the joggers. Outdoor stretching on metal bows perfectly prepare for a run …
… with the best views and a fresh ocean breeze at the same time.
Right behind: More activities in forms of additional shuffleboard and outdoor fitness equipment.
And, of course, the multi functional Sport Court with a little tribune for spectators.
The rest of Deck 11 holds sun decks and a little bar called Sun Bar. It can get a little windy up here from time to time, but the heavy tables feature holes for your beverage glass that come quite handy. There are also two showers up here and one toilet.
From here, walk down the exterior staircase down to the Sea View Pool and get the chills!
The Crow´s Nest on Deck 12 is Koningsdam´s observation lounge and a typical Holland America Line institution.
Lots of differently styled seating makes this an all day popular spot for passengers to hang out at. In the evenings, this is my secret tip if you enjoy pre-dinner drinks in a quiet and private atmosphere as not many people come up here.
The adjacent Library holds high quality picture books, magazines and travel guides. Next to it lies the Internet Corner and coffee specialities are served from the Explorations Café.
The lounge is often used for Mariner Society (the line´s loyalty program) events in an elegant and contemporary environment.
The Retreat is a private cabana style sun deck which is available at extra cost including beverage and snack service. Unfortunately, there is no price difference between renting a cabana or simply using the sun loungers. If there had been, we would have booked us loungers once in a while. But 69 US-Dollars for half a day was not worth it, we think.
The view from Sky Deck is just as nice and comes for free.
And that was about it. I hope you enjoyed this tour and that I was able to present you the ship from my personal point of view with lots of insights on what awaits onboard in terms of offerings and design. And, as always, I do have a personal…
A great ship with currently the best staterooms available in the premium resort ship cruise market. Koningsdam is both appealing to the mature and the younger crowd, making it a fantastic destination for singles, couples and families of every age to indulge in the high quality services and dining options with that special Holland America touch. It is great to see that there are still cruise lines like HAL out there, that actually do offer “Modern Luxury” for the fare that you pay. Definitely a great alternative for any Celebrity passenger!