Every cruise line has a personality, but perhaps no other line prides itself on tradition more than Holland America. The Carnival Corporation-owned line -- which has been around for more than 140 years -- keeps its Dutch roots alive with everything from Netherlands-inspired ship names to pea soup. Even the ships resemble the ocean liners of yesteryear, donning navy blue hulls, graceful interiors and top decks free of rock-climbing walls or water slides.
While most of Holland America's ships share a similar, laidback vibe that typically appeals to a more mature crowd, the line is flirting with a more modern concept on its newest ship. Koningsdam, the first in a new Pinnacle Class of ships (and the largest in the fleet), will introduce "new to the line" features such as a theater with a 270-degree LED screen, two-deck Lido Pool area with a movie screen, and cabins designed specifically for solo travelers and families -- all of which open its doors to younger generations and new-to-HAL cruisers.
We put Koningsdam alongside one of the line's most popular ships, Nieuw Amsterdam. The second-newest ship in the fleet, it offers a mix of longtime staples such as the Culinary Arts Center and Explorations Cafe with more recent features like the B.B. King's Blues Club and Tamarind Asian restaurant.
If you're curious about Holland America's contemporary twist on traditional cruising, we compare Koningsdam vs. Nieuw Amsterdam to help you decide which cruise ship is more your style.
Nieuw Amsterdam's cabins are pretty simple, as far as what's offered. Categories include interior, ocean-view, veranda, Signature Suites and Neptune Suites -- a handful of which are spa cabins that include yoga mats and an iPod docking station, and are within close proximity to the Greenhouse Spa. All cabins feature bathrobes and other standard fleetwide features like 100-percent Egyptian cotton towels and complimentary fresh fruit on request. Suite passengers enjoy added perks like in-cabin binoculars and upgraded bathrooms. Neptune Suites, in particular, also feature a coffee and espresso machine, Bose docking station and complimentary mimosas with breakfast. The biggest plus: Holland America's cabins are generally roomier than the industry standard.
Koningsdam cabins are divided into nine categories: interior, ocean-view, family ocean-view, solo ocean-view, veranda, spa veranda, Vista Suite, Signature Suite, Neptune Suite and Pinnacle Suite. The options for families and solo travelers are new and geared toward broadening the line's typical, more mature demographic. All cabins have bedside USB ports, bathrobes and glass shower doors that swing open like traditional doors. Signature and Vista Suite passengers enjoy upgraded luxury robes, oversized bath towels and fresh flowers, while spa veranda cabins feature yoga mats and an iPod docking station, just steps away from the Greenhouse Spa. Special perks for Pinnacle and Neptune Suite passengers include exclusive use of the Neptune Lounge and concierge service, complimentary laundry and bottled water, and a cocktail party with the ship's officers.
There are seven restaurants on Nieuw Amsterdam. Among the for-fee specialty options are Tamarind, Canaletto and the Pinnacle Grill. Tamarind is an Asian-fusion spot serving up everything from a satay platter and sashimi to Udon noodles and fish baked in rice paper. Canaletto focuses on Italian classics served family style. Pinnacle Grill, the line's signature steakhouse, cooks up a spread of meat and seafood, alongside Pacific Northwest-inspired dishes. It also hosts a special "Evening at Le Cirque" on select nights. The most popular dining spot is the classic Manhattan Dining Room, which spans two decks and boasts a "Big Apple red" color scheme. It's included in the cruise fare, along with the Lido Buffet, Dive-In Terrace Grill and Slice Pizza.
Passengers can choose from 10 restaurants on Koningsdam, including the buffet and quick-bite spots by the pool. There are two "new to the line" specialty restaurants, each bearing a cover charge: Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center (an intimate, farm-to-table dining space added to the show kitchen, which can be found fleetwide) and Sel de Mer (a French seafood brasserie). Also new to the line is the Grand Dutch Cafe, which serves traditional Dutch snacks, beer and coffee. The complimentary main dining room on Koningsdam spans two decks and surrounds diners with views from the back of the ship. Design-wise, it's more modern than those on other Holland America ships, combining light colors with contemporary decor, including a copper-sheathed wine tower showcasing selections from Koningsdam's wine cellar. Other options include the line's popular specialty restaurants -- Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto -- as well as the Lido Market buffet, New York Deli and Pizza, and Dive-In at Terrace Grill. Gelato is the place to go for sweet tooth cravings.
Nightlife on Nieuw Amsterdam is fairly low key. Passengers have their fair share of bars and hangout spots, including the Queen's Lounge and Explorer's Bar also found on Koningsdam. All have a relaxed vibe, even when crowded, though you'll see the occasional sing-along at the Piano Bar. The Northern Lights nightclub, which plays mostly '70s and '80s dance music, has its occasional busy nights, but is hardly used past midnight.
The Showroom at Sea is where the bulk of entertainment takes place on Nieuw Amsterdam. At nighttime, it hosts a series if Vegas-style shows and guest performers, such as vocalists and comedians.
Connecting three live music venues, the Music Walk is Koningsdam's main hub for entertainment. Picture it as a "main street," with Billboard Onboard, Lincoln Center Stage and the Queen's Lounge (which hosts the line's popular B.B. King's Blues Club experience) along either side. Though the venues can be found on other Holland America ships, Koningsdam makes it easy for passengers to hop from one to the other, depending on their moods.
Shows are held at the World Stage, the ship's main theater. Flanked by a 270-degree LED screen, it uses high-tech lighting and sound systems to create optical illusions and transform the space into various settings. For those who wish to sip and socialize, the ship also offers Blend by Chateau Ste. Michelle, which allows you to blend and bottle your own red and white wines. Need some fresh air? Cozy up with popcorn and gelato for movie nights at the Lido Pool, which now features an outdoor screen and two decks of padded lounge chairs.
Holland America might not be the first line that comes to mind when you consider a family cruise, but it's one of the leading cruise lines in Alaska and offers a family-friendly experience that's all about the destination. Shore excursions include dog-sledding adventures, whale-watching and float plane rides. Additionally, as part of Holland America's Junior Ranger program, park rangers from Glacier Bay National Park come onboard to teach kids about the glaciers and local wildlife.
Club HAL, the line's dedicated kids club, is a hidden gem. Divided into three themed spaces for different age groups (3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17), it offers a plethora of activities, crafts and parties to keep kids entertained.
Koningsdam is the first Holland America ship making an obvious push to draw families. Its kids club, which follows the same age groupings as Nieuw Amsterdam's, has been expanded and sports a unique, stylish layout. The ship also hosts movie nights at the Lido Pool, where families can enjoy snacks and drinks on cushioned lounge chairs under a giant outdoor screen. One of the most obvious additions, however, is the ship's dedicated family cabins. A first for the line, these ocean-view cabins comfortably sleep up to five people and provide extra closet space and two separate bathrooms.
Nieuw Amsterdam splits its time between the Caribbean, Alaska and the Panama Canal. Considering Holland America is known to visit more offbeat ports and is a leader in the Alaska market (thanks to its cruisetours), we think it's a great value for the money.
In addition to the Caribbean, Koningsdam offers Southern and Northern Europe cruises. Travelers have lots of choices from weeklong Norwegian fjords cruises to two-week Baltic, British Isles, Mediterranean and Atlantic Europe cruises. New ships can be more expensive than their fleetmates (though not always -- check prices for your preferred sail dates), but broader cabin and dining choices, high-tech entertainment and that new ship smell give Koningsdam splurge-worthy appeal.
Updated January 08, 2020