**In the interest of full disclosure this was a "shakedown cruise" that was not open to the general public and some work was still being completed in some areas (installation of some art pieces and so forth). I will not discuss ... Read More
**In the interest of full disclosure this was a "shakedown cruise" that was not open to the general public and some work was still being completed in some areas (installation of some art pieces and so forth). I will not discuss the work/workers we encountered as that goes with the territory and all items I noticed during the cruise were fixed/finished/installed/etc by the time we left.*** My husband and I did this 5 day cruise from Venice to Civitavecchia with additional days in Italy before and after as well as some time in Amsterdam and Rotterdam following the cruise.
The ship is absolutely beautiful. Modern yet still keeps a lot of the Holland America Line "feel" that the other ships have, minus the bright colors and over-emphasis of red color palettes and brass. Public spaces still have a feeling of intimacy for the most part. Yes they are larger to hold more people but compared to other ships of similar size the ship does still keep a "coziness" to it. Not ever single room is designed to hold hundreds and hundreds of people and that's a really good thing.
I've posted a massive photo post on the HAL forums of the ship here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2347682 and our room here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2347714 so those will likely help with a lot of understanding of how the ship and the room look.
As far as dining goes, here's where we ate:
**Lido Market - Had one breakfast here and the omelet was a little undercooked. We brought it to his attention, he made another one and it was great.
**Dive In - Great burgers and fries as always. Cannonball is the BEST!
**New York Pizza - Had the pizza that Elizabeth Faulkner won an award for a pizza contect in Italy with called "Finnocchio" if I remember right. Cream sauce, onion, fennel, sausage... YUM!
**Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center - Incredible experience. They encourage you to socialize with each other and the chefs as they prepare everything. Farm to table, very fresh food and ingredients. Unlimited red and white wine they've selected as well (we had organic wines from Columbia Winery, not sure if they vary)
**Tamarind - One of our favorites and for good reason. Everything is flavorful and cooked to perfection here. The venue is even more gorgeous than on Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam. They've really outdone themselves. (Get a cold sake, the presentation is really neat!)
**Sel de Mer - Seafood at it's finest. Yes it's a la carte and as our group of 4 wanted to try a lot the bill came to $205 (ack!) but had we not been on a mission to try so many different things the bill could easily be within just a few dollars of the Pinnacle Grill. Unless you're allergic to seafood, this is a must do!
**Room service - Got it a couple times late at night. Menu is limited that late, but the food was the right temperatures and tasty
**Grand Dutch Cafe - Tasty coffees and amazing split pea soup, Koningsbol and bitterballen. This needs to be retro'd onto all HAL ships YESTERDAY!!
The Music Walk area is genius with Billboard Onboard, Queens Lounge (with BB King Blues) and Lincoln Center Stage all within steps of each other and alternating performances all throughout the evening. There were A LOT of us that closed the bars down every night, and while I was skeptical, the Queen's Lounge actually makes for a great nightclub space too.
World Stage is a game changer. Simple as that. The screens add so much, are not "gimmicky" and on several occasions, a transition on the screens between or during performances got oohs and ahhs from the crowd. This is some of the best entertainment of ANY ship we've ever been on (and we've been on 30+ cruises, multiple brands).
The ship is definitely in the right direction for the future of HAL, and while we've done the majority of our cruises on HAL we were also starting to branch out more and more for variety. This has brought us right back "home" and given us lots of motivation to stay there.
Well done HAL! Can't wait for K2 (Koningsdam #2 due out in 2018) Read Less