We chose this cruise for the itinerary and timing, we weren't really cruising we were actually on our way to annoy, er, visit the relatives in Florida for the holidays. This cruise landed us there right in time and in the right ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and timing, we weren't really cruising we were actually on our way to annoy, er, visit the relatives in Florida for the holidays. This cruise landed us there right in time and in the right location so we chose the TransAtlantic cruise from Rome to Fort Lauderdale along with a back to back cruise through the Caribbean to make our arrival in Fort Lauderdale at the right time. It was also to ports we hadn't seen and had a TransAtlantic crossing which we hadn't done before as well. We'd not been on this specific ship before and we really liked the Westerdam from last year so we wondered what a slightly larger HAL ship would be like,
For this cruise, we started out leaving the port in Civitavecchia near Rome. We got into Rome four days early to make sure we didn't miss the ship. Plus, hey! It's ROME! We had a BnB near the Vatican and had a great four days before the ship visiting the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, etc., etc. There's loads to look at in Rome and the food is insanely good. Hmm, well, considering how fussy they are about how their food is grown, maybe it's 'sanely' good. Prior to Rome, I'd have graded the ship's food much higher, but after the food, coffee & croissants we had in Rome, well, now I have a higher standard for 'excellent' food.
We caught a shuttle bus from Rome to the ship and the shuttle dropped us off right at the ramp to the ship. The shuttle driver handed our luggage to the ship's porters so it was a good thing we had them tagged and ready. I'm pretty sure it was Rome Cabs who operated the shuttle. We arranged the pickup online and they showed up on time and everything was very easy and convenient.
The Koningsdam is a nice ship. It's one of the larger ones in the HAL fleet and newer, but it just didn't quite seem like a 'real' cruise ship to us. The decor was more 'fancy floating hotel' than 'cruise ship'. Not much nautical decor, and it didn't compare well to the Westerdam that we'd taken last year through the Panama Canal. We did like the Grand Dutch Cafe, but we preferred the Westie for most other things.
Some of the surprising things were the lack of decoration in the hallways. The hallways are really long and boring, lack of any artwork doesn't help that. There were also no seating in the elevator lobby areas. Why no seats near the elevators? The classic wooden seats with the ship's name on them are also strangely missing as well. I think I saw one or maybe two of them, but they were very few and far between. The promenade deck exterior walkway has become a narrow track with no seats there, either.
Shall we mention that the teak decks on the promenade are actually plastic sheeting? That just lacks authenticity. Perhaps that's the complaint throughout the ship, it lacks an authentic 'cruise ship' vibe. But, maybe that's what they're trying to achieve?
The ship, as a ship, is a very excellent ship even if we are less than enthusiastic about some of the decor. The captain, Noel O'Driscoll, while he seems young to be a captain of such a large ship is a most excellent captain. When we embarked in Civitavecchia, we were the last ship to leave the port until after a hurricane came and went. Apparently, there was a ship scheduled to come in the next day (not a HAL ship) but it wouldn't be able to arrive because of the storm. I wonder how that works? It's one thing for a passenger to miss the ship, but what happens when the ship misses the passengers? Well, anyway, I digress, back to the review of the Koningsdam.
The hurricane effects we saw were mostly that the ship was slightly tilted. There didn't seem to be much up and down or side to side swaying, mostly it was a slight tilt. Enough that the coffee cups were trying to commit suicide by sliding off tables, but not much more than that. Seems odd there wasn't some sort of rubber grippers on the bottom of the plates and cups, but generally cruise ships aren't in hurricanes. There were crashes of things in the dining areas, spills of food and dishes, the servers on the Lido were stacking things in the window ledges on the downhill side so they wouldn't slide off the tables. The wind was howling, the ship was slightly tilted, the crew was uneasy but they were hiding it well.
From a passenger's viewpoint, it was almost a non-event. Rumor among the passengers later was that it had been seventy mile an hour sustained winds and gusts up to a hundred and thirty. Which would be an official hurricane in my book. Captain O'Driscoll is being shifted to the new ship HAL is launching, I think that's an excellent choice considering how well he handled that hurricane. (But, I'm just a passenger, I really know nothing of that sort of thing.)
The cruise director, Benjamin Yates, is a really likable fellow. Which would be a job requirement, one would think. It must be difficult for him to find things for the passengers to do when he's got such a wide variety of passengers to work with. On the TransAtlantic crossing, the median age of the passengers was quite high. Once we got the next group of passengers (we were doing a back to back cruise) in Fort Lauderdale, I'd guess the average age of the passengers dropped by at least three decades.
Personally, I'd like to see HAL instigate 'maker' classes or activities. It could be sold as 'craft' groups to the older cruisers. Somewhat similar to the 'America's Test Kitchens' venue that they have except about something other than cooking. I'd guess a jewelry making event would perhaps do well or something similar? Oh, and if I was cruise director, there'd be races for the limited mobility folks on scooters. Mark out a track, put out outlines of toes that they could get points for running over and have timed races. Woot! Probably it's a good thing they don't let me be cruise director.
Another thing which could be a good thing for the ship to do would be at least a digital library with perhaps book readers folks could rent for the cruise if they didn't bring their own. A digital library wouldn't take up any space and yet still be a library. I really miss the real libraries they used to have on board HAL ships. Hmm, maybe 'book club' meetings on board? That could be digitally done. Pick a book about a cruise ship, a light and happy book that can be quickly read and have the book club meet every several days? Or meet every day to discuss the chapters they've already read? Well, again, I'm not cruise director.
HAL's claim to fame - in my estimation at least - is their excellent service. Which, seems a bit less on the Koningsdam than the Westerdam. That may be from the higher ratio of passengers to crew or we may have had a higher expectation of service on the K'dam than the Westie. The service was excellent.
The food in the Lido is really good, although on this ship there was less of it that was available without being served by the server at the station. Occasionally, there would be lines to get some food items but they were generally short lines. If one didn't want to wait in line, there's some items that can be picked up without waiting but the nicest choices are usually served and may or may not involve some waiting in a line.
We would frequently eat in the main dining room in self defense. The Lido doesn't have limits on things that show up on your plate and there's too much good stuff there for us to be left alone there for long. In the main dining room, there's a menu to order from and other folks putting proper sizes of portions on the plate so we don't over eat. I'd like to see smaller portion sizes myself. Frequently we just want a taste of something, not really a whole meal of it. Kinda like a tapas party verses a real meal.
There was disappointment at tea time, however. It wasn't the more proper tea service where the chest of tea is presented for selection of tea. It was pre-brewed Tetley tea. What's with that?
The entertainment was pretty good, I think our favorite was a visiting entertainer, Hilby, who was listed as a German juggler/comedian of all things. There were usually loungers available for the evening movie on the Lido deck. There were usually loungers available at the Lido deck around the pools during the day as well. There were a lot more folks in the pools on the Caribbean portion of the cruise. Very few on the TA portion.
We only took one ship's tour and that was in Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. It was a bus ride on an interesting vehicle to a cove for some powered snorkeling from a boat. The Dominican Republic isn't quite the sort of port one would want to wander around in by oneself, in my estimation anyway. The bus was sort of a cross between and open air farm wagon and a bus. We rode pretty high in the air and the driver was in a separate compartment. It was interesting seeing the rural area and towns along the way. If there's a small motorcycle with a woman holding groceries sitting sidesaddle on the back with a driver wearing an orange vest, then that's a taxi motorcycle. They were everywhere and it took awhile before we figured out how the passengers were related to the drivers.
The powered snorkeling was interesting, although the undersea life was much better in Bonaire. The snorkeling ship captain was Carlos who had trained herds of fishes waiting for the snorkel boat to arrive. Also, if he gives you a shopping opportunity at the small shops next to the snorkeling cove, take him up on it. One of the Dominican Republic items is a blue stone called 'laramar' and the shops at the cruise port charge about six times the prices asked by the small shop near the snorkeling cove.
Overall, there was very little waiting in line on the ship. Embarkation was less than twenty minutes and disembarkation was a lot shorter. We used Mobile Passport which is an app on our cellphones at Port Everglades. We walked off the ship after waiting about three minutes in a line to get off the ship. Then walked to the luggage waiting area, gathered our luggage and walked to the long, long customs line. To the side of that long line is the 'Mobile Passport' line which had nobody in it. We were frantically trying to open our passports while walking to the front of the line. The inspector still looks at the paper passport even when using Mobile Passport on the phone and we're supposed to have them open to the picture page before you get to the inspector.
Holland America Line is a good cruise line. They consistently give excellent service, which is what they are best known for as far as I know. The Koningsdam is a good choice of ship and the TransAtlantic crossing or any itinerary that gives multiple sea days is a lovely thing. I wasn't sure what to expect with a week's worth of ship days but it was quite lovely to not have to scurry about as we do on a port day. As usual, a lot of the joys of cruising is meeting and chatting with the other passengers and multiple sea days is perfect for this. Read Less