Koningsdam Cruise Review by realestateprof
- Sail Date: April 2016
- Destination: Western Mediterranean
The ship itself is wonderful, architecturally spectacular and beautiful. Interior decor is colorful in an attractive way, upbeat and in good taste. Flower arrangements in public spaces are magnificent. Everywhere one turns floor to ceiling windows are framing ocean/sea/island/fishing boat views. Our perfect weather added to the magic. Koningsdam features two swimming pools on the Lido (9th level) deck, with the main one covered at night, allowing for full-length movies shown at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Guests lounge in the plentiful deck furniture and munch on complimentary pizza, sandwiches, nachos and popcorn, watching movies either made in or related to the countries we visited on this cruise--Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Albania. Ship and decor are A+, reflective of HAL's goal of producing a top-of-the line experience with this new ship. Just one small negative: one must sit almost side-saddle on the commode. Trying to sit in a normal, straightforward way leads to one's knees banging (literally) into the glass shower wall, even if a person has short legs. TMI?
Onboard activities are more than plentiful, and for all ages. The spa offers full exercise amenities, saunas, a large jacuzzi, and a wide range of personal services at relatively reasonable prices, with discounts on different services offered each day. The casino, like the entire ship interior, is smoke-free and nicely done...though not busy even at night as best I have observed. The library has interesting books and quite a few word games, puzzles, etc., with tables available nearby. For those enjoying cocktail time there are lots of bars. One positive for me, as a non-drinker, is that the cruise fare does not include free liquor or even soft drinks or bottled water, so non-drinkers are not paying to subsidize drinkers. Water, coffee and hot or iced tea are free with meals and the serving staff has been wholly accommodating in brewing caffeine-free tea, then adding ice, to serve us and the couple with whom we are traveling. I would give onboard activities an A.
Onshore activity options are plentiful too, though the HAL-offered onshore excursions seem quite pricey. The excursions are well done and the professional local guides have been superb, so maybe it's worth the cost after all. We arranged for our own mini-van for four once, negotiating for the excursion at the cruise terminal. Our cost was much less than the HAL tours, our guide was great and we had a fine time. The HAL-offered excursion along the Amalfi coast unfortunately included lunch, which was tasteless and colorless Fortunately, it was also odorless. Excursion guides earned grades of A on the Amalfi tour. The tour lunch in Amalfi was lucky to get an F rather than an F-.. Our highlights tour of Rome did not include lunch, which turned out to be a good thing in that it led to my wife and I enjoying a wonderful meal at front-row seating in one of Rome's countless public plazas.
Dining options on the Koningsdam are terrific, including many no-cost venues plus several upcharge restaurants that were smaller, quieter and yet still reasonably priced. Our favorites were Tamarind (Asian, we dined there twice and the service was exceptional) followed by Canaletto (wide ranging choices, also superb service). Food presentation was excellent, as was the taste. Both are worth the upcharges. Pinnacle, said to be equally as good as Canaletto, is more of a steak house and was not our favorite restaurant though it was considered outstanding by our traveling companions.
The main dining room, on levels three and four aft, is adequate for fine dining but does not blow you away,food or service-wise, as did Tamarind and Canaletto. Moreover, the system for getting reservations for dinner in the main dining room is much too complex, including both open seating as well as seating reserved by guests for the same time (and sadly for open seating folks like us) and the same tables each evening. As a result, those willing to commit to eating only in the main dining room each night, at the same time each night, also get the best sea-view tables for the entire cruise. We like variety both in terms of eating venues and time of evening, so trying to get a table for four (virtually impossible0 in a view location (wholly impossible) in the main dining room is frustrating and unfair for open-seating guests. In addition to room service, which works well and delivers good, hot food, the Lido deck offers an open market set of food stations with a wide range of healthy as well as hearty options made-to-order. This market serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and provides very good selections at each meal. Lines never get long because there are duplicate sets of each food station and the cooks work fast, and pleasantly. Give Tamarind an A+, Canaletto an A, and the main dining room a B+. The Lido options also would be in the B+ range. The pizza kitchen on deck ten overlooking the main swimming pool offered flavorful pizzas made to order and served quickly, along with other snack-type foods. I must admit to having three pizzas during this 19 day cruise!
Like everything else, the onboard entertainment options provide something good for every taste. We particularly enjoyed two singer/pianists, Rachel and Anderson, whose talents and song selections were excellent. They played in the Billboard on Board area. Crowds gathered for each of their two or three performances daily. We also enjoyed greatly the three violinists, pianist and bass player in the Lincoln Center venue. While my description sounds as if they would be stiff and formal they were anything but. Wonderful performers who appreciated their audience, which grew larger each day. There also is a B.B. King venue with two shows nightly--not our cup of tea but extremely popular each performance held nightly. Every performer on the main stage also was excellent. Entertainment on an overall basis earns my second A+.
Opportunities for improvement do exist for any large new ship, and Koningsdam is no exception. Examples:
1. The two groups of entertainers we liked most performed in areas (not separate rooms) adjacent to walkways, with constant talking and distractions from ship guests walking by and oblivious to their negative impact on the enjoyment of those trying to hear the performers. While this "open" arrangement space-wise contributes to the light, airy, wonderful view orientation of the ship's architecture it does so at the disadvantage of too much noise for performers and guests.
2. The system for processing guests disembarking for excursions was convoluted and frustrating, much more so than necessary. On a maiden voyage I guess it was excusable, but it was still a pain.
3. The main dining room reservation system, as already described, needs a major overhaul to be fair to all guests.
4. There was no Captain's reception for guests to meet him and his key staff, apparently a new policy imposed by HAL corporate but not one the ship's officers or guests seemed to like.
5. Service in the upcharge dining options was excellent, less so in the other public restaurants.
6. The serving staff in restaurants and throughout the ship were unfailingly friendly and their smiles seemed genuine and wide. Follow-through on requests was spotty, mainly fine but not as consistently as it should and most likely will be after a few more cruises.
7. Our cabin steward and his assistant were disappointing, relative to service provided most other places on the ship. Not terrible but not up to ship standards.
8. The HAL-sponsored company handling our transfer from the airport in Rome to a "centrally located" (not) hotel that was offered as an optional part of the package (Visconti Palace), and transfers from the hotel to the ship, were terrible. It was an awful start to what turned out to be a fantastic vacation. Visconti Palace might be a three-star, but no more than that, and it might be centrally located on a geographic basis but not with respect to any major points of interest. The transfer company personnel were unpleasant, communicated poorly, and their performance was poor throughout. Their excuses were many. Transfer folks all flunked the course. We, their victims, virtually revolted and refused to follow their requests regarding boarding buses taking us to the ship. The hotel skated by with a C-.
9 Our upgrade from a stateroom to an A-level Vista Suite ($1349) was marginally worthwhile, yielding a small bit of extra space and a few meaningless amenities.
10. Not having been introduced to the officers and key staff due to the elimination of the Captain's welcome aboard reception we were hoping to learn names from the name badges worn by all employees--not so. Badges were too small to read from a normal distance, and were worn on everyone's left side such that if we shook hands the person's badge moved away from us rather than toward us. Badges should be worn on a person's right side. A rookie mistake on their part.
11. HAL should offer decaffeinated ice tea as a regular part of their menu rather than force guests to have to make special requests and even then, on at least one occasion receiving caffeinated tea instead. At 2 a.m., still wide awake, my wife and I knew we had been served the wrong stuff even though we double-checked that it was caffeine-free (no way!).
12. On Deck 9 smoking was allowed on the bow of the ship as well as aft. Consequently, when doors were open on 9, which was most of the time, cigarette smoke wafted through the entire ship whenever we were underway. Smoking should be banned entirely or relegated solely to the back of the ship and on a deck level away from those most constantly used by non-smoking passengers.
13. Lastly, whereas we had signed up for a 19 day cruise as it had been advertised, HAL had separated it into two cruises, the first one being seven days and the second 12.. Every trade-off in terms of us being on a one week versus 19 day cruise worked out, financially, in favor of HAL, whether or not it made sense or seemed fair to us. For example, we signed up for what was said to be a cruise-long spa package for $350, which seemed reasonable, only to learn later that "cruise-long" referred to the first seven day cruise ("yours was one booking but two separate cruises"). But the discount for not canceling when the cruise was shifted from February to April, as noted earlier, was applied to just our one "booking" for a 19 day cruise rather than the two cruises they referred to in every other instance. Similar unfair trade-offs occurred in trying to make restaurant table reservations and other instances. Trade-offs never worked in our favor, always in HAL's. These were corporate policies, it seemed, not ones made up onboard by the staff, so there was no room for negotiation.
My wife and traveling companions insisted that I identify three local guides, each of whom provided exceptional service, charged what we all considered bargain fares, spoke English articulately and were truly personable. I have no connection with any of them other than enjoying their service for the one partial day we spent with each of them. Cruise Critic might remove this paragraph but if they do it is a travesty. In Olympia, Greece, Nicolas Theodorakopoulos (firstname.lastname@example.org). In In Dubrovnik, Croatia, Tihan Milko (email@example.com) and in Istanbul, Turkey Sebnem Kececi of SebnemTrvel@yahoo.com. Because international travel, including cruises, has been cut back significantly in the last couple of years, even highly talented professional guides like Nick, Tihan and Sebnem are frustrated at the slowdown in business. Four of us recommend these three guides as all-around professionals providing A+ service, the best among a crop of wonderful guides we had throughout the trip.
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