Koningsdam Cruise Review by poliwol99
- Sail Date: June 2018
- Destination: Norwegian Fjords
- Cabin Type: Verandah Stateroom
Traveled with a group of extended family members ranging in age from 86 years old to 20 months old toddler. We were celebrating my parents Golden Anniversary (50th).
Pre-Cruise Stay in Amsterdam
We stayed for two nights at the DoubleTree Hilton Centraal Station in executive suites. The suites were spacious and had fabulous views overlooking the city and canals. The hotel's buffet breakfast (included in the rate) was outstanding, so many choices, traditional American and English breakfasts, plus Asian selections and a ton of delicious breads, pastries, cold cuts and fabulous Danish cheeses. Tea, coffee and free mimosas too!
The hotel was adjacent to the Centraal Station and an easy walk to many of the city highlights, plus the canal cruise pick up point. Being such a large group, we took two Uber Vans from Schipol to the hotel. One of the drivers was very helpful and offered to give us a three hour tour the next day for a flat rate of 320 euros for all of us. Turned out to be a great deal. He took us to see the Zandam windmills, a charming fishing village, stopped at a cheese factory for samples and purchases and ended with a drive through the city center to see the key highlights.
Hotel included drinks and canapes each evening. Overall, very pleased with our choice and felt we got to see quite a bit in a short time and taking into consideration some of the limitations of the elderly and the kiddo in our group.
The port is only a short distance from the DoubleTree, but given all our luggage etc. we opted to take a quick Uber ride over. We arrived at our appointed check in time of 2pm and sailed through the embarkation process. Plenty of porters on hand to assist with luggage. Had requested wheelchairs for some members of the group and that process went very smoothly. Thirty minutes from arrival to entering our cabins. In general, I think HAL handles everything in a very discreet and low key manner. More about that later.
We headed up to the seaview pool to view the sailaway from Amsterdam. Lovely views and a very festive atmosphere. Aside from the drink specials, the bar staff were circulating with some delicious appetizers and canapes, shrimp, Swedish meatballs, some nice cheeses.
We booked a row of standard balcony cabins on the Gershwin deck aft (Deck 5). The cabins were close to elevators that took us to the main dining room, lido deck buffet, Tamarind restaurant and sea view pool deck. I usually prefer a mid-ship location, but since we booked late, this was not too bad location wise. The cabins are beautiful with a light wood minimalist decor. The storage space is amazing - tons of drawers, generous closet, you will have plenty of space for all your stuff. Like the little corner bar with a glass cabinet. Good size minifridge with plenty of space to put your own items in addition to what is already stocked. The bed was very comfortable and king-sized! The room is compact but very well laid out and comfortable. Lots of movie choices on the large flat screen TV. The bathroom was well appointed and the shower is amazing! Glass enclosed and rectangle shaped so you are not dealing with a tiny corner and wet curtain like I have experienced on other ships.
The food in the main dining room was very good but the food in the Lido Buffet was simply excellent! I actually preferred the buffet as there as such a great selection, meat roasts, pasta station, Asian stir-fry, soups, fabulous salads (think seared ahi and ginger dressing), the list goes on and on. We had fantastic Indian food the last night of the cruise. Only quible is that they really should provide trays. The lido seating is comfortable and the decor very modern and light. Between the MDR lobster and other special items and the Lido's fantastic selection, we did not feel the need to try too many of the surcharge restaurants. We did eat at Tamarind one night and it was simply phenomenal. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with access to incredible Asian food and Tamarind did not disappoint. The sushi, Thai selections and soups were fabulous. Tamarind is positioned aft, just above the SeaView pool and makes for a wonderful dinner spot during sailway. Loved the understated and elegant decor and the service was top notch. My young toddler had been quite well behaved at the MDR and lido, so we decided to take her to Tamarind and of course she was a bit fussy. I was going to leave to let everyone else enjoy the dinner but the host/manager actually took my child and strolled with her so I could finish my dinner. Can't say enough about the excellent service on HAL. In terms of other dining venues, the Dutch Cafe is a little gem. We loved trying the Dutch specialties they have available all day, delicious toasted sandwiches, Herring plate, cheese plate, bitter-ballen and the profiterroles (little pancake-like desserts that taste like beignets). The New York Pizza and Deli is OK - fresh hot pizza but no chili flakes (surprising). I had a pastrami sandwich and was underwhelmed. The afternoon tea was always delicious, tea sandwiches, savories, desserts and scones with clotted cream and jam. They varied the menu and served different items each day. I remember the afternoon tea being almost a cattle call on Princess with tons of people pushing to get in. Here it was low key and with no wait. In-Room dining is good and you can actually order the full menu on offer from the MDR - just have to call during the first thirty minutes of dinner and specify what time you want deliver. I did this one night when my daughter was napping and enjoyed lobster in my cabin. We also ordered tea/coffee toast and jam to the room early every morning. Only issue with the room service menu is that the children's items are only available from 5:30 to 9:30 pm. They should have all day option for children.
This is where I feel HAL really shines. The service was impeccable. The crew, mostly from Indonesia and the Philipines, were so kind and friendly. Walking around the ship, crew members always stopped to interact with my young daughter and they would address her by name. I am aware that HAL generally caters to an older crowd, but I felt everyone was also so warm and accommodating to my child, it really impressed me. Our cabin steward Armin was excellent and a magical genius as we hardly saw him but our room was always spotless upon return to the cabin. He also happily connected the balconies so we had one long balcony.
Not sure I am a huge fan of the music walk concept. The piano players were good but did not always engage with the audience. I was not impressed by the B.B. King Blues. The male singers and musicians were ok but the lead female vocalist screamed more than she sang. Lincoln center musicians were very good. The timing of the various performances was not terribly well coordinated so it was hard to catch them all. I think I prefer one main stage show. Did not bother with the comedian or the magician but my fellow travelers said both were amateurish. I did catch the Billboard show/revue of musical hits on the world stage and that was very good. Also enjoyed the BBC Earth production set to live orchestra music.
Koningsdam simply gleamed. I never saw as much as a smudge. The decor is --umm interesting and electic. The music theme is nice but some of the art work is a bit garish. The lounges were comfortable and had plenty of seating. Loved the observer's lounge and there is a great spot just behind the entrance with blue leather sofas. Very quiet and comfortable place to watch the world go by.
I was disappointed that there were not more cooking classes/demos at the America Test Kitchen. I had really been looking forward to that. I feel this is an underutilized resource. The other talks were OK. More substance would be good.
The pools and hot tubs are spacious, clean and were never crowded. I bought the 7 day thermal suite pass at the Spa. The hydrotherapy pool was huge and very effective at relieving aching legs and neck. The layout of the spa is a bit wonky as the changing area is on one side, check in on another and you have to walk across the elevator lobby to access the thermal suite. Also the hydrotherapy pool shuts down early on the last day for cleaning so be aware of that. There were some lovely dry saunas with big windows overlooking the ocean. The ceramic loungers were delightful.
Oslo - Beautiful Scandinavian town. We did the hop on hop off bus which picks passengers up right from the pier. Nice way to get a good overview of the city.
Kristiansand - cute little town with an interesting fish market near the pier. We took the trolley for 15 euros round trip into town. Stopped in at the old church, walked the city streets and had some pricey drinks in the Victorian pub ($16 USD for a coke and a cider).
Stavanger - there are ferries available just off the pier where we docked. We took a two hour cruise out to Nyerfjord. This was delightful and only the smaller ships can take you right up to the Fjords, into the narrow passages and right under waterfalls. This was stunning and very worthwhile.
Flam - we did not buy the train tickets in advance and missed out on the train ride. However there was a lovely ferry ride through the Fjords which was just as enjoyable and much less crowded.
General Comment on the Ports - it is VERY easy to make your own arrangements and the HAL excursions are very overpriced. For example, the ferry we took in Stavanger was also offered by the ship at three times the price we paid making our own arrangement. I feel that HAL does a very poor job of providing basic port information for those choosing not to take the ship excursions. Princess provided much better port talks, maps etc. For example, at Kristiansand I inquired about how far the walk is into town and was only told very far. No one on the ship said one word that there is a train trolley available just at the end of the pier. As a result, my mom who walks with a cane did not disembark. Luckily I was able to contact her on her cell and tell her about the trolley. At a minimum HAL should explain that to passengers, particularly disabled passengers.
Disembarkation - super organized and easy. We took the airport transfers and had no issues getting off the ship, getting our luggage and getting on the bus for the short ride to Schipol. Also, HAL allows passengers to wait in the cabin until your color is called. Very nice touch and much better disembarkation then I have experienced on other lines.
Overall - We had a great time on a new and very clean ship, enjoyed lovely ports and experienced great food and service. I have cruised on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess and this is my second HAL cruise. HAL definitely feels more refined and elegant. No constant selling/peddling and no rowdy passengers. Despite the ships' larger size as compared to Eurodam and other HAL ships, it never felt crowded and there were rarely queues for anything. One afternoon I had the pool entirely to myself. The service is what really sets HAL apart and I will definitely cruise with HAL again and hopefully on the Koningsdam again.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
AmsterdamWe stayed in Amsterdam for two nights pre-cruise. Did a canal cruise and afternoon of sightseeing of the windmills, a nearby fishing town and the city center.View All 780 Amsterdam Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Amsterdam Cruise Port Review
NaeroyfjordNice ferry ride to Naeroyfjord. The ferry was a bit older and less comfortable than the one we took in Stavanger.View All 10 Naeroyfjord Reviews
KristiansandFor 15 euros round trip, we took a little train/trolley past the fish market and into the city center where we walked around, visited the old church and enjoyed the local scenery.View All 66 Kristiansand Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Kristiansand Cruise Port Review
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