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My purpose in writing this review of my cruise on the Koningsdam is to give future guests some insight on the 14-Day Viking Sagas & Norse Legends cruise and to provide helpful tips that could save you time or money on your future cruise. My wife and I have been on other Holland America Line (HAL) cruises in the past. We stopped sailing for HAL for several years. However, the itinerary and this new ship piqued our interest, so we decided to do this cruise, which was really two back-to-back 7-days cruises leaving out of Amsterdam. The Koningsdam is a Pinnacle class ship, and the largest ship in HAL’s fleet (as of Sep. 2018), and the largest ship we have sailed on for HAL. The ship can hold about 2650 passengers. Other than the breakfasts being crowded on the Lido deck, we didn’t see any problems with the larger ship. There were several advantages. There are now more nightly entertainment options. In addition to the traditional piano bar and World Stage, there are Lincoln Center Stage (classical musicians), B.B. King’s Blues Club, and Billboard Onboard (dueling pianos). There are 2 levels of seating for the World Stage shows. There was 1 preview show and 2 shows by the Koningsdam’s Dancers for each 7-day segment. For my cruise, the same shows were repeated each of the two weeks. The dancers put their hearts and minds into their performances; they were enthusiastic, but there was no “wow” factor. I think some of the shows I saw on past HAL cruises were better, more impressive, more Broadway-like. I was not impressed with the quality of the other entertainers (singers, comedians, etc.) who performed on the World Stage. They were “B” or “C” level performers. Some of the singing was not enjoyable. My favorite show was “Planet Earth II in Concert”. The Lincoln Center Stage performers played live classical music to accompany scenes from the BBC Earth television show that were projected on several large screens at the World Stage. I enjoyed the Lincoln Center Stage shows; the classical musicians were talented. I especially liked the B.B. King’s Blues Club; the musicians and singers were soulful and quite good. My wife and I spent the most time at the Blues Club. The Billboard Onboard was a disappointment; the voices were so-so. Another advantage of the larger ship is that there are more specialty restaurants and casual dining opportunities. There is the usual Pinnacle Grill (with a surcharge of $35 per person) and Canaletto (with a surcharge of $15 per person). There are also the Tamarind & Sushi Bar (with a surcharge of $25 per person), the Sel de Mer (a la carte pricing), and the Culinary Arts Center (don’t remember their pricing). We enjoyed the Indonesian food at the Tamarind so much the first week, that we dined there again the second week. For casual dining, there is the Dive-In (have to pay for hot dogs, burgers and most food), the Grand Dutch Café (charge for food and drink), and the New York Deli & Pizza (no cost). We liked the salads and pizza at the New York Deli & Pizza which overlooks the swimming pool area on the Lido Deck. There was a lot of variety of tasty food for all meals at the Lido Market on the Lido Deck. I was disappointed that the soft serve ice cream place closed down about 9 pm each night. On HAL cruises in the past, I used to go for ice cream after the last show of the evening. But no more. Sigh! Also, be aware that the Lido Market closes for breakfast at 10:30 am; you could always do room service if you got up late. Be aware that there are now 2 formal nights on each 7-day cruise segment. They are called Gala Nights. Years ago I only remember 1 formal night for such a cruise segment. Nevertheless, the trend seems to be that guests are more casual–perhaps due to weight limitations on checked baggage when flying into Amsterdam; fewer clothes are better. I saw very few passengers with tuxedos and evening dresses. I saw more sport jackets (without ties) and a few suits. Some men just wore a nice dress shirt and pants. Another change from past HAL Cruises is that the Chocolate Extravaganza has been scaled back. I enjoyed seeing all the different creations on past cruises. But I can understand that a lot of the chocolate creations were probably thrown away. Now each week on a pre-announced night, there is the Chocolate Surprise. Servers would come through the lounge areas with different items to sample, served like hors d’oeuvres. They were tasty, and you could have seconds (and thirds and more). I liked the mix of passengers during the August-September cruise. It was different from my past experience with HAL cruises. For both weeks, there was a mix of nationalities (Dutch, British, Australians, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Spanish, New Zealanders) and age ranges. The first week, most of the passengers were Dutch, and there was a mix of ages, from babies, to young kids and teenagers, to adults and senior citizens. I figure the average age was about 40-50. The second week, most were North American and the average age was maybe 45-55. Both weeks there were 150+ people with Edward Jones (employees or retirees with spouses or friends). The Edward Jones people had several private receptions. They occasionally ate as a group in the Main Dining Room. Unfortunately when that happened they tended to eat about 7:30 pm, and the dining room had to hold open lots of tables starting about 5:30 pm so that they would be available when the group arrived. (Hint to Edwards Jones: eat earlier and be considerate of the other guests who want to dine at an open table from 5:30-7:30 pm). My wife and I had a Category A Vista Suite (stateroom #6122). There were some narrow spaces, but there was enough room to move around. The bed was comfortable. We had a queen bed, sofa/sitting area, and an outdoor balcony with 2 chairs and a table. The bathroom was smaller than I expected with only 1 sink. The shower was “cozy” (compact, but oblong in shape). There was plenty of storage in the room. There were 2 drawers under the bed (and room for suitcases under the bed). There were 2 hooks in the room and 2 on the bathroom door. [Tip: bring some additional magnetic hooks to put on the walls of the room to give you more hooks.] The two nightstands had 2 drawers and a shelf. The sitting area had a small table and cabinet with 2 drawers. The desk has 3 drawers. The corner hutch has 3 available shelves. The closet has 2 sides; 1 side has 2 shelves, a tie rack, and hanging space; the other side has 4 shelves, a mirror, and hanging space. Another area has a shelf, a shelf with the safe, a refrigerator behind a swinging door, and 3 drawers. There are 3 small shelves in the bathroom to the upper left of the vanity counter; There is no actual storage space under the vanity. Be aware that the refrigerator vents heat into the shelf compartment above it which has the safe. I would advise not storing anything heat sensitive in that area. Some evenings, I would leave the swinging door to the refrigerator compartment open to add some heat to the room (the refrigerator remained closed, of course). The flat screen TV in the room provided access to a variety of entertainment. There was a My Journey selection with ship information, ship location, and weather. I accessed the ship location information frequently to see where the ship was located relative to the ports we were visiting. The TV had an On Board selection with information on America’s Test Kitchen, Blend, and Digital Workshop. There was a Dining selection, a Movies selection, and TV & Music selection. This last selection provided access to quite a few entertaining and educational British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wildlife documentaries. There was a large movie screen mid-ship on the Lido deck by the family swimming pool. On a Princess Cruise a couple of years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a similar screen. Princess would show movies at night and then wildlife shows during the day; we really liked that. On this HAL cruise, there were evening movies on the screen (with popcorn and blankets). Very occasionally, there were “making of wildlife show” videos during the day. I think HAL is not taking full advantage of its partnership with BBC Earth. You could watch a lot of BBC Earth shows on the TV in your room. HAL could have also shown those videos on the large screen during the day to entertain passengers. Like other cruise lines, HAL has a very useful app for passengers to find out what is going on during the cruise. The HAL app is called Navigator. You basically connect via Wi-Fi to the ship network, set up an account, and you can access all of the features. It apparently does not work on some Android phones. It did work with iPhones and on my Mac laptop. I used it to check on my ship charges, to bring up a list of daily activities, to get some limited info on EXC tours, and to add items to a daily personal itinerary. I also used it to access the New York Times online for daily news. (There was still a daily mini-newspaper that was printed and available to passengers in the morning.) There are a few things that HAL can do to improve the app: show the ship location (as do other cruise lines’ apps), show the Lido dining times, and show event times as active until the event (e.g., piano bar session) is over. I only purchased a few minutes of Internet service during the cruise, but only on the last night at sea, so my wife and I could check in for our return flight home. I find the prices high ($0.75 per minute, or package plans like 100 minutes for $55). And Internet service by ship sometimes does not work well. I relied on finding free Wi-Fi using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in the ports of call so that I could download email. Some ports had good Wi-Fi; others did not. Free Wi-Fi was available in the building outside the ship on the dock in Oslo; it is better to go earlier; the later in the day, the more limited the connectivity because of the number of people using Wi-Fi; some people were doing video chatting which uses a lot of bandwidth. You just had to keep trying to get connected if you tried later in the day. There was good Wi-Fi at the passenger terminal building in Stavanger. In Flåm, I found Wi-Fi at 2 of the stops on the tour I was on, one at the Voss Park hotel and one at the Gudvangen Information Center (look for the posted password for the private network). The Wi-Fi was poor at the Haugesund passenger terminal building; I took a free shuttle into town and found free Wi-Fi by the waterfront at a hotel (or you could go to a restaurant and buy something). In Eidfjord, there was no Internet service for the ship while docked, probably due to the height of the canyon walls in the fjord. There was unusable Wi-Fi at the Tourist Information Center; you could get 2-3 bars of coverage, but you couldn’t access Internet content. In Ålesund, the Wi-Fi was poor. I went into town to the Kremmergarden Café, but the WI-FI was not working properly. In the basement of the Kremmergarden mall, there was free Wi-Fi by the Kundemart, but no VPN connection was allowed. The Wi-Fi was poor in Geiranger by the dock area when there were lots of people (there were at least 2 ships in port); it was marginally better at the Café Ole, but not great. In Bergen there was great (fast) Wi-Fi at an outdoor café by the wharf and at the Tourist Information Center by the harbor. Another advantage to being on a larger ship is that the Koningsdam has excellent stabilizers. Even when the ship was in big waves, you didn’t feel a lot of jostling from side to side. There was one night when we had to jam a towel in the shower door, because the wave action and speed of the ship was making the shower door open and close, open and close. The towel prevented the door from closing and making a “slamming” noise. If you are a traveler who likes to use the spa, consider signing up for 3 treatments and getting the 10-20-30 package. You get 10% off one treatment, 20% off another, and 30% off a third (the most expensive treatment you select). My wife and I splurged and got a discount for 14 days of access to the Greenhouse Spa Thermal Suite and Hydropool for a total of $370. It was a relaxing experience. I forget the price for 7 days, but the longer period of time we selected was cheaper on a per day basis. We would go into the large steam room in the thermal suite area, come out and lie on the heated reclining ceramic-like chairs, then go into the hydropool (with mineral-infused water) and make sure the jets were on, and come back to lie on the chairs again. Then I would go outside of the thermal suite area to use the public men’s sauna (nice and toasty). My only disappointment was finding the hydropool closed one morning for cleaning. Hint to HAL: the Spa should provide some advance notice of the cleaning schedule so that passengers can plan their time better. There was a well-outfitted gym on the ship. There were free classes like morning stretch and Abs Class. Yoga, Cycling, and TRX Suspension classes were available for a nominal fee. There were no Tai Chi classes. I was a little disappointed that my wife and I could not use the gym on the day we returned to Amsterdam and were waiting for passengers to arrive for the second 7-day cruise segment. I really liked that HAL is now offering more active shore excursions, as part of their renamed EXC [Exploration Central] Tours. My wife and I did a 2.5-mile hike (tour) and a kayaking tour (in picturesque Geirangerfjord). If you want to visit Geirangerfjord, do so before 2025. I learned that after 2025, large cruise ships like the Koningsdam will no longer be allowed in Geirangerfjord. I think this has to do with preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of the fjord. Whether the ship will dock at a larger and farther out fjord and shuttle passengers into Geirangerfjord is unknown at this time. One thing to be aware of is what appears to be a new policy for shore excursions, aka EXC Tours. In the past, passengers were told that the ship would not leave you if you were on a HAL shore excursion. Now the HAL website states about EXC Tours, “Worry-free return to the ship. In the very rare event that your tour is late and the ship must leave, we will arrange at our expense to get you to the next port of call.” I think HAL is still getting its processes in place for active tours. I know that 3 passengers were left behind on one of the hiking tours without ship personnel being aware of the situation, but the passengers managed to get back to the ship in plenty of time. As a backup precaution, passengers should always carry the phone number for reaching the ship if this ever happens, and perhaps even carry local currency for getting a bus or taxi ride back to the ship. My wife and I did 2 other tours with HAL; at other ports we went out on our own. Twenty years before, I had hiked Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) near Stavanger in the fog and rain. I had hoped to repeat the hike on this cruise. However, the stopover in Stavanger was not long enough. So, I did a cruise of Lysefjord so that I could see Pulpit Rock from below. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time, and it was hot inside the main cabin with all the passengers on the tour. The air conditioning was not working on the boat; the ship personnel complained if we opened the doors to allow some fresh air into the main cabin. HAL should have a discussion with the tour operator about passenger comfort. The other tour was the “Best of Flam”. I had hoped to re-do most of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour that I had done about 20 years ago on my own. But I didn’t read the tour description carefully enough. I got to ride the Flåm Railway train from Flåm to Myrdal Station to Voss (birthplace of Knute Rockne, a famous football coach at the University of Notre Dame, but unknown to the local guides in Voss), with a stopover at the well-known Kjosfoss Waterfall. I rode a bus from Voss to Gudvangen with a stop at the Tvinde Waterfall. Then the bus took us back to the ship after driving through 2 long tunnels (about 7-miles and 3-miles long). What I missed was doing the scenic cruise on the Nærøyfjord. That was a separate shore excursion that overlapped with the Best of Flam tour. But I did get to cruise on lots of others beautiful fjords during my cruise, so it wasn’t a big disappointment. HAL excursions are still pricey. I heard from a number of passengers that they liked doing their own thing at each port. Catching the Hop On-Hop Off bus seemed to be very popular with such guests. The price of the bus was apparently very affordable. One of the highlights of the cruise was scenic cruising in the fjords with commentary by the Head EXC Guide. On Day 3 of the first week, we did Oslofjord (though not a traditional fjord with steep canyon walls). On Day 5, we did Sognefjord. On Day 3 of the second week, we did Eidfjord and Hardangerfjord. On Day 5, we did Geirangerfjord. Wear a warm jacket, bring a glass of wine, and enjoy the magnificent views and all the waterfalls along the (traditional) fjords. My wife and I both came away with a deeper appreciation of the natural beauty of Norway. There were lots of activities and events going on throughout the day on the ship, including informative talks about Nordic history, culture, and … trolls. There was no excuse for being bored on the cruise. I did not notice any emphasis by HAL personnel on handwashing before dining, other than a “Guest Stateroom Health Advisory” in my stateroom. There were hand sanitizer stations throughout the ship, and there were special hand washing stations at the Lido Market. But it was up to passengers to decide whether to use them; many did not. The Lido Market mitigated some potential problems by having their dining staff serve most of the “buffet” food to guests on plates. There were only a few food items that guests could touch themselves. When my wife and I arrived on ship, we looked at the different beverage packages being offered to passengers. The unlimited drink packages seemed very pricey: basic, non-alcoholic “quench” package at $17.95 per day; “signature” package with some cocktails, wines, ports, beers, and spirits for $49.95 per day; and the “elite package” with higher end alcohol for $54.95 per day. Be aware that a package has to be purchased by all stateroom guests of legal drinking age. However, you can still find a bargain. I liked the wine packages. There were three categories to choose from in “The Sommelier Suite” with both red and white wines; Mariner members get their eligible discount with those packages. The categories were popularly priced white and red wines (e.g., Estancia Pinot Noir from California), premium wines (e.g., Meiomi Pinot Noir from California), and cellar master’s favorites (e.g., Hangtime Pinot Noir from California). All these wine packages had New World and Old World wines. You could select 4, 6, or 8 bottles. Because my wife and I were on a 14-day cruise, we opted for the 8-bottle package. That allowed us to drink part of a bottle one night, and have the dining staff save the bottle for us to finish another night. (We also brought two bottles of wine ourselves onboard in our checked luggage to enjoy during the cruise.) The dinner menu featured other wines that were available for purchase. There was one wine tasting each week, for $19.95, that featured wines from “The Sommelier Suite”. There was a second wine tasting each week that featured Wines of the World, for $25. Fortunately, the wines were different each week. The world wine tasting allowed you to try 10 wines, a red and a white from each of 5 countries. I enjoyed chatting with my tablemates and sipping on the wines. I learned to get all 10 wines poured and have them on my table before the event ended an hour and 15 minutes after it started. After that the pouring stations were removed, but I could finish my wines at my leisure. There were also beer tastings (and a bar hop), whiskey, bourbon and rye tastings, and mixology classes. Each cruise segment, there is also a Cellar Master’s Dinner, a 6-course tasting menu paired with the Cellar Master’s wine selections. My wife and I did not participate, because we did not like some of the food selections. I enjoyed looking at all the artwork on the walls of the ship, especially along the stairwells to different floors. Some of it was unusual and visually arresting. The ship decorator did a good job. You can get a really good deal on laundry. I hope HAL doesn’t change the price. HAL offers a “Laundry by the Bag” option for $30 each bag. Put as many clothes as you can in the blue HAL laundry bag in your stateroom and pay that one price—much cheaper that doing the clothes items individually. You get your clean laundry back the next day, if you have it picked up by approximately 9 am. For Mariners, there was the Mariner Lunch (for each 7-day cruise segment), at which time you would receive your souvenir coaster. There was also a new (to me) event each cruise–the Collector’s Voyage Cocktail Party in the Crow’s Nest for 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star Mariner guests. I’m glad HAL’s Mariner Society is doing more events to celebrate the loyalty of its return passengers. My wife and I have longed talked about doing a back-to-back cruise. This was our opportunity to experience it. I liked not having to pack when the ship first returned to Amsterdam. The next morning, my wife and I had a leisurely breakfast. We could not use the gym or the thermal suite until embarkation was complete and the ship started sailing away. We got off the ship and went to the cruise terminal on the pier to get free Wi-Fi; we were allowed to reboard when we wanted. We decided not to go sightseeing in town, because we have been to Amsterdam often. We watched a movie in our stateroom. In the afternoon, we decided to go to the hot tubs on the Lido Deck and drink some of the sparkling wine we brought onboard the ship in our checked luggage. We liked seeing all the new passengers mill around during departure while we sat in one of the hot tubs and had our own sail-away party. When you return to Amsterdam for disembarkation, and if you are first traveling to the train station (Centraal Station), you can save some money by walking from the cruise terminal. It’s only a 15-20 minute easy walk along the waterfront. If you need to buy a train ticket in Centraal Station, the Information Center/Ticket Office is about halfway down the building from where you enter, on the left hand side. There is a saying in Norway: “There is never bad weather, only bad clothes.” Norwegians love to do outdoor activities, in all seasons of the year. You can understand that after visiting different parts of the country. The scenery is gorgeous. The fjords are idyllic. Towns like Oslo and Bergen are inviting and friendly. If you want to see Norway, then a Vikings Sagas and/or the Norse Legends cruise is for you.

Back-to-back cruises is a great way to see more of scenic Norway

Koningsdam Cruise Review by terran_explr

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2018
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
My purpose in writing this review of my cruise on the Koningsdam is to give future guests some insight on the 14-Day Viking Sagas & Norse Legends cruise and to provide helpful tips that could save you time or money on your future cruise. My wife and I have been on other Holland America Line (HAL) cruises in the past. We stopped sailing for HAL for several years. However, the itinerary and this new ship piqued our interest, so we decided to do this cruise, which was really two back-to-back 7-days cruises leaving out of Amsterdam.

The Koningsdam is a Pinnacle class ship, and the largest ship in HAL’s fleet (as of Sep. 2018), and the largest ship we have sailed on for HAL. The ship can hold about 2650 passengers. Other than the breakfasts being crowded on the Lido deck, we didn’t see any problems with the larger ship. There were several advantages. There are now more nightly entertainment options. In addition to the traditional piano bar and World Stage, there are Lincoln Center Stage (classical musicians), B.B. King’s Blues Club, and Billboard Onboard (dueling pianos).

There are 2 levels of seating for the World Stage shows. There was 1 preview show and 2 shows by the Koningsdam’s Dancers for each 7-day segment. For my cruise, the same shows were repeated each of the two weeks. The dancers put their hearts and minds into their performances; they were enthusiastic, but there was no “wow” factor. I think some of the shows I saw on past HAL cruises were better, more impressive, more Broadway-like. I was not impressed with the quality of the other entertainers (singers, comedians, etc.) who performed on the World Stage. They were “B” or “C” level performers. Some of the singing was not enjoyable. My favorite show was “Planet Earth II in Concert”. The Lincoln Center Stage performers played live classical music to accompany scenes from the BBC Earth television show that were projected on several large screens at the World Stage.

I enjoyed the Lincoln Center Stage shows; the classical musicians were talented. I especially liked the B.B. King’s Blues Club; the musicians and singers were soulful and quite good. My wife and I spent the most time at the Blues Club. The Billboard Onboard was a disappointment; the voices were so-so.

Another advantage of the larger ship is that there are more specialty restaurants and casual dining opportunities. There is the usual Pinnacle Grill (with a surcharge of $35 per person) and Canaletto (with a surcharge of $15 per person). There are also the Tamarind & Sushi Bar (with a surcharge of $25 per person), the Sel de Mer (a la carte pricing), and the Culinary Arts Center (don’t remember their pricing). We enjoyed the Indonesian food at the Tamarind so much the first week, that we dined there again the second week. For casual dining, there is the Dive-In (have to pay for hot dogs, burgers and most food), the Grand Dutch Café (charge for food and drink), and the New York Deli & Pizza (no cost). We liked the salads and pizza at the New York Deli & Pizza which overlooks the swimming pool area on the Lido Deck.

There was a lot of variety of tasty food for all meals at the Lido Market on the Lido Deck. I was disappointed that the soft serve ice cream place closed down about 9 pm each night. On HAL cruises in the past, I used to go for ice cream after the last show of the evening. But no more. Sigh! Also, be aware that the Lido Market closes for breakfast at 10:30 am; you could always do room service if you got up late.

Be aware that there are now 2 formal nights on each 7-day cruise segment. They are called Gala Nights. Years ago I only remember 1 formal night for such a cruise segment. Nevertheless, the trend seems to be that guests are more casual–perhaps due to weight limitations on checked baggage when flying into Amsterdam; fewer clothes are better. I saw very few passengers with tuxedos and evening dresses. I saw more sport jackets (without ties) and a few suits. Some men just wore a nice dress shirt and pants.

Another change from past HAL Cruises is that the Chocolate Extravaganza has been scaled back. I enjoyed seeing all the different creations on past cruises. But I can understand that a lot of the chocolate creations were probably thrown away. Now each week on a pre-announced night, there is the Chocolate Surprise. Servers would come through the lounge areas with different items to sample, served like hors d’oeuvres. They were tasty, and you could have seconds (and thirds and more).

I liked the mix of passengers during the August-September cruise. It was different from my past experience with HAL cruises. For both weeks, there was a mix of nationalities (Dutch, British, Australians, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Spanish, New Zealanders) and age ranges. The first week, most of the passengers were Dutch, and there was a mix of ages, from babies, to young kids and teenagers, to adults and senior citizens. I figure the average age was about 40-50. The second week, most were North American and the average age was maybe 45-55. Both weeks there were 150+ people with Edward Jones (employees or retirees with spouses or friends). The Edward Jones people had several private receptions. They occasionally ate as a group in the Main Dining Room. Unfortunately when that happened they tended to eat about 7:30 pm, and the dining room had to hold open lots of tables starting about 5:30 pm so that they would be available when the group arrived. (Hint to Edwards Jones: eat earlier and be considerate of the other guests who want to dine at an open table from 5:30-7:30 pm).

My wife and I had a Category A Vista Suite (stateroom #6122). There were some narrow spaces, but there was enough room to move around. The bed was comfortable. We had a queen bed, sofa/sitting area, and an outdoor balcony with 2 chairs and a table. The bathroom was smaller than I expected with only 1 sink. The shower was “cozy” (compact, but oblong in shape). There was plenty of storage in the room. There were 2 drawers under the bed (and room for suitcases under the bed). There were 2 hooks in the room and 2 on the bathroom door. [Tip: bring some additional magnetic hooks to put on the walls of the room to give you more hooks.] The two nightstands had 2 drawers and a shelf. The sitting area had a small table and cabinet with 2 drawers. The desk has 3 drawers. The corner hutch has 3 available shelves. The closet has 2 sides; 1 side has 2 shelves, a tie rack, and hanging space; the other side has 4 shelves, a mirror, and hanging space. Another area has a shelf, a shelf with the safe, a refrigerator behind a swinging door, and 3 drawers. There are 3 small shelves in the bathroom to the upper left of the vanity counter; There is no actual storage space under the vanity.

Be aware that the refrigerator vents heat into the shelf compartment above it which has the safe. I would advise not storing anything heat sensitive in that area. Some evenings, I would leave the swinging door to the refrigerator compartment open to add some heat to the room (the refrigerator remained closed, of course).

The flat screen TV in the room provided access to a variety of entertainment. There was a My Journey selection with ship information, ship location, and weather. I accessed the ship location information frequently to see where the ship was located relative to the ports we were visiting. The TV had an On Board selection with information on America’s Test Kitchen, Blend, and Digital Workshop. There was a Dining selection, a Movies selection, and TV & Music selection. This last selection provided access to quite a few entertaining and educational British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wildlife documentaries.

There was a large movie screen mid-ship on the Lido deck by the family swimming pool. On a Princess Cruise a couple of years ago, my wife and I enjoyed a similar screen. Princess would show movies at night and then wildlife shows during the day; we really liked that. On this HAL cruise, there were evening movies on the screen (with popcorn and blankets). Very occasionally, there were “making of wildlife show” videos during the day. I think HAL is not taking full advantage of its partnership with BBC Earth. You could watch a lot of BBC Earth shows on the TV in your room. HAL could have also shown those videos on the large screen during the day to entertain passengers.

Like other cruise lines, HAL has a very useful app for passengers to find out what is going on during the cruise. The HAL app is called Navigator. You basically connect via Wi-Fi to the ship network, set up an account, and you can access all of the features. It apparently does not work on some Android phones. It did work with iPhones and on my Mac laptop. I used it to check on my ship charges, to bring up a list of daily activities, to get some limited info on EXC tours, and to add items to a daily personal itinerary. I also used it to access the New York Times online for daily news. (There was still a daily mini-newspaper that was printed and available to passengers in the morning.) There are a few things that HAL can do to improve the app: show the ship location (as do other cruise lines’ apps), show the Lido dining times, and show event times as active until the event (e.g., piano bar session) is over.

I only purchased a few minutes of Internet service during the cruise, but only on the last night at sea, so my wife and I could check in for our return flight home. I find the prices high ($0.75 per minute, or package plans like 100 minutes for $55). And Internet service by ship sometimes does not work well. I relied on finding free Wi-Fi using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in the ports of call so that I could download email. Some ports had good Wi-Fi; others did not. Free Wi-Fi was available in the building outside the ship on the dock in Oslo; it is better to go earlier; the later in the day, the more limited the connectivity because of the number of people using Wi-Fi; some people were doing video chatting which uses a lot of bandwidth. You just had to keep trying to get connected if you tried later in the day. There was good Wi-Fi at the passenger terminal building in Stavanger. In Flåm, I found Wi-Fi at 2 of the stops on the tour I was on, one at the Voss Park hotel and one at the Gudvangen Information Center (look for the posted password for the private network). The Wi-Fi was poor at the Haugesund passenger terminal building; I took a free shuttle into town and found free Wi-Fi by the waterfront at a hotel (or you could go to a restaurant and buy something). In Eidfjord, there was no Internet service for the ship while docked, probably due to the height of the canyon walls in the fjord. There was unusable Wi-Fi at the Tourist Information Center; you could get 2-3 bars of coverage, but you couldn’t access Internet content. In Ålesund, the Wi-Fi was poor. I went into town to the Kremmergarden Café, but the WI-FI was not working properly. In the basement of the Kremmergarden mall, there was free Wi-Fi by the Kundemart, but no VPN connection was allowed. The Wi-Fi was poor in Geiranger by the dock area when there were lots of people (there were at least 2 ships in port); it was marginally better at the Café Ole, but not great. In Bergen there was great (fast) Wi-Fi at an outdoor café by the wharf and at the Tourist Information Center by the harbor.

Another advantage to being on a larger ship is that the Koningsdam has excellent stabilizers. Even when the ship was in big waves, you didn’t feel a lot of jostling from side to side. There was one night when we had to jam a towel in the shower door, because the wave action and speed of the ship was making the shower door open and close, open and close. The towel prevented the door from closing and making a “slamming” noise.

If you are a traveler who likes to use the spa, consider signing up for 3 treatments and getting the 10-20-30 package. You get 10% off one treatment, 20% off another, and 30% off a third (the most expensive treatment you select). My wife and I splurged and got a discount for 14 days of access to the Greenhouse Spa Thermal Suite and Hydropool for a total of $370. It was a relaxing experience. I forget the price for 7 days, but the longer period of time we selected was cheaper on a per day basis. We would go into the large steam room in the thermal suite area, come out and lie on the heated reclining ceramic-like chairs, then go into the hydropool (with mineral-infused water) and make sure the jets were on, and come back to lie on the chairs again. Then I would go outside of the thermal suite area to use the public men’s sauna (nice and toasty). My only disappointment was finding the hydropool closed one morning for cleaning. Hint to HAL: the Spa should provide some advance notice of the cleaning schedule so that passengers can plan their time better.

There was a well-outfitted gym on the ship. There were free classes like morning stretch and Abs Class. Yoga, Cycling, and TRX Suspension classes were available for a nominal fee. There were no Tai Chi classes. I was a little disappointed that my wife and I could not use the gym on the day we returned to Amsterdam and were waiting for passengers to arrive for the second 7-day cruise segment.

I really liked that HAL is now offering more active shore excursions, as part of their renamed EXC [Exploration Central] Tours. My wife and I did a 2.5-mile hike (tour) and a kayaking tour (in picturesque Geirangerfjord). If you want to visit Geirangerfjord, do so before 2025. I learned that after 2025, large cruise ships like the Koningsdam will no longer be allowed in Geirangerfjord. I think this has to do with preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of the fjord. Whether the ship will dock at a larger and farther out fjord and shuttle passengers into Geirangerfjord is unknown at this time.

One thing to be aware of is what appears to be a new policy for shore excursions, aka EXC Tours. In the past, passengers were told that the ship would not leave you if you were on a HAL shore excursion. Now the HAL website states about EXC Tours, “Worry-free return to the ship. In the very rare event that your tour is late and the ship must leave, we will arrange at our expense to get you to the next port of call.”

I think HAL is still getting its processes in place for active tours. I know that 3 passengers were left behind on one of the hiking tours without ship personnel being aware of the situation, but the passengers managed to get back to the ship in plenty of time. As a backup precaution, passengers should always carry the phone number for reaching the ship if this ever happens, and perhaps even carry local currency for getting a bus or taxi ride back to the ship.

My wife and I did 2 other tours with HAL; at other ports we went out on our own. Twenty years before, I had hiked Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) near Stavanger in the fog and rain. I had hoped to repeat the hike on this cruise. However, the stopover in Stavanger was not long enough. So, I did a cruise of Lysefjord so that I could see Pulpit Rock from below. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time, and it was hot inside the main cabin with all the passengers on the tour. The air conditioning was not working on the boat; the ship personnel complained if we opened the doors to allow some fresh air into the main cabin. HAL should have a discussion with the tour operator about passenger comfort.

The other tour was the “Best of Flam”. I had hoped to re-do most of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour that I had done about 20 years ago on my own. But I didn’t read the tour description carefully enough. I got to ride the Flåm Railway train from Flåm to Myrdal Station to Voss (birthplace of Knute Rockne, a famous football coach at the University of Notre Dame, but unknown to the local guides in Voss), with a stopover at the well-known Kjosfoss Waterfall. I rode a bus from Voss to Gudvangen with a stop at the Tvinde Waterfall. Then the bus took us back to the ship after driving through 2 long tunnels (about 7-miles and 3-miles long). What I missed was doing the scenic cruise on the Nærøyfjord. That was a separate shore excursion that overlapped with the Best of Flam tour. But I did get to cruise on lots of others beautiful fjords during my cruise, so it wasn’t a big disappointment.

HAL excursions are still pricey. I heard from a number of passengers that they liked doing their own thing at each port. Catching the Hop On-Hop Off bus seemed to be very popular with such guests. The price of the bus was apparently very affordable.

One of the highlights of the cruise was scenic cruising in the fjords with commentary by the Head EXC Guide. On Day 3 of the first week, we did Oslofjord (though not a traditional fjord with steep canyon walls). On Day 5, we did Sognefjord. On Day 3 of the second week, we did Eidfjord and Hardangerfjord. On Day 5, we did Geirangerfjord. Wear a warm jacket, bring a glass of wine, and enjoy the magnificent views and all the waterfalls along the (traditional) fjords. My wife and I both came away with a deeper appreciation of the natural beauty of Norway.

There were lots of activities and events going on throughout the day on the ship, including informative talks about Nordic history, culture, and … trolls. There was no excuse for being bored on the cruise.

I did not notice any emphasis by HAL personnel on handwashing before dining, other than a “Guest Stateroom Health Advisory” in my stateroom. There were hand sanitizer stations throughout the ship, and there were special hand washing stations at the Lido Market. But it was up to passengers to decide whether to use them; many did not. The Lido Market mitigated some potential problems by having their dining staff serve most of the “buffet” food to guests on plates. There were only a few food items that guests could touch themselves.

When my wife and I arrived on ship, we looked at the different beverage packages being offered to passengers. The unlimited drink packages seemed very pricey: basic, non-alcoholic “quench” package at $17.95 per day; “signature” package with some cocktails, wines, ports, beers, and spirits for $49.95 per day; and the “elite package” with higher end alcohol for $54.95 per day. Be aware that a package has to be purchased by all stateroom guests of legal drinking age. However, you can still find a bargain. I liked the wine packages. There were three categories to choose from in “The Sommelier Suite” with both red and white wines; Mariner members get their eligible discount with those packages. The categories were popularly priced white and red wines (e.g., Estancia Pinot Noir from California), premium wines (e.g., Meiomi Pinot Noir from California), and cellar master’s favorites (e.g., Hangtime Pinot Noir from California). All these wine packages had New World and Old World wines. You could select 4, 6, or 8 bottles. Because my wife and I were on a 14-day cruise, we opted for the 8-bottle package. That allowed us to drink part of a bottle one night, and have the dining staff save the bottle for us to finish another night. (We also brought two bottles of wine ourselves onboard in our checked luggage to enjoy during the cruise.) The dinner menu featured other wines that were available for purchase.

There was one wine tasting each week, for $19.95, that featured wines from “The Sommelier Suite”. There was a second wine tasting each week that featured Wines of the World, for $25. Fortunately, the wines were different each week. The world wine tasting allowed you to try 10 wines, a red and a white from each of 5 countries. I enjoyed chatting with my tablemates and sipping on the wines. I learned to get all 10 wines poured and have them on my table before the event ended an hour and 15 minutes after it started. After that the pouring stations were removed, but I could finish my wines at my leisure.

There were also beer tastings (and a bar hop), whiskey, bourbon and rye tastings, and mixology classes. Each cruise segment, there is also a Cellar Master’s Dinner, a 6-course tasting menu paired with the Cellar Master’s wine selections. My wife and I did not participate, because we did not like some of the food selections.

I enjoyed looking at all the artwork on the walls of the ship, especially along the stairwells to different floors. Some of it was unusual and visually arresting. The ship decorator did a good job.

You can get a really good deal on laundry. I hope HAL doesn’t change the price. HAL offers a “Laundry by the Bag” option for $30 each bag. Put as many clothes as you can in the blue HAL laundry bag in your stateroom and pay that one price—much cheaper that doing the clothes items individually. You get your clean laundry back the next day, if you have it picked up by approximately 9 am.

For Mariners, there was the Mariner Lunch (for each 7-day cruise segment), at which time you would receive your souvenir coaster. There was also a new (to me) event each cruise–the Collector’s Voyage Cocktail Party in the Crow’s Nest for 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star Mariner guests. I’m glad HAL’s Mariner Society is doing more events to celebrate the loyalty of its return passengers.

My wife and I have longed talked about doing a back-to-back cruise. This was our opportunity to experience it. I liked not having to pack when the ship first returned to Amsterdam. The next morning, my wife and I had a leisurely breakfast. We could not use the gym or the thermal suite until embarkation was complete and the ship started sailing away. We got off the ship and went to the cruise terminal on the pier to get free Wi-Fi; we were allowed to reboard when we wanted. We decided not to go sightseeing in town, because we have been to Amsterdam often. We watched a movie in our stateroom. In the afternoon, we decided to go to the hot tubs on the Lido Deck and drink some of the sparkling wine we brought onboard the ship in our checked luggage. We liked seeing all the new passengers mill around during departure while we sat in one of the hot tubs and had our own sail-away party.

When you return to Amsterdam for disembarkation, and if you are first traveling to the train station (Centraal Station), you can save some money by walking from the cruise terminal. It’s only a 15-20 minute easy walk along the waterfront. If you need to buy a train ticket in Centraal Station, the Information Center/Ticket Office is about halfway down the building from where you enter, on the left hand side.

There is a saying in Norway: “There is never bad weather, only bad clothes.” Norwegians love to do outdoor activities, in all seasons of the year. You can understand that after visiting different parts of the country. The scenery is gorgeous. The fjords are idyllic. Towns like Oslo and Bergen are inviting and friendly. If you want to see Norway, then a Vikings Sagas and/or the Norse Legends cruise is for you.
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin A 429
My wife and I had a Category A Vista Suite (stateroom #6122). There were some narrow spaces, but there was enough room to move around. The bed was comfortable. We had a queen bed, sofa/sitting area, and an outdoor balcony with 2 chairs and a table. The bathroom was smaller than I expected with only 1 sink. The shower was “cozy” (compact, but oblong in shape). There was plenty of storage in the room. There were 2 drawers under the bed (and room for suitcases under the bed). There were 2 hooks in the room and 2 on the bathroom door. [Tip: bring some additional magnetic hooks to put on the walls of the room to give you more hooks.] The two nightstands had 2 drawers and a shelf. The sitting area had a small table and cabinet with 2 drawers. The desk has 3 drawers. The corner hutch has 3 available shelves. The closet has 2 sides; 1 side has 2 shelves, a tie rack, and hanging space; the other side has 4 shelves, a mirror, and hanging space. Another area has a shelf, a shelf with the safe, a refrigerator behind a swinging door, and 3 drawers. There are 3 small shelves in the bathroom to the upper left of the vanity counter; There is no actual storage space under the vanity.

Be aware that the refrigerator vents heat into the shelf compartment above it which has the safe. I would advise not storing anything heat sensitive in that area. Some evenings, I would leave the swinging door to the refrigerator compartment open to add some heat to the room (the refrigerator remained closed, of course).

The flat screen TV in the room provided access to a variety of entertainment. There was a My Journey selection with ship information, ship location, and weather. I accessed the ship location information frequently to see where the ship was located relative to the ports we were visiting. The TV had an On Board selection with information on America’s Test Kitchen, Blend, and Digital Workshop. There was a Dining selection, a Movies selection, and TV & Music selection. This last selection provided access to quite a few entertaining and educational British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wildlife documentaries.
Schubert Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Alesund
    The description of the hike was inadequate. The hiking conditions were OK, but not ideal: multiple paths with mud, standing water, and rocks and boulders to scramble up and down. There is a scenic view from the top of the mountain. The guide did give some details about the surrounding area. The guide did not attempt to keep the group together except for 1 stop on the way up and a rendezvous at the top. The guide lost track of the time and returned late. Three passengers were left behind coming down the mountain, without ship personnel being aware of the situation. The passengers did manage to get back to the ship in plenty of time.
    View All 12,792 Alesund Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Flam
    I had hoped to re-do most of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour that I had done about 20 years ago on my own. But I didn’t read the tour description carefully enough. I got to ride the Flåm Railway train from Flåm to Myrdal Station to Voss (birthplace of Knute Rockne, a famous football coach at the University of Notre Dame, but unknown to the local guides in Voss), with a stopover at the well-known Kjosfoss Waterfall. I rode a bus from Voss to Gudvangen with a stop at the Tvinde Waterfall. Then the bus took us back to the ship after driving through 2 long tunnels (about 7-miles and 3-miles long). What I missed was doing the scenic cruise on the Nærøyfjord. That was a separate shore excursion that overlapped with the Best of Flam tour. But I did get to cruise on lots of others beautiful fjords during my cruise, so it wasn’t a big disappointment.
    View All 12,792 Flam Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Kayaking
    One of the highlights of my cruise was kayaking at Geirangerfjord. Great guides. Very knowledgeable and helpful. Very scenic. A wonderful way to see some of the fjord. And there was little risk of the "big wave" (tsunami) at the time.
    View All 12 Kayaking Reviews
  • Lysefjord
    Twenty years before, I had hiked Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) near Stavanger in the fog and rain. I had hoped to repeat the hike on this cruise. However, the stopover in Stavanger was not long enough. So, I did a cruise of Lysefjord so that I could see Pulpit Rock from below. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time, and it was hot inside the main cabin with all the passengers on the tour. The air conditioning was not working on the boat; the ship personnel complained if we opened the doors to allow some fresh air into the main cabin. HAL should have a discussion with the tour operator about passenger comfort.
    View All 62 Lysefjord Reviews