This cruise was my second cruise in Europe, my third cruise with Holland America, but my first on the Koningsdam.
We stayed one night in Rome before the cruise and one night after, both at the Starhotel Metropole which is less than ten minutes’ walk from Termini station, a location very convenient for transfers to and from the airport as well as the cruise port in Civitavecchia as we did both independently by train.
A week or so before the cruise we got an email from Holland America indicating that they would like us to arrive at the cruise port at 3:00 pm. We had been planning to arrive a couple hours earlier, but we took them at their word and took the 12:42 train from Termini to Civitavecchia and were on board by about 2:45. When I bought the tickets I selected on the machine that I was going to Civitavecchia Port and therefore bought the ticket for the train and also for the PortLink bus without really intending to, but that made it very convenient when we arrived in Civitavecchia as we did not have to find someone to buy bus tickets from or walk the mile to Largo della Pace. Upon arrival at Largo della Pace you are immediately put on a shuttle to your ship; at ship side there is a temporary building/tent where check-in takes place. Check in was very quick they did not even want to see our boarding documents just our passports then they took our picture gave us our ship card and we were on our way.
The Koningsdam is one of the largest in the Holland America fleet but it generally did not feel overly crowded or full. I did not love the layout of the ship, decks 10 through 12 were confusing and difficult to navigate, you could not get from one part to another without going down or up to another deck. This ship does still have the classic full promenade deck, perhaps my favorite thing about Holland America ships, such a nice place to take a stroll.
We had anytime dining and walked in each night without a reservation between 5:15 (when the restaurant opened) and 6:00, although there was more of a push to have people reserve on this cruise than I have experienced in the past. I was a little bit disappointed that the dining hosts did not seem to recognize us any better on the 13th night than on the second night of the cruise. There was more sales pressure in the dining room than from previous cruise with waiters trying to get you to purchase the extra cost menu items (as well as an annoying extra page inserted into the menu), and I did not appreciate this, it felt beneath the dignity I usually associate with Holland America. We dined one night at Tamarind, my first try at a specialty restaurant. The food and service were very good, but I have mixed feelings about whether the surcharge was worth it.
We attended a couple entertainment options on this cruise. The World Stage as others have commented is not as roomy as expected for a ship of this size and there are long, long rows of seats without an aisle which makes some of the seats hard to get to. On the first evening in Athens a local music/ dance group was brought onboard and they were quite good and we were able to get a seat, although we arrived a little bit late, probably because many passengers were enjoying an evening on shore. I was very disappointed that Lincoln Center Stage shared space with BB Kings on this ship as it meant that most evenings they only performed during the early evening whilst we were having dinner and only had evening performances on the BB Kings nights off, but we managed to catch one of those evenings and enjoyed it very much. We also loved the Ask the Captain event on the second sea day our captain was funny and informative, a very entertaining man.
We had a change of itinerary just before sailing. We were originally scheduled to go first to Mykonos then Kusadasi and those two ports of call were switched which led to a two and a half hour earlier departure from Athens as well. I am not sure everyone got that message considering the number of names called out that evening at sail away time.
We chose self disembarkation and walked off the ship with our luggage at about 7:30 am past a phalanx of taxi/bus companies trying to sell us a transfer to the airport or Rome and took the portlink bus back to the train station and the train back to Rome.
Our cabin was a partially obstructed view balcony cabin. It is a triple room with the third birth dropping down from the ceiling (weight limit 220lbs) over the head of the main beds. The cabin steward raised and lowered the bed every day so it was out of the way during the daytime. There was plenty of storage, we had some drawers and cupboards that we did not use, but we are light packers and limit ourselves to a carry-on bag for all trips. The bathroom seemed reasonably roomy by cruise ship standards, but it had seen some hard use, the showerhead hose leaked badly and the sink was cracked. This cabin is positioned behind the lifeboats which does somewhat limit the view. We deliberately chose a cabin that was between lifeboats and I think it did improve the view a little bit, but you did generally have to be standing up to see much. A new feature was a motion detection night light which came on when someone walked around the cabin after the lights were out and woke everyone up, not our favorite. Our steward did not catch on to our schedule as fast as I have experienced in the past and we had to ask for a laundry bag, but he also took time to help us search for a small item we thought we had lost (it turned up in a pocket of one of our bags) and he was very friendly.
We were excited to have time to visit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Rome, Italy Temple which just opened this year and its beautiful visitor center. It was easier to get to than we had anticipated just a Metro and Bus ride from Termini station. We also enjoyed walking around and revisiting some sights from our previous trip.
The day was overcast and cool it had rained overnight and showers were forecast through the day but we were lucky and did not get rained on. This is apparently not unusual for this part of Greece in October. This is one of the wettest regions of Greece and this shows in the abundant forests and olive groves. We started our touring at the site of ancient Olympia on a tour through the ruins followed by a tour of the archaeological museum, then the Olympics museum and then shopping at a local cooperative. The lunch our guide described as being a buffet of the “Sunday dinner” foods of Greece. We had about an hour for shopping in modern Olympia before returning to the ship. Our guide was good, very enthusiastic and informative about her country, its language, and its history. Her information came in handy throughout the rest of the trip.View All 216 Olympia Archeological Tour Reviews
Athens day one: Corinth and Mycenae excursion: Very pleasant temperatures with a partly cloudy sky. We started with a short photo stop at the bridge over the Corinth canal, then continued first to ancient Mycenae which required some rather strenuous walking to tour as the paths were quite long and steep with a fair number of steps. Our guide kept us well informed of what we were seeing and why it was important and the ruins themselves are quite impressive, particularly the stonework. We then stopped briefly at a tomb also very impressive. Our lunch was a set menu with very generous portions and if you did not have enough (or even if you had) the servers were happy to serve you more. Corinth was a small site but with many layers of history to be seen and we were lucky enough to see an owl while touring. We finished up at a pottery studio where three generations of a family have been making replicas of ancient pottery for many decades we were given a demonstration and the prices here were surprisingly reasonable.
Athens day two: Touring Athens on our own. We got up early and were off the ship by 6:45 to walk to the metro station so we could be at the Acropolis at 8:00 when it opens hoping to beat the crowds. We were successful in this and had the first hour up there with only a handful of other tourists. We used Rick Steves’ audio guide to inform us about what we were seeing it was good but a little slow if we had it to do again we would play it at double speed. We had pre-purchased the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop off bus (the red one) to use throughout the rest of the day for and transportation back to the ship to avoid the half hour walk back from the metro after a full day of touring. We used four different buses and we got at least a glimpse of sites like the Parliament building and the Olympic stadium that we just did not have the time or energy to see. However one of the buses was in pretty rough shape and the audio was not working which was rather disappointing. We visited the National Museum (huge and with an impressive collection of artifacts from all over Greece an absolute must see), Monastiraki square for lunch (yum), Hadrian’s library and had a quick tour of the ancient agora (we did not realize that it was closing early until we arrived at 1:30 to be informed that they closed in half an hour). We then went to the Acropolis museum (much smaller than the National Museum but an interesting space which gives you a glimpse of how surrounded by the past you are in Athens, also a very cute lego model of the Acropolis). And then we caught the bus back to the ship, (interesting commentary along the way).View All undefined undefined Reviews
This excursion started with the ferry to Delos where we had an hour's guided tour and about half an hour of free time to explore the museum before heading back to the ferry. Mykonos is known as the windy island according to our guide and was certainly living up to that reputation on the day we were in port. This is not an excursion I would recommend to those who suffer from sea-sickness. After our return to Mykonos we had a guided tour of Mykonos town, a ride across the island to a very short stop at the beach lunch in a tiny village in the center of the island and a tour of the monastery.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We started with a visit to Mary's house mildly interesting to me but clearly quite a holy pilgrimage for some and it was disappointing that some of the other members of the tour did not give it the reverence that they should have. It is in a beautiful mountain setting with forests and lots of birds which I really enjoyed. We continued to the ruins of ancient Ephesus which were the most impressive ruins of the whole trip, vast and extensive with both public and private spaces. The Terrace houses are definitely a highlight, so well preserved with such beautiful mosaics and frescoes. This was followed by a visit to the ruins of St John's basilica the traditional site of the burial of the apostle John. This spot is overlooked by an impressive looking fortress that would be interesting to tour if there was time. Lunch was an Turkish and international buffet at an ocean-front resort with some fine folk dancing entertainment. We finished the tour with a stop at a Turkish carpet shop we had a beverage a demonstration of rug weaving and a lavish display and explanation of the different types of rugs available without feeling undue pressure to purchase anything it was really very well done, and from there it was a short walk back to the ship. There were a few touristy kiosks at the pier where prices were better than we had seen elsewhere so we bought a few small souvenirs before boarding.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We did not book an excursion here but walked off the ship and explored Rhodes town on our own. It is an adorable medieval town with quaint picturesque streets every-way you look. The Palace of the Grand Master is a beautiful museum, as is the Archaeological museum.
We started with a tender transfer to the ferry port where there is access for busses. It is a narrow switchback road up the side of the crater with some great views. Our guide for this excursion was, well, interesting is the nice way to put it, he had a pet theory about what took place at Akrotiri which rather overshadowed any helpful information he gave about the ruins. He was fun to listen to and had grown up on the island so we got some real hometown insights into life there but I wasn't always sure what to believe and what was a joke. At Oia we were just given minimal directions and set free for three hours, which wouldn't have been all that fun to me, but we had another plan. We left the tour and walked the trail back to Fira. The hike was fairly strenuous but really lovely. It is 6.5 miles and we took about four hours to hike it, we then had about a 45 minute wait for the cable car down to the tenders, (our guide had kindly given us the included cable car tickets before we left the tour) but there were only two ships that day and our ship was not leaving for another five hours.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Genaro was a good, patient guide ready to talk about what we were interested in and he recommended a very good restaurant for lunch. The scenery of the Amalfi coast was even better than I had imagined something you have to see, pictures cannot do it justice. The towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are each charming in their own way. On the way over the mountains back to the ship there is a very good view of Vesuvius and our guide gave us really interesting information about the extent of the eruption that covered Pompeii.View All 284 Amalfi Coast Reviews