This is a review of a recent trip on the Holland America Line (HAL) ship Koningsdam. We sailed from Port Everglades and visited the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) also Amber Cove, Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay.
Very smooth and efficient.
The Koningsdam is a very large ship, and a very well-found one. She first saw service in 2016 as HAL’s first Pinnacle class ship. She is sister to the Nieuw Statendam, launched towards the end of 2018.
We were disappointed to discover a change in the SOLAS Drill procedure. Having praised previous HAL ships for conducting (in our opinion) a proper drill during which passengers must report to their muster stations on the promenade deck, we were not impressed to be shepherded into the Main Dining Room and sent to our allocated sections where we sat for 30 minutes until all of the designated passengers had arrived. We have criticised another line for this method of conducting the drill, because at the end of it we still didn’t know which lifeboat we should use in an emergency. HAL lost some credibility for this change.
Deck 3 is a full promenade deck, and lets you walk all the way around the ship. However, the lifeboats are not suspended overhead here, but occupy a substantial amount of deck space. This reduces the available walking area considerably, and explains (we believe) the changed SOLAS procedure. It may also explain why there are no Titanic style deckchairs on the promenade deck (it would get uncomfortably crowded). TIP: for exercise enthusiasts, one lap of the promenade is about 1/3 of a mile.
The Koningsdam does not ride well in all sea conditions. During the passage from Amber Cove to Grand Turk we noticed a great deal of bumpiness although there were no whitecaps visible. This seems to be partly related to the design of the hull, especially the stern section (our cabin was located at the stern, starboard aft).
This issue seems to be a combination of the height and frequency of swells, and the design of the ship’s stern. As the ship travels through a swell, when the rising effect of the swell reaches the stern it has nothing to support because of the stern design, so the ship’s stern seems to sit down (or squat) into the trough. We have never experienced this sort of motion on any other ship (including the sister ship, Nieuw Statendam; possible because the right combination of conditions did not occur during that trip). TIP: this is NOT a cause for concern, but it does make for a very restless night, so anxious sailors might want to consider cabin locations carefully.
On this trip we noticed several changes that are worth recounting for other potential passengers. These include reduced daily activities and a small, sparse programme guide, absence of flowers on tables, reduced entertainment, changes in food delivery methods in the Lido Market, etc. None of these changes is detrimental to our overall enjoyment, but they are noticeable, so we decided to describe them in the appropriate paragraphs.
There are few if any real art works on the Koningsdam. Our impression of the décor is one of overwhelming blandness. Interesting art displays are almost non-existent and without any photographs decorating the bulkheads, many of the corridors show an uninspired similarity. Some stairwells display interesting pictures, but not many of the Landings display an object that catches the eye. There are no distinguishing bench seats near the elevators. At times it was difficult to tell if we were sailing on the Koningsdam or on the Nieuw Statendam, since their interiors are so similar.
Cheerful and friendly crews seem to be a feature of HAL ships. Many people from Indonesia (which used to be the Dutch East Indies), but also crew members from the Philippines, from India, and from Europe.
We found no reasons to complain about the food in any of the restaurants onboard the Koningsdam. The Lido Market serves a range of interesting dishes from all over the world including Asia and Italy. It tends to get a bit hectic at meal times, especially when people are lining up to get served at the buffet stations.
We usually ate dinner in the Main Dining Room and never regretted any of our menu choices. The menu is always very inventive, and every day it lists some dishes that you might call standards for the less-adventurous diners (for example, salmon and strip-loin steak). Service was rather hit-and-miss some evenings, with long delays between courses. TIP: you will enjoy faster service if you can avoid sharing a table with a large group.
We enjoyed an excellent brunch of Dutch Apple and Bacon pancakes here. The venue was quiet when we visited, and our food was prepared very quickly.
We chose the optional De Libertije menu and were very impressed. The food, service and presentation were all first class, and we were amazed to be offered such an excellent deal.
The food, service and presentation were all first class, and we enjoyed both our dinner. The Hamachi casserole was excellent.
Excellent menu; during the evening chef visits every table to check on diners’ satisfaction.
A much younger demographic (our opinion) than those we have met on other HAL voyages. Some older passengers using walking frames, wheelchairs, scooters, or sticks. Unusually this trip included quite a few children, some of whom were well-behaved, some not. Although this is a big ship. Somehow it seemed to be very crowded.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the largest group of travellers came from America. Most passengers seemed to represent the Baby Boom generation, some being very rude. It is difficult to forget the woman who barked her order at the Crepes/Waffles station in the Lido Buffet: “More filling!”, “I want a waffle!” Cream on the waffle!” – never saying “Please, nor Thank you”. Some people are unbelievably rude.
HAL has decided to allow people to use electronic cigarettes (vaping) in cabins. Bad move HAL. We wish at least one cruise line would introduce a No-Smoking-At-ALL-Anywhere-On-Board policy – we’d be loyal supporters! TIP: smoking is now allowed in the casino on alternate days, which means you cannot always walk through to get to the Main Stage Theatre without getting gassed SOME of the time!
Entertainment was much reduced during this trip and many of the expected musical productions were no longer offered. This was notable in several areas:
This is similar to the Main Stage on the Nieuw Statendam. It is a large, open, ‘theatre-in-the-round’ design where (our opinion) almost every seat is a good seat, because it is not obstructed by a pillar. There are six huge pillars, but most are located in such a way that they offer minimal obstruction of the sightlines.
Seats are organised into upper and lower areas, (decks 3 and 2 respectively) but without the typical balcony seating that overhangs the lower rows. In this respect in resembles the arrangements of a Roman amphitheatre.
In our opinion this is now an underused space. The stage is huge, and the theatre is well-equipped with lighting and sound systems that would put many shore based establishments to shame, but for what? The dance troupe performed just twice in 10 days, accompanied only by the surround screens and recorded music. The usual assortment of individual performers were mostly good, but when back-up music was needed, it was either recorded or performed by a small 3-4 person house band.
B. B. King’s Blues Club/Lincoln Centre Stage
Compared to its equivalent found on the Nieuw Amsterdam and Eurodam, this is a much enlarged venue that now occupies 2 decks (2 and 3). It has more seating, better acoustics and better lighting. Unfortunately, the emphasis is still on Motown and Rhythm and Blues; the band plays very few real Blues numbers. TIP: if you want to hear real blues, we suggest taking a Blues Cruise.
Some evenings in this space a string quartet plays Classical music when it is designated as Lincoln Centre Stage.
A very intimate venue where the audience can get close to the two pianists playing and singing popular music. Not our thing but the venue was well-attended.
Rollingstone Rock Room
Very loud and unfortunately competing with B.B. King’s because shows were scheduled simultaneously. However, on one evening this band did play some genuine Blues numbers. This venue is separated from BB King’s by glass doors that do not close automatically. Consequently, they are often left wide open, so the cross talk between this venue and its neighbours is pronounced.
Rather chaotic, not as smooth as we have come to expect from HAL. It seemed that all colour groups were called at the same time, resulting in a long, snaking line. But we did make the shuttle in time for our 11:00a.m. flight home.
Would We Sail the Koningsdam Again?
Probably not. If the ship is staying in the Caribbean we will pass because we have visited all of these islands more than once now and don’t need to see them again for a while. The ship was basically a comfortable floating hotel taking passengers between Caribbean shopping centres that all feature the same stores (Duty-Free, Colombian Emeralds, Tanzanite, High-End Watches, etc.) each offering the same apparently generous discounts. This itinerary gets boring very quickly, and that’s why our review title asks if we are All Caribbeaned Out?
We initially booked an inside cabin, but the offer of an irresistible upgrade took us to a verandah cabin overlooking the stern on deck 6.
The cabin was compact, and we needed to co-ordinate our movements to avoid collisions. We noticed that the finish on some of the cupboards was poor – one wardrobe door was a poor fit.
The bathroom was larger than the one attached to our cabin on the sister ship, but the shower lacked the useful wooden platform we found on the Nieuw Statendam. TIP: because the shower stall does not always drain well, at times the floor tiles can become quite slippery.
We noticed a musty smell in shower stall, probably caused by the high glass door and poor ventilation. We did not find a successful way of keeping the shower door open to improve the ventilation.
During the bumpy crossing from Amber Cove to Gran Turk, we discovered water gurgling up from the shower drain into the stall.
Our cabin stewards Osman and Adi were always happy, cheerful and polite - excellent.
Plenty of helpful people to guide you to the ship.
Kralendik is an interesting little town with a colourful main street and interesting architecture. However, with two cruise ships in port the streets seemed overwhelmed with passengers, and traffic was almost gridlocked.
Like Willemstad Curacao, this town is becoming hugely overdeveloped (in our opinion) and really nothing more than a shopping port now. Again, with 2 ships in port the town is severely crowded.
Owned by Carnival this resort is really just another shopping port. TIP: the seas are difficult here and winds caused noticeable swells. Entry into this scenic harbour was interesting as there is very little sea room and shallow areas border either side of the channel – we actually entered port stern first! It was worth getting up early to watch the gentle manoeuvering of this huge vessel. TIP: loungers and umbrellas at the pool are free (but nobody told us in advance).
There were two huge ships in port the day we visited. There is a long beach with abundant space for all visitors, where loungers, clamshells, and umbrellas are free (but nobody told us in advance here either!).
Carnival’s private island. We tendered ashore using port tenders (not ship’s lifeboats). The beach is fine, so are the facilities. Walking is good, and there are plenty of activities for those who feel energetic.