We are fairly experienced travelers with over two dozen cruises on different lines, many of which on Holland America. This was, in fact, our second time on the Koningsdam. We attributed our prior poor experience to it being a "shake down" period since the ship was new to the Caribbean route. We decided to give it another try and chose this particular cruise because of the attractive itinerary. Unfortunately, things have not improved in respect to why I rate this cruise as only average. In fact, they have only gotten worse - lack of activities.
To me, a cruise should offer more than a means of transportation from point A, to point B, and Holland America once offered a wonderful onboard experience. No more. It is perhaps unfair to tar the entire cruise with the same negative brush, however, Holland has desperately fallen behind its competitors in regard to daytime, and too often, nighttime entertainment. This was a port intensive cruise, with 6 stops in the 10 day trip. On those port days, there was virtually nothing offered for daytime shipboard activities other than "for fee" activities (make a photo mug, spa services, etc ), or go to the Microsoft workshop and listen to technically advanced cruisers banter and compete with the instructor, leaving the average attendee in the dust. This workshop certainly missed the mark for the age demographic of this cruise, and was very poorly attended. There were no crafts, dance classes, audience participation daytime shows, scavenger hunts, etc. I think that the Cruise Director had a staff of one! On the last few days of the cruise there was a flurry of overlapping offerings in what appeared to be an attempt to make up for the lack of them earlier in the week. There were of course, make your own Bridge or Mahjong games, a pickleball court, a good gym (floor exercise area in Spa). All are basically, "do it yourself". The pathetic library (located in deck 10 Crow's Nest), has about 4 books and jig saw puzzles with missing pieces. The vast majority of Trivia games were grouped either right before, or right after early dining, eliminating participation for many. Movies shown on the big screen at the pool are the same ones available in your cabins. The availability of these numerous, free, in-cabin movies, are, however, one of the saving graces of this ship.
The evening main theater shows (World Stage, dks 2 &3) are lacking, as well. One evening, there was, shockingly, no nighttime show at all in the main theater. On another, a BBC movie was shown. The first night's entertainment was a blatant promo film for Holland America (interesting, but more appropriate for a daytime enrichment presentation, which it was, later in the week). The contract entertainers, who did appear, were good (comedian, magician, contemporary pianist), and the talented Koningsdam dance troupe performed 3 shows, with amazing back-lighting effects. Three, however, is too many of the same sort of thing. There are two show-times offered, 7:30 and 9:30. The early shows are quite literally "standing room" only. Get there 30 minutes early if you desire a seat. The theater is far too small for this size ship, and too many seats have occluded views. Often, during a few shows, some in the audience inexplicably, left early.
The Music Walk venues (Billboard Onboard and Rolling Stone Rock Room, dk. 2) are undersized as far as seating goes (again, standing room only), and so close together (no partitions) that the various bands just become a cacophony of noise when they are at full volume. The Lincoln Center, Stage, dk. 2, which shares space with the BB King Blues Club, offers some lovely classical performances.
The Cruise Director, Karlijn Verpalen, was an amazing speaker and was showcased in every enrichment program. She WAS the enrichment program! The tech capabilities in the theater provided interesting backgrounds for her various topics.
I cannot commend enough the entirety of the Koningsdam crew. Everyone always had a smile, even while doing the most menial tasks.
The food, was, for the most part pretty good. The Lido buffet (dk. 9) offered a wide variety of well prepared dishes. While most of the food must be served by the crew, some of the same items are inexplicably, self-serve. What I found most disconcerting was the absence of hand sanitizers in all dining venues. They have been replaced (Lido only) with stations where you physically wash your hands by sticking them into holes that contain scrubbers. These were universally ignored! This, to me, is penny wise and pound foolish on Holland's part. I did, however, see hand-sanitizes at the entrances to the casino, so their reasoning behind abandoning them seems spurious, at best. Main dining room food was good, but not outstanding. The menu leaned heavily on Caribbean flavors. We did not experience the protracted service times that some have mentioned. The Dutch Cafe (dk 3), The Dive-in (pool area, dk.9) and the New York deli and Pizza (pool area, dk.10), were all great dining alternatives. Room service was very efficient (usually came early), but we only used it for breakfast.
The Mariner's Society luncheon menu was a joke. Most at my table left before finishing their meal ,commenting on the poor, almost inedible, offerings. Holland should value their loyal customers more and provide a truly special meal.
The "Chocolate Surprise" offered late evening on the last Gala evening was an embarrassing affair. I remember when Holland once had a huge spread in the dining room of lavish chocolate creations. Now, you get a marshmallow on a stick washed down by chocolate milk "shooters"! Waiters stand in the hall of the Music Walk and hand out Costco-sized treats. What is Holland Am. thinking?
We had a balcony cabin. It was adequately sized, with ample storage and a small loveseat. There are drawers in both the closet and the vanity. Additional storage drawers are located under the beds. One of my favorite tricks for hanging clothing is to bring a few fold-able, multi-clip skirt hangers, for both skirts and shorts. They save so much space and you don't need to ask for extra hangers. The showers on this ship are the best around, (large, with good water pressure), but the toilet is at a bit of an odd angle. The balcony is adequately sized, with two reclining chairs, a footstool and petite round table. We find the motion activated floor night lighting to be jarringly bright, and block it with a towel, preferring to use a battery operated votive candle for the bath at night. Bring an extra credit card to leave in the slot by the door to activate your room electricity. Room stewards have to get permission to empty the fridge of its liquor, so we didn't bother. It annoyed me, however, to have such a large portion of the fridge occupied by their beverages. The first day ship "muster" drill takes place in two parts. The first, at 4:15 , is a short televised film, viewed in the cabin, and then, at 4:30, you proceed to your designated "muster" station (blessedly, indoors) for a very quick life jacket tutorial.
Both embarkation (10 mins) and disembarkation (20 mins) were efficient. It was really convenient to have the parking garage directly across from the ship's berth.
The ship is beautiful, however, this was not the quality cruise I expect from Holland America. There is now just too much apparent cost cutting in activities. I'm not sure to what demographic they are now trying to appeal, but to me, they are largely missing the mark. I will look elsewhere for future cruises.