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This is a review for the 11-day South Caribbean Seafarer cruise. This is the third year my wife and I have sailed on the ms Koningsdam. Previously we sailed in Aug. 2018 (Norway) and Jan. 2019 (Caribbean). I’ll try not to duplicate information from my previous reviews of those cruises. This time we opted for a Verandah Stateroom, mid-ship on the Mozart deck, rather than a Vista Suite, because it was a better value—over 3000 USD cheaper. The room was smaller than a Vista suite, but it still seemed roomy enough for us. There was sufficient closet hanging space, shelves, and drawers for storing stuff in during the cruise. [Tip] We brought along magnetic hooks so we could hang hats and clothes on them. There were only 2 hooks in the room (on the wall by the bathroom) and 2 hooks on the back of the bathroom door. Mostly the cruise was well run. The weather was good. When sailing back towards the Bahamas (and Half Moon Cay), the sea was even calm and “glassy” smooth. It was a little rougher at Half Moon Cay: after lunch, there were 2-3 foot swells which I encountered when kayaking in front of the beach area. The kayaks are very lightweight and harder to manage when there are waves. Kayak rental at Half Moon Cay was $25.95 per person per hour for a single kayak, $49.95 for a double kayak, and $35.95 for a stand-up paddleboard. One downside to the cruise was the occurrence of norovirus (gastrointestinal illness [GI]) towards the end of the cruise. In my opinion, HAL was partially responsible for the problem. There was the usual “Guest Stateroom Health Advisory” in the staterooms at the start of the cruise: “wash your hands regularly with soap and water particularly before eating”. There were hand washing stations, with soap, at the Lido Market where buffet food was served. However, the stations were turned off on the 2nd or 3rd day of the cruise, because they ran out of soap. The soap could not be restocked until the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale (after 11 days). That seems to indicate inadequate management of inventory—to not keep enough soap in stock. A workaround (hand pump soap) was developed once the norovirus problem became more widespread on the 9th day of the cruise. At the entrance to the Main Dining Room, there used to be hand sanitizer stations that you could use before entering for a meal. However, HAL deliberately removed them. I asked one of the dining officers about this. I was told the hand sanitizer stations were removed “to encourage passengers to wash their hands before coming to eat.” On the 9th day of the cruise there were repeated Public Address announcements in the morning about an increase in the reported cases of GI illness on the cruise. HAL started taking corrective actions. Personnel had hand sanitizer or pump soap at the entrance to the Lido Market, and asked every passenger to use one or the other. You could not serve yourself at the Lido Market; you requested and a ship dining person served you the food. At the Main Dining Room, ship dining personnel had hand sanitizer dispensers, and they asked passengers to get some sanitizer before entering the dining room. At the BBQ buffet at Half Moon Cay, there was the same process for hand sanitizer and kitchen personnel served food to you; there was no self-service. These steps continued until the end of the cruise. Then all passengers, including those doing back-to-back cruises, had to leave the ship, because the ship was to be thoroughly cleaned (disinfected) before leaving on the next cruise. There were excellent performers during the cruise; however, overall, the entertainment was not on par with previous cruises. The Lincoln Center Stage (classical quartet) performers and the B.B. King’s All-Stars were excellent, as usual. The Billboard Onboard piano players were pretty good. The female piano player was excellent and always had a great voice. The male piano player had a great voice for many, but not all, songs. The Rock Room Band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room seemed to lack passion; I never saw the Rock Room packed like I did on my last cruise. There was no piano player in the Ocean Bar during the cruise, playing music before and after dinner. The StepONE Dance Company put on 3 performances at the World Stage; however, some of the dance numbers were repeats of ones I saw on my previous cruises. For other performers at the World Stage, the duo Eterni Amici, pianist Tian Jiang, and comedian Lamont Ferguson were outstanding. I was not impressed with the other performers. There were some slight changes since our last cruise. There was an “Officers on Deck” event one evening. This time, there was no formal introduction of the officers. The officers just mingled with passengers by the Lido pool. The LED screens were working at the Main Stage, and served to complement the dance performances. There was no piano player at the Ocean Bar for unknown reasons; I did miss listening to piano music before going to dinner. There was no Mariner lunch on the day of embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale; apparently that has been discontinued. You could still eat in the Main Dining Rooms for lunch in Ft. Lauderdale. The three different Sommelier Suite Cellar wine packages were offered again, with varying prices for 4, 6, or 8 bottles. You get a loyalty discount on a package if you are a 3-star or higher Mariner. Many of the wines seem to be the same year after year. It would be nice if more variety were introduced. You can also order wines from a James Suckling curated list of wines for meals in the Main Dining Room and in the specialty restaurants; there was good variety and quality, at different price points. New this trip was a Wine Aficionado Dinner for $89 per person. It was a 5-course dinner with wines selected by the host (Chateau Ste. Michelle guest Al Portney for this cruise). The wines didn’t seem that special, so my wife and I chose instead to go to a specialty restaurant and enjoy food just as good, at a cheaper price. There was a line for the first 3 nights at the Main Dining Room if you wanted to dine between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. But you would get a pager, and you could get a second drink for $2 in the Ocean Bar (but there was no piano player). The two Gala Nights were the evenings of the second and third At Sea days, once each week of the cruise. There were a lot of Mariner Society members on this cruise. I think that two of the planned events, including the complimentary Sommelier Suite Wine Tasting, had to be split over two days, because of the number of Mariners. I have been a Mariner for some years now, but I learned during the cruise that you can earn medallions for so many nights of actual cruising. For example, 100 cruise nights gets you a Bronze medallion. There are other levels like Silver and Gold. I don’t know if there are privileges associated with the medallions. My wife and I did receive timely reminder notifications about wine tastings, specialty restaurant reservations, and Mariner Society events during the cruise. This corrected a problem we had on the previous cruise. I did not purchase an Internet package for the cruise. I find the packages somewhat expensive, and Wi-Fi performance on the ship can be uneven. I also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with my Wi-Fi for privacy and security. So, I try to find free Wi-Fi at the ports of call. When I can’t, or the performance is poor, I’d purchase access for a nominal fee. At Sint Maarten, I went to the Telecom Boutique by the cruise terminal and paid $3 for 15 minutes of Wi-Fi; the quality was good, but you could only use the password for a single device. At Martinique, there was free Wi-Fi at the white tent/Tourist Info Center at the end of the pier: “FOYAL WIFI”. You just have to register to get 4 hours of Wi-Fi: first and last name, and some email address; you are provided a login name and password; just follow the easy-to-understand directions. The free Wi-Fi at the cruise terminal at Barbados (“FREE Cruise Terminal WiFi”) was very poor. At St. Lucia, I purchased some ice cream at the Pink Papaya Restaurant by the cruise terminal to use the restaurant’s Wi-Fi, which was good quality. At St. Kitts, there is free Wi-Fi after you leave the secure area at the Mapau Bar (or Mapau Casino) to your right. At. St. Thomas, there was free Wi-Fi at the USVI Tourism Info Center. Wi-Fi was good everywhere except at Barbados. I didn’t use the spa this cruise, with the exception of the free men’s sauna. An 11-day couples pass for the Thermal Suite and Hydro Pool cost $339. On days when the ship was in a port, you could usually get a day pass for $40 per person. There were quite a few spa specials on the last day of the cruise when the ship was at Half Moon Cay. For example, the cost of a 75-minute Bamboo Massage was reduced from $209 to $119. We have done multiple cruises with Holland America Line (HAL) in the Caribbean. We had previously visited all the ports for this cruise. With HAL, we repeated one of our favorite shore excursions at Barbados. In Sint Maarten, we decided to do a new tour—lagoon kayaking. I’m glad that HAL is start to offer more “active” shore excursions like kayaking. In St. Lucia, I opted for a kayaking excursion from the Shore Excursions Group. At other ports, my wife and I just wandered around or spent on the ship. At St. Thomas, we took a taxi (shuttle taxi, $8 per person, for 2 or more people) from the cruise pier to Magen’s Bay Park & Beach, paid $5 admission per person, and relaxed on the beautiful, sandy beach. You could rent lounge chairs for $8 per person (with $5 refundable deposit). At the Yak Shack, paddleboard rental was $30 per hour, single kayak rental was $20, and double kayak rental was $30. There was a restaurant at the beach. It was easy to catch a taxi back to town or the cruise pier. My wife and I both opted to do our own disembarkation from the ship. We were in the Expedited group (departure time 7:30 am – 7:45 am). We carried our own luggage off the ship. There was a long, long line of passengers waiting to get off the ship, both the Expedited group and the Luggage Direct group. Just be patient, because lots of other people may have the same idea as you for getting off the ship. I joined a Cruise Critic “Roll Call “ for the cruise several months before leaving. The Roll Call is a good place to get ideas about other, non-HAL, shore excursions that passengers are investigating, have booked, or have successfully used before. You can also share tips and ask questions about the cruise, the ship, port experiences, etc. You basically meet and chat with your future passengers. Two of the passengers on my cruise, Marina and Brian, volunteered to set up a “Meet and Greet” on the ship for those who were interested. We met in a private area by the Crow’s Nest on the day after we sailed. There were snacks, a get-acquainted game, and prizes (thanks to M & B). Several of us formed a Trivia team that played together throughout the cruise. If you’re taking a future cruise, I recommend finding and registering for a roll call for your cruise; start at the website https://www.cruisecritic.com/rollcalls/.

Escape to warmer weather

Koningsdam Cruise Review by terran_explr

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This is a review for the 11-day South Caribbean Seafarer cruise.

This is the third year my wife and I have sailed on the ms Koningsdam. Previously we sailed in Aug. 2018 (Norway) and Jan. 2019 (Caribbean). I’ll try not to duplicate information from my previous reviews of those cruises. This time we opted for a Verandah Stateroom, mid-ship on the Mozart deck, rather than a Vista Suite, because it was a better value—over 3000 USD cheaper. The room was smaller than a Vista suite, but it still seemed roomy enough for us. There was sufficient closet hanging space, shelves, and drawers for storing stuff in during the cruise. [Tip] We brought along magnetic hooks so we could hang hats and clothes on them. There were only 2 hooks in the room (on the wall by the bathroom) and 2 hooks on the back of the bathroom door.

Mostly the cruise was well run. The weather was good. When sailing back towards the Bahamas (and Half Moon Cay), the sea was even calm and “glassy” smooth. It was a little rougher at Half Moon Cay: after lunch, there were 2-3 foot swells which I encountered when kayaking in front of the beach area. The kayaks are very lightweight and harder to manage when there are waves. Kayak rental at Half Moon Cay was $25.95 per person per hour for a single kayak, $49.95 for a double kayak, and $35.95 for a stand-up paddleboard.

One downside to the cruise was the occurrence of norovirus (gastrointestinal illness [GI]) towards the end of the cruise. In my opinion, HAL was partially responsible for the problem. There was the usual “Guest Stateroom Health Advisory” in the staterooms at the start of the cruise: “wash your hands regularly with soap and water particularly before eating”. There were hand washing stations, with soap, at the Lido Market where buffet food was served. However, the stations were turned off on the 2nd or 3rd day of the cruise, because they ran out of soap. The soap could not be restocked until the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale (after 11 days). That seems to indicate inadequate management of inventory—to not keep enough soap in stock. A workaround (hand pump soap) was developed once the norovirus problem became more widespread on the 9th day of the cruise.

At the entrance to the Main Dining Room, there used to be hand sanitizer stations that you could use before entering for a meal. However, HAL deliberately removed them. I asked one of the dining officers about this. I was told the hand sanitizer stations were removed “to encourage passengers to wash their hands before coming to eat.” On the 9th day of the cruise there were repeated Public Address announcements in the morning about an increase in the reported cases of GI illness on the cruise. HAL started taking corrective actions. Personnel had hand sanitizer or pump soap at the entrance to the Lido Market, and asked every passenger to use one or the other. You could not serve yourself at the Lido Market; you requested and a ship dining person served you the food. At the Main Dining Room, ship dining personnel had hand sanitizer dispensers, and they asked passengers to get some sanitizer before entering the dining room. At the BBQ buffet at Half Moon Cay, there was the same process for hand sanitizer and kitchen personnel served food to you; there was no self-service. These steps continued until the end of the cruise. Then all passengers, including those doing back-to-back cruises, had to leave the ship, because the ship was to be thoroughly cleaned (disinfected) before leaving on the next cruise.

There were excellent performers during the cruise; however, overall, the entertainment was not on par with previous cruises. The Lincoln Center Stage (classical quartet) performers and the B.B. King’s All-Stars were excellent, as usual. The Billboard Onboard piano players were pretty good. The female piano player was excellent and always had a great voice. The male piano player had a great voice for many, but not all, songs. The Rock Room Band at the Rolling Stone Rock Room seemed to lack passion; I never saw the Rock Room packed like I did on my last cruise. There was no piano player in the Ocean Bar during the cruise, playing music before and after dinner. The StepONE Dance Company put on 3 performances at the World Stage; however, some of the dance numbers were repeats of ones I saw on my previous cruises. For other performers at the World Stage, the duo Eterni Amici, pianist Tian Jiang, and comedian Lamont Ferguson were outstanding. I was not impressed with the other performers.

There were some slight changes since our last cruise. There was an “Officers on Deck” event one evening. This time, there was no formal introduction of the officers. The officers just mingled with passengers by the Lido pool. The LED screens were working at the Main Stage, and served to complement the dance performances. There was no piano player at the Ocean Bar for unknown reasons; I did miss listening to piano music before going to dinner. There was no Mariner lunch on the day of embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale; apparently that has been discontinued. You could still eat in the Main Dining Rooms for lunch in Ft. Lauderdale.

The three different Sommelier Suite Cellar wine packages were offered again, with varying prices for 4, 6, or 8 bottles. You get a loyalty discount on a package if you are a 3-star or higher Mariner. Many of the wines seem to be the same year after year. It would be nice if more variety were introduced. You can also order wines from a James Suckling curated list of wines for meals in the Main Dining Room and in the specialty restaurants; there was good variety and quality, at different price points.

New this trip was a Wine Aficionado Dinner for $89 per person. It was a 5-course dinner with wines selected by the host (Chateau Ste. Michelle guest Al Portney for this cruise). The wines didn’t seem that special, so my wife and I chose instead to go to a specialty restaurant and enjoy food just as good, at a cheaper price.

There was a line for the first 3 nights at the Main Dining Room if you wanted to dine between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. But you would get a pager, and you could get a second drink for $2 in the Ocean Bar (but there was no piano player). The two Gala Nights were the evenings of the second and third At Sea days, once each week of the cruise.

There were a lot of Mariner Society members on this cruise. I think that two of the planned events, including the complimentary Sommelier Suite Wine Tasting, had to be split over two days, because of the number of Mariners.

I have been a Mariner for some years now, but I learned during the cruise that you can earn medallions for so many nights of actual cruising. For example, 100 cruise nights gets you a Bronze medallion. There are other levels like Silver and Gold. I don’t know if there are privileges associated with the medallions.

My wife and I did receive timely reminder notifications about wine tastings, specialty restaurant reservations, and Mariner Society events during the cruise. This corrected a problem we had on the previous cruise.

I did not purchase an Internet package for the cruise. I find the packages somewhat expensive, and Wi-Fi performance on the ship can be uneven. I also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with my Wi-Fi for privacy and security. So, I try to find free Wi-Fi at the ports of call. When I can’t, or the performance is poor, I’d purchase access for a nominal fee. At Sint Maarten, I went to the Telecom Boutique by the cruise terminal and paid $3 for 15 minutes of Wi-Fi; the quality was good, but you could only use the password for a single device. At Martinique, there was free Wi-Fi at the white tent/Tourist Info Center at the end of the pier: “FOYAL WIFI”. You just have to register to get 4 hours of Wi-Fi: first and last name, and some email address; you are provided a login name and password; just follow the easy-to-understand directions. The free Wi-Fi at the cruise terminal at Barbados (“FREE Cruise Terminal WiFi”) was very poor. At St. Lucia, I purchased some ice cream at the Pink Papaya Restaurant by the cruise terminal to use the restaurant’s Wi-Fi, which was good quality. At St. Kitts, there is free Wi-Fi after you leave the secure area at the Mapau Bar (or Mapau Casino) to your right. At. St. Thomas, there was free Wi-Fi at the USVI Tourism Info Center. Wi-Fi was good everywhere except at Barbados.

I didn’t use the spa this cruise, with the exception of the free men’s sauna. An 11-day couples pass for the Thermal Suite and Hydro Pool cost $339. On days when the ship was in a port, you could usually get a day pass for $40 per person. There were quite a few spa specials on the last day of the cruise when the ship was at Half Moon Cay. For example, the cost of a 75-minute Bamboo Massage was reduced from $209 to $119.

We have done multiple cruises with Holland America Line (HAL) in the Caribbean. We had previously visited all the ports for this cruise. With HAL, we repeated one of our favorite shore excursions at Barbados. In Sint Maarten, we decided to do a new tour—lagoon kayaking. I’m glad that HAL is start to offer more “active” shore excursions like kayaking. In St. Lucia, I opted for a kayaking excursion from the Shore Excursions Group. At other ports, my wife and I just wandered around or spent on the ship. At St. Thomas, we took a taxi (shuttle taxi, $8 per person, for 2 or more people) from the cruise pier to Magen’s Bay Park & Beach, paid $5 admission per person, and relaxed on the beautiful, sandy beach. You could rent lounge chairs for $8 per person (with $5 refundable deposit). At the Yak Shack, paddleboard rental was $30 per hour, single kayak rental was $20, and double kayak rental was $30. There was a restaurant at the beach. It was easy to catch a taxi back to town or the cruise pier.

My wife and I both opted to do our own disembarkation from the ship. We were in the Expedited group (departure time 7:30 am – 7:45 am). We carried our own luggage off the ship. There was a long, long line of passengers waiting to get off the ship, both the Expedited group and the Luggage Direct group. Just be patient, because lots of other people may have the same idea as you for getting off the ship.

I joined a Cruise Critic “Roll Call “ for the cruise several months before leaving. The Roll Call is a good place to get ideas about other, non-HAL, shore excursions that passengers are investigating, have booked, or have successfully used before. You can also share tips and ask questions about the cruise, the ship, port experiences, etc. You basically meet and chat with your future passengers. Two of the passengers on my cruise, Marina and Brian, volunteered to set up a “Meet and Greet” on the ship for those who were interested. We met in a private area by the Crow’s Nest on the day after we sailed. There were snacks, a get-acquainted game, and prizes (thanks to M & B). Several of us formed a Trivia team that played together throughout the cruise. If you’re taking a future cruise, I recommend finding and registering for a roll call for your cruise; start at the website https://www.cruisecritic.com/rollcalls/.
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Cabin Review

Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VA
The room was smaller than a Vista suite, but it still seemed roomy enough for us. There was sufficient closet hanging space, shelves, and drawers for storing stuff in during the cruise. [Tip] Bring along magnetic hooks so you can hang hats and clothes on them. There were only 2 hooks in the room (on the wall by the bathroom) and 2 hooks on the back of the bathroom door.

There is a refrigerator and a safe in the room. The bed is comfortable. The outdoor balcony is covered and somewhat private, although you can see you neighbors in reflections of the glass balcony barrier. There is a desk area with a makeup mirror. There are small storage shelves in the bathroom.
Navigation Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Catamaran Tour
    Every time my wife and I take a HAL cruise to Barbados, we take the Catamaran and Turtle Encounter tour. This is at least our 3rd trip. We love sailing along the coast, and then snorkeling in 2-3 spots. We saw about 4 turtles on this tour. The ship crew does an excellent job. I was very impressed with our catamaran. It had comfortable, cushioned bench seats for sitting on. You could lift and store your stuff inside the seats.
    View All 103 Catamaran Tour Reviews
  • St. Lucia
    My wife and I requested, and got, single kayaks. They were Wilderness Travel Pungo 12 to 14 foot sit-inside kayaks--very nice and great quality. We had a group of about 10 kayaks with 2 guides in their kayaks. We kayaked in Marigot Bay, out into the Caribbean Sea along the coast, and then into the Roseau River--and back. This tour was a great value for the experience and the money ($76 per person, 4 hours total, including 25 minute van ride each way to Marigot Bay).
    View All 13,931 St. Lucia Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Lucia Cruise Port Review
  • Kayaking
    I applaud HAL for offering more active excursions like this one. We kayaked around the harbor and by some mangroves. My wife and I requested, and were able to get, single kayaks. These were sit-on top kayaks, and they were of good quality. The guides looked after us.
    View All 15 Kayaking Reviews
  • St. Thomas
    My wife and I went to Magen's Bay Beach on our own. We took a taxi (shuttle taxi, $8 per person, for 2 or more people) from the cruise pier to Magen's Bay Park & Beach, paid $5 admission per person, and relaxed on the beautiful, sandy beach. You could rent lounge chairs for $8 per person (with $5 refundable deposit). At the Yak Shack, paddleboard rental was $30 per hour, single kayak rental was $20, and double kayak rental was $30. There was a restaurant at the beach. It was easy to catch a taxi back to town or the cruise pier.
    View All 13,931 St. Thomas Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Thomas Cruise Port Review