We have been HAL fans; the Koningsdam was new to us. Let's begin with the big positive - she's a beautiful ship. The public rooms are really handsome and ooze old world elegance and warmth with occasional contemporary jolts. But lovely as she is at first she's not the easiest ship to navigate and it takes a little time to adjust to her layout especially as not all the upper desks are thru decks and some elevator banks will not bring you to the upper level you need to reach.
HAL did a fabulous job on embarkation. Boarding was delayed two hours for extra sanitization of the ship due to an uptick of gastrointestinal issues on the prior sailing. All were excellent in expediting the boarding process, making it run smoothly and easily. Cabins were ready for all on boarding which was an added plus. Really good work all around.
In apparently adding more staterooms HAL seems to have opted for narrower hallways which can create some little traffic jams. Also, the promenade deck, often a treasured shady spot to read and relax has lost her deck chairs (a fabulous old world touch) as they have narrowed the walking deck which is too bad as shady places where you can avoid strong sun and read are few and far between. And these deckchairs were also a big plus on windy days when upper decks might not be ideal. But it is still great to have the walking deck!
Staterooms are beautiful but they tend to be small which means there was no space to spread out and storage is tight. In our inside cabin there was no room for a chair or settee, consequently room service is problematic. Eating in bed the only real option. Bathrooms are a challenge as they don't offer much room for maneuverability; that being said, the shower is roomy and terrific.
The buffet in the Lido Restaurant presented some difficulties since we could not help ourselves but had to be served at each station; this had to do with the health precautions on board (we were told informally by staff it was due to passenger illness the ship was trying to contain). This lead to long lines at every station which generated lots of discomfort, congestion and frustrating wait times. The staff was not overly pleasant. This was not well handled as no one knew the reason the self service had been suspended; had folks been told I think they would have been more accepting. By day six or so some stations reverted to self service and the crowding eased. From a customer relations perspective this should have been addressed; it generated some unnecessary grumpiness.
Let's applaud Lincoln Center Stage, an excellent addition. Unfortunately, the space is open and off a busy corridor which mean it's not ideal. People who enjoy classical music are really much more particular about ambient sound so passing traffic and chatter can be a distraction. If nearby sound (such as lots of talk generated in the adjacent shops and neighboring bar) is troublesome you will be less aware of it on deck two; on deck three it can be more intrusive. Nevertheless, this is a swell venue, well attended and much appreciated.
No library! Ridiculous. Look at HALs demographic. They skew older and passengers like their books and this is a real disservice and disregards and disrespects them. There was a lot of discontent on this subject. Here's an old adage: you can add a new service and folks will appreciate it but it's tough to remove one they enjoy. And why? This sounds like the idea of a young person who doesn't know the HAL market. Not tough to rethink and correct this failure.
Service has always been a hallmark on HAL. Staff has always been attentive, caring, friendly and kind but is some areas on this sailing that was surprisingly not the case; standards really seem to have slipped. Where was the small, the usual good cheer? Was the crew tired? Overworked? Overwhelmed with the additional sanitizing procedures? Were we short staffed? It was bewildering but they were certainly off their game.
On more than one occasion a bathroom attendant should have been on hand, especially on a ship concerned with illness. Toilet bowl brushes in stalls were nowhere to be seen. You need a constant attendant or the means to clean up after yourself.
Food in the pretty, contemporary dining room (Celebrity inspired?) is good but not at the level of excellence we'd expected and experienced on past HAL sailings; service inconsistent and sometimes forgetful. On the positive side, The Dive In, The New York Deli and Gelato stations were all great! Lunch, on one of our sea days, at Pinnacle Grill was outstanding. Tamarind is very, very good although the service can be sweet and a little cloying. The Crow's Nest is a delightful space.
The entertainment we experienced at the World Stage Theatre was fine, polished and professional with strong production values. As passengers tend to to arrive early to claim their seats, it is best not to get there right at showtime as it might be standing room only - at least for the early show. The later show was less crowded. Other venues were lively and varied, performers top notch. Good to see that HAL has pleasantly upped the quality of its entertainment.
All in all, this is a gorgeous ship but one with features that have not always been well considered which is too bad. Let's hope they address some easily correctable things (library, storage, bathroom size, cabin seating) when designing future vessels. And let's hope the drop in service was just an anomaly on this sailing.