I am positively sure that reading a review is one of the last things you would like to do, am I right? The experience we all are going through nowadays is very discouraging to say the least, that's why we need some kind of entertainment to put our minds at peace and that's my goal in writing this review; I hope I'm able to accomplish it! Together let's make the best of it!
This 10 day cruise was aboard the HAL Koningsdam to the Southern Caribbean and started on February 23rd. ending on March 4th. We left Canada towards Ft. Lauderdale one day before departure; at that time we were slightly aware of that virus and the effect caused on board the Diamond Princess but as I said, "just slightly". something that in a way allowed us to enjoy the cruise fully. Passengers and staff were also behaving completely free of any kind of concern.
Before starting with the overall review of that cruise, I want you to know that last June 2019 we cruised around Norway on board the beautiful Nieuw Statendam (pictures & review's titled "Canadians on Viking Lands") it was too short (7 days), visiting too many places for the first time (e.g. Amsterdam, Oslo and another three Norwegian ports) and not having enough time left to be able to enjoy that ship. That made us try to find another longer cruise with her; unfortunately time-wise it wasn't possible so we opted to go with her older sister, the Koningsdam.
Our direct flight to Ft. L. left Ottawa quite late so it was a very late arrival, to avoid having to wait for the free shuttle the hotel offered, we decided to take a taxi that costs us +/- u$s 25.- The name of the hotel was "Roadway Inn Hotel" and though it was quite close to the airport it is not possible for us to recommend it. Very weird and undescriptive entrance and reception area and to get to your room you have to follow (no porters) different lanes through a large courtyard in different directions trying to find your room number. The room itself wasn't bad but not going back.
The following morning we took their shuttle (u$s 10.-) and because there were so many ships in port, the driver had to divert directions many times to be able to avoid the huge amount of traffic. It would have been a big mistake to take a taxi. Anyway, we got there and found a very large waiting line and it was then that we got our first shock!
The people waiting in that line were in their 80's plus and not in good shape either; we really felt like teenagers!! and certainly we're not (early 70's but in good shape). Embarkation was smooth but slow caused by the slowness of the passengers; once on board we bought the Elite Beverage Pkg. (EBP) having previously checked it out on the internet; with offerings of wines up to $15.- a glass (more about this subject later).
Celebrating that we were on the ship and because that transaction had taken place at the counter of the Ocean Bar, at once we ordered a fantastic gin (Tanqueray 10) and tonic mixed by Michael, the bartender who took care of all the paperwork when buying the EBP and by the way he was one of the best bartenders on board. The very close second best barman was J.R. at the Explorer's Lounge Mid ship D 2 above the Rolling Stone Rock Room, who made the best "Oaxacan Old Fashioned" cocktail; with the usual ingredients the Old Fashion has, tequila is added so we asked for the "Anejo (Old) Patron" , it was a sensational concoction.
The different ratings between them has to do more than anything else with the personalities of the two; Michael was a very friendly and approachable guy, meanwhile J.R. was quite distant and very curt, at any rate both were outstanding in their craft.
Then "in good spirits" we walked around, realizing how identical, minus art work it was to the Nieuw Statendam, so there were not too many surprises for us and if any it was mainly the passengers on this cruise not only because of their age and physical condition but their attitudes and demeanor, not all of them granted, but quite a large number. After walking around the ship we felt the need to eat! (more about places to eat in the "Restaurants" section). Now we will proceed the review of this 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise clarifying that what you are going to read was our personal experience on this specific sailing, regarding passengers, staff, officers, restaurants, etc.
That first night we had dinner at Canaletto on D-9, and enjoyed everything, food, staff and drinks!. Also we had dinner twice at Pinnacle Grill on D-2 which was also as good as Canaletto though the second time, service was quite poor. You could have lunch at Pinnacle for $15.- pp., we never did because we wanted to be outside as much as possible to enjoy the weather and the sun, and being Canadians we knew quite well what kind of weather we could find back home!
There is a third Specialty Restaurant called Tamarind on Aft D-10. We were really looking forward to going there after the unforgettable experiences we had in the Statendam's Tamarind! So much so that we prebooked two nights with them! what a let down it was this time! It started right from the beginning, the receptionist was cold, absent, indifferent and unfriendly, she was talking to us, looking at the computer but never at us, the sommelier was a very sleepy looking woman who gave us the impression that she didn't know were she was and not even what she was doing and to make things worse the place was practically empty giving a very boring atmosphere.
Our waitress was quite nice and the fillet mignon was one of the best I ever had but regardless,y that wasn't enough for us; the reason? we do believe though the food is indeed very important, if the staff around you are not up to standard, that's a place not to go back to again. And that's what we did the following morning - we cancelled our second reservation.. The Maitre'd (another negative point) called us a couple of times trying to convince us to go back even offering a free meal but we couldn't care less and did not accept it.
Main Dining Room
Fwd. on Decks 2 & 3 (though only opens for the majority of guests on D 2); the food offerings were quite diverse and quality, temperature and presentation were excellent and the servers, sommelier and staff in general were outstanding. It comes to mind that one of them whose name is Dennis was an exemplary server who went out of his way to help us when we had a small problem leaving the Dining Room. Both Gala Nights took place there (it’s recommended making reservations before-hand especially if you like a table for two) and we were happy to see that people in general were dressed accordingly and not like what happened on the Statendam; (if interested read our review on that cruise of June 19th, 2019.).
Mid-ship on D 9 close to the pool, opens only for lunch and offers great burgers (seven specialty ones or create your own), huge hot dogs and the best fries on the ship. Waiters/waitresses are all around ready to take your order. Very pleasant and tranquil area to enjoy a relaxing lunch, many tables to choose from with a lot of space between them, but....but....with a caveat, many times tables that were there clearly for eating purposes were taken up by a group of people playing cards or dominoes or even just having a drink; this is one of the things, among others, that those type of passengers were absolutely selfish with complete disregard for the other passengers; we saw many people coming with plates loaded up with food looking for a table to sit and eat, quite upsetting! It is a problem but with a very easy solution; just place a note on each table stating that the table should be used only to have your lunch and of course the waiting staff has to keep an eye out to make sure that the tables are used for eating not reading or gaming.
New York Deli & Pizza
On D 10 overlooking the pool deck and also the Dive-in eatery. This was the place we chose on embarkation day after walking around the ship; we knew already how good their pizza was and can highly recommend both the "Tribeca" and the "Central Park" they're awesome!, as much as their salads and sandwiches. The service is excellent with a waiters/waitresses going around taking your drink orders and also in the same area is a bar where you can go and order for yourself if in a hurry. In general we had lunch many times in these two places (NYD&P & D-in) because they are and feel very airy, giving you the sensation you are having lunch outdoors! But in actual fact, the glass roof was often ¾ shut which was often good because direct sunlight made everything very hot.The problem with some passengers occupying tables rather than eating only happened occasionally.
Lido Market Buffet
Located on Aft. D 9, between the Dive-in and the Sea view Pool and Bar. The selection of food was quite large and of great taste but the place was always very busy with too many line ups and my God! those chairs at the tables are ridiculously heavy and difficult to move! Regardless the huge windows all around you looking at the ocean and the sky, you still feel that you are inside a room and that was the main reason we were more inclined to have lunch at any of the other two (Dive in & NY Deli) venues. It was so easy to order or choose your food, there is more space between tables, very easy to move around, and chairs are manageable! But the most important thing was that you really felt you were having lunch outdoors.
There is a fantastic feature that the Lido Market has and we think HAL should consider the possibility of installing them in all of the other eating places. There are hand washing machines, four of them located near the main entrances. Each unit is divided into two sections, one for each hand. You just introduce your hands all the way up to the wrists and then a circulating spiral like spray washes your hands for about 12 seconds. You have to be careful not to get your shirt cuff or watch wet but the system is most efficient. Then you use nearby paper towels to dry off. There is quite a messy area around both openings due to all the liquids that drip off each user's hands. So it's best to wipe down the area afterwards as a courtesy for the next user. A very good system which should help improve overall buffet hygiene.
Grand Dutch Cafe
Mid ship D 3 A lot of offerings are free of charge like regular coffee (but not espressos), pastries, sandwiches. Good service, kind of dis-attached, and the area where the tables and chairs are, we found it very oppressive and too close between them. We went there only once.
There is another Specialty Restaurant called Rudy's Sel de Mer on Mid ship D 2, but we didn't care to go. Many times we went by and the place was quite empty, so..... As you can see there are a lot of choices, try to make the right ones!
The place to enjoy a great view with a good drink in your hands is the Crow's Nest, Fwd. on D 12 where also you can order coffee and pastries for a fee. There are a lot of Lounges and Bars throughout the ship, it will be up to you to discover them! Small hint, a very good one is the Sea View and Bar Fwd. on D 9.
Elite Beverage Package - is it worth it?
At a 10% premium over the standard beverage package, it was not really worth the outlay but from a point of convenience and status I would have to say it fit our style.
The biggest issue was with availability of high priced wines. The standard package covers up to $11 per glass or shot while the elite goes up to $15 and both are actually worth more as the service charge is included and added onto the above rates. Unfortunately there are not many offerings in the range of $12 thru $15 and most are 12 and the few remaining are 14 or 15. Added to that, we experienced shortages on our 10 day cruise. At the first Gala in the main dining room we enjoyed but one glass of an excellent French red and then had to switch. This also happened later in the Polo Grill. And even our favorite Pinot Grigio ran out in most bars by day 8 of the cruise. And it was only a $9 glass. So Holland American made some money on us. The best you can and should do make your own numbers.
Koningsdam cruise staff
They were all extremely helpful, polite, friendly and fun, inevitably there were a few exceptions but on the overall they didn't count at all. I will repeat again what I said at the beginning, all these are our own experiences and opinions of this specific cruise itinerary, date and ship. Some of those on our sailing might disagree and that's natural.
I would like to mention something we noticed about the passengers on this cruise; besides the already mentioned age and physical condition, there was a huge number of obese and morbidly obese passengers that mostly weren't too old; I was observing them eating and well!!! It wasn't difficult to realize why they were so overweight. This observation made me conclude that unintentionally the cruise lines are promoting obesity as much as alcoholism. In my opinion, they should take this under consideration and try to find a solution to those problems. All this might sound ridiculous but it’s in the way I feel.
The ship in general was in very good shape, considering that she sails constantly and passengers are not very careful using the premises. We had the feeling that the ship was overcrowded! during the day, even in port, it was difficult to find a table on the Lido, Dive in or Sun Deck & Bar (Fwd. D 11). Never happened to us on any of the many cruises we've been to, especially when the ship is docked in port.
We are closing this review now and really hope you had an entertaining time reading it! and learned a few things. Right now, we are living in very frustrating times, when it is impossible to make any plans because we don't know what will happen next.
My philosophy is to keep myself very busy around the house that happy to say I really enjoy doing, to think positively, to try not to pay too much attention to the news and to take care of yourself and love ones specially when leaving your house and to wear disposable latex medical gloves, face masks to cover your nose and mouth and to keep a safe distance between you and people around you and please! do not let your kids go running loose all over the place (e.g. food stores). I am sure you know all of this but I feel compelled to do so whenever I have a chance.
Well dear readers, till we meet again in more happy times I am sure! Make the best of it and a very Happy Easter to all!
Cabin - Vista Suite 6123
Great location, good sized cabin, good storage as long as you have the knack to find places to use, location of closets too narrow without enough space for two persons and in direct contact with bathroom door meaning that when opening that door it was not possible to use the closet, veranda comfortable and spacious enough for two persons to fully enjoy it, comfy beds, etc.etc., in general a good cabin. Another point that comes to mind is the very small table provided; we only used it for breakfast and it was really problematic. It was very heavy and difficult to move around and generally got in the way most of the time.
The big issue was the size and facilities in the bathroom and though it is exactly like the one in the Statendam, for whatever reason this time its defects were more noticeable The shower is of a good size and everything in there worked well. * Issues 1) The location of the toilet is very awkward and uncomfortable. 2) Counter and sink ridiculously small! and 3) Storage minimal. In one word, except for the shower stall, the place wasn't pleasant.
The stateroom Assistants were two guys (Dewi and Herman) who complemented each other perfectly, having our cabin always spotless albeit that we never left a mess when leaving the suite. We have great consideration for all staff having to work so many cabins and knowing very well that in general passengers expect them to put in order the mess they left behind. I know what I am saying because we took a peek when the clean up was going on and doors were open; it was hard to believe our eyes! And we were wondering if those people have any respect for themselves. Besides that high quality work, these guys were fantastic towel animal makers! especially Dewi whose picture of his creation (a swan) you will see on the attached pictures.
Luckily we avoided delays in arrival to ship because we took an experienced hotel transfer driver. Otherwise by taxi, we would have spent many dollars and twice as much time.
We were on our own and we really think you don't need to book a tour for this one. We were very lucky that ours was the only ship at the island but anyway once you get near the beach, you realize how busy it is so if you would like some place more private you have the option to take the Tram (the Station is just there) that will take you all the way to the Dining Pavilion (lunch is free) or walk along the pathway, as we did, and when finding the place of your liking, you will find lots of empty lounges and umbrellas at no charge. We had a fantastic swim in those out of this world blue waters, a blue we had never ever seen in all our many beach experiences. Really outstanding. After sunning for quite a while we had a great lunch (excellent broiled chicken breast and beef burger, salads and desserts), with a very good white wine (at extra cost as EBP it's not accepted). After enjoying every moment we left towards the ship, very happy indeed after spending a great time on that beautiful island that in our minds epitomizes paradise.
We've been there several times so we went out for a while coming back to the ship, with the idea of having a more tranquil atmosphere. How wrong we were!!! At any rate we did our best to enjoy the rest of that sunny and warm day.
This was our first time in Amber Cove and first with the mentioned Shore Excursion Group on a tour called "Playa Dorada beach day" 4 Hrs - From the ship to reach the Tour bus we had to walk, I should say meandering through the port and parking lots and approach road for about 30 minutes and though it was early in the morning it was quite hot, humid and sunny; not a very good start. However, the tour guide was a very pleasant young girl as well as her assistant; going around showing the city we saw (but not visited) the Cathedral San Felipe Apostle, Fort San Felipe and from afar the Teleferico that goes all the way to the top of Pico Isabel de Torres, pity we didn't go there because the view would've been superb. After all that city sightseeing we headed to Playa Dorada; a very expansive beach, with quite a few places to eat or have drinks and with lounges and umbrellas close the shore. There are several All Inclusive resorts nearby but they did not make the beach seem crowded at all. Very private indeed and not being busy helped a lot. The waters were quite turbulent and having the red flag up, we decided to skip going in for a swim. Decided to wait for lunch till getting back on the ship and that's what we did once on board. In general, except that very long walk to reach the tour bus, it was quite a pleasant excursion especially as our group was only eight people.
Our second outing with the same Excursion Group. The tour's name was "Klein Bonaire Water Taxi" towards the No Name uninhabited Island and it lasted 3 hours and was also our first time on Bonaire. This choice of ours was a huge, tremendous mistake, I have no idea what was wrong with us when we booked it! Just picture this: there are no facilities of any kind! meaning no chairs, no tables, no bathrooms! On top of that it was very windy and the beach though very long was completely uneven. It was a total disaster; indeed it is the right place for those ones with the ‘Survivor Island’ spirit or temperament and if you like to snorkel or scuba dive, I think they had such equipment for rent (the area has a huge spans of choral), but we didn't take the tour for that reason. You might ask what was the reason? No idea what the reason was!! Probably just to get of the ship. At the moment it was possible to get off that island and back to shore, we took it and jumped very happily back onto the catamaran and left! for good!! never again in that place! not even to snorkel or scuba! Besides, the attendant said that it was “always windy” there. Wind never fits well with sand nor swimming nor sunning.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We've been there before so no tours. On walking around, right away we noticed how much it had changed from our last time there (around 4 or 5 years ago) and besides the ship docked as far as possible from the port. Naturally it was hot, humid and sunny so we didn't go all the way into the center of town not even getting close to the famous Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge but we had a great lunch in a Restaurant located inside Fort Amsterdam on the second or third floor of the fortification walls on a covered veranda facing the sea; it was a very pleasant and refreshing experience.
Regardless we've been there before, we decided to take a tour to be able to see some unknown areas and went again with our Excursion Group "Explore Aruba Tour" 4 Hs. It was another huge flop! We believe the main culprit was the tour guide who also did the driving (this never happened before on any of many tours we have taken over the years). The guy lacked any type of social skills, being vulgar and loud and we do believe he wasn't a tour guide at all - probably only employed to drive busses. No need to tell you in detail the so many unpleasant moments we all had, the only thing to say is, never again with the Shore Excursions Group and we suggest you shouldn't either.View All undefined undefined Reviews