What Makes Holland America’s Koningsdam So Glam This is not your mother's HAL!
by Vanessa Lee
Queen Máxima of the Netherlands with Captain Emiel de Vries’s daughter Tess at the christening ceremony.
Queen Máxima performing the blessing of the ship's bell as Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse looks on.
The central public areas on decks 2 and 3 with the Dutch Café and harp sculpture
The two-tiered pool area with magrodome roof
Music Walk & BB King’s
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to sail on the newest Holland America ship, the very glamorous Koningsdam, 1st in their new Pinnacle Class.
successfully christened last week by Queen M
áxima of The Netherlands in Rotterdam – a nod to the cruise line’s 143 plus years of Dutch
history and affiliation with the port.
The 1st thing you need to know – this is not your Mother’s Holland America. This is an invigorated brand and ship for this decade and on. She is light, lively, sexy and remarkably beautiful. If you read my brief report from Europe several weeks ago then you will know I described her effusively and I am incredibly impressed with what HAL has achieved with this vessel. A new era at sea has begun for such a venerable and highly regarded company.
Let me explain why this ship is different, and what both you and your clients are going to like about Koningsdam.
The design of the ship is truly spectacular and as you walk through the main public areas which are mostly on Decks 2 and 3, it is obvious that everything flows and comes together really well. These decks are your primary entertainment and dining decks anchored by a 3 storey atrium and the most exquisite sculpture installation – in the shape of a harp. This anchors the resounding theme throughout the ship which is music, whether in large spaces or through whimsical and clever design, art and installations. There is surprise and delight around virtually every corner. All décor and furnishings are really very beautiful – she is truly a very elegant feast for the eyes.
Music Walk which includes the re-imagined and simply glorious 2 storey Queen’s Room with its violin-shaped curves is fantastic. This is where B.B. King’s All-Stars is located and which offers great entertainment almost nightly with lots of dancing and lively times. Yes, you heard me, “lively times”!
Nearby is Billboard Onboard and then across from it is the open area for Lincoln Center Stage. This part of the ship works well, is packed nightly at various times and is a sure-fire hit with the guests. Cleverly done and designed. As an example a daily program in Music Walk would be: late afternoon matinees at Lincoln Center with a 5.15 show featuring music titled French Connection, followed by a 6.30 pre-dinner concert named “Fresh Perspectives”. Billboard then has a 7.45 show of “Great Standards” followed by a 9 p.m. show of “ 1960’s” music and then to end the night, a 10.15 performance of “Icons”. As well, B.B. King’s has their great band and singers performing at 8.15, 9.45 and 11 p.m. So guests can move about in this area, catch pre and post dinner shows and all genres of music. A huge hit in every way!
The dining onboard was really excellent overall with my personal favourites being Sel de Mer, a new addition adjacent to the ever-popular and wonderful Pinnacle Grill. These 2 share a kitchen but are quite different in style and taste and menu composition. The meal at Sel de Mer (a la carte pricing) was the best of the week with the freshest and tastiest sea food – a delicate Branzino offered with a wonderful sauce and lovely accompaniments. The restaurant is small and elegant but with that French brasserie feel - and service was superb.
Another delicious, more casual dinner was enjoyed at Canaletto, a part of the Lido Café but clearly defined as a separate area at the entry to the large buffet area and which, at night, is transformed to have a trattoria feel with white napery and a tasty, enjoyable menu of Italian favourites. The charge for Canaletto is just $10 per person for dinner with reservations recommended.
We also had the chance to enjoy the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine Magazine. This is a fun and lively spot with a choice of 2 menus for the week, reservations required and with an extra cost. The chefs want you to engage and the menus are a foodie’s dream. There are tables for 2, 4 and larger ones for 6 and 8 which work well for groups onboard. A welcome drink, house wine poured all night and some delightful nibbles prior to the meal make it very worthwhile for the cost of $39. And cooking lessons are offered during the day.
I loved the two-tiered pool area with a magrodome roof to offset any cool or inclement weather. This was another popular spot for not just swimming and sunning but for watching the huge movie screen with many showings of BBC Earth programs as well as movies at night. The top level has sexy white couches contained in slightly scalloped overhangs and the PanoramaBar as well as a great New York deli with the best pizzas and open to 1 a.m. for hungry partiers (and yes there were quite a few onboard!).
Other notable spots – loved, loved, loved the Grand Dutch Café – as did everyone else. Fun and beautiful spot to hang out, have a coffee or some Dutch sweet or savoury treats. Also the World Stage is incredibly impressive – shows were packedand standing O’s were commonplace.
The main dining room is exquisite although I preferred the cuisine in the alternative restaurants and Tamarind for pan-Asian – always a hit. The small touches of orange accents (for Holland) were present throughout, as were fresh flowers and, The Frozen Planet BBC Earth show on World Stage, to the accompaniment of the Lincoln Center Orchestra was breathtaking in every way.
So – this ship is a massive winner. Something different from HAL which is timely with a sophisticated, contemporary style and many innovations. And a sister named Nieuw Statendam will join her in 2018. Loyal and traditional HAL clients will still love the brand but be pleasantly surprised at the welcome and wonderful new entertainment and dining program.
Congratulations Holland America you have given us a remarkable ship – one that will surprise and delight.