Classic Style Meets Modern Twist Onboard Koningsdam

by Ming Tappin

Sleek furnishings and lighter colour scheme are found throughout the Koningsdam - indoors and out

Classic meets modern twist - just one of the many exotic flower arrangements onboard Koningsdam

Modern sculptures are a departure from the usual paintings

BB King's Blues Club was a happening place every night

Music is everywhere onboard the Koningsdam, even in the flowers

Culinary Arts Center is now a specialty dining venue featuring a cooking demonstration of your dinner

Holland America hosted more than 300 travel partners on the Koningsdam's 1st cruise out of FLL. The 4 night North American inaugural sailing to the Bahamas also carried revenue guests and HAL executives including President Orlando Ashford. 

The buzz on this ship is of course the move to a more contemporary look and feel for the brand. Having toured HAL's last newbuild Nieuw Amsterdam, I was prepared for the modernity of the Koningsdam, but it fully exceeded my expectations. In short, HAL applied a modern twist to its tried and true classical features with great success.

In addition to the expected lighter colour scheme and sleek furnishings, the Koningsdam is adorned with contemporary sculptures, photography, collages and mixed media works - a departure from the usual oil paintings and bronzes. Even the omnipresent fresh flower arrangements have received an innovative makeover; spectacular arrangements now feature orchids mixed with amaryllis, bamboo with hydrangea, gladiolas with birds of paradise and many other exotic blooms.

My taste buds were equally tantalized and satisfied at every dining venue. HAL has reached the pinnacle of dining through the newly created Culinary Council headed by charming & congenial master chef Rudi Sodamin. All specialty restaurants, including the first ever a la carte seafood brasserie Sel de Mer, is well worth the upcharge. I have sailed HAL 4 previous times and this is the first time that I recall the food being so memorable. 

The much hyped entertainment venues Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King's Blues Club & Billboard Onboard did not disappoint. All were well attended, and the World Stage with its surrounding video screens and stage-in-the-round is a departure from the standard show theatre. The dramatic performance of a BBC Earth documentary brought to life by the Lincoln Center Stage ensemble and house musicians dazzled the audience. HAL has not been particularly well known for their entertainment – that too has now changed.

Onboard, I had the pleasure of meeting first time cruisers, first time HAL guests as well as veteran Mariners including a couple who has sailed HAL 27 times. First timers were indeed impressed with the hardware and onboard offerings. One millennial guest commented that she could enjoy the nightlife while her parents took in the quieter activities, and everyone is happy. Travel Partners were equally impressed, ranging from newbie Kerri Campbell of Tourico Holidays who was on her first HAL cruise, to Expedia CruiseShipCenters veterans Elaine Kirwin, Noreen Baker & Barbara Uyede who have been on, and sold countless cruises. All agree their HAL clients will love the new ship and the enhanced experiences.

Our gracious host and HAL President Orlando Ashford was down to earth and personable with everyone onboard. He could be seen out and about daily, engaging with fellow guests, observing the traffic flow at each venue, and asking for feedback and suggestions for improvement. Many guests commented on how special they felt to have the privilege of meeting the company President. I also spoke to Michael Smith, S.V.P. Guest Experience & Product Development for HAL. Michael is responsible in reviewing all onboard guest feedback and he tells me there has been nothing but positive reviews for the ship so far. With Mariners making up about 55% of guests on an average sailing, HAL is certainly taking good notes and is continuously improving the experience according to their guests' wishes. 

With these innovations, the widespread notion that HAL is out to attract a younger age group isn't 100% accurate. Instead of studying demographics, HAL is focusing on guest psychographics, which analyzes travellers' personality, values, interests and lifestyles.

HAL has perfected cruising over the last 140 years by attracting new cruisers and retaining loyal followers. With the Koningsdam, her upcoming sister Nieuw Statendam (launching 2018) and the existing classic fleet, HAL will certainly be sailing smoothly into the next 140.

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 39 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of

Two vivacious VIPs - HAL President Orlando Ashford & Master
Chef Rudi Sodamin

Kerri Campbell, Tourico Holidays enjoyed her first HAL cruise
with her mother Gail

(L to R) Noreen Baker, Barbara Uyede & Elaine Kirwin,
Expedia CruiseShipCenters with Chris Thurlow, HAL

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