Cruise Review: Holland America Line’s Koningsdam

MS Koningsdam

With the recent launch of the groundbreaking 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, Holland America Line (HAL) has — in one fell swoop — refreshed and reenergized the brand with a musical hub, an elevated destination focus and culinary enhancements. Exceeding the incremental changes I had seen in previous HAL newbuilds, Koningsdam’s brighter and more daring interior design not only reflects the modern vision of designer Adam D. Tihany, but also emphasizes the line’s reach for new clientele, all while deftly striking a balance between contemporary and traditional styles.

While paying homage to HAL’s seagoing heritage with familiar public spaces such as Crow’s Nest and Explorer’s Bar, Koningsdam’s substantial departure from past HAL ship design is evidenced most clearly in its gorgeous dining room. With its cream-colored hues, rich feel and dramatic sweeping lines, the dining room makes a bold statement. Other public areas feature light woods and more colors than older sister ships, while white leather sofas and daybeds evoke a South Beach vibe on the upper pool deck. Sculptures, artwork, deck names and venues all follow a musical theme, while the line’s first purpose-built family and single staterooms enhance options for guests.

With a new focus on evening entertainment, HAL has upped the ante in the line’s Music Walk-branded trio of venues by featuring acts curated by prestigious institutions. Whether enjoying the soothing sounds of a five-piece chamber ensemble in Lincoln Center Stage; rocking to the beat of 50 years of pop music history in Billboard Onboard; or grooving to the soulful melodies of B.B. King’s All Stars, guests now have a wide range of high-caliber options in evening musical entertainment.

Main onboard showroom fare has been completely reimagined for the semicircular World Stage, where a 270-degree LED wall envelops both performers and audience members. New production shows such as One World — a music and dance performance featuring acrobatics, hauntingly beautiful music and impressive effects — is sure to wow cruisers. Meanwhile, a contemporary soundtrack courses through other public areas without overwhelming conversation.

While popular specialty restaurants The Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto are represented onboard Koningsdam, master chef Rudi Sodamin has introduced new venues and menus that lure diners in other directions.

In seafood brasserie Sel de Mer — HAL’s first a la carte restaurant — I enjoyed a delicious foie gras appetizer and bouillabaisse, while the casual Grand Dutch Cafe impressed me with authentic apple pancakes and Dutch pea soup. But Culinary Arts Center’s new farm-to-table dinner offers the most novel twist on alternative dining yet. Featuring show chefs and an open kitchen, the trendy menus — think celery and kale risotto and vacuum-poached seabass — are enhanced by microgreens grown in the Center’s CressOmatic “farm” system, adding a freshness factor that was previously unavailable. The $39 charge includes a welcome cocktail and unlimited organic wines.

HAL’s new Lido Market design, which is now rolling out fleetwide, delivers an upscale, international feel while further improving an industry-leading casual dining product. Themed stations present quality cuisine in an attractive, limited self-service environment, and guests are treated to high-quality dishes such as eggs florentine, roast duck, seared ahi tuna, carved leg of lamb and an extensive sushi selection, topped off by interesting demi-desserts and the line’s signature bread pudding.

Bringing the destination onboard, HAL’s Location Guides provide lectures that spotlight history, culture and context prior to port arrivals, while BBC Earth programming further enhances the experience for adults and Club HAL kids. On my sailing, a professional Spanish flamenco troupe entertained an appreciative, packed house in World Stage while the ship was docked in Gibraltar.

Koningsdam is HAL’s largest ship yet, as well as the first ship in the line’s new Pinnacle Class. While these game-changing factors will bring new attention to the line, familiar venues, quality cuisine and the always-warm and diverse crew ensure that the line’s loyal return passengers won’t be disappointed.


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