Koningsdam Cruise Review by Niele da Kine
- Sail Date: November 2018
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Standard Interior Stateroom
For this cruise, we started out leaving the port in Civitavecchia near Rome. We got into Rome four days early to make sure we didn't miss the ship. Plus, hey! It's ROME! We had a BnB near the Vatican and had a great four days before the ship visiting the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, etc., etc. There's loads to look at in Rome and the food is insanely good. Hmm, well, considering how fussy they are about how their food is grown, maybe it's 'sanely' good. Prior to Rome, I'd have graded the ship's food much higher, but after the food, coffee & croissants we had in Rome, well, now I have a higher standard for 'excellent' food.
We caught a shuttle bus from Rome to the ship and the shuttle dropped us off right at the ramp to the ship. The shuttle driver handed our luggage to the ship's porters so it was a good thing we had them tagged and ready. I'm pretty sure it was Rome Cabs who operated the shuttle. We arranged the pickup online and they showed up on time and everything was very easy and convenient.
The Koningsdam is a nice ship. It's one of the larger ones in the HAL fleet and newer, but it just didn't quite seem like a 'real' cruise ship to us. The decor was more 'fancy floating hotel' than 'cruise ship'. Not much nautical decor, and it didn't compare well to the Westerdam that we'd taken last year through the Panama Canal. We did like the Grand Dutch Cafe, but we preferred the Westie for most other things.
Some of the surprising things were the lack of decoration in the hallways. The hallways are really long and boring, lack of any artwork doesn't help that. There were also no seating in the elevator lobby areas. Why no seats near the elevators? The classic wooden seats with the ship's name on them are also strangely missing as well. I think I saw one or maybe two of them, but they were very few and far between. The promenade deck exterior walkway has become a narrow track with no seats there, either.
Shall we mention that the teak decks on the promenade are actually plastic sheeting? That just lacks authenticity. Perhaps that's the complaint throughout the ship, it lacks an authentic 'cruise ship' vibe. But, maybe that's what they're trying to achieve?
The ship, as a ship, is a very excellent ship even if we are less than enthusiastic about some of the decor. The captain, Noel O'Driscoll, while he seems young to be a captain of such a large ship is a most excellent captain. When we embarked in Civitavecchia, we were the last ship to leave the port until after a hurricane came and went. Apparently, there was a ship scheduled to come in the next day (not a HAL ship) but it wouldn't be able to arrive because of the storm. I wonder how that works? It's one thing for a passenger to miss the ship, but what happens when the ship misses the passengers? Well, anyway, I digress, back to the review of the Koningsdam.
The hurricane effects we saw were mostly that the ship was slightly tilted. There didn't seem to be much up and down or side to side swaying, mostly it was a slight tilt. Enough that the coffee cups were trying to commit suicide by sliding off tables, but not much more than that. Seems odd there wasn't some sort of rubber grippers on the bottom of the plates and cups, but generally cruise ships aren't in hurricanes. There were crashes of things in the dining areas, spills of food and dishes, the servers on the Lido were stacking things in the window ledges on the downhill side so they wouldn't slide off the tables. The wind was howling, the ship was slightly tilted, the crew was uneasy but they were hiding it well.
From a passenger's viewpoint, it was almost a non-event. Rumor among the passengers later was that it had been seventy mile an hour sustained winds and gusts up to a hundred and thirty. Which would be an official hurricane in my book. Captain O'Driscoll is being shifted to the new ship HAL is launching, I think that's an excellent choice considering how well he handled that hurricane. (But, I'm just a passenger, I really know nothing of that sort of thing.)
The cruise director, Benjamin Yates, is a really likable fellow. Which would be a job requirement, one would think. It must be difficult for him to find things for the passengers to do when he's got such a wide variety of passengers to work with. On the TransAtlantic crossing, the median age of the passengers was quite high. Once we got the next group of passengers (we were doing a back to back cruise) in Fort Lauderdale, I'd guess the average age of the passengers dropped by at least three decades.
Personally, I'd like to see HAL instigate 'maker' classes or activities. It could be sold as 'craft' groups to the older cruisers. Somewhat similar to the 'America's Test Kitchens' venue that they have except about something other than cooking. I'd guess a jewelry making event would perhaps do well or something similar? Oh, and if I was cruise director, there'd be races for the limited mobility folks on scooters. Mark out a track, put out outlines of toes that they could get points for running over and have timed races. Woot! Probably it's a good thing they don't let me be cruise director.
Another thing which could be a good thing for the ship to do would be at least a digital library with perhaps book readers folks could rent for the cruise if they didn't bring their own. A digital library wouldn't take up any space and yet still be a library. I really miss the real libraries they used to have on board HAL ships. Hmm, maybe 'book club' meetings on board? That could be digitally done. Pick a book about a cruise ship, a light and happy book that can be quickly read and have the book club meet every several days? Or meet every day to discuss the chapters they've already read? Well, again, I'm not cruise director.
HAL's claim to fame - in my estimation at least - is their excellent service. Which, seems a bit less on the Koningsdam than the Westerdam. That may be from the higher ratio of passengers to crew or we may have had a higher expectation of service on the K'dam than the Westie. The service was excellent.
The food in the Lido is really good, although on this ship there was less of it that was available without being served by the server at the station. Occasionally, there would be lines to get some food items but they were generally short lines. If one didn't want to wait in line, there's some items that can be picked up without waiting but the nicest choices are usually served and may or may not involve some waiting in a line.
We would frequently eat in the main dining room in self defense. The Lido doesn't have limits on things that show up on your plate and there's too much good stuff there for us to be left alone there for long. In the main dining room, there's a menu to order from and other folks putting proper sizes of portions on the plate so we don't over eat. I'd like to see smaller portion sizes myself. Frequently we just want a taste of something, not really a whole meal of it. Kinda like a tapas party verses a real meal.
There was disappointment at tea time, however. It wasn't the more proper tea service where the chest of tea is presented for selection of tea. It was pre-brewed Tetley tea. What's with that?
The entertainment was pretty good, I think our favorite was a visiting entertainer, Hilby, who was listed as a German juggler/comedian of all things. There were usually loungers available for the evening movie on the Lido deck. There were usually loungers available at the Lido deck around the pools during the day as well. There were a lot more folks in the pools on the Caribbean portion of the cruise. Very few on the TA portion.
We only took one ship's tour and that was in Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. It was a bus ride on an interesting vehicle to a cove for some powered snorkeling from a boat. The Dominican Republic isn't quite the sort of port one would want to wander around in by oneself, in my estimation anyway. The bus was sort of a cross between and open air farm wagon and a bus. We rode pretty high in the air and the driver was in a separate compartment. It was interesting seeing the rural area and towns along the way. If there's a small motorcycle with a woman holding groceries sitting sidesaddle on the back with a driver wearing an orange vest, then that's a taxi motorcycle. They were everywhere and it took awhile before we figured out how the passengers were related to the drivers.
The powered snorkeling was interesting, although the undersea life was much better in Bonaire. The snorkeling ship captain was Carlos who had trained herds of fishes waiting for the snorkel boat to arrive. Also, if he gives you a shopping opportunity at the small shops next to the snorkeling cove, take him up on it. One of the Dominican Republic items is a blue stone called 'laramar' and the shops at the cruise port charge about six times the prices asked by the small shop near the snorkeling cove.
Overall, there was very little waiting in line on the ship. Embarkation was less than twenty minutes and disembarkation was a lot shorter. We used Mobile Passport which is an app on our cellphones at Port Everglades. We walked off the ship after waiting about three minutes in a line to get off the ship. Then walked to the luggage waiting area, gathered our luggage and walked to the long, long customs line. To the side of that long line is the 'Mobile Passport' line which had nobody in it. We were frantically trying to open our passports while walking to the front of the line. The inspector still looks at the paper passport even when using Mobile Passport on the phone and we're supposed to have them open to the picture page before you get to the inspector.
Holland America Line is a good cruise line. They consistently give excellent service, which is what they are best known for as far as I know. The Koningsdam is a good choice of ship and the TransAtlantic crossing or any itinerary that gives multiple sea days is a lovely thing. I wasn't sure what to expect with a week's worth of ship days but it was quite lovely to not have to scurry about as we do on a port day. As usual, a lot of the joys of cruising is meeting and chatting with the other passengers and multiple sea days is perfect for this.
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The nicest part of it was the shower, very large for on a cruise ship. Much bigger, actually, than the one at the BnB in Rome, but that's not part of the ship review. Lovely shampoo/conditioner/shower gel dispenser on the shower wall. Nice pull across string for drying swim suits in the shower. Nice glass door and nice shower head with water temperature that can be picked by choosing the degree of water wanted.
We did have adequate storage space. The bed was large and lovely. The pillows nice, the towels soft, the actual furnishings were lovely, it's just not much space between them. There was no where to eat in the cabin other than on the bed but we didn't get the cabin to spend much time in it so that wasn't an issue. When someone is sitting at the desk, there's no room to move past them. That's pretty much the standard, though, in an inside cabin - room for one person to move around at a time.
The strangest thing in the cabin was the light switch. It required a card - one would suppose a ship's card was intended to be the card used - in a slot in order for the lights to work. The lights by the bed would work without a card, but the overhead and bathroom lights wouldn't work unless there was a card in the slot. I suppose it's to keep the lights out when folks aren't in their cabins, but it's a bit awkward when one has the ship's card in a plastic carry case on a lanyard.
For us, the sheer lack of humidity in the cabin was a huge problem. We live in a really humid climate and the dryness of the cabin meant we were waking up every several hours to drink water to moisten our mouth. Which then meant we'd be waking up in awhile because we'd drank so much water. Ooops! There is some variation in the cabin's temperature available, I didn't find anything for adjusting the humidity other than lots of showers and wedging the shower door open.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Amber CoveIn this port we took a ship's tour and had an interesting day going off to a snorkeling cove. The bus ride through the countryside and small towns gave us a fairly authentic although somewhat gritty view of the Dominican Republic.View All 689 Amber Cove Cruise Port Reviews
There seemed to be a big swimming pool and other things available to do in the port, although we didn't go to see that since we had a pretty full day with the powered snorkeling tour.
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ArubaAruba would probably be a LOT more interesting if it hadn't been a Sunday and about eighty five percent of everything was closed. There was an interesting parade through town for Saint Nicolas. Note: St. Nicolas is NOT Santa Claus. St. Nick rides a white horse and brings presents to folks on the morning of December 6th. They aren't wrapped and apparently arrive on the breakfast table from the reports I heard. Santa Claus also shows up on his scheduled day, so there's two days of presents in December if you live in the right place.View All 1,628 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
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BonaireBonaire was a lovely port. We got the yellow water taxi in the line up off folks offering services right off the ship and went on their first run of the day. It wasn't planned that way, it was sheer coincidence on our part. Apparently, on the first run of the day, the water taxi goes off to Spice/Cocoa Beach (it apparently has multiple names) then it head off to Little Bonaire, which is an uninhabited island that has excellent snorkeling. If you want, they will land the folks on the island and then take the folks who want to snorkel about a half mile up the beach and boot them off into the water. We took them up on this option and it was absolutely excellent. You do need to have your own snorkel gear, though, so be sure to pack it with you before you get onto the ship.View All 592 Bonaire Cruise Port Reviews
We drifted with the current and there was loads of different corals to view and fishes to see. It was a lovely experience. The water taxi reappears every hour so one can choose when to leave. We drifted slowly so we weren't ready the first time it came back. We took it back to shore on the second reappearance and it was perfect. The water taxi was $15 for a round trip.
After the water taxi drift snorkel, we walked through Bonaire town. As usual, the places further away from the ship had better prices. We picked up some souvenirs at an assortment of craft booths that were towards the middle of town. I suspect they have them there on ship days.
View Cruise Critic's Bonaire Cruise Port Review
CuracaoThis was a get off the ship and walkabout town sort of port. The floating bridge was interesting and if it's not in place there's a ferry boat to take across the river. We found the Old Market which was over near the Floating Market. That was interesting. Floating Market is mostly a few fishing boats selling fish, so not much of interest for cruise ship folks other than photo opportunities. Old Market is in a circular building with a rick-rack roof, you'll know it when you see it. There was also a museum over there that we almost went into but got distracted by the market and missed it.View All 1,235 Curacao Cruise Port Reviews
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Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)Fort Lauderdale is mostly an embarkation/disembarkation port. Walking to the drug store can be done but it's a really long and hot walk. Taking a taxi to either the shops or to the hop on hop off boat would possibly be a good option if this is an 'intransit' port during a back to back cruise.View All 1,907 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) Cruise Port Reviews
If disembarking here, load the 'Mobile Passport' app on your cellphone and save tons of time when getting off the boat.
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Grand TurkMost of the poor review for this port was because we shared the small port with another cruise ship. The port can't quite handle two large ships at the same time. To get to the rest of the island, one needs transportation of some sort. There's a small beach right off the ship, but if there's two ships in port, it's pretty crowded. There's a big bar with swimming pool, but if there's two big ships in port, it's pretty crowded.View All 2,064 Grand Turk Cruise Port Reviews
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Half Moon CayThis island is privately owned by the cruise line. It has a lovely swimming beach, lots of sea side loungers, very poor snorkeling and a pretty good picnic lunch although longer lines than usual for a lunch time event. Possibly because most everyone is at the beach and there's basically only one spot for lunch.View All 1,165 Half Moon Cay Cruise Port Reviews
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