HAL’s Koningsdam comes to America
Article Published: Monday, February 20, 2017
Editor’s Note: The Koningsdam repositioned from its debut in Europe to Fort Lauderdale last November for its 2016 inaugural in America. K.D. Leperi was invited to experience the Koningsdam on a 3-day itinerary in the Caribbean.
While the Koningsdam was officially rolled out in Europe in early 2016, it repositioned to Fort Lauderdale in November 2016 for its inaugural introduction to America. A Caribbean itinerary along with a stop at Holland America's private island was the debut itinerary, and lucky me, I was on it.
Rounding the corner at Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, I was confronted with the gigantic profile of Holland America's newest ship in almost seven years – the Koningsdam with passenger capacity of 2,650 guests. The first of a new platform of ships named the Pinnacle Class, the Koningsdam is a marriage of poshness wedded with contemporary design while extoling the virtues of light.
I was reticent on what I might experience on this mega ship as most of my sailings have been on quiet river waters with a passenger capacity usually under 200. Dynamics are definitely different and I wasn't sure I would embrace the departure from what I was accustomed to on smaller ships.
My worries proved to be groundless as I quickly discovered the joys a large liner can offer. From a variety of dining choices ranging from casual and concept-based to fresh microgreens and upscale, I could already taste the divergence. And then there was the music to my ears. I was unprepared for the multitude of musical venues – and found that I could choose from several competing styles to match my mood. Classical, R&B, country, pop, and top hits, I decided to sample them all during our brief cruise.
The ship itself is a fluid designer statement and a resounding attestation to modern conveniences seamlessly coupled with sleek details. An airiness pervades all spaces – one that embraces an architectural rhythm of curves, chrome, and musicality. It didn't take me long to fall in love with my new environment.
As Holland America's largest cruise liner, the Koningsdam celebrates music throughout the ship's design and décor. The line enlisted Adam D. Tihany, one of the world's pre-eminent hospitality designers with distinguished maritime designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten to produce innovative concepts and contemporary styling purposed specifically to engage the senses.
The musical theme extends to the labeling of four of the decks – Deck 4 is Beethoven, Deck 5 is Gershwin, Deck 6 is Mozart and Deck 7 is Schubert. Whimsical art continues the musical theme and can be found decorating the hallways, stairway space, and even in the convergence of architectural lines – some suggesting a harp.
The Song and Sound of Koningsdam – The Music Walk
From Koningsdam's super-tech and state-of-the-art World Stage showcasing symphonic video productions such as BBC Earth's Frozen Planet to not one, but three music venues on the epicenter Music Walk featuring blues, rock and pop, and classical; Holland America takes cruising with the senses to a new level with its art, dance, music, vibrant energy and space age technology.
The Koningsdam features The Music Walk – an epicenter of entertainment and the location of three different music venues. It is all part of the main corridor that connects the primary dining room with the theater – each at opposite ends. In between is the music, ranging from blues, rock and pop, to classical. There are no walls or dividers separating the competing entertainments, and seating is in open lounges. Unfortunately, this can sometimes sound like a battle of the bands.
Lincoln Center Stage: This lounge showcases leading musicians performing classical selections of chamber music. While at sea, casually drop in to listen to afternoon recitals.
Queen's Lounge/B.B. King's Blues Club: Featuring an eight-piece band from Memphis, the B.B. King's All-Stars Band was a fast favorite of many passengers during my cruise. Listen to soulful strains of R&B that somehow morph into improvised jazz all the while sipping on exotic cocktails with names like Rock Me Baby.
Billboard Onboard: This is the place to go for light-hearted competitive musical talent. Heard of dueling banjos? At the Billboard expect dueling pianists playing contemporary songs.
The World Stage
At the front of decks 2 and 3 is the World Stage, a theater where state-of-the-art technology complements sight and sound to produce engaging extravagances. The ergonomically-designed seating is staggered, ensuring everyone has a prime view of the stage. In the background are LED screens arranged in a 270-degree panorama, along with surround sound that will have you feeling totally immersed in the experience.
One of the shows is a fast-paced musical and dance montage of number one hits from the Billboard charts. The show has a way of finding something for everyone to relate to. At some point you'll find yourself either humming or singing to the hits – especially when nostalgia kicks in. The Whitney Houston moment has to be seen to be believed.
Not to be missed and one of my favorites is the symphonic video production of BBC Earth's Frozen Planet. Holland America has partnered with BBC Earth to bring journeys of discovery in the natural world. A live orchestra will have you spellbound as you are surrounded with stunning visuals of nature's frozen realm. It truly is a penultimate experience for the eyes and ears, transporting you to a new dimension of entertainment.
Choice Dining with Options Galore
For those who love great food, the Koningsdam offers more restaurants than any other ship in the Holland America inventory.
A HAL first is with the introduction of Sel De Mer, the first restaurant with an "a-la-carte" pricing. Painstakingly modeled after a French Bistro, the intimate seafood brasserie is the brain child of Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. A fusion of French culinary techniques with Pacific Northwest seafood ingredients, the wildly popular bistro offers ocean flavors ranging from classic baked escargots and a trio of seafood salad (crab meat, North Sea shrimp, and tuna) to Bouillabaisse Marseillaise and Dover Sole Fillet Meuni?re.
One of my favorite concepts exclusive to the Koningsdam is the farm-to-table dining theme so aptly integrated into the Culinary Arts Center. Not just a cooking demonstration as it is on most HAL ships, the up-charge venue features chefs in the evening who expertly narrate food as it is being prepared and served to guests.
Many dishes feature microgreens, fresh ingredients grown onboard in the ship's Culinary Arts Center with special "purple" lights. Considered a first in the cruising industry, Holland America has partnered with Koppert Cress of the Netherlands, a company that specializes in cresses – pungent leaves of any of numerous cruciferous herbs that give dishes unique tastes, aroma, texture and appearance. Flavors range from garlic, mustard and licorice and are expertly paired with dishes to bring out the best in complementary flavors.
The ever-popular Lido Market buffet-style dining is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dedicated specialty sections line the deck and include sandwiches, salads, comfort food, international specialties, and desserts.
Don't miss trying the special hand-crafted pistachio gelato by the pool. There is a charge of $2 for a single scoop, but it is so worth it. Word spread so quickly amongst passengers about the delectable delight that I had a personal concern they might run out before I tried it.
The Crow's Nest Observation Lounge
I wish I had discovered the Crow's Nest before my last day, for I would have spent much of my time up there, with an elevated and commanding view of the ocean. I loved the casual modern décor with splashes of red for vigor. There were cakes and tasting morsels for mid-day snacking that I will have to try next voyage.
Holland America has set a new bar with the Pinnacle Class and in particular with the introduction of the Koningsdam. As Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America put it: "We continue to do what we have always done and to do it even better."
With 1,331 non-smoking cabins in nine categories on the Koningsdam, room sizes range from 143-square feet to 1,290 square feet for the Pinnacle Suite. Beds are extremely comfortable featuring Mariner's Dream Beds that include Euro-top mattresses. Personal amenities are from the Elemis brand with shampoo, conditioner, body gel, and moisturizer replenished as needed. Extra-large Egyptian cotton bath towels and bathrobes are nice touches along with the super-sized showers.