Cruising Aboard the New Holland America Koningsdam
Don’t be surprised at how, well, surprised you are when you first step onboard Holland America Koningsdam. (Fun fact: koning means “king” in Dutch.) The line’s newest, biggest, and most luxurious ship is meant to be a game changer. And it definitely lives up to the hype.
This is the first of Holland America’s new Pinnacle Class vessels—a second, the Nieuw Statendam, followed in 2018—and instead of the traditional rich colors, mahoganies, and brocades typical on Holland America’s other ships, everything about Koningsdam feels light, stylish, and fresh, from the two-story pool deck with South Beach-style lounge areas to the three-story central atrium with a lofty stainless-steel sculpture inspired by the strings and bows of a classical quartet.
The line’s focus on food and wine has also been taken to another level. There’s a new seafood brasserie that serves fish sourced from markets in local ports, a new multicourse wine-paired dinner at the Culinary Arts Center with ingredients grown fresh in a glass-walled case, and even a new 10-person tasting room where you can blend and bottle your own wine.
But as modern and high-tech as this ship feels, there’s still plenty here that will appeal to fans of Holland America’s other ships, including crowd-pleasing standbys like the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse, and a sophisticated vibe that attracts older couples and multigenerational family groups with tweens and teens. (A tip for families with little ones: Though Koningsdam has a kids’ club, there’s no ice rink or waterslide or ropes course to keep younger children distracted during days at sea.)
Travel + Leisure was recently invited by Holland America to sail on the Koningsdam from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas. Here are some highlights from the ship.
Designer Adam D. Tihany and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten teamed up to create light-drenched interiors filled with curves and artwork that riff on musical instruments: Think cool neon-splashed portraits of Mozart, a sleek sculpture of a cello, and etched wooden guitars hanging over a stairwell. Gone are most of the Old World touches like wood paneling and heavy reds and burgundies. In its place are light color palettes and stylish, airy architectural elements. The exceptions: Pinnacle Grill, which still has the clubby feel of a steakhouse. and Grand Dutch Café, all done up in the blues and whites of traditional Delftware. But in the context of the rest of the ship, these European-influenced spaces feel luxurious, not overwhelming.
All greys and hits of orange, the airy cabins feel larger than they actually are, with lots of storage space in the blonde wood cabinets and smart details like USB ports next to the beds. And the sheer variety of staterooms makes Koningsdam a great ship for groups who need different cabin sizes and price points. There are more than 13 cabin types to choose from, including the 12 single cabins, which start at 127 square feet, and the 32 new family oceanview cabins, which start at 222 square feet and can fit a family of five thanks to the sofa bed and a pullout Pullman bed. (There’s also two bathrooms, so adults can have one all to themselves.) The largest stateroom is the sprawling 1,357-square-foot Pinnacle Suite, which features a living and dining room, a deep soaking tub in the huge bathroom, and a whirlpool on the balcony.
Blend was one of the biggest hits onboard. Passengers come to the glass-walled room to taste different red wines from Washington state’s oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, then create their own blend under the guidance of a sommelier. The custom blend is then bottled, and you make your own personalized label. After, you can have your vino served at dinner or bring it back to your cabin to drink whenever you’d like.
Culinary Arts Center
This sleek, high-tech space even has its own glass-enclosed garden of micro-greens. By day, passengers come here for cooking workshops on everything from pies to pastas. To make sure participants don’t miss a thing, the action in the show kitchen is projected on several screens around the room. (Starting this year, the classes will be run by America’s Test Kitchen.) And in the evening, the center transforms into a for-fee farm-to-table restaurant serving veggie-intensive dishes like broccoli and baked ricotta salad and pan-fried sea trout with roasted eggplant purée, red quinoa, and lemon tahini yogurt. Our meal here was our favorite of the voyage: The chef walked us through the preparation of each of the four courses—most of which highlighted the garden’s microgreens—and all the dishes were paired with an organic wine. At the end, passengers could take a recipe card for their favorites: We brought home instructions for pumpkin ricotta parcels with olive oil snow, balsamic pearls, and forage pesto, as well as the roasted heritage carrot soup with crispy parsnips and pumpkin seed oil.
Swathed in golden yellows and creams, the two-floor dining room is stunning, with a dramatic wine tower at its center and soaring arches that collectively evoke the strings of a harp. Passengers can choose between set seating times, or make a reservation whenever they wish. The buffet restaurant, Lido Marketplace, is also a major upgrade: light-strewn and cheerful with stations like Distant Lands (international foods) and Wild Harvest (salads), it feels more like a chic artisanal food court than the typical cruise-ship cantina. The best food, however, can be found in the for-fee alternative restaurants. (Make reservations as soon as you book: Tables fill up fast.) Seafood brasserie Sel de Mer, new to the line, has one of the best bouillabaisses we’ve ever tasted. Pinnacle Grill, a Holland America mainstay, serves up lobster, crab legs, and most notably steaks; our ribeye was juicy and grilled to perfection. Canaletto, the line’s Italian restaurant, sits in a glassed-off area in the Lido Marketplace and serves up family-style fare like antipasti and chicken cacciatore. The most romantic spot, however, was pan-Asian restaurant Tamarind, which sits high on Deck 10 with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the stern of the ship. We would have happily come back to eat the excellent laksa and penang red curry night after night.
If you don’t feel like heading to the dining room or Lido Marketplace for lunch, there are still plenty of places to grab a bite without paying extra. Overlooking the Lido Pool, New York Deli & Pizza serves up salads, thin-crust pies, and sandwiches. You can also grab a burger or hot dog poolside at Dive-In or a milkshake right next door at Gelato. But our go-to spot was the Delftware-colored Grand Dutch Café, where you can sip a cappuccino or La Trappe Dubbel beer while trying Dutch standbys like triple berry pannekoek (pancakes) or Maatjes herring.
The two-floor Lido Pool area is the town square of the ship, buzzing with passengers who come here to order a gelato or burger or chill on the loungers by the pool and hot tubs. If you want a little more privacy, head to the second floor and settle into one of the sofa-like white chaises overlooking the pool, which look like something out of a South Beach nightclub. The glass roof is retractable, and at night movies play on giant screens on either end of the pool—a first for Holland America. Passengers traveling without kids can also check out the adults-only Seaview Pool at the aft of the ship.
After a couple of days of steak dinners and gelato sundaes, you’re going to be craving some time on the treadmill. Luckily, the fitness center is huge, with enough cardio and weight machines that we never had to wait to sweat. If you want something more specialized, there are Pilates, yoga, and spinning classes, as well as a TRX Suspension room. Those who prefer to burn calories al fresco will find a jogging track, exercise machines, and a basketball court on Deck 11.
The huge Greenhouse Spa & Salon has 19 treatment rooms and takes up most of the forward area on Deck 9. Try treatments like a massage using warm bamboo shoots or acupuncture. Even if you’re not into facials and body wraps, it’s worth buying a pass to the thermal suite, which has a hydrotherapy pool, heated loungers, infrared sauna, aromatherapy room, horizontal shower, and more.
Ingeniously set on Deck 2 near most of the specialty restaurants, Music Walk is one of the ship’s smartest additions. After dinner, it’s just a short walk to check out the band at B.B. King’s Blues Club, the classical musicians at Lincoln City Stage, or the pianists at Billboard Online. And the brilliant performances—there’s zero kitsch factor here—means even the most sophisticated traveler will keep coming back night after night.