by Vanessa Lee

Holland America’s absolutely gorgeous new ship wows guests and receives rave reviews.

ms koningsdamHolland America Line

I have sailed on a number of Holland America’s very fine “Dam” ships over the years and have seen their various classes of vessels expand from the original Statendam Class through Vista Class. Now we we’re witnessing the superb introduction of Pinnacle Class.

With a rich legacy dating back to the late 1800’s and their first home in Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, the company continues to create new and thoughtful guest experiences.

With the launch of each lovely new vessel in recent years, Holland America added new amenities and facilities such as the Culinary Arts Center, and Explorations Café powered by a partnership with the New York Times, as well as alternative restaurant introductions, more suites and the Neptune Lounge for suite guests.  All additions were made with a view to ensuring continued client satisfaction but also with an eye to finding new guests who would enjoy the traditional feel of a Holland America ship and the attention to detail, grace and timeless elegance that this cruise line has been known for during its more than 140 years of experience.

Koningsdam_PoolHolland America Line

Ships with such storied names as Statendam, Rotterdam, Noordam, Westerdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Veendam to name just a few have populated the HAL fleet.  Some of these names have been recycled over the company’s venerable past – witness the next ship currently being built, due Fall of 2018, which will be named the Nieuw Statendam, a sister ship to the recently launched Koningsdam. That ship’s name is a nod to the first Dutch King in over a hundred years – King Willem-Alexander, whose Queen, Maxima of The Netherlands, christened the ship in Holland this past May. 

The Koningsdam in my view, is by far the most glamorous and beautiful of all the ships in this fleet. She is light, lively, remarkably beautiful and exudes an air of sensuality – not something previously found on any HAL ship. Why is this ship different and what makes her so remarkable?

Pinnacle Suite BedroomHolland America Line - Pinnacle Suite bedroom

First, the design of the ship is truly spectacular and as one walks through the public areas which are mostly contained on Decks Two and Three, it is obvious that everything flows as it should and comes together naturally. These decks are the primary entertainment and dining decks, anchored by a three-storey atrium and the most exquisite sculpture installation – in the shape of an earth harp. This celebrates the guiding theme of the ship which is music and it resounds throughout, whether in large spaces or through whimsical and clever design, art and installations. There is surprise and delight around virtually every corner. All décor and furnishings are really very beautiful – yes, this Koningsdam is truly an elegant feast for the eyes.

Queen's LoungeHolland America Line - Queen's Lounge and B.B. King's Blues Club

Music Walk, which includes the re-imagined and simply glorious two-storey Queen’s Room with its violin-shaped curves, is fantastic. This is where you’ll find B.B. King’s All-Stars, offering great entertainment almost nightly with lots of dancing and lively fun.

Nearby is Billboard Onboard and across from that is the open area for Lincoln Center Stage. This part of the ship works well, is packed nightly and is a sure-fire hit. Cleverly designed with a nod to a broad range of musical offerings including late-afternoon matinees at Lincoln Center, it’s a great place for a pre-dinner concert perhaps followed later by mid-to-late evening sets of pop, rock classics and dance music. If you’re a music fan then you’ll be spending a lot of time sampling the Music Walk from venue to venue!

Sel de MerHolland America Line - Sel de Mer

The dining choices on board are more diverse and better than ever. My personal favorite was the new Sel de Mer, which sits adjacent to the ever-popular Pinnacle Grill. These two share a kitchen but are quite different in style, taste and menu composition. The meal at Sel de Mer (a la carte pricing) was the best of my week with the freshest and tastiest seafood – a delicate Branzino offered with a wonderful sauce and lovely accompaniments. This is a small and elegant spot with a French brasserie feel and superb service.

We enjoyed another delicious, more casual dinner at Canaletto, a part of the Lido Café that is clearly defined at night as a separate area of the buffet restaurant. The transformation to a trattoria feel with white napery and a tasty menu of Italian dishes was delightful. The charge for Canaletto is just $10 US per person for dinner with reservations recommended.

We also had the chance to enjoy the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food and Wine Magazine. This is a fun and lively venue with a choice of two menus for the week, reservations required for just a small extra cost. The chefs want you to engage and the menus are a foodie’s dream. There are various sizes of tables for interaction (very much encouraged) and your evening includes a welcome drink, house wine poured throughout the meal and some delightful nibbles prior to the dinner – all for just $39 – never mind a really delicious tasting menu. Cooking lessons are also offered during the day.

I loved the two-tiered pool area with a Magrodome roof to offset any cool or inclement weather. This was a popular spot not just for swimming and sunning but also for watching the huge movie screen with many showings of BBC Earth programs – all excellent – and for the regularly scheduled movies shown at night. The top level of this space has “come hither” white couches contained in slightly scalloped overhangs as well as the Panorama Bar, and a great New York Deli with the best pizzas. Best of all, it’s open until 1am for hungry party-lovers who have a yearning for a typical NY pretzel!

Grand Dutch CafeHolland America Line - Grand Dutch Cafe

Other notable spots I loved included the Grand Dutch Café, a gorgeous, a well-placed spot for people-watching where drinks, coffees and sweet and savory treats are served. The World Stage is likely one of the most impressive venues on any ship – it is fabulous and the shows that were put on in the 270 degree in the round room were remarkable, often receiving standing ovations. The Frozen Planet BBC Earth show, to the accompaniment of the Lincoln Center Orchestra was breathtaking in every way. We also enjoyed a great retrospective rock and roll/pop show one evening.

The Dining RoomHolland America Line - The Dining Room

Other dining options included the not-to-be-missed Tamarind for Pan-Asian - great food in beautiful surroundings - and the main dining room is exquisite (as is the remarkable Wine Tower) although I tend to gravitate to the smaller, alternative restaurants most of the time. The small delightful touches of orange throughout are a nod to the Dutch heritage as are the many fresh flowers. A new addition -  Blend by Chateau Ste Michelle -is a great concept for wine-tasting and actually bottling (and keeping) your own blended wine from a selection of barreled red wines in the room. It’s something different, more modern and also popular.

This ship is a winner – a massive winner. It’s something new and different from an admired cruise line and one which is timely – truly a ship for our times. She is mid-sized, sophisticated, enormously contemporary and innovative but she has maintained Holland America’s traditions. Fans of Holland America will find many familiar spots for relaxation and enjoyment but they will also be charmed and surprised by the fresh approach to many aspects including the onboard entertainment and dining. Congratulations Holland America – you have given us a remarkable and beautiful ship and we thank you.

Originally published in Cruise & travel Lifestyles Fall/Winter 2016 issue.

Get Cruise & Travel Updates!
Get Cruise & Travel Updates!