Koningsdam, the newest ship from Holland America, is like nothing you've seen from the line before. Launched in April 2016, Koningsdam has bright, open spaces free from the line's usual wood paneling, period artwork, and masculine, even clubby atmosphere heavy on maritime influence. Just how modern is the new look? The deck overlooking the pool has white leather banquets and day beds surrounded by sheer white curtains, a look that feels more like Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships than anything in this fleet. Koningsdam also has a music theme, and artwork includes breathtaking black-and-white photos of dancers as well as more playful pieces.
At 2,650 passengers, Koningsdam is the largest ship in the fleet, but smaller spaces — including the dining room and theater — with frequent seatings make it feel more manageable. The line has made other improvements that are subtle yet impactful, too, including offering Wi-Fi that’s 10 times faster than what you’ll find on their older ships.
What We Love
Sel De Mer: This is the line’s first restaurant with a la carte pricing, so the price tag is a steep increase from what the other specialty restaurants on board cost. Fortunately, it’s worth every penny. From the perfectly seared foie gras with cassis and brioche to the whole Dover sole meunìere, grilled Maine lobster, and decadent pot of garlicky duck cassoulet, Sel de Mer feels like an upgrade in every way. Look for the fish of the day, which is purchased in port from local fishermen.
Music Walk: This trio of lounges was created in partnership with some of the biggest names in music: Lincoln Center, B.B. King’s Blues Club, and "Billboard" magazine. Each spot hosts a series of music performances each night, with everything from a classical music "Peanuts" tribute to a full band belting "At Last" to a crowded dance floor. The brands are involved in the selection and training of talent — B.B. King’s, for example, preps its musicians in Memphis before sending them on board — and the result is a big upgrade in quality.
Stage Shows: To say we find most medley-based shows cringe-worthy is an understatement. But "One World" on Koningsdam is the first one we’ve made it through in years, and we were actually sad when it was over. The show makes full use of the World Stage theater’s innovative 270-degree screen, taking viewers on a tour of Earth with song and dance. The images are gorgeous, and the impressive dancing and singing are a big step up from the usual fare. The performance we saw easily earned its standing ovation.
Worthy No-Fee Restaurants: For Americans craving their morning bagel, lunchtime sandwich, and evening pizza, New York Deli and Pizza hits the spot. While the most devoted New Yorkers may quibble with the bagels (which are baked not boiled) and the pizza (which is lightly cooked with a soft rather than crisp crust), this new place earns raves from everyone else. It’s hidden away on Deck 10 overlooking the pool, so if you go early in your sailing before everyone finds it, you can beat the crowds. Best of all, there’s no charge for these dishes at any time of day, nor is there one for the burgers and fries at the popular Dive-In grill, another lunchtime favorite on sea days.
There’s also no charge in the Grand Dutch Café, which celebrates the line’s heritage with pea soup, herring on pumpernickel, mini pancakes called poffertjes, and snacks such as bitterballen. With a large number of Dutch passengers on European sailings — and as high as 90 percent on cruises out of Amsterdam — it’s safe to expect the line to take proper execution of these dishes seriously.
Best Known For
Excellent Alternative Dining Spots: From Pinnacle Grill, which remains one of the most well-executed classic steakhouses at sea, to Tamarind, a pan-Asian restaurant with bright and flavorful dishes (think crisp soft shell crab tempura, rich Peking duck, a full sushi bar, and gingery wok-fried lobster), upgrading to a for-a-fee restaurant always gets you an impressive meal on this ship.
New Cabin Categories: There are 12 substantially sized, outside cabins for single travelers — a first for the line — as well as another new category for Holland America: family cabins. The 32 family cabins have two bathrooms and an additional bunk bed that’s lowered from the ceiling.
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Who It's Best For
Mature Couples: While the décor feels more youthful and modern, this remains a line that caters largely to well-traveled, sophisticated couples. This ship serves that audience well: The music by the pool is never too loud or too current, and the ship quiets down by 11 pm each night, with most bars closing at midnight. Younger couples may find themselves a bit out of place — we saw several mistaken for crew on our sailing.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Culinary Arts Center is Still Finding Its Footing: This space hosts cooking demos and cooking classes during the day, with duos lining up around burners and cutting boards to make, for example, tuna crudo and shrimp risotto. The classes are great, but at night — when the space morphs into a farm-to-table dining room with an open kitchen — it falters. While the house-grown sprouts and vegetable focus are a boon for healthy eaters (one young California couple told us it was their favorite place on board) many guests aren’t sure what to make of it. After all, during dinnertime you don’t get to cook your own food, you’re only invited up between courses to watch the chefs plate. The hands-off nature is a disappointment to foodies who wish they could get involved, while those who assume they will have to pitch in are deterred from trying it at all.
Often There Are Few Kids: While the ship has a full-fledged program and a separate teen room, the number of children on board fluctuates widely, from a mere 14 on our mid-April sailing to hundreds during school break periods.
Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based writer and editor. She is the former editorial director of ShermansCruise.
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Koningsdam at a Glance
- Line: Holland America Line
- Class: Pinnacle
- Number of Passengers: 2650
- Ship Size: Large
- Launch Date: 2016