I have never tried to do a review before, so my apologies in advance for any redundancies or boring information! I don’t want to miss anything, so I may wind up being wordy.
DH and I were on the January 13 southern Caribbean cruise on the Koningsdam. We have cruised several other times with HAL, but not on the bigger ships, and we were not sure whether we would like it. We did! We were supposed to be cruising with my DB and DSIL, but they had to cancel due to family and job issues. This was a real problem, because they had a suite and we had an inside cabin. We planned on spending many evenings on their balcony! We were a little bummed, but an inside cabin is sure better than being home or at work.
We arrived at the cruise terminal right around 11 AM and were in group 6 to board. We were on the ship close to 11:45 and I have to say this was probably the smoothest embarkation we have ever had. We were directed to the Lido, but we took a chance that the main dining room was open and it was. After a lovely lunch, we discovered that our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and set out to explore the ship.
The art is very different from what I’ve come to expect from Holland America – I really liked some of it (the cello ship on deck 12) but some of it I just did not get. I did see two of what I think were two of Captain Card’s paintings in the meeting rooms adjacent to the Crow’s Nest, which made me feel more at home. The decor overall is really lovely and understated compared to the ships we have sailed previously. The last time we sailed HAL was on the Veendam, and it was the old garish color combinations.
One thing we really missed was any kind of music at the aft pool. We understand the limitations on live bands, but some kind of music would’ve made an incredible improvement to the environment. Drink service was very good in the area, and seating capacity was OK. Several afternoons there were no clean towels at the aft pool and occasionally under cover seating was slim pickings because one side was designated for smoking. Although it was not full, asthma made that side not an option for us. We did not spend any time at the Lido pool. It seemed crowded, and being mostly enclosed it was pretty warm.
We had an informal meet and greet at the aft pool with our roll call, and it was very nice to put names and faces together with folks whose posts I have enjoyed in the past. A lot of great information was passed back-and-forth on our roll call, which was greatly appreciated.
We were getting ready for gala dinner on Monday when we received a call from guest services. It seemed they have been trying to reach us since embarkation and wanted to upgrade us to a balcony room down the hall. At no charge!! I thought it was a joke, or that DH was not asking the right questions to verify the up charge! Gina from guest services came by to show us the cabin and make sure the cabin was satisfactory. What, I’m going to say “no, I’d rather be inside”??? Our wonderful cabin stewards Andry and Freddy came along to help us move and voilà! We were in a veranda cabin! Pour the champagne! That was a most wonderful moment!
Note: The inside cabin was fine, but let’s be real!
We purchased the ultimate dining package, and would not do it again. We have loved the Pinnacle in the past and have heard such good things about Tamarind that we felt like it was a great deal. We went to the Pinnacle the first night, and I have to say we were disappointed. The food was good, but our server really gave us the impression that we were a bother. He took our order and was never seen or heard from again. In a complete contrast, Rozelle, our wine steward, was fast and friendly. I had thought to try POA1’s suggestion about ordering all of our wine at once to avoid a wait, but we never had a delay. I will definitely keep it in mind for the future though. The Tamerind was excellent, service and food alike. We actually dined there twice because guest services gifted us with dinner there due to the terrible inconvenience of moving. We did not say no. We also participated in DiLibrije, and I was again disappointed in the service. We received our sparkling wine and the wine for the first course before we ever received the amuse bouche. The food was stellar, but we had the same server we had previously and he was inattentive in the extreme. Canaletto was fine, the food was good and the service was good as well, but nothing was awe inspiring. I was surprised that it did feel like a separate area; I was concerned that we would feel like we were still in the Lido. Dive In was good, and was much quicker than I expected based on previous comments. The Lido is the Lido – lots of choices, with a better layout than previously. The salad station was much appreciated as you could ask for and receive anything in your salad that was available, and DH loved the eggs Florentine for breakfast. The dutch café was terrific. We had lattes from there every morning, and the bitterballen was superb.
Our best experience by far was in the main dining room. We were upstairs at a two top, and our waiters (Abu and Silmi) were attentive and friendly. Being on the third floor makes a big difference in the acoustics, and we never felt that it was too loud. The food was very good, and because we had the EBP, we didn’t feel that we had to coordinate our menu choices the way we do when we bring our own wine. I did feel that the selection of red wines by the glass was not great, but that also be my personal taste. Lester, our wine steward was fast, made good recommendations, and was really funny. We really felt like we had our own personal entertainment in the main dining room. One of the things that was fun was when we asked about the celebration song performed by the waiters for birthdays, they arranged to have a celebrated with our neighboring two top just because! DH was the one who had been interested, so I filmed it and took the video and cake to the poker table (have party, will travel).
We very much enjoyed the Rolling Stone rock room, and the BB Kings blues club. The pianists were excellent also, as were the Lincoln Stage performers. All drew huge crowds, but we never really had a problem finding a seat although they may have been tucked in the back corner. We also enjoyed the casino. DH came out ahead, as did I (but barely).
sidebar: How can their only be 1 to 2 bottles of Makers Mark on the entire ship? I can’t see leaving the Crow’s Nest at 7 PM to go down to the aft pool to get myself a Makers Mark Manhattan.
Half Moon Cay is a beautiful island, and we were fortunate in that the weather was flawless. Tendering was a breeze and the water was like glass. We did not have lunch on the island, too many options available on the ship and with no crowds!
We didn’t do much on Grand Turk – we mostly wandered up and down the streets. They have some nice beaches, but we did not visit them.
Bonaire has a very nice and close by downtown area. They had a farmers market going on, and many locals were getting lunch from the guy cooking barbecue. There was lots of really nice jewelry (not expensive), and miscellaneous handmade things to be had.
Curaçao was our absolute favorite island. The buildings with the historic Dutch style, and the cafés along the waterway and the swinging pontoon bridge all made for a lovely day. We spent the afternoon wondering the streets, and ended with cocktails and beer at one of the waterside cafés. The weather was lovely, there was a live band performing nearby, and we were able to watch the pontoon bridge open and close several times. We left right at sunset, which was beautiful over the Koningsdam. The waterfront buildings and the bridge are lit up with multicolored lights which makes it so festive.
I did not get off the ship in Aruba, but DH did. He took the path from port to town, and said it was enjoyable. I found it enjoyable that he found several little gifts to bring back to me!
In summary, it was a wonderful cruise – one we would do again. Holland America has the service model down, and I sure hope they don’t fix what isn’t broken. The ship is lovely, the entertainment is great, but best of all we were on vacation! It’s hard to find fault with that.
PS: I forgot to include that Elvis was on the ship!