Cruising on the Koningsdam was a treat. We had a verandah stateroom, so I don't know if this is true for all staterooms, but we were very pleased with the larger shower AND its glass door. No more plastic curtain hugging your legs!! The rainshower head was a welcomed plus, too. Our room had excellent black out curtains, and I wish all cruise lines would follow HAL's lead in providing a paper recycle bin for myriad notices every room receives and, likely, immediately tosses.
Embarkation and debarkation went smoothly. If you elect to walk off with your luggage and are in a hurry, don't wait in your stateroom. Wait in the Lincoln Center. When we left our room when we were called at 7:30, the line was already very long. On the positive side, it moved quickly. We used Lyft to return to the FLL airport.
ENTERTAINMENT: We have been on over 20 cruises, and this ship's entertainment was the best we have ever experienced. Normally, we are ho-hum about any singer/dancer show, but these were absolutely not-to-be-missed. I believe the shows we saw will no longer be performed after Koningsdam returns from drydock next week, but I am confident equally impressive shows will be performed. It is clear more money is being spent on quality productions. The dancers were especially impressive. We usually went to the shows early for a good seat, especially if only two were offered (sometimes there were 3), since the theater is small. The theater-in-the-round experience is wonderful, and there aren't many bad seats. Be aware the bottom rows are not graduated. HAL partners with BBC, so don't miss anything having to do with Planet Earth.
The BB King All-Stars is another not-to-be-missed opportunity. We occasionally had to go early just to get a seat; they have 3 sets an evening. If you want to hear great music (not just jazz), dance, and/or just enjoy watching others dance, this is your venue. The BB King musicians are simply excellent as are the classical quartet members performing in the Lincoln Center. The more contemporary solo pianist stuck over by the Culinary Arts Center is also very good but, sadly, doesn't get the visibility of the other venues.
DINING: We were not impressed with Any Time Dining. The first night of our 10-night cruise was a disaster with long wait times to be seated and to be served. We tried making reservations a few other nights but were told we could only do so for 5:45 and 8:15. Had we wanted those times, we would have chosen Set Dining! Even when we did secure a reservation, service was slow. But more germaine is the menus were uninspiring, quite a departure from our normal HAL experience. Thus, our group of four frequently had dinner in the Lido, which serves almost everything on the main dining menu anyway, or at the NY Deli.
We did not eat at any restaurant which charges extra, but I was tempted by the $15 Culinary Arts offering of small and large plates. The menu looked delicious. Quite impressive - and FREE - are the NY Deli and Dive-In. You will not believe how amazing the Dive-In's fries are!! Wow. The menu is a far cry from the normal burgers, limp veggie burger, hot dogs, and perhaps a grilled chicken breast on other cruise lines. Hamburgers are dressed up with Gouda cheese or thick bacon, the portabella mushroom topped with guacomole is fantastic, and the grilled chicken also comes topped with guacamole. Yes, wait times could be long, but the buzzer system works well. It's easy to go into the Lido for a salad and drink and still feel/hear the buzzer. The same good buzzer range works for the NY Deli, also a very popular venue (be prepared for 20-minute waits)...once people find out about it! It's a floor above, overlooking the pool, and was almost deserted in the mornings, making a quiet breakfast spot with food from the Lido. The made-to-order pizza is very good, and quite nice toppings are offered. Others in our party raved about the pastrami and Reuben sandwiches. After 8pm, grab a chocolate pretzel! Salads are available, and one does not have to wait for those. In the afternoon and early evening, Mediterranean tapas are available where the dueling pianos perform. They are quite delicious and make a great appetizer plate with friends and wine on your balcony :-).
One complaint is that the coffee bar (Explorations Cafe) is stuck up front on the 12th floor in the Crow's Nest. It used to be part of HAL’s famously-wonderful libraries. If you’re expecting a library on this ship, you’ll be disappointed; it is little more than a corner. And if you want a brewed coffee or latte at 6am, forget it; you will have to wait until 8am, which is so late for a coffee bar. I'd like to see the coffee bar situated more centrally, open earlier, and please offer a coffee card to encourage more use (and offer a little savings). These seem to be hugely popular on other ships; Princess comes particularly to mind. The food at the Explorations Cafe is good and complimentary whether you buy a coffee or not. The same is true at the Dutch cafe. If they offer lattes before 8, it's not well-advertised, but this cafe is much more centrally located. I enjoyed the split pea soup and the tiny Dutch pancakes. Most of their food is also complimentary. Service, however, is slow; while the showcase has food, items are not taken from there; you must wait for their kitchen to prepare it.
ART: The art gallery is much smaller here, which we did not mind, and so far as I know, no art auctions were held, again not a loss as far as we are concerned.
PORTS OF CALL: We enjoyed a lazy day on Half Moon Cay. Take insect repellent if you're prone to bites. Within half an hour, I had several, which swelled and itched for days. It was much too hot (Nov. 12) to rent a kayak or try to find the walking trail. Walking was tolerable if we did so along the shoreline, with feet in the water, and getting a sea breeze. Lounge chairs were fairly easy to find, even in the shade. Just be prepared to walk a distance, which gets you away from crowds anyway. The kids' water area is excellent. The buffet was delicious. While we've been on cruise line private islands that do have wifi, this one does not.
GRAND TURK: Take that insect repellent here, too, and free wifi is available in the port shops, specifically around Froots. Our group of four rented a golf cart and saw a few sites before trying some snorkeling from the shore (on a previous trip, we had taken a snorkeling excursion, which I would highly recommend). Where we chose to go was extremely choppy, as the winds were high and rain had started, so we aborted those plans.
AMBER COVE: If you want to do nothing more than swim and sun, the free resort-style pool and lazy river is wonderful. Chairs are free; other water sports come with a fee. We took a taxi from the terminal to Telerifico, for the cable car. Prices are posted, $30/1-5 people/one way, but some bartering comes into play with the man in charge. For $50 r/t, our driver waited for us and then drove us around Puerto Playa (the square, the fort, the beach). While we chose not to get out, he was willing to let us out to walk and/or shop. We gave him a tip. We're in our late 60s and while we are fit and agile, the waterfalls sounded too much on the wild side for us. We were very glad we went to the cable car; it's important to GO EARLY. Clouds come in, and then it will be almost pointless; you want to see the panoramic views. The cable car costs $10/pp, and while you can walk around at the top for free (you could easily spend an hour or more walking the trails through the botanical garden), you will likely be approached by a licensed guide to go up with you. I imagine you could barter, but his price of $15 was fine with us, and we were glad he came with us. He was very knowledgeable.
BONAIRE: We rented two golf carts for our group of 4 and had such a good time! Where we rented sent YouTube videos, so I knew ahead of time about the south and north loops. We received excellent instruction, clear maps, and off we went. We snorkeled at a couple of places (1,000 Steps was great) and had lunch at Sorobon Beach & Wellness Club (a little pricey). After several hours seeing both routes, we cleaned up on the ship and then enjoyed the market in Wilhelmina Plaza. Check out the stall selling all manner of salts. It was still open at 4pm, and our ship left at 6pm.
CURACAO: This was our favorite port stop. Willemstad is delightful (download an architectural walking tour; that was very enjoyable and informative; see the floating market), and snorkeling from the beach can be very good. We took a privately-booked small tour (but a rental car is easy to get as well, and you can see all these same places and stay as long/short as you wish) which stopped at Shete Boka (fantastic), Fisherman's Wharf (snorkel with turtles here), a stop to cliff dive (or watch others), Puerto Mari (very good snorkeling: washed out coral but abundant fish), and flamingos. Since our ship stayed until 11pm, we went out after dark to enjoy the colorful waterfront, lit-up bridge, and to wander the streets on both sides.
ARUBA: Having taken an off-road 4x4 Jeep tour before (and been bone-jostled), we opted for a privately-booked small tour. For 4 hours, we saw some of that same rugged and gorgeous coastline and plenty else Aruba has to offer. Of course, if you want a white sand beach day, take the local bus to Palm Beach.
If you have any questions, post them below, and I’ll answer. Or you can email me at djkiser at gmail dot com.