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Holland America Line’s (HAL) new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam brings the company’s 140 years of history into a new era of design, technology and size. Orlando Ashford, president of HAL, describes the ship as a tangible indicator of the company’s direction — retaining the hallmarks that have generated a loyal following while adding fresh features to draw a new generation of cruisers with varying tastes and preferences.
“It’s a psychographic rather than an age issue,” he said.
Ashford notes the intrinsic challenges of inheriting a company with such a history and tradition; he says the line has had to find the balance between maintaining the things that have made it successful while adding modern twists. According to Ashford, HAL’s new design partnerships have allowed the company to do what it has always done, but in a different way, which has in turn widened its appeal to people who had not previously considered sailing.
Michael Geske, vice president of cruise for Worldview Travel in Santa Ana, Calif., notes that agents must articulate these shifts to traditional HAL clients and encourage them to find new things they will like onboard, from music to design.
At first glance, the changes in decor are the most dramatic difference cruisers will notice on Koningsdam. Celebrity hospitality and restaurant designer Adam Tihany teamed up with veteran marine architect and designer Bjorn Storbraaten (who helped design Seabourn Cruise Line’s revolutionary Odyssey-class ships and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Cloud and Silver Wind) to create a three-deck atrium; a two-floor Lido Deck enclosed in glass; and colorful, sophisticated takes on the public rooms.
Guests have expressed particular admiration for the romantic feel on the ship, brought about in part from the repeated motifs of music and flowers. According to Ashford, passengers comment constantly about the bouquets that fill Koningsdam — from dining venues to hallways — climbing up walls, piled in open spaces and brightening tables. If that weren’t enough, there are flower patterns in the carpets and flowers in the artwork, too.
The theme “Architecture of Music” appears throughout the ship, from amusing and surreal sculptures such as a string bass-turned-sailing ship to whimsical, music-inspired artwork, including records and sheet music on the walls. Even the shape of onboard public spaces has been influenced by the curvature of instruments.
And music fills the ship in real time, too. On a typical day, cruisers can choose from string and piano performances of classical music thanks to HAL’s partnership with Lincoln Center, as well as British Invasion selections via Billboard. Additionally, the eight-piece B.B. King All-Star Band holds forth in B.B. King’s Blues Club until midnight, and guests can partake in late-night dancing and view performances on the dramatic World Stage, with its 270-degree LED screen.
Dining-room fare is great, and service is excellent, but HAL has really surpassed itself in Koningsdam’s specialty restaurants. The cuisine reflects the changing tastes of cruisers, with sausage, eggs, fish, pancakes and French toast sharing the stage with breakfast salads, beans, microgreens, gorgeous bowls of berries and a wide variety of grains. The dining experience is participatory, with chefs explaining their techniques as they prepare meals and wine-blending sessions that allow guests to create custom bottles to enjoy at the table.
Staterooms are equally creative. Koningsdam has expanded specialty accommodations to include HAL’s first purpose-built staterooms for families and solo travelers. The 32 family oceanview rooms range from 222 to 231 square feet and can sleep five (though it would be a rather tight fit). Each room has two bathrooms — one with a child-size bathtub, a shower, a toilet and a sink, and one with a shower and a sink — along with a double sleeper sofa and a Pullman bed that opens above the main bed.
Twelve oceanview staterooms, ranging from 127 to 172 square feet, are designated for solo cruisers, each with a large single bed, a writing desk and chair and a standard bathroom.
Spa staterooms, located near Greenhouse Spa & Salon, come in categories from inside to suites, and each feature pedometers, yoga mats, Bluetooth speakers and complimentary Vitamin Water bottles, in addition to access to exclusive spa treatments. Twenty-seven wheelchair-accessible accommodations are spread throughout the categories.
The ship’s regular oceanview staterooms range from 175 to 282 square feet, and veranda staterooms run from 228 to 420 square feet.
Vista Suites range from 260 to 356 square feet; Signature Suites are about 400 square feet; and Neptune Suites range from 465 to 855 square feet. Neptune Suites, as well as the 1,357-square-foot Pinnacle Suite, come with entry to Neptune Lounge and amenities such as complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services; full breakfast; high tea served in-suite on request; personal concierge services; and more.
Overall, the ship appeals to a large demographic.
“It’s a great ship for multigenerational groups, from kids to grandparents,” said Donella Chong, a travel consultant for Uniglobe One Travel in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Because of Koningsdam, I’ll now recommend HAL for families, and I wouldn’t have thought of them before.”