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Holland America Line’s (HAL) new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam reflects the future direction of the cruise line, and it’s clear that families and multigenerational cruising are an important part of this vision.
One of the major innovations for the 140-year-old line is Koningsdam’s 32 family oceanview staterooms, which range from 222 to 231 square feet and can accommodate up to five people. Key to the stateroom design are two bathrooms: one with a shower and one with a bathtub and a shower. An additional sofa can be turned into a double bed, and a Pullman bed folds out from the ceiling as well.
HAL projects that up to 200 young cruisers will be onboard sailings during the summer and holiday months, and the line’s family program takes advantage of the ship’s various features and partnerships. For example, children can build their own pizzas at the culinary center or participate in Earth-themed trivia contests thanks to a partnership with BBC Earth.
Blair Forsyth-Stark, an entertainment director for HAL, has been working with cruise guests for 10 years and has spent five years with HAL. She says that because the line carries fewer young cruisers than contemporary lines, the onboard staff can more easily customize youth programs to fit the particular interests and desires of the children on each sailing. The onboard family program, Club HAL, divides passengers into age groups and plans activities specifically geared toward each group.
Jordan Hillis, youth program manager for Koningsdam, says the program balances kids’ activities with those geared toward the whole family, from water balloon fights to family dodgeball games. One distinction between the program and those of other lines, he notes, comes down to HAL’s strong emphasis on hands-on, non-screen activities.
Onshore activities for families include the Club HAL program at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, which features activities such as treasure hunts and beach volleyball.
“The kids become personally engaged without their cell phones and social media,” Hillis said. “I know their names by the second day, and I know which of them loves crafts and which one wants a very active morning on the sports deck.”
The ability to customize has been particularly useful in dealing with teenagers, who can otherwise be challenging, according to Forsyth-Stark.
“Their default position is that whatever you suggest isn’t cool,” she said. “But if you have the group itself decide what it wants to do, they aren’t going to challenge that.”
Koningsdam has a huge range of kid-friendly dining choices, from burgers and pizza to a bar where guests can create their own pasta and sample various kinds of ice cream, cookies and gelato. From 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., room service offers a special kids’ menu with comfort food and childhood favorites.
Forsyth-Stark also emphasizes Koningsdam’s carefully screened, well-trained staff.
“We want the families to have a wonderful time, but it has to be a safe time,” she said.