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CruiseReportHolland America Cruise Line ms Koningsdam4A cruise review of Holland America Cruise Line ms Koningsdam in Caribbean
by John & Sandra Nowlan
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Holland Am.
  ms Koningsdam  
One Tasty Cruise
November 2017
Reviewer Rates This Cruise

Koningsdam. Superb Food. Fine Wine. Great Music. One Tasty Cruise.
By John and Sandra Nowlan

Fresh fish, really fresh fish, almost never shows up on the dinner menus of the big ocean cruise ships. It’s just easier to store and prepare the frozen product. But, happily, there are exceptions.

ms Koningsdam

We recently sailed aboard Holland America’s 2600 passenger Koningsdam from Fort Lauderdale to the ABC Islands in the Southern Caribbean (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). We discovered that the chef often visits local markets to buy fresh seafood for the a la carte Sel de Mer restaurant, styled after a Parisian bistro. The fresh grouper that we enjoyed after our stop in Curacao was remarkably good, probably the best fish we’ve ever had at sea.

Koningsdam is the newest ship in the Holland America fleet and has clearly benefitted from some superb planning and clever innovations. The rooms are spacious with king size beds, lots of closet space and bathrooms with a generous sized shower (rare at sea). There’s a full, uninterrupted track for jogging or walking (three laps for a mile) and a main theatre that’s remarkable for its 300 degree seating (almost Theatre in the Round) and its state-of-the-art wraparound LED video canvas.

Theater 'in-the-round', almost

Koningsdam’s Canadian Captain, Darin Bowland, showed us the bridge with the latest in marine navigation and safety technology. With GPS, he’s able to establish his exact position within about a yard anywhere in the world. He told us that the Costa Concordia disaster was a wakeup call for the cruise industry and measures were implemented fleet-wide to improve efficiencies on the bridge.

Capt. Bowland

This cruise was particularly interesting because of its wine theme. Koningsdam already has an excellent wine “Cellar” but it was enhanced by a special Winemaker’s Dinner in the modern, open-kitchen Culinary Arts Center. The chef described and prepared an outstanding five course meal, each course accompanied by champagne or a high end red or white wine produced or imported by Washington State winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle. A wine educator from Ste. Michelle gave a descriptive commentary with each pour telling the guests why he recommended this particular pairing. The highlight was our beef course with a Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend that was ideal.

On every cruise, Koningsdam also features a special room called BLEND where guests are invited to taste five high quality red wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle, discover their unique characteristics and experiment with a blend of two or more wines that suits individual palates. The cost is $79 for one guest, $99 for a couple. The sommelier in charge then provides guests a full bottle of the blended wine using the chosen formula. After several experiments we both agreed on a tantalizing mix of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. We took it to dinner the next night (no corkage fee if you provide wine from BLEND). It was one of the best red blends we’ve ever enjoyed.

Mixing wines at BLEND

If guests’ tastes are more into whisky than wine, Koningsdam has another unique palate pleasing venue called Notes that offers more than 100 varieties of Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and other varieties of whisky (or whiskey). A whisky expert can guide you through tasting samples or, at a modest cost, you can simply enjoy a wee dram of your favorite.


The main dining room is one of the most imaginative at sea. Inspired by the strings on a harp, its support structure looks more like a series of whale bones. Enhanced by white tablecloths and outstanding service, it’s an excellent venue for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Particularly good were the shrimp dishes and the beef. Desserts were very imaginative and the nineteen choices of tea (in the dining room and buffet) were even better than on any of the Cunard Queens.

Dining room on Koningsdam

Among the extra cost specialty restaurants, our favourite was Tamarind ($25) with wonderful Asian dishes like Ginger and Garlic Wok Seared Lobster and Vietnam Style Lamb with Mint.. The mixed satay appetizer was superb. The ship offers complimentary pizza at the New York Deli (it was excellent) plus hamburgers and hot dogs at the Dive In almost as good as those inspired by Guy Fieri on Carnival vessels. But Koningsdam fries were better! An elegant afternoon tea, with white-glove service, is served every day in the Queen’s Lounge.

Excellent satay at Tamarind

Holland America Line has a strong focus on music. There was a constant stream of first class musical entertainment throughout the ship. We were particularly impressed by BB King’s Blues Club with a five piece band and two vocalists who would be at home in Memphis. Another room featured Billboard hits with twin pianos and singers. Every night the main theatre featured complex music reviews by its troupe of singers and dancers or specialty acts like an ABBA tribute. Classical music is also front and center (even the decks are named after composers – Mozart, Schubert, Gershwin) with a section of deck 2 devoted to the Lincoln Center Stage. Several times a day, a very talented quintet of European musicians (piano, two violins, viola and cello) performed everything from Beethoven to Bernstein. All flawlessly.

BB Kings Blues Club

String quartet

Koningsdam has set new standards for cruise ship design, safety and guest accessibility. Holland America will build more of these “Pinnacle Class” ships with few changes. And, we were told, Cunard Line was so impressed with the design that its next ship, the 4th in its current fleet, will be modeled after Koningsdam.

John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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