Your Guide to the Newest Cruise Ships at Sea

Travel Agent was onboard for a firsthand exploration of three recently launched ships from a trio of top cruise lines. Emily Goldfischer reports on Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, while Lynn and Cele Seldon give their take on the Carnival Vista and Holland America Line’s Koningsdam.

Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean makes good use of the new ship’s extra length, wider beam.

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On a two-night preview sailing of Royal Caribbean International’s 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the line’s third Oasis-class ship, Travel Agent was impressed with how it combined Quantum- and Oasis-class features on a grand scale. The 226,963-grt ship spans 16 guest decks with seven neighborhoods, including the popular Central Park and Boardwalk areas.

Our favorite jaw-dropping feature was the “Ultimate Abyss,” a 100-foot-long slide cascading down 10 decks in the aft section of the ship. Riders climb stairs leading to the slide platform, walk over the clear platform suspended above a 90-foot-plus drop, and then enjoy a thrilling multi-sensory experience during the slide itself.

Thrills? Data from a Royal Caribbean test of the slide, as supervised by Professor Brendan Walker, director, Thrill Laboratory, UK, revealed that the experience caused heartbeats to rise by an average of 44 beats per minute compared to the resting rate for a 30-year-old adult of average fitness. When the ship is totally full on a regular sailing, there likely could be longer lines, but we liked that the Harmony of the Seas has other adrenaline inducing options nearby on deck 16, including a zip-line and two FlowRider surfing pools.

Harmony of the Seas’ “Ultimate Abyss”
Harmony of the Seas’ “Ultimate Abyss”.

More Snazzy Features

Longer than Allure of the Seas at 1,188 feet and a bit wider, with a beam of nearly 216 feet — as well as 20 percent more energy efficient — the new ship is the fastest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet and a city unto itself.

Guests will discover 42 restaurants and bars; four swimming pools, including an adults-only pool in the Solarium; multiple whirlpools and FlowRider surfing pools; a large ice rink; multiple theaters; a casino; a full-service spa; shops; rock climbing walls; and more.

Entertainment-wise, much is new. The 600-seat Aqua Theatre has two new water shows. “Fine Line” features extreme stunts and acrobatics, while “Hideaway Heist” is a comedy dive show. The ship also offers the line’s first dedicated Puzzle Break escape game, and the Attic is a new comedy club.

New productions include the musical “Grease” — for the first time at sea — and “1887: a Journey in Time”, a fun new French-themed ice show.  We were most impressed by the latter with its costumed ice performers in historic French garb; the production unfolded against a backdrop of ultra high-definition video designed to resembled the Seine. It’s great for kids of all ages.

What else is new? Sure to appeal to younger passengers is a dedicated satellite that enables the high-speed VOOM Internet service and a Royal IQ app for quick check-in and the booking of dining and activities. In addition, the ship uses a razzle-dazzle new RFID (radio frequency identification) system to track bags, stateroom entry and onboard charges.

Specialty Dining

Harmony of the Seas has eight specialty restaurants, including the first two-story, 122-seat Wonderland. The concept was initially launched on the Quantum-class vessels, but this is the largest of those offerings. Jamie’s is the first such eatery on an Oasis-class vessel, and also has more space than the ones on the Quantum-class ships.

Of the eight specialty restaurants onboard, we best loved Wonderland, loosely based on the Lewis Carroll novel and Johnny Depp movie. It’s a fantastical experience with a tunnel like-entry, whimsical art and waiters in purple velvet jackets.

Fun touches abound. We loved the menu that revealed itself only after you painted it with a special brush. An appetizer of deviled eggs appeared from beneath a dome of smoke. A “wow” moment was when a dessert was set ablaze to melt an outer chocolate shell — revealing a moist, delicious cake. All entrees are served to be shared so guests dining together can try everything.

Harmony of the Seas presents the first at-sea production of the hit Broadway musical “Grease.”
Harmony of the Seas presents the first at-sea production of the hit Broadway musical “Grease.”

Izumi, a Japanese dining venue, is the first of those restaurants in the fleet to offer teppanyaki. So 24 diners can now enjoy the chef’s sizzling show on the grill. With just 70 seats for sushi, it’s best to book clients for a meal here as soon as they confirm a sailing.

We also sampled the Italian cuisine at Jamie’s ($20 per person at lunch, $30 per person at dinner), Latin dishes at Sabor, and high-end continental fare with multi-course tasting menus and wine pairings at 150 Central Park.

All of the above are more intimate than the main dining rooms. The ship’s specialty dining venues carry surcharges and online pre-booking is essential.

For a casual, yummy treat, definitely check out the Dog House on the Boardwalk, where cruisers can choose from seven different kinds of succulent hot dogs with toppings of grilled onions, peppers and sauerkraut.

Drinking spots worth a mention? Certainly, you shouldn’t miss the mesmerizing Bionic Bar, where two robotic arms create cocktails from 160 suspended bottles and 16 mixers. We also liked the concept of the Rising Tide Bar, essentially a pod of cocktail tables on a platform that rises and drops — seemingly floating between three decks. Vintages, with its an impressive selection, is the place for wine lovers.

Larger Accommodations

The new ship’s increased width means slightly larger accommodations than on other Oasis-class vessels. That’s particularly true for the staterooms on decks six and up. Virtual balconies, a signature of Quantum-class ships, are also offered in 76 of Harmony of the Seas’ inside cabins, a first for an Oasis-class ship.

We stayed in stateroom #9264, a 272-square-foot Ocean View Stateroom with an 80-square-foot balcony. The stateroom felt spacious with a king bed, sofa, desk and two wardrobes with shelves, drawers and a safe.

We toured many other accommodations and particularly liked #8660, a 371-square-foot Grand Suite with Balcony; the king bed area is separated from the living space with a half-wall / half-curtain divider and there’s a large marble bathroom with two sinks.

Most luxurious and spacious for families? It’s #12640, the 1,142-square-foot Presidential Family Suite, which can accommodate up to 14 guests. It has four bedrooms — two with king beds, two with bunk beds — and sofa beds. There is also an additional sofa bed in the main living room. Most spectacular is the 476-square-foot balcony with whirlpool, dining area and bar.

The Royal Family Suite, #10244, is 580 square feet with two king bedrooms with vanities, a nook with bunk beds, a spacious living room with convertible sofa, plus a 238-square-foot balcony. Modest family rooms designed to sleep six are also available.

Royal Suite Class Program

Royal Caribbean has just rolled out a three-tiered Royal Suite Class program for guests staying in suites (excluding junior suites). The three tiers are Sea, Sky and Star class.

Benefits range from access to dinner in the 100-seat Coastal Kitchen on Deck 17 for Sea Class to Suite Lounge access, concierge services, priority bookings and free VOOM for Sky Class.

The most robust perks come with Star Class. Ten suites on Harmony of the Seas qualify for this level of amenities. Included are all the features in Sea and Sky class, plus access to a Suite Sun Deck, a beverage package, free movies, spa classes and exclusive activities such as bridge, galley and back stage tours.

An added level of pampering for Star Class is the Royal Genie butler who greets guests and tends to your every need, creating bespoke experiences and excursions. Guests in these top suites will be whisked to the front of any line, generally ensuring they never wait or want for anything on Harmony of the Seas. Star Class Suite guests fill out a questionnaire before the cruise so the butler will begin preparations for their arrival.

Pampering and Fitness

Top features of the Vitality at Sea Spa include a thermal suite with heated ceramic loungers, saunas and steam rooms. Twenty-nine spa treatment rooms include three couples’ massage suites and seven individual treatment rooms — the largest collection at sea.

Kids and teens have a dedicated spa of their own, YSPA. Certainly, the Fitness Center impresses with its large selection of cardio and weights machines; yoga, Pilates, TRX, spin studio and kick boxing classes; and personal trainers available to assist.

Family Entertainment

Beyond the Ultimate Abyss and water slides, guests can head one deck below — to Deck 15 — for mini-golf, a sport court and ping-pong. That area nicely flows into the family areas, including the Teen Zone, an arcade, Fuel (the teen night club) and Puzzle Break. As you continue on to the bow, you’ll see the aptly named Splashaway Zone with its trio of waterslides.

On Deck 14, the central Kids Avenue boulevard links such spaces as the Royal Babies & Tots nursery and Adventure Ocean, the line’s supervised kids’ club. Around the ship, you’ll also see Dreamworks characters floating around the restaurants at times. The Boardwalk neighborhood is home to a large colorful carousel and carnival games. The ship also has rock-climbing walls.

A Gallery Afloat

Art aficionados amongst your clientele will especially appreciate the ship’s spectacular $6.5 million art collection, brimming with paintings, sculptures and other pieces displayed in public spaces and accommodations. International Corporate Art curated the more than 3,000 unique pieces from 60 countries.

The Ship’s Itineraries

Launched in May, Harmony of the Seas is operating seven-night western Mediterranean sailings through early fall. In November, it will reposition and homeport at Port Everglades, FL, where will sail alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean sailings.

-Emily Goldfischer

The ever-changing “Dreamscape” sculpture rises three decks atop Carnival Vista’s Atrium Bar.
The ever-changing “Dreamscape” sculpture rises three decks atop Carnival Vista’s Atrium Bar.

Sailing on ’CARNIVAL VISTA

Innovations – and fun – abound on the line’s first new build in four years.

Carnival Cruise Line’s new 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, its first new build since Carnival Breeze in 2012, definitely feels unlike any of the line’s other 24 ships. The ship is certainly large, but it’s obvious that Carnival officials worked hard to design a ship with lots of spaces to keep crowds to a minimum in any one spot — from the bars to dining options inside and out. Carnival chose several outside architectural and design firms with no previous cruise ship experience and it shows. So what will your clients see and experience? Here’s a snapshot look at what’s onboard from our Mediterranean cruise in May.

New Spaces and Features

Certainly, a standout “new feature” is the Vista Atrium with its mushroom-like “Dreamscape” sculpture that rises three decks atop the circular Atrium Bar. Yes, you’ll see colorful ever-changing LED screens, but the atrium’s design also seems lighter, airier and a bit more subdued than past Carnival ships. It’s still fun, fanciful and informal.

Best views on the ship are from the fun new SkyRide, an open air cycling experience suspended 150 feet above the ship’s top deck. Guests climb onboard hanging recumbent-like bikes to cycle their way around the 800-foot suspended track. Along they way, they’ll have panoramic views from 150 feet above the sea. Nearby is SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course. Both are part of the expanded activity park that also includes an indoor sports hangout, The Clubhouse at SportSquare, with mini-bowling, ping-pong, arcade basketball, sports video gaming and more.

Carnival Vista also has the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet. Among the most sought-after experiences for thrill seekers is the new 455-foot-long Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first-ever water tube attraction. Riders will hop on inflatable one or two-person rafts for twists, turns and kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Carnival Vista introduces the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theatre at sea and the adjacent multi-dimensional Thrill Theater, where moviegoers can surround themselves with special effects. The ship also ups the volume of its already fun deck parties. Three new options include:

* Island Deck Party, celebrating the ship’s poolside watering holes; 

* Rock-N-Glow ’80s Deck Party, with 1980s attire and music; and

* The adults-only Serenity’s South Beach-style club under the stars, with special lighting and DJ-spun tunes.

The ship also has added the Punchliner Comedy Club, offering some new family-friendly shows (it also offers adults-only performances), and “Hasbro: The Game Show” now has four new games. If cruisers just want to relax, the two-cloud Cloud Nine Spa is a pampering spot.

New Accommodations Options

Carnival carries 700,000 children annually, so the line is increasing accommodation options for families. The new Family Harbor “dedicated family zone” is aft on Deck 2 and includes 96 specially designed “family ergonomic” accommodations, which also provides key-card access to a dedicated Family Harbor Lounge with large-screen TVs, board games, a concierge and complimentary breakfast for families.

Family Harbor suites for up to five family members have an L-shaped sofa that can be converted into beds and a curtain to separate sleeping areas. These suites also have a walk-in closet and two bathrooms. There’s a mix of interior, ocean-view and balcony accommodations; some of the latter offer a third berth above the sofa.

Carnival Vista’s extensive water park has many new features, including the line’s first “raft slide.”
Carnival Vista’s extensive water park has many new features, including the line’s first “raft slide.”

Elsewhere on the ship, families will discover a huge 4,000-square-foot supervised Camp Ocean play area for kids 2-11, including the whimsical Dr. Seuss Bookville library (previously only available on Carnival Freedom), family play area and two new outdoor playgrounds. For tweens, Circle “C” is the ultimate chill space for ages 12-14, while Club 02 is the cool club for those ages 15-17.

Sun worshippers will gravitate to another new category of accommodations: the 61 tropical-inspired Havana Cabanas, which have private outdoor lanai-like patios with a swing and lounge chair. They’re also adjacent to a semi-private, ocean-air outdoor promenade. These guests also have exclusive daytime access to a semi-private ocean-air lounge, relaxation area, hot tub and the Havana Pool. These suites come with a laundry list of special amenities for guests, including priority check-in, upgraded bathroom facilities, reserved deck chairs in the Havana Pool area, 24-hour room services, bathrobes, minibars, two TVs with an A/V input plate, and more. Important to know: Guests staying in Havana Cabana accommodations must be a minimum of 12 years old.

Carnival Vista also has 72 Suites and Grand Penthouse Suites, but by far the largest category available for booking is the Ocean View with Balcony/Lanai with 880 of these available. Ours, #6250, was comfortable, spacious and Scandinavian-like in design. It had simple and subdued lines, colors and furnishings.

Ocean View with Balcony/Lanai, #6250
Ocean View with Balcony/Lanai, #6250

Clients who book this category stateroom will find more than ample storage space and hangers, a refrigerator, plush robes, a full-sized couch and nice-sized bathroom and shower. For those seeking more affordable accommodations, Carnival Vista also offers 293 Ocean View without Balcony staterooms and 723 interior staterooms.

More than 30 dining and beverage venues around Carnival Vista await guests – everything from Guy’s Burger Joint to family Italian-style dining at Cucina del Capitano, from Mexican burritos and tacos at BlueIguana Cantina to American steakhouse fare at Fahrenheit 555, and much more.

Guests can savor fresh seafood — some purchased in local ports along the route — at the ship’s Seafood Shack. Food can be prepared to order immediately, or pre-ordered, then delivered, served and enjoyed wherever passengers are dining that evening.

In addition, the line’s first exclusive Chef’s Table VIP dining experience has been introduced on the new ship. Limited to 16 guests, it’s already sold out for several upcoming cruises. Advance reservations are a must. We feel it is well worth the $75 surcharge.

Expanded Onboard Concepts

The size of Carnival Vista also allowed the line to offer greatly expanded versions of popular Carnival concepts. Among them is the now-sprawling Bonsai Sushi, which we observed was the busiest fee-based dining choice during the new ship’s first sailings. More outdoor dining has also been added there, as well as at Fahrenheit 555.

In the Serenity Adults-Only Retreat, clients will discover the addition of a large bar and Fresh Creations, offering custom salads. Guests start with greens and then customize the salad with their favorite elements; we liked this option for a light lunch.

The new indoor / outdoor Library Bar has more books on its shelves than we’ve ever seen on a Carnival ship. It’s a great place to read a book with a glass of wine, which is available at the full-service bar most evenings and 24/7 in the Library Bar’s self-serve wine-dispensing machine with a selection of eight wines.

The expanded Havana Bar is better than ever, with evenings typically filled with Cuban-inspired libations and live music. As with many other ships in Carnival’s fleet, RedFrog Pub & Brewery headlines the places to say “cheers,” in that it was developed in collaboration with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery. It, too, has additional outdoor seating, as well as new onboard-brewed Caribbean-inspired choices. We liked the live music, additional outdoor seating, brewing tours, tastings and self-serve tabletop taps.

The bustling Alchemy Bar remains a great gathering spot, thanks to creative cocktails and its central courtyard-like location near Bonsai Sushi and Fahrenheit 555. Smokers who wish to have a cocktail can visit the Casino Bar. On the top decks, there are many bars, including a large one with limited hours at Serenity and the poolside BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar.

Technology Innovations

In the staterooms, large flat-screen Carnival Hub TVs feature more free and pay-per-view movies than ever, lots of ship programming and information, and easy access to passenger accounts, photography and more. We felt the new digital “photography” offerings onboard are a giant leap forward. The busy, colorful, and open-space Pixels area was proof, thanks to easy and quick access to pictures and printing.

Guests can select what they wish to order after looking at photos on Pixels’ tabletop tablets. Or, they can order their photos through the in-cabin Carnival Hub TV or Carnival Hub smartphone app. That expanded and free app will also keep smart phone users abreast of daily offerings, as well as offering a social network to connect with family and old and new friends onboard. Plus, the Internet speed and package prices were better than we’ve ever experienced on other Carnival ships.

Inaugural Year Itineraries

Carnival Vista is on a summer schedule of Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Athens through October. The ship will call at ports throughout Italy, France, Spain and Croatia, as well as several new destinations for Carnival, including Crete (Heraklion) and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar.

Following an October 21 transatlantic crossing, the ship will offer a pair of 11-night voyages from New York in November. Later that month, it’s on to PortMiami, where the ship will home port year-round for eastern, western and southern Caribbean sailings.

-Lynn and Cele Seldon

The 1,290-square-foot Pinnacle Suite comes with floor-to-ceiling windows and has a bedroom with a king-sized bed.
The 1,290-square-foot Pinnacle Suite comes with floor-to-ceiling windows and has a bedroom with a king-sized bed.

Onboard the ’KONINGSDAM

Musical and culinary offerings highlight Travel Agent’s cruise on this new ship.

They could have easily called Holland America Line’s new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam the “Musicdam” or the “Diningdam” given that the ship’s major highlights focus strongly on new musical and culinary offerings. This new ship is designed to help the premium line broaden its appeal to new generations of guests while still retaining many of Holland America’s traditional brand features. 

Travel Agent sailed on this 99,500-grt ship, Holland America’s first Pinnacle-class vessel, during a seven-night “Norse Legends” itinerary in June. Here’s a snapshot look at our observations from a week onboard.

The Koningsdam’s new or enhanced “musical” offerings not only encompass live performances but also extend to the ship’s interior decor. Architect Bjorn Storbraaten and designer Adam Tihany have created a balanced vision of contemporary and traditional ship design and decor.

A pioneer in the luxury segment, Storbraaten worked on both Nieuw Amsterdam and Eurodam, as well as Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest. Tihany is a hospitality designer with serious design chops, including collaborations with the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Charlie Palmer. He also designed eight signature restaurants for the legendary Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque fame.

The designers focused on the “architecture of music.” Some examples of this new approach include the three-deck-high central atrium, with its airy stainless-steel sculpture representing a synthesis of a string quartet, and music-focused artwork in the stairwells and public spaces. In addition, the main dining room has musical note-like curved pillars, a soaring ceiling and a two-story wine tower centerpiece sheathed in curved copper.

World Stage

Situated forward on Decks 2 and 3, the World Stage theater and entertainment venue is completely “reimagined” with violin-like curves and woods and excellent sight lines. We appreciated the almost complete lack of view-killing columns.

The Dining Room aboard Koningsdam spans two floors and frames views of the sea.
The Dining Room aboard Koningsdam spans two floors and frames views of the sea.

It also boasts a two-story, 270-degree LED screen and a flexible space that can accommodate multiple stage configurations, so a simple stage setting can evolve into an Italian palazzo. The World Stage hosts musical performances, magic shows and repertory productions, including One World — a trip around the world through music. Several shows are produced in partnership with BBC Earth.

Along the way to World Stage is the meandering Music Walk area, where the new Lincoln Center Stage hosts nightly and afternoon chamber music recitals on sea days. This new musical concept for Holland America was launched in January onboard Eurodam and added in April to Oosterdam, and it will extend to other ships over time. Also within the Music Walk is Billboard Onboard with “live” dueling pianists, who play nightly sets of top hits.

Both Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard have their own bars, but there’s also a new bar concept situated between the two. It’s called Notes and its specialty is whiskey from Tennessee, Scotland, Ireland, Japan and other countries. Guests will find a wide range of flights, detailed guidance from the bar’s iPads and very well trained bartenders.

Deck 2 also has the Queen’s Lounge venue for the line’s already-popular B.B. King’s Blues Club, which brings Memphis music to the high seas. With nice views of the show from Deck 3 as well, the Koningsdam is the eighth ship in the fleet to feature this very popular and special music experience.

Direct from Beale Street, the B.B. King All-Star Band, an eight-piece group featuring two vocalists backed by rhythm and horn sections, plays a mix of Memphis-style music — everything from funky and fast to soulful and smooth. Performances are six nights a week, and during the performance, the venue features images of the legendary blues guitar musician. 

Culinary Highlights

Much like the Music Walk, Koningsdam’s Deck 2 is akin to a “culinary walk” that should greatly appeal to culinary buffs. The central promenade includes the main dining room aft and — moving forward — new interactive displays that present icons of the food and wine world through the line’s Culinary Council.

The new Lincoln Center Stage hosts nightly and afternoon chamber music recitals on sea days.
The new Lincoln Center Stage hosts nightly and afternoon chamber music recitals on sea days.

The walk also includes an expanded Culinary Arts Center, new Sel de Mer French seafood brasserie, a larger Pinnacle Grill, and a central bar that’s ideal for pre-dinner cocktails. The Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine is a dramatic open show kitchen that now features new individual cook stations, large mirrors and viewing screens ideal for cooking demonstrations, hands-on classes and workshops.

New to Koningsdam, the center has an evening farm-to-table experience called “Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center.” Unlike the daytime “hands-on” cooking classes, all of the preparation work and cooking for this particular meal are handled by the ship’s professional chefs. So cruisers can relax, sip a glass of wine and savor such artisanal dishes as celery and kale risotto and sea bass with fennel confit. The dishes often incorporate fresh microgreens grown in a glass-enclosed growing area; that’s possible through Holland America’s partnership with Netherlands-based Koppert Cress. The $39 fee for Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center includes a welcome cocktail, canapes and unlimited wine.

Located just outside the Culinary Arts Center is the ship’s new Blend by Chateau Ste. Michelle concept. Created in collaboration with Washington state’s oldest winery, this small venue enables participants to blend their own wine and enjoy it in one of the ship’s dining venues or back in their stateroom.

The two-hour Blend session includes information about the winery and the state’s history of winemaking, instructions on what to look for in the five blending wines, and the — here comes the fun part — blending and sampling your own creation. Wine lovers should find the Blend experience well worth the $129 per person charge. 

The new, intimate Sel de Mer, meaning “salt of the sea” in French, introduces the line’s first “à la carte” pricing. Cruisers will find fresh seafood dishes with contemporary twists, including oysters, scallops, seafood chowder, bouillabaisse, whole fish and more. The ship’s chefs also go ashore and bring back the catch of the day when possible. We highly recommend the crab salad appetizer at $13 and the salt-crusted baked branzino at $26.

Koningsdam’s Culinary Arts Center, an open show kitchen, hosts an evening farm-to-table dinner experience.
Koningsdam’s Culinary Arts Center, an open show kitchen, hosts an evening farm-to-table dinner experience.

In addition, Holland America has created a new glass-enclosed wine room to serve as a wall between Sel de Mer and the adjacent Pinnacle Grill, the line’s signature alternative dining restaurant. Along with Pacific Northwest dishes ($10 per person for lunch and $29 per person for dinner), Pinnacle Grill transforms into an even more upscale dining experience with its Taste of Librije ($69 per person) Dutch dining experience, which highlights the menu of Jonnie Boer’s three-star Michelin restaurant.

Up one deck and staying with the Netherlands theme, the new Grand Dutch Café is a nod to Holland America Line’s rich Dutch heritage. It delivers the goods with Dutch-themed sandwiches (think ham and cheese), snacks (we loved the pickled herring), pastries and coffee drinks, and, of course, Heineken on tap. 

Even the casual Lido dining experience on Deck 9 is new. It’s called Lido Market for good reason, as it has a more European market-like feel. Guests will encounter market-style signage, daily special boards, lots of display shelves, servers in different themed uniforms and different stations offering both grab-and-go and quickly prepared fresh options.

Specific food stations include: “Homestead” for comfort classics; “Wild Harvest” serving healthy fare; “Breadboard” with freshly baked breads and signature sandwiches; and “Distant Lands,” offering foods from regions in which the ship is cruising.

Though not new, Canaletto, a small plate “sharing” Italian dinner experience ($10) with carafes of Italian wines ($15), is also on this deck. All the way aft and with great views, an expanded Tamarind continues the popular concept found on Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam. Along with its Asian-infused dinner menu ($20), Tamarind now features a seven-seat sushi bar and lounge area.

Inaugural Year Itineraries

Koningsdam was christened this past spring by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in Rotterdam, where Holland America Line was founded 143 years ago. For its inaugural season, the ship will offer seven- to 14-day Baltic and Norwegian cruises using Amsterdam as a home port. Some voyages include calls in the British Isles and Iceland. At the end of the season, Koningsdam will sail from Amsterdam to Rome (Civitavecchia) on a 12-day journey and then cross the Atlantic to Port Everglades, FL. Between November 2016 and March 2017, it will sail four- to 11-day Caribbean voyages and one Bahamas cruise from that U.S. home port.

Sweet Dreams

New to Koningsdam are the line’s first-ever purpose-built staterooms for families (32 of them). They range from 222 to 231 square feet and feature such special amenities as two bathrooms and accommodations for up to five. Also new are a dozen single ocean-view cabins. These solo staterooms range from 127 to 172 square feet and feature most amenities found in the ship’s other accommodations.

In addition, cruisers can choose from other accommodations too — everything from a Verandah Spa Stateroom with lots of spa amenities (but the same sizes as Verandah staterooms) to the more robust Vista, Signature, and Neptune Suites, ranging from 260 square to 855 square feet.

For the ultimate indulgence, cruisers can book the ship’s sole Pinnacle Suite, with a whopping 1,290 square feet of space and floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can spread out in a living room with sofa bed accommodating one; dining room; bedroom with a king-sized bed; a dressing room; a master bathroom with sea views and an oversized whirlpool bath and shower combination, plus an additional show stall; and a private veranda, also with a whirlpool. This suite also has a pantry, microwave, refrigerator, guest half bath and a private stereo system. The look of this suite is a bit different from other such onboard accommodations; it’s not one large open area but more like an apartment with “rooms.”

Our stateroom (#4143) was among the ship’s 700 “standard” veranda cabins of 228-420 square feet. Ours had an obstructed view, but it was spacious and well-appointed with driftwood-like tones and stunning tile work in the airy bathroom. We liked the Mariner Dream bed with its bedside USB ports and outlets, great for plugging in all our devices. All staterooms and suites feature these beds.

Our stateroom also had a large flat-panel TV with video on demand, fresh fruit (upon request), Elemis bath amenities, plush robes, premium massage showerheads and frameless glass shower doors that “open up” the bathrooms even more. We appreciated the TV movies and video system that allowed us to check our account, daily schedule and restaurant reservations; guests can also do this on a smartphone or laptop via the line’s Navigator app.

-Lynn and Cele Seldon

 
 
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