A fine ship, a fine cruise for those who don't mind being on the high seas for a week.
Some procedures about embarkation and - particularly - disembarkation need to be improved.
2 out of 5
Took the train from Roma Termini - binario 29 is a l-o-o-n-g walk, situated on a satellite portion of the big central station. On arrival in Civitavecchia no signage for port, no line of taxis, no shuttle that I could see right at the Civitavecchia train station (I had not prebooked transportation with the cruise line). I walked quite a ways with the suitcase, finally found the shuttle stop well into town. Strange for such a busy port. Did I miss something?
Suitcase went underneath shuttle bus. I was looking to see an agent to get a luggage tag on arrival, as per per-cruise literature, but before I could do that, overly zealous luggage handlers hoisted my suitcase onto a cart and off it went. Luckily I had a highly visible name tag of my own on the suitcase, and it found its way to my cabin (pardon me, "my stateroom...")
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
I don't like the fuss and pomp of tablecloth waiter-service "fine dining", I like to see what I'm getting before it goes onto my plate, so I never ate anywhere except at the Lido Market (buffet, no extra charge) and the Dutch Café (limited selection of fine specialties like pea soup, herring with onions, sandwiches, apple pie like Grandma would make it, all at no extra charge). I didn't drink alcohol.
Nice selection of teas, juices and such. Coffee so-so brewed, other coffees available for extra charge in several locations.
The food selection and quality at Lido is excellent, with many Asian dishes to round out the predictable European and American dishes - very fine curries and other far-eastern delicacies.
A drawback: No trays for pax, so you have to make many trips from table to the various food stations (there are many, it's a huge area, on two sides of the ship), one trip for the appetizer, one for the soup, one for the salad, and so on - it gets tedious to have to get up and stand in line all the time between courses. And if you're a single traveler with no companion to hold your seat, you likely find someone else sitting in "your" seat when you come back, because the cleaner-uppers are very fast and overly efficient... Sure, you can run to your cabin before every meal to get a jacket to sling over the back of your chair, but that gets tedious also.
If you are used to eating between 9 and 10PM you're out of luck - Lido closes at 8:30, a single station re-opens at 10:30 for one hour. Dutch Café stops food service at 8PM. I'm not sure when the last dining-room service shift starts, but it's also quite early. There is a pizza-and-burgers place on an upper deck, but it serves no pizza by the slice, only full pizzas.
Nevertheless, I ate well, and I haven't even mentioned the desserts that are out of this world!
4 out of 5
The fitness center has a 7AM morning stretch session followed by an abdominal training session - at no extra charge, it is held in a room too small to accommodate the demand. I managed to make the 6PM workout (also at no extra charge) a few times when the chamber-music ensemble wasn't performing (see "Entertainment"). There are treadmills and weights and such available at certain times, also at no extra charge, in a very nice and well planned area, not an afterthought like I've seen on other ships.
There is an open-deck jogging track that can get just a bit narrow when a jogging individual needs to get past a walking couple, but it's not a deal breaker, folks are considerate and it works well. From the jogging track it is possible to extend the loop by going further around the same deck and returning to the track on the other side, so there's plenty of scope for keeping tedium away.
A fine open-air sports court is accessible at all times, for basket-ball (balls are right there, no need to go sign them out), and at other times for organized activities like basket-ball shoot-arounds, and net games etc.
On that same sports deck there are a few push-and pull-machines to exercise on while interrupting a jog - very nice!
I can't report on the many other activities offered since I didn't take part in any of them - there is more than one pool for example, and much more.
5 out of 5
I was thrilled to find that the Lincoln Center Stage is not just a gimmick with a famous name, but that there were (almost) nightly performances by a very proficient quintet of classical musicians - a string quartet (https://www.furiantquartet.com/) and a pianist, playing three sets of 30-40 minutes each. They are on a 4-month contract, playing a hugely diverse repertoire of original compositions and - in some cases - adaptations/arrangements, all supplied by Lincoln Center under contract with HAL. They performed some heavy-weight pieces like Dvorak and Brahms piano quintets, and word got around quickly so that their audiences swelled nightly - who said classical music was a "niche" art form?
Aside from that, there are popular entertainments: Old pop songs billed as "Billboard" Hits performed by two pianist/vocalists, an R&B band playing mostly 60's hits on the "B.B.King Stage" that doubles as the "Queen's Lounge" for other activities, and other musical events in the huge and beautifully equipped World Theatre (great sound system and three huge high-definition projection screens). I only heard a classical pianist, somebody Mori from Japan, very good, and a clarinetist/saxophonist with a small back-up band, but the is much more going on than I can talk about.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
My cabin attendants De Yus and Ayu were treasures. Overall the staff is well trained to be friendly and polite even when it's obvious that they must be tired, they work long shifts and are away from home for 10 months at a stretch (most are from Indonesia).
5 out of 5
The design works well, there are very few tight spots at busy times, and the decor is tasteful.
Cleanliness and attention to detail were superb throughout the ship.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
My interior window-less cabin was very fine, and the newness of the ship showed itself in small details like the three USB outlets that stayed on even when the removal of the keycard cut the power to the lighting.
Being solo I wished there was a way to remove one of the two beds that, together, form the big bed at the expense of space for a comfortable chair. If there is no storage for such a bed removal, at least the cabin should have been designed so that one bed could be tilted and secured against the wall to make room for an armchair. As it was, I had to sit on the bed, or on the hard stool at the little desk.
Other than that, no complaints about the cabin, it was a nice home away from home, and the generously proportioned desk and the many electrical outlets allowed me to work on my computer and be productive.
Ships are being promoted with slogans and often gimmicky "themes". The theme for Koningsdam is music - the decor throughout the ship uses musical references, and the programming of the concerts lives up to that promoted theme - no gimmick in this case!
It's still a fairly new ship. I had read about "teething troubles" on early cruises, but by the time I took my cruise everything seemed to have been worked out, I recall no hiccups.
While I can't comment on many items that are important to other pax ("fine" dining, alcohol service, group activities etc.), my experience was overwhelmingly positive.
A minus point: The audience of the classical concerts from the Lincoln Center Stage is being bothered, often greatly, by noises from passers-by who may not be aware of the concert because they can't see across - there should be a staffer placed right there to ask them to "keep it down". And the electronic quasi-musical rings and dings from the slot machines in the nearby casino should be turned off during performances.
What I don't understand is how smoking can be allowed indoors in the casino - it stinks up the concert space and passage ways far and wide.
By December of 2018 the ship will be in dry dock and the location of the Lincoln Center Stage will be removed to the back of the ship - let's hope that this will take care of these issues.
I happen to get really annoyed by constant background music - the cheesy pop-music type in particular (like hearing, as I did one day during a meal, what seemed like a hundred repetitions of "help me Rondo, help help me Rondo" - whoever the blasted Rondo is or was, I could have killed him or her).
On recent Celebrity cruises this was a serious issue that drove me to my cabin when there was no escaping the "music" and its repetition of a very short playlist in the buffet restaurant. So I was pleased to hear that the background music in the Lido Market restaurant was mostly played at a much lower volume. Not so on sun decks of course, but to the ship's designers' credit, there was always a nook and a cranny to be found where the "music" was either distant or not audible. Do most people really want to hear loud non-stop music day-in day-out? Beats me.
I took the Jerez de la Frontera (sherry manufacturer) bus tour - ok, not overwhelming, lots of waiting around before taking off and again before driving back. Had a better time walking around town after the tour - came across the birth house of composer de Falla, charming plazas etc. - a nice typical Spanish town.
My first time in Funchal. I walked up to the Botanical Gardens (nice! Plants from all over the world) where I took the funicular to the top (Monte, where the other funicular also arrives, the one that starts out down at sea level). Then I walked down along the street where the sleds come down - much fun watching the excited and screaming passengers come by. Quite a climb and descent, good exercise with great views.
We had two days there, so I got to walk the city streets, old and new. Didn't get out of town - maybe next time?
This is where HAL fell short.
I tagged my suitcase the night before disembarkation, amd left it in the hallway, like everybody else. It was not to be found in the customs hall the next day. A HAL attendant went looking, to no avail, I filled in a report and went to my motel (for my overnight stay before my flight home the next day).
By mid-afternoon I get a call on my cell, a woman taking an unacceptable tone, practically accusing me of not having tagged my suitcase as the reason why it couldn't be found, and ordering me to come get it at once, right now, "we're leaving it out front at Pier 19". By the time I had found a ride (an incompetent Lyft driver, another horror saga) and got there, the suitcase had been again removed and needed to be fetched, again with a most unpleasant demeanor by the attendants.
I can see that rough handling can result in the removal of a luggage tag, they are quite flimsy after all. But why on earth could HAL not train a customs hall attendant to know where tag-less suitcases are stashed? And why can't a company of HAL's caliber send the suitcase via courier to a passenger in a local motel, the way airlines do it, as a courtesy? Something is very wrong there in this kind of treatment of a passenger.
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