A gentle tapping on my door at 9:00 AM brought with it a breakfast tray. I parted the curtains and toyed with an omelete, cereal with soy milk, toast and coffee before heading up to Explorations for a double shot cappuccino.
With fellow guests emptying the ship to head off on varied tours of Naples, Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Capri, Sorrento and Amalfi, I savored the peace and tranquility of Explorations before commencing my own quest to document the public spaces on Promenade (3), Plaza (2), and Main (1) Decks.
With its fully encircling promenade on the aptly named Promenade Deck (3), HAL has maintained a much-cherished fleetwide feature aboard the KONINGSDAM, but not without compromise. Guests can still enjoy that invigorating walk around the lower portion of the ship but the views are now mostly obscured by boats and life saving gear. This is much better than the “segments” on the new Princess and recent Celebrity ships but it will surely be a disappointment for those who love their proximal sea views. Nonetheless, three laps equals one mile.
Spanning two levels, the 667-seat World Stage begins the line up of public rooms on Promenade and Plaza Decks. This state-of-the-art venue features a 270-degree wrap-around video screen that enhances stage productions with tailor-made digital imagery created by New York-based Batwin and Robin Productions.
Promenade Deck continues aft of the forward vestibule with a striking spiral staircase (somewhat reminiscent of the Meridian Bar-to-Crow’s Nest stairs on the late SS CANBERRA) that links the Casino with the Music Walk entertainment complex on Plaza Deck. Although it is a welcome and attractive link between the two main public decks, there may be some upcoming revisions to these stairs and they may be entirely reconfigured on the next Pinnacle Class ship due to noise from the Casino infiltrating the venues below.
Accommodating up to 450 guests, the Casino has its own dedicated bar and all of the perquisite slots, gaming and card tables.
With KONINGSDAM’s dynamic new architectural team combining the talents of Oslo-based Yran and Storbratten and New York-based Adam Tihany, there is a more sophisticated use of colors and patterns over the previous ships designed by Utrecht-based VFD. The Casino, with its brown, gold and tan tones marks a refreshing break from the dated razzle dazzle of its equivalent on the Vista Class ships.
Park West has its own dedicated art gallery with original works for sale directly aft of the Casino on the port side of Promenade Deck.
Offering various sundries, from logo wear to fashion accessories, the Signature Shops line the starboard Promenade Deck passage aft of the Casino.
The upper level of the 300-seat Queen’s Lounge follows on the port side of Promenade Deck. Reminiscent of the balconied Queens Rooms on the QUEEN VICTORIA and QUEEN ELIZABETH, it is an impressive space with wave-shaped balconies, maple-toned veneers and spindly chandeliers.
As part of HAL’s new Music Walk entertainment venture, the Queen’s Lounge is the thrice nightly setting for B.B. King’s All-Stars, featuring bands and artists that have been cast, trained and vetted via HAL’s new branding partnership with the original B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis, TN.
The midships vestibule follows the Queen’s Lounge on Promenade Deck, adjoining the three deck tall Atrium, a circular space with brushed steel fixtures taking their inspiration from the inner workings of musical instruments. The overall decorative theme of KONINGSDAM is fueled by all forms of music, from classic to contemporary, with artwork, soft fittings and even the names of four accommodation decks (Schubert, Mozart, Gershwin and Beethoven) paying tribute.
The Future Cruise desk and Reception overlook the port side of the Atrium.
On the starboard side of the Atrium, there is another new exclusive to the HAL fleet, the 66-seat Grand Dutch Cafe, which offers up specialty coffees for purchase and a revolving menu of complimentary and for-purchase treats, from pastries to sandwiches and cookies throughout the day.
It was a special morning in the Grand Dutch Cafe with orange tulips in tribute to the Dutch royal family’s House of Oranje to celebrate the Dutch prince’s birthday.
A passage continues aft on Promenade Deck on the starboard side with the Photo Studio and Photo Gallery.
At the far aft end of Promenade and Plaza Decks, Adam Tihany’s magnificent, 1,098-seat Dining Room is the KONINGSDAM’s traditional, included-in-the-fare restaurant. Clearly an evolution of Tihany’s masterful restaurants on Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships, the Dining Room boasts eggshell-toned “ribs” that are paeans to the framework of a violin, versus the Santiago Callatrava-inspired supports in the Solstice Class restaurants.
Like its equivalents on the Solstice Class ships, the Dining Room has balcony seating but on the KONINGSDAM, the layout is slightly asymmetrical.
Offset by the eggshell framework, the deep maroon and bright yellow hues of the Murano glass chandeliers and carpeting give the space a welcome and appetizing warmth.
Like its Celebrity Solstice Class precedents, the Dining Room boasts a grand staircase and a double deck wine tower at opposite ends of its domed center. Although lacking a name that lives up to its decorative merit, the Dining Room is the most impressive looking eatery in the entire HAL fleet.
PLAZA DECK (2)
The Digital Workshop computer classroom follows the World Stage on starboard Plaza Deck.
The lower landing of the spiral stairs connecting the Casino with the Plaza Deck public spaces is set between two unique-to-KONINGSDAM public spaces that are part of the new Music Walk: Billboard Onboard on the port side and Lincoln Center Stage on the starboard side.
The 165-seat Billboard magazine-sponsored Billboard Onboard is the venue for Billboard chart-topping hits performed by two pianists, a guitarist and DJ.
Directly across from Billboard Onboard on the starboard side of Plaza Deck, the 165-seat Lincoln Center Stage, in partnership with New York’s Lincoln Center, is the setting for American standards, Jazz and Classical concertos with musicians vetted by the Lincoln Center.
The Explorer’s Bar is located at the aft end of Lincoln Center Stage.
A dedicated whiskey bar, Notes, is another KONINGSDAM exclusive, situated at the aft junction of Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard.
Distinguished by its elegant trappings, Merabella, one of the Signature Shops on the starboard side of Plaza Deck, is the go-to for fancy watches and jewelry.
The lower level of the Queen’s Lounge/B.B. King’s Live, the third of the Music Walk venues, is directly aft of Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Center Stage.
The midships vestibule and mid level of the Atrium follow on Plaza Deck.
Bordering the starboard side of the Atrium on Plaza Deck, the Ocean Bar seats 63 guests.
A traditional space found on all HAL, ships, the Ocean Bar, with its rich and restrained color scheme and quality furnishings, offers views of the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows. Due to its proximity to no less than four key dining venues, it is a favorite pre-and post-dinner watering hole.
The extra-tariff($10.00 lunch, $29.00 dinner, per person),116-seat, reservations-required Pacific Northwest-themed steakhouse and seafood eatery, the Pinnacle Grill, is located on the port side of the Atrium on Plaza Deck. More on the Pinnacle Grill in the next post.
Located aft of the Atrium on the port side of Plaza Deck, the seafood brasserie Sel De Mer is another new KONINGSDAM extra-tariff dining venue but unlike the others, it is priced on an a la carte basis. More on Sel De Mer in a future post…
Blend is located on starboard Plaza Deck across from Sel De Mer and the Culinary Arts Center. Another new exclusive to KONINGSDAM, it is an extra-tariff ($129.00) wine-blending venue sponsored by the Chateau St. Michelle winery in Washington state.
The Culinary Arts Center offers cooking classes in the daytime and at night becomes the setting for yet another new extra-tariff dining venue ($39.00 per guest, including unlimited wine) featuring farm-to-table cuisine that is prepared in an open kitchen. More later in this post…
The aft Plaza Deck passageway circumvents the Culinary Arts Center and continues along the starboard side with touch screen videos describing the chefs, cooking techniques and courses in the Culinary Arts Center.
The lower level of the Dining Room concludes the public spaces on Plaza Deck.
MAIN DECK (1)
Main Deck (1) begins and ends with a large block of Exterior and Interior cabin accommodation. In their midst, several meeting rooms surround the Journeys Ashore shore excursions counter at the base of the Atrium.
Hudson Rooms 1 and 2 are on the starboard side of Main Deck.
On the starboard side, aft of the Stuyvesant meeting room (not shown), the two Half Moon meeting rooms, like the Hudson meeting rooms, can be combined to accommodate larger groups.
Marking a huge departure from the faux Xian warriors and gilded antiques found on prior HAL ships, the artwork on the KONINGSDAM veers from evocative to provocative and rarely disappoints.
Name plaques were not yet installed during my short time on the ship but a large portion of the art is musically inspired. The media ranges from sculptures, wood blocks and ceramics to paintings and sketches.
I took a short break in the midst of documenting for a light lunch at the New York Deli and Pizza overlooking the Lido Pool on Panorama Deck.
The new complimentary eatery has a mean insalata caprese and…
…an excellent Manhattan Treat (turkey, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye). For breakfast (6:00 to 10:00 AM) The NY Deli offers up toasted bagel sandwiches and for lunch/dinner (11:30 AM to 8:30 PM), eight types of sandwiches and numerous pizzas (served between 11:30 AM and 1:00 AM). I would try a made-to-order pizza later in the cruise — it was good but not nearly as good as those offered on Carnival and Princess ships.
Once the KONINGSDAM was fully documented, I ventured ashore with one of my favorite fellow journalists, Seatrade Insider’s lovely Anne Kalosh, in search of some classic Neapolitan pizza.
Da Michele is one of Naples’ most famous pizzerias and, while we initially had some challenges locating it, once we turned the corner and spotted the crowd outside, we knew we had arrived. We hovered in the company of fellow pizza aficionados for some twenty minutes before our number (27) was called.
Once inside, we ordered our respective Margheritas, some acqua frizzante and engorged on the simplest but most exquisite of culinary creations for a mere five or six Euros a piece. Afterward, we had just enough time to get back to the ship, where I enjoyed a work out with a passing view of Vesuvius as KONINGSDAM quietly motored off to Palermo.
Our 8:00 PM dinner was scheduled for the Culinary Arts Center. I had no idea what to expect but with the first sip of organic Snowqualmie Cabernet Sauvignon (unlimited and included) and my first taste of the Roasted Heritage Carrot Soup, I was hooked. Other starters included Broccoli and Baked Ricotta Salad (with wild rice, asparagus pesto and roasted pine nuts), Herb Crusted Beef Bavate, Pan-Fried Sea Trout and Pumpkin Ricotta Parcels.
Main Courses range from Ribeye Cap With Roasted Parsnip Puree, Vacuum Poached Seabass and Fennel Confit to Red Quinoa With Zucchini, all prepared in the open kitchen with a narrative from the chef and his sous chefs. All in all, a dining event not to be missed.
With dinner extending well into the evening, we missed the production show in the World Stage. I decided to work off some of the day’s more indulgent calories with a walk around the ship, settling in the midships lido to watch the latest Star Wars movie on the big screen, accompanied with a bag of freshly popped popcorn from the New York Deli.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."