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HOLLAND AMERICA'S HAVEN FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL TRAVEL
 
(2017 - Fall Issue)

Writer: TOBY SALTZMAN



There’s more to cruising than taking a jaunt to sea. After three decades of sailing around the globe, I’ve learned that cruising can impact your life and, over time, the places you visit.

Lounging in my favourite spot, where a curved pocket of Koningsdam’s aft panorama deck gives a sensation of floating between blue skies and shimmering seas, I reflected on how my wildly diverse experiences from Asia to Europe and Arctic to Antarctica have broadened my perspective of the world and its people. I found myself embracing the mindful mantra of Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, who believes in the power of transformational travel.

Ashford had shared his ideals while dining in Sel de Mer, the ship’s French brasserie, as we feasted on fragrant bouillabaisse brimming with seafood, and a delectable apple tarte tatin dessert. “Global travels can change the world, and experiencing local cultures and environments can inspire people to change attitudes, celebrate differences and appreciate our shared humanity,” Ashford said, going on to explain the inspired initiative to offer passengers a diverse scope of enriching experiences focusing on destination immersion and personalized travel. Dubbed EXC—for Explorations Central—the program revolves around an onboard, interactive hub of video resource materials supplemented by expert guides who help guests pursue their passions for authentic excursions in any port, and prepare them for engaging in meaningful experiences with locals by providing maps, plus tips on local culture and etiquette. 

A DESTINATION UNTO ITSELF

From my passenger’s point of view, the Koningsdam is designed as a destination unto itself, with mindful strategy to suit globetrotters of all ages, from mature travellers to millennials.

Launched in May 2016, the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam debuted Holland America’s new Pinnacle Class of ships, capable of cruising to 22.3 knots. Thirteen decks high, Holland America’s largest cruise ship houses more dining venues plus enhanced public spaces, indoors and out. The interiors mingle elegant traditional style with artful contemporary flair. Notably in the atrium, musical elements—like railings that resemble piano strings—set the tone for the “Music Walk” or path that links bars and entertainment venues. The exterior, particularly where promenade deck areas overlook the main and aft pools, is structured with curves that create intimate living areas, some set with sofas and tables. Those with a penchant for privacy who don’t mind a daily fee may prefer “The Retreat” on the observation deck, a serene enclave fringed with curtained cabanas that face the sea.      

IT’S ALL ABOUT WELLNESS

Inspiring for passengers who are eager to maintain or kick-start a wellness lifestyle, Koningsdam abounds with options to enhance their cruising pleasure. The first day at sea, I rose at dawn to find actives greeting the day with an adrenalin rush. In the gym, speed cyclists raced toward panoramic views of the horizon while TRX suspension buffs stretched to the core. Outside, power-walkers circled the deck, pausing occasionally along the circuit of bars and equipment designed to test their mettle for balance and endurance. Determined to try a kinetic apparatus—best described as an “elliptical swing”—I pedalled precariously, finally conquering the swinging motion that induced an exhilarating surge of energy. Later, I relaxed into the holistic environment of the Greenhouse Spa. My muscles soothed by the bubbly waters of the hydrotherapy pool, I settled into the thermal suite, letting my mind wander into the blissful being of Zen at sea.

CULINARY FINESSE

Koningsdam’s dining options reflect Holland America’s enhanced culinary finesse, overseen by renowned master chef Rudi Sodamin. The Dining Room—a glamorous setting illuminated by red-and-white chandeliers—offers delicious standards at set or reserved times. Myriad flavours tempt palates in the alternative restaurants, reserved at a fee: The Pinnacle Grill, Holland America’s hallmark steakhouse; Canaletto Italian Trattoria; Tamarind, for pan-Asian dishes and sushi; Sel de Mer for exquisite French delicacies presented in Michelin-award-winning style.  The Culinary Arts Center—an open show kitchen by day—engages guests with pure “eatertainment” by night as chefs demonstrate the creation of artisanal dishes, often using items sourced in local ports. Starring chef Tomas Kargol—a Canadian who honed his skills in top Toronto restaurants—the eatery adds flavourful zing to meals with fresh cress (micro-greens) that is grown in a herbarium. 

Oenophiles can cultivate their palates and learn sommelier skills at Blend, a unique wine-blending concept partnered with Château Ste Michelle Winery, the  oldest in Washington State. Here, guests swirl, sniff and taste Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines, and learn to blend wine to their personal taste. They may also name and design their own labels. Whisky fans may prefer the whisky tasting bar called Notes, where rare bottles include one at US$6,000.

ENTERTAINMENT FOR ALL

Evenings offer varieties of entertainment for every mood. At World Stage, performers are back-dropped by a 270-degree video screen that totally encompasses the audience in the production. The Queen’s Lounge rocks to the rhythms and blues of B.B. King’s All Stars Band, featuring musicians trained in the Memphis Club. Billboard Onboard boasts musicians and a DJ playing Billboard Magazine’s top hits. Lincoln Center Stage—partnered with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts—features classical and chamber music.

Meanwhile, for all the adult amenities and programs, parents can rest assured that their children are safely entertained in the wholesome environment of Club HAL kids’ programs. Divided into three age groups—each with its own dedicated outdoor space—the free programs offer sports, arts and crafts, plus educational activities (including teaching languages of local ports), and run daily, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. On sea days, parents may leave kids onboard while going ashore, or select a family-friendly excursion. While the younger groups (ages 3–6 and 7–12) must be picked up by parents, teens (13–17) may come and go as they please. 

SPACIOUS GUEST QUARTERS

Conducive to comfortable cruising, Koningsdam’s 13 categories of staterooms include spacious single cabins and wheelchair-accessible cabins. Family cabins feature a convertible double sofa, a berth that unfolds from the ceiling and two bathrooms. Signature suites offer concierge services; Vista suites include privileged access to the exclusive Neptune Lounge.

Settling in for the evening, I lingered on my balcony, gazing at the stars. Watching their reflections dance across the waves, I mulled over my new mantra, and how—in some meaningful way—my travels could change the world.

Travel Planner

Koningsdam’s itineraries include Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic and trans-Atlantic cruises. For information, visit hollandamerica.com.   

 
 
 
 
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