Recommend July 2016 - (Page 13)

onboardreview At BLEND By Chateau Ste. Michelle, wine enthusiasts can create their own wines. MS Koningsdam Geri Bain Watching fellow passengers gracefully samba and cha-cha to a live band as white-gloved waiters served a formal high tea in the elegant Queen's Lounge, stopping by the sidewalk bistro-style Grand Dutch Cafe for a sandwich and brew, watching movies under the stars, and savoring our artistically presented gourmet dinner in the new Sel de Mer French restaurant were just a few of the highlights for my husband and me during a recent sailing on the ms Koningsdam. The first of the Holland America Line (HAL) Pinnacle Class ships, the ms Koningsdam puts a contemporary spin on the line's traditional product that may feel surprising at first to loyal HAL cruisers. "It's a fresh take on what they had on other ships, polished to appeal to a younger crowd," said Michael Consoli, an Atlanta-based Cruise Planners franchise owner. "The ship will be familiar to loyal Holland America cruisers-the layouts of the cabins are the same but with modern finishes; the deck plan is similar with the Crow's Nest and other things they love, but they've added features that expand its appeal." Size Matters The 2,650-passenger ship is now the line's largest (a sister ship of the same size is slated for delivery in fall 2018). And while not big by mega-ship standards, the added space provides room for new onboard experiences. "It allows us to introduce some wow factor venues," said Eva Jenner, v.p., North America sales. "It's our first ship with a purpose-built Music Walk...and has the largest Greenhouse Spa in our fleet. It brings a new vibe to the premium cruise experience, yet continues to deliver what our guests have come to expect from us." Widening its appeal, the ship introduces HAL's first single cabins as well as family cabins with convertible and bunk beds that sleep up to five and an expanded kid's facility with dedicated indoor and outdoor space. This ship can be a good fit for some multigenerational trips as long as the kids don't come expecting a surf simulator, climbing walls or a DJ blasting tunes around the pool, said Naples, FL-based Cruise Planners franchise owner Lisa Hoffman. "It's an elegant ship with a country-club casual ambiance." For some clients, Hoffman said she would draw comparisons between the Koningsdam and Oceania. "It's similar in sophistication but at a lower price point and a larger ship," she says. Expanding Palates HAL fans will be happy to find familiar specialty restaurants such as the Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian and pan-Asian Tamarind. They should also like the new a la carte French-style brasserie, Sel de Mer, specializing in fresh seafood dishes. And there are other changes. The Culinary Arts Center, known for its cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes, has added immersive dinners on the Koningsdam-5-course meals with unlimited wine where chefs prepare and explain each course in the show kitchen before it is served. And wine enthusiasts can book a session at BLEND By Chateau Ste. Michelle to try their hand at creating their own wines. The Dining Room's bold new design with its sweeping lines and red and yellow Murano glass chandeliers puzzled a few long-time HAL cruisers we spoke with, although most finally embraced the change. The Dining Room remains unchanged in allowing pre-set, reserved or drop-in seating and I can attest to the gracious and high level of service. Plus, the cuisine, developed by the HAL Culinary Council under the direction of award-winning master chef Rudi Sodamin, rivaled that of a fine land-based restaurant. Also introduced on the Koningsdam were several casual, no-upcharge dining options. Overlooking the pool, the New York-style Deli and Pizza, which served individual artisan pizzas, salads and sandwiches until 1 a.m., was nearly always busy. Another hit was the Grand Dutch Cafe, which served sandwiches and snacks including Dutch favorites such as herring and traditional small pancakes on pretty blue and white Delftware. Entertainment for All We especially enjoyed the new Music Walk, a three-venue center that taps partnerships with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, B.B. King's Blues Club and Billboard to satisfy different musical moods and tastes. Our top choice was the daily chamber music july 2016 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend July 2016

Editor’s Notes
Hotel Desk: Escape the Ordinary
Tour Talk: Rail Travel in Europe
Expedition Cruising: Adventure of a Lifetime
Onboard Review: Holland America’s MS Koningsdam
Do Like the Locals in Latin America
Only on These Islands
Travel Advisor Corner: Dining Out on International
Onsite Review: Barbados
Explore Israel Off the Well-Trodden Road
Onsite Review: South Africa: From Beach to Bush
Explore the Great Outdoors via Rail Travel
Onsite Review: Club Med Sandpiper Bay
Singular Experiences
Onsite Review: At Home in Thuringia, Germany
Journeys Beyond the Ordinary
Come Aboard: India Rail Travel

Recommend July 2016