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Holland America Line's new Koningsdam represents a dramatic paradigm shift for the premium cruise brand, such that one might wonder how it affects the experience of returning to the line's other ships. After spending a week aboard the Westerdam after last sailing on the Koningsdam, the distinction between the classic Holland America and future Holland America is strikingly clear but not entirely exclusive.
For decades, Holland America exhibited cruise ships with a storied ocean liner heritage, and with them came an old-fashioned decor of red tones, golden accents and antique fixtures. The historical brand image is still mostly present on the bulk of the fleet and, to those in the know, is still a lovely way to honor its timeline, but, to others, the look is very dated. As a millennial who appreciates the line's history, I fall somewhere in the middle, making the Koningsdam an ideal happy median.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Testing 'America's Test Kitchen' Onboard Holland America Line[/READMORE]
The line's newest ship is considerably more modern but not without plenty of homages to where the company has come from. Colors are far brighter onboard, the golds have been toned down for the better, and new venues like the Grand Dutch Cafe perfectly pay tribute to the past. Meanwhile, the latest creature comforts and technologies make its accommodations and entertainment some of the best in the industry.
However, Holland America is very conscious of the fact that its existing fleet needs to stay on par with the latest as much as possible, and so it has launched a program to upgrade its suites as well as introduce the line's Music Walk entertainment concept to several existing ships. The collection of live Billboard Onboard dueling pianos, Lincoln Center Stage chamber music and B.B. King's Blues Club tunes has created an absolute winner that resonates among loyal and new guests.
[READMORE]READ MORE: TravelPulse On Board: Koningsdam Review[/READMORE]
Currently, the Westerdam is in transition and honestly looks a bit tired ahead of its planned April 2017 refurbishment, where it too will receive Music Walk as well as the handsome Gallery Bar replacement for its underutilized Northern Lights nightclub. Until then, its condition is mixed with several worn cabin elements and a blotchy exterior finish, but work is already underway to elevate the onboard experience as carpets are being replaced and paint is being primed for resurfacing as we speak.
Of course, in the meantime, the software is what shines brightest onboard until its hardware is more closely raised to a Koningsdam level. The food onboard remains fantastic, easily the best in the line's market segment, and service standards are excellent.
In fact, the ship is the first in the fleet to sport the line's popular partnership with "America's Test Kitchen," which alone makes any other shortcomings forgivable. I, for one, cannot wait to see what's in store for the Westerdam after it is refurbished to more extensively review the ship at that time.
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Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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