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Holland America’s new ship is a star

September 9, 2017

There was a time when dinner was the highlight of your day on a cruise ship. Well, other than seeing a golden stupa beside the Irrawaddy or stepping ashore on the Galapagos. It was dressing up time, walking down to the restaurant on the waterline, it was hearing the barman saying, “Your usual dry Martini, sir?” and following the maitre d’ to your favourite table by a porthole.KODM_FLOM

Times have changed. One night on my recent cruise the cocktails were at the Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 and dinner at Tamarind on Deck 10.
The ship was Holland America’s new Koningsdam and it does have a fine Dining Room in the usual location, but it also has six other restaurants, five casual dining places, an ice cream stand and 24-hour room service. No one goes hungry.
Mind you, we had 2,880 people on board, and popular spots, like the Lido Market buffet, could get very busy for breakfast and lunch. My routine was to find a good waiter, in this case Dicky, and stick with him. Every morning he had fresh fruit, such as raspberries and blueberries, ready for me, and if there were no tables in his section, I’d sit outside by the stern pool.
Holland America always does good Asian food at lunchtime, so I would make a beeline for the Distant Lands section for a curry, Peking duck or get a great pizza at the New York Deli.
At night, however, you can book the restaurant that suits you – Sel de Mer for fish, oysters and bouillabaise; Canaletto’s for tasty Italian; the elegant Pinnacle Grill for steak; the Culinary Arts Centre whose open kitchen features ingredients from its own ‘garden’; and Tamarind for Asian food. It does cost extra, but I never heard a complaint, for the restaurants provided variety in very agreeable spaces. This is the future of cruising.
Meanwhile Pinnacle and the Dining Room also do lunch.
I enjoyed them all, particularly the evening at the Tamarind when our lofty location looking over the stern gave an outstanding view of the ship’s passage down Norway’s spectacular Aurlandsfjord and Songefjord to the North Sea.
We had started in Amsterdam, just a short drive from the excellent Schiphol airport, a fascinating city where wooden ships sailed by men of iron made fortunes for the Dutch East India Company for 200 years. When the route round the cape to the Spice Islands, now Indonesia, was rivalled by the New World, and who can forget that New York started life as New Amsterdam, it sowed the seed for the Holland America Line.
Now we have the Koningsdam, a whopping 100,000 tons, more than twice the size of the Titanic, and probably the best HAL ship ever.
Our captain was a Dutchman but his wife is Canadian and they live in Ontario. The relief captain is a Canadian, so although the ketchup could run out, you should always be able to find Maple Sirup.
We had a day at sea and then arrived in Oslo, docking right beside imposing Akershus Castle where I revisited the Resistance Museum which tells the stirring story of the brave men and women who fought for liberation from the Germans. I must applaud the guide on the ship who described in great detail how the Norwegians sank the new German cruiser Blutcher as it entered Oslofjord, slowing the invasion fleet and allowing the royal family to flee to Britain.
HAL offers an impressive choice of shore excursions, a couple of which I enjoyed on this cruise, but not a few passengers simply put on their walking shoes and went exploring, not a bad idea when the grub is so good. The ship’s chef got out a bit as well, picking up fresh salmon in Flam.
Here the big attraction was the railway, and the rail company and the ship worked together brilliantly to get what seemed like all the passengers on a series of trains that grunted up a mountain affording wonderful views of impressive waterfalls.
There was a stop at the rustic Vatnahalsen hotel for coffee and waffles, also a special place to go in winter, when hardy souls can ski 20 kms down to the fjord.
We went ashore by tender at Kristiansand, famous for its fish market, the Fiskebrygga, and I stuck to that theme by visiting a sardine cannery museum at Stavanger. Strangely enough, nothing opened here until 11am. Could be the Norwegians are late sleepers.
Regardless, they did a fantastic job with the Petroleum Museum, a short stroll from the ship. This handsome building, bearing a striking resemblance to the Guggenheim at Bilbao, tells the story of Norway’s exploration and extraction of oil that has made it one if the world’s wealthiest, although some might think it was the taxation on alcohol – a pint here costs an arm and a leg – that brought riches to the sovereign fund.
We had another sea day, then back to Amsterdam. It was one more night dancing to super live music at BB King’s, a final roll of the dice at the casino, or a comfy seat in the show lounge. But the best part for many was the farewell dinner, in our case at a window table in the dining room with breathtaking views.
* Once a week the Pinnacle restaurant transforms into De Librije, featuring a selection of dishes from the kitchen of Jonnie Boer, who has three Michelin stars at his restaurant, located in a former women’s prison near Amsterdam. All the bookable restaurants cost extra, but there are dining packages for two, three or all five, the latter costing $119 per person, a saving of $27.
http://www.hollandamerica.com

 

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