Civitavecchia, Italy is the cruise port closest to Rome, about 50 miles to the southeast. It is a huge port that has at least six major cruise ships present today with room for more. Many cruises originate and end here and others, like us, spend the day to allow guests to visit Rome. We have visited Rome on land trips over the years and wanted to check out Civitavecchia since we drove thru this town on the way to Rome years ago and thought it looked interesting, so we were glad to have a chance for a brief stop.
This would be a 13 hour visit (7 am to 8 pm) to give folks enough time to get to Rome and back and still have enough time to see some of the sights.
Our big event, along with 300 or so other passengers would be to visit the Koningsdam who would be on a turn-around-day after finishing her maiden voyage. We were notified of this opportunity back in February when the HAL executives spent a few days onboard. Everyone interested was asked to sign up at the front desk if they wanted to visit the Koningsdam and we did the very next day.
A few days before we arrived here, we were given an RSVP card that we had to fill out confirming our interest. Last night we received our “Ticket” that would allow us access to the Koningsdam the next day. There was discussion of a waiting list, but I don’t know how many people who wanted to visit didn’t make the cut.
Initially we were going to be bused over to her, but when they realized we would moored stern to stern on the same pier, it made more sense to simply walk over. They did provide a shuttle bus afterwards for passengers who didn’t want to walk the ¼ mile back to the Amsterdam.
We were instructed to assemble on the pier by 9:15 am where we would be divided into groups of 70. At 9:15 the groups of 70 started walking down the pier to the Koningsdam, led by one of staff officers. They spaced the groups a few minutes apart and our group arrived in front of the Koningsdam around 9:30 and we were on the ship about 15 minutes later. We had to trade our Amsterdam Cruise Card for a Koningsdam Vistors pass which we kept in our pocket. We would get our cruise card back after the tour and we returned the Visitors pass.
About 10 minutes to 10 we were on the Koningsdam entering her on A deck forward. We passed thru a crew area on A deck to the forward staircase where we walked up 2 flights of stairs to Deck 2. Unlike the forward staircase on the Amstedam where you will find pictures of the various Amsterdam ships over the years, our first picture on this staircase was a drawing of Jimi Hendrix. The entire ship is based on a musical theme with the passenger decks having names like the Beethoven Deck, Mozart Deck etc. The decks with most of the common areas maintain their traditional names.
Our tour guide was the Koningsdams Location Guide who was so outgoing, friendly and approachable that I had to check out his name tag to make sure he wasn’t the Cruise Director.
We walked past the Digital Classroom and then we entered the Music Walk which had a beautiful silver sculpture of a string bass that is quite striking. The Music Walk spans the entire ship and is divided into the Lincoln Center Stage (on the starboard side) where the Adiago Strings (or equivalent will likely perform) and the Billboard Onboard where the Piano Bar musicians will likely play (The venue will support two pianos for dueling piano events). They don’t have a space called the Piano Bar. Immediately aft of the Lincoln Center Stage is the Explorers Bar and across the passageway in the center of the ship is a small venue called “Notes” where they will offer Bourbon and Scotch Tasting and other similar events. It will be interesting to see how the Music Walk is scheduled because I am not sure there is enough separation to have different groups playing at the same time in this area.
We continued aft past the familiar Signature Shops and then we entered the Queens Lounge. On “R” Class Ships, the Queens Lounge is the main show room. Here, as it is on most of the newer ships, it is home to the BB King Lounge but it is now a 2 level affair with a large dance floor in the center. It is a beautiful venue and I will be interested to see how it works out in practice. This venue doesn’t seem suited to function as a theater to show movies since the chairs are arranged around tables rather than all facing the same direction. The lounge is set up to encourage conversations in groups, as opposed to people watching the stage like a concert. Sometimes people in similar venues on other ships maintain strict silence during musical acts as if they were in a theater rather than a lounge. Hopefully this configuration will encourage conversation amongst the guests during shows.
Continuing further aft we passed the middle level of the Atrium, new Seafood Specialty restaurant Sel De Mer and got a glance at the Pinnacle grill which is on the port side of the ship next to the Atrium.
The Ocean Bar is on the starboard side across from Sel De Mer and further aft is the Culinary Arts Center and something new to the fleet is a wine mixing station called the Blend. For $129 you spend about 1 hour learning about mixing different wines and end up with a bottle of your special blend you can take with you. Time will tell if this is successful or ends up alongside the Northern Lights Night Club as something that looked good initially but didn’t quite work out.
The main dining room no longer has a fancy name, but is simply called “The Dining Room”. As usual, the dining room is all the way aft, but no longer symmetrical around the center of the ship but more weighted to the starboard side. The room is very bright and feels open with a very modern look and feel. As usual, the room is two levels with a large, football shaped open section in the center.
After we wandered around The Dining Room for a bit, we went up the dining room stairs to deck 3 and started moving forward.
The Photo lab is immediately forward of the The Dining Room on Deck 3 and features LCD Terminals attached to room card readers. We heard that they will be using facial recognition software which can match your ship photos to the embarkation security photo and allow you to easily pull up all of your photos without having to wander around searching the boards of unbought pictures. I don’t know if they are doing this yet, as they still have the traditional panels in place.
We continued forward and were now back in the Atrium where the Front Desk is located which is across from the Grand Dutch Café which is similar to the Explorations café on the Amsterdam, but seems to have more choices and is much larger. There is still an Explorations Café on the Koningsdam and it is located in the Crow’s Nest.
Further forward on this level are more shops, the art gallery, the second level of the Queens lounge and finally the Casino. The Casino seems very cramped as compared to the one on Amsterdam. It has a craps table plus one of those Poker Pro video poker tables instead of live dealers. This table will be successful because it is the only game in town. If they offered a dealer table – no one would ever play this version.
This Koningsdam is the first HAL ship where you must walk thru the casino if you want to transit from the showroom upper level and go aft to other public areas. Other HAL ships allow you to bypass the casino by walking in a wider passageway with a bar on one side and a casino on the other. I will be looking forward to reviews about how well the theatre empties after a big show. People will likely leave by the lower exits which empty directly into the Music Walk. Not sure what the smoking policy will be in the Casino, but hopefully it will be banned so you at least don’t have to walk thru a smoke filled room to get from one part of the ship to another.
We entered the main showroom, called the “World Stage” which is two stories high, but with no balcony. It looks spectacular – very clean and modern. Waiters greeted us with glasses of orange juice or Champagnes while others offered tasty canapés. We walked down to the front row and noticed that seats in the lower section seemed a little wider with each chair having its own armrests, while the chairs higher up in the sloping section were a little smaller and armrests were shared with your neighbors. The seat bottoms on all the chairs automatically flipped up to allow easier walking down the rows.
In a few minutes we were greeted by the Cruise Director and then the Captain. They were very warm and gracious. I forgot to mention earlier that virtually every electronic sign board throughout the ship displayed a very nice sign welcoming the Amsterdam World Cruisers to the Amsterdam.
NOTE: We really appreciated the extra work from all the Koningsdam crew who I am sure winced when they were informed they had to host 300 guests on their very first turnaround day as I am sure they were quite busy working on all the normal turnaround issues plus all the new ones associated with a maiden voyage. Their hard work to make this event possible is noted and appreciated.
We had only expected to watch a Koningsdam promotional video – which we did (very nice I might add) and then be asked to depart the ship so they could get on with their work. After the video I was thrilled when the Cruise Director announced that we would see 3 numbers from one of their new shows, designed especially for the Koningsdam called “Musicology”.
The showroom went dark and the large screen illuminated with a short phrase introducing the show which would feature their interpretation of various instruments. First was the Cello, followed by the Violin and then the Steel Drums. Each number was exciting and very well done and the dancers were magnificent. The massive screen displayed perfectly choreographed animated special effects and the sound system was fantastic.
I stage is set up “in the round” with seats circling most of the stage. Not every act is suited for such a stage, but I suspect that they will find enough acts who will either adapt or not be booked. Simple as that.
After the show, the cruise director again took the stage and once again I was surprised when we were told we could tour the ship on our own for the next 45 minutes until they started embarking their new passengers.
At this point you could see big ‘Thought Bubbles’ pop from everyone’s heads with the words “LIDO” as we all quickly left heading up to one of the favorite spots on any HAL ship – the Lido deck – which was still named the Lido deck and not after some musician.
We would end up touring all the public areas and had a chance to pop into a few cabins. Here are our random observations.
LIDO: Broken down into various stations almost like a fast food court ashore. The LIDO retained the symmetry of other ships with the port and starboard sides being mirror images of one another.
LIDO Pool area: The Dive In was much larger than on current ships and was joined on the other side of the Lido pool area by NY Pizza Eatery which is a wonderful addition to the pool area. There was a large TV screen above the pool, not as big as the monster on some Princess Ships, but plenty big. The Sea View Pool area seemed smaller, but again, not sure if it is actually smaller.
The amount of available deck chair space seems less than on other ships, but this may be an illusion. I will be looking forward to live reviews from a warm weather sea day to see how well this works in practice.
Cabins – I would guess about 10% smaller than the ones on the Amsterdam, but the bathrooms had walk in showers and no tubs – a nice change. Hard to gauge storage space on a quick visit, but there seemed to be less, but then I noticed some cabinets over the couch, so with all the nooks and crannies figured in it may be a wash.
Having to walk to the front desk to have your key card replaced after being demagnetized will be a distant memory as the new key cards use RFID technology which don’t require putting your card in a slot, but simply pressing it near a small, black reader on the door. There is also a slot, seen in some hotels, that require you to insert your room card in order to activate the electrical outlets and the room lights. The slots we saw had dummy cards already inserted so this feature may not be activated here. We heard that the new RFID cards won’t tolerate having holes punched in them, so you may have to get a different type of lanyard if you want to hang your card around your neck.
The gym and spa seemed about the same, only larger as you would expect. The spinning class had cycling shoes available to use, which improves the experience and the bikes will also accept Shimano SPD cleats without modification. If you don’t know what SPD cleats are – you don’t have any and don’t need to be concerned.
There is an area above the pool called the retreat which is similar to current offerings on other ships.
Final Thoughts on the Koningsdam: She is a beautiful ship with the same wonderful crews and service you have come to expect on any HAL ship. She looks new and fresh and I like her new spaces and the World Stage. The HAL portfolio now has another ship offering a different type of amenities giving us more choices for our next cruise vacation. I need to start checking out her schedule to see if I can find an itinerary that will fit my future vacation plans.
It was now almost 11:30 and not wanting to wear out our welcome we headed back to A deck and found our way off the ship. We walked back to the Amsterdam and got on a shuttle bus to go into town.
It was a short ride to our drop off spot in Civitavecchia. We knew there were a lot a cruise ships in port, but it was still interesting to see all the signs for the various shuttle busses ready to take passengers back to their ships.
Note to future cruisers. There is an AVIS car rental agency office right across the street from the shuttle bus drop off spot.
We started walking toward the train station, without any particular destination in mind. We were on the lookout for an interesting looking pizzeria to relax for a bit then to walk a big loop to the train station and then back down the waterfront and return to the ship. I pulled up TripAdvisor and looked for restaurants “near me” and found a highly rated pizzeria close by, but after we arrived we learned it was only a take-out place. Since we were getting hungrier we picked a restaurant that looked nice and found an empty table outside. It was a beautiful day and sitting outside was a joy. I ordered a pizza with sausage and mushrooms and Judy picked one with Prosciutto on Focaccia Bread. They didn’t take credit cards, and I forget to ask before we ordered, and since we only had 30 euros, I found a nearby ATM and got some more cash.
The food was delivered in about 15 minutes and was quite good. After relaxing for about an hour we continued onward toward the train station. Along the way we picked up a souvenir key chain and some post cards. Once we arrived at the train station we headed toward the water and walked back toward the ship. We were originally going to walk all the way back to the shuttle bus, but we ran into a friend of ours who told us that from where we were, it was almost the same distance to walk back to the ship as it was to walk back to the shuttle bus stop.
Our dinner guests this evening were the Lomax Brothers who entertained us a few nights ago with their amazing singing and piano playing. We learned some of the highs and lows of being a guest entertainer and how they can adapt songs for simultaneous play on a single piano.
Jesse Kazemek was on the main stage this evening and he dazzled the crowd with his ability to play any Beatle song ever recorded (all 213 we learned). His guitar playing and vocals were incredible and we enjoyed his show very much. His wife joined him on stage for a few songs. She has a beautiful voice, but her dumb blonde routine was unnecessary and detracted from their incredible performance once they started singing. We look forward to seeing him again if we get the chance as you can’t help but leave the showroom smiling after his show.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized