Alaska Trip Report: Setting Sail on Holland America’s Koningsdam

Stepping aboard the MS Koningsdam in Vancouver, BC, I was excited to see how Holland America’s Alaska sailings have changed in the past decade. Back then, I’d boarded the Westerdam as we headed for what’s known as The Last Frontier.

HAL Koningsdam at Canada

While this trip was on a different ship, the Koningsdam wasn’t exactly unfamiliar, given I was on board her inaugural sailing in Europe in 2016.

With the latest Alaska season kicking into high gear, join me as I spend the next week on this Southeast Alaska sailing, taking you along from embarkation to disembarkation and discussing everything in between. From food to onboard activities, we’ll give you an idea of exactly what to expect when sailing with Holland America in Alaska.

Where is our Alaska cruise going? 

Digital display showing Holland America Koningsdam cruise itinerary with ports of call and arrival times for Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.

In some ways, this is a pretty standard Alaskan itinerary. One thing I like is that we’re departing from Vancouver. Many ships sail from Seattle, and while that’s a great option (and easier for many passengers), leaving Vancouver gets you to the sites where we’re all here to see much quicker. So here’s our itinerary.

The line recently added a “Glacier Day,” so I’m excited to experience that on Wednesday.

Day Port
SaturdayVancouver
SundayInside Passage
MondayJuneau, Alaska
TuesdaySkagway, Alaska
WednesdayGlacier Bay, Alaska
ThursdayKetchikan, Alaska
FridayInside Passage
SaturdayVancouver

Embarkation Process in Vancouver

Interior of a vehicle check-in area at a ferry terminal in Alaska with passengers and staff, and marked lanes for car entry.

Embarkation in Vancouver was efficient, which I’ve found to be the case most of the time I’ve sailed out of this port. I have boarded everything from smaller ships like Seabourn to mega-ships carrying over 5,000 people in Vancouver and have never encountered any issues. It is all about timing and when you arrive at the pier.

Interestingly, you have to clear customs at embarkation, which helps avoid a congested debarkation with multiple ships all trying to clear customs simultaneously.

The Port of Vancouver says cruise ships are considered US jurisdiction, so you technically leave one country and go to another when stepping from Vancouver to the cruise ship.

Yesterday was a three-ship day with Sapphire Princess, Celebrity Edge, and our ship, which means about 7,000 guests disembarked and the same number embarked. Talk about a busy turnaround day!

Airport security checkpoint with passengers lining up, guided by stanchions and informational signs. A large digital screen displays

We arrived at the terminal around 10:00 a.m., went through security and customs, where facial recognition was used, and passed through without delays. However, someone with a foreign passport would occasionally get flagged and need to speak to an agent.

Pay close attention after clear customs is imperative because the line splits in three directions, with signage pointing to each ship.

While walking and speaking with some guests about to board Celebrity Edge, I accidentally found myself in the boarding line for their ship! So, I hurried back to our line, noticing that people from Sapphire Princess were in our line too—so it wasn’t just me!

Impressions of ms Koningsdam

An outdoor cruise ship deck on the Holland America's Koningsdam, featuring white lounge chairs and cabanas with a view of white, sail-like structures and an Alaskan city waterfront in the background.

Stepping aboard the ms Koningsdam, a wave of familiarity set in, a nod to my previous voyages on Holland America’s Pinnacle-class ships like the Rotterdam last year.

Koningsdam distinguishes itself with its vibrant musical theme—an ode to the maestros of melody from Mozart to Beethoven and stars from the modern music scene.

Over the past few years, Holland America has made huge strides in attempting to distinguish its onboard entertainment options from those you’ll find on other lines. That said, I’m interested to see what’s offered this week, as I’ve heard rumblings from some longtime Holland America fans about changes in that area.

Interior of a modern library on the Koningsdam, featuring seating areas, shelves with books, and large windows overlooking city buildings.

This ship transforms every corridor into a gallery with its eclectic art installations. Imagine walking through a hall of fame where portraits of legendary composers and contemporary icons are crafted from unexpected items like vintage 3.5-inch floppy disks.

These vivid pieces of artwork are not just decor, they’re an immersive experience and a good way to learn the ship while getting some exercise as they are all in stairwell.

Comfort and Amenities in the Cabin

Interior of a Holland America cruise ship cabin with two twin beds, a flat-screen TV, a vanity area, and a window overlooking the harbor.

Our balcony cabin on deck five starboard was cozy and familiar.

After opening the door, I found three closet doors to our left and the bathroom to our right. The stateroom required the keycard to turn on the lights. (Pro tip: Bring a business card when you cruise on almost any ship, as it’ll work in the slot as well. And if you forget to remove your business card when you leave the stateroom, it’s a lot less problematic than leaving your keycard in the slot and locking yourself out!)

An open wooden wardrobe with empty hangers on the left side and a single orange umbrella lying on the bottom shelf, reminiscent of items one might prepare for an Alaska Trip.

The cabin offered ample storage with nearly a dozen dresser drawers and large drawers at the foot of each bed. Remember, this ship is designed for much longer voyages than the 7-night one I’m on.

The room has five plugs, three USB connections, and two European plugs at the vanity. This was plenty to charge the gear I brought onboard, including a camera, laptop, phone, and battery packs.

Modern bathroom interior featuring a toilet, shower stall, towel rack, sink, and mirror on Holland America's Koningsdam, with bright lighting and clean, white fixtures.

The bathroom was stocked with Elemis bath products and a hinged glass shower door, a welcome upgrade that many cruise lines are now implementing.

Sailing away from Vancouver

People on the Koningsdam ferry deck observing a suspension bridge and a distant city skyline under a clear blue sky during their Alaska trip.

The sailaway from Vancouver began promptly at 4:00 p.m., against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and soaring seaplanes. The mood on the deck was more “take in the incredible sites” than “wild sailaway party,” which perfectly suited my mood.

The photo opportunities are endless when sailing from Vancouver, from spinning around in the harbor to going underneath the bridge, to passing Vancouver Island a couple hours later.

celebrity solstice vancouver 1

We also passed a fleet of cruise ships heading back to Vancouver to a Sunday embarkation: Brilliance of the Seas, ms Noordam, and Celebrity Solstice.

Dining and Entertainment on Koningsdam

Buffet counter on Holland America's Koningsdam with chefs serving, featuring jars of pickles, fresh fruits, and assorted breads under bright lighting.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

After settling in, I headed to the Lido Marketplace for lunch, enjoying a festival of food options from various cuisines worldwide. I went with a seared tuna salad and water (basic, I know) for lunch. It was just what the doctor ordered to get my appetite back on track. Travel exhausts some people, but it mainly screws with my appetite.

A fresh vegetable salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, and mushrooms, accompanied by sushi rolls and a side plate of fruit, served on a wooden table aboard the Koningsdam.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur, as embarkation days tend to be. You unpack and unwind, and you do a little bit of exploring. Because cruise ships are floating cities, that first day or two is like getting to know your new hometown. As I mentioned, I’d been on the ship before, but that was years ago.

I’ve wandered around many ships between then and now, so I spent some time walking down hallways and saying, “Oh, yeah, I remember… I need to make sure to check out this place later!”

lido marketplace koningsdam 1

The next thing I knew, it was dinnertime!

I opted for a quick salad for dinner before attending the first presentation on the World Stage, Destination Alaska. Holland America prides itself on doing these info-packed mini-seminars extremely well.

port guide koningsdam

In this case, the talk was informative, blending details about our route with highlights of each port, and ended with a pitch for shore excursions, which convinced me to book the White Pass Railroad shore excursion for our day in Skagway.

This line has excelled in its partnerships with B.B. King’s Blues Club, Billboard, and Rolling Stone, enhancing the onboard music experience. Tonight, The Rolling Stone Lounge featured a band playing hit songs from the always-popular ’80s, drawing guests to the dance floor.

A live band performing on stage aboard the Koningsdam during a Holland America Alaska trip, featuring a vocalist, guitarists, a drummer, and horn players, with a vibrant, colorful lighting setup.

I was curious whether music from the adjacent BB King’s venue would bleed through, but the soundproofing and glass doors were so effective that you couldn’t hear the other band unless you were right at the entrance.

And what is a cruise without late-night pizza? We went to NY Deli and Pizza for a nightcap, which included a pineapple and pepperoni pizza.

Northern Lights on a Cruise Ship with Nostalgia

A night sky in Alaska shows faint stars above silhouetted mountains, with a hint of green aurora near the horizon.

This is my first time returning to Alaska since my dad passed. He was fascinated with the area, and, being a retired captain, the clear skies in the north. 

Up until his passing, he called me every time a shuttle or rocket launched. He loved going to the beach at night and tilting his head towards the sky. It’s impossible to be here and not feel him by my side.

Nighttime landscape showing a faint aurora over dark silhouetted mountains during an Alaska Trip under a starry sky.

After I came in from eating pizza, I sat on the balcony. It was dark, cold, and windy as we went through the Inside Passage. I saw a flicker out of the corner of my eye and then some lights. Sure enough, the Northern Lights gave us a wonderful light show from the starboard side of Koningsdam. This one’s for you, dad. 

I’m looking forward to the rest of the cruise as we head towards Juneau, with an Alaska-themed brunch featuring locally caught fish, possible whale sightings, and a reservation at the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse. You can read our day 2 trip report sailing the inside passage here.

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