Cruising in 2021 or 2022 is different since the pandemic hit, but it can still be an extremely enjoyable experience. The Cruise season kicked off in 2021 with sailings to Alaska, bypassing Canada. Now more options are available. In October 2021, I joined a restart cruise. I was welcomed aboard the Holland America Koningsdam as part of a test cruise. During the short 2-day cruise from San Diego we left port and cruised off of Baja California, Mexico; before returning to San Diego.
The entire purpose of a restart cruise is to stress the system and ensure employees are ready for prime time. After over a year of no guests, a test cruise is perfect for training. After our test cruise, the ship took part in final preparations for the return of paying guests on October 11, 2021. The MS Koningsdam is scheduled for 23 cruises during the 2021-2022 season from San Diego. And I can attest, the ship is ready for prime time. Everything looks brand new, clean, and crew are genuinely happy about being back onboard.
Covid Testing & Vaccine requirements
Boarding the ship was easy. My travel companion and myself arrived right at 1pm. There was nearly no line, which made checking in easy. Check-in consists of a health check along with security. Each passenger is required to show proof of vaccination. Vaccination status is the standard definition, two weeks after your final dose. In addition, each passenger must have a negative Covid test within 2-days of departure. My test was slightly older than 48 hours, but this wasn’t an issue. I had my test Sunday morning at 8am, for a Tuesday departure. For this cruise, it is not a strict 48 hours, but instead two calendar days. After answering some general health questions, I was able to proceed to the routine security screening, TSA style.
After security, was biometric check in. It did not work for myself, nor my friend. So we just flashed our boarding passes and had our passports confirmed. Within a few seconds we were cleared for boarding and heading to the ship. The entire process only took about 5 minutes. With the new vaccine requirements and negative test, this could take longer on a full ship. Plan accordingly. In addition, bring your actual vaccine cards, not just a photo. Nothing would be worse than being denied boarding due to lack of documentation.
Cruising the Koningsdam
As the cruise was not at capacity, the ship felt empty at times. Although there were always other people on deck, it was quiet. The ship is built for over 2,600 guests, not including crew. This sailing had just a couple hundred of us. Yet, despite this nearly everything was operational. The specialty restaurants were rocking, drinks were flowing, and the hot tubs jetting. Everything from the gym to the spa and salon services are optional. The shows are fantastic, and the whiskey and bourbon selection at Notes was outstanding. After years of not being on a ship, I could now understand why people enjoy cruising.
The decks are stunning on the Koningsdam. The lido deck has a lovely buffet area, where everything is behind glass. Staff prepare some items fresh, such as pasta made to order and fresh salads. There’s a huge dessert bar, and the delicious Drive-in with scrumptious burgers. Tea, coffee, and water are free and self-serve. Although, my favorite part of the buffet area are the hand wash stations. Although not pictured, one places both hands in little tubes and it’s like a car wash for the hands. In less than 20 seconds your hands are clean and ready to go!
The pools, beautiful! I felt more like I was at a high end pool party than I did on a ship. The center pool is great as there is a retractable roof, allowing one to enjoy the pool even on days with less than ideal weather. Plus, the second floor balcony provides prime seating suited for stars.
The aft Seaview pool, was also great. I found myself to be the only one utilizing it due to a little wind. Yet, between the strong rays of the sun, I was at peace just reading while soaking. In addition, both bars have great staff ready to bring a poolside drink.
In the evening hours, live entertainment kept us busy. With three club, one will find music that they enjoy. There’s a dueling piano bar, the Rollingstone rock club, plus B.B. Kings blues. Dance the night away or rock out. This ship is hopping!
On Wednesday night, we took to the dance floor and enjoyed ourselves. Just remember, keep your mask on when not actively eating or drinking.
Holland America’s Neptune suites are an oasis on the ship. The 465 sq. ft room includes floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a private verandah. They feature a large sitting area, our had two chairs and couch that converted into a bed, plus a king size bed.
The stunning bathroom comes with a dual-sink vanity and a separate shower next to a full-size whirlpool bath. The toilet is self contained and had it’s own sink. Bathroom products include Elemis spa.
Neptune suite guests are also invited to utilize the exclusive Neptune Lounge. The Neptune lounge includes a private concierge and an array of complimentary services. This includes a computer to use along with an espresso machine, honor bar, and exclusive snacks and desserts throughout the day.
As the world reopens, cruise ships are starting to reactivate. As this happens, each of these ships are excited to welcome passengers back aboard. New protocols keep guests safe. First, there’s the Covid vaccine and testing requirements. Second, masks are required in all public indoor areas. With the exception of when eating and drinking. Masks are not mandatory in outdoor areas. Staff are wearing masks at all time, and many double mask. Finally there are hand sanitizer stations and reminders to mask up and wash often throughout the ship. Before entering a restaurant or the buffet, washing hands and sanitizing is mandatory. Staff politely insist on it.
There are new protocols and reminders of them throughout the ship. I felt extremely safe the entire time. By taking precautions, Holland America can allow everyone to enjoy their cruise.
The world we live in is different than before the pandemic, but it’s slowly returning to normal. If you are looking for a vacation or an escape from home, now is the perfect time to cruise. Ships are not full and there’s plenty of discounts to be found.
**Disclosure, I was a guest of a Holland America employee on this ship. I was not paid for, nor asked to write this article. My cruise was complimentary.