Well, we are on our way. As I write this, I know I won’t be able to get it online until tomorrow in Ketchikan, and I am not even sure I will be able to do that. YEAH! I WAS! We are sitting in Ketchikan right now.
So, let’s get this out there right now. After 35 cruises, this was the WORST embarkation we have ever experienced. To be honest, I am not sure who to blame here, but they better fix it soon. It could be Holland America’s fault, or it could be the management at Canada Place. Either way, it was horrid.
I went out around 10:00 am (or should I say down) from our room on the 14th floor of the Pan Pacific to find out the best way to drop luggage and get into the lines to get on the ship. I had really good luck because I got some inside knowledge about dropping luggage from a very nice Canada Place employee. So Brian and I went down to Parking Level 2 and dropped our bags. If we hadn’t done that we would have gotten into the check-in line, had to wait in that line to go down an elevator, drop off our bags and then get in another line to go upstairs and check in. At that point, we thought we were getting ahead of the system.
Check-out time at the hotel was noon, and our “listed boarding time” was 1:00 pm. We decided to go down to the hotel lobby at noon, and Brian and I would go down and scout out the best way to get in line and see if they were holding people to their assigned times. We discovered that we could go ahead and get in line right then. It looked like we would just go up an escalator and be off to check-in. We couldn’t tell what was beyond the escalator, but we could see others coming down and heading off to what we thought was a line to get on the ship. We couldn’t go up the escalator and come back down without going through the process, so we went back to get Kathleen and Michelle.
Then we walked all the way down, got on the escalator and went up. By then, it was about 12:15. When we got to the top of the escalator; we were taken out into a hallway where we had to get in a line that ended way back in the lobby of the hotel…where we had just come from. We literally could have taken an escalator to the ground floor and gotten in line. At one point, this line went all the way out to the street. That’s the length of one and a half cruise ships.
I didn’t want Kathleen standing through that long line, so I suggested to her and the others that they step outside and sit on a bench and that I would stay in line and text them when I was close to the door it looked like we would go through. It was VERY warm in this confined hallway waiting in line, and it moved sloooowwwllllyyy—inches at a time. Part of the problem was that there were three ships embarking that day, and people kept getting in the wrong line, so the line kept growing.
After about 40 minutes, we finally reached a door where we thought (hoped) we would get checked in and get onboard. But just like waiting for rides at DisneyWorld, there was an entire other room with winding back-and-forth queues. We spent another 35 minutes or so getting through this room and then had our picture taken by HAL (even though we had submitted one in their app), and they confirmed that it matched our passports. Once we were done doing that, we were sent down the other side of the escalator. We had come in on to what we hoped would be the ship…but that was not to be.
We were funneled into a room with airport-like scanners to have our carry-on luggage scanned and to walk through metal detectors. To get to the detectors, we waited in another line (with people from all three ships) for at least 40 minutes, hoping against hope that when we got through that line, we could get onboard.
But it was not to be. Once through the scanners, we found another large room with around 15 lines going up and down to get us to Canadian/US Customs. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the front of that line where there were machines you shoved your passport into, and then it created a little receipt-like sheet of paper that you handed to the Customs person as you exited that room.
When we finished that, we were told we could board the ship. But we still had a way to walk. So far, we had traversed the length of Canada Place (a building long enough to have two big cruise ships docked next to it) at least twice on two different floors. We walked about the ship’s length back to where we could board Konigsdam, and someone asked us for our boarding passes (after all this—where else could we have come from), and we had to bring them up on our phones again. (Next time, I am printing them out and pinning them to my shirt.) It felt like I was asked for them and my passport about 25 times. Notice, I said it felt like. Probably only 24.
Once we got past that guy and got on the gangway, we were up and almost on the ship, but again…we were asked for our boarding pass…come on, people…talk to each other.
Total embarkation time—THREE HOURS and 15 MINUTES! We got in line at 12:15 and got on the ship at 3:30. I should also mention that Konigsdam was supposed to sail at 3:00. Glad they didn’t. We didn’t end up sailing until after 5:00. The captain announced it was because we were parked in by the Princess ship behind us, but I am sure the truth was that about half the 2,900 passengers on this ship were still being processed.
We will admit that we were spoiled. On our last cruise with Viking, we embarked in Athens, Greece. We were picked up by the Viking bus and taken to the port. We got off and walked through a single metal detector, had our bags scanned and walked onboard. Less than 15 minutes from the bus door to being sitting down to a glass of rosé in the restaurant.
I am hoping that all this is because this was only the fourth day of ships leaving from Canada Place in 2023 and that things will get improve…soon. They better improve or people will stop sailing from Vancouver.
Here are a few things that would have made this better that you might want to know if you are sailing from Vancouver. First, I made the mistake of checking my rolling bag. I should have taken it on board with me. Not that our bags got lost. We were in line for so long that when we finally got on board, not only was our stateroom ready, our bags were on our bed. But because I had thought that it wouldn’t take too long to get through check-in, I checked my carry-on-sized, wheeled luggage. And that meant that I had to carry my computer/camera bag on my shoulder for more than three hours. Just an FYI: fully loaded it weighs about 15 pounds. Today my shoulder is really wishing I had kept the rolling bag so I could have just pulled the camera bag on it like I usually do.
Another tip for getting through the lines quicker is to bring a cane or be with someone with a cane or crutches. Our buddy Bob had brought one with him (that he borrowed)probably just to hit me with it, and when an attendant saw him, she whisked him and Judy off to the front of the line. It really didn’t help that much since he only got on about 30 minutes before we did. Another trick is to be fairly high in Holland America’s loyalty group, the Mariners. We are two-star, but you don’t start getting priority bookings until you are four or five-star. Lastly, if you book a Neptune suite, you get right in a different line, and you get to board first so no one is ahead of you.
Let’s close this sad story with one piece of advice for everyone. If they say you can board at 1:00 pm, get in line at 10:00 am. You might get on by 1:00. Pay no attention to the boarding time they give you. No one else does.
On board the Konigsdam
We kind of know this ship. Long-time readers of this blog know that we sailed on her sister ship, Nieuw Statendam (NS), back in January of 2022 down in the Caribbean. Konigsdam was the first ship in the Pinnacle Class of Holland America ships, and NS was the second. They are virtually alike, with NS having some tiny improvements.
The biggest differences between us were two things. First, on NS, we had a Neptune Suite. If you forget what that was like, you can see a video of it by clicking here. It is the largest stateroom we have ever been in at sea. On this ship, we have the basic verandah stateroom. The Neptune Suite is HUGE. Massive king-size bed, huge verandah, full desk, full-size couch and the bathroom…oh, the bathroom. This is the best comparison that I am sure of; our entire bathroom on this cruise would fit into the shower of the Neptune Suite. Seriously. Queen-size bed, miniature couch, tiny desk, barely any room to get around the bed. (Photos of our stateroom are below.) Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
We are truly spoiled. In our last three out of four cruises, we had either a suite (on NS) or two of the most amazing staterooms in the world—Celebrity’s Flora and Viking Ocean’s Penthouse Verandah. Both are almost twice the size of the stateroom I am writing this post in.
The other reason our NS cruise was so much better…the number of people on board. This morning we spoke to the cruise director here on Konigsdam, the delightful Bettianne. She just happens to have been our cruise director on NS as well. We told her facetiously that we thought the ship was a touch more crowded now than when we had sailed with her last in 2021. She reminded us that she had warned everyone on NS that it would probably never be that way again. You see when we sailed on NS, it was when restrictions were starting to loosen up from the pandemic. Masks and vaccinations were still required. This ship holds 2,700 people when fully sold out. That’s just about what we are sailing with now—2,700 people. But back in January 2022, no one except the really brave was out there sailing, so when we did that cruise, there were only 900 people on board. It was like having your own private ship. Combine that with having a Neptune suite, and this is a totally different experience.
Pre-cruise, I (as the travel agent) had booked all eight of us reservations at two (of the four) specialty restaurants on board. It’s really hard to get a reservation for eight. In fact, much to my disdain, they were only able to put us at two tables for four next to each other in the first place we went to last night. Ticked me off because there were many tables for two. They could have slid together so we could all be at the same table. It also meant the only nights they could accommodate us were the first night and the last night.
So last night we went to Tamarind, Konigsdam’s Asian restaurant. We had eaten there twice on NS with our buddy Seth, who worked for HAL then. Both times on NS, everything about it was superb. And I am thrilled to say the same is true on Konigsdam. Outstanding food, outstanding service, great cocktails and one thing was even better…our server told us we could have as many appetizers as we liked. We all ordered two! Plus, I got each table an order of lobster rolls from the sushi restaurant that is part of Tamarind (sushi is NOT part of the one price for Tamarind; you pay for that separately—but it is a great price. Eight rolls for $7.95) and they are soooo good.
That was it for me. A couple of the group went to BB King’s Blues Club, but we were wiped out from the waiting in line (and for me, the six-mile photo walk at 5:00 that I posted pictures from yesterday). We went back to the stateroom, and we were out like lights.
More tomorrow. Here are a couple of pics I took of the Canadian Inside Passage. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
That’s about it at this point. All I can say to close this out is that the ship is CROWDED. There are signs at Guest Relations stating that there are NO empty staterooms, so no upgrades are available. I am guessing that has been there since we got on. We were not able to eat dinner in the Main Dining Room last night because the wait was more than an hour to get into Select (open seating) dining. We gave up and paid for dinner at the Pinnacle Grille. The food was very good but we really weren’t planning on eating there on this trip. Right now, as I am typing this, we are waiting to make “reservations” for the main dining room tonight. That’s ridiculous.
Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded. —Yogi Berra
12 thoughts on “Konigsdam, May 2023-Embarkation”
Sounds like a terrible boarding experience. No one seems to pay attention to boarding times anymore, so just be early. Ours was mayhem on the NS, but we were early and had similar issues with different rooms, but it took less than an hour.
You boarded in FLL and let’s be honest, you “get” how to do cruises in South Florida. Plus it helps that most cruise lines down your way have one terminal per ship. With three ships in on place, it is horrid.
Fraser had watched a video of someone else embarking from the same port. That day there were 4 cruise ships in port and none of the ships left on time as there was the delay in processing everyone. Eekk 🤷🏼♀️ Question about luggage, could have the Bell Hop from the hotel take your luggage to the drop off? Or were they not providing that service? I will be sure to use my walking stick (monopod for camera) instead of packing it and perhaps wear shorts do the knee brace is visible. Our disembark in August of last year was a bit confusing and many lines.
The hotel will still take your bags directly to the ship but when I went down to ask where to drop them, the lady (who has worked Canada Place for 14 years) told me I was very smart not to have the hotel do it, especially now, because they have so many new employees since the pandemic. They have had numerous cases of luggage on the wrong ship. That is not something I want to tell Kathleen…that her luggage in on a Princess or NCL cruise.
Hmm, I would not risk wrong ship placement for luggage. I could imagine opening the ‘find my’ app and seeing the “air tag” for the suitcase not on the cruise ship but somewhere else…. not what I would want to see. I keep forgetting that even though things have opened up, they are not the same.
So sorry to hear of your boarding experience in Vancouver. My sister and I had an identical experience back in May, 2010 trying to board the HAL Rotterdam. Three ships in port, and all loading from the same area! It was a total zoo. I am guessing they have never figured out a better way to accommodate multiple boardings from the same location. Sad! Hope you enjoy the rest of your cruise!
I will be very interested in your disembarkation! Praying it’s much much easier and quicker. We will be landing in Vancouver on May 21st.
We have decided to just walk off. There won’t be any Customs because we are coming from another Canadian port. Our plan is to be in the car by 9:00 and home by noon.
Jim, I shouldn’t laugh about your tale of embarkation but I did. Your narrative is excellent 😂
What you need next time is a screaming toddler in a stroller and compare that with the walking stick routine. 😉
What a boarding nightmare! Things have to go up from there.
Keep reading Eileen…they only got worse.
I DID NOT BORROW THAT CANE.. :). I inherited it from my father in law Fred Winn. His name is on it. I used it at Kathleens last Mariners game last year even. I have yet to hit any one with it but admit I poked Judy a few times for fun. I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a short cut BUT it proved fruitless as where she took us did not take Nexus and we got stuck back in line again.