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In honour of the Nederlands first king in a century - King Willem-Alexander - Holland America Line (HAL) have named their new ship ms Koningsdam. (Koning is the Dutch word for king). Making her debut in February 2016, Koningsdam is the company’s first Pinnacle Class ship and largest in their fleet of 15 ships. With a proud heritage of more than 140 years spent cruising to exotic destinations around the globe HAL knows ships and all who sail in them better than most.

The company respects tradition but also embraces the new with brio. But they also have an exacting eye for detail - who else would think of corsages and boutonnieres for suite guests on the first formal night of a cruise ?  The 2,650-guest ship is designed to appeal to a wider audience of younger, multi-generational family voyagers, as well as solos. Head-turning innovations are the company’s first-ever purpose-built family staterooms for up to five, single staterooms, and the most veranda staterooms (912) in the fleet. As well, guests seeking health and wellness can book veranda spa accommodation conveniently located near the legendary Greenhouse Spa & Salon.

Other new features will be the Magrodome - a 2-level glass-enclosed space which redefines the pool area, and the Queen’s Lounge which has been transposed into a 2-tiered theatre and entertainment venue called The World Stage featuring a giant 270 degree LED screen which enables a variety of stage configurations and applications. For many guests however, the new dining and eating concepts will steal the limelight. They are: a re-imagined Culinary Arts Centre with a dedicated Show Kitchen, individual cooking stations and restaurant - Dinner at the Culinary Centre, where chefs will prepare market-fresh ingredients sourced (where possible) from shore-side markets; and a re-designed casual Lido Market venue with themed serving stations offering tastes from around the world. Another eat treat is Koningsdam’s aptly-named French seafood brasserie Sel de Mer – the salt of the sea. These dining options are in addition to the Main Dining room and the fabulous Pinnacle Grill.     

Following her debut, Koningsdam will conduct a series of voyages in the northern hemisphere summer exploring the masterpieces of the Baltic and the scenic spectacle of Northern Europe.  Why wait? What better way to put Koningsdam through her paces than a 24-night Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise sailing April 15 2016? The itinerary begins and ends in Civitavecchia (Rome) and cruises to four Mediterranean countries visiting trophy cities Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Barcelona and others in between. There are few more arresting sights than Athen’s Parthenon, a beacon of art and civilisation atop its lofty perch on the Acropolis. But then behold the magnificence of Istanbul as Koningsdam sails up the Bosphorus past a shoreline dotted with the spires of elegant mosques, Ottoman palaces, and a sea of ferry boats.

Ashore, take a ‘magic carpet ride’ at the Grand Bazaar - even buy your own carpet. Then succumb to sensory overload from the heady fragrances at the Spice Bazaar.Kusadasi is the access port for Ephesus one of the largest repositories of ruins in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is still a work in progress. You can watch skilled craftspeople painstakingly restoring mosaics and murals as you tour through this historic marvel to see the Celsus Library and the Great Theatre among many other archaeological treasures. After Greek Islands Rhodes and Crete, Koningsdam returns to Italy where Naples provides a gateway for excursions to Pompeii and Capri. The latter is still a playground of the glitterati. Take the Funiculare up to the Piazzetta for some star-gazing, then stroll the elegant streets. The multi-layered cultural influences of Palermo’s Norman, French, and Spanish heritage are visible in the city’s architecture, famous puppets and colourful marzipan delicacies, while  the island of Sardinia is characterised by a dramatic interior and beguiling coastline.  On Gibraltar’s famous rock, you will find little Britain.

So if you are craving fish & chips and a pint, queue here. Then Koningsdam sails for Spain and the cities of Cadiz, Malaga and throbbing Barcelona. En route, your voyage will have yielded plenty of foodie discoveries. Be a devil, share them at the Culinary Arts Centre. 

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