A First Timers Guide to Cruising with Kids from Vancouver: Holland America’s Koningsdam Review
Imagine my surprise when I found out that there were 125 kids on board our summer voyage with Holland America. You see, Families are increasingly attracted by the level of service and amenities offered on Holland America’s mid size luxury liner.
Holland America was our first cruise, something we had always wanted to do. It is the perfect way to experience the west coast, seeing the beauty of our province, visiting Alaska, and enjoying the wildlife that call it home along the way. I will tell you we did make a few mistakes along the way, but got the hang of things a couple of days in. By the time you get to the end of this post, I hope you have a great overview of what it is like cruising with kids from Vancouver and what to expect on the Holland America Koningsdam vessel.
At YXZ long and with a capacity of YXZ it is an ideal size ship for families to enjoy.
Our 7 day voyage began from Canada Place (which is a great place to take in Fly Over Canada before you board the vessel!) Since we live close by, we chose to drive and park at the cruise ship terminal in Vancouver. It was an easy process, but you should consider booking your parking in advance so they have a spot reserved for you. They were able to accommodate us in the day lot, but gave us the weekly rate (since we did not reserve in advance.)
We boarded the ship, I met up with my friend Kim from Stuffed Suitcase, and we watched the ship pull away from Vancouver, our voyage to Alaska had begun!
Boarding Process at Canada Place
I should back up a bit and tell you about the boarding process. Checking in online on the mobile app was very cumbersome and difficult to get all of the information complete. When we sailed, there were lots of documents needs (health and covid docs as well as negative covid tests). I think typically the only thing needed would be a copy of your passport and a headshot.
When you arrive to Canada Place (it is timed check in so everyone does not arrive at once) there are mobile kiosks that take your photo again, check your ID and print you a receipt. This gets you to Customs, (you pre clear customs into the USA before you get on the ship. This means you really do not need to carry your passport at all during the trip. I kept mine in the room since it is not a requirement to carry it on you in the USA).
The customs line was long but moved quickly through kiosks. When we boarded it was quite confusing, we just walked on the ship. No directions or anything. We quickly found out that our room keys were actually waiting AT our room! Very strange for a first time cruiser! But it totally made sense since anyone on the ship would have a room, why would they want yours.
We knew our stateroom number and found our room, our keys were waiting for us. Having a key on you at all times is the most important thing about cruising. Pro cruisers have lanyards around their necks. We will bring them next time. Your room key is needed for ordering drinks (even with the drink package) as well as getting on and off the ship.
The kids room keys identify them as minor and an alarm goes off at the gangway to ensure the crew has them leaving with their parents. The security that way was nice. I knew they would not be going anywhere off the ship without me. (Not that they would, but I can see how kids running around on the ship, or even teens, may want to explore without their parents).
Triple Room on Koningsdam to Alaska
We were booked in a triple room, it had two single beds (pushed together) and a single pull out couch. I had never seen a single pull out before. It fit our family just fine for sleeping, but it was awkward to have my coffee on the deck with the bed pulled out. I had to climb over the bed to get out the door. If you have the budget, get yourself a suite with more room! Makes moving around much easier!
Swimming Pools for Kids on Koningsdam to Alaska
Markus did not take long to try out the swimming pools and hot tubs aboard the ship. There was one with a retractable roof that could be used in inclement weather and one that was outdoors at the back of the ship. The indoor pool was great for the kids, I thought it would be small and crowded, but it was fine. There was room for all of the kids to play.
Quick meals with kids on our Vancouver to Alaska Voyage
One of our favourites was a pizza place located right by the pool. You could order pizza on the Holland America navigator app and then go pick it up just a few minutes later! It meant no queuing to order (or waiting if you ordered before you got there!) There was also a burger and fried place that operated the same way, but they did not have late hours like the pizza place did!
24/7 Room Service on Koningsdam with Kids
One of Markus’s favourite things to do was order caesar salad for room service at almost any time of day! They had a small menu that you could order anytime, as well as larger options during meal times. When I had dinner reservations, the kids liked that they could stay in the room and order room service and watch a movie!
Breakfast in Bed on Koningsdam with Kids
Every morning, we ordered breakfast in bed, to the delight of the boys! I would have my coffee on the deck, and they would enjoy their hot chocolate and then we would have a leisurely breakfast before having to get dressed for our excursions! It was so convennent to not have to go up to the restaurant to have breakfast when we had to be off the ship early!
Upgraded Meal Options
The Koningsdam offers plenty of reservable fine dining, at a reasonable charge. There is always the site down restaurant, as well as the buffet, but for those looking for something more upscale, there are 5 places to choose from!
Which excursions to pick when sailing to Alaska with Kids
Holland America offers plenty of excursions that you can book as soon as you reserve your stateroom. I highly recommend that you book these in advance, especially the expenseve ones involving helicopters. Most were sold out by the time we boarded and we were not able to book any of them at the excursions desk.
Another thing to note about excursions. Their level of difficulty caters to an older, inactive crowd. We did one excursions that was rated as difficult, and our canoe actually had a motor so we didn’t even really paddle at all. It was also an uneven walk along a riverbed, but there was nothing difficult about it to the average active person. HOWEVER, I will say that there were people on our excursions who had difficulty with the 1/2 mile walk down to the boats, as well as getting in and out of the canoes. My point here is to manage you expectations, what one person may consider difficult, someone like me (mid 30s and active with active kids) will consider easy.
Our favorite excursion was getting out on the zodiac boat. However, it is priced per person, and since the kids cannot legally drive, they are just happy passengers. I wish it wa priced by vehicle, like the jeep rentals that are offered in other ports.
The dog sledding is a hit for any animal lover. It was nice to talk to the mushers and learn about their lives. These mushers are not just there for the tourists. They are real Alaskan locals who race competivitley in the winter. In the summer months, the cruise lines pay them to bring their dogs to the ports. The mushers are then able to keep their dogs fit by running 10 miles a day, and visitors like us get to learn a little bit about sled dog teams.
We were unable to take a tour on the glacier, but that would have been on my bucket list. Instead, we did a local tour where you ride a wheeled cart. Often there are also puppies that you can play with as well!
If you are looking for a bit of adventure, the canoeing to the glacier is a great option. We took a boat ride out to the location and then paddled (I mean motored) over to the glacier as far upstream as we could go. We then got our and walked up to the glacier for a closer look! It was a cool experience and one I would do again. Lunch was a bit bare bones, picnic style without much choices, so pack something to eat if you have picky eaters!
We also visited a mine, another kid-friendly tour. We learned about gold and how the mines were used during an underground tour. After that we had a few minutes to pan for gold. Overall the tour seemed rushed as there was a timeline to get us back to the ship. With all of the transport to and from the vessel to the excursions, there is not a lot of free time while ON the excursions. With that being said, I am sure a lot goes into the logistics of moving thousands of people to and from these excursions everyday! (If I had the choice to do this one again, I would probably pass on it and do the Britannia mine tour in Vancouver instead.)
Rooftop Sport Court was a hit!
The boys loved the rooftop sport court, where we could play basketball and pickle ball, as well as shuffleboard and a few other games. The weather during our voyage was dry (except for one day) so they were up there often. If you are taking a spring cruise, I doubt it would be used much as it would be quite wet and cold.
The drinks package and kids on board
The drinks package was the biggest complication for us. You do get water, iced tea and lemonade for free on the ship.
The first drink package for your ROOM, note that everyone in the room has to have the same package is a pop only package where you get unlimited pop from a pop machine (which is not super plentiful but you can also get pop from the bar if they have them on tap).
The drink package that we went for was mocktails and lattes. In other words lots of luxurious non-alcoholic beverages. I do not drink pop so I enjoyed lattes from the coffee bar, It was a nice quiet spot to grab a drink and enjoy the view or some quite time. They also had delicious crepes you could order!
The kids loved the mocktails, they ordered non-alcoholic margaritas, Shirley temples and plenty of other fancy beverages.
The drink package worked out to a little under $20 per person per day. That was about 4 lattes or 3 mocktails. The boys definitely got their money’s worth, but I am not sure I really did, as I did not always order more than 1-2 coffees. There is an option to order and pay for drinks as you drink them, I would love to try that next time and see if the drink package was worth it.
The thing with these packages, is EVERYONE in your room has to have one, you cannot just get the package for one or two people.
There is also an upgraded package for alcoholic beverages, two packages actually. You can also order drinks one at a time (that is what I did) and they are billed to your ship account and charged to your credit card at the end of the trip.
The crows nest is a perfect place to go to enjoy a drink before dinner. The boys loved the games the the view was incredible.
With all of that being said, I hope you have a better understanding of what to expect on your first cruise.
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.