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Holland America Line: Prinsendam

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Apr 1, 2017

Review of Prinsendam

Garry Ashby Age: 70 Occupation:RETIRED Number of Cruises: 25+ Cruise Line: Holland America Ship: Prinsendam Sailing Date: 2015-05-23 Itinerary: Iberian and Gallic Explorer As usual, our cruise experience was great. The staff of the Prinsendam are among the best we have ever encountered. The food in the main dining room was interesting, well prepared, elegantly presented, and HOT ! The entertainment was first rate and, because of the ship's size,

unique to the Prinsendam . All services, from cabin attendant to laundry was flawless. I noted that the front desk almost never had anyone lined up to speak to them, a sure indication that there were few problems faced by the passengers. The itinerary presented good variety of destinations although, unlike my spouse, I would have liked an extra sea day or two. Overall, a good value, a great ship, and an enjoyable cruise. The main dining room food was exceptionally good, better than expected. Perhaps because of the small size of ship, preparation, presentation, and temperature of the food was flawless. I often order beef (steak, prime rib, etc.) rare, they never missed the mark. The variety of selection was outstanding, from duck to crab legs, and simply superb salmon. I will add that it is almost sinful to pass up the soups on the Prinsendam as they are excellent. Although we had selected early seating, our party of six were always accommodated when excursions made us late. Our party's Vegan was presented with a good variety and many special accommodations. The wine list was excellent and moderately priced, the Navigator and Admiral wine packages offered good value. We always select a Veranda Suite and on the Prinsendam this cabin has a walk-in closet with ample storage and is not confining in any way. The beds are comfortable and well appointed. The only detractor we experienced was that there was only one 110VAC outlet. Staff quickly provided us with a power strip that accommodated all of our various chargers and electronics. On board activities were as you would expect, bingo, karaoke, dancing, piano bar, etc. The itinerary did not leave much day time to enjoy these activities but at night there truly was "Something for Everyone". We especially enjoyed the nightly "Sip & Savor", a pre-dinner offering of a selected wine paired with a light hors d'oeuvre.. As usual, to take, or not take, excursions is a highly personal choice. We heard nothing but positive feedback from passengers who took the offered excursions. We enjoyed the Medoc Wine and the Tank Museum excursions as well as several fine experiences with hiring a local taxi on our own. All ports-of-call were welcoming and enjoyable. We joined the ship in Civitavecchia after spending some time in Rome. We had purchased a transfer from downtown Rome to the ship that was to leave the collection point ( Visconti Palace Hotel ) at 11 AM. We were left waiting until 12:40 with every HAL representative offering a different reason for the delay. This disappointment soon was overshadowed by the wonderful staff and cruise arrangements. The Prinsendam is 20 years old but looks new in every way. Most unfortunately our cruise ended on a sour note. Due to the long distance between the cruise port, Ijmuiden, and Amsterdam, the front desk advised us to take the ship's transfer to the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam and a taxi from there to our hotel. We were assured that taxi's were available at the Renaissance. The transfer bus, however, dumped us out, with luggage, in the middle of a busy street somewhat near the Victoria Hotel but a long and confusing walk to the Renaissance. The bus driver said we should not have expected to be dropped at the Renaissance because of the size of the bus. We were told our best option was to schlep our stuff to the main train station (1/2 mile). So with a semi-invalided wife, two large suitcases, and two carry-ons, that's what we did. The event evoked memories of Bataan !! Never before have we been so mistreated.

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May 22, 2015

Iberian and Gallic Explorer

As usual, our cruise experience was great. The staff of the Prinsendam are among the best we have ever encountered. The food in the main dining room was interesting, well prepared, elegantly presented, and HOT ! The entertainment was first rate and, because of the ship's size, unique to the Prinsendam . All services, from cabin attendant to laundry was flawless. I noted that the front desk almost never had anyone lined up to speak to them, a

sure indication that there were few problems faced by the passengers. The itinerary presented good variety of destinations although, unlike my spouse, I would have liked an extra sea day or two. Overall, a good value, a great ship, and an enjoyable cruise. The main dining room food was exceptionally good, better than expected. Perhaps because of the small size of ship, preparation, presentation, and temperature of the food was flawless. I often order beef (steak, prime rib, etc.) rare, they never missed the mark. The variety of selection was outstanding, from duck to crab legs, and simply superb salmon. I will add that it is almost sinful to pass up the soups on the Prinsendam as they are excellent. Although we had selected early seating, our party of six were always accommodated when excursions made us late. Our party's Vegan was presented with a good variety and many special accommodations. The wine list was excellent and moderately priced, the Navigator and Admiral wine packages offered good value. We always select a Veranda Suite and on the Prinsendam this cabin has a walk-in closet with ample storage and is not confining in any way. The beds are comfortable and well appointed. The only detractor we experienced was that there was only one 110VAC outlet. Staff quickly provided us with a power strip that accommodated all of our various chargers and electronics. On board activities were as you would expect, bingo, karaoke, dancing, piano bar, etc. The itinerary did not leave much day time to enjoy these activities but at night there truly was "Something for Everyone". We especially enjoyed the nightly "Sip & Savor", a pre-dinner offering of a selected wine paired with a light hors d'oeuvre.. As usual, to take, or not take, excursions is a highly personal choice. We heard nothing but positive feedback from passengers who took the offered excursions. We enjoyed the Medoc Wine and the Tank Museum excursions as well as several fine experiences with hiring a local taxi on our own. All ports-of-call were welcoming and enjoyable. We joined the ship in Civitavecchia after spending some time in Rome. We had purchased a transfer from downtown Rome to the ship that was to leave the collection point ( Visconti Palace Hotel ) at 11 AM. We were left waiting until 12:40 with every HAL representative offering a different reason for the delay. This disappointment soon was overshadowed by the wonderful staff and cruise arrangements. The Prinsendam is 20 years old but looks new in every way. Most unfortunately our cruise ended on a sour note. Due to the long distance between the cruise port, Ijmuiden, and Amsterdam, the front desk advised us to take the ship's transfer to the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam and a taxi from there to our hotel. We were assured that taxi's were available at the Renaissance. The transfer bus, however, dumped us out, with luggage, in the middle of a busy street somewhat near the Victoria Hotel but a long and confusing walk to the Renaissance. The bus driver said we should not have expected to be dropped at the Renaissance because of the size of the bus. We were told our best option was to schlep our stuff to the main train station (1/2 mile). So with a semi-invalided wife, two large suitcases, and two carry-ons, that's what we did. The event evoked memories of Bataan !! Never before have we been so mistreated.

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Sep 21, 2014

Baltic

On whole this was an ok cruise. The ports were interesting especially Finland and St. Petersburg. The Prinsendam was in the poorest shape of any ship we have been on. The cabin furniture is very tired, SMALL. and The door to the bathroom is not sound proof. One could hear everything. We were very disappointed and surprised after hearing everyone rave about Holland. The staff was very gracious. We loved cruising down the Kiel canal in Germany. It

was a real treat. The food was good. Dated, small with a bathroom that was sound proof. The usual shows and activities for a small ship, meaning they were not memorable.

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Sep 7, 2013

Celtic Adventure

We are 4 star HAL cruisers. Was on Prinsendam from Singapore to Beijing and Beijing to Osaka. This was when HAL introduced her as a new ship! After our initial disappointment, we grew to love the size of the ship and took her again from Ft. Lauderdale, to Manaus and down to Rio. My favorite Prinsendam voyage was from Amsterdam on the Voyage of the Vikings. The fijords were breathtaking. The scenery was so different. It was amazing cruising

thru thick water, occasionally bumping ice. Our Captain said the Prinsendam had a rating to handle where we were, but if anything happened, no one was within 250 miles to help. Our voyage went to Spitzbergen, Longyearbein and beyond. Was wonderful going south to the Shetlands and Iceland. Last month we took our fourth trip from Amsterdam around the British Isles & Ireland. Read from some cruise critics that she looks tired and needs to be retired. We were so pleased to find that the interior furnishings were excellent. The carpeting was new, the back of the Lido is now enclosed and all the public places are still elegant. The only places I thought that needed help were the thresholds going in and out of several locations. Heard from some rumors that our favorite ship had been sold and were told by HAL people in the know that that wasn't the case. Someone did say that below (places we don't see) are in bad shape. They speculated we would have her 3-5 more years. The staff was wonderful, food great and entertainment outstanding. The people brought on board, especially, were outstanding. Bravo Prinsendam.

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Dec 2, 2009

Black Sea

The Prinsendam is a wonderfully elegant smaller ship. It's used by HAL to cruise around the world and as such, the service was excellent, the food was delicious (some of the best we've had in recent years). Everything was just as it should be. Because it's small, it's easier to see familiar faces, make new acquaintances and feel part of things. The cruise director was outstanding; a middle-aged professional who told a great joke, mingled with the

passengers and did a super job of finding good talent. We met people who had been on the ship for weeks and weeks and all had only good things to say. I would not hesitate to book a cruise on this ship, in fact, I would highly recommend it, particularly if you enjoy old style cruising and won't miss a 10 story atrium and glitz and glitter. The food was excellent. Everything was done exactly as it should have been. My friends and I thought since this ship is used for the world cruise, Holland was careful to put in a great chef, myriad choices and excellent quality food. The Lido also was the same quality, although with fewer choices. We chose anytime dining, but found a waiter and busboy, Asep and KuKu from Bali, who were delightful and attentive. After 2 nights requesting them, for every dinner, there was a table in their area waiting for us, regardless of the time we showed up. Only one night of 14 did we have to wait for 10 minutes until other people finished. Never had to request more iced tea or another cappuccino, it appeared automatically. Wonderful!! The outside stateroom was standard for Holland America: good pillow top mattress, love seat and table, flat screen TV with one large exception - the bathrooms were totally new. The sink and tub had a glass tile surround, brand new sink, new shower-head, full bath tub, and lots of room. I also had a walk-in closet with loads of shelf and hanging space, a safe, an umbrella to use and a shoe basket in case I wanted my shoes shined. I usually book a balcony, but since this is an older ship, they are at a premium and quite pricey. I found this cabin to be just fine, although at times, I had to turn down the air conditioning: it was very cold. Activities were pretty standard, although limited in some ways because it is a smaller ship. The entertainment was very very good. Seven singers and dancers provided production shows that were excellent. The other talent, singers, comedian and magician were good. The Culinary Arts Center provided a good number of programs during our 2 weeks, the theater showed first run movies, also playing in the stateroom the next day, and there was even a certificate-earning simulated dip in the Black Sea at the pool one day. Also I like the Walk for the Cure one morning that raised money for Susan Komen Breast Cancer charity. There was plenty to do for a small ship, but not the amount of activity that is found on the larger ships. Don't miss the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon Turkey. It's one of the "I can't believe I'm here" moments not to be missed. Also the full day tour of Istanbul is excellent. Stay very far away from a "Stroll through Sochi". Everyone on that tour had their money fully refunded because it was so bad. I went to Stahlin's dacha in the afternoon in Sochi which was interesting, but Sochi was not my favorite port. Also, in Sinop, Turkey, we took a tour that brought us to a lovely fjord and an archeological museum with wonderful artifacts, but no English annotation. We enjoyed it anyway, but would have liked to have known more of what we were seeing. Also, get ready in Turkey for toilets that are holes in the floor surrounded by porcelain. The women all managed with a smile. My friends and I agreed that if this was not our best cruise, it was definitely at the top. The intimacy and quality of the ship, the very unusual ports and the smiling faces we met everywhere made the trip stand out. There were 27 nationalities on board, so we met and spent time with people from all over the world - in some cases, even if there was just enough language between us to get by. Some of the ports were less well-known, but, with the exception of Sochi, Russia, fascinating. In the small port of Sinop, Turkey, we were walking the streets and a man in a wheelchair, in broken and halting English, smiled and said, "Hello! Welcome to my country." It was one of those moments that makes you remember why you travel. Or the pharmacist in Trabzon who gave me aspirin for free because I had no more Turkish lira, even though I tried to give her euro or dollars. Or meeting the First Lady of the Republic of Georgia since we were the largest ship to ever sail into Batumi. Go on this ship, and take this itinerary, you will not be disappointed!

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Aug 4, 2009

Northern Europe

The MS Prinsendam is one of Holland America's smaller ships that carry 793 passengers and a crew of 443. It was built in 1988 as the Royal Viking Sun for the Royal Viking Line and in less than two years later it was sold to the Seabourn Cruise Line and renamed as the Seabourn Sun. Another two years later, it was sold again to the Holland America Line. Food was fair and service was slow. This was the poorest of all the eight HAL ships that we've

been on. Our daughter's and our cabins were side-by-side. We had the cabin with a shower (no bath) and only one bedside nightstand; while our daughter had a bath and two bedside nightstands. Both cabins were the same size and had queen size beds, etc. The cabin's bathrooms were nice and new while the non-bathroom areas showed signs of wear. Cabin attendant was also good. Poor cabin TV service - 19 channels but three out of the seven English language channels were out-of-service due to a "satellite problem" that never got fixed. Before boarding the on-shore HAL personnel mistakenly placed my wife's photo both on her and my shipboard ID cards, which also serves as the cabin key. All passengers upon returning to the ship from a land tour had their shipboard ID card scanned to verify that the photo on the card matches the returning passenger. After experiencing problem, I was able to get a new ID with the proper photo from the ship's front desk. Most of the passengers caught a cough and cold on the cruise and we never saw the HAL personnel ever sanitize the numerous stairway handrails on the ship as we had always seen on all other HAL ships we have been on. The day before the Ystad, Sweden land tour, we received from the shipboard Tour Management a notice that our tour reservations were cancelled. We had previously paid for that tour four months earlier. Later, we found out that there were too many on-board requests for the tour; so all of the afternoon tours were cancelled and they rearranged the tours to be available either in the morning or the afternoon. Once, we learned this we signed up for our original morning tour and later, we discovered that they had just charged us of this tour meaning that we were being doubled-charged. The front desk was able to correct this problem. Some of the sites to be seen on the land tours were skipped due to HAL tour management permitting handicapped passengers (in wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) to be on these HAL rated "Strenuous Activity" tours. The overall quality of the tours were not as good as on the same cruise that we took on the Norwegian Dream eight years earlier. The onboard tour personnel always place a small tour sticker on your clothing for identification on the tour. One sticker left its glue-like material on my jacket and both the ship's personnel and we were unable to remove it. As a longtime Holland America passenger, I could not recommend this ship. This was our ninth Holland America Cruise and our 18th cruise in Asia, Europe, and North, Central, and South America.

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Sep 25, 2004

Western Mediterranean

The Prinsendam VINTAGE ELEGANCE ALIVE! It was a mild fall blue-sky afternoon as Captain Halle Gundersen stood atop the control deck guiding Holland America’s ms Prinsendam, an elegant explorer, down the Tagus River away from Lisbon, Portugal toward the vast Atlantic waters. “I knew from childhood that I wanted a life at sea.” says the sophisticated Nordic ship captain with pride. The personable captain was readily seen about

the ship mingling with passengers, and always opens his P.A. announcements with a down-home “Good day, it’s me again!” or simply “Hi … it’s me!” and this would add a warmth and friendship to the demeanor of our days ahead at sea. As I stood on a forward ship deck with a warm fresh breeze in my face, I was again facing new discoveries to lands I had never before visited … how wonderful! Holland America’s ms Prinsendam glided with sophistication under the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge, one of the longest on earth, and to our port side was Holland America’s sister-company ship, Cunard’s QE 2 also departing Lisbon — this was a spell-binding moment in life’s adventures. My emotions raced, and I imagined what thoughts may have gone through the minds of early Portuguese explorers, like João Fernandes, as they plied waters to unknown worlds for the first time … I too felt that mysterious sense of impending exploits … this would simply be the wonder of a lifetime! Our Itinerary: Focusing just on the itinerary would not be completely reader appropriate in telling you about this classic ship, ms Prinsendam, for as an elegant explorer she does just that … she moves onward exploring. In fact on January 13th she will begin her 113 day around-the-world adventure from Ft. Lauderdale. But don’t be completely baffled by this concept, as you may be able to book merely segments of this grand exploration. Our elegant explorer itinerary sailed from Lisbon, Portugal continuing 3000 miles for 13 nights to Athens, Greece. We arrived a day early to Lisbon, which is imperative in today’s changed air markets, and we used this time to re-coop from jet lag and explore this enchanting city. From Lisbon we went to the U.K. member Gibraltar which is quite close to Africa. We took in Gibraltar’s heights, and those feisty Barbary apes. The Prinsendam in Port Mahon of the Spanish Minorca islands came next, then Italy’s Sardinia, followed by Civitavecchia the port in Italy used for access to romantic Rome, and the Vatican State. We docked two days and explored Rome and the Vatican extensively. The next day we ventured on our own via train to Tarquinia, Italy to see the ancient Etruscan burial ruins that pre-date Rome by hundreds of years … they were quite exquisite and well preserved — a grand adventure was unfolding! From Civitavecchia we had a day at sea to photo the Stromboli volcano spewing steam and debris down along its populated coastal areas, and then on through the Straights of Messina, that narrow gap between Italy’s mainland and Sicily … remember Homer’s Odyssey where perhaps the sirens enticed passing sailors? Next the lovely Greek islands like Santorini and Kefalonia plus stops for the original Olympia where the games began in 776 B.C., and even for the 2004 games the flame was still lit here for its journey round the world to light the current modern games where ever the location. This year as you know the flame returned to Athens, Greece. A highlight of this ancient wondrous voyage was our day in Turkey. We made port at the city of Kusadasi. This city is your gateway to the ruins of Ephesus, even more amazing than the Rome’s ancient Forum. Here you will walk the marble streets of Alexander, Caesar, Cleopatra, the Apostle Paul and St. John. Nearby you will visit the last known home of Mary, mother of Jesus, and the burial spot of St. John who was beckoned by Jesus to care for Mary — an inspiring day was in store for visitors. The port of Kusadasi is home to several ancient boulevards hosting Turkish-style bazaars where everything can be bought; from hand-woven rugs, to fine jewelry to knock-off purses and watches. Bring your cash, your haggling nerves of steel, and just relax and have fun — nothing in your life will have prepared you for a Turkish market — we loved it! No matter how much you bargain … you won’t win. The Turks pride themselves on being masters of the ‘deal’ and it is just part of the culture. To not bargain is almost no fun at all for them and an insult to the game that is afoot and less fun for you. But, they will win … it is only a matter of degrees for you! It is no matter though, the deal-making is recreational and prices are very low. Until the government revalues the Turkish dollar every shopper can be a millionaire. For about $6.00 you can be worth 10 Million Turkish Liras. Imagine how many currency notes it would take to buy a home or a car! Though we had cruised in the Mediterranean twice before, this itinerary was quite new for us, and it was one of our most memorable life experiences. The ports and shore trips were well orchestrated by Holland America to near perfection, safety, and organization. I always recommend using a ship’s shore excursions in short-stay situations, and where efficiency is paramount — like our first ever trip to Rome. For seasoned travelers exploring on one’s own is the true vacation delight — just don’t miss your ship! Our final stop would be Athens … one of the hand full a large cities I would readily revisit. Athens offers culture, history, the magnificant Acropolis and a sense of welcome. ms Prinsendam: The elegant explorer ms Prinsendam is 38,000 tons and carries a comfortable and intimate number — 793 passengers. She is 673 feet long and has a complete promenade deck around the ship for romantic moonlit strolls, or exercise walks. She was actually built in 1988 for the former Royal Viking Line as the Royal Viking Sun. In 1999 the luxury line Seabourn bought her, and she became the Seabourn Sun, serving with Seabourn until 2002, when sister company Holland America acquired the vessel and re-fitted her as the ms Prinsendam. Many of the elegant qualities known for Seabourn excellence remain and embellish the ship, such as fine woodwork, marble flooring, and a world class spa. The Queen’s room provides a main gathering place and entertainment forum for the specialized entertainers such as singers, pianists, magicians and comedians and the faithful cast/crew of the Prinsendam for Broadway-style performances. The cruise industry is so varied in today’s market that I want to be exact and confident that readers understand this wonderful class of ship, and especially the Prinsendam herself. She is a vintage ship with classic style and lines that is fully worthy of her full and upcoming world exploration. Her deep stable draft-to-size-ratio give her qualities of sea-worthiness that is not always found in all modern designed ships. We had one day that faced a stunning gale-force nine wind storm (55 to 72 mph), but the ship braced admirably and even inexperienced passengers faired pretty well. Such conditions were unexpected, and it was comforting to be aboard ms Prinsendam in such adverse conditions. Prinsendam is different than the mega-ships prowling the seas of today’s market. She has no spiral pool slides, or dancing costumed bears for kids, and she sports no rock-wall, or ice rink. She does show her style and offers all the amenities of classic cruising — shows, fine meals, a movie theater, two pools of modest size, whirlpool, spa, well-equipped work-out area, and a staff that caters to its clientele. I attribute this graciousness and dedication to service to Holland America’s cruising standards, and personally to the ship’s hotel manager — Mr. Jan Kuipers. “I feel my goal is to try and offer a level of service to our clients on Prinsendam that approaches that of the world’s finest five star hotels.” says Kuipers with pride. Our 13 night cruise verified this striving for excellence. In fact, when issues arose on the vintage elegant explorer with our cabin, we were met by letters of apology and a promise for quick and required services. Moving and vastly complex wonders like the ships of today will have random issues arise, and it is reflective of a company’s standards when those issues are met with a commitment to quality control plus solutions. The Prinsendam is now finishing a long awaited project to replace and update the water lines throughout the ship, and once completed will give the elegant ship greater client comfort and a more issue-free service. This project is likely finished as of this writing and was completed as a moving work-in-progress. Ship Summary: The Prinsendam has all the traditional regulars of the HAL fleet — Crow's Nest, Explorer's Lounge, Java Cafe, Ocean Bar, Wajang Theater, Half Moon Room, the Queen's Lounge showroom, La Fontaine Dining Room and a wrap-round promenade deck as mentioned — as well as The Pinnacle Grill (the specialty restaurant), a newer well equipped Internet Center, an Art Gallery, Roman style spa, fitness center and a popular Golf Club and Pro Shop complete with golf practice simulator, and yes … shops! Quite impressive to noise control is a feature of the vintage ship I immediately fell in love with: A Typical Prinsendam Cabin Every two spacious well-appointed cabins have their own recessed hallway that kept cabins away from hall-chatter when people were out late forgetting that others sometimes sleep. This feature alone was a stellar feature for us. Dining: This is our fourth Holland America cruise — each one on a different ship. We are always pleased with dining, but this cruise seemed extraordinary. Whether it was the actual preparation, or the delight of our new friends and dining companions — or both, we enjoyed and looked forward to evening dining in the lavish La Fontaine main dining room. One evening we reserved a window table for two in The Pinnacle Grill. This is a worthwhile ‘extra-fee’ experience. The elegance from fine Bvlgari china to impeccable and personable world-class service made this a memorable evening. The menu varies, but each delicacy we tasted seemed quite special, and the romantic setting was ideal. For lunch we opted to forgo the more formal La Fontaine and we really enjoyed the cafeteria-style Lido dining. If eye-appeal is buy-appeal we were completely satisfied with the Lido. In fact one evening we were late from a shore trip and just popped into the casual Lido for a nice evening meal. For breakfast we also preferred the casual easy-in-out Lido. Adjoining the Lido is a hot dog, burger pool-side grill, and pizza was available as was ice cream, wonderful favored and of course badly needed ice cream, glorious toppings, and homemade cookies calling to us “take me … take me!” of course. Closing thoughts: As the extended cruise came to a close I found myself again standing forward on the elegant Prinsendam admiring her classic styling on the last breezy afternoon day. Sparkles of adventure and history were dancing in my head with thoughts of explorers, classical Greek statues and buildings, the Roman Colosseum , Vatican City, Homer’s Odyssey, Socrates, the Greek Isles, the spirited Turkish Bazaars and so much more … how wonderfully exciting this had been … yet so graciously exquisite. The next cruise after ours, Prinsendam ventured into the Black Sea, and her journeys and explorations continue onward. And, whenever I again see the profile of a classic ship chasing new horizons on distant seas, I will fondly remember Holland America’s Prinsendam and wish I were chasing new venues aboard this classic vessel. Some people vacation on the sea, some even love and admire the mystery and unknowns of the sea, but like the thousands before me the sea is a taunting and seductive mistress beckoning me to join her again in passionately intimate adventures yet to be discovered just one more horizon beyond — and beyond yet again. Adventure Guide: Holland American Cruise Lines www.hollandamerica.com 877-724-5425

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Dec 6, 2002

New Zealand/Australia

This is by far the most charming and intimate Holland America ship we have seen. The Prinsendam reminds me of the grand old days of cruising. By today’s standards, she is a small ship with a capacity of only 794 passengers. The ship’s gross tonnage is only 38,000 as compared with many newer ships of 80,000+ tons. The Prinsendam was built in 1988 and operated until earlier this year as the Royal Viking Sun and then the Seabourn

Sun. Holland America bought the ship from Seabourn in 2001 and refurbished it to the typical HAL décor. Fortunately, HAL did not remove many of the finest features of the ship. I classify the current décor as understated elegance. Most of the cabins are outside. Many have balconies. There are some spacious suites. The outside cabins are relatively large with a walk-in closet, lots of drawer space, a mini-fridge, and actually, a large bathroom with oversize tub. Some of the outside cabins have only a shower so if a bathtub is important, select your cabin carefully from the deck plans. Hair dryers, a keyless safe, TV/VCR with remote control, telephones with voice mail, lots of mirrors, and a well-stocked mini-bar round out the cabin amenities. We were amazed to find that there were only about 360 passengers on this cruise. In fact most of the past several months have seen the ship just over half full. I am sure that as soon as word gets out about the elegance of the ship, the friendliness of the crew, the intimacy of the lounges, and the opportunity to recognize many of one’s fellow passengers after just a few days, the popularity of the Prinsendam will greatly increase. One of the reasons for the small passenger loads is the distance one must travel from the U.S. to get to Australia, New Zealand, or other parts of Asia where the ship has been cruising. HAL has changed the summer itinerary to do 14 day Alaska tours out of San Francisco. We were pleasantly surprised that in spite of the small number of passengers, the menus remained varied with lots of selections and continued excellent quality and presentation. Brian, the Food and Beverage Manager, did a super job of assuring that all of the fruits and vegetables were high quality and fresh. Most of the meats and seafood was shipped from the U.S. but the numerous lamb dishes during the cruise came from New Zealand. The ship retained two seatings for supper in the La Fontaine Dining Room in spite of the small number of passengers. The Odyssey Restaurant managed by Stephene was a pleasant evening alternative to the La Fontaine Dining Room. Reservations are required for the Odyssey and the dress is always at least semi-formal. We ate there three times. The menu is somewhat limited but it changed mid-cruise and the food preparation and presentation are superb. There is no additional charge for dining in the Odyssey. The Lido also offers a casual dining venue, especially for supper. We enjoyed the vast variety of foods offered in the Lido at breakfast and lunch. We had supper there once. Eating there was quicker and one could nibble on a variety of cold and hot dishes. One unique feature of this Lido at breakfast was that all orders for eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles, etc. were prepared on the grills right in front of you as you waited; always fresh and hot. Lots of juices were always available including fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. Late night snacks [formerly the midnight buffet] were also offered in the Lido. The Prinsendam retains many of the traditional rooms of other HAL ships. There is a well stocked library. An ample supply of local papers is provided every port day. The Java Café continues to offer free Cappuccino, Latte, Espresso, chocolate, coffees, and sweets during the day and evening hours. The spa, beauty shop, and gym offer ample, modern facilities for a ship of this size. All of the gym equipment is state of the art. A trainer is available to lead classes and provide personal training services. Saunas, facials, and all those other body ‘enriching’ services are pleasantly provided by the Steiner personnel. Music, cocktails, and great atmosphere in the Ocean Bar and Explorers Lounge have similar décor, elegance, and entertainment offered on the other HAL ships. A piano player provides music in the Crows Nest afternoons and evenings. Smoking has been restricted to cabins, outside decks, the casino, and in the elegant Oak Room. The Oak Room is a small lounge right next to the Java Café where cigars are offered and one can order cognacs, etc. The Queens Lounge is the main entertainment venue. Sight lines are excellent and the acoustics have been well organized for enjoyable listening. Additionally there is the typical HAL Wajang Theater for showing films, conducting religious services, meetings, etc.  Unique to this ship there is a well appointed Golf shop with resident pro and a video simulated course where one can play to their heart’s content. The pro shop offers golf paraphernalia with the HAL logos. The trainer was completely booked many days. Children facilities and Club HAL are extremely limited on the Prinsendam. The ship wasn’t really designed to accommodate children. Few children is an added benefit to many HAL frequent cruisers. The teak Lower Promenade deck goes the circumference of the ship. Four laps equals a mile. HAL has terminated the Passport to Fitness program but the Gym still offers numerous classes, most of them still free. The wood deck chairs still line the Lower Promenade deck and hot chocolate or cool lemonade are offered every afternoon depending on the weather. Boutiques, Pools, Hot Tubs, the Internet Café, and the Photo Gallery round out the public areas of the Prinsendam except for lots of neat nooks and crannies where one can curl up and read, relax, snooze, or just watch the world go by. The cast of 7 was enthusiastic and relatively competent. They were rather new as a team. They rehearsed daily for their 4 cast shows, and the performances definitely improved as the cruise progressed. Other entertainment included an illusionist, an excellent singer/comedian husband/wife duo, a ventriloquist whose dummy did much better than he did, he was really bad; a flute soloist, Bettine, from Bulgaria and now living in the U.S. has performed in over70 countries. Her performances are frequently played for animals. She claims that the animals respond to her flute music and showed videos to verify the effect on the animals. She was a most interesting entertainer. We also enjoyed an Irish comedian, a guitarist, and finally a well-known and fabulous Australian male vocalist. The entertainment was super, especially considering the small ship. The Captain, the Hotel Manager, and Department Heads were frequently about the ship checking to see that their areas of responsibility were up to their high standards. Always there were people cleaning, polishing, painting, etc. to keep the ship in tip-top shape. The crew and staff seemed competent, friendly, and efficient. A tightly run ship is said to be a happy ship and the Prinsendam is a happy ship. Captain Halle Gundersen has commanded this ship since she was built in 1988. The Captain oversaw the construction of the ship and has been her Master except for vacations ever since. The Hotel Manager, Fekko Ebbens, has been with Holland America since 1965. Fekko oversaw the conversion of this ship from the Seabourn Sun to the Prisendam and has been aboard continuously. Fekko hopes to make this ‘his ship’ until his retirement from HAL. He does a fine job. The passengers on this cruise were some of the most friendly we have experienced. We became acquainted with many of them; we ‘hung out’ with quite a few of them. Most were from the U.S. but we also met some Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis [New Zealanders]. One of the Aussies, Charles, and I were frequently ‘messing’ with the staff and/or passengers. Two brothers, Roger and Curt, also participated in numerous incidents. All of us were egged on by numerous of our newfound acquaintances. We all had great fun. Would we sail again on the Prinsendam? You bet! We are looking forward to the publication of the HAL 2004 itineraries. We already have bookings on the July 30, 2003 Rotterdam 16 day Transatlantic cruise and November, 2003 Statendam 16 day tour of the Hawaiian Islands. We are sure to return to the Prinsendam in 2004. The Prinsendam is scheduled to do the world cruise in 2004. Maybe we will go on one of the segments. The Prinsendam is truly a classy and classic cruise ship. The Ports AUCKLAND – the departure point This is an absolutely beautiful city with a super blend of old and new. Old is only a relative term. When we toured Eastern Europe a few months ago, ‘old' meant somewhere around 400 years or older. Here in New Zealand ‘old’ means about 100 years or more. Now, in early December, summer is about to arrive. Flowers and trees are blooming everywhere. New Zealand’s population is about 3 ½ million; almost 1/3 of them live in the Auckland area. We spent only 3 days here before boarding the Prisendam for our 16-day cruise. THE NEW ZEALAND PORTS This cruise took us to 9 additional New Zealand ports: Bay of Islands, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, and Picton. These are in the North Island of the country. A small channel and bay separate the North Island from the South Island. We cruised through this channel and crossed to the South island where we visited Nelson, Christchruch, Dunedin, and then Milford Sound. After these ports we headed to Tasmania and Australia. There were only 4 sea days during the cruise. We used most of these to listen to a few port lectures, relax and reflect on all of the great experiences of each port, visit with fellow shipmates, and do a bit of laundry in the free washers and dryers aboard. We absolutely enjoyed each and every New Zealand port. Officials at every port went out of their way to make us feel welcome. In some ports we docked a distance from the town center. In every case the city fathers provided frequent and free shuttles to the center of the towns. We did not do any of the ship’s shore excursions. Instead, we prefer to mosey about independently. In some of the ports we found a great deal riding the “On Again Off Again” buses whereby for the cost of a day ticket [about $5 U.S. or less] we could alight at any of the many stops and reboard on a subsequent trip. We rented a taxi with shipmates at one port and had a great day seeing unusual off-the-beaten-track sights. Shore excursions are great for people who are not comfortable with the uncertainties of independent arrangements. We like a little more adventure and flexibility. We also usually stop at an Internet café [lots of inexpensive ones in each of the ports] to check on business and personal news from home. I also occasionally used the Internet Café on board to check on business. The citizens [they call themselves ‘Kiwis’] of each and every New Zealand port were extremely pleasant, friendly, helpful, laid-back, and willing to share some of their knowledge about the area with us. One of our guides invited us to her historic home for a ‘cuppa’ tea and a ‘looksee.’ Then we were off to see the sights. High hills and or mountains surrounded all of the New Zealand ports. Most homes are built on hillsides. Most homes require lots of steps to get from the nearest street to their home. Many lots do not have much land but in the little space, the residents take great pride in small gardens with brilliantly colored flowers. They line their steps with lots of colorful shrubs and plants. Each of the New Zealand ports offered interesting and varied features. All of the ports offered lots of scenery, history, friendly people, modern amenities, and a relaxed atmosphere. One could enjoy spending lots of time at any of the ports. One of the shore excursions was an overnight land trip from Dunedin to Queenstown near Millford Sound. We stopped in Milford Sound the next day so the tender could fetch the people who had enjoyed the night on the overland tour [$375. U.S. per person]. While we were near Milford Sound we saw sea lions, dolphins, albatrosses, flying fish, some big waves and swells, a few itsy-bitsy penguins, fog, some magnificent waterfalls, some deep fjords, and the tall, mile-high Mitre Peak. Then we headed through the Tasman Sea to Beauty Point, Tasmania. TASMANIA AND MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA The Tasman Sea is known to be usually rough with big swells, high waves, and lots of wind. As we transited the sea, however, it was glassy calm with only a slight breeze. One of the most magnificent sights occurred toward dusk. We were sitting on the promenade deck when it seemed like a submarine was surfacing nearby. Instead, it was a whale blowing. Soon we were in the midst of a huge pod of whales. We could see them frequently blowing all around the ship. The captain slowed and turned in a big arc. We saw several of the majestic mammals when they breached, coming almost entirely out of the water. The Prisendam docked at Beauty Point, Tasmania. There is absolutely nothing worth seeing at Beauty Point. Instead, this is the closest the ship can get to Launceston, a major gateway to the natural beauty of the area. We took the bus from the pier to town [a 45-minute ride] and then arranged with a taxi to see Mole Creek Nature Reserve. This private wildlife refuge is a great place to see the Tasmanian Devils in their natural habitat. The Reserve also houses Koala Bears, free-roaming kangaroos that can be fed and petted, and a host of other animals and birds. Walking among the kangaroos and wallabies was one of the highlights of the day. We enjoyed riding the chair lift at Cataract Gorge and visiting tame peacocks; this was a colorful stop. Then we checked out an old gold mine, Batman Bridge, Grindelwald Swiss Village, and then passed through Beauty Point on the way back to the pier. The weather was perfect for enjoying a day in the Tasmanian countryside. Melbourne was the final port before our disembarkation in Sydney. This is the second largest Australian city after Sydney. There is so much to see and do here that we didn’t even scratch the surface during our short one-day stay. We found the river walkway and park right in the middle of the city a delightful place to watch the ‘Aussies’ as they enjoyed a sunny, warm day. We enjoyed all of the ports and hope to return to some of them soon. December, 2002 The Prisendam – a Post Script The flight from Sydney to Dallas via Los Angles was most unusual for us. I normally request seats near the back of the plane because those tend to fill last and lots of times we can move to empty sections to stretch out. This flight from Sydney to Los Angles was 13 ½ hours so we really hoped for some extra space. This giant Quantas 747 had 75 rows and we were seated in row 73. Normally the back rows are the first to board the main cabin but this time rows 70 back were the last allowed to board. It turned out that a ‘medical emergency’ was being boarded through the back door so we had to wait for the procedure to be complete. When we got to our seats we noted that we were seated in a virtual intensive care room. We were in the middle section and on our left [the 2 seat across section by the windows] a gurney had been placed over 3 rows of seats. At the back of the plane there is a little space between the windows and the seat. That was used for access to the patient as well as access from the aisle. That access took another row. Poles had been erected around the gurney to offer some privacy to the patient. Then there was the medical staff; a doctor and two registered nurses. All of the life support and monitoring equipment were loaded on the floor and under the seats. The overhead bins were also used. One of the nurses sat beside me. The patient was in her mid seventies and suffering from kidney failure. The machinery required constant monitoring because large monitors and loud alarms were not allowed on board. At least one of the medical team was constantly watching the dials and gauges and frequently administering meds of one sort or another. It turned out that the patient had been a passenger on our cruise. She became sick and was disembarked in Tasmania 3 days earlier. No facilities in Tasmania were equipped to handle her medical problems so she awaited a private medivac plane to transport her to Melbourne. Once admitted to the hospital there, doctors conferred with her U.S. doctors and with the insurance company. It was decided that she should be transferred back to her hometown in New York. No direct flights were available from Melbourne to the U.S. so she was flown to Sydney to await a direct flight with available space for her and all the gear. The proximity to the holidays complicated the problem. This poor soul had been in 6 ambulances, 4 hospitals, and 3 airplanes so far. Fortunately the flight from Sydney to Los Angles was continuing on to New York so she didn’t have to be moved again. Her husband of many years, a distinguished looking man, was holding up remarkably well. He seemed alert, calm, and pleasant with the medical staff. I would have been a basket case. Fortunately the couple had paid for the trip insurance when they booked the cruise. The nurse and I speculated that the total cost of the medical services from Tasmania to New York would exceed $60,000 U.S. As we left the plane, we wished the husband well and told him that he would be included in our prayers.

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Jun 2, 2002

Transatlantic, European Highlights, and Baltic Summer

Many passengers on the first few voyages of Holland-American Line’s Prinsendam believed (some had read) that it was a new ship. Most, however, seemed aware it was the former Royal Viking (later Seabourn) Sun, supposedly comprehensively overhauled and refurbished. Both views were mistaken, or perhaps, mislead. It’s well-advertised 2002 overhaul was neither comprehensive or complete when on June 3, 2002, the ship sailed from New York bound for Southampton

via Halifax, Cobh and Plymouth. Holland-American had taken the Sun and attempted to transform it into their “Elegant Explorer”. It might be an explorer, but it’s not very elegant. The Sun was one of the world’s most luxurious ships 10-12 years ago. Today, even after overhaul, it is a tired, somewhat worn-down dowager of a ship with new engines and refurbished public spaces. The loyal Holland-American crew tried to cope with its numerous problems and limitations, but nothing could overcome the hyped up expectations that resulted in a full ship on the inaugural crossing and the third leg through the Baltic on 6/26. My wife and I endured a standard cabin on Main (6) deck for the first three cruises of the Prinsendam: Transatlantic, European Highlights, and Baltic Summer, June 3rd to July 10th. There is limited storage space in this type of cabin, just four small drawers and a narrow tower of shelves in the closet, mainly to hold the safe. The condition of some cabins was appalling. A couple at our table, with several hundred days cruising on Holland-American and the medallions to show for it, were almost flooded out of their penthouse suite. The woman had an expensive designer handbag ruined, and the carpet was damp and musty-smelling for much of the rest of the crossing. While she was finally compensated (a credit to her on-board account), they told us the ship was nothing like the usual Holland-American cruise experience. This theme was repeated numerous times by others, including one honest ship’s officer and many crew members. Perhaps the Prinsendam is the exception. When we boarded this supposedly “completely refurbished” ship, our cabin was shabby – worn carpet, chipped furniture, and two dilapidated-looking single beds rather than the queen configuration requested. Worse yet, there was hair all over the very small (barely adequate) bath, and nail clippings on the rug in the cabin. My wife just despises hair and personal filth! It took our room steward a couple of days to get us ice, almost a week to find us a bath mat, and the cabin was always stuffy no matter what was done to the thermostat. While service in the dining room was quite good, in the Lido it was marginal, and on occasion we heard crew complaining that the Lido’s kitchen and buffet facilities were not able to handle the number of passengers on board. At peak times, you had to hunt or wait to find a place to sit. More than one crew member told us the cooks in the Lido were furious over the wretched situation. Initially, room service was just awful. We had breakfast in our cabin most mornings. Every morning for the first six or seven days something was wrong. No bread or rolls one morning. No butter another. Then they brought an empty coffee pot! Often, the cream we ordered came as low-fat milk. After a while, things improved, but the service was never up to the standards we are used to, not nearly. Overall, the quality and variety of the food was pretty good on the crossing, but seemed to deteriorate thereafter, possibly because the menu repeated each segment. Perhaps the best testament to the food is I actually lost weight on this extended cruise! Unbelievable; but there is a first time for everything. The alternate restaurant, the Odyssey, was good, but the menu was limited and remained static for the entire 37 days of all three cruises. And it made the Prinsendam a two-class ship: passengers in suites could eat breakfast and lunch in the Odyssey, while the rest of us were allowed in only for dinner, and then if and only if there was room after suite passengers had been accommodated. After a month-long round-the-world cruise experience in Grill class on Cunard’s QE2, we would not knowingly have booked again on a ship with class distinctions. One table-mate enjoying a suite (not the ones with the flood) often mentioned how relaxed the Odyssey was at breakfast or lunch, rubbing in the contrast with the long lines and scarce seating in the Lido. Tipped off by our astute travel agent, we managed to eat dinner in the Odyssey twice, once on each of the first two legs. We didn’t even try to make reservations the third cruise; there was nothing else on Odyssey’s menu we wanted to try. Perhaps the most annoying part was the constant “nickel and dimeing” and over-charging we faced throughout the trip. The tours seemed expensive, compared to what we’ve paid on other cruise lines as recently as April-May of this year. The quality of these high-priced tours, particularly the food and busses or trains, left much to be desired. On board, a coke or a small bottle of water, even with a meal, cost $1.95. A liter bottle of water in your cabin was $2.00 some times, $2.50 others. They charged $5. for a single shot of Doubonet. I’ve been drinking Doubonet before dinner for more than thirty years, off and on, but have never once seen it poured using a shot glass before! A liter bottle of Doubonet cost us just over $8 in a small (taxed) grocery store in Ireland. We stocked up on beer, tonic and snacks in Halifax, then picked up some reasonably priced gin in the ship’s store. That, and a couple of timely wine purchases ashore took care of our basic needs. Shipboard computer access to the Internet was 75¢ a minute! When you read the small print, it turned out that rate was for any use of a computer! They didn’t even have Word or Excel installed! Simply outrageous! We were able to access the Internet in most ports at usually reasonable cost, not more than a dollar or two per hour. The ultimate fleecing came when they started charging $5.00 per person each way for the port shuttle on the third (Baltic) leg of our cruise. In one port, better public transport for the same trip was five Swedish krone, about .55 cents US! We learned to ride local trams and busses, and walked a lot. A healthier alternative. Holland-American offers a number of “deals”, so many pieces of laundry, a number of bottles of wine, etc., for one price. I signed up for 100 minutes of “internet time” on one of these deals, only to learn the real facts when I read the fine print (see above). Our gripe is that multi-segment guests couldn’t carry over unused allocations to subsequent segments; everything was based on each individual cruise segment. We personally discussed this with the ship’s hotel director. He made it very clear that each cruise stood on its own, no matter how long you stayed on board, no discussion. They had to balance their records and accounts! The bean-counters win again! A lot of critical things on board were broken, and no one seemed able to fix them. The sprinkler system leaked. We never saw the four elevators working all at the same time. Often two or even three would be out of service. And four elevators is not nearly enough for a ship with nearly 800 passengers, many of whom are elderly and unable to manage the stairs. Only the forward elevators went to four deck and the tenders. When the plight of a wheelchair-bound guest unable to get to the tenders because both forward elevators were out of service was reported to a front desk Guest Services staffer, she said, “Thank you, sir, We’ll take care of that right away” then promptly went back to counting stamps! You could hear the poor woman crying in the Atrium from a floor away – she had apparently been abandoned or trapped there. Even after a complaint to the hotel director, including the staffers’ name with the time and full particulars, nothing changed at the front desk; it remained unresponsive and defensive. They couldn’t even get a guest’s name right; not even after three tries! Our cabin was on Main (6) Deck next to the gangway, amidships on the port side. We had complained and asked to be assigned another cabin weeks before embarkation, to no avail. The gang-plank squealed like it was corroded or worse. Everywhere we docked with the port side to the pier, we were awakened (often quite early) to the sound of doors banging, motors running, and the gang-plank bumping and screeching. My wife never found the clothes washers all working at the same time, so there was often a long wait. On the crossing, there was no place in the laundry to sit while waiting, and one of the two irons was broken. Leaving Copenhagen June 26th after a late sailing, we were awakened just before 2 AM by a loud screeching noise; it sounded just awful. Turned out to be the pilot boat, scraping its tire-bumpers along the hull as it nudged alongside to pick up the pilot, and lasted ± five minutes. Another night the smoke detector in our cabin went off around 3 AM. Never did find out why, but it sure was loud. It also went off occasionally when you took a shower. When we complained, we were told they were “sensitive” for our protection. Hard to believe. I don’t want to give the impression that everything was awful; it wasn’t. The itinerary was well planned and quite interesting. We had a complete if quick look at a part of the world we hadn’t seen before, guided by a truly outstanding port lecturer. The overwhelming majority of the crew tried to make the trip comfortable and enjoyable. The casino used the more reasonable American blackjack rules, and the team there was friendly and helpful. Many of the problems were perhaps beyond anyone on board’s ability to fix, given the schedule. The ship clearly needed more time in rehab; many tasks just weren’t finished when she left Charleston for her New York “inaugural”. The crew also needed more time to become familiar with the ship and work out its kinks. Holland-American should have been more candid, in both its literature and touting, that the Prinsendam was a rehabilitated, 14 year old ship. When you pay a premium, you expect a superior product. They did not deliver! What we did manage to get out of all this was an interesting overview of western and northern Europe. The initial attraction for us was a comprehensive tour where you moved into one room (cabin) and it moved with you. Our “tour” left from New York, called at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and included two ports each in Ireland, England, France, Spain, Norway and Denmark, three in Sweden, with single port calls in Northern Ireland, Finland, Russia (overnight), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany. After transiting the Kiel Canal, it finally ended 37 days later in Amsterdam, Netherlands. We didn’t enjoy every port; in fact, we would have passed by some for more time in others. Two ports per country seemed about right. Applying that to Sweden, by-passing either Visby or Kalmar would have allowed an overnight in Stockholm; a single day there is not nearly enough. Having both Ireland port calls on its south coast (Cobh and Waterford) was a waste. Substituting Dublin for Waterford (normally a tender port) would have been a lot better. We left Oslo too early to see that city properly; early morning flights of departing passengers from Copenhagen apparently forced that decision. Too bad. Although port calls in each of the Baltic states seemed an attractive feature of the itinerary, they proved to be a repetitive disappointment, particularly right after the splendors of St. Petersburg. Two days in St. Petersburg was not enough either, even though the Russian visa “squeeze” limited us to the overly expensive ship’s tours. Other lines spend three days (two nights) in St. Petersburg, and have more and better tour offerings. This city was the site of one of the most heroic siege defenses in all history: 900 days during World War II. Some lines offer tours highlighting this epic struggle, but none was available from Holland-American, unfortunately. Based on our experience, the tours available seemed highly overpriced. From Belfast, the ship’s full day tour to the Giant Causeway with lunch was $122 per person. Four of us went on the pier and rented a taxi with driver for about five hours, got a two-part tour of Belfast on the way out and in, plus the Giant Causeway for $120. A nice two-course lunch with drinks at the Bushmills Inn, the same place the tour ate, cost my wife and I $45. with tip. We had time for shopping in downtown Belfast where the taxi dropped us at the end of our tour. We saw more in less time at less than half the cost, even viewing some fallout from “the troubles”: bricks in the street and nasty signs. The only glitch was the return shuttle bus was not where the ship’s tour office said it would be. I spotted and flagged it down at a traffic light, but others weren’t so lucky. The tour office on board was good at selling tours, but hard to find open. The saving grace was Frank, the port lecturer, a truly amazing man. What a font of knowledge! His advice was invariably accurate, unbiased, comprehensive and witty. Bravo! Overall, there were a number of good tours, including the one to Kinsale from Cobh, the hastily arranged tour to Stonehenge and Salisbury from Southampton, the tour of Bilbao and its new museum, and the Hermitage at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. After taking a wine country tour from Bordeaux, we were skeptical of the price vs. value, and especially careful about booking . On the Bordeaux tour, the bus was uncomfortable, the guide poor, and the winery awful. We were given a single glass of a white wine which I suspect didn’t sell very well. The worst tour rip-off was the 13½ hour tour to Berlin from Warnemünde at $298 per person. The train was old and shabby, much like parts of the ship. The “snacks” provided were awful. They didn’t even have coffee on the train, which left at 7:30 AM. Our guide in Berlin was an archetypical German, straight by the book. He seemed inexperienced, and stood faced back into the bus instead of sitting facing forward, paying attention to where we were, and commenting on what we were actually seeing. Consequently, his talk was often out of sync with what we were passing, but he rigidly stuck to his script, even when passengers asked what he was talking about. He gave us long break at the Brandenburg Gate, which you couldn’t even see as it was being repaired, shrouded in a huge ad! This caused us to fall behind schedule, so he by-passed the Reichstag, one of the more interesting sights, to insure we were on time for lunch! No German is late! Ever! It is Verboten! After lunch we had a break in a shopping district, but it was Sunday. Stores aren’t open in Germany on Sunday. We could window shop. It was just a little too far away from a lively, interesting looking flea market we had passed to get there and back, independently during the break. Why not take our break there? Absolutely not! Why, someone might enjoy themselves and forget the time! The final indignity occurred when they took us back out to East Berlin to catch the train to Warnemünde. Wait! First, we had to pick up the passengers who took the longer Berlin tour ending in Potsdam, far to the west. So for an hour and a half we rode around Berlin, through what seemed an endless train yard, to the Potsdam station. Only then could we begin the 2½ hour trek back to the ship at Warnemünde! The “snack” on the way back (which the hotel director personally told me would be “substantial”), was a stale bagel with less than a smear of cheese and wilted lettuce, with juice, a piece of candy and fruit. An unpleasant end to a long, disappointing day in a very interesting city. The good news was they kept the Lido open so we could get a bite to eat when we finally got back on board. The tours in St. Petersburg were quite good, particularly the Hermitage. This is a truly magnificent building, full of impressive art and artifacts, many with interesting stories. The quirk was that our guide, usually quite thorough, basically refused to guide us through the modern (20th century) galleries at the back of the building. She told us we could walk through them and meet her at the far end in 20 minutes or so. Then she disappeared. Later I asked her why, but got no real answer. I suspect she felt the modern pieces aren’t real art. Next day, the tour of Imperial St. Petersburg with hydrofoil (boat) ride on the Neva River to Petrohof was interesting but a little too long. The bus driver nearly flew on the way back; I guess they were afraid we’d miss the boat. Earlier, the tour of Bilbao and its new Frank Gerry-designed titanium sheeted Guggenheim Museum was fascinating. Bilbao is a really intriguing urban setting with many squares surrounded by four and five story buildings. At street level are shops and other retail businesses. On the floor just above are professional offices, above that are apartments. Just the mix that makes for a lively, livable city! The spectacular museum seems to have acted as a catalyst to bring Bilbao to life. In this new museum are many interesting pieces. We’ve visited the new Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Massachusetts MOMA in North Adams in the past two years. Both are spectacular spaces, without much to show in them yet. Bilbao’s Guggenheim doesn’t have this shortcoming. I’d like to go back and see more of Bilbao. Another highlight was the day-long transit of the Kiel Canal, which separates Denmark and the Jutland peninsula from the bulk of Germany. A very nice day. This extended tour confirmed our strategy of getting away from the crowd, going off on our own, or with another couple, and exploring. We did that a lot; basically we saw Scandinavia that way. The cities, museums, and historical sites, the castles and fortresses. But mainly the people. We ate and drank in street cafes and watched them go by. We rode the trams and walked the shopping streets, looking for bargains, and even did some bargaining ourselves. We saw lots of nice, attractive people. Many spoke English. Never a problem in Scandinavia, and even in France we got by without a hassle. We found tours sold on the ship were often available ashore for as little as half the on-board cost. Better, we found compatible English-speaking taxi drivers, and listening to what they thought was the best use of our time. If we liked what we heard, we hired them to show it to us. That worked well. The only glitch was in Amsterdam, where the highly touted Floriade, a once-in-ten-year flower show, turned out to be over-rated and over-priced, not worth even a side trip. The canal tour there, even though recorded sequentially in five languages, was interesting, and the walk back from Central Station to our hotel on the Prinsengracht near the Anne Frank House, a must see itself, was even better. We found the Anne Frank House open evenings, allowing us to avoid the long lines seen earlier in the day. Touring the house where eight people hid from the Nazis for more than two years, experiencing the feel and size of the spaces where they lived, ate, slept, etc., is a moving, truly unsettling experience. The excerpts from this young girl’s diary in the exhibits were particularly effective in conveying the essence of the experience. It forces you to wonder how a civilized people could allow such things to happen, let alone actually do them. Hitler and his henchmen didn’t personally carry out these atrocities, the German people and their cohorts in, for example, Norway, Holland and eastern Europe did. The place stopped us cold, it was just simply frightening. After this emotional stop, we had dinner at “Moeders”, a local Dutch restaurant where we shared a sampler-type meal with beer, wonderfully served by three charming, over-worked but cheerful women. This was our last night away, and a good finale to our overly long trip. We were really happy to be home the next night! We’ve traveled widely, and cruised with Cunard twice, Celebrity once, and Radisson three times. We’ve never been as dissatisfied or disillusioned as we are after this trip. Travel is just getting to be too much of a hassle to be enjoyable. Not only was the cruise disappointing, but the five star “preferred hotel” I selected in Amsterdam and the business class flight home were both at best second-rate, if that. We were awakened by bright sunlight leaking around the drapes in the Pulitzer Hotel before 6 AM both mornings, even after we asked to have them fixed. Many of the towels in this so-called “luxury” hotel were threadbare. On the 9½ hour Martinair business class flight to Orlando, we were stuffed into very tight seats with limited legroom and atrocious food. Orlando international arrivals is a debilitating, two-stage, delay-prone trial, even for the fit, which I’m not. I do lots of research, both on-line (Internet), by talking to people: fellow cruisers and travel agents, and by reading everything I can get my hands on. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I sure was fooled this time. So we’re re-thinking our future travel and cruise plans. Right now, our planned 30+ day trans-Pacific cruise to Australia this fall or next winter is on hold, indefinitely. Perhaps a summer place in the Adirondacks is a better use of our discretionary dollars, vs. the frequent traveling we’ve been spending them on. In our opinion, the June 3 – July 12 inaugural voyages of Holland American’s Prinsendam from New York to Southampton, then around western Europe to Copenhagen, and finally through the Baltic and on to Amsterdam, was nearer an ordeal than the wonderful vacation we had planned and anticipated. My wife’s been known to be tartly critical before, but this time her terse opinion is right on the mark: a bummer!

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Nov 30, -0001

Baltic

We just returned from a great cruise on the Prinsendam, the small size ship was easy to make friends and see them all the time... whether on the ship or in the ports. The main complaint was the smelly location of our room. Don't book on the Dolphin floor, if you can help it. It always smelled like the sewer as you got closer to the back of the ship... none of the other floors smelled like that... and our room didn't smell at all, thank

goodness... just the hallways. Other than that we had a fantastic time on the ship.. the service was great, food very good, our dining room waiter, Jefferie, was alot of fun.. even if we were asked by nearby other tables to be a little quieter.... we couldn't help it if the ship matched us with 5 other fun cruisers !!! The internet didn't work after the 2nd day so that was a disappointment, but it was cheaper using the internet cafes in the ports we stopped in. We didn't think there were enough activities for the younger crowd, as most were in there 70s, which could have been the reason. But I would travel on the Prinsendam again due to it's small size and personable staff. Don't plan on getting rich in the casino, just have fun.

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Nov 30, -0001

Australia/New Zealand

Please consider this review a warning if you intend to sail on the Holland America MS Princendam in the near future. Change your travel plans now if you can. This ship does not meet the standards of Holland America. It is old, beat up, worn and small. My wife and I sailed on a sixteen day cruise from Sydney to Auckland. We were booked in suite 004 on deck twelve. Keep in mind that this was the best cabin on the ship other than the one penthouse

suite. The cabin was large, but very worn and beat up. Part of the curtains had fallen down and not been replaced. The two sofas were broken down and very theadbare. The televison and stereo system were at least ten years old and well used. The first day in our cabin we had to wear coats and sweaters because they couldn't get the AC to stop flooding the cabin with cold air. They explained that the ship had come from a very warm area and the system was set for that area. We were now in Southern Australia, and it was cool. We kept the door open to the cabin for the first day in an effort to get some warm air from the hall. I spoke with several other suite guests that had the same problem as we did. One night the power went out for half the cabin. I called to have it fixed and three hours later it came on. I went to bed and sometime during the night it went out again. It turned out to be a braker that had to be replaced, but it took forever to repair it. As we walked about the ship you would see silver ice buckets sitting around. We learned that this was due to the fire sprinkler system leaking on the rugs. A staff member confirmed that one lady had a sprinkler go off over her bed while she was sleeping. What a way to wake up. The staff on the ship was great as always, but it was clear they hated the ship as much as we did. They called it the "prisondam" because they all wanted to get off. The food in the dining room was always great and the staff friendly. The public rooms had been redone and were very nice but the cabins hadn't been touched and were a dump. We stayed in Sydney and Auckland for a few days on each end. The Sydney Sheraton was a great hotel as was the Auckland Sheraton. Both were very well run and had very nice rooms. We loved Sydney and had a great time walking around the waterfront. Bring money, it is expensive even with the exchange. New Zealand was the best part of the trip. We loved Milford Sound, even if it was raining, as well as Picton, the Bay of Islands, and Duniden. The Antartica tour in Christchurch is a must, as well as the classic car tour in Duniden. Both were well worth the money. The people of New Zealand are the best part of the trip. They are very friendly and sweet, even in the large cities. America could take some lessons on how to treat guests. Don't plan to swim on this ship. The main pool is not covered and it's about four feet deep. There is a second pool at the rear of the ship, but it too is very small. Nothing like the Amsterdam or other newer cruise ships. Also, don't plan on spending much time in the casino. It is VERY SMALL. Not more that about twenty slots and maybe three tables. Be sure and take a good book with you. On the at sea days there is nothing to do on this ship. I have never seen a line with so few activities as this one. I guess when you serve older people that's what they want. The internet cafe is nice, but the connection is very slow. Take the 250 minute option. It will take that long to send a few e-mails. My mother in law traveled with us and she is the one that picked Holland America. She has traveled on about ten trips with Holland America and it is her favorite line. She was very upset with the Princendam. She often said that if it was her first trip on Holland America it would be her last. The bottom line is that this ship is old and beat up. It does not fit the standards of the Holland America Line. (Are you listening HAL?) I realize that Holland America needed a smaller ship for their world cruises, but this is not the ship. Sell this tub while you can and build a ship that fits your standards. I would strongly suggest you take another cruise line if you want to visit Australia and New Zealand.

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Nov 30, -0001

Baltic

We had the opportunity to sail three consecutive segments with the Prinsendam; we covered the Mediterranean; the Black Sea, and Northern Africa. A total of 48 consecutive days; August 30 to October 17, 2006. Within the past two years, I have also cruised 40 days on Celebrity Cruise Line Millennium; 15 days on the Regal Princess and 26 days on the Constellation (Celebrity Cruise Line). As you can tell, I am a Celebrity Cruise Line fan.

The M.S. Prinsendam is the former Royal Viking Sun on which I had also sailed for two weeks in 1999. I know the ship very well. I chose these three segments because of the unique ports of call including Alexandria, Egypt. First, this ship carries only 793 guests; it is not a mega-ship at 38,000 tons. It is a handsome ship with emphasis on comfort and luxury. At first glance, I felt I was entering a cozy country club rather than a mega-hotel. It felt cozy, not grand. I was impressed with the width of the corridors in the cabin areas; very wide and detailed nicely as a fine library. A big plus; self service laundry areas, essential for long voyages! The dining experience overall is high quality throughout the ship. The Lido food is simple with enough variety. The quality, excellent! The La Fontaine dining experience impressed with the quality of meats and seafoods. Simply excellent! Of course the Pinnacle grill dining takes this a little further for the nominal surcharge. In sum, excellent dining. The staff have ways of knowing your name and anticipating your needs. Special attention was given to my wife (we are expecting a child) and various extras were provided without question and without our asking. They really deserve plaudits for personalized service. An extra; hot Italian coffees like lattes, espressos are all complimentary unlike most ships. The casino is quite small, we never gamble, not an issue. The lounges are finely detailed, an excellent internet center is provided as well as a library. There are many smaller detailed lounges with maps... Decks are nice and open, great for walking or jogging. A new spa area is a great touch, pools are adequate for the smaller ship. We had two staterooms, a standard outside room as well as a superior verandah suite. The standard rooms are roomy at 180-190 square feet with a walk in closet, flat panel TV and DVD player as well as a self service mini-bar. The superior verandah suite measures at a large 362 s/f with balcony. Very uncommon in this category even on other Holland America ships. Very nice room! The shows are adequate. The "one man shows," such as musicians, magicians, were satisfying although the staff musicals were adequate at best. Of course the ports of call were fantastic with ample time in each port. Many overnight stays; Athens, Istanbul. In sum, a great cruise experience. A very nice comfortable ship with personalized service and great high quality meals served on one of the best itineraries I have seen on any ship. Of course being on the ship for 48 consecutive days gives me insight to provide details, details, details for curious guests. I can also compare my Celebrity cruise experiences on 91,000 ton ships with the M.S. Prinsendam. In sum, quality is provided despite size. For exotic ports and very personal service the Prinsednam delivers in spades! Leon J. Makasjian  

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