There is a lot of unrest in the Middle East, needless to say. Our itinerary included: Athens (boarding), and it's general strikes a day before my arrival, Egypt (2 ports) just a few weeks after the American Embassy wall was breached, Israel (2 ports)ongoing skirmishes, one while in Jerusalem, and Turkey (3 ports) bordering Syria and skirmishes taking place at the border and in the air, Greece (3 ports) with their economy diving, and Italy (2 ports & cruising Mt. Etna). Now these places are not for the faint of heart, but I will tell you HAL and ultimately our Captain were gutsy to call on some of these ports, but that is why many of us had taken this itinerary, to see the holy sites.
I met some people online at Cruise Critic and Holland America's Facebook page and put together a Meet and Greet on the day after sailing. I made name tage for everyone and we had coffee and cookies, talked shore excursions & ports for quite some time. Many of us got together for shore excursions More
and dinner after that meeting, and I never felt alone after that. We met for cocktails and Trivia most nights at 6:00pm in the Crow's Nest, then headed for dinner in the Fontaine. With As You Wish dining, we were put at a large table with strangers, who by the end of the meal were delightful acquaintances that we shared shore tips and talked about our homes.
On boarding the Prinsendam, there is something so different about her, you can overlook some of the blemishes (she was headed to dry-dock in FLL soon after our trip). You don't have the long, confusing corridors of some of the larger ships, and I have tried most major cruise lines big ships. This is not the ship to choose if you hang in the Casino all night (it's very small), or you want to dance the night away (there is no nightclub). This is a ship with itineraries that are different from the usual, with full day shore excursions, leaving you too beat to even catch the early show most nights. Only 650 passengers makes it easy to meet people, and they had many solo lunches on sea days where I met a plethora of other singles traveling to have meals with and do some shore excursions. With the smaller sized ship, there were no long lines for disembarkation, shore excursions met in the showroom and even the tender produced only one boat waits, ever. The ports this ship can get into that most ships cannot meant tendering was only required in one of the 13 ports we saw in 16 nights. In Marmaris, Turkey, we were the first "large" ship they had seen all season. It was one of my favorite places on the itinerary for that very reason. The days at sea had all the usual activities, including the Culinary Arts Center, which I found interesting each and every time I went there.
The food on the ship was as good as I've seen on any other Holland American cruise. The meats were plentiful, seafood delicious, salads available, soups a little blah, but I'm not into soups in a hot climate. Each night there was a spicy entree, Indonesian or Thai, and a delicious looking vegetarian entree. Desserts in the dining room were great! I ate in the Lido every day for lunch and had many wonderful salads and entrees. No sandwich bar like the bigger ships, but plenty of choices. One night we had dinner there, and they were serving lobster tail, IN THE LIDO! I loved the Lido outdoor dining, which I'm told is being enclosed during the dry-dock. Too bad, I thought it was one of the best parts of this lovely ship.
No one spent much time at the pool. Chairs were always available on sea days, and there were not "chair hogs" like on the big ships.
I have photos of many of the day's activities, port information and menus. You can e-mail me for that information. I realize there are not a lot of reviews of the Prinsendam. Maybe because people aboard are older and probably too busy on return home to write their review. As you can see it's been a month since my return, and I'm just finishing right now. I am not yet retired, but when I do, I'll spend some more quality time aboard the Prinsendam.
If you are older, wiser, retired and have "done" all the usual ports of call, try the Prinsendam, make some new friends, enjoy the beauty of this older ship, and the ease in getting around. Less
For less than 1/3 the price of HAL's overnight excursion, (which stayed at the same hotel in Giza)our Ramses Tours took us to all the same sights, in a smaller van than HAL's big bus. Loved Egypt, the pyramids were astounding, the crupts with painting on the walls were amazing. The Muhammed Aly mosque in Cairo was beautiful, and learning about the people in the cemetery (which some tour operators refuse to talk about)was very interesting. Tahrir Square is just as it was after the Arab Spring revolution, burned out buildings, Antiquities in the museum intact. I only wish the shop at the museum had been open. The stop at Memphis was short, but another amazing site. We had a lovely grilled lunch with entertainers near Giza. Made it to Port Said with no time to spare before sailing.
GTI met us just outside the pier, our guide took us first to an overlook of the city to get our bearings. I was surprised at how wooded and agrarian the countryside is in Israel. We then went to Bethlehem, through Palestinian territory. We picked up a Palestinian guide across the border. She stayed with us through the city. We were able to go into the crypt where the gold star is under the altar, the same star that started the Crusades. Amazing Church. Didn't see a lot else except a lovely spot for falafel lunch on the way back to Jerusalem. We went in through the east entrance to the Old City, followed the Via DelaRosso, ending at the Waling Wall. Amazing day hitting all the important Christian Sites.