We returned this past Wednesday from a marvelous cruise experience aboard the HAL Prinsendam. This was our 16th cruise, having previously cruised the Western Med.; Alaska (twice) and Western, Eastern and Southern Caribbean routes on NCL, RCCL and Celebrity. We are in our mid-fifties and were travelling with another couple. Holland American and the Prinsendam impressed us in a number of ways.
Embarkation: This was as highly organized as we have ever experienced. We arrived in Amsterdam the day prior to cruising to allow for sightseeing and arrived at the port on sailing day at approximately 11:45 a.m. We were assigned an embarkation number dependent upon our time of arrival which was called in order when embarkation began promptly at 12:00 noon. This avoided a rush for the registration desk and long wait lines. Refreshments were served while we waited for our number to be called. We were registered and on the ship by 12:30 p.m.
Cabin: We frequently book a balcony. However, at the time we booked, there were none available since this ship does not have a large number of balcony cabins. We opted for a Category E Outside and were very pleased. Our roomy cabin included a walk-in closet, spacious bath with a full size tub and shower, sitting area with couch and chair, as well as the usual dressing table/storage. However, we also had a fully stocked refrigerator and mini-bar with prices the same as in the public rooms for like items and fresh fruit. The Prinsendam's cabins recently completed a fleetwide enhancement program that included new pillow-top mattresses (very comfortable), flat panel TV's and DVD players. This cabin was very comfortable and very quiet. A nice feature is the recessed entryway from the hallway to your cabin. You actually enter your cabin from the side of the cabin rather than from the back so that your door does not open onto the main hallway.
Public Rooms: The Prinsendam carries less than 800 passengers with HAL referring to it as their "elegant, intimate explorer". We quite agree and found the size to our liking. We met many other passengers who we frequently re-encountered on deck, in shows, on shore excursions or meals in the Lido. By the end of the cruise you felt like you were old friends with many of the passengers and recognized many others. Major public rooms included: the Ocean Bar, Explorers Lounge; Crows Nest Lounge and Queens Lounge (entertainment venue). The ship is tastefully appointed and very pleasant to be aboard. Although she is not new (1988), she is aging gracefully and has more the lines of an older generation ocean liner than the floating hotels that are so common now. In fact the guide who met us in Stockholm, commented that it was nice to see a cruise ship that looked like a ship rather than a building that had floated up to the pier.
Dining: Dinner is served in the main "La Fontaine" dining room, with informal service available in the Lido. The same menu is available in both areas. We found the food to be outstanding in variety, preparation, quality, portion size and presentation. Unlike some reviewers who seem to take joy in finding fault with the food on any ship, I can offer no criticism. Even all breakfasts in the lido were made to order on request. No pan of "help yourself scrambled eggs) on this ship. We had the good fortune of sharing our table on the formal evenings with one of the ship's officers and his fiance and had a thoroughly enjoyable time with them. We dined one evening in the alternate Pinnacle Grill and found the service and food there to be exceptional. Very high quality beef, lamb, seafood and locally obtained specialties are served in the ambiance of an intimate dining room, for an additional fee of $20 per person.
Service: The all Indonesian and Filipino service staff are the best that we have encountered. Always friendly, courteous, helpful and taking the extra step to provide you with a wonderful cruise. OUr waiter Ge De and Assistant Riatano (Ano) provided us with the most gracious, friendly, yet unobtrusive service that we have ever received. Also of note was the after dinner mint man (Rahmat) who also provided morning Lido diners with linen wrapped silverware and trays. Anyone who has sailed with him knows that he is "Peachy Keen". Perhaps this should be noted under a category called "Ambience", but HAL does not make announcements throughout the day announcing Bingo, activities, etc. You will only hear one or two announcements throughout the day. In addition, meals our served on lovely china with silverware and not stainless flatware. Very tasteful.
Ports Visited: Flam and Stavenger Norway; Visby, Ystad and Stockholm Sweden; Skagen and Copenhagen Denmark; Helsinki Finland, as well as 2 full days in St. Petersburg Russia. The selection of ports was very good, and all excursions that we participated in were well run and represented a good value. Space does not allow me to elaborate further on each port of call.
Over-all, we had a wonderful time on this ship, with the itinerary, and received wonderful service. We would not hesitate to sail on this ship again or to recommend the Prinsendam to anyone who is looking for a gracious, comfortable, tasteful cruise experience. We are already looking to book another cruise with HAL to experience another of their ships.