This was our third cruise and our second HAL experience. We enjoyed the Prinsendame, its size and its decor. Not to say it had no problems at all.
We sailed from Montreal for New York on a fall leaf change time cruise. We went from Montreal to Quebec where we woke up to people walking on the dock next to us. (Windows are tinted or something so that they could not see in. Unless you were right in the windows, you were not visible from outside. We were on Main Deck (6), aft and on the port side. Near the aft elevators which we needed because of being disabled and using a walker.
The QE2 was tied up just ahead of us. It was in Quebec on its last visit to the New World before it begins its life as a cruise ship in Europe. The dock was really crowded as it was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Friends who took some of the trips offered by HAL said they had a good time.
We had been in Quebec before so we did not choose to take a tour. Instead we used the time to get to know the Prinsendam. We ate mostly in the LaFontaine Restaurant for Breakfasts and Dinners and in the Lido for luncheon and snacks. The Explorers Lounge was a great place to hand out before dinner and to read (also to people watch). The Java Cafe was a nice place to have coffee and watch ESPN which was not on the main TV in one's room.
We chose the second sitting for dinner and then the late show and the Crow's Nest after dinner. This ship is different than the S class ships such as Maasdam, etc. It is smaller overall and carries some 790 passengers vs 1200+. It is not as glamorous either although the interior design and decor are very nicely "lived in."
There were signs of her previous life before HAL. The port in our room and various other places about the ship suffered from being painted shut. The original ship had had a built in spray-fresh-water-on-the-windows-to-clean-them-of-salt-spray system. It seemed to be quite clever. It did not work now. The spray heads had been painted shut. Whether it would have worked otherwise, we never found out. Unlike Maasdam, the Lido pool area was not covered so there was no swimming in October so far North. The hot tubs were fired up but I never saw anyone using them. The snack bar on Lido Deck was kept busy but the snacks I got there were cold by the time I could get inside. (Cold hot dog, ugh!)
Food inside in all places was great. The extra charge restaurant behind the Ocean Bar in the Odyssey Room looked good and the head chef seemed to be a good guy. I refused to pay a surcharge to eat there however, so I cannot comment about it.
The main dining room was a two part affair. We were in the extension area on the starboard side of the ship just aft of the Ocean Bar. We were at a four person table and had very nice dinner companions. The two formal nights and the two dress up nights were fun. Rest of the time, slacks and shirts worked well. Everyone in the LaFontaine Dining room "Played the Game" and followed the dress code. The food was good but not quite five star. The dutch night and the Captain's Night were really good. The dessert extravaganza looked great.
The food in the Lido was very nice and the "cook to order" breakfast menu was awesome. Portside was passengers only while starboard was also open to some of the crew management level staff. (cruise directors, show dancers, and such)
The Captain was very accessible and not at all shy at being around the ship. The Officers of the various departments were likewise very visible.
We had very fine weather except for one day of a little rain. We did have a couple of days of high winds, one of which caused us to have to pass up one port, being unable to safely dock. We like rough weather so it caused us no problem but some were not so happy about it. The ship was very stable, I felt. Unlike ships of old, it did not sail on its side so although it was rough you could get around the ship fairly well.
I did not think our cabin was shabby as some have reported from cruises just after Prinsendam came to HAL. The walk-in closet was a real plus vs the hallway closets on the Maasdam. While this trip we did not get a balcony in our cabin, our cabin lower down in the ship was just fine for space and sleeping. What else do you need a cabin for?
I would have liked more elevators, just four is a trial. Only the forward elevators went to the four deck where all the tendering loading was and also were the ones that went to the Crow's Nest. This Crow's Nest was where my wife went to read. It offered a great view and rarely had very many people in it. Unlike the Crow's Nest on Maasdam, this Crow's Nest was quite staided. There was no DJ. No Karaoke. It was not the place the performers hung out after the shows. (That was the Ocean Bar and its live band) Instead George Cuba played piano for two hours, 'till about midnight.
This ship is not a "party" ship. All bars except the Java bar, closed about midnight and it was not open except that the Casino did not close 'till 12:30 or 1 AM. We did not go to the movie theater nor did we use the Internet Room. The Oak Room was for cigar smoking and I gave that up a long time ago. The ship's store had a lot of really neat stuff some of which was quite expensive. The Liquor store sold out of Scotch the first day and did not restock for the entire cruise so one was left with the $4.95 a drink bar tabs. Two bucks for soft drinks seemed to me to be over priced. BTW, dinner wine was also $4.75 or more. We had not bought the wine deals when we boarded because we did not know and were not told that the Wine Tasting table was for that purpose.
Boarding was really easy but it took time. Stewards kept passing out coffee to cushion the wait. Had to be easy with that as there were no restrooms nearby. There are metal detectors just like at the airports when you board. Also, your computer screening (roomkey, ID etc.) card was checked carefully each time you left the ship or came back on board. In addition we each were given a treated sanitary wipe for our hands each time. The crew wiped all surfaces each day. We had NO Sares or Norwalk Virus on our trip.
All the restrooms had a constant supply of washcloth sized towels and we were constantly washing up after every trip to the restroom.
One cute twist was the carpet in the elevator every day. On Sunday, the carpet said "Sunday," It said "Monday" on Monday and so on. If you did not remember what the day was, look in the elevator.
This cruise was very nice and we signed up for another HAL cruise for next year. However, as nice as the Prinsendam was, it was not up to HAL standards IMHO.