The Prinsendam was billed by both the HA rep on the phone and the on board cruise consultant as a high end experience. We were told "It is good that you are travelling on the Noordam first, because you will be spoiled after travelling on the Prinsendam." It was quite the reverse because of gaps in food/beverage service, some shortcomings in activities, and the level of ship maintenance (which did improve in the few days just before reaching port). Had we travelled first on the Princendam, I think we would not have been so thrilled with cruising. Our first cruise on the Noordam(our cruise to Italy) was far superior to the cruise back on the Princendam.
The Prinsendam staff still provided the hallmark Holland America quality of service in our cabin, laundry, front desk, and table services with their smiling and playful presence and attention to detail. The line cooks went out of their way to provide whatever we wanted, once even though it wasn't on the menu. Loved the sail away parties which they did with flair.
But there were missing elements that did not seem to be down to the staff but perhaps ship policy? By contrast, on the Noordam, if we sat on the Lido back pool deck we were immediately asked if we wanted anything and were consistently provided with tea, coffee, water, lemonade and hot chocolate despite no gratuity on these free items (we did provide a tip at the end of the trip. On the Prinsendam, on a virtually vacant deck, there was no offer of service after we declined alcohol. This was a very different experience from the high standard set by the outside Lido service on the Noordam. Our rating is low for this cruise because of this issue and the food hygiene concern noted below.
While in deck chairs on the Noordam, a steward occasionally came by with the offer of blankets, it was more of a self serve on the Prinsendam...perhaps with fewer cruisers and staff, this service has been edited. Not a big deal but reflective of the high quality on the Noordam.
Of particular concern on the Prinsendam was that for about the last 4-5 days of the cruise, the salads, cheese, appetizers, were left at room temperature when a part in the refrigeration table had apparently failed. Certainly that can happen, but the response should be to set buffet food on ice. Even though we raised the issue, the salads, cheese and appetizers were not kept at food safe temperatures, no checking on food temperature was conducted as we sat there for over an hour when the food was already warm. The cheese sat so long it was drying out and sweating out the fat while appetizers with meat and sea food were room temperature. For short periods, without ice, freshly prepared food would have been ok, but this was an extended time for the cheese to have gone beyond being soft to sweating the fat out (leave some cheese out and watch how long it takes for that to happen). It was a struggling ship already with a nasty cold running through it (no fault of HA and lots of sanitizer being dispensed) so measures to keep the food at the correct temperatures should have been a priority.
Also, a bit of concern about keeping food appropriately hot and cold on the Lido deck for the sail away parties. Anything grilled was good but the taco area was iffy at best for both hot and cold as were some of the salads. HA cruising was unquestionably good but we found the Prinsendam over promised at twice the price for a lower level room than on the Noordam. It is essential to pay attention to ensuring a healthy food service on the Prinsendam. Room temperature mayonnaise based salads are neither appetizing nor safe. The pizza was usually dried out...not very fresh at all. Ice cream bar was great. Sorry, other elements of food were good but cannot compensate for a lack of food safety.
Entertainment was good but the games offered on deck were not worthy of the HA standard. Love you guys but there are some tweaks needed and I wouldn't take the Prinsendam again, even at a lower price. I'd take the Noordam again in a second.