I booked this cruise/crossing at the last moment, when I was able to get a good rate as a solo traveler. I was able to get a ticket to Athens using Amex reward points, which eased my conscience about taking a second cruise in 4 months! (I just retired in June and am still celebrating). I flew into Athens the night before and the cab driver my hotel had booked for me was waiting with a sign; he delivered me quickly and smoothly to Piraeus. The Piraeus Theoxenia Hotel was very comfortable, the staff was very helpful, and the included breakfast offered many tasty options. At my request, the desk called the same cab driver for me the next morning for the short ride to the port.
Embarkation was smooth through my check-in with HAL, but as it was a national holiday, the Greek government had provided only one passport clerk to inspect all 800 passengers' passports. That line got very long! Moreover, the shuttle from the building to the ship was hot and slow to depart - but soon More
enough I was on the ship and unpacking in my comfy stateroom.
I always book an outside cabin on a lower deck amidships, and Prinsendam's staterooms in this category are extremely comfortable. In particular, since the ship does long voyages, there is a roomy walk-in closet - plenty of storage, even when on a previous crossing I shared the stateroom with my sister. As it developed, there were quite a few days of strong winds during the cruise, and between the rocking of the ship and the comfiness of the bed, I slept extremely well!
My favorite feature of this ship is the wrap-around promenade deck. I don't want a balcony; I might want to take a photo from the other side of the ship, and the wrap-around promenade deck lets me look out in any direction, often with other people along the railing to talk to. A covered place to walk laps is also important to fair-skinned people, especially as we grow older and start having sun damaged skin. I don't know how other lines can consider an exposed track on the top deck to be an acceptable substitute! Finally, I also love the old-fashioned, cushioned deck chairs on the promenade deck - best place to relax I know of.
The other outstanding feature of the ship is its people. The staff are absolutely lovely - kind and smiling whatever the circumstances. The only exception was the beverage waiters in the pool area, who could not be bothered to deliver a glass of ice water. I complained about this on the mid-cruise survey, but it did not improve.
The staff and crew are constantly polishing the ship; I heard someone in the self-service laundry say the ship was "dirty and shabby," and when pressed for specifics all he could come up with was that the canvas deck lounges on the aft promenade deck had faded covers. He had also noticed a bottom railing somewhere that wasn't adequately polished. The lesson here is that negative reviews without very specific details should be taken with a tablespoonful of salt.
I like the food. To my taste, HAL does a better job of providing varied and properly-cooked vegetable side dishes than any other line except possibly Oceania. I have encountered less-than-perfectly-tender beef on previous cruises, but the filets and strip steaks on this cruise were exquisite. I especially liked the pasta station in the Lido for lunch; the zucchini lasagne and the baked macaroni and cheese were my favorites. The croissants didn't seem to be made from scratch on the ship, but I guess none of the lines do that any more.
This cruise was technically listed as a back-to-back, and there were differences in emphasis between the Athens-Civitavecchia segment and the Civitavecchia-Fort Lauderdale segments. The former was very port-intensive, and the latter mostly sea days. I am not especially healthy, having back, knee and breathing problems, so I only went ashore every other day during the first segment but I enjoyed even the ports I only viewed from the ship. The itinerary had been changed to avoid possible unrest in Egypt, and some of the ports were relatively small - but that is one of the advantages of a small ship. The ports in Turkey were especially pleasant. I took three ship's excursions and all were satisfactory; the guides were particularly well-prepared.
I don't care much about entertainment, but the English comedian and the violinist whose shows I attended were very entertaining and the classical duo was pleasant. I really enjoyed the lectures - typically one in the morning and one in the afternoon - and the library is excellent!
Disembarkation was smooth as soon as they convinced me I really did have to get off the ship! (joke) I purchased the ship's transfer to FLL and it was a mixed success; I have trouble walking long distances and the driver let us off about half a block away from the Southwest counter. There were no carts, porters, or other forms of assistance nearby.
I titled this review "my favorite ship," and she is. There is a definite charm about her, and a beauty to her hull, that is missing from so many newbuilds. She is a real ship, not a resort barge! I will sail on her again every chance I get! Less
Prinsendam Cruises to Transatlantic