Pre-Cruise : Booked private car transport (online from Australia) from Miami Airport via Holland Limousine Service. Communication via email prior to arrival was excellent. Driver was waiting in the Baggage Claim for me on arrival and was very well presented and polite. The drive from the airport to hotel was great; no endless small talk was required. It was pouring with rain and visibility was poor but I felt as though the driver was using great care and concentration at all times. I would highly recommend this company in future and the cost was not much more than what a cab would have costed for the same distance.
Stayed at the Beachcomber Resort and Villas in Pompano Beach for 2 nights pre-cruise. This hotel was very good and staff were helpful. Unfortunately during my stay the lobby was being refurbished and no atm or internet service was available. The hotel is not within walking distance to hotels or shops but a small shop for last minute purchases is situated across the street. Transfer to the ship was organised by the hotel through a company called TJ Transport. Unfortunately their driver must have had a prior engagement as the drive from hotel to the port can only be described as terrible, driving while talking on mobile, in and out of traffic (thought I wouldn’t arrive at Port in one piece), it was not a very relaxing way to start your journey and I would not recommend them to anyone.
Check in at Port Everglades was very well organised and embarkation went very smoothly, something that HAL seem to do very well. Disembarkation although delayed was also very well organised. HAL always seem to handle Tender ports particularly well and this cruise was no exception (the crew certainly had enough practice on this cruise).
Ship Information : I enjoy cruising on the Prinsendam and enjoyed being back onboard for this trip but she is starting to show her age and I do not know how long HAL will be able to keep her in the fleet. This will be a shame as the smaller ship seems to attract many repeat passengers, its got a great atmosphere and travels ports not possible on the bigger ships. No longer can Prinsendam be classed as a ‘luxury’ ship, the air-conditioning in particular (which was crucial for our cruise to the Amazon) was not working very well throughout the cruise although the onboard engineers did what they could and portable fans were given to some passengers. This problem caused a long delay leaving Port Everglades.
Staterooms : Comfortable and roomy with walk-in closets, desk and sofa. Again room furnishings showing their age. Most cabin doors are set back from the corridor which is great, you don’t walk straight into people in the corridor when exiting and there is no direct foot traffic or noise outside your door. Cabin Steward was ok but not up to the fine standard you normally expect and get when cruising with HAL. On 1st day at sea cabin was not serviced all day and after several requests to the Front Office it was finally serviced at 9pm that night. After this cabin was serviced daily but Cabin Steward was clearly not happy that I had reported him to his Manager.
Dining : The 2 day quarantine days need to be explained to passengers more clearly perhaps in pre-cruise documentation and maybe signs should be placed as a reminder when entering the Lido Restaurant. Although problematic in such a small buffet area on Prinsendam, it is workable if all passengers co-operate. Menus are varied, well presented and include local dishes. Terrace Grill was very good for burgers or sandwiches made to order. Lido Restuarant very good for lunch and evening meals but does get crowded and tables are very hard to secure. Passengers need to be encouraged to move on when finished to give everyone a chance of eating in airconditioned comfort. In-room dining was abit hit and miss. Unfortunately breakfast was usually cold on arrival. Overall the food was very good and there was plenty of variety.
Activities / Entertainment : The port guide Lisa and her staff provided very good information on ports of call (although as always obviously biased towards HAL shore excursions). The guest speakers on this cruise were very disappointing, I would have preferred talks on the region we were cruising, especially more about the Amazon, rather than the Globilisation and Security talks that were provided. Event staff, in particular Witney (who normal conducts children programs), Claire (who hosted Bingo) and Christina (the Cruise Director) were very professional and friendly. Sorry to say that the Prinsendam singers and dancers were terrible but luckily the guest performers made up for this short-coming. Guest performers included :
Katia and Ilian – dancing was lovely and I watched both performances on the one evening
Clare Langan – very talented Flautist, delightful to listen to
David Howarth – piano showman
Cheryl Sinclair – female vocalist with a lovely voice singing songs from the 40’s to 90’s something for everyone
Peter Cutler – male vocalist, singing everything from Sinatra to Buble
Livewire – lively celtic music and singing
Duo Acrobatique – Ilia and Valerie excellent performance of acrobatics who deserve a showroom bigger than the Prinsendam offers
Ports of Call : Although this cruise was all about the Amazon, sailing through the carribbean was delightful.
Tortola, BVI – Lovely island, beautiful views of harbour from mountain
St Barts – Nice marina, great views
St Lucia – Aerial tram ride in Rainforest excellent and well worth the drive on small, tight, winding roads to get there
Devil’s Island – Easy to walk around and explore on own, great views
Macapa – Visit to Marco Zero Monument on the equator is a must for all
Santarem – Amazon and Tapajos rivers meet here, piranha fishing was entertaining
Manaus – Large busy port. Meeting of the waters and trips along river in small speed boats very interesting. Opera House was OK, listening to the orchestra rehearse was wonderful
Parintins – Although I didn’t attend the Boi Bumba tour, everyone raved about it
Alter Do Chao – Eco walk through Santa Lucia Arboretum was very interesting but also very humid
Barbados – Lovely island with great beaches and coastal views. Photography tour was excellent and highly recommended
Port Elizabeth – Picturesque coastline and interesting turtle sanctuary
Curacao – Holland in the Carribbean. Easy town to walk around and explore on own (although was abit of a walk from where we were docked). Floating markets very interesting. Caves pretty average
Aruba – Great views of beautiful and rugged coastline. Vist to Ostrich Farm interesting. Nice Lighthouse but you can’t go inside.
Overall – Fantastic, once in a lifetime cruise. Remember that this is the Amazon and will therefore be hot and humid, so pace yourself (luckily no mosquitoes). Not alot of wildlife to be seen along banks of river. As always when travelling keep an open mind, remember to pack your patience and good humour (local guides especially can sometimes be hard to understand and as always there are your fellow passengers, not all of which think like you). AND last but not least - remember you are on holiday ENJOY.