Roman Ruins, more Roman Ruins, and more Roman Ruins!
This was our fifth cruise on Holland America, and the longest to date that we have taken. Our previous cruises were a seven day Alaska cruise on the Volendam, a ten day Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam, and 14 day Panama Canal cruise on the Volendam, and the 35 day Voyage of the Vikings again on the Maasdam.
We are both in our 60's, retired, and very active. We are both avid photographers and take a lot of pictures when vacationing. For example, on this cruise we took over 8000 pictures between the two of us.
For this trip we took Amtrak from Washington DC down to Fort Lauderdale, arriving on March 8. We stayed at the La Quinta Inn and was quite pleased with the hotel. Very clean and the front desk staff were very friendly. There is places to eat close by, but it does take about 15-20 minutes to walk there, so a car is nice to have but not absolutely necessary.
We had rented a car for our stay, and on March 9 took off and went to Butterfly World. We have been there before, and will probably go back there anytime that we are in the Ft. Lauderdale area. It's a wonderful way to spend part of your day, with hundreds of butterflies flying around. They also have an area with various types of birds flying around. They include many species of hummingbirds, and many other very colorful birds. You can easily spend 3-4 hours there. After that we went to the Flamingo Gardens.
The Flamingo Gardens is a non-profit organization that takes in birds that have been injured and can no longer fly or take care of themselves. There are many species there including bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks, owls, and many others. There is also an area where you can actually walk among cranes of all kinds, ducks, pelicans, etc. About two hours is all you really need for it as it is rather small.
March 10 we went on an all day trip to the Everglades, with the folks from Eco Safari. They picked us up at the Flamingo Gardens, and drove across the state to Naples. Along the way we made many stops to see aligators, cranes, hawks, osprey, manatees, etc. Once in Naples, we had a airboat ride, a pontoon boat ride, and a short nature hike. The guide we had was terrific and the day was well worth the price paid.
We turned in our car at noon, and was taken to the pier via the rental cars shuttle. Arriving around 12:30 we walked into the terminal and were greeting by Captain Gundersen. That was a first for us. Check in was a snap with no waiting.
We had no longer got to the Lido when they announced that the rooms were ready, so we immediately turned around and went to our cabin to drop off our carry on luggage. We were assigned to D334 on Deck 2, the Main Deck. Not bad for an OV guarantee, and we were very pleased. The walk-in closets on Prinsendam are fabulous. It's too bad that when HAL refits their ships or build new ones, they don't put them in all cabins.
Our cabin was just outside the atrium, on the starboard side of the ship. Of decent size, perhaps just a bit smaller than what we have had before, but that wasn't an issue. The couch and chair that were in the room should be replaced. They were very uncomfortable because the stuffing was simply old and worn out. Another issue is the placement of the TV. It's in the corner by the window, but very high up. If you sit on the couch you must crane your head up to see it, which becomes very uncomfortable very quickly. Other than that we really didn't have any problem with the room.
I had rented a tux from Cruiselineformal for the cruise, and had splurged and upgraded to their better quality tux, and ordered two vests with ties, etc. It wasn't in our room when we got there, but I didn't think too much about that at the time, assuming that our room steward simply hadn't had the time to get it yet.
We wandered the ship until dinner, where we met our tablemates for the cruise. After returning to our room my tux still wasn't there. Our room steward wasn't around so I went to the front desk and spoke with Candice, who we became quite close with during the cruise. I explained the situation, and showed her a copy of my order. Well, the bottom line was the tux I ordered and paid $170 for was no where to be found and they offered me a regular tux from their onboard stock. I told them that I would not accept it unless I was completely reimbursed for my original order. I was told that all they could do was either reimburse me the difference between the two (about $50) and give me a regular tux, or cancel my order and reimburse the whole amount but I would not have a tux for formal nights. I decided that we would simply not participate in formal nights and took the full reimbursment.
The first night at sea, my wife got up around 2am and went into the bathroom, to find water on the floor. We quickly discovered that the stool had back flooded and was spilling water over the edge. We called the front desk and someone came down immediately, flushed it and went away after cleaning up the water from the floor. The second night the same thing happened again. It was obvious to me (from my extensive Navy career) the the valve that allows water to enter the bowl had a slow leak and needed replacing. However this seemed to be beyond the maintenance folks knowledge until I explained very carefully what was happening. Finally that afternoon one of the maintenance officers came, looked at it, and a couple of minutes later someone came in, replaced the valve and all was well with the world.
There is a lot more of them on a Grand cruise. Besides the usual trivia, bingo, etc., there were Ti Chi lessons, water coloring lessons, kniting classes, and many other activities. There were also the usual dam dollar events which we participated in. That was a great way to meet a lot of people and really get to know them.
The Prinendam is small, holding only slightly over 700 passengers, and for this voyage there were only 637 onboard. It doesn't take long to cover the whole ship. The public areas were very nice, but if you really looked she is showing her age in places. There are only two "shops", one selling the jewelry etc., and the other selling HAL products, some over priced snacks, and booze that will be held until the last day of the cruise. Really nothing special.
The theater was very small, but the chairs were the most uncomfortable chairs I have ever sat in. We went to two movies during the cruise and simply couldn't handle any more. After that we waited and saw the movie the next day on the TV if we wanted to see it.
The best place on the ship in our opinion was the outside covered section of the Lido. If it's not too breezy, it's wonderful to sit outside while eating your meal.
Speaking of the Lido, the starboard side had a coffee pot that was broke our entire cruise, while the other one poured extremely slowly. We found out from some folks that had taken the previous cruise and they said the pot was broken when they went aboard. It seems to me that in that amount of time they could have ordered a new one and replaced it, but that's just my opinion.
Our room steward was adequate, but nothing to write home to mother about. On several occasions we had to ask for a new floor mat for the bathroom as it was picked up in the morning but never replaced, two other times we called him to come back and finish cleaning because the stool and glasses had not been cleaned. It was simply little irratating things but not enough to ruin our vacation.
The front desk folks were fabulous. Always there with a smile, and always willing to go beyond to ensure your every needs were met. We became very close to Chris and Candice and both were the picture perfect HAL employee.
The main dining room staff were also great. Our table server Januar was the best we have ever had. Absolutely super. The Lido staff on the other hand seemed to be new perhaps? Their overall comprehension of English seemed to be lacking, and sometimes trying to get someone to take our tray away (YES, THE PRINSENDAM STILL HAS TRAYS IN THE LIDO!!), was impossible. I don't like putting my tray on another table but on occasion I had to.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS
What can I say about the ports. All were everything we thought they would be. Yes we did have a couple of days of rain, but when it did it wasn't that hard a rain and didn't spoil the shore time. We did not take any of the ships excursions, but booked our own with two other couples for most of the ports, or went off on our own.
The Prinsendam is a small ship, and there will be a bit more movement than you might have experienced on other ships. She is old, but has aged well. Some of the furniture is beyond the point of being usable and should be replaced. Overall the crew was top notch with a few exceptions. I have heard rumors that next year will be the last year for the Grand Med and Black Sea Voyage, so if you want to go you better book now. After that it will be there but as segments not a Grand Cruise.