The Prinsendam Grand South America 2010 (January 13 to March 24.) We enjoyed seventy days on the Prinsendam and loved every minute of it. There were a few delays along the way and a couple of disappointments but all in all we loved the Grand South American Cruise and would do it again.
Safety. 9/10.The priority on any trip like this has to be safety. The Prinsendam is a strong ship, according to Captain Schoonberdeek and the size of the ship is smaller than most, holding about 700 passengers and 400+crew, comfortably. The ship is old; it was built in 1986 and has changed hands a few times before becoming one of the 'Dam" ships of Holland America. The crew is trained to handle emergencies and there were several dry runs and practices. We felt that the staff was conscious of any possible danger and they are always there when needed. Thank goodness we didn't need it. Wheelchairs and walkers are deftly managed and the staff goes over and above their duty to assist while on the ship and while on shore excursions. The tenders are showing their age. On two occasions there were maintenance problems that were fixed with attendant delays for those going ashore. Condition. 4/10. The Prinsendam is shows signs of needed overhaul of major utilities and heavy equipment. There were maintenance issues during the cruise some of which were ill-timed. The elevators weren't working one day. The plumbing was shut down completely albeit as scheduled, but remained unavailable for a good part of the morning which was most inconvenient. We couldn't flush the toilets; and, another serious malfunction was there was no hot water for more than a half day. Some of our friends had a flood in their cabin that took several days to dry out and clean up. We heard that a pipe burst but we aren't sure about that. There was a quick response to all these problems, the staff did what they could do. The Captain and crew made amends by having free wine at dinner one evening and on another occasion free cocktails before dinner. It would seem that dry docking the ship and completely re-doing the heat, air-conditioning and plumbing system would be time and money well spent because people love this ship
Service. 10/10 Service gets high marks from us. Our two waiters, brothers we learned, Yuli and Yudhi (table 154) Could not have been better or more efficient. One person at our table had specific dietary needs. Each evening Yudhi would discuss her order for the next day. Despite the added duty that this entailed, we felt that we were being given the best service we've ever had on a ship. The cabin stewards for our room (150- Ono and Ahmad), were efficient, thoughtful and always trying to find some way to make us comfortable. They never failed to ask if there was anything further they could do for us. They tidied up our quarters at our convenience. Room service food was delivered timely and the meal was hot. We only used room service a few times but when we did we were satisfied. Early on, we had one small area of concern. The day we moved in, there was a dirty sock under the bed and another one under the sofa. This told us that our room had not been thoroughly cleaned prior to our arrival. This happened despite the ship being in dry dock for ten days prior to sailing.
Healthy Environment. 10/10. A few weeks into the trip some passengers came down with flu-like symptoms. The Captain took action immediately. This included quarantines of those that were sick and their roommates. In the past few years, there have been increasing bouts of what is called the Norovirus. This is a virus that has no cure or treatment. The person experiences Flu like symptoms and some great personal discomfort. It can last for a few days; and, at the least can ruin that part of a vacation, but In older persons, the demographic of any 70 day trip, it can be very dangerous. The Captain, officers and crew worked tirelessly to clean every nick and cranny on the ship. Passengers were reminded often, to wash hands frequently and use the hand sanitizer, broad spectrum germ killer, Purell, on our hands. This gel was made available at every doorway, on every handrail, and, before and after entering and leaving the dining areas. We were given travel size bottles to take with us when going ashore.
Servers handled all food even the food on the buffet. The Prinsendam staff, whether it be, crew, activity director and staff, orchestra member, singer or dancer, all pitched in; and, with gloved hands served the passengers. We don't know how many people got sick, and, some passengers where quarantined once diagnosed. Within a week our concentrated joint effort worked to wipe the virus out and once again we were free. We continue to use Purell all the time and we wash, wash, and wash our hands. The Captain reminds us every day when he sings Happy Birthday. Over the P.A. system after giving us information about where we've been and where we are going. Sing Happy Birthday twice while washing hands with hot soapy water.
Before leaving this topic. KUDOS TO HAL. 10/10 Holland America is proactive about cleaning up the waste, disposing of it safely, providing re-cycling bins, separating paper and other trash. The company is very careful when entering, cruising and leaving the pristine waters of Antarctica. The company is a fine example of good citizenship and sustainability of the environment.
Entertainment generally. 8/10. Seventy Days is a fairly long time and planning that much entertainment is a yeoman's job. A large part of enjoying the experience is fun on board. We have days at sea that are filled with interesting things to do and substantive lectures to attend about our next port. Experts are on board to offer lectures on flora and fauna. The speakers have been well received on this trip. (Frank B. is a bit dry, wordy, difficult to understand, and dull but well informed. Perhaps shorter presentations would use his talent better) Those who decorate do a great job in transforming space. They turned the showroom into a nightclub for the Superbowl and St.Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day and Academy Awards night the dining room and wait staff dress for special occasions. Our waiters were delightful. table 154
These concerted efforts provide a cultural learning experience relating to the day or the country visited. They went all out for lectures or for local performing groups to give us the feel of the vastly different cultures in this part of the world. Local performing groups where sticking to the culture were excellent. However, Carnival, Brazil with nearly naked women in thongs doing modern Latin dances are not presenting a cultural learning experiences. Very bare bums with no cover whatsoever were not consistent with HAL emphasis on family type entertainment. We all know what Carnival is and we were not culturally enriched by this show. The Brazil show came close to being burlesque with bumps and grinds and sexy dancing. I believe this is not in keeping with HAL's reputation for wholesome entertainment.
Professional entertainment: 7/10 We give high marks for variety and quality of performance. We didn't care for the jugglers. The ceiling too low and it cramps their act. The clarinetists were spectacular. Our highest marks go to the group of four young tenors, Teatro. We were most grateful to have them perform a second show. Teatro filled the seats for an added show at 3:30 in the afternoon. There were standing ovations at all of their performances. On the other hand, Marty Brill used to be good. Now he comes unprepared, he shifts subjects; and, often forgetting the point he was making. He was generally going by the seat of his pants. Age is no excuse. Coming unprepared is an insult to the audience gathered to see him.
Music plays a big part in making the cruise experience so much fun. We like to dance and clap along with the tango and samba musicians A troupe of professional singers and dancers deliver excellent Broadway quality shows 4 times over the 10 weeks. We can't help but wonder who is paying them to stay on board for ten weeks and do only four shows. They come fully rehearsed, so it isn't as though they are practicing or setting scenes. They play to canned music so there is no major coordination with the orchestra. They could easily leave the ship and pick up another troupe along the way. However, There is a live show every evening. The rest of the evening shows headline singers, musicians, comedians and jugglers that appear on stage each evening in the Ship's Showroom. The solo musicians were extraordinary.
Orchestra. There is an excellent seven piece orchestra to accompany the visiting performers that is comprised of professional and talented musicians. Each is offered separate contracts so when they meet for the first time, they have never played together. The pianist and orchestra leader, Auriel, is remarkably talented. We watch him night after night playing complicated personalized backup of a visiting musician's repertoire. These performers come on board at one stop and get off a few days later. The pianist has very little time to become acquainted with the style and specific nuances expected by the visiting headliner. He has flawlessly played behind singers, dancers, cellist, flutist, clarinetists, and violinist in every type of music from classical to rock.
Entertainment Around the Ship. Piano Entertainer. One of this writer's most important diversions on a long cruise is the piano bar. Buddy Mitchell was our piano man. He needs a piano bar. There is one sour note in this paean; I was surprised to find that the piano bar was up on deck 12. On our last 'Grand Voyage", We loved having piano man, Steven Lynch entertain on the Amsterdam on the main deck of the ship where he not only provided lots of entertainment for his audience, he brightened the evening of passengers walking by to and from dinner . Buddy is popular. He adapts his nightly performance to allow for guest participation such as: Name that Tune, Open Mike, and Karaoke. He recognizes passengers by name and amazes us that he remembers the name the next time you come. He will even remember tunes that a passenger requested on visits to the piano bar. Buddy is affable and talented, and he clearly loves his job and his family. I think Buddy's performance is enhanced by his affection for his wife, Carolyn and their doggie, Sadie, at home in Virginia. We met followers that plan their next cruise based upon where Buddy is entertaining.
Adagio Strings: Delightful addition to the ship's offerings. The Explorer lounge is elegantly furnished and the lighting soft. Three professional performers provided beautiful classical movie before and after dinner.
Counterpoint. The Ocean Bar was a fun place to be. The four musicians, sang and played each evening. Requests were handled well. Having live dance music every evening befitted this passenger base. Those attending dance lessons could count on having a place to practice. While we didn't need their service, The dance hosts were thoughtful and caring to the unaccompanied ladies in our group.
General Diversions around the ship.
Bridge. 9/10. The bridge teachers, Karen and David were excellent. The games (duplicate bridge and contract bridge) and lessons were well managed and the players were satisfied. We met some delightful fellow cruisers.
The Half Moon Room is a bit small for seven or eight tables of bridge; and, the air conditioning on the ship wasn't the best as described earlier. Knowing that this is the case, and, being at or near the Equator for a good part of the time, Perhaps well-placed fans, or, someway to better circulate the air when the room is full, would be most helpful. Exhaust fans could easily be added to the room without major expenditures on duct work. Trivia. 7/10. Trivia is a big draw. It is one of the most fun things to do on board.
Trivia is as engaging as any competitive game of chess, cards or other board games. In fact, it is recommended therapy for those of us with aging brains. We plan it as one of our major sources of entertainment on board. Competitive teams of some of your brightest and most successful passengers are formed. The players are retired professors, doctors, lawyers, business men and women. Trivia is played around the country in organized games, very much like bridge is played. Goal should be enjoyment and successful teamwork. The reward is participation in a good competitive game. Prizes are not necessary. Sparky and Carolyn were the best.
Concern. Mental activity rates very high with seniors. We enjoy the competition whether it is to come up with the right answer at team-trivia or to try to be our competitive best at bridge. All games and sports deal with trivialities. It is competition that makes them fun.
The activity group members, running this game, often express the sentiment that it is a mindless game where answers can be wrong and fairness and other attributes are thrown out the window. The type of question deals with 'trivial' matters, but the desire to form a team and compete is not trivial. We had questions asked at trivia competition where the answers were wrong, the reader couldn't pronounce the words, or, worse had never heard of the subject. Is it too much to ask that the day's activity leader at least 'Google' to check that the answer on the page is at least reasonably the correct answer.
Exercise. 8/10. There is an small but adequate exercise room where some of the few pieces of equipment were out of order, there are two somewhat small open air swimming pools, and. some regularly scheduled exercise classes. There is a well appointed, but very expensive Spa for needed haircuts, manicures, and, for luxury personal services like massages etc. We used the spa for D's haircuts and my manicure services.
Dam Dollars. 10/10. Who ever came up with this idea deserves a bonus. There are regular quasi -sporting events to encourage passenger participation and camaraderie. These events created a lot of enthusiasm. We met a lot of our fellow passengers while participating in these entertaining events. Passengers get one Dam Dollar for participating and a few additional Dam Dollars for getting a ball in the hole For example: One sporting activity is a putting contest up on deck twelve outside, and, another is using a croquet mallet to put balls through hoops on a miniature croquet pad. The Dam Dollars are a huge hit. After a few hours rest, a quick half-game of shuffle-board is scheduled for which we win 'Dam Dollars". Thanks to my better half we now have more than 100 Dam Dollars. I think this will buy us one sweat shirt in the ship store. Not bad for 70 days of hard work! It is a good way to get rid of outdated ship logo wear and to get people to walk around with the ship logo on their hats and shirts.
Areas of concern: 2/10. Internet Cafe. Brendan was the most helpful host we have ever had on a cruise. However, THE MOST GRUMBLING. The cost of using the Internet is exorbitant. It amazes us that after all these years and many, many complaints from passengers HAL refuses to make the Internet more competitive. On a pay as you go plan, it is .75 cents per minute- and for good measure it is slow. One can lower the cost by buying packages, the more minutes one buys the less costly. I think the least expensive is 1000 minutes bringing the price down to about .25 cents per minute, $25.00 per hour-and that is the cheapest HAL rate. We go off ship and in most ports; it is about $2.00 USD for a whole hour.
Maintenance. 3/10 There were big problems. On board workers do their very best to keep things running smoothly. The crews worked day and night. There are no complaints about the service and care afforded by the staff on the Prinsendam. The things that are wrong with the ship are large scale maintenance issues that require replacement rather than patch and repair. Seattle management has to fix this wonderful small ship. Passengers love it and sail on it time after time. Why let it deteriorate?
Shore Excursions. 6/10 We had several disappointing excursions. Not as advertised, I.e. The catamaran to see the penguins, real disappointment. Our guide's English was so poor we couldn't understand much of what was said. It took much longer than needed and there was little to see. On another occasion, friends on two different excursions into the Amazon advertised as 3 1/2 hour excursions were gone all day, they lasted 7 hours each. They were late to dinner or missed early seating entirely. The ship had to hold up departure until their return. There was no explanation, no bus breakdown and no conceivable reason why the timing was poorly advertised. Another example, our trip in Barbados to see the Concorde ended with a power outage and we never saw the inside of the plane..Something we had really looked forward to. This was no fault of Holland America. Just a personal disappointment. Overall on a scale of 1 to 10. We rate this cruise a 7/10.