We choose the Prinsendam for it's smaller size and fine reputation for friendly, professional service and great itineraries. It did not disappoint, we were impressed by the size of the cabin and bathroom, the cleanliness of the ship and the well trained staff. We had sailed to Alaska with HAL and enjoyed that trip.
For the first time in six cruise we had the open seating option and enjoyed meeting new people every evening. On a small ship, 800 pax, you then start to see familiar faces in the Crow's Nest, the library (well stocked) and around the ship we were often greeted by a friendly hello from a couple or a family we dined with on a previous night.
The ports were easy to do on our own, we only booked tours in St.Petersburg, using an independent agency, ALLA-Tours.com. The did an excellent job for 25% less than the HAL excursion desk for the same stops. We were part of a group of 12 in a Mercedes mini bus, the ship's tours were for 40 on a big bus with lots of time spent waiting to gather the stragglers (we heard afterwards) There was no problem about Russian visas, ALLA takes care of that at no cost. Others used Dendrus and SPB tours and were happy with the experience.
Everyday was sunny and blue sky, we were very lucky with calm flat seas and beautiful weather for two weeks. The sun rose at 0430 and set at 1100 pm, amazing! Northern latitudes at summer solstice.
HAl is easy about bringing wine onboard to enjoy in your cabin and Warnemunde, Germany had two nice supermarkets close to the ship where we bought a few bottles of wine at good prices after we returned from our train ride to Rostock. We look forward to sailing with Prinsendam again in future.