Seeing A Lot of Water
The 13,000-ton Prinsendam gleams under the Barcelona sun. Layers of paint hid her age on land but rough seas brought out the sounds of a tired, maturing ship. Built in 1988 in Finland by the Royal Viking line, Holland America acquired her in 2002 and named her Prinsendam.
Adding 14 cabins increased her capacity to 793 passengers. Large ocean view cabins measured 181 to 191 square feet, and 25 inside cabins 128 to 131 square feet. 8 wheelchair accessible and 3 single cabins were available.
Our cabin located amidships had good sight of the ocean through rusting portholes and very stable during bumpy weather. The recently renovated bathroom and closet had ample room. A sliding bathroom door added to the expanse of the room. A flat-screen TV sat on a shelf at the foot of a queen-sized bed. A dresser, a loveseat, a mini-bar and 110/220-volt outlets completed the fixtures.
The 20 port-intensive 36-day cruise through several countries (Italy, Croatia, Greece, France, Turkey, Egypt, Portugal, and Spain.) attracted 636 first segment passengers (Italy to Greece) and 793 for the Atlantic crossing to Florida.
Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon excited us. On a previous trip to St. Helena islands, we visited the house where he died in exile. The ship reduced speed around Stromboli volcano on our way to Dubrovnik, Croatia. The volcano loomed beautifully before us on a bright day, and a lot of cameras took advantage of the photo opportunity.
The ship stayed overnight in Turkey, Spain and the Holy Land. Despite adverse advisories from the US State Department, many passengers debarked to visit the Holy Land. They returned to the ship safely and reported no untoward incidents or any video and photo gear confiscated by the authorities ashore.
We choose the Prinsendam for being a small ship and capable of mooring closer to towns. It still cost at least $17.50 on a shuttle bus for a short ride to town. The ship missed the ports of Naples and Alghero in Italy due to foul weather. We encountered high winds and 14 foot waves in stormy places. The ship anchored in some ports and passengers serviced by tender.
Americans held the bulk of passengers. At least 408 sailed in Europe and 560 for the Atlantic crossing; Canadians numbered at least 176 and 259 for the first and second part. Other nationalities totaled 86 and 32. Most of the Americans were retired academics, military, and cruise repeaters over the ages of 70.
We met several interesting people aboard, like Lynn, a published author of several books whose grandfather introduced electricity to Canada. We dined with Fred a professor of English, and had breakfast with a retired nuclear submarine commander.
Father Lloyd, a priest born in Zanzibar, schooled by German nuns and a seminary in Ireland, held Catholic mass daily for the passengers and crew. He also shared in shipboard interfaith services.
Most of the hotel wait and housekeeping staff came from Indonesia. They bent over backwards to please the passengers in a sincere and friendly manner. They also kept the cabins, public areas bright and squeaky-clean. The passengers greatly appreciated their effort.
A Philippine crew handled most of the technical details like engine room, security, engineering and the front office. The rest took care of the beverage section, bakery and food preparation.
The Captain ran a tight ship and seldom mixed with the guests as with the hotel manager. They avoided shaking hands with the travelers for fear of catching Noro- virus. The passengers constantly handled at least 2000 volumes from the library and provided a source of contamination
CDC (Center for Disease Control) rated the Prinsendam a score of 96. The ship reported a 2% rise in Noro-virus cases from a previous cruise. Improper placement of sneeze shields over the food at the buffet also earned them a citation. Manned stations had replaced the buffet service at the Lido to keep it healthy. This created long lines and lack of table space at the Lido specially during sea days.
Fresh, beautiful orchids grace each table at the newly rebuilt Lido cafe. New flowers in attractive arrangements bloom daily throughout the ship, a familiar sight on Holland America vessels.
The buffet style Lido cafe offers cold and hot dishes for casual dining. They also served various flavored ice cream,free all day. Pizza, hot dogs and burgers were available at the Terrace grill. The Pinnacle grill requires reservations and a cover charge. They specialize in eastern Indian dishes. They have a dilemma obliging patrons because of limited space.
The main dining room (Le Fontaine) contains at least 400 guests, divided into set or open seating. Exquisite silver settings and china grace beautiful linen covered tables. The cuisine is precisely prepared, daintily served and a cut above the normal cruise food. Dwi, the restaurant manager served us Indonesian food and other non-menu items upon request.
The showroom, casino, library, internet cafe (75c/minute 25c/page print) photo shop, front office, Wajang theater, shops, explorer's lounge and several bars were crammed on the 8th deck. This created congestion in corridors and elevators specially during evenings and sea days.
The library held at least 2,000 English and foreign language books including atlases and reference selections more than those found in other ships. They also have wall maps of the world and in flat video screens throughout the ship. The Rosario strings; a Philippine ensemble played classical music at the explorer's lounge. They were excellent musicians and their music attracted a lot of the travelers.
We met several couples on cruises making it on one suitcase because of airline charges for checked baggage. We usually take at least 36-day cruises and check 4 suitcases on airlines during the trip. We had paid $ 120 for checked luggage each time on overseas or domestic flights. We will now learn to travel light and perhaps save a bundle.
Phil Reamon 12/16/10