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Sail Date: November 2013

Our plane was delayed and we didn't get to the ship until 4:05 and it was due to sail at 4:00, but they were still dong the life boat drill. From the moment the embarkation staff became aware that we were running for the ship, they took ... Read More

Our plane was delayed and we didn't get to the ship until 4:05 and it was due to sail at 4:00, but they were still dong the life boat drill. From the moment the embarkation staff became aware that we were running for the ship, they took such good care of us. One grabbed our passports, another our luggage and another held my hand and calmed me down telling us that everything was OK and that we would make the ship.

This 21 day cruise was two back to back which meant several repeated ports which we have found out we don't really care for. This is not the fault of the cruise line, it was our own mistake.

The food on Holland ships is always very good. Portions are the right size.

The service in staterooms is very good. The service in the dining room for Anytime dining could be improved. It is often impossible to get a second glass of water or the wine steward to the table.

We were disappointed to buy a soda card not to be aware that it expired at the end of the cruise. It wasn't an all you can drink card, it was a pre-paid card for a set dollar amount. When we asked what happened to the card at the end of the voyage (would it be good on the next Holland sailing?) we were told that the unused portion would be refunded to our account. Not true, it expired!! No refund, tough luck. That is just not OK.

This is the first Holland cruise we have been on with a number of children on board. The programs they had for the children must have been good as we almost never saw the children around the ship except at the pool. They were vey well behaved which was most appreciated.

Our other major complaint was their attitude towards passengers who were on independent tours was that we were second class citizens. My husband and I are Elite passengers, which is supposed to afford us the luxury of priority tendering and disembarkation. When we tried to get off the ship in our first Israeli port, there were 9 lines for passport check/immigration. 8 of the lines were for their tour groups and the rest of the passengers on independent tours were put into one long line. It took forever to get through and we were a hour late meeting our group and lost an hour of our time in Jerusalem which meant we didn't get our full tour. My husband asked the Hotel Manager, not a junior staff member, the Hotel Manager why we were being funneled into one long line and why didn't our Elite status give us the opportunity to get into the shortest line, he lied to us and said that Israeli immigration wanted it that way. Why would they care if you were on a tour sponsored by the ship or not? We asked the immigration officer when we finally got our turn to clear and they said it wasn't their requirement, that the ship had set it up that way. We all know that shorex makes a ton of money for cruise lines, but to offer Elite status and perks that are denied to us and to be lied to face to face by the Hotel Manager no less was totally unacceptable. Still angry my husband and another Elite passenger on our independent tour made an appointment with the Hotel Manager later in the week. His body language told them he wasn't interested in their problems and wasn't listening. He ushered them out with no resolution and no apology.

They had a wonderful opportunity to give informational lectures on the history and culture of the Med and Israel but chose to have bingo and spa seminars instead!!! The only outstanding lecture was from a Star Guy who was great, but they put him in a room that held 60 people, so that they could play bingo in the Theater.

We often sail with Holland on smaller ships and on longer cruises. We will continue to do so, but were not happy with the Hotel Manager's attitude, not being afforded the Elite benefits we have worked up to, and the lack of stimulating learning opportunities.

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Sail Date: November 2013

We've been intrigued hearing about the Prinsendam and also about some of her itineraries. We often sail HAL, but this little ship seemed like something we should try. The cabin prices are often above our budget level, but when this ... Read More

We've been intrigued hearing about the Prinsendam and also about some of her itineraries. We often sail HAL, but this little ship seemed like something we should try. The cabin prices are often above our budget level, but when this cruise came up (2 months out) with some really good pricing, we knew we had to try it (even though we were headed to Antarctica in January).

We loved the ship - there were many repeat travelers, but for many it was their first on Prinsendam. I was glad it hadn't been totally turned into a mini-HAL ship, but that while they've done some upgrading, it still has some of her "elegant explorer" left.

We had an inside cabin, and while we are not used to twin beds, I wanted to experience these little cabins. We usually book inside, so that wasn't different, but I loved the layout of the cabin. At first it seemed like a postage stamp size, but soon was just a wonderful cozy place. The open space in the main cabin area was much more spacious than in other cabins we saw during the cruise. Just the basic cabin set-up with walk-in closet was great. I definitely hope to sail on her again.

We were also drawn to the eastern Mediterranean itinerary. Egypt had been cancelled prior to our booking (which probably impacted the pricing for us) - for obvious security reasons. There was every reason to think at the time of our booking that Israel would also be cancelled, but the tensions settled and we had a wonderful 2 1/2 days in Israel.

We booked the entire Collector's Voyage, including the TA to Ft. Lauderdale. As it happened, we had the privilege of sailing with the captain who took her out for the first time many years ago. It was fun to hear his insights into the building of the ship as well as his general knowledge of this ship that is so unlike the other HAL ships.

HAL passengers really enjoy the smaller ships, even if they don't have the chance to sail the Prinsendam - HAL would be wise to heed these voices when they build newer and bigger (but for many of us, not better) ships.

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Sail Date: November 2013

The Rotterdam is an older ship, but still very enjoyable. Great walking deck. Experienced staff. We were present for opening night of two awesome shows being presented for the first time. All new costumes, choreography and music. Of a ... Read More

The Rotterdam is an older ship, but still very enjoyable. Great walking deck. Experienced staff. We were present for opening night of two awesome shows being presented for the first time. All new costumes, choreography and music. Of a caliber that we would have paid for to see on the outside. Great gym manager. Very dedicated. Captain errs on the cautious side and is good at explaining his decisions. We aborted 3 ports of call due to unsafe conditions. We spent 31 days hitting ports of call in Turkey, Greece, Malta, Israel, Italy, Spain and Portugal, combining 3 segments that started in Athens and ended in Harwich, England. Only downside was having to stand through 3 fire drills as new people came onboard.

The ports in Turkey opened our eyes to the vast antiquity residing there. This is where much of what we regard as Greek history took place because the Greeks colonized what is now the Turkish coast. We found the ship tours to be a cut about average. The ones we took were run by Sea Song. Don't know if that made the difference or if visiting Turkey did, but we have no complaints.

Would probably not go to Spain or Portugal on a cruise ship again. We had been to Gibraltar before, so it was almost boring this time. Cartagena is a non-event. Cadiz was enjoyable, but once is enough. One day in Lisbon is plenty.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013

My first HAL cruise, but 20th overall cruise (I'm 32) My mom and aunt's 2nd with HAL (60's and 70's age ranges).

We stayed at Holland America's appointed hotel the night before our cruise, which sailed from Athens on Nov. 10-30 ... Read More

My first HAL cruise, but 20th overall cruise (I'm 32) My mom and aunt's 2nd with HAL (60's and 70's age ranges).

We stayed at Holland America's appointed hotel the night before our cruise, which sailed from Athens on Nov. 10-30 (Volos, Istanbul, Dikili, Kusadasi, Maramaris, Alanya, Antalya, Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus, Ashdod, Haifa...if you are looking for any reviews on the ports, let me know) Our HAL arranged transportation from the hotel to port was fine. Checking out of the hotel was awful. It was a Marriot or something like that. Needing a lot of work inside and not worth the money.We left our room an hour prior to the bus leaving and I waited in line that whole time, having to just leave the room keys at the desk due to our bus leaving. There was no line for checking out, with the two hotel workers trying to check-in a bus load of new customers. I recommend you book your own hotel well in advance, and not use HAL. Save yourself the trouble.

Check-in on the Rotterdam was no problem. Our obstructed view room was suitable for 3. The couch bed for the 3rd person, me, was awful to sleep on. Quite hard and a thin "mattress". But i can sleep anywhere and it worked for 20 nights.

Food: mediocre at best. They serve all of your food and drinks the fist 48 hours, which I have no problems with. I see how many people do not wash their hands and "finger lick" in buffet lines. However, there was not enough help in the buffet at any time of day for the free beverage area :coffee, water, tea, juice nor to dish up your food. When the 48 hour ban lifted, there still was not enough help at any point in the buffet lines. We did fill out a comment card about this very thing and nothing changed.

There were some stations with signs stating "Line starts here" but some did not and caused much confusion for none english speakers/readers and lines started from every direction. Not efficient at all and very frustrating when being budged in front of on a daily basis.

Food in the buffet vs main dinning room was not even luke warm, save some of the soups. How we wished for warm to hot food during the 20 days. Again put this on a comment card and no changes. The service in the main dinning room took an average of 2-3hours no matter if it was myself dinning alone or three of us or sharing a table of 8. It took forever for our orders to be taken (Anytime dinning....we were told it was no better in the traditional dinning) If you wanted an iced tea or milk, you were lucky if it ever arrived and you certainly would not get a refill. Once you were finished with your appetizer or salad, the main course was half and half on how quickly that arrived. Once the main course was done, it took 30-45 minutes for the dishes to be cleared. Then another 20 minutes at least for them to take your dessert order.

We began to joke that we really hoped there would be an apple dessert listed on the menu for that night. And there always was. it was never delicious.

PS. The buffet only serves lunch from 12-2 and dinner 6-8, so by the time you eat in the main dinning room, the buffet is closed.....and serves the same food as the main dinning room. I have never been on a cruise where the main dinning room is only half full, I now understand why after being on the Rotterdam.

I have also never been on a cruise where the arrival/departure times change as much as on HAL's Rotterdam. Many of the days there was no announcement or even a sign with the new time as you disembarked for the day. No announcements that the ship was clear for passengers to leave. I had to literally walk down to the only staircase on Dolphin deck forward, and see if the velvet rope was over the staircase or not, then walk back to let the others in my cabin know if we could exit or not. We were late for 2 of our booked excursions due to this ship. And I have never been late prior.

in Israel, they just decided to midway in the morning, stop anyone not on a HAL excursion from exiting. Of course we became packed like sardines very soon after, and after 45mins of waiting with the heat rising, no one from the Rotterdam had walked up one flight to stop anyone not on a HAL excursion from continuing downward. No one was at the elevators in the disembarkation deck (there is only one spot fwd starboard to disembark and embark on the ship) checking if passengers were with a HAL excursion or not. It was horrible.

Many fellow passengers said they were on this specific cruise b/c of the itinerary. It would take a lot for me to go on HAL again. One passenger stated he had just been on the Rotterdam a few months prior, and he could not believe how much the food quality and service had decreased in that time. Other HAL cruisers said the food and service has really gone down hill.

Only went to 2 shows at night. One show was a violin duo that was excellent and the other was a comedian from Poland via Israel via the US. Otherwise, entertainment was not worthwhile. Hardly anyone in the casino.

The ship's shops would have some "bazaars" in the evening, very often they were late in starting or cancelled due to all of the changes in port arrivals and departures. With no warning of course.

 

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Sail Date: November 2013

Last year I returned home from a holiday with my wife which included the 10-Day Holy Land Sojourn on-board the Holland America, deeply dissatisfied with the quality of the cabin we stayed in. We paid the cost of an ocean-view room ... Read More

Last year I returned home from a holiday with my wife which included the 10-Day Holy Land Sojourn on-board the Holland America, deeply dissatisfied with the quality of the cabin we stayed in. We paid the cost of an ocean-view room (being at a premium above the basic inside-room), which turned out to have a window facing the deck, where other passengers could view the inside of our room if the curtain was drawn closed. This therefore made the “ocean-view” feature completely redundant, however we were refused recompense for this misrepresentation. There was also a problem with the toilet flushing system which forced us to use the public toilets and not those in our cabin.

The ocean-view room we stayed in had a window which looks out directly onto the ship deck, where passengers frequently lingered and passed, and who could see inside of our room. This was quite distressing for myself and my wife as we were not expecting our room contents to be in full view of other passengers. We could therefore not actually leave our window curtain open and make any use of this window, as it was quite uncomfortable to do so. Although technically there was some ocean-view from our room, it was not what we believed to be paying for and had no extra qualities to a basic room. Had we known this would be the case, we would have absolutely not paid the extra charge booking an ocean-view room as opposed to the basic room we have used on other cruises.

Furthermore, we also experienced much trouble with the toilet flushing system during the 10-day period. We complained of this to staff during our stay, who advised this could not be resolved, other than to wait for extended periods each time after using the toilet before the flush would work. This was a serious quality problem for us, as we have been on-board many cruises, and have never experienced this before. This was quite uncomfortable and troublesome for us, as we felt quite restricted in our room and unhappy with the quality of the system in place.

We felt we should have been compensated for the trouble we experienced on board the vessel, as we did not experience the promised level of quality of the room we paid for.

After making a few detailed complaints with management at Holland America, they apologised in writing, however did not offer any satisfactory remedy other than $100 future on-board credit should we choose to travel with them again. We considered this completely useless as we were clearly left with a very bad impression of Holland America cruises. Given that the price differential between the cabin we paid for and a standard inside cabin is $300 per person, and we did not feel that we experienced anything additional to a standard inside cabin would provide (likely WORSE than a standard room), we feel completely taken advantage of and quite rudely refused an appropriate remedy for our trouble.

I would strongly recommend you DO NOT travel with Holland America, because if you experience any quality issues, you will likely just have to take it. Don’t expect management to take your complaint seriously or provide you an appropriate remedy, but rather an empty apology and inconsequential future board credit on a cruise you will likely never book with them!

Adel

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013

Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise

We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but ... Read More

Noordam – October 20/13 Mediterranean and Tran-Atlantic cruise

We love cruising and we particularly love cruising on Holland America ships. We'd had a lovely long cruise in the spring and did not plan on this holiday but the magic word 'Sale' appeared and we could not resist. We have taken more than a dozen trans-Atlantic cruises in the past so there had to be new (to us) ports of call to tempt us. This cruise fitted that requirement.

One of the biggest expenses for us in the airfare. I spend many hours researching flights on line and finally determined the most economical way for us to get from eastern Canada to Greece was to fly from Halifax on Icelandair to London, spend a night in London and then fly to Athens on BA the following day. Instead of paying out $3500 per person to Air Canada - it cost us $800 per person and we flew in a lot more comfort!

We spent our London night in the Premier Inn on the Bath Road at Heathrow. We have stayed there many times and it is always a favourite of ours. Our second night was at the Savoy Hotel in Piraeus. The hotel itself was reasonably comfortable - nothing special. The food in the dining room was very good - huge (far more than one could eat) servings and very reasonable prices.

On October 20th we boarded the Noordam. We have previously cruised on the Noordam and find it a nice mid-sized ship. We prefer the smaller ships however this size is still very nice - not one of those behemoths where you get lost, still a size to get to know and recognize staff during your vacation.

Embarkation was smooth and we thoroughly enjoyed our Mariner luncheon before re-acquainting ourselves with the ship. HAL ships have wonderful libraries and our first stop was to pick out some books to enjoy.

I mentioned 'sale' earlier. Usually we cruise in an inside stateroom as it is more economical and we are really only in our cabin to sleep and change clothing. This time, however, the price of a balcony was so good that we booked it. And then received an upgrade to an even nicer balcony. We were thoroughly spoiled!! Our cabin was large, very comfortable with a nice sitting area inside and another couple of chairs and tables on the balcony. Dave spent many happy hours reading on the balcony. And I thoroughly enjoy being able to step outside and get a breath of fresh sea air whenever I like. The cabin bathroom was a revelation - there was even a bathtub. After cruises where you felt like you should just soap the walls and then turn around in the shower - it was a treat to have so much room. We definitely loved our accommodations - lots of storage room for all our things and lots of comfort for us.

This cruise was very port-intensive at the start so other than playing a lot of trivia, we did not get very involved in other ship activities until the sea-days part of the cruise.

We opted for traditional dining and had a nice table for two and were thoroughly spoiled by our waiters and wine stewards (two lovely ladies). Meals are always excellent on HAL ships. We feel they have the best meals of any line. We adore spices and look forward to Asian lunches in the Lido, There is always so much variety that no matter how long the cruise - one always has lots of choices. Quite frankly - my idea of heaven would be about 6 months on a HAL ship - however I would doubtless need a whole new wardrobe as it is very difficult to exercise will power all the time. We especially appreciate the fact there there are a variety of safe sugar free desserts for my diabetic husband to enjoy. The Rijsttafel luncheon on longer cruises is a real treat for the both of us.

I appreciate the fact that rather than hiding their recipes - HAL has available for sale several wonderful cookbooks with recipes that have become favourites. It is nice to make a particular dish when back home and bring back memories of enjoying it on a cruise.

We had the ship as our "hotel' for the night before sailing away from Piraeus. I really enjoy this - usually we have sail away a few hours after boarding. Somehow this seemed so much more relaxed and it was a treat to watch the sail away from our balcony. The weather was perfect - sunny and comfortably warm.

Ports of Call

Our first port of call was Kusadasi. We had not been here before and most of the folks going on tours headed off to visit Ephesus. We have been to Ephesus twice and chose instead to wander about and explore the city on our own. We had a wonderful time exploring the market, bargaining for our purchases and enjoying the sights and sounds. We walked up to the Caravanserai. It is a beautiful stone building and is now a hotel with some shops around the interior square. One can just picture many years ago and travellers on camels arriving there – the camels sitting down in the square and their owners in the many rooms resting after their travels. So many wonderful streets to stroll and shops to explore and then a stop at a sidewalk cafe for Raki for two and turkish coffee for Dave.

Our next port of call was Rhodes. It was lovely getting off the ship and walking around the harbour to enter one of the gates to this ancient walled city. We love history and have read a great deal about the history of the Crusades and Rhodes figured heavily in any mention of that era.

We visited the Archaeological museum - as much for the wonderful art treasures on display there as for the building itself. This building was originally the hospital run by the Knights Hospitalers who cared for ill pilgrims and injured and ill knights. It is a marvelous place - bigger than modern day hospitals in small towns - spread out over a large area with a variety of levels. There are wonderful courtyards with flowers and herbs and fishponds to sooth the spirit as well as the physical ills.

Next we headed up the Street of the Knights towards the palace - stopping on the way to visit an interesting (and free) costume museum. It was a little gem - do not miss it.

The Palace was the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitalers. After the Turkish empire attacked and battles the Knights - they earned such respect that they were allowed to leave Rhodes with all their weapons and they left and settled in Malta. There they became the Knights Templar and their focus was on amassing wealth instead of ministering to the ill.

We found it very easy to explore Rhodes on foot and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

Our next stop was Haifa. We decided to take advantage of a ship tour and it was excellent. Our guide Sharon was wonderful. She had a degree in History and in English Literature and her knowledge of history really added to the enjoyment of the tour.

First we were driven up Mount Carmel to the church of Stella Maris – the church of the Carmelite nuns. Next we visited the Bahai Gardens. They stretch down the mountainside with a beautiful golden shrine half way down and the gardens were absolutely beautiful.

Then we were off to Akko which is the modern name of Acre – of fame in the Crusades. The Turks who over-ran the country and drove the Crusaders out of it – wanted no reminders and buried the fortress at Acre under tons of rubble. We visited the excavated buildings and went through one of the Knights escape tunnels from the fortress to the harbour. It was all fascinating.

We visited a shop that made beautiful items in copper and silver. This was the 5th generation creating such beautiful items – the family originally from Iran. We brought some wonderful souvenirs back from that shop. We had a walk through a suq and then a lovely drive back to Haifa and the ship. It was an excellent tour and our guide Sharon was a fount of knowledge. We highly recommend that tour.

Limasol in Cyprus was our next port of call. We did not book any tours and actually had a rest day as had done so much walking the day before in Haifa. This is not a port that offers a lot to do – it was a port that the ship visited after the Egypt ports were cancelled due to the political situation in Egypt.

Our next port of call was Katakolon – which is actually called Katakolo by the local people. We had a most interesting visit there. There are three main streets and walking along the middle one we came to a lovely little Greek Orthodox church that had been destroyed in WWII and had been totally rebuilt by one man (who was there in the church at that time). It was a labour of love that has taken many years – and well worth a visit. We walked along towards a little park and there purchased tickets for €6 each for a ride on the train up in the hills. This was a 30 minute ride that took up up through a little village , to visit a winery, and then to stop at a big hotel that had access to a beach for swimming. If we ever go back there I will get that train first thing in the morning and enjoy some beach time as the train goes back and forth while ships are in port. One can get off at the winery (which we did – to sample and purchase some wine) and at the beach and get later trains back. This is a small town but we noticed lots of signs advertising Guest Houses and Hotels. A lot of tourists visit here because of the lovely climate and peace and quiet. Many visitors head off to Olympus and there are cars and scooters and mopeds and scooters to rent and a bus that goes there regularly.

Messina was our next port of call and we were just there for a few hours in the afternoon. We wandered around the streets a bit but because we just arrived there at noon – it was much like a ghost town as everything was closed between noon and four. Sensible in the heat of summer but I would have thought having stores open for a ship load of tourists in the autumn might have benefited the economy a bit. We heard there was a tour bus – not a HOHO but it would have given a bit more insight into the town but could not find a location for it. Tourism does not appear to be a priority there.

Naples was next and we had wonderful weather there for our tour of the city. Last time we were here Dave visited Pompeii and Herculaneum while our travelling companions had a tour of the Amalfi coast. This time we wanted to see more of the city so chose a HOHO bus and were delighted with our choice. There is so much to see in the city but be prepared to do is slowly as traffic in Naples is unbelievable. There are two HOHO routes – the red and the blue. We took the red line tour which is advertised as a one hour tour if you are staying on the bus rather than getting off at each stop. It took well over two hours because of the traffic. The tour was enlivened by good commentary, wonderful Neapolitan music and the frequent wailing of ambulances trying to get through traffic. I do not think anyone would ever die of old age in Naples – they would die of traffic – trying to get through the cars and buses to hospital.

There are so many lovely churches and interesting museums in Naples – one really needs a week there and all we could spare on this visit was one day. Any before leaving the HOHO we asked about the wonderful music and the guide had CDs available for sale – a lovely souvenir of our day there.

Citavecchia was our next port of call. We were in port from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. This was the end of the first cruise for many, with more people joining the ship for the Trans-Atlantic crossing. Had we been in port longer – we might have taken the train up to Rome for the day. Having been to Rome several times before (even spending a week before embarking on one cruise) we decided that there really would not be enough time to enjoy the city as the train there and back takes a good hour or more each way. We opted for a ship day.

Alicante was our next port of call. The last time we visited Alicante there was a huge rainstorm and we did not get to see a lot. We skipped the busy shuttle and walked through the port to the stop for the HOHO bus. This time it was sunny with a marvellous 27 degrees and fortunately a nice breeze while the bus is moving. We were just in port until 2:30 in the afternoon so had to be very selective about what to do. We decided to enjoy the sights of the city but stay on the bus until we reached the castle of Santa Barbara. This was a fortress built by the Moors on the top of a hill. It was renamed after the Spanish drove the Moors out of Spain. It is a wonderful place to visit and the views from the castle over the city and the water are simply magnificent. Thank goodness for digital photography as I would have run out of old fashioned film if I had been using that kind of camera. We only got to scratch the surface – would need a lot more time than we had available to explore all of the castle. There are other lovely spots in the city to explore but time was so limited. We came back to the port stop and then decided to walk about for a half hour – enjoying the lovely streets with the patterned tiles that look like waves, and the many stalls and vendors of local products before we headed back. There is a beautiful old sailing ship in the harbour that has been turned into a restaurant , local markets to explore and a casino for the gamblers. This is a city I want to visit again as so much more to see and not enough time to see it all.

Malaga was our next port of call. More sunshine and hot temperatures greeted us and we headed for the HOHO bus here. Because we had been on the HOHO in Naples – our tickets were discounted here!

The trip here is an 80 minute route with about 15 different stops – a wonderful way to really get to see Malaga. So many people go from this port to visit Granada. Having visited Granada twice on previous cruises we wanted to see more of Malaga and this bus tour was definitely the way to explore it. There is everything from a Moorish castle to cathedrals, museums, lovely gardens, a roman amphitheatre – so much to see and enjoy. Malaga was the home town of Picasso – so the Picasso Museum is a must for fans of the artist.

Cadiz was the last mainland port of call on this cruise. Some folks opted to visit Seville but we love Cadiz. It is one of the easiest cities to walk around as different walking routes are painted on the pavement. . We love strolling the streets – finding new and interesting spots on each visit. This trip we discovered the Church of San Francisco which looks tiny on the outside but is big and amazing inside. There was a lovely little restaurant on that same square where we had lunch. Shrimp tortillas are a speciality of Cadiz and they are delicious! Those along with potatas bravas and some local wine – heaven... We always head over to Cathedral Square and explore the little side streets and visit the market. After all our walking we decided to head up to the Cathedral stop and catch the HoHo back to the ship. The hop-on hop-off bus here is wonderful and despite having taken it on other visits here, we could not resist taking it again here.

Two sea days after leaving Cadiz we stopped at our last port of call Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores (or Acores as the locals call it). Ponta is a lovely place to visit and most people opted to go ashore – either to explore the city or take a tour. Because we had been there at least 10 times in the past we decided to take advantage of a quiet day on ship.

Having covered the ports of call - which are secondary in my opinion - here is my view of the ship. The ship itself was immaculately clean and that was evidenced by the fact that there were no signs of illness on board other than colds. No gastric problems. That takes a lot of work to avoid on a ship as passengers are not always honest about health issues when boarding - bring Norvo type diseases on and spread them. Not this time though. No matter where one was on the ship - there was staff industriously cleaning and polishing.

The entertainment on board ship was very good. The production shows were thoroughly enjoyable and we went to them despite having seen these new shows on the Ryndam in the spring. This ship is larger and has a larger cast so it gave these productions a different look. The guest entertainers were good - something for everyone there. Our favourite performers were Graffiti Classic – billed as 16 strings, 8 dancing feet and 4 voices. And they were a riot – great music and wonderful musical comedy. We actually enjoyed it so much we went to both the early and the late show and purchased their CDs.

We enjoyed guest lecturers, and thoroughly enjoyed all our trivia matches hosted by Jeremy Hales of the cruise director staff.

The music on ship was excellent, the HAL Cats, and the group in the Ocean Bar played wonderful music for ballroom dancing. There was a wide variety of music from guitar to piano bar to classical to dance groups.

I enjoyed a few trips to the spa for the wonderful massages.

It is the Holland America crew that make the cruise for us. The service is outstanding – far superior to any on shore. Our waiters and wine stewards quickly learn our likes and dislikes, our cabin stewards manage to restore order to chaos several times a day and everyone we meet on ship is pleasant and helpful.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Rijsttafel luncheons, the afternoon teas and all of the lovely meals. We had fun at the Black and White Officers Ball, and all the crew was always adept at making us feel welcome and wanted in their home (as we are guests in the crew's home).

Because we have sailed with HAL ships several times (we were awarded our bronze Mariner medals on this cruise) we often run into crew members that we have met on other sailings. Once again we renewed acquaintances as well as making new friends.

The only downside of our whole cruise was the arrival in Fort Lauderdale. This was in no way the fault of the ship. We were delayed in leaving by almost an hour and as we moved off the ship found we were in long hot and uncomfortable lines because the authorities at Fort Lauderdale had insufficient staff to promptly process the passengers leaving the ship. They certainly would have been aware of the size of the ship and the number of passengers likely to be disembarking as well as any crew heading home on holiday. We were totally disgusted by the lack of preparation and organization by the emigration staff. We finally arrived at the airport an hour and a half later than the proper check-in time and were just lucky not to miss our flight.

We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, enjoyed the ports of call, loved the crew and the ship and just wish we could be back on the Noordam when it heads back to Europe in March.

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Sail Date: October 2013

Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some ... Read More

Just got back yesterday from my 26 day med/transatlantic cruise. Overall it was great cruise except for a few rough nights coming across the Atlantic. Was disappointed with the activities onboard during days at sea. Can see why some name this ship the BoringDam. The food was just average. Did eat several times at the Pinnacle grill and it was well worth the extra money that it costs. Highly recommend it to future passengers. The ship was in excellent condition, the staff was friendly. The entertainment was below par and did improve once we departed for the transatlantic crossing.

Embarkation and transfers from the Marriott Ledra, in Athens went well. The entire embarkation process went quickly and baggage was delivered to the room I think in record time.

The itinerary and ports were interesting though I limited my excursion travels due to the costs involved. Even with the 10% discount that HAL offered the excursion prices were on the high side. Ephesus the first port of call was beautiful and was able to book my own tour off the ship at a much cheaper rate with another couple. In town Kusadasi, the atmosphere was lets rip off the tourists with all the counterfeit merchandise and overpriced carpets. Definitely need to know your prices before you go on rugs and leather products.

The next stop was Haifa, Israel. A wonderful place to go, just wish HAL would overnight there as there is so much to see and so little time. Shore excursion prices were pricey. If you can plan well ahead, book your own tours.

Going to the ports of Limassol Cyprus was a little disappointing as a port of call. Took the bus into town and walk around a bit. Good place to buy linens and buy a cold beer to drink. Nothing really stands out.

On to Katakolon, Greece. What can I say, the ancient grounds of Olympia was a great tour. The town of Katakolon is a small quaint town with a little bit of shopping. Highly recommend going to the Greek Art Gallery there if you want a nice piece of art work. Virginia the owner is from the states and will make you a honest deal on a nice piece of art. Not a rip-off like Christos across the street, where I bought something and I am still waiting to see if it gets delivered. If you want cheap internet, go to the back street as there is a great place for internet at a cheap price as well as a nice little café. And the Gelato Yum!

Messina, Italy was disappointing. Should have taken a tour to Toramina, but the tour price was too high.

In Naples for the day took the hop-on hop-of bus. Great way to see Naples and feel safe in doing it. Recommend taking the both routes that are offered. If you want to do shopping take the red line and get off at stop 3. If you want excellent pizza, take the red line to stop 9 and try Lombardi, or onto stop 10 and go to Toraminos. Excellent Pizza. Once you eat pizza in Naples and you will not be able to stand the crap they serve here in the states. Also, don't forget to get the Gelato.

The next stop I wish to mention in my review is the port for Rome. Have a hard time saying it as well as spelling it. Civitavecchia??? In lieu of going to Rome, I decided to explore this little city. I was surprise by it. If you decided to see the port, make sure you take in the open air market and explore some of the back streets. For internet service at very cheap price go to a little hole in the wall place called SeaMen. From the place where the port bus drops you off, you will see McDonalds then go to the right about 2 blocks and cut in towards town on the narrow street. SeaMens is on the right and is a grocery store up front but a has in internet service in the back along with a little café off to the side. Show them your ship card and then get on their computers. It was just a little over 1 euro for about 45 minutes. Beats the ships rates. Besides the internet, the wine and beer prices there are cheap.

The crossing of the Atlantic was a long journey especially with the seas being choppy for many days and the port of calls Allicante, Malaga, and Cadiz were just ok to me. Recommend doing the hop-on- Hop-off buses. Nothing really stood out. Nothing like going like going to Barcelona or Lisbon. If I had to do it all over again, I would skip the transatlantic portion, especially in the fall.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013

I chose this cruise because of its Black Sea itinerary, mostly places I have never seen. Spending a few extra days in Athens was the icing on the cake. Check-in and boarding staff were efficient and cordial. My stateroom, a free upgrade ... Read More

I chose this cruise because of its Black Sea itinerary, mostly places I have never seen. Spending a few extra days in Athens was the icing on the cake. Check-in and boarding staff were efficient and cordial. My stateroom, a free upgrade surprise, was large and luxurious with a bathtub and walk-in closet. Cabin stewards were gracious and eager to please. The small size of the ship gave me a chance to get to know some of the guests I saw regularly. What a delightful, well-traveled group. The food was excellent with extra emphasis on local specialities.

Our first port, Volos, Greece, gave me a chance to visit the breathtaking Meteora Monasteries on a excellent shore excursion. This is a must see site with religious communities perched on top of pillars of rock formations that are like something out of a sci-fi movie. The guide was wonderful.

The Dardenelles and Bosporus cruising was narrated and a wonderful scenic tour in both directions. Our entrance into the Black Sea was cold and blustery so the crew did everything they could for our comfort.

Sinop, Turkey was a delight. It is small, walkable and a great view of seaside life. I enjoyed a talk with a young weaver who spent her time telling me about her country and shared a traditional Turkish coffee with me in her shop. Others I encountered were equally gracious. It was a delight to visit a place not built just for tourists. Sinop is historically significant as well as delightful

Sochi, Russia was an interesting Russian experience as well as a preview of the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. My chosen shore excursion was to a Caucasus nature reserve but most of the time was spent visiting the high mountain Olympic Villages that were still under construction. It will enhance my enjoyment of the Olympics but we never got our walk in the nature reserve.

Due to rough seas the captain arranged an early and overnight stay in Sevastopol as a treat and it was. I enjoyed a dinner in town where the restaurant staff were gracious and negotiated with us about a meal since we couldn't read the Ukrainian menu. The food was wonderful and the service was cordial and efficient.

My shore excursion the next day was a half day that included the ruins at Chernosses, a wonderful experience. I spent the rest of the day strolling around the clean, beautiful city.

Constanta, Romania was a view into a post-Communist city that is struggling to reclaim itself after years of neglect. I walked around visiting mosques and churches and enjoyed a coffee with pastry in a bakery. People were friendly and eager to speak English. It was a day of enlightenment and hope for the future of these lovely people.

Burgas, Bulgaria, a substitute port due to stormy weather, was a surprise treat. It is full of parks, boulevards, beaches, shops, cafés and delightful people. I walked around alone, resting in coffee shops as needed, enjoying this beautiful city.

Istanbul was a return visit for me. I spent the entire day strolling alone through markets, visiting mosques, shopping a bit and people watching. Since it was the beginning of an extended holiday, locals packed the streets providing a great opportunity to observe this diverse culture. My evening shore excursion was to the Whirling Dervish service in a mosque. This was a rare treat that was graciously explained and beautifully presented.

Our last port was Mykonos, also a return visit that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is hard to think of a more beautiful place on a bright sunny day, with Sunday church services and low tourist crowds. People are friendly, food is good and scenic views are all around.

 

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013

Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and ... Read More

Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and places: Volos-Pelion in Greece, Sinop in Turkey after cruising the Dardanelles and Bosporus, Sochi in Russia, Sevastopol in Ukraine, Constanta in Romania, Burgas (though initially Nessebar was out port of call) in Bulgaria, Istanbul (Constantinople) in Turkey and Mykonos in Greece.

I would like to make a few comments on the destinations, before I go on with our experience on the ship. I come from Greece and three ports were actually in Greece, but I’ll try not to let this color my review.

• I am sure Athens was a top destination for many travelers who flew from other continents, as Americans, Canadians, Philipinos and Australians.

• Volos and especially Pelion with its unique architecture and autumn colors was a marvel even for us who have visited before.

* Cruising Dardanelles and Bosporus, this area so heavy from memories and history, where different continents and cultures meet, was a special opportunity for lovers of history and for photographers as well – watching Constantinople from every angle as the ship sailed through Bosporus was spectacular!

• Sinop was the first port where many of us wandered: “why did we really stop here???” It’s a small provincial town with almost nothing to show in terms of natural or urban environment, apart from the Walls, some Mosques and a few old Greek style houses. Though for Greeks (7 out of 750 passengers) Sinop might have some sentimental value (we visited an interesting Archaeological Museum with Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine relics), I am wandering how much money Holland America has saved by wasting one day here and not at some other important port as Samsun, Giresun, Ordu or Trabzon. Nevertheless people at Sinop were very hospitable and warm and they offered tasty pies and the traditional tea in their shops.

• Sochi in Russia was a good example of how a communist city transits to black economy “development”. This usually means: ugly expensive hotels, casinos and malls, where all the upstarts –God knows how- come to show their culture or the lack of it. This could be a gate to Paradise, built across the coast of Black Sea and at the roots of Caucasus with all its beauty and botanical diversity. Anyway, we didn’t see much of it, since we needed Visa, and our travel agent had given us the wrong impression that the ticket to the off-shore excursion to the Nature Reverse would be the ticket, for a few hours, to the land of the (still) highly suspicious Russians.

• Sevastopol is a city which we will have nice memories of: built on hills and small peninsulas entering Black Sea, gave me the impression of a city of Ancient Glory, as we were entering the harbor at sunset and its simple but imposing buildings were turning into gold. It’s a very clean city, very friendly to pedestrians, with a lot of open public spaces and trees. However, there is something always and everywhere present, in a rather disturbing and loud way: the Russian Army and the monuments for its participation to the great wars. Russian Army and Navy still uses this place as its basis, so there are numerous buildings with the Russian Flag on the top and people in uniforms coming and going in and out of them. We didn’t follow any excursion, it’s a waste of money anyway, and we took an old small bus (marshrutka) from their bus station and went to Bakchisaray, an old village with the Khan’s Palace, once the capital of the Crimean Tatar Khanate, where Khans had ruled for 400 years before Russians came to impose their dominance. On the way, the Cave monastery is a very interesting place, with monk cells caved in the rock, but unfortunately there was no time to make a stop. I would come back and explore the whole Chersonessos of Crimea. It’s a very cheap destination anyway!

• Constanta takes the “Decadence Award”! One a charming and vibrant city is now full of deserted buildings and houses one step before collapse and it’s a shame. When we visited, the municipality was undertaking restoration and reconstruction work on streets and public areas and hopefully they will save some of the city’s previous glory. As for saving their culture, I do not think there are many hopes for that! Along with the poverty everywhere you would turn your eyes, you see the signs of a lustful consumerism: on cars, on west-style malls and on people’s behavior: aggressiveness and indifference, especially of their drivers. Constanta has left a rather depressive feeling in most of the travelers…

• Next day we couldn’t dock at Nessebar so we went to Burgas, which was a pleasant turn of events. In spite of the obvious poverty and cultural confusion due the fast development of Bulgaria (some get rich but a lot of others stay in the dark), Burgas is a clean city with very interesting architecture. However, we still wanted to visit Nessebar, since we had heard a lot for this World Culture Heritage Monument. We used public transportation to get there. Today, it is solely a “tourists’ exploitation” destination: all its numerous 12th century churches, wonderfully restored, have a fee and they are surrounded with taverns and shops with souvenirs. Still, it is a picturesque place with cute wooden houses, but its lack of connection with today’s life has created a “fake” feeling in me. Like Sinop, I do not think this should be a destination by itself. Burgas or Varna, with the option of an excursion here, could be better . The company’s interests once again…

• And then Istanbul which I visited for the second time – what can I say! It is the City of Cities – we should have spent 2-3 days here, but they are never enough. It’s a place you have to visit many times in your lifetime. Words are poor…

• Mykonos at last is always a disappointing destination for me: picturesque but so exploited and so badly used. Lesvos or Chios would be a much more interesting destination. To end with, from all the ports we visited I would only choose Sevastopol and Constantinople: the first will stay in my mind, the second in my heart.

Cruise experience

As it is obvious above, only a few destinations in the cruise itinerary were worthwhile. In general, the cruise was unjustifiably expensive for what it offered. The whole ship is old and needs either to be removed or renovated, especially the cabins/staterooms. Though the bathroom was OK, the furniture in the room and other amenities are not even close to the “luxurious” ship we were told about. The air condition was horrible in many rooms and we spent two of the coldest days in rough sea …with cold air, so we had to cover our sea-sick heads with a duvet and a blanket. Then they supposedly fixed it and we spent the rest of the journey in a tropical envrionment with super-warm air. At the same time, the toilet blocked, but at least that was fixed after a few hours. Noisy room, near the machines of the ship.

The food was mediocre. The choices were not as many as one would expect from a “luxurious ship”, so we had chicken, beef and salmon over and over again. In two occasions, fruits were one step before rotting and the slices of bread had signs of mold. In general, it was OK and the choices helped you maintain a healthy diet. I will remember one night we had Indonesian food served by staff dressed with traditional clothes. The food tasted more authentically, perhaps because it was closer to their hearts…

We found entertainment awful, and this was how most non-Americans felt. Despite the talent of some of the performers, there were very few “canned” choices that were mostly directed to elderly Americans. The only performance I would distinguish was that of Mr. Cristian and Mr. Valentin on violin and on piano respectively. They performed with real passion diverse peaces from different parts of the world which created a very romantic and nostalgic atmosphere. These two gentlemen, who are also very kind and interesting people, have literally saved me during this cruise.

Another issue that was inconvenient and unpleasant for us and many other passengers was the amount that was withheld from each passenger (60 dollars per person per day) and the tips that were mandatory. I do not know which policies apply to other cruise lines, but to find out that a couple needs more than 1300 dollars to be disposable, even if they do not intend to spend it them on the ship, is still incomprehensible for me. A cruise is not for everyone something they do whenever they wish. For my father and me it was a “once in a lifetime” thing and personally I didn’t have 700 dollars extra. “Tips’ policy” is another issue. I do not disagree that this is a way to honor those really hard-working people, and I do that wherever I go. But it is me who judges who deserves it and I make sure that she/he gets and not the owner of the company/store etc. I am almost 100% that the tips do not go to these poor people’s pockets and that they rather make up the minimal salaries of hunger they are paid for 16-18 hours of work each day.

And this leads me naturally to the service from the lower staff in the rooms, restaurants/bars and machines of the ship – all those people we never really see and to whom our journey relies on: it was excellent, human, warm and thoughtful. It was overwhelming for me to watch these low-paid tired people smiling even though their feet hurt and needed sleep. Someone would say that they are treated better than in their homelands (mostly Philippines and Indonesia) and that they have the chance to see the world and make a budget to build the house or the shop of their dreams in their hometown when they return. But they deserve much more: better salaries, better work conditions. And this is something Holland-America should have in mind: these people never complain but many passengers know what happens.

The shore excursions then: “canned” just like the entertainment aboard. Much money for less time and fewer places. Do not follow. Use the local transport: you’ll get a deeper look in everyday life than when you’re lead by others stacked in a bus in a predetermined root. Should this option intimidate you, book a local guide before your journey. And of course, read before you travel.

Before I conclude, I feel that I should mention the cruise director of Ms Prinsendam which me and many other passengers found arrogant, rude and disrespectful of other people’s cultures and status. A lady from Turkey was insulted in a multiply racist way when she dared to complain about certain incindents on the ship: her origins, her experience from the rest of the world and her ability to speak and understand foreign languages were questioned. Holland-America should consider her replacement.

Of course, I could have made all these complaints to the company directly but you know what? Although, they asked us to feel in a form with our e-mails, nor me nor the lady from Turkey have ever received their survey to complete it… Am I suspicious?...

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013

This was a carefully chosen itinerary for us, taking in important Ancient sites of Turkey, Israel, Greece & Italy. The ship itself wasn't as important, although obviously we wanted a reputable company and acceptable level of ... Read More

This was a carefully chosen itinerary for us, taking in important Ancient sites of Turkey, Israel, Greece & Italy. The ship itself wasn't as important, although obviously we wanted a reputable company and acceptable level of comfort.

Well our time on the ship was a wonderful surprise - a level of luxury we did not expect. The Prinsendam is a beautiful ship and being smaller gives a more intimate feel. We actually ran across the same people several times, even getting to know a few. The cruise critic roll call for the cruise helped in this regard too. Lovely cabin, BIG bath, fabulous food and seamless administration by HAL. It didn't matter what needed to be done: it was executed smoothly & efficiently. For us this included early disembarking at Naples, and this was achieved with no fuss, while keeping us informed constantly.

The itinerary was FANTASTIC and all port docking was efficient & so accessible. Often we were able to come back to the ship for lunch & and a rest before launching forth again. What a wonderful way to see the world. Multiple air trips have lost their appeal for us now!

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