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69 Holland America Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

Chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Iceland. The itinerary was not disappointing and our veranda cabin was excellent, with more than adequate storage. The ship is new, beautiful, and well laid out (except for the Casino’s ... Read More
Chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Iceland. The itinerary was not disappointing and our veranda cabin was excellent, with more than adequate storage. The ship is new, beautiful, and well laid out (except for the Casino’s proximity to other public venues). My wife fell in Amsterdam (before the cruise) and broke her arm. The HAL crew were extremely accommodating, from embarkation through disembarkation. The entertainment was a mixed bag. The musical venues were outstanding, especially the Lincoln Center and the Rock ‘N Roll. The main stage entertainment was spotty and evidenced what can only be described as budgetary cuts. The food was certainly adequate; however, in the MDR the food was basic. One had to go to the optional venues (at additional expense) for top quality meals. The overall dining room service ranged from mediocre to good. Perhaps this was due to the newness of the ship, which may still have been in a training state. This was especially evident in the MDR. We are currently deciding whether to continue cruising with HAL, as opposed to one of its competitors. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
Chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Iceland. The itinerary was not disappointing and our veranda cabin was excellent, with more than adequate storage. The ship is new, beautiful, and well laid out (except for the Casino’s ... Read More
Chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Iceland. The itinerary was not disappointing and our veranda cabin was excellent, with more than adequate storage. The ship is new, beautiful, and well laid out (except for the Casino’s proximity to other public venues). My wife fell in Amsterdam (before the cruise) and broke her arm. The HAL crew were extremely accommodating, from embarkation through disembarkation. The entertainment was a mixed bag. The musical venues were outstanding, especially the Lincoln Center and the Rock ‘N Roll. The main stage entertainment was spotty and evidenced what can only be described as budgetary cuts. The food was certainly adequate; however, in the MDR the food was basic. One had to go to the optional venues (at additional expense) for top quality meals. The overall dining room service ranged from mediocre to good. Perhaps this was due to the newness of the ship, which may still have been in a training state. This was especially evident in the MDR. We are currently deciding whether to continue cruising with HAL, as opposed to one of its competitors. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
This was a 10-day cruise that they stretched into 20 days. They lure you in with pictures of polar bears and puffins and whales. Not one single person on the ship saw any of those animals. Fortunately, most of the excursions were already ... Read More
This was a 10-day cruise that they stretched into 20 days. They lure you in with pictures of polar bears and puffins and whales. Not one single person on the ship saw any of those animals. Fortunately, most of the excursions were already booked by the time I got on board so I missed out on paying $180 and $200 for excursions to NOT see polar bears and puffins and whales. There were many, many sea days with absolutely nothing to do.... except hit the casino. I mean, they had the usual trivia and bingo and towel folding demos, but no lectures to tell us about the different places we were to visit, except talks about the excursions. It was a long, long trip. There were four stops in Iceland. There are not four things to see in all of Iceland, but they managed to find four ports where people could get off and not see puffins or whales. The stop at Inverness, Scotland was wonderful. Grass and flowers and trees with leaves on them. And as a bonus there were deep-water oil platforms parked in the harbor right outside our cabin. Having been an engineer in a previous life I think those platforms are the most beautiful man-made thing on the face of the earth. They were there to be disassembled, but they were still fully intact and beautiful at night all light up. This was my 23rd cruise and my room (3366) is the best room I've ever had. It was a lanai room (not a balcony) and so convenient. I could walk right out the sliding glass doors on to the promenade deck and walk all around the ship. From now on any cruise I take I will look for these lanai rooms. I've always said I've never had a bad meal on a ship, but this time some of the entrees were a little dry. As if they had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long. Bonus: The performances in the Lincoln Center Stage room were worth the price of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
After 14 cruises with this storied line, I was disappointed with the Copenhagen-Copenhagen sailing that stopped in Norway, Iceland and Scotland:(Lerwick, Inverness were pleasant surprises) All the ports met expectations and more. ... Read More
After 14 cruises with this storied line, I was disappointed with the Copenhagen-Copenhagen sailing that stopped in Norway, Iceland and Scotland:(Lerwick, Inverness were pleasant surprises) All the ports met expectations and more. Holland's receptions had no music; first ship I've been on that had no orchestra; no appetizers, Bloody Mary's had no celery. B-B King's seemed to forget that they were there to play jazz and blues, not 90% rock n roll or whatever it took to get people on the dance floor. If it hadn't been for the Lincoln Center classical performers, there would have been No entertainment. There were no production shows, only a comedian, some signer and a local group that got on in Iceland for one evening that no one understood them or their music. There was an abundance of food that was either tasteless, undeterminable or the chef was left to make whatever he/she wanted. Salads had mushy substances instead of recognizable products(tuna, chicken)???pizza slices had virtually no cheese on them; sandwiches consisted mostly of bread, mayonnaise and mustard(cold cuts, chicken or salads composed less than 10%.) Hardboiled eggs served in room service had turned gray from age. I'd rate the food OVERALL: one level below fast food! Excursions were pricey and in one instance one bus had 64 people on it with one guide in Iceland. Needless to say, it was not worth it! The ports sold themselves in terms of their beauty, offerings and ability to get around on your own. I would recommend future passengers secure their own tours. Disembarkation was efficient and could not come fast enough. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that ... Read More
My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that Holland America Line chose to stop at were small and quaint. We found some had absolutely nothing to do except to walk around have a beer and a bite of local food. Tobermory, Scotland had a great scotch distillery. They invited us to take the tour for free and were generous with bottling up some free samples of the whiskey. We walked about a mile out of town to visit a dairy and see some cheese making. No one was in sight so we walked through the barns and saw the cows and had a close up wet tongue visit with the calves. Dublin Ireland is a very busy and bustling city. The tourist maps that are put out make the town look very walkable. It is walkable but not as much as the maps make you think. DO NOT TAKE THE GREEN HOP ON HOP OF BUS. There are 3 HOHO lines, Green, Red & Blue. TAKE THE RED HOHO BUS. the blue seemed like it did not cover too much. The green line covers a lot, too long of a route, and time consuming especially if you are riding when they change drivers. The drivers will talk for 15 minutes and then the new driver will sit there and take a 30 minute break which cost us a taxi back to the ship on our 2nd day there. We ate at Nancy Hands at their back bar and had a great salmon meal on slate and of course, some pints of Guinness .We also ate ate at The Guinness Storehouse on the top floor. It was good but not real good. DO GO TO THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE. What a wonderful story the tour has to tell. Get there in the morning and there will probably not be much of or no line to get in. We took a really good Outlander Tour with Clansman Tours. Tom (owner) was great to spend the day with and share some good scotch in the van at the drop off. He picked us up at the dock. Brugge Belgium was very interesting. We (3 couples) hired a round trip taxi at the Zeebrugge port Very cheap splitting the cost. Antwerp was good also. Don't miss the Chocolate Museum, (Chocolate Nation). We wanted to go into the diamond district but since it was Saturday and Jewish Shabbat, nothing was open so we had to skip it. In Amsterdam we took a canal tour with a red HOHO boat and spent quite some time at a street market. The food was great and some stalls were difficult to pass up. In Alesund , Norway we had to ask 8 different people for directions to the bus stop going to the Sea Park Aquarium. It was very nice. In Bergen, Norway we ate at Bernard Tonghandel's stall in the fish market and had great mussels and fish. It was located near the end and close to the information cent with a good view of the Bay. er. He offered sit down dining with a good view of the Bay. Don't miss it. Take the ferry across the bay to the 3 Viking museums. Very good and informational.In Flam (Pronounced Flome), (Norwegian town names get butchered in English), we took the train and had a good time. One hour up and one hour back. The best souvenir prices we found were at the main building by the railway. Other towns had a lot of the same things but were moderately to much higher priced. This is the place to buy a caribou hide if you want one. They are MUCH less costly. There was a food truck there and we tried grilled whale. Along with generous samples they offered it was very good and the samples also. In Stavenger, Norway you will want to go to the very interesting Canning Museum, with a great guide Piers Crocker. He was funny and very informative and the Petroleum Museum. It's a very walkable town. See the Viking Center across from the docks. As with just about all European towns the streets may be curvy and not well named, Most street names are on the corner of the buildings if they are there at all. We are an older couple and find it difficult to find our way around the towns. It can be difficult to find people to give good directions. The tourist maps can also be inaccurate. As for the Holland America cruise we were on the Prinsendam which is the oldest and smallest of their ships. Our cruise was from May 6 to June 3, 2019. The ship has been sold to a German line and will go out of service for HAL on July 1. Our stateroom was not an expensive one but had a good sized unobstructed window. How ever that window along with every other window on the ship was always dirty on the outside, unlike other lines we have been on. The room was comfortable and had plenty of room for two. The TV and DVD player were constant problem all through the voyage. I think they didn't want to repair it as the ship was sold. The dining buffet was not good. Most of the food was over cooked or too salty and very repetitive almost every day. On HAL I have always found their salmon benedict my go to breakfast but not on the Prinsendam. The 1st morning I had to tell the cook how to make one and found their hollandaise sauce to be like mayonnaise with some strange flavor. I tried it the next day and it hadn't improved. It remained unimproved for the rest of the cruise. There were a few things that were acceptable for breakfast but most were repetitive. The coffee was great. Lunch usually found us on shore except for "at sea" days. Lunch and some suppers found me at the hot dog stand by the pool. This was a cool to cold weather cruise. I found the main dining room very noisy as I wear hearing aids. The waiters were very attentive to our needs and good at what they did. The menu was somewhat repetitive here also and portion size was not consistent. We would find a dish we liked with a nice size portion and the next time get a very small portion. The ship was small and some people have been lead to believe the small, older ships have a quaint ambiance that is lost on the larger ships. We ran onto people on the Prinsendam that had been on board 100+ days. I got bored and couldn't even drink my way through it due to the high cost plus a 15% sure charge on every drink. There was a movie every night and some were good. Theater was comfortable there was popcorn for the viewers. In that same room during the day America's Test Kitchen would put on a live demonstration. Went once and it was a joke. The demonstrator couldn't even make a simple omelette. I like their TV show. I couldn't figure out why Oprah is the "godmother" of HAL. All she does is appear on their on board TV channel and promoted a book she liked. The crew was friendly and for the most part helpful and caring. On the good side, Prinsendam offered a couple of free laundry rooms with 6 washers and dryers each unfortunately many were routinely out of service. The exercise room, steam room and dry sauna were free also. These we enjoyed immensely and used them often. The EXC excursions purchased from HAL were very expensive. Many passengers did not take them for that reason. I hope that HAL keeps up their ships as we have found them in the past. I also realize Prinsendam was pretty worn out. I would also recommend to HAL to install free laundry to all ships. This is such a big plus and so helpful to be able to have clean clothes. Keeps your room smelling fresher too. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I am an active, adventurous mature adult who has seen the world on 56 cruises to date. I travel solo (with the constant wish that more cruise lines would offer better rates for solo travelers!). I love the sea and sailing, and probably ... Read More
I am an active, adventurous mature adult who has seen the world on 56 cruises to date. I travel solo (with the constant wish that more cruise lines would offer better rates for solo travelers!). I love the sea and sailing, and probably enjoy the ride on the ship as much as the ports. I remember the “old” Holland America from the years before Carnival obtained it, and wish that this historic cruise line could have remained independent. I am a Two Star Mariner with Holland America’s loyalty program. This cruise had a lot of interesting ports I’d not seen before, plus the chance to sail on a unique ship before it left the company. Due to some serious quality issues, I had to rate the cruise average, but in many ways it was also very good (service and itinerary, especially). I flew to England from Boston for the cruise, spending one night at the very good Hilton hotel near Heathrow Terminal 5. I had a private chauffeur service for the scenic ride to Dover the next morning. I’ve not officially toured Dover, but have seen some of it by car several times when arriving for cruises. Embarkation was one of the best ever at the small Dover cruise terminal. The staff are mature adults with lots of smiles and courtesy. From check-in with a very gracious lady to entering my suite, the total time was 24 minutes. Might have been even faster, but I used stairs rather than elevator from the entry level deck to my suite with my carry-on bag. My luggage arrived about 20 minutes after I did. Holland America is planning on selling the “Prinsendam” to another shipping company in July. The ship had previously been in service with Regent Seven Seas, among others. It is a small “boutique” size, with an elegant, yacht-like profile, and considering its age, looked extremely well maintained on the exterior at first glance. The classic blue and white hull of Holland America is lovely in its simplicity. The full passenger contingent is close to 800, approximately, but on this sailing we had just 535 people, mostly from the USA, England, and other English-speaking countries, plus a nice mix from around the world. Crew is international, with the famous Indonesian service crews in the cabins and dining rooms. Amenities are similar to other cruise ships, but on a smaller scale. You will not find the rock climbing walls and amusement park attractions, nor the huge size so popular with today’s newer ships. Classic, almost English country estate style décor throughout the ship. Magnificent fresh floral arrangements are everywhere, and are changed frequently throughout the ship. This cruise line must have the world’s best florists onboard their ships. It’s easy to get around inside the ship, and I was given a useful map of the ship with my room keycard upon check-in. Plenty of stairs and elevators to keep things moving. Traditional wood promenade deck circles the ship, but no jogging is allowed – have to jog on the very top deck on a designated track. The ship appeared to be extremely clean on the inside, and crew were visible night and day at their assigned housekeeping tasks. There is no spectacular atrium, only a few decks with an open center with art work in it. There are gorgeous art objects and collectibles of museum quality in display cases throughout the ship, as well as very nice paintings of the ship in its various incarnations and in various places around the globe. There is an observation lounge forward and high up in the ship with a stunning view forward. Fairly small lido buffet, lovely main dining room and other small dining venues nearby. The usual “you are here” ship maps are displayed on each deck. Nice central pool area with hot tub, sheltered areas with tables for outdoor dining nearby. One popular feature was the “America’s Test Kitchen” venue, with theater-type seating for a small audience. Whatever they cooked, however, sent its aroma throughout the entire ship, as did the galley area. A small lounge area had an elegant marble fireplace, and it looked straight out of Downton Abbey – really beautiful. Huge library with game tables, books on many subjects, computer stations, comfortable seating. The few shops were not large, but staffed by extremely nice crew. Large jewelry store, small sundries/logo item shop, usual duty-free items. The guest services area was far too small and too public, and it was often hard to hear when all the agents were serving guests and people were speaking loudly to be heard over the other guests. The future cruise consultant worked at a small desk in the main foot traffic pattern just off the guest services desk area, again with no privacy. This was a very busy and popular area, with people signing up on a clipboard for time to meet with the future cruise consultant. The clipboard filled within minutes for each day’s chance to book another cruise. Lots of very loyal cruisers and Mariners Club members on this cruise with plans for more cruises. Activities were geared toward the demographics on this cruise, and the average age seemed to be 70+. Lots of board games, bridge games, Bingo, sedentary activities suited to guests with limited mobility or health issues. There was a morning stretch class, and daily yoga for those interested. Nightly shows in the small theater with typical cruise ship entertainment. Shopping opportunities while at sea. Small casino for the gamblers, but it did not seem very popular, even in the evenings. Port talks and a lecturer about what to see and do at each port. People seemed more inclined to entertain themselves with reading, using the computers, walking, eating, time in the various bars, and socializing with people they knew. Mostly couples traveling with other couples, very few single people. I did not see a child on this cruise. There was daily Mass, as well as other religious service options, during this 14-night cruise. I’m sure I missed some of the activity options, as I am a very early riser and like to get to bed at a decent hour and read. The ship had a small but nicely equipped fitness center, which was almost entirely empty every time I was in there. Service on Holland America ships is legendary. My two experienced room stewards could easily have worked in Buckingham Palace – they were quick, discrete, respectful, courteous, friendly, and once briefed on my usual schedule, had my suite cared for at my convenience every day and night of the cruise. I never really saw these two nice men, either – they did their magic and disappeared. I never saw service carts in the corridors, either, which was a blessing for those using walkers and scooters. My two dining room waiters treated me like royalty as well, as did all the head waiters and the maitre’d. More on that in the dining review. Shop crew were all nice and friendly. Some of the spa crew seemed a bit burned out, with one manicurist who really did not seem to know what she was doing – but the hair stylist was fabulous. A few of the guest services crew had “attitude” and seemed to get aggressive, argumentative and defensive far too quickly considering the job they were doing – and they were too young to really be able to have the experience and maturity to deal with older adults. The rest of the guest services desk crew were very polite and helpful. All were enviably multilingual, as were most of the service crew within the ship. Some of the best service came from Eugene, one of the engineering staff – details to follow. Some of the service crew at lower levels did not have proper English skills to understand or communicate, unfortunately, which led to frustration in both parties in various situations. There is an obvious chain of command to get things done on this ship, and the bottom links in the chain need more skill in English. There was a nice variety of shore excursions, with good detail about level of activity, special requirements, and what to expect, travel times, etc. I had booked just one excursion, a hike for one of the island ports, but it was cancelled due to lack of people booking it. I usually explore on my own anyway, and still had an excellent time. In some ports, shuttle buses were provided and proved to be a blessing as far as saving time or not having to walk if it rained. Inevitably, some of the ports required the tender service, which seemed to run more efficiently on this small ship than the big ships. It was lovely to arrive on shore and find a canopy for shelter, and hot and cold beverages nicely dispensed, plus places to sit while waiting for the tender back to the ship. The itinerary for this ship was really a great way to sample the UK and two European countries. It included the Isle of Jersey, Falmouth England, Fishguard Wales, Greenock Scotland, Isle of Skye Scotland, Isle of Mull Scotland, Dublin Ireland, Brugge/Brussels Belgium, Antwerp Belgium, and ended at Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Nearly perfect weather most of the trip, or at least dry, and my two favorite ports were the stops at Skye and Mull. Every port had something really good and valuable to enjoy, however. Holland America offered me a last-minute upgrade for reasonably small sum, so I traded my veranda cabin for a large suite. The veranda was enormous with two wicker lounges with small foot stools, and a table. The entire seaward wall of the suite was glass. King-size bed (made from two twins), with outstanding high-quality mattress and bed linens and lots of pillows. There was a desk/vanity area with mirror, makeup mirror and chair, surrounded by storage in part of the unit. Holland America offered me a last-minute upgrade for reasonably small sum, so I traded my veranda cabin for a large suite. The veranda was enormous with two wicker lounges with small foot stools, and a table. The entire seaward wall of the suite was glass. King-size bed (made from two twins), with outstanding high-quality mattress and bed linens and lots of pillows. There was a desk/vanity area with mirror, makeup mirror and chair, surrounded by storage in part of the unit. Two bedside tables, plenty of lamps and lights. A very long marble combination bar, desk, and work space area was on one wall, with multiple storage drawers and cabinets above and below. There was also a small refrigerator in a cabinet here. Lots of bar glasses, mini-bar setup in the refrigerator, offering waters, beer, sodas, etc. Evian water in liters was on a tray. Fruit is delivered upon request, as is ice. Nice upholstered chairs, and a large curved sofa in one corner of the suite, with a large table. It would be easy to entertain at least 6 people in the space. The wood furniture was traditional, but sadly tired and chipped with some stains. The soft fabric furniture fared better. Unfortunately, the sheer curtains and too-thin drapes did not do much to keep out the daylight which seemed to start about 3 AM at the high latitude of the cruise, in May. The drapes had to be re-hung at my request due to not tracking or closing properly. There was an enormous walk-in closet with plenty of good wooden hangers. There were multiple shelves within the closet, and drawers. Slippers and toweling robe were provided, as were a huge umbrella and a clothes brush and shoehorn. This suite would be marvelous for an extended cruise, between the comfortable bed, ample storage space, and some nice useful extra amenities. However, the age of the ship is exposed when looking for USB ports (none) or any electrical outlet save one at the vanity mirror. The lights were also extremely dim, which made reading in bed nearly impossible. Large modern flat-screen TV in place over the marble workspace/bar area, with OK but not great programming. Nice handy small container near the door for the keycard and do not disturb/make up room card. While the furniture showed a lot of wear and tear, the bed linens were great, and the carpeting seemed to be in good condition. Rather dark and somber colors in the suite, but that probably is intentional to hide dirt or wear. The bathroom was gorgeous peach and cream marble, and had two compartments with sliding doors. Small toilet compartment opened off the entry foyer, with a sink, and could be closed off by two sliding doors. The main part of the bathroom had a very large tub with hand-held shower spray and unfortunately a clingy shower curtain and an old-fashioned plastic bath mat. This mat had to be replaced immediately upon arrival, as it was slimy and old – this was fixed very quickly upon request. Plenty of space around the large sink, with a modern single-lever faucet system. There were several very tiny glass shelves, and two metal rings holding small glasses. Plenty of towels and towel racks, but the towels were either new and thick and fluffy or nearly threadbare and scratchy. The main bath area had its own sliding door into the main part of the suite, and if one wanted to soak in the tub and watch the sea roll by, simply open the bathroom’s sliding door and enjoy the view straight out from the tub to the glass veranda wall and the sea. The suite bathroom was provided with Elemis toiletries. This product is considered spa quality and is famous around the world, but I found the scent overpowering and the products themselves quite drying to sensitive skin. The soft water from the ship’s desalinization system literally melted the bathroom soap. The suite was serviced twice a day, but I prefer to make my own bed and just have the bath cleaned at night, which shocked my kind stewards. They did as I asked however, and joked that I made my bed better than they did. I try to stay healthy on cruises, and the fewer hands which touch my personal things and living space, the better. The ship was entirely silent at night, so sleep quality was incredibly good, even with the early daylight. AC and heat were controllable individually in the suite, but the thermostat was a challenge, as I will detail at the end of this review. The suite was located on one of the highest decks, directly below the Lido deck, and I did not need an alarm clock for early rising – the deck crew began dragging the lounge chairs around the pool, and the tables and chairs, right at 4:30 AM. I did mention this to guest services, but it did change the situation. Being up high on the ship and quite forward, there was a lot of motion during sailing. Thankfully, there were only two rather impressive storms at sea. The motion was strong enough to remove any doubt that this was a real ship doing real sailing, and it provided a surprisingly good night’s sleep. I would not ordinarily select such a location, but the suite upgrade offer was too good to pass up, and the suite selection was very limited at the time of the upgrade. I had my dinner in the main dining room, early seating and was able to sit alone as I had requested. A nearby table with an interesting couple provided enough company if they wished to visit, which was good for both of us. The small passenger population enabled very speedy, gracious service and I never saw one waiter trying to serve 20 tables as they do on other cruise lines. The head waiters often became a bit too intrusive and hovering, but I understand they genuinely wanted their guests to enjoy the food and avoid any possible problems or issues with the menus. The chefs were Indian and Indonesian, and definitely cooked the various items in their native style. The food seemed to be heavily over-salted, and loaded with very hot spices, no matter what the food item was. Many people were complaining about their legs, feet, hands swelling and blood pressure going up from the salt. After one or two dinners that were nearly inedible, I had to talk to the head waiter and maitre’d about modifying what I ate or getting something made special. I was amazed at how much the crew leaders in the dining room, including the head chef, came to my rescue and showed me the dinner menu 24 hours ahead of serving, and if there was something there I couldn’t enjoy they would make something I could eat comfortably. The menu items were at times bizarre combinations of probable leftovers, especially the starters, with a lot of fruit items. Plenty of typical American home-cooking and comfort foods, too. Long gone are the elegant Continental gourmet cuisine of earlier cruises! I heard some comments that the meats were all very greasy. Some items were recognizable on the menu and familiar, but when they arrived, were totally different and often inedible. There is some serious confusion about the use of mayonnaise in their cooking on this ship, for instance, and some of the soups were peculiar. Fish was very good, and if one loves rice, this is the cruise line for you – they make all the world's rice varieties in rice cookers, the Asian way, and the rice was better than the breads and most of the deserts. I had room service for a very simple light breakfast, and light lunch. I do not eat at cruise ship buffets anymore, again in an attempt to remain healthy, not gain weight, and stay away from food that always seems to be dried out, cold or hot when it should be hot or cold, and I’ve seen too many people put their fingers in buffet food. Room service started out as terrible experiments for lunch. Chicken soup looked like brown dish water with garbage bits floating in it, filmed with grease. I ordered a cheese quesadilla for one lunch, and it consisted of a Middle Eastern pita bread wrap, filled with hard yellow corn kernels mixed into an onion paste. No cheese. I don’t expect authentic Mexican quesadillas on an Indonesian-themed cruise ship, but this was going a bit too far. Two regular room service stewards, both cheerful and friendly, brought whatever I needed morning and noon and delivered it at the requested time to the second, breakfast and lunch time. Trays were set up beautifully, and even tea arrived quickly and elegantly. Once the stewards knew what I liked, I could ask them to custom-make an item like a quesadilla and it arrived perfectly cooked and prepared. It does take time, patience and some team effort to get cruise ship food the right way, and while there may be initial frustration, eventually on my cruise it all worked out beautifully. I believe the ship provisioned in England before it sailed, and that may account for some of the rather unique food items and ingredients. The suite’s minibar was restocked as needed, but nothing in there was free. Other than one Diet Coke, I did not have anything else from the minibar stock. A few times, I noticed some room-service plates and dining room plates which had areas of a thin film of grease on them. This ship did not appear to be welcoming to children. Perhaps there was a designated child entertainment area on board, but it there was, I never saw it. I did not see any babies or children on this cruise. Entertainment featured something for everybody, be it quiet board games, reading, the evening main show featuring the typical singers, magicians, dancers and specialty entertainers. I only watched a time of one of the pianists who performed, and he was very good. The singers seemed to be a full note or two off key, with tired old song and dance numbers in the “Broadway” style show entertainment. There were never enough seats for the early show with many people standing in the back of the theater. My favorite entertainers on the cruise were the two musicians who played chamber music in the Explorer’s Lounge. They deserved a better venue, as people constantly talked while they were playing, and there was a lot of foot traffic back and forth in front of them. One gentleman played the piano, and the other the violin. They were from Hungary and Romania, and obviously had serious and excellent classical training. Requests were welcomed, and everyone eventually heard a favorite piece. They played three 45 minute sets after dinner, and I usually went to at least two every night. It was so relaxing and soothing it was hard to stay awake, and with the older crowd as audience, some people went to sleep. Nothing bothered these two young gentlemen during their performing, even enormous rough seas one night. They should have been a featured concert in the main theater. Very sociable and gracious to chat with, as well. There were a variety of movies on the TV system in the cabins, but some were old and outdated. Lots of “commercials” for shore excursions and shopping on the TV, as well. There was a singer and/or pianist in the bar or bars, but as I don’t do the bar scene, can’t really report on that. There was a late-night DJ or some kind of music advertised, but most of the guests retired early. The best entertainment I saw in the theater was a music group brought onboard during the long port call at Dublin, with classic Irish humor, songs and some fabulous music and traditional Irish dancing. This group had some of us singing with them and dancing in the aisles! Fabulous! The last night of the cruise, the ship slowly moved along the Scheldt River and into a series of locks on its way to Amsterdam’s busy port. With the early daylight and needing to be up very early for the express departure, I was up at 3:30 AM, and enjoyed watching the slow progress down the river and the locks. There was a hazy blue mist or fog part of the way, and huge flocks of lovely white swans serenely floating in the water as the shipped quietly slipped past them. Worth getting up early to see this last bit of serenity before returning to the reality of a big city and hectic airport experience. Disembarkation was as nice as embarkation, at least for me. I chose the express departure option, and at 7:15 AM was able to haul my own load of bags off the ship and into the terminal, right on time. It took probably 10 minutes altogether, and was a blessing, as I had a private tour booked for Amsterdam before being taken to the airport by my fantastically good guide. While most of my cruise experience was really very good, unfortunately there were some things which made me seriously consider leaving the ship at the first port after Dover. I was wondering about the condition of the ship, considering its imminent sale in two months. I’d not sailed with Holland America in 15 years, and was also curious if the level of service was the same and the serene, adult, quiet ambience still reigned. Probably the most annoying issue was the appearance of dirty brown water, twice during the cruise, from the bathroom sink and shower and in the toilet. Some problem with the storage tank, supposedly. Of course this necessitated requesting bottled water. I can’t digest the Evian water placed in the stateroom, and asked for something different. I spent most of one whole day trying to communicate with people lacking English that I needed to get a different brand of water, and they kept bringing more Evian. Had to hassle with the guest services crew about this, and finally a gentleman who was in charge of the main bar found two varieties in the crew provision area and sent a bottle of each to my suite for me to try. Both were good and I chose one brand. I was told the water would be free for the cruise, and a large quantity was delivered. I had to wash my face and brush my teeth with this water, as the brown water took two days at least to finally clear. I never trusted it after that anyway. A few days before the end of the cruise, a bill came for the last delivery of bottled water, and I protested that it was supposed to be free. Guest services would not budge however, and I had to pay for the water. The second issue was the ventilation system in the suite. Noise level out of the bathroom vents and the main suite area was that of a jet in flight. I called guest services, who sent two useless people who could not communicate, and then Eugene arrived – the ship needs 100 Eugenes, he was that skilled and wonderful. He removed the suite’s main grill and pulled out foot after foot of filthy, blackened, disgusting sooty foam filter material. The carpet was coated with this stuff, and a tray of clean glasses was soiled. The soot and dust floated throughout the suite, and I don’t want to think about what we were all breathing. I covered my nose and mouth and got as far away from this mess as I could, but it was still in the air. Eugene vacuumed out the ducting as far as the vacuum wand reached, and then put clean new foam filters in and adjusted the air flow. Blessed silence finally. He then did the same thing with the bathroom vents, which had the same filth in them, and they too became silent while doing their job. This is something which should have been cleaned and routinely inspected and apparently had been neglected, perhaps in view of the upcoming sale. For whatever reason, this issue was addressed in the early evening, but due to the mess it ran on into the late evening. Unfortunately, the stewards, who were called by Eugene to clean up the horrible mess and replace the soiled chair, did not realize that the water was still running brown in the bathroom – they turned on the water full force to check it, which splashed all over the just-cleaned bathroom, and they had to clean it all over again, as well as clean up the bathroom mess from the vents. It took hours, and was a terrible way to spend an evening on a cruise. The ship had a nice little laundry for guest on several decks. This was somewhat of a challenge to use, however, as the instructions on the machines were in Dutch. There was a translation of sorts, thankfully, and use of the facilities was free. Even detergent was provided. Nice when everything worked. However, there were problems with some of the machines, which often stopped mid-cycle. Once again, I called the fabulous Eugene, but had to go through several episodes of very young crewmen trying to fix things but not understanding a word of English. They had to call their supervisors, who talked to me and then called Eugene, which wasted a lot of time. I doubt they ever fixed everything so all the machines worked at the same time, but at least the laundry got done. I’ve never seen such complicated washers in my life, but it beats having to wash things in the bathroom sink, and was a good way to learn some basic Dutch words, no kidding. A cruise ship is a foreign country, so why not take advantage of what one can learn while having (or enduring) new experiences. If we want things to be the same as at home, just stay home. I was mildly annoyed to be told that I could not jog on the promenade deck. It was usually deserted, and I jog silently and slowly. I was told by Guest Services that the bridge “would get me” and stop me if I used the prom deck, so I was stuck up in the wind, stack soot and some cigarette smoke on the top of the ship where the jogging track was. Never could figure out what the issue was about the prom deck. My one manicure in the spa was a disaster, performed by a burned-out or unhappy young woman who did not really know the proper way to do a manicure. My nails looked horrible, and it was very painful. On the journey up the Scheldt River to Antwerp during the night, the ship passed an enormous refinery or chemical plant or some such structure which seemed to stretch for miles. I was awakened by the stench of what seemed to be burning hair and garbage, and got up to look in the cabin for a problem, and looked outside to see this facility erupting huge clouds of smoke into the air. I opened the door to the veranda, and could smell the stink coming from this place. The horrible odor made further sleep impossible, and permeated the entire ship for almost two days. My first purchase in Antwerp was a solid air freshener to put in my suite – nothing got rid of the stench, even with the veranda door opened once in Antwerp. I was not the only guest who complained about this, and there wasn’t much to be done – there had to be some source of ventilation for air into the inside of the ship, even if the air was polluted. The thermostat in my suite was placed almost at ceiling height up one wall. The tiny numbers, in Celsius, were nearly impossible to read even with strong reading glasses. Whoever decided to place this important device at such an impractical height was either 7 feet tall or a fool. With the large variables in the cruise climates, both heat and cooling were necessary at times. Outrageous pricing on the internet – one paid for 24 hours of usage, rather than by the minute and it averaged out to about $24 US per day, even if used for minutes or an hour or two. Costs were slightly lower with buying a package, but it was still far too expensive. Service was slow, and several times could not be accessed at all from my suite. I had to use the public computers, and was thankful to see large canisters of antibacterial wipes near each station. Lots of very sick people in this ship, coughing and sneezing all over everything, including the keyboards and computers. Guest services, or somebody in the crew, kindly delivered a large plate of chocolate-covered strawberries to my suite as the list of problems began to increase, but since I cannot digest fruit, I had to sadly decline the peace offering. In summary, despite the long list of problems, Holland America is still the proud old company it began as, even if Carnival has imposed its cost-cutting measures in some areas. There was still a feeling of quality and class, especially on this lovely older ship and among the senior and “mature” passenger contingent. It was a very quiet cruise, with none of the carnival-barker hawking of “seminars”, art auctions, bingo games, etc. Especially appreciated was the fact that nobody used the little line about “have an EXCELLENT day,”, which is really just trolling for good reviews, as Princess and other cruise lines so irritatingly continue to do. The American cruise director had a lovely speaking voice and would make a few short important announcements as required, but otherwise it was blessedly silent. No blasting of loud, noise-machine type music in the public spaces, either. The captain was magnificent in his ability to clearly communicate and keep the guests informed – very good with his detailed nautical reports once a day as well. The famed Indonesian and Asian level of service is still there, maybe even better than years ago. I was impressed and gratified that the long letter I sent to the main office of Holland America upon my return home, listing the issues which were extremely upsetting and annoying during my cruise, was actually read by a human and generated a reply from a human, and not a computer-generated generic “so sorry” letter. The agent sent a very nice letter to me in reply, in a timely manner, acknowledging my concerns and problems, and seemed genuinely distressed that my cruise was not 100% perfect in every way. I was also given a large discount on my next booked cruise. This is what one would expect from a company with as old and reassuring a history of customer satisfaction as Holland America’s, but if such expectations could usually be counted on in the past, they have become lovely surprises when they turn up in the world of cruising today with the level of guest satisfaction at the excellent level far less common than it used to be. Holland America is clearly proud of its reputation, and obviously seeks to retain it. Would I sail on this cruise line again? I have a short coastal cruise booked for this fall, and hoping the good things remain and the problem issues are few or non-existent. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea ... Read More
The Celtic Explorer started in Dover and traveled to Jersey, Falmouth, Fishguard, Greenock, Skye, Mull, Dublin (2 days), Zebrugge, Antwerp (2 days) and Amsterdam. The main problem with this 12-day itinerary was that with only two sea days, ports came fast and furious. There was no sea day between embarkation and Jersey. For folks flying directly from the States there was no time to recover from jet lag. If you get travel fatigue or suffer from jet lag this is something to consider. This itinerary also had 4 tender ports. Two of them (Jersey and Fishguard) tended in rough seas. Some people opted not to go ashore or could not because of disability. Other tender ports were Skye, Mull. We enjoyed all the ports. In Jersey we went to the Maritime Museum and while we hadn’t intended it, the museum took up most of our day, it was so engaging. We walked around town a little after the museum. In Falmouth we walked around town, went to the Maritime Museum and took the train to Truro. If you do that you may should know that there is a railway station at Falmouth Port, not just downtown. We walked to the downtown station, it was a nice walk, and returned to the port station.. In Fishguard we wanted to go to St. Davids, but because of the short port call we could not get there and back on public transport, so we took the HAL tour. It was worth it, with an engaging guide who was a natural story teller. St. Davids has a beautiful gothic cathedral, bishop’s house ruins. It is a charming small town where we enjoyed tea and scones before walking through the town market, In Greenock we visited with friends in Glasgow, but also took time to go to St. Mungo’s Museum, a museum presenting information and art from the different religions practiced in Glasgow. The art was inspiring but the exhibit I liked the best took us through the stages of life as celebrated by each of the religions covered, birth, coming of age, marriage, adulthood, elderhood and death. We arrived in Skye (Portee) on a Sunday so local buses were not running. We went ashore and found a skipper giving wildlife tours from a boat. When the tour was over some of our cruise mates who had booked taxis for a morning tour were back and we were able to take a taxi to some of the places outside of town that we wanted to see. Helen, our cab driver, was the last baby born in the Skye hospital before it closed down. She was full of stories and local lore. On Mull (Tobermory) we enjoyed walking around town, stopping at the aquarium where all the inmates are there only for a month before being returned to the sea. There was a touch tank and exhibitions on local sea life. The Tobermory distillery offers scotch tastings. The shops were multi-purpose, books and fishing tackle or iron monger (hardware) with wine and spirits. We lost ourselves in the book store for a while, got into conversation with the book seller, and the iron monger. We enjoyed scones and tea in a café that used to be a church. Dublin was a two day stop. The dock is away from downtown. There was a shuttle bus available for a hefty fee. It drops you off across from the Oscar Wilde statue in Marion Park. I recommend being on deck for the docking. The ship had to make some tight maneuvers interesting to watch. We pulled up close to downtown before turning around to face the mouth of the River Liffey when we docked. In Dublin we wandered the streets and when we saw something interesting, we went in. This included The Church, a bar set in the former St. Mary’s church which, appropriately, had been the family church of the Guinness family. We also had tea and scones in Brewley’s Café, which houses a luncheon theater, where we enjoyed a one act play. We found several small galleries and exhibits and wandered Temple Bar. When we heard music we liked we went in to listen. This was a relaxing way to see Dublin. It’s not our first time so we were not in a rush to see the Book of Kells and other well knows sights. After a much-needed sea day it was Zeebrugge. Since we’ve spent a lot of time in Belgium, we had no need to take the train to either Bruges or Ghent. Instead we bought a day pass on the tram that runs along the coast from the Dutch border practically to France. We could get on and off whenever we wanted. We had lunch in De Hann Ann Zee, a charming late 19 century beach resort where Albert Einstein spent some time after leaving Germany. If you’ve been to Bruges or Ghent this is a good alternative. Two days in Antwerp were not enough. We bought a mass transit day pass and enjoyed going the Art Nouveau neighborhoods. We also enjoyed the Cathedral, the Central Railway Station, Antwerp’s “second cathedral” and visiting churches filled with baroque art, including works by Rubens. We went to the Mas Museum and walked the old town and red-light districts. As much time as we had spent in Belgium we had never been to Antwerp. It was the most wonderful surprise of the cruise. We were tired when we arrived in Amsterdam because of the fast pace of the cruise so we took the tram to Central Station and enjoyed an hour-long cruise on the canals before getting on for the Norwegian Fjords Explorer cruise. When we got off the ship in Amsterdam from the Celtic Explorer, they did not stamp our passport because we were going back on the ship. When we got off after the Norwegian Fjords Explorer there was no one to stamp our passport because everyone had gotten on in Amsterdam. As a result We were detained at the airport leaving Amsterdam because we did not have a proper entry stamp. The immigration people were polite and helpful, there was no problem there, but it was time consuming. Had we not arrived at the airport three and a half hours before the flight, instead of the recommended two we would have missed our flight. We finally got to the plane at the tail end of boarding. Part of the problem was the 30-minute walk from immigration to the gate. Be prepared if you fly out of AMS. Here are a couple of other notes. Because of the small number of sea days there was no outside lecturer on board. We missed this but Brett, the EXC Guide gave good port talks. May was a good time to cruise. We had unusually good weather and the ship was not nearly full. Prinsendam has a capacity of 835. On the Celtic Explorer there were 567 passengers on board, no lines for dinner, an uncrowded lido, no need to arrive early to get a good seat for evening shows, and for less hassle tendering. I’m sorry to see Prinsendam go out of Holland America service. We’ve enjoyed Prinsendam in the past. She’s an older ship but we like her size, her aft saltwater pool good for swimming laps, her classic but understated appointments, her generous cabins and her walk-in closets. We’ve been on other HAL ships and enjoyed ourselves, but not as much as on Prinsendam. We will be reading Cruise Critic Reviews to try to find an new favorite. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This is a long, "Log style" review. If you just want the summary scroll all the way down. Prinsendam 8-19-18; Scottish highlands and Icelandic Fiords We left Pennsylvania for Newark airport a little after noon on Friday ... Read More
This is a long, "Log style" review. If you just want the summary scroll all the way down. Prinsendam 8-19-18; Scottish highlands and Icelandic Fiords We left Pennsylvania for Newark airport a little after noon on Friday August 17. We enjoyed an uneventful drive to our reserved off-airport parking and they quickly took us to terminal B. There was no line at Aer Lingus check in and we dropped off our two bags. I noted they marked the bags for “Quick transfer.” The arriving flight was delayed and by the time we pulled away from the gate we were an hour late. Thanks to a brisk tailwind our arrival in Dublin was only 15 minutes late. We quickly transferred to our connection and were able to change our seats to an aisle and middle for the short flight to Amsterdam. This flight was also delayed and we arrived at our gate nearly 30 minutes late. It took about an hour to get through immigration and obtain our luggage, which was about the last ones off our flight. Schiphol airport has changed since our last visit and we had a time finding an ATM. The prior “Row” of competing ATM’s is gone and it seems ABN bank and Travelex now have a duopoly. We used the Travelex ATM and they now have a 2 Euro charge to use the ATM. That is still the least costly way to obtain Euros. We had a light, late breakfast at “Dutch and Delicious.” We obtained our Chip Kaarts (transit debit card) and left for the train to Amsterdam. We ended up on an express train with no stops. While that was fast, it was not as luggage-friendly as the regular train. We would take the regular train when we do the return. From Central Station, it is a 5 minutes’ walk to the Amsterdam Doubletree. We agreed to take a courtyard view room rather than our assigned harbor view in order to get an early check in. The courtyard room is actually quiet while any room with a view will have some noise from the trains immediately adjacent. We took showers and changed. We walked through town to DAM Square where we had pre-bought tour tickets for the Dutch Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is a very nice tour however with being so tired after about half the tour we had enough. We went looking for a late lunch / early dinner and ended up at the central library next to our hotel. The LaPlace restaurant we had enjoyed on our last visit has been replaced with another restaurant and we did not think it was as good. Our hotel stay included access to the executive lounge so we enjoyed beverages and snacks in the evening and called it a long day. Sunday, August 19 – Amsterdam We woke about 6:15 after eleven hours of wonderful sleep. Breakfast began at 7:00 in the lounge and we were there shortly thereafter. Omelets were made to order if desired and lots of nice coffees and teas were available. The city outside was very different on this Sunday morning (very quiet) as opposed to a very bustling Saturday! We took a short walk enjoying the quiet and snapped photos. We repacked everything we took apart at the Doubletree and began walking back to Central Station to catch tram #26. The tram pulled up just as we arrived. We took the tram for the short ride to the Amsterdam Passenger Terminal. Upon arrival at the terminal we followed signs for the Prinsendam (as the Koningsdam was also in port) and dropped our luggage. We proceeded through check in and joined the line for security. By about 11:40 we were on board and in our cabin #270 on Deck 7. We put our soiled clothing in a laundry bag and hung it outside the cabin. We walked down to our traveling friend’s cabin at 276 and to our delight they had just arrived! After a short chat we went to the dining room for lunch. Lunch was very nice and we had a great time catching up since we were last together15 months ago. We also spoke with the dining room host about possibly changing to a dinner table in the smaller dining room. We have enjoyed that on previous Prinsendam cruises as it is quieter. We walked over a good portion of the ship pointing out some of the unique features of Prinsendam. We returned to our cabins and found our luggage delivered so unpack we all did. Everything was stored away before the muster drill. We attended the muster drill and at its conclusion were told we were leaving as quickly as possible to make room for another ship docking early due to a medical emergency. The sail away from Amsterdam is very nice. We had a narrated departure and enjoyed seeing the various buildings and landmarks along the way. Part of the sail away is industrial but portions have nice residential neighborhoods as well. Along the way at times the water is much higher than the surrounding land demonstrating how the land has been reclaimed from the sea. While we were at dinner we reached to locks to the North Sea. The wind became very strong but regardless I walked around the promenade taking photos of the lock area. Dinner food was very good but service was lacking. It was 7:45 by the time we left the dining room, 2:15 after we arrived. Once we hit the open sea we could feel the movement of the sea in the 2.5 meter waves. This made for great sleeping and by 8:30 we called it a night. The clocks go back an hour tonight as Scotland is an hour behind European time. Monday, August 20 at Sea We woke and prepared for breakfast in the dining room. We were there when they opened at 8:00 as we have a 9:30 cruise critic meet and greet. Breakfast was very nice and prompt. We enjoyed our company. The meet and greet was a nice success with about 25 of the 50 on our roll call attending. Half is about what we expected and everything worked our nicely. We met our friends at the M&G and next went to the 11:00 destination talk on Edinburgh. The destination guide is very good and we enjoyed his talk. I walked around noting the sun has come out and taking photos. We met back at our cabin and went to the Pinnacle Grille a few minutes before our 12:30 lunch reservation. We were immediately seated and truly enjoyed our lunch. At 2:00 the ladies went to flower arranging demonstrations while I enjoyed the aft pool. The aft pool is salt water and it was a little brisk. After 10 minutes or so floating around the pool I moved to one of the hot tubs. It was very nice just relaxing in the hot tub before drying off and heading back to the cabin to ready for our invite to a 4:30 cocktail gathering hosted by our travel agency prior to the first gala evening. The first Gala Dinner tonight was not pleasant. Despite arriving on time, and a special request to our wait team to get us out before 7:30 so we could attend the captain’s welcome reception, this was not to be. They seem to be split between fixed seating and ‘as you wish’ dining. Being at table 105 is a distraction at best as we see the constant line of as you wish diners waiting for seating. DW’s special diet order was mixed up and one of our tablemate’s meals had been giving to another table making our main courses staggered. My water glass was empty for a long time and when enjoying my beef there was nothing to wash it down. By 7:15, DW left to go to the lido in search of something she could eat. I ended up meeting with the assistant DR Manager and expressed our concerns with the dining room service. He promised to get back to us on all matters. They tried to deliver DW’s meal to her in the lido but it again had issues. She made up a big salad instead. We did attend the welcome toast followed by the cast show “American Crossing.” While we have seen this on a prior cruise this is an excellent show and the cast did a great job. We returned to our cabin and called it a night. One of our friends attended the piano bar entertainer and told us he was very good. We will need to try this soon! Tuesday, August 21 – Rosyth, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK We were up early to prepare for a very long day of touring and excitement in Scotland! I did not go up on deck for the sail under the three bridges crossing the Firth of Forth as it was very foggy early in the morning. We had breakfast delivered to our room and it was okay. We met our touring buddies at 8:10 in the Ocean Bar and joined the line for UK Passport inspection. We were through the line by about 8:25 and off the ship to meet Helen, our tour guide with “Local Eyes tours.” We were off to the Central Highlands and must say we sure saw a lot. Helen began by driving us over the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge. She drove us through South Queensferry and we stopped for a photo stop under the railway bridge. We then headed out of town with our first stop being the Kelpies, towering metal horses from mythical Scottish legends. The visitor’s center provided a nice chance for a rest stop as well. Added to the tour at my request was a stop at the Felkirk Wheel. This one of a kind engineering feat allowed the reopening of a canal system into the highlands. We then toured Stirling Castle. Stirling is largely restored to as close to the original as historians can figure it out. After the castle we stopped in a nearby village at a market, used the ATM, and bought lunch items which we enjoyed in the park at Loch Lubnaig (Crooked Lake). Helen also provided samples of two very different Scotch Whiskeys for us to try. At the lake there was a coffee shop and nice teas were enjoyed. We drove to Doune Castle and enjoyed touring this mostly original and unfurnished landmark. Doune is rather famous of the castle used for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as well as the TV series Highlander. The audio guide is narrated by one of the actors from Monty Python. Finally, our last stop was the village of Culross, the best example of a 16-17th century village in Scotland. We enjoyed a walk through the village. We returned to the port at exactly 5:00. We had a quick dinner, with DW’s special order being delivered to the room and I obtained some excellent Prime Rib and good fish from the Lido. Then we gathered at 6:35 to head out and meet our driver from Capitol Cars to take us to Edinburgh for the Royal Military Tattoo. Our driver was delayed by traffic but we still made it into town with plenty of time to spare. Edinburgh is very crowded with both the Tattoo taking place as well as the “Fringe festival” with 5 stages of (mostly) free entertainment throughout town. The Tattoo performance is a 10 on a scale of 1-10. The Tattoo is simply incredible and very hard to describe. As US citizens, we were surprised by the amount of positive USA involvement, from the pipe and drum corps dressed as during the revolutionary war and the positive portrayal of George Washington, to the US Air Force Drill team’s performance. I can only wish everyone at home would be as supportive of the USA as the Scottish are. The final farewell before the fireworks was “Auld Lang Syne” and as the audience was standing we used that as an opportunity to exit before the crowd. We made it down to our pick up point and I let Capitol Cars know we were ready. Our driver and van were there within 10 minutes and we returned to the Prinsendam at 11:30, just as the late night Lido buffet was opening. We enjoyed some time to unwind with a snack and as the bus groups began arriving a little after midnight we called it a night. This was a very full day but well worth it! Wednesday, August 22, 2018 – At Sea We slept in this morning after the long day before. With no hurry on a delightful sea day we slowly began getting ready and after being dressed I was looking at the daily schedule to find that it listed the Lido closing for breakfast at 10:00 and it was now 10:05! I went up to the lido and an Omelet cook generously made me two omelets for myself and DW, who followed me about ten minutes later. We kept breakfast light as DW had special ordered a dining room lunch for 12:30. We attended the “Ask the Captain” session at 11:00. This was very nice and the captain dispelled the opinion shared on cruise critic that certain US requirements prompted the sale of the Prinsendam. Being the only ship of its kind in the HAL fleet simply makes it too difficult to maintain as it continues to age as all the other ships come from the same shipyard and despite major size differences share many components. He is sad to see it go but is looking forward to being the captain during the last four or so sailings next Spring. We enjoyed lunch in the dining room and then relaxed a bit as we were still tired from the day before. We attended the travel talk by Brett at 3:00 and then enjoyed happy hour and the Ocean trio at the Ocean bar before dinner. Speaking of dinner, we have been moved, along with our friends, to table 27 in the small dining room! Dinner tonight was excellent with the main course complete at 6:40. This is so much better, relaxing, and enjoyable than where we were. The performer tonight was Scottish Soprano Elaine Gray. We sat near the back not knowing if we would enjoy an opera singer but she was very good and mixed up the style performed quite a lot. We listened to the Ocean trio and went with our friends to the crow’s nest for the late happy hour before calling it a night at 10:00. Tomorrow we visit Torshavn, capitol of the Faroe Islands. Thursday, August 23, Torshavn, Faroe islands We enjoyed breakfast is the Lido. Some of the servers know us and take good care of our needs. We had a ship’s tour to the Vestmanna Seacliffs. The provided motor coach was first class with just enough room to be comfortable. We stopped at an overlook on the hill above Torshavn for a photo stop. Across the road was a Hyundai dealership. The narrated ride was informative and the roads were in excellent condition. The Faroe Islands is greatly expanding its inter-island road network by building bridges (two) between islands and tunnels (two) with two more planned the longest of which will be 26 KM long with a small breather on a small island midway. Due to their weather the ferries are not reliable as storms often create unsafe conditions. We reached the town of Vestmanna and boarded a nice boat to sail to the seacliffs. The first 40% of the boat trip was magnificent. Regretfully the weather turned a few moments before reaching the main cliffs and with pouring rain I was not able to get any clear photos of these cliffs or the birds thereon. I nodded off on the way back but the weather did not improve much until we were almost back to the dock. We took a faster route back with the bus (through a new mountain tunnel) and we took the port shuttle to downtown. We walked around and took photos of the Danish Royal family yacht as they were visiting Torshavn. We also stopped in a few shops but made no purchases. Returning to the Prinsendam to our delight we found it was “Dutch lunch” in the Lido. Lunch was good and the desserts were incredible. Olle Bollen, Apple Floppies, Butter Letter and other wonderful Dutch treats were on all the dessert table. I would not need much dinner that night! Still recovering from our long day in Edinburgh, it was time to rest a while before getting ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice although I kept it very light. After dinner we enjoyed the Ocean Band and were able to dance for a bit. The entertainer was Ruben Vilagrand, billed as a “Unique Illusionist & Visual Artist.” I will say it was unique. Ruben never said a word the entire performance. Not really my cup of tea but it was different. Immediately after the show we made it to the Crow’s Nest for Piano Bar Entertainer Steve. We enjoyed him so much we made it to 10:00 before calling it an evening. The seas are 6-9 feet and the Prinsendam rocked us to sleep. Tomorrow begins six days in Iceland! Friday, August 24, Djupivogur, Iceland This is our first tender port. With a 9:00 private group tour we had some concern over getting everyone off timely. We went to the 4 & 5 star waiting area in the Ocean Bar and were quickly dispatched to the tenders. Much to our surprise, our touring friends were already ashore upon our arrival. We met our guide, Hrönn Jónsdóttir, who led the group of ten on a tour of the area. We began by visiting the “Elves’ church,’ rock formations that sing from interaction with the wind. We next visited two beautiful waterfalls, each quite different from the other. Hrönn showed us a local farm and told us the value was about 90,000,000 Krone (about $900,000 USD). We made our way back to town where we walked along the harbor enjoying the ‘egg’ sculptures made of polished granite, each egg commemorating one of the local bird species. Our last stop was the best – the black sand beach with magnificent rock formations. We shot many photos here. The black sand is a fine powder and the contrast with the ocean and mountains is stunning. Hrönn returned us to town, dropping a few of us off at the local bank to use the ATM and bringing the rest of the group to the tender dock. Walking back to the tenders we stopped in a local souvenir shop but made no purchases. We ended up on the same tender as the rest of our group and enjoyed lunch in the lido. Just as Hrönn predicted, the last buses from the long tour to the glacier did not return until nearly 3:00 and Prinsendam finally pulled away at about 3:40. Dinner was very good with our wait team taking good care of us. We were done before 7:00 but lingered a bit talking. The performer in the show was Pete Neighbor, a clarinet player. Backed up by the band Pete played a tribute to many of the great leaders of the “Big band” era. Pete created some of his own scales as I certainly heard notes never before heard from a clarinet. After the show we were exhausted and called it a night. Saturday, August 25 – Akureyri, Iceland Prinsendam docked a few minutes early in pretty Akureyri. One thing that became very clear on this day was that if one doesn’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait a few minutes and it will change. We had a car rental reserved from Europcar, and they were literally right outside the port gate. I had to call and within a few minutes a young lady arrived with our keys and a credit card reader. No rental agreement to sign and off in a full size Toyota on an adventure with another couple we met on our roll call. We had planned five stops and five stops were made. Number one was the “Waterfall of the gods” (Godafoss) which was a wonderful sight. The name of the waterfall comes from the first Christian leader in Iceland who threw all his statues of gods into the waterfall. We hiked around to see the falls from several angles, made a brief rest room stop, and headed on to stop number two, the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations (Dark Castles) near lake Myvatn (mosquito lake). The Lava Formations are unique in the world and we certainly never saw anything like this. We also have seen nothing quite like the midges that swarm around any living thing when there is little wind. While they do not aggressively bite, they sure are a pest. This was the only spot we encountered a real midge issue and surely cut this visit a bit short due to them. Next we moved on the #3, the Namafjall Geothermal area. At Namafjall it certainly looks other-worldly. I can’t imagine that numerous Sci-Fi movies have not been filmed here! Between the bubbling mud pools and the orange mountain hue, craters and ridges, flowing heated water, this is something to experience! We walked around trying to avoid the worst of the direct Sulphur fumes and took many photos before heading to stop #4, our longest stop, at the Myvatn Nature Baths. We were ahead of schedule so we took a few minutes for a light lunch before changing to enjoy the baths. The water was delightfully warm and it didn’t matter to us if it was raining, foggy, cloudy, or sunny. During our 80 minutes in the baths, we experienced all four of these weather conditions. One thing that seems very true is that if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five or ten minutes and it may change! This is a wonderful spot with very pretty views of Lake Myvatn but without the midges. Leaving the baths, we made stop number 5, the Skutstaoir Pseudocraters. We walked the 1.5KM trail around these unique volcanic craters, formed when lava interacted with lake water some 2200 years ago. There are many birds in the area and the breeze had picked up enough that the midges were gone. Next we drove back to Akureyri where we filled up the gas (3600 Krone, about $33.50) for a quarter-tank. We stopped to take a photo of Prinsendam at dock and dropped off the car. We returned to the ship through a gift shop (the only way into the port area) but carrying wet towels we did not stop to look. We were back on the ship at 4:30 giving us just enough time to get ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice and we were finished before 7:00. We listened to the Ocean Band for a while and attended the singers and dancers show, Stage & Screen. We are sure we have seen this before but it was a good performance. We left the show for the crow’s nest and enjoyed Stevie until about 10:10. We hated to leave as that left Stevie with an audience of two but we needed to call it a night. Sunday, August 26, Isafjordur Iceland No need to rush out this morning as our walking tour doesn’t meet until 10:20. We slept in and enjoyed breakfast in the Lido. We left the ship a bit early and walked around before finding our meeting spot. Four of the eight on this tour did not find the spot immediately so we did begin a little delayed. This was a nice tour of the industrial and historic part of town. It was billed at 90 minutes but it actually ran 2.5 hours. Our guide, Herbert, told us a lot about living in the northernmost town in Iceland. Isafjordur is surrounded by mountains and they are sheltered from the worst of the winds. Normally their temperature range is from -5 C in winter to +9 or 10C in summer. There is still snow on the higher mountain tops near the town. The tour brought us back to near the ship. An enterprising individual had set up a souvenir trailer with a “Last ship of the season sale.” We took advantage and bought Icelandic gloves and a hat with some of the Krone we had. Back on board we had a nice lunch, took photos of the surrounding mountains, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon before dinner. We made arrangements for a Pinnacle Grill dinner near the end of the cruise and pre-ordered DW’s meal for the next evening’s Canaletto dinner. Dinner tonight was the best meal of the cruise so far. The Prime Rib was large and perfect. The sweet & soup shrimp (tempura style) were great. We left the dining room for the game show in the showroom; it was entertaining watching the proceedings. The show was a variety show. Regretfully they started with Ruben Vilagrand, who talked this time and put us all to sleep. Elaine Gray completed the show and despite a cold was wonderful with three numbers including Amazing Grace and Danny Boy. The highlight of the evening was certainly Stevie in the Piano Bar. He had a bigger crowd with lots of interaction. Samantha the cruise director also circulated among the guests. At 10:15 we called it a night. Monday, August 27, 2018 – Reykjavik, Iceland No rush this morning as our Golden Circle with Geothermal Bakery tour doesn’t meet until 9:15. A leisurely morning with breakfast in the lido was enjoyed. Prinsendam must have ‘drawn the short straw’ as we are docked 4.5 KM from Reykjavik town center. We need to take a shuttle bus (or walk three blocks) to the ship’s tour buses or a taxi or shuttle to town for 2200 Krone each. We met for our tour and walked the three blocks to the tour bus. This was a great tour, among other reasons we had a full size coach for just 24 guests, so we had lots of room to spread out. Our tour guide was very informative the entire time. We headed out of town first to Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir is a Unesco World Heritage Site for two reasons. It is the site of the first Icelandic parliament in 930 AD and was the capitol for many years. Additionally, this is the only place in the world where the North American and Eurasian plates are above sea level and the separation (by an inch a year) is actually visible. Leaving there, we headed to Laugarvatn to visit the “Geothermal bakery.” There, we witnessed the digging up of the bread pot buried in +100 C mud, where it baked for 24 hours. The bread was cut, spread with Icelandic butter, and then fresh local trout was added on top. There was plenty for seconds (and thirds) and this stop was greatly enjoyed by all. Third, we went to visit the Gullfoss (Golden) waterfall. The waterfall is actually a series of two falls. At that time the wind had become so strong that it literally ripped my glasses off my face. Fortunately at the time I was returning to the bus from the falls so they fell in a field and I was able to retrieve them. The last stop was at Geysir. Yes, this is the original Geysir from which all other Geysers are named. We watch two eruptions and caught them on video. We then drove back to the ship in a wind-driven rain. With no rain during our stops we were most fortunate with the weather as it rained in Reykjavik nearly all day. We stay docked tonight and tomorrow have a day planned in town, hopefully the weather will be better! Dinner tonight is late for us as we are eating at Canaletto, the Italian restaurant on board. Monday night the featured special is swordfish thus our choice of tonight. This also avoided a mad rush to make our 5:30 dinner in the dining room. Dinner ended up being less than great. In 20 or so HAL cruises this was our first time in Canaletto, and the only reason we went there was for the swordfish. Of course, once seated, they told us the swordfish had gone bad and they did not receive their new shipment today. We ordered Sea Bass, after double-checking that this was real “Sea bass” and not “Mediterranean sea bass.” It ended up being Mediterranean Sea bass. While it was okay it was not what we expected. We won’t return to Canaletto. There was no show tonight and it was late so we called it a night. Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - Reykjavik, Iceland Tuesday brought mostly sunny skies and we caught the first hop-on; hop-off bus. The Ho-Ho bus was less than satisfactory. The commentary was unreliable as the connections did not all work. We rode the Ho-Ho around to the stop for the famous “Church of the hill,” the Hallgrims-Kirkja. We took photos of the church and the Leif Ericson statue out front. From the church we walked down the main shopping street to downtown. We went by the parliament building and city hall, and toured the old harbor. We thought about having lunch in town but decided we didn’t want to drop $100 on lunch for two. We tried to find the Ho-Ho stop #4 but couldn’t find it so we walked to stop#5 at the Maritime Museum. After a rather long wait we rode the Ho-Ho back to the ship. If we had to do this again we would not have used the Ho-Ho as for the 16000 Krone the four of us paid I’m sure we could have gotten a taxi both ways. But better yet in Reykjavik, get out of town. There is too much to see outside of town. Back on Prinsendam we had a nice late lunch in the lido. They had wonderful cod and I made myself a fish sandwich. I enjoyed the hot tub and then started to get ready for the evening. Our friends had an appointment with the future cruise consultant, Sheryll. She could not match the pricing on a potential cruise in February that I received by e-mail from HAL so we just bought future cruise deposits. I even showed her the e-mail. Dinner tonight was great and every table was filled. There was a problem with DW’s special order (Dewa does a great job triple-checking it) and that delayed our meal a bit. Turkey and a rib-eye steak is hard to beat. After dinner the show was the singers in “Sessions,” covering a lot of popular music from the last 40 years or so. This was a very interactive show, kind of like the piano bar on steroids. Stevie had a night off so after the show we headed back to the room to call it a night as we have an early tender tomorrow at our last Icelandic port of Heimey, the “Pompeii of the North.” We had noticed the last two evenings an apparent wet spot on our rug in the middle of the room. At first I thought our cabin steward may have spilt some rug or other cleaner, but it seems to be getting worse. I wrote a note to drop off at the office tomorrow morning. Wednesday, August 29 – Heimey, Iceland Early in the morning the Prinsendam anchored off the coast of the Westman Islands. Despite a beautiful sunny day it was cool and the winds were still at 20 knots so getting into the tenders was a bit of a challenge. We went over early, at about 8:20, and there were only about a dozen passengers in our tender. This was a fantastic port! Upon arrival it was very quiet except for the ferry leaving for the mainland. Nothing opens in Heimey before 9:00 AM. We walked around and found the travel information office just as they opened the doors. This combination T.I., office supply store, and café offered a clean n/c WC. From there we walked the road into the lava field from the 1973 eruption. 400 homes were buried in lava and 1/3 the land area added to the island. There were no deaths or injuries as there was plenty of time to evacuate. There are many memorials in the lava field indicating the home buried beneath. This provided many other-worldly photos of the various lava formations. We also walked to the Norwegian Stave Church and meeting house, but we were a little too early for them to be opened to see the inside. Keeping a watch on the time we returned to town at 10:40 for our 11:00 Puffin and Volcano Tour with Eyjatours. This was a great tour featuring the tour guide demonstrating Sprangan, cliff rope climbing for bird eggs, Stórhöfði – the windiest place in Europe with loads of puffins, the golf course with more puffins on the sea cliffs, the mouse island formed by a recent eruption off-shore, and a demonstration of the different colors of lava rock and their sources. The tour ended at the small local aquarium which is also a puffin hospital. Local children rescue about 1,000 young puffins every year as they fly into windows attracted by evening lights. The next morning these puffins are brought here. They have two puffins, Thor, 4 years old, and, 2 years old, that sustained injuries such that they cannot be released. These puffins are used to people and pose for photos, they are so cute. We slowly walked downhill back to the tender port. A tender was just pulling in and we were quickly on our way back to Prinsendam. Back on board, we quickly dropped our bag and coats in the room, and found a large fan blowing on the carpet. We went to the lido for a bit of lunch and returned to the cabin to find a message from guest services. They claim the shower is leaking and they repaired the grout. Why a shower leak would show up in the middle of the floor is beyond me. In any case, they said we could turn off the fan when we are in the room but to please start it when we are leaving. Dinner tonight was great. Our wait staff is superb and Dewa outdoes himself taking care of us. The show is comedian William Caulfield. His show was decent and the comedy clean. Stevie was great in the Piano bar with a very interactive audience. One thing I’ve noticed is that some of his numbers are repeats from earlier in the cruise. Tomorrow is a well – needed sea day after seven port days in a row. We called it a night at about 10:30. Thursday, August 30 – Sea day With a time change losing an hour and being rather exhausted, we didn’t leave the cabin until nearly 10:00 AM. We had a very light breakfast in the lido as we were invited to the 10:15 Mariner’s reception in the showroom. The showroom was packed and about 30 or so folks received their bronze medallions for reaching 100 sailing days with HAL. No silver, gold, or platinum medallions were awarded, although platinum and president’s club member couples were both introduced. The reception was followed by the mariner’s brunch in the dining room. It was okay, but the table conversation was very nice. We attended Brett’s talk on Lerwick, the following day’s port of call in the Shetland Islands. We noted that about 80% of what Brett showed us was on our private group tour itinerary. Still being very tired, we both napped until our alarm went off at 4:00. This is the last gala night so we prepared accordingly. The “Gold Gala” dinner was most enjoyable. The chairs were covered with white slipcovers, very elegant. The surf and turf meals were delectable. I thought the turf part was exceptionally well prepared and very tender. The show was Iceland’s own Greta Salome. Greta was Iceland’s performer at the 2012 and 2016 European showcase of some sort. She gave the best show of the cruise. Just WOW! After the show we enjoyed happy hour in the Crow’s nest singing along with Stevie. At 10:15 we called it a night looking forward to our last port of call. Friday, August 31, 2018 – Lerwick, Shetland Islands The alarm woke us at 6:15. A peek outside showed blue skies with not a cloud in sight. The TV showed we were just off the southern tip of the ‘mainland’ Shetland Island. We had a nice lido breakfast and met our tour group at 8:30. A nice surprise was that we are docked rather than tendering! We had a “South Island tour” booked for eight with Grant Redfern. This ended up being a great tour with the only downside being that two needed to squeeze into the front seat and I believe that couple was not entirely comfortable. We left the port and headed to an overlook over the town. From there we stopped at Fladdabister, an 1850’s Norse-style farm and crafters home. Two Shetland Ponies were in the front yard and seemed to enjoy photo attention. 1800’s Shetlanders must have been very short and the doorways were tiny. The house was authentically heated with peat in the fireplace and it was quite smoky inside. The next stop was Jarlshof, where 5000 years of Shetland History can be seen in a small area. Ruins from the stone age through the 1700’s can be seen here, in many cases one building built above the remains of another. We stopped in the hotel next door for lunch, which was just okay. Next we drove to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head, the southern end of the island. This lighthouse in on top of sheer cliffs that are populated with thousands of sea birds. Regretfully the puffins are long-gone but other birds were happy to pose for photos. We drove north along the western side of the island stopping to look at a beach with seals lying in the sun. Grant said a few months ago there were many seals but some have left and others were eaten by Orcas looking for lunch. We stopped at a stretch of beach that connected the mainland to a small island. We actually saw someone swimming in the 54 degree water. Our last stop was Scalloway where we viewed the castle and the Shetland Bus memorial to the Shetlanders who risked all to help the Norwegians during WW 2. Grant took us back to Lerwick and drove us through town showing us the main sites including the very nice town hall building. We were brought back to Prinsendam at 3:33 PM. Returning on board we found that the fan was back in our room. After dropping our coats and bag, we visited guest services who were not sure what was happening and asked us to stop back later. We had ice cream from the lido and visited with friends. Happy hour was going on so we enjoyed the Ocean Bar and watched the scenic sail away from there. Stopping back at guest services they still don’t really know where the water is coming from. They offered to move us to a deck 5 cabin but with only one full day left in the cruise who wants to do that? We were told we would receive a letter tomorrow. We have a 7:00 Pinnacle dinner tonight so we began to get ready. The Pinnacle was a great experience and very enjoyable. The only problem with the Pinnacle is one always eats too much. After dinner we visited Stevie in the Crow’s nest until after 10:30 when we simply couldn’t stay awake any longer. We lose another hour on the clocks tonight to get back to Europe time. Saturday, September 01 – At Sea After being up until after midnight (after the clock change) this was a morning to sleep in. I left the cabin just before 9:00 to bring DW’s dinner pre-order to the dining room. There was a letter in the mailbox from guest services offering a modest amount of OBC for our carpet troubles. We went to the Lido at 9:30 for breakfast and walked around a while before finding a table that two folks had just vacated. After last night’s Pinnacle dinner neither of us finished our breakfast. At 9:50 Samantha the CD made her morning announcements. “On deck for a cause” is this morning and DW decided to participate. During that event I caught her on camera and also downloaded all the photos onto my laptop. We met our friends and enjoyed lunch together. That afternoon was the Filipino Crew Show, always worth seeing. This crew was exceptionally talented especially the group doing the dance with the colliding sticks. We did our last happy hour and got ready for dinner. This was a truly wonderful dinner in the dining room with both Prime Rib and King Crab Legs on the menu. We said our sad farewells to Big D, Dewa, and Giovanni. We saw Greta Salome at the Ocean Bar and after we asked she told us that she was to be the second performer in the variety show. We visited Stevie one last time in the crow’s nest departing at 9:45 to catch Greta’s show. William Caulfield ran a little long but once he was done we were able to get seats. Her performance was terrific and a great way to end the cruise. About 10:25 returning to the cabin, closing up the suitcases and putting them out for transfer to shore in the morning. Sunday, September 2 The alarm went off and we were already well up the canal towards Amsterdam. The Prinsendam docked right on time at 7:00 and we met our friends for one last meal together, a dining room breakfast at 7:25. Breakfast was great and we said our farewells, until the next time! We disembarked at about 8:40, quickly found our luggage and dragged it to the tram stop. A quick tram ride to Central Station (we saw many folks just walking the distance) and then the train to the airport. It was a long walk from the airport terminal to the Hilton. Upon entering the terminal we saw one cruiser from our ship. We checked in and our Hilton status helped and we were given the keys to our room and also invited to complimentary breakfast in the restaurant. After “Second breakfast” (which would double as lunch) we walked back to the airport and took the train to Rotterdam. We ended up in Rotterdam a little early for the 1:30 “Free walking tour” and ended up standing and walking too much before the tour. We found the tour guide and about two dozen folks showed up for the tour. We ended up leaving the tour at about the half-way point as it was too much standing. We did see some interesting sites including the “Cube houses” and the old harbor, as well as a war memorial. We took a tram back to Rotterdam Central and caught a train back to the airport, returning to our hotel a little after 5:00. We enjoyed the executive lounge and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, “The Bowery.” Portions were large and everything was very good. They accommodated DW’s dietary needs nicely. We returned to the lounge for a nightcap and called it a day. Monday, September 3 – return home We had breakfast in the executive lounge at the Hilton and then loaded our luggage onto a luggage cart for the walk back to the terminal at Schiphol. We found the Aer Lingus check in and it took about 20 minutes in line to drop our bags. The offered to check our overnight carry-on “For free” but we declined as all our meds were packed in there. Security was about a 10 minute line and passport control about the same. US passports can use an automated lane for departure. We made a necessary stop and spent most of our Euro coins at an airport shop on waters and chocolate for the flight. At the gate, I asked if we could be switched to an aisle & middle (from our assigned window and middle) and they have us two isles, across from each other. After the door closed, there was no one in the two seats next to me so I moved to the window and DW took my aisle seat. The connection in Dublin was a pain as we unexpectedly had to walk outdoors a good distance, and it was cold! I was dressed for the +90 degrees back home. Eventually we got through the passport check and we had enough time before US pre-clearance to use the airport lounge. We enjoyed some ‘lunch’ there and left for US Customs 90 minutes before our flight as instructed. Our Global Entry helped save us some time. Still, it was another long walk to the gate. We boarded on time. While we had a window/isle two seats the folks in front of us took no pity and reclined their seats to the max, so it was an uncomfortable (to say the least) seven hour flight back to Newark. We arrived on time and while we did not need to clear customs in Newark we waited an hour for the luggage. Park Plus picked us up very promptly and we were in our car within 15 minutes of luggage retrieval. Summary / Conclusion: All things considered this was a great cruise! After the dining room issues of the first two days the rest of the dining was flawless. “Big D” took great care of us in the lido at breakfast/lunch and in the dining room at dinner. The one lunch and one dinner in the Pinnacle were both wonderful. We will not do Canaletto again though. Our room stewards performed well and kept the room clean, although we literally laid eyes on them less than three times the entire two weeks! Entertainment is not Holland’s strong suit. The singers/dancers were okay but we’ve seen all those shows before. The guest entertainers ranged from incredible (Greta Salome) to pretty bad. But there was ‘something for everyone.’ We very much enjoyed Stevie in the piano bar and the Ocean trio at the Ocean bar. We are not by any means big drinkers but we enjoyed the happy hours very much. Since HAL announced the sale of Prinsendam I was hoping we would do one more cruise on her. That seems very unlikely as the remaining Prinsendam cruises have had price spikes as they are mostly close to sold out. We greatly enjoyed the port calls; doing the “Ring road” in Iceland without the driving was terrific! The larger ships cannot get into all these ports so we are happy to do these while we could on Prinsendam. All things considered, this was another four stars out of five Prinsendam cruise. It might have been four and a half but the three days with the damp carpet in our cabin has to detract a half-star. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Overall, a great trip, would highly recommend. We enjoyed the new features of the Koningsdam - same HAL experience for us. Embarkation: went very smoothly – was in our room by noon. No waiting at all. Notes from the trip: No ... Read More
Overall, a great trip, would highly recommend. We enjoyed the new features of the Koningsdam - same HAL experience for us. Embarkation: went very smoothly – was in our room by noon. No waiting at all. Notes from the trip: No Library - no big deal - plan ahead Food service - dinners in MDR - done in 1.5 hrs - 4 courses - servers not as personable as we have seen but did a good job. Lido - good - lines minimal - on worse day there were up to 6 people in line - most days 1-2 people in line. No trouble finding a place to sit and eat. You can move to pool area if necessary. If eating after initial opening of stations – say 30 to 45 min after opening – food was not always hot enough. Dine-In burger ok - not as good as 5 Guys. NY Deli - excellent pizza - Rubin ok - breakfast there was good if you want a bagel and lox and avoid the Lido. Dutch cafe - great fries - other stuff good – nothing that great but another good place to get something to eat besides the Lido. Don’t Like the $15/day/person add-on – I didn’t try to get it changed but also didn’t leave tips for MDR or stateroom staff as I have in the past. $420 in tips included in bill for the 14 days. Additionally, the spa adds on their own 15% tip. Didn’t use any specialty restaurants - I didn’t think their menus were that great. Used HAL excursions at all ports - well run but pricey - but if the excursion ran late the ship will wait for their tours – not sure they will for individuals out on their own. There was some confusion when they changed the excursion and tender boat process. They had people take tenders and meet at the dock - heard that at least one person missed. Excursion goals met: saw whales - puffins and a lot of great scenery. Cleanliness – recommendation to HAL staff - sit where customers sit and look around - crumbs along and on window of lido / tape pieces along lighting top edge of ceiling in Crow’s Nest. Not a big deal, but . . . Staff behavior - singing at serving station in main dining room - heads down trying to sleep during safety drill. Despite the negative comments, I consider everything to be generally well run. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We have been cruising on Holland America now for a number of years and have been on a number of ships cruising North America and all over Europe. This particular cruise departing Copenhagen and visiting Norway, Iceland, Lerwick UK and ... Read More
We have been cruising on Holland America now for a number of years and have been on a number of ships cruising North America and all over Europe. This particular cruise departing Copenhagen and visiting Norway, Iceland, Lerwick UK and the Faroe Islands was overall good but with some negatives as all cruises have. We sailed on the second half of the 24 day cruise called the ""Northern Isles Enchantment Cruise”. which already had some passengers onboard from the Baltic Sea part. The transfer from Copenhagen airport was fine with a 1 ½ hour tour of the city prior to arriving at the cruise terminal where the embarkation was a little chaotic which seems to be the norm lately. The PA system at the terminal was not functioning properly and it was difficult to understand the boarding instructions. Once onboard we noticed that the Zuiderdam was recently renovated and all of the public areas were updated to include our Signature Verandah Suite which was both spacious and comfortable. Our cabin steward quickly appeared to introduce himself and offer any assistance that he could. He did a very good job of locating and delivering our luggage which took some time as apparently it was misdirected. The encountered staff members were very friendly and professional with the exception of 2 or 3 members at the gangway entrance who seemed to be a little frazzled with the new passenger arrivals and were a little snippy with directions. After settling in to our cabin we went to the main dining room to make our “Open Dining” reservation and quickly found out that the dining room scheduling desk on Deck 2 was preferable to making reservations than the reservation telephone number as the representatives weren’t all that accommodating or informed. The overall food in the dining room was fair with some hits and some misses as should be expected. We did notice a slight decline in food quality from previous years. One point to make is to order any breakfast eggs “well done” as other Cruise Critic reviewers have noted that the eggs are served watery and undone both in the dining room and with room service as well. The Pinnacle Grill was fabulous and the Canaletto Restaurant not so much as the food quality decline was very evident. The Lido at lunch was extremely crowded with the seating limited. On the last sea day before leaving we just handed our full plates to a steward to throw away as there wasn’t even any shared seating available to include in the adjacent pool areas. We ended up waiting a half hour and picked up two chicken sandwiches from the Dine In Grill and sat at the outdoor pool lip/bench area with the food in our laps. The overall entertainment was not of any interest to us as we only enjoyed 3 of the 14 nights in the Main Stage and ended up leaving after a few minutes for the 11 performances that we didn’t care for. The “Billboard Onboard” piano/singers were fantastic but the BB King Band was not as they were way too loud for the small room and not up to the standard of other BB King Bands that we enjoyed on previous cruises. The America’s Test Kitchen activities were very entertaining and fun to attend. We purchased 3 excursions and were disappointed a bit with all of them as there were many glitches obviously with the contractors and a lack of communication with the ship. A point to make is that when trying to review the excursions on the Holland America web site the review option seems to have disappeared. Maybe I am doing something wrong and looking in the wrong place. Guest Services appeared to be “Out of the Loop” on many occasions with inaccurate information being distributed to us often with a later correction. On the plus side our final invoice was correct and billed to our credit card. The Captain was always visible around ship and gangways and was seen interacting both with the staff and passengers. There were many passengers that were coughing and sneezing all over and for the most part the personal hygiene/health habits left a bit to be desired to say the least. All in all a “fair” cruise experience with some pluses and some minuses and the cruise was nothing special. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We chose this cruise for the itinerary. It was our first time on Holland America, which we feel is not as good as our favorite cruise line, Princess. We loved all of the ports on this cruise. The drop down boxes above didn't give ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary. It was our first time on Holland America, which we feel is not as good as our favorite cruise line, Princess. We loved all of the ports on this cruise. The drop down boxes above didn't give me the choice to say this was the Northern Isles cruise. We visited two ports in Norway, spent 5 days in 4 ports in Iceland (overnight in Reykjavik), and stopped at the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands. We spent a day in Copenhagen before boarding, visiting Tivoli Gardens. Boarding was smooth, and we were very pleasantly surprised that our room was ready when we arrived. The ship was recently refurbished, but we did not see much evidence of it. Our room was standard issue cruise cabin, which we expected. The bathroom needed serious attention: the toilet seat had deep scratches, as did the bathtub. It was just very tired looking. We chose Open Seating for our dining option. Our cruise consultant assured us we would be able to make 6 PM reservations, but once on the ship we found we could not. The choices in the dining room and in the buffet did not offer much variation. Room service kept bringing me decaf tea when I requested regular, so I finally gave up. Canaletto, the $15 per person Italian restaurant, was a disappointment. It's located at one end of the buffet, so it doesn't seem in any way special. The food was no different in quality or variety than the regular dining room. The entertainment in the Main Stage was okay. We've seen better on Princess and Royal Caribbean. Activities on sea days were disappointing. Talks on upcoming ports were given once, so if you couldn't make it you were out of luck. Seems like it would be simple enough to record them and give the option of watching them on the TV in one's room. Our room stewards were great! Always attentive and very helpful. The buffet staff and dinner waiters were also outstanding. Breakfast and lunch waiters in the dining room were curt and almost surly, as were some of the room service delivery persons. We took only three cruise line sponsored shore excursions because there just weren't many to choose from. All were very good. We appreciated that Holland America helped us with hearing assistive technology for my husband. One of the three tour operators had a system for him to use. Maybe Holland America could be more pro-active about this. Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much, mostly because we were able to visit ports that we were interested in. I doubt we would choose Holland America again unless they offered an itinerary that another cruise line does not, as in this case. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
This was our second cruise on Holland America and our first on the Zuiderdam. This cruise was chosen for the itinerary. It did not disappoint. Holland America usually has an older crowd on board which was the case with this cruise ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Holland America and our first on the Zuiderdam. This cruise was chosen for the itinerary. It did not disappoint. Holland America usually has an older crowd on board which was the case with this cruise although there were quite a few families traveling with children as well. We spent 4 nights in Copenhagen prior to the cruise. Copenhagen is a lovely and safe city to visit and very easy to get around. We took a taxi from our hotel to the cruise port. Embarkation went very smoothly. We were in our cabin within 15 minutes of arriving at the port. The ship was in good condition. The crew was always doing some kind of maintenance. We saw quite a bit of painting going on throughout the ship. Our balcony was worked on during the cruise but we were never inconvenienced by it or any of the other maintenance. We upgraded to a signature suite since this was a 14-day cruise and enjoyed the extra room in the cabin, balcony and bathroom. We weren't sure if we would get use out of the balcony given the itinerary but found that we did and really enjoyed sailing out of the ports and listening to our EXC tour guide over the loudspeaker as he described what we were seeing as we sailed along the coast. We did have wonderful weather the entire cruise. Blankets were provided in the room for use on the balcony as well as binoculars. Our cabin crew were excellent and kept the cabin in good condition. We had as you wish dining and never had any complaints with regard to the food. We found the service in the main dining room to be inconsistent depending on which section we were in that night with the exception of two female wine stewards who were excellent the entire cruise. Our main issue was with the maitre d. We prefer a table for two and had reservations each night for one but were always asked to share a table which we refused and we were then seated at a table with just the two of us. Our reservation was usually for 8 and could never understand why it was a problem to seat us at a table for 2 or 4 since after being seated there was always a lot of tables available. We also did not appreciate the maitre d not enforcing the dress code especially for gala nights. Why have one if it is not going to be enforced. We found food in Lido to be good. Seating was sometimes a challenge but usually found a table within 5 minutes or so. We ate there for breakfast as well as lunch a few times. I really enjoyed the create your own pasta section for lunch and always enjoyed grabbing a late afternoon ice cream. We also ate at the taco bar and Dive-In by the Lido pool which were always good. We had dinner at Canaletto one night which was okay and had dinner twice at the Pinnacle Grill which was excellent. Both service and food were worth the price. Even though this was a port intensive cruise we found the energy to go to 4 of the main stage shows which were very enjoyable. One was an ABBA show, a magician comedian who was entertaining and a Scottish entertainer who we saw twice and enjoyed his show both times. We went to the BB King Blues Club on several nights and really enjoyed this group. We went to the Billboard piano bar one night. We found these performers just okay but they usually had a good crowd each night who seemed to enjoy them. We enjoyed sitting in the Crow's Nest one day enjoying the view from a couple of chairs. I like the location but don't understand why they took away the bar. There is a lot of space wasted here. The EXC desk is located here and EXC takes up a lot of unnecessary space. We went to a few of the EXC shore talks in the main stage and found them informative for exploring the ports. We also enjoyed the EXC talks as to what we were seeing on our way out of each port. We did not do any of the ship excursions since most of the ports were very easy to do on your own which was what we did. We did do two private tours which we found a better value for the money as well as what was visited. We did do the ship transfer to the airport since we had an early flight and found this very convenient to put our luggage out the night before and pick up at the airport. Embarkation was quick and easy. The captain and his crew were very visible and engaging on port days. We found service to be very good for the most part throughout the cruise. We really enjoyed this cruise. The itinerary was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at ... Read More
Well you have heard it before, reading all those negative reviews and then discovering that they were not even closely accurate. This will be the case with this ship. The ship is in very good to excellent condition- cannot understand at all what others are seeing in their overly negative reviews. The food is very good to excellent- the best dining room food we have ever had at sea, and I have cruised 4 other lines. I am a foodie and saw no need to go to any specialty restaurants. The entertainment is limited, but excellent- BB Kings played jazz to blues to dancing music, and the band and singers were outstanding. Billboard 100 which is a duel piano sing along type bar/ club- was by far the most attended just for good old fun. The shows were also great- the dancers all could be on dancing with the stars. Piano player/singer, opera etc. were all excellent. Crew were all genuinely attentive and friendly- and in talking to them can see they love working for Holland. The only thing people need to learn is to book their excursions privately, as the cruise lines rates are absurd. One caution- if you go to book "Landscapes and Sheepdogs"- you will pay $200 pp to be taken to a gift shop (Called "Scottish Woolen Center"- its a gift shop) that has Free, I repeat Free sheep dog demonstrations. We felt deceived and grossly overpaid for this. Other than that one negative experience- we loved Holland, loved this ship, and loved the crew from the Captain to the waiter. Book this trip with confidence that you will love it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We chose this trip for the itinerary--Cornwall in England, especially (Fowey)--small Irish ports and then crossing to Belgium and Amsterdam. Our porthole cabin, 421, was smaller than we expected (hard to walk past the foot of the bed) but ... Read More
We chose this trip for the itinerary--Cornwall in England, especially (Fowey)--small Irish ports and then crossing to Belgium and Amsterdam. Our porthole cabin, 421, was smaller than we expected (hard to walk past the foot of the bed) but comfortable and we liked the bathroom--we had a bathtub, although all porthole cabins do not, so check if you prefer a shower or bath. The service onboard was consistently excellent and the food was pretty delicious! For anytime dining in the dining room we always got a table for two immediately. We enjoyed the pretty touches, such as flowers, especially orchids, in all the public rooms. We celebrated my husband's birthday and our anniversary in Canaletto, the Italian restaurant, and enjoyed it. For his birthday, he got a large piece of cake and they sang to him. For our anniversary the hotel director, who had talked to us in one of the bars, sent a bottle of champagne to our table. Much appreciated surprise! We ate in Pinnacle for a lunch given to us by our travel agent. It is a pretty room and the food was good. We had to tender in to one port (Waterford) that we were supposed to dock for, but there was heavy fog. The captain and crew seemed very concerned that we were able to still do excursions. We liked the excursions although next time we will check to make sure there are stops rather than mostly driving as one went on too long. Next time we will also try to have a cruise with fewer tender ports simply because they take up more time and sometimes the sea is rather rough. We liked the bar venues, especially the Java Bar area. The Crow's Nest has great views. My husband enjoyed the steam room and sauna (free in the men's bathroom spa area) and the hot tubs. The casino is small and several machines didn't work. The library area, where the internet computers are located, is large and very nice. The entertainment was good. The onboard performers gave it their all and some of the guest performers were very enjoyable. We liked watching some of the movies in the theatre or on tv. There weren't many tv channels offering programming, mostly news and obscure sports rather than the "big games." We didn't go to the test kitchen or the digital workshops or the book club and the shops on board are small, so sea days were pretty quiet for us. The passengers were, for the most part, over age 60, so we often had to wait for elevators to the buffet on the 11th deck since many people used them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We’ve been on several HAL cruises and this one was just what we expected – excellent food and service and a good time over all, despite a few things that could be tweaked. Embarkation The transfer was long, largely because we ... Read More
We’ve been on several HAL cruises and this one was just what we expected – excellent food and service and a good time over all, despite a few things that could be tweaked. Embarkation The transfer was long, largely because we spent 40 minutes driving from terminal to terminal at Heathrow. The people who got on at the later terminals complained that they had to wait too long for the bus to come and the people already on the bus complained that it took forever to leave the airport, so pretty much no one was satisfied. The security check at Dover before getting on the ship was probably the strictest I’ve seen, but there was no line to check in and the luggage came to the cabin quickly. Boat drill seemed unusually long because it started with a series of announcements made while you were still in the cabin. Ship This is a small ship that has a lot of passengers who stay on it for multiple cruises, so the average age of the passengers and the number with walking difficulties is much higher than on most cruises. I like this ship a lot, but if you haven't been on this ship before make sure you know what you are signing up for. Newspapers and puzzles are available every day. Apart from the port lectures and the nightly entertainment, we didn’t do any of the other activities. One of the elevators broke down quite early in the trip and was never back in service. There was a fiasco one day when everyone sitting in the theater was asked to leave and come back in 15-20 minutes for the Captain’s toast. A lot of the people had come early specifically to get a seat for the toast and were not happy to have to stand around in the halls with no place to sit. I felt bad for the drink servers who had the ugly task of asking people to leave. After a couple passengers had some sharp words with an officer who happened to walk by, we were allowed back into the theater. There was no reason they couldn’t have put something in the daily schedule to warn people that the theater would be closed for some time before the Captain’s toast. Cabin The cabin had smaller than normal balcony doors, so there was no wall of glass, but the balcony itself was bigger than normal (we were in a Vista Suite). The cabin had good lighting and was well stocked with deck blankets, beach towels, robes, slippers, etc., although I would have preferred a shower over having to climb over the side of the tub. The water temperature in the shower was erratic. Unusual for a ship, the bathroom door could be left ajar without swinging or slamming, making the bathroom a useful nightlight. Our steward Gede took very good care of us. Our cabin was behind the casino, and I had been worried that smoke and noise from the casino might be a problem, but it wasn’t, perhaps because the casino seemed to be pretty empty the whole cruise. Entertainment The production shows were fantastic, some of the best we have seen, and the singers had strong voices. Ocean Trio was good but they mostly played instrumental old standards, which got somewhat boring night after night. The Band was excellent, but they only play on nights when the show that night doesn’t need them. Piano Stevie was entertaining. Georgina Jackson (she sang and played trumpet) was very good. John Lenahan (comedy and magic) was very funny. Misha, the port lecturer, was energetic and charming and funny. Unlike on some ships, she wasn’t part of the excursion office, so the talks were actually full of practical useful information and not just someone describing the shore excursions and trying to sell them to you. Shorex The excursions were very well run and the staff had excellent English (better than we have seen on other ships). The excursions were very expensive, though. There were a lot of tender ports on this itinerary. In a couple ports, the tendering service did not run very smoothly. We would get back to the ship but not be able to get off the tender for 10-20 minutes because another tender was at the platform. In Fowey, the tendering was a mess. Buses aren’t allowed on the narrow streets in town, so tenders for the excursions were sent to a different dock than the tenders just going downtown. It would have made a lot more sense to have the two groups meet in different lounges and to use two different tender platforms. Instead, they mixed the two groups in the same lounge, confused everybody with the announcements, and had chaos when the 2 groups mingled near the tender platform as they tried to keep people from getting on the wrong tender. Food On the first night in the dining room, no one escorted us to our table – they just pointed (in the wrong direction, as it turned out). The food was excellent and it was hot (both in the dining room and in the buffet) but our dining room stewards had too many tables, so the service really suffered. Some nights our waiters were practically running in the dining room, with sweat pouring off them, trying to keep up. We were rarely greeted with menus, bread and water, some of which would already be on the table when we arrived. We never got steak knives or fish knives, crumbs weren’t removed, and we were not reliably offered tea or coffee at the end of the meal. Most of this I don’t really care about, but the comparison to the level of service we have experienced on other ships was striking. What was not acceptable was the long waits between courses. Most nights it took us much longer to have dinner than what we have experienced with the same size table on other ships. Disembarkation We walked off early with our own luggage, which worked well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We choose this cruise for the itinerary. We were on the 12 day of a 19 day sailing. You do not see it available often. Sailing from Rome, we had several ports in Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It gave ... Read More
We choose this cruise for the itinerary. We were on the 12 day of a 19 day sailing. You do not see it available often. Sailing from Rome, we had several ports in Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It gave us a chance to really see different areas of Europe and to see were we would like to come back for a longer visit. We have sailed Holland America before, but never on the Koningsdam. It is a newer ship and the public areas, bars, restaurants were decorated very nicely with interesting artwork. We had excellent service every time we visited the Explorations Cafe. Cruise staff was great and addressed all of our needs. For entertainment we enjoyed the BB King venue. The entertainment in the main theater is hit or miss, but we find that to be the case on all cruises. We prefer the guest entertainers over the ships singers and dancers. We did like the ports visited, and there was a variety of shore excursions to choose from. We booked half through the ship, and the other days set off on our own. We would definitely do this itinerary again. We had booked it with an air package which made it an excellent value. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Iceland, Greenland and Scotland explorer, August 18, 2018. This cruise is not for everyone, but it certainly was for us. You need to enjoy smaller ports of call and visiting isolated communities to really enjoy this itinerary. We ... Read More
Iceland, Greenland and Scotland explorer, August 18, 2018. This cruise is not for everyone, but it certainly was for us. You need to enjoy smaller ports of call and visiting isolated communities to really enjoy this itinerary. We live in such a community in Alaska and this was an opportunity to see how different locations cope with common issues. What clinched this for us, however, was flying over Greenland on a trip back from Europe and seeing the Denmark Strait full of ice. Greenland is more of ground zero for global warming than we are in Alaska. We had to go. An added incentive was our interest in Norse history. Combining the former Norse Islands of the Shetlands and Orkneys with the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland gave us the opportunity to see places we had read about and to cruise on waters used by the Vikings. Being stuck in a North Atlantic Oscillation between an Azores High and Icelandic low gave us some idea of what it might have been like to have been a Norse traveler. (One joke we heard in the Faroes was “We should have been Icelanders but got seasick and stopped here.”) Prinsendam has excellent seakeeping so was a good ship to experience this on. We did not suffer seasickness, but on a couple of occasions Captain Dag advised us to “take a pill.” The on-board lecturers added to the experience. We had one expert in Norse westward expansion and more modern Arctic exploration. The second was expert on maritime history and law, including current Arctic Ocean issues. These were supplemented by our location guide who provided good introductory lectures on our ports of call and excellent commentary during “scenic cruising.” We made an unscheduled call at Appilattoq, Greenland. On our first passage through Prince Christian Sund we stopped to deliver some Pizza to this village of 200 and have the staff check out the port. On the way back through Prince Christian Sund we made an unscheduled stop there. Passengers could get tender tickets for specific times (so we would not overwhelm the village all at once) and the Captain invited the village onto the ship. We ended up having a party on the lido with little kids, moms, dads and elders, including a drummer and dancer. That day also included a passage through this remarkable sound in perfect weather. In Nanortalik, Greenland’s Southernmost town, the village invited us to a hymn sing at the local church and in Qaqortoq, a local tour operator arranged for us to get a lift on a small boat to some old Norse ruins. Another highlight was Torshavn in the Faroe Islands where we visited a farmer whose family had farmed the same land for 17 generations. As I mentioned, Prinsendam has good seakeeping, which was important on our voyage from Iceland to Scotland, where we had to skip both a stop in the Westman Islands and the alternative port in Scotland. (This meant that we got to Kirkwall in the Orkney’s 12 hours early, allowing us to enjoy local music in the evening.) Others have mentioned in reviews that Prinsendam is old with some dings in the furniture. The dings gave it a homey feeling that added to the ship’s charm. The ship is well maintained and, aside from an elevator being out of order some of the time, things on the ship worked. I like Prinsendam’s size, it was comfortable for us and, frankly, a larger ship would have overwhelmed some of the ports we visited. The evening entertainment was fine, with a special hats-off to the Prinsendam Singers and Dancers. Of course, there were glitches. The ship keeps ship’s time in visiting the Greenlandic ports. Holland America did not offer tours in Greenland so we organized our own torus on-line. Because the ship was on “ship’s time” one of our tours would arrive back after the ship left. We had to burn up some expensive phone time on the ship rearranging the tour. The ship did not let local people know of the change in time, this meant that museums were not open when we expected and that people showed up an hour early for the Nanotortalik Hymn sing. But, all told, we loved the cruise and, since it is being offered in 2019, we are thinking of doing it again. If you want more information on this cruise I kept a blog with photos. https://rich.mcclear.net/2017/09/16/quick-before-it-melts-2/ Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We chose this cruise because it left from Amsterdam (a city we like) and it included Iceland and Scotland during the Tattoo. A lot of similar cruises leave from Southhampton and we do not find that to be as convenient as Amsterdam. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it left from Amsterdam (a city we like) and it included Iceland and Scotland during the Tattoo. A lot of similar cruises leave from Southhampton and we do not find that to be as convenient as Amsterdam. We found embarkation to go fairly smoothly. We arrived at the port about 1:00 and were in our cabin by 2:00 with the luggage already there! This was a port intensive cruise, so that affected a lot of things. We did not use a lot of things on the ship because of this. We usually like the big shows, but they just were not very good. However, the smaller venues (ie: quintet), excursion program, culinary shows - were awesome. Our table for six (early fixed) was in an excellent location and Cipto was a wonderful waiter. While the food was pretty good, the wait times were excessive. It often took more than two hours for dinner. The wait staff definitely seemed stretched thin. This did improve over time after comments were made and they stopped filling our area with diners. I am gluten free and will do a separate Holland America post about the GF dining on the ship and in the ports. The fitness center is very nice. The 7:00 am stretch class was often too full, so you had to go very early to get in. Our meet and greet was well attended. The salmon cooking class in the culinary center was well attended and very well done. This cruise line will be changing to America's Test Kitchen - so there will be changes in the cooking program coming. Our first port was Edinburgh which was a tender and overnight port. We had difficulty getting information ahead of time on when the tenders would run. We waited until around 9 am to go get tender tickets and miss the initial rush. We boarded a tender before 9:30. This port takes about 20 minutes or so to get to shore. Because of the late night, we had decided to stay overnight and were glad we did. There was a minor accident with two tenders and some people did not reboard the ship until 2 am. We were told tenders would run until about 1:30 am and restart at 7 am. When we left the port we jumped in a taxi and went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia which was wonderful. Excellent lunch at the cafe on board. Then we took an Uber to our hotel (Courtyard Marriott Edinburgh). Uber did work in our ports, but the difficulty I had was if I needed to communicate with the driver as to location. The hotel was wonderful and in a good location. We wandered the area, had an excellent dinner and went to the Tattoo. We were back at our hotel by 11 p.m. The next day we engaged Alan Fee through Tours by Locals (he also has his own tour company - but we didn't know that earlier) and he picked us up along with a friend staying at the Sheraton nearby. Our day with him was one of the best ever. He was very cordial and informative, with a nice mix of information, driving and sightseeing. He was very flexible and his vehicle is very comfortable. At the end of the day, he took us to our ship in time to reboard. All in all a very easy and fun filled two days. The next day we were in Invergorden/Inverness and did a tour with Dougie from Highland Tours Inverness. There were seven of us and the vehicle and guide were perfect. I would not recommend more than 7 people. We saw Cawdor Castle - the cafe was wonderful and the gardens were superb, Loch Ness, Clava Cairns and the surrounding areas. We had a rough sea day, followed by our best big stage entertainment - BBC Frozen Planet with the quintet. Do not miss this if it is shown on your ship. The video and photography is amazing along with the music. We did try to watch a movie on the outdoor screen, but it used subtitles and they were too small to see. Another time we tried to watch a movie and we could not hear it. The roof was closed and their were kids in the pool which may have come into play, but we were disappointed with this. Our first day in Reykjavik we did not get off the ship. Our 2 pm arrival was delayed until 5 pm due to the rough seas. It was a few miles to the city and due to Gay Pride we had not planned anything. We also had an early start on day 2. On Day 2 we headed out with GeoIceland for a wonderful Golden Circle Tour. Baldwin was our driver and guide and he did an excellent job. While their online information indicated a lack of food on the tour, we found the lunch stop to be quite good. We ate soup at the Zupa location (there were several choices) and thought it was excellent. The next day was Islafjordur and our only other tender port - albeit closer to shore than Edinburgh. We used Wild Westfjords at this port. While a good tour, this was my least favorite. They were not organized at all. There was a lot of shuffling of people and calling back of a driver that had already left. By the time they got us sorted, we had 19 people in a 19 passenger van. We were stuffed in and it was not terribly comfortable. Additionally the speaker system was extremely loud (coupled with a chatty cathy who sat next to us). We did mention this to the guide, but he continued to talk very loudly. What we saw was wonderful and I'm glad we went. I do wish he had also alerted us ahead of time as to what was coming. At the large waterfall, we did not walk all the way up as we knew we would need time to wait in line for the bathrooms. We left that stop and 20 minutes later we were at a stop with ample bathrooms. A bit of information as to what was coming and timing would have been helpful. The scenery is beautiful and this stop is not to be missed. I did not care for the end of this tour. We were told we'd visit the town. instead we stood outside in the cold to hear about the meetings as such they used to have. We had already heard about this the day before. By the time we got to town, we didn't have time to do anything. We would have preferred time in the small town. The final Iceland day was Akureyri with Taxi No 17 and our driver/guide Benedict. Benedict is rather quiet, but after two days of Iceland guides, this was perfect. He was actually extremely knowledgeable and willing to share at every stop. My guess is his personality, coupled with a second language and driving on difficult terrain made this a quieter tour. The vehicle was more than ample and comfortable and I'm amazed at the places we were able to go. Definitely not places visited by the big buses! The gift shop at the first waterfall is very nice. When returning to town, he dropped us in town at the church so we could wander. We had some snacks and drinks at the Backpackers restaurant/coffee shop which was delightful - plus free wifi! When returning to the ship, we were to have scenic cruising. Two of us settled in the second row in the Crow's Nest for an hour prior to this starting. After the lecturer began, a front row seat opened up and we improved our view. After about 30 minutes, mid-lecture, we were told that our half of the Crow's Nest had to leave as they were having a private event. This seemed to lack appropriate planning and signage. The lecturer continued, but we all had to leave. Our next sea day was calm and a nice break. The Stave Church talk was excellent. The future cruise talk was a waste of time - you could just read the brochures as that is all they projected anyhow. The quintet continued to be awesome and the piano guy they brought on for the evening was excellent. Our next stop was Alesund, Norway and we again hired a Tour by Local - Igvars. He also has his own Calm Giant tour company. He brought a very comfortable car and three of us joined him for an amazing tour of Alesund. He took us to numerous places and we had a nice mix of walking and driving. He treated us to a coffee shop in a second hand store that was delightful and tasty. We went grocery shopping with him which was very interesting and he bought things to make our picnic, which was more than we expected. Toward the end of the tour we went under three tunnels (very interesting) and over one bridge to reach Alnes and the lighthouse. While we explored a photography exhibit and some other things, he actually cooked us turkey meatballs, vegetables and set up a whole buffet of food for us right by the beach. He dropped us back in town with about two hours until the ship left. Somehow, about 30 minutes after he dropped us off, he found us as he'd forgotten to tell us where something was located. I have no clue how he found us. Our final stop was Bergen and this was a repeat port for us. We chose to use Bergen Segway and were amazed at the places we went. Definitely up and down a lot of hills. This was a great tour, but I would not recommend it as anyone's first segway tour. Some definitely had difficulty. After a walk around town and a local lunch, we departed. Our final sea day was a bit rough, but not too bad. We arrived in Amsterdam and the disembarkation process was very orderly. They even served a full menu breakfast on this final day. On both ends of the trip we stayed at the Marriott Amsterdam and found it to be a delightful location. All in all this was a wonderful ship. It was easy to navigate and we found the other passengers to be friendly and engaging. The ports were interesting and there was no lack of things to do. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
This was a 14-day cruise from Amsterdam to Amsterdam around the British Isles. The weather was iffy some days, but that's the UK. The entertainment was better some nights than others, which is common. The Prinsendam Singers and ... Read More
This was a 14-day cruise from Amsterdam to Amsterdam around the British Isles. The weather was iffy some days, but that's the UK. The entertainment was better some nights than others, which is common. The Prinsendam Singers and Dancers were very good. We were in cabin 394, at the very back on deck 6. When they had to rev the engines to go in and out of port, it was very, very noisy and there was a lot of vibration. I would not stay at the very back of the ship again. The food was very good. I am a 4-star Mariner, so my wine package was 50% off. We did Sip and Savor most evenings, which is very nice. There was not a lot of participation. I played trivia a lot, and even won a few times. The prizes were HAL pins. Not great prizes, but we learned something every time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We wanted to see northern Europe and we got a great deal on this cruise. We had many perks, too, like the Pinnacle Grill (beyond excellent), classic drink package, a balcony room and lots of onboard credits. The room valets we had in ... Read More
We wanted to see northern Europe and we got a great deal on this cruise. We had many perks, too, like the Pinnacle Grill (beyond excellent), classic drink package, a balcony room and lots of onboard credits. The room valets we had in room 7114 (Excellent Balcony Cabin) were very, very good. Ice in the room nightly, cute towel art pieces and friendly smiles everyday. Our dining stewards were a little slow, but the food was just fabulous. Bravo to the chefs. Most of the entertainment was very good, except the piano bar singer, who hurt our ears on a daily basis, since we love to gamble and our desired card table was close to the piano bar. My condolences to the dealers, who had to withstand his bleating more then we did. The ports of call were excellent. There are some complaints: 1) Would never do a HA transfer for this trip. We did our own and it was much more economical and readily available. We saw the military tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland on our own and saved buckets of money. I was extremely upset that HA knew months before the sailing that they would be docking in Newhaven and not South Queensferry, as they had in their brochure. I checked with HA even 1 days prior to sailing and they again insisted that they were going to South Queensferry. This change that wasn't shared with cruisers caused quite a bit of problems and left a bad taste in my mind for HA honesty. Now on another score, there has never been a more informative (except for the above info), as the captain we had on this cruise and we've done 27 cruises in 2.8 yrs. (that's 2 yrs. 8 months). He was delightful. The ship is going into drydock but only for 2 weeks, which doesn't seem like enough time to really amp her up. the Crows Nest was a GREAT setting, but always so packed and nowhere to sit. Not enough deck chairs along the outside palisades. The tendering in Edinburgh was a disaster. I have never had to tender in on the ships own lifeboats! Usually there is a private company that shuttles cruisers into port. But not here. We did not get off ship till 3pm which left us little to no time to sightsee before the Tattoo, since the place was swarming with people coming to the Fringe (look it up). They finally got wise and did hire another ferry company to help get people back on the ship or we'd been there another day just reloading passengers. Terrible experience there. Overall, though, we loved the cruise and as most cruises, will need to go back again to many of the places to get a more indepth visit. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We chose this cruise because we prefer traveling with HAL and it was a planned destination. The food and cabin were clearly HAL worthy but the on-board activities and excursions on this ship were a disappointment. The cabin steward, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we prefer traveling with HAL and it was a planned destination. The food and cabin were clearly HAL worthy but the on-board activities and excursions on this ship were a disappointment. The cabin steward, table steward, and wine steward were all excellent. The food was prepared well and the presentation was great. If any complaint it is that they didn't keep the Lido cafeteria open sufficient hours during the lunch period. The BB King lounge and performers, the singers and dancers, and the guest lecturer were all highlights of the trip. The HAL delivered excursion was an extreme disappointment due to the poor quality of the audio on the bus and the uninteresting delivery of the guide when you could make out what he was saying. Not a single on-board activity was scheduled in the Test Kitchen despite their daily changing the BB King lounge signs out for the Test Kitchen. More disconcerting was that each day someone was preparing meals in the Test Kitchen but no audience was in attendance. On at least one occasion they scheduled the guest lecturer in an overlap with the Mariners' club luncheon; that was just plain stupid. Generally, the impact of Carnival ownership was evident as most other activities were merely selling opportunities for which the guests were expected to pay to participate. Generally not what I have come to expect from HAL. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Both were handled very efficiently in Copenhagen. Ship condition: Some of the reviews I've read about the condition of the ship make it seem like the Zuiderdam is an old rust bucket on its last leg, ... Read More
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Both were handled very efficiently in Copenhagen. Ship condition: Some of the reviews I've read about the condition of the ship make it seem like the Zuiderdam is an old rust bucket on its last leg, which is certainly not the case. I didn't notice any worn out carpet or furniture on the ship and it was kept very clean. That said, it is an older ship and the décor is fairly dated, but it is well maintained. Main Dining/Lido/Room Service: Other than the first night, when both our meals were mediocre, the food in the main dining room (MD) was consistently good, except for breakfast (frozen, deep fried McDonald's style hash browns, cold toast and barely warm eggs.) After our first couple of breakfasts in the MD we either ordered room service, promptly delivered at the time requested, or we eat in the lido restaurant. The omelet station was excellent. The Pinnacle Grille & Canaletto. We had purchased two Signature Dining packages that included two nights in The Pinnacle Grill and Canaletto. Canaletto was good but the menu was the same each night. The Pinnacle Grill was a major disappointment. The quality of the food was pretty much the same as what we received in the MD and in my opinion it was just not worth the additional cost. On the first night we dined in PG our main course did not arrive until an hour and a half after we sat down (kitchen backed up). The waitress was highly apologetic and the maître de comped us a glass of wine but it ruined the experience. We were hoping for a fine dining experience but it just didn't meet the mark. Entertainment: Typical cruise ship entertainment in the main theater, song/dance reviews, a show with a violinist who played one song with her feet (not joking) and a mediocre magic act. The violinist was actually the best of all the shows and the only one we stayed throughout. The performers in the BB King Blues Club were very good, Really enjoyed watching some of the talented dancing passengers in the BB King dance floor. Service: Every service crew member we encountered on the ship was unfailingly helpful and pleasant. We were very pleased with the service level in all areas, including the dining rooms, bars and cabin attendants. This was our first Holland America cruise. We would not hesitate to cruise with HA again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We had sailed on the Holland America Zuiderdam out of Copenhagen for a Norwegian Fjord and Scotland/UK cruise in June/July 2017. Upon arrival at the airport we were transported to the Scandic Palace Hotel in the city and then to the ... Read More
We had sailed on the Holland America Zuiderdam out of Copenhagen for a Norwegian Fjord and Scotland/UK cruise in June/July 2017. Upon arrival at the airport we were transported to the Scandic Palace Hotel in the city and then to the ship the following morning. Checking in at the pier was fast and easy and in a few minutes we were in our Verandah cabin on deck #7 and having lunch at the Lido shortly thereafter. The ship is a little dated but in good shape as are the cabins which are standard Holland America style and very clean. The only issue in the cabin that we had was the floor drain in the bathroom would sometimes back up a little leaving a black residue around the drain which was quickly cleaned up by the cabin steward who explained that when the ship encounters rough waters sometimes the muck inside the pipes loosens up the drain gets stopped up when several showers are run at the same time. It happened 4 times on a 12 day cruise which was fine. Our cabin stewards were excellent. We selected “Open Seating” in the main dining room which worked out well for us and the food and service in the dining room was very good to include several breakfast meals that we thoroughly enjoyed. The only time that we ate in the Lido was for lunch or a late afternoon snack as it was usually crowded and not worth the effort. Dinners and service at the Pinnacle and Canaletto were very good as well. Room service for coffee and an occasional breakfast was very good and very prompt as well. The entertainment was less than average as the visiting acts, except the magician, were enjoyable but the BB King Blues Band was not as good as the BB King Bands that we have seen on previous cruises and they were way too loud for the small room that they played in. The Zuiderdam singers and dancers were a few notches below theme park show quality and after two songs we just left on the nights that we attended as it was pretty bad. The lounges and Crows Nest could have used some music as the main attraction some nights was a “Music Trivia” contest that was lacking any enthusiasm from the staff member hosting the event. The service at all of the lounges was consistently good and consistent with the dining room service that we enjoyed. The ports of call were interesting with a few that didn’t have much to offer but that is usually the way all cruises run. Holland America does a good job with moving people especially with the frequent use of the tenders which was very smooth. All in all a very pleasant cruise that could use some work with the entertainment which would make a big difference during the evenings. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
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