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9 Holland America Europe - Black Sea Cruise Reviews

Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing ... Read More
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing time efficient travel to multiple destinations, the convenience of many choices in dining and entertainment, and the social interaction, offered by cruising. Koningsdam is lighter, brighter, occasionally glitzier, with pleasant furnishings, colours and fittings. Interesting art,paintings , sculpture and light fittings catch the eye in public spaces, while cabins are comfortable with a welcome glass doored shower, excellent aircon, great beds and larger TV. Cabin Staff are as efficient, unobtrusive and friendly as always. Food is fresh ,varied and generous , high quality meats ,fish fruit and vegetables, both in MDR and Lido and throughout the ship, attractively presented with appetisingly small potion sizes. However, whether it be a design issue, management strategy, system breakdown or staff issue ,dining and dining service delivery, formerly Hal's forte became its' abject failure throughout our cruise. Despite empty tables, (which often remained empty !) Open Seating diners were sent with Beepers to the in range Ocean Bar to wait sometimes 45 minutes before being seated ,or joining a table of other guests .Attempts to book days ahead to avoid this irritating daily debacle , either failed completely , or the available times were at 5.15 or after 9pm. I did observe guests with fixed seating who waited up to 40 minutes after their seating times to be seated, but don't know how widespread the issue was in this dining category Using the redesigned Market Station Lido during the main dining periods was a frustrating and at times difficult experience. Firstly , the new 12 second Handwash (Do the maths x passenger numbers ,and you 'll get the idea )stations , impractical, too few, ignored by staff and guests .Pueril Gel stations were made available but no emphasis on their use before entry. A hygiene breakdown waiting to happen. Perhaps this concern is behind the new Lido design, where even a glass of juice must be handed to you by a staff member, as self service has disappeared. A wonderful concept, unfortunately a disasterous implementation, as it results in queues for every item of your meal, sorties to different stations ,cold food,and excessive time wasted assembling the simplest meal. The stations are understaffed , and stations frequently closed . On the floor,tables are covered with dirty dishes which overwhelmed staff have not cleared,so it is not clear if diners have merely returned to the stations to complete their meal , or that a space is actually available for newcomers. Fewer staff means water, drinks are much slower to appear. The Lido is a casual eatery, supposedly offering a faster dining option, and pleasant social contact in less formal settings,but it has deteriorated to a poorly run cafeteria despite the good food quality offered, and a place to be avoided particularly at Breakfast times. The Dutch Café another good concept ,poorly designed , offered good food, reasonable coffee, long queues (one coffee station) too few tables ,and dirty dishes uncleared for excessive periods. Explorations Café12Dive In 9 , Gelato Bar offered coffee cakes , hamburgers , sandwiches pizza , and provided good service and quick meals . The Tamarind Restaurant has excellent food, staff and service. All drink orders are now computer generated, but this has resulted in very long delays as waiters in public areas fill orders and return only when trays are full with several orders combined, a time consuming strategy in reality. The World Stage in the round is a technically excellent facility, with great sound, lighting and screens. Why is it not used more effectively? Hal repeated World Stage Shows 3 times during our 21 day cruise which is just cheap and not acceptable. Quality of entertainment varied from excellent Frozen Planet, the HAL singers, dancers and orchestra to tired magician comedian acts who should be superannuated. The Lincoln Centre, Two Pianos and BB King provided shows attended and enjoyed by many, but were rather repetitive in nature. The Cruise Director Role has been redesigned to that of Dutch translator for the Captain, and the focus on hosting has almost completely disappeared both around the ship and in the entertainment venues, leaving an impersonal void and lack of ambience or heart around the vessel. The Port Advisor gave very basic overviews which were .of little value, but the Library has disappeared and was replaced with some small shelves of new travel Books which could be used in Deck 12 Crows Nest We travel independently in ports , considering HAL Ecursions overpriced, overcrowded and poor use of valuable port time, a perception continually reinforced by our observation of them in cruise port hot spots. Yes we enjoyed our cruise, but it was only a good cruise for the above reasons , when it should have been a great cruise.Design flaws, new cost cutting Carnival management strategies, HAL you are seriously destroying your brand and formerly excellent reputation.Would we sail on Koningsdam again ?. No, not unless reviews show these serious issues are remedied . Would we recommend her to others.. NO Will we sail with HAL again.? Unlikely Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
While we have sailed on various Holland America ships, this was our first on the Prinsendam. In reading other reviews before departure, I was somewhat nervous about what the condition of the ship would be. I don't know if the ship ... Read More
While we have sailed on various Holland America ships, this was our first on the Prinsendam. In reading other reviews before departure, I was somewhat nervous about what the condition of the ship would be. I don't know if the ship has recently had some refurbishments or not, but I found most of the criticisms I had read to be unfounded. Keep in mind, this vessel is 27 years old. I have been on ships that were only 5 years old that were more tired looking than this one. Our cabin on Deck 10 was in pristine condition. The carpet looked new and the furniture had no signs of wear. Everything worked as it should, with the exception of the hot water, and this problem was largely remedied as soon as I reported it, although for some reason the water at the sinks never got as hot as the tub/shower. The outside of the vessel was sparkling and all the public rooms were in great shape. Someone might nitpick that the furniture in the main dining room was a bit beat up, but you really had to be looking for this to notice. The only signs I saw that indicated the ship was old was the molding around the dining room windows was not in great shape, and the caulking around the outside of our verandah door had been patched over rather poorly. The ship was under the command of Capt. Tim Roberts, an affable, laid back Englishman. His personality seemed perfect for this small vessel. The cruise director was Bruce Scudder, who also seemed comfortable on this size of ship. I never heard him say if he works on larger Holland America vessels, but I assume he does. One of the guest entertainers remarked that this was a "happy ship". I would have to agree based on the interaction with various crew members. I have never encountered better or friendlier service, and the staff of the Front Desk were perhaps the epitome of that. Our Room Steward, Gede, was unfailing helpful and efficient, assisted by Hendra. They were constantly inquiring if everything was satisfactory in our cabin. The Dining Room stewards were also very friendly, but clearly overworked and it was hard to develop a personal relationship with them as they were too busy to talk. We were very pleased with the quality, and particularly the taste, of food, both in the main Dining Room and in the Lido. I felt the food had improved substantially since our last HAL cruise on the Ryndam in 2013. Whether it was because this ship gets special attention because it has the highest ratio of return guests of any HAL ship, or just because it is easier to do a higher quality job on a small ship, I don't know, but the food was almost always excellent, particularly the taste and most notably the desserts. I learned to trust my DR Steward's recommendations at dinner time. I noticed how perfect the temperature of the soups were, on a consistent basis. Our only disappointment was that we had to eat in the LIdo more than we would have liked. The food there was excellent as well, but we prefer to eat in the MDR for breakfast and lunch as much as possible. Service was just too slow at breakfast for us to eat there except on sea days, and it was usually closed for lunch on port days. We had one meal each in the Pinnacle Grill and the Cannaleto, and they were both excellent. The entertainment was not spectacular, but probably the most you could expect on a ship of this size. They had a troupe of 4 singers and 4 dancers who put on several shows. Unfortunately, one of the singers was taken ill in Sochi and had to be left behind, and they carried on as best they could. Several nights there were no entertainers in the Showroom. The ill crew member did return for the final night. They had an excellent comedian, a guitar player, and singer come on board and they all did individual shows and then all together for another show. Also, the "Station Band" that played in the Ocean Bar was excellent and could do just about anything, and we often enjoyed listening to them after dinner and before the show at 8 pm. We chose this cruise mostly for the itinerary. We had never been to the Black Sea before. I really enjoyed the scenic cruising in the Dardenelles and the Bosporus Strait. I understand this itinerary used to include a couple of stops in the Ukraine, before the hostilities with Russia broke out, and they were replaced with additional stops in Turkey at Sinop and Trabzon. Both were very disappointing. We also were very disappointed with our excursions in Sochi and Istanbul. But our overall enjoyment of the cruise made these disappointments seem trivial. Both embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly and we had very good ship transfers from Athens airport to Pireaus and return. We will be looking for another opportunity to cruise on the Prinsendam before she is retired, which seems certain in the next two to three years. The Captain said he didn't know the specific plans for the ship, but said one thing is clear - HAL would never build a new ship of this small size, as the economics just don't work. Hopefully they will find a newer small vessel on the used market that could be a replacement. Ships the size of Oceania's Riviera and Marina would be perfect. We have sailed on Riviera twice and loved that ship as well. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Great time. This cruise was very port intensive...29 days and 20 post of call. Had to miss one port due to a storm but because of this we had to stay two days in Rome...no problem with that!! Over all cruise was great with no major ... Read More
Great time. This cruise was very port intensive...29 days and 20 post of call. Had to miss one port due to a storm but because of this we had to stay two days in Rome...no problem with that!! Over all cruise was great with no major problems. The staff is always wonderful. No problems with the staff in the dinning room and the food was always good. I do wish the entertainment was better but, it is a small ship with little room for big shows. This was our 4th time on the Prinsendam and will sail on her again. Love this ship, although, she does need a good deal of upgrading. Cabin and main areas need a lot of updating. This is an old ship and is really showing her age. Heard several guests had some major pluming problems. Although, we have never had any problems, we have heard that others have had the same pluming problems on every cruise. We have sailed with Holland America 10+ times. We have never had a problem that could not be fixed. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We (a group of six) were on the Prinsendam on the October, 2014 Black Sea Explorer. This was our fifth HAL cruise in the past six year each on a different ship. We have been on the Zaandam (Alaska), Nieuw Amersterdam (TA repositioning), ... Read More
We (a group of six) were on the Prinsendam on the October, 2014 Black Sea Explorer. This was our fifth HAL cruise in the past six year each on a different ship. We have been on the Zaandam (Alaska), Nieuw Amersterdam (TA repositioning), Noordam (TA repositioning) and Veendam (South America repositioning). We are 3* Mariners and will be 4* when our Prinsendam cruise is credited. In part this review will be a comparison with the other HAL ships. We choose this Prinsendam cruise because of the itinerary a year ago We wanted to see the Black Sea ports including Odessa and Sevastapol in the Ukraine. When the Russians invaded earlier this year, HAL told us they were canceling the Ukraine stops and substituting Batumi, Georgia, Trabzon, Turkey and Sinop, Turkey we decided to stay with our original plan. We spent 11 days in Greece on a package arrange through Fantasy Travel (separately review on the Greece Forum of Trip Advisor). Embarkation was smooth. We arrive at the terminal at 11:30 AM and by 12:30 were in the MDR eating lunch. We had no problem carrying on six bottles of Greek wines we had purchased on our travels. We had SY cabins on the 10th deck. When we booked our cruise we had AA cabins on the 9th deck. We were able to get upgrades to the SY cabins with an additional OBC. As it turned we were assigned adjoining cabins. We were able to open the partitions between our cabins to create a large three cabin veranda. We never had a problem with smokers on other verandas. The SY cabins were large and comfortable. We like the large walk in closet and the bathroom with a separate toilet. We were under the Lido, but never heard any noise from above us. There is no doubt about it, the Princendam is an old ship, well maintained and clean, but nevertheless a ship showing its age. The crew was constantly cleaning, painting and doing upkeep. We had no problems with air conditioning or plumbing except on tdeparture day our toilet stopped working. They were working on it as we departed. The Prinsendam is a small ship as compared to the other HAL ships and a minnow if compared to the mega ships. As a result everything is smaller. The fitness center has half the number of exercise machines, the swimming pools are smaller and the MDR is smaller. On the other hand the fitness center was never crowded. The one thin the Prinsendam lacks that is a feature of the other HAL ships is the sliding cover on the Lido pool. On other cruises it is nice to sit around the pool on cool days with the cover on. The food is typical HAL quality, no better, no worse than other HAL ships. There were old friends on the menu, onion soup in the MSR, different Asian dishes and sushi in the Lido buffet, and great eggs Benedict at breakfast. There are two sides to the Lido which may serve different items. The two sides are connected only by public hallway. I heard one passenger comment that she did not know there was a another half to the Lido buffet until the third day. i ate all my breakfasts in the Lido as well as the lunches on sea days. About half the time we at dinner in the MDR and the other half in the Lido. The line for all meals in the Lido was reasonable. My only complaint about food, and this complaint applies to all HAL ships, is that the Lido stops serving dinner at 8:00 PM sharp. The only food available after 8:00 PM was the MDR, room service or bar snacks in the Ocean Bar and Explorer Bar. We did not hang out in in the bars, so I cannot comment on the music. There was a piano violin duo in the Explorers lounge. They were good, but their play list is limited. I liked the quartets before HAL made the staffing cut backs. We saw a few shows in the show room, and the musical acts were good. The entertainers were adequate. Because this cruise was so port intensive, we were usually early to bed. The ports were incredible. High lights included two nights and two days in Istanbul. We went out both evenings to the New District on our own. We ate excellent dinners both nights and were back on ship by 11:00 PM. We never felt unsafe, although we stayed in high traffic areas. On day 1 we explored the Grand Bazaar and the surrounding area. On day 2 we visited the Blue Mosque, Haga Sophia and the Spice Bazaar. On both days we had excellent local lunches. Other highlights include Ephesus, Meteora Monasteries in Volos, Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, Turkey, spa day at the Ilium Hotel in Cesme, Turkey, food market walking tour in Thessaloniki and wine tasting and Nesebar Tour in Burgas, Bulgaria. All of these tours were privately arranged went off without any problems or surprises. We explored Batumi, Georgia, Constata, Romania, Sinop Turkey and Kavala, Greece on our own without a tour our guide. Disembarkation was smooth. We did not leave the ship until 9:00 AM. Since our plane flight home left at 6:30 AM the next day, we spent the day further exploring Athens. We spent the night at the Sofitel Hotel next to the Athens airport. A nice hotel convenient to the terminal.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Holland America gets it right with excellent service and superb food. I was hard pressed to find fault with anything on board ship, so my review centers around the ports….all of which were excellent. It was a great itinerary that gave ... Read More
Holland America gets it right with excellent service and superb food. I was hard pressed to find fault with anything on board ship, so my review centers around the ports….all of which were excellent. It was a great itinerary that gave you a good taste of Northern Europe and the Baltic. In many ports we had some difficulty with our American credit cards that don’t have a chip or a PIN. Debit cards seemed to work fine. FLAM, Norway: Despite the fact that the Eurodam was the only ship in port that day tickets were sold out as early as 8:15 AM for the famous Flam Railway. Fortunately, after many hours online, I found a way to purchase tickets for my family of 4 in advance. Our plan was to ride up and bike down. I also booked the bikes (at the top in Myrdal). If you are planning on biking down to Flåm and only going one way by train, it is possible to purchase tickets at the national state railways website, https://www.nsb.no/en/. The earliest departure is 8.35 and another at 9.45 AM. The website www.visitflam.com is only for booking round trips. It is imperative that you purchase your tickets advance, as this excursion is really the only game in town and will sell out quickly. The ticket office opens at 8.00 in the morning. We purchased tickets for the 8:30 AM train and the ship arrived around 7 AM. Flam was the most picturesque port I had ever seen. A village of about 450, it was postcard perfect in every way. The ship docks at the base of Flam with a supermarket, a fantastic sweater/souvenir store which has a HUGE selection of beautiful Norwegian sweaters (reasonably priced given the high quality), restaurants and of course the Flam Railway station. Everything is right there, no more than a 5 min walk. We got to the train station by 8 AM (30 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave) and there was already a very long line of people trying to purchase tickets. The pre-paid ticket line is the farthest over to the right and still we had to wait about 30 minutes. By 8 AM all of the tickets had been sold out except for a few one way tickets and of course tickets after the cruise departs. There were a lot of disappointed people. The ride up was beautiful with many stops along the way at small railway stations. One of the last stops before reaching Myrdal, if not the last, was at a mountain hotel for waffles. I thought we’d hit it on the way down, but we never did. Everything I read about it said it was a nice stop, but our bike trail didn’t take us past the hotel. At the top were of course rest rooms, a café and lots of people appropriately dressed for biking (bike pants, winter hats, fleeces, lightweight jackets, etc). They were all congregating at the café...not sure what they were waiting for... perhaps another train. It was probably 55 degrees and breezy. We located our bike rental guy without any difficulty. We are a family of 4 with kids age 11 and 9 and I myself am not that experienced riding on gravel, down steep hills with hair pin turns so we walked our bikes down the first mile. It was steep, but my husband who bikes to work every day could have handled it no problem. The trail was not at all crowded and we were alone most of the time. After the gravel zig zag road, the gentle ride down on a paved path will amaze and entertain you with beautiful waterfalls, rushing rivers, lush, and green mountains. We stopped at a goat cheese farm (Rollarrosa which opened at 11 AM on your right). You can’t miss it as it is the only farm open to the public. We enjoyed a cheese plate and a pancake for $60.00. Get used to the high prices in Norway. The ride down took us about 2 hours with many stops along the way for scenic photos. This was one of our favorite excursions. At the bottom, we dropped our bikes off at the train station by the ship. On our way down we noticed a sign that read “No Cruise Shit!” and another one that could be seen from the ship that read “No Cruise Ship.” When we asked a cruise officer about the signs he stated that Flam is not crazy about cruise ships coming into port and ruining their beautiful natural landscape. The residents are not necessarily in favor of spoiling their natural, scenic landscape for the economic infusion that thousands of cruise passengers bring. After seeing Flam, I can’t say that I blame them, although I think there is a classier way of saying “No Cruise Shit.” My advice for Flam: Avoid the high mark-up that cruise ships charge for the Flam railway and pre purchase your tickets at half the price. Try and get the 8:30 so you are back on the ship for lunch then go back out for some shopping. If you are fit enough, definitely bike down, you won’t regret it and you’ll feel much closer to the beautiful, natural surroundings. STAVANGER, Norway: I can’t tell you the hours and hours I spent researching how to climb Pulpit Rock with little to no success. We finally determined that it would be impossible because we were only in port for 8 hours (9 – 5) and all the sites said you can’t climb it unless you are in port for a minimum of 10 hours. Holland added a Pulpit hike excursion at the last minute and we bit the bullet and signed up. We paid twice as much as what it would cost us if we did it on our own, but time was not on our side. Since we needed every minute, we were the first group off. Everyone was provided an ample box lunch and a bottle of water, but bring extra water. We boarded 2 busses (80 people) and took a 5 minute ride down the street to the ferry terminal. The bus drove on the ferry. After the 30 minute ferry ride, it was another 20 minute drive to the base of Pulpit. Although ages varied, everyone on this excursion was physically fit, and we got quite a lecture on climbing Pulpit from our guide Anna. The hike starts with about 20 minutes in a “forest” up a dirt pathway. Then you begin the 3 mile hike over large rocks/boulders. There are 2 seep sections each about 15 – 20 minutes where you are climbing on rocks set up like a steep staircase. I would say only 5% is “a gentle walk on a wooden path through the meadow.” As you got closer to the top, you were walking on huge rock surfaces. I’m 50 and not an experienced hiker, so I was a bit concerned. Anna was firm about our time constraints. It would take 2 hours up, with only 15 minutes at the top and we must start our descent at 12:15 in order to make it to the bus by 2:15 with a 2:30 departure time. The weather was in the 60’s with chance of rain which worried me because everything that I had read stated that the rocks become slippery when wet. The narrow route up (about as wide as a double sidewalk) is the same route down, so you are constantly in front of and behind lots of people. There are places to stop if you need a break or to take a photo, but in some locations you need to keep going because the path is too narrow. As we began our climb, the group spread out quickly; the quicker people charged ahead. Everyone was dressed property with hiking boots or sneakers, pants, a fleece and/or rain coat. Anna was right, there are 2 steep sections, but surprisingly they are not bad. I don’t have great balance and not crazy about walking on rocks, but there is a rock/stone/boulder path (and in some cases a steep staircase made of large rocks) that has been created for hikers to make it as easy as possible (I have no idea how that was constructed). People are patient with one another and the hike is very enjoyable, although you are constantly looking down to figure out where to set your foot. Remember to stop and take in the unbelievably gorgeous view. About 3⁄4 of the way up, it began to rain, never more than a light drizzle, but enough to wet the rocks. They are not as slippery as I had feared. At the top, the wind is very strong and many of us did not dare go near the edge because of the wind. My kids stood in the crack, where over time, about half of the top of Pulpit will surely fall into the fjord. The top is much smaller than it appears in photos. It is now raining, cold and windy, so we don’t stay long (maybe about 10 minutes). I’m a little concerned that the slippery walk back might require more time, so I head back. No desire to eat lunch in the rain, but 20 minutes later on a huge boulder we stop for a 10 minute lunch once the rain stopped. The last mile, although gradual was difficult because your knees and legs are tired. Your head is down the whole way, looking for the next rock to place your foot. We made it up in 1 hour 40 min (my kids in 1 hour 30 min) and down in the same time. Everyone made it down safely and on the bus heading back to the ship by 2:30. I couldn’t help but wonder what happens if there is an injury. Twisting an ankle would be so easy, it must be a miserable way down. I’m told they do helicopter airlifts for more serious injuries. Thankfully, we never found out. I’m glad Pulpit was in the beginning of the 10 day cruise before the extra 12 pounds. My advice for Stavenger: If you really want to see the fjords, you have to hike Pulpit. Dress appropriately (in layers) and bring a backpack, extra water and wear hiking boots/sneakers...no open toed footwear. The weather is always cloudy with chance of rain, and every day on our cruise it rained for about 30 minutes so be prepared. Stavenger also has a cute town where the ship pulls right in (bars, restaurants, shops, playground, etc). It is worth exploring which we did in the evening, because the ship stayed overnight. KIRKENSTAD, Norway Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time here because we had to berth in Stavenger overnight to wait out Hurricane Bertha. Instead of leaving at 5 PM we left at 5 AM the next morning and arrived in Kirkenstad at 3:30 PM with a departure time of about 6 PM. We walked around the harbor area, saw the fort and strolled down the shopping streets dedicated to pedestrians. It was a nice town, but we didn’t go to the water park as planned . This location is great for clothes shopping if you have teens. OSLO, Norway Here we opted for the Hop On Hop Off which comes directly to the boat. It was raining (only for about 45 minutes) and than again later for about 30 minutes so the hop on hop off seemed to be a good option. It took us through the downtown streets with lots of shops/office buildings and we got off at the ski jump location where we had to take a train (up a steep hill and through beautiful neighborhoods). We walked about 15 minutes up to the ski jump and museum. We took a ride in the simulator (which I must admit, my husband and I got a little motion sick toward the end). It was basically an enclosed gondola that took you down a simulated slalom ski run and on a ski jump. The visuals are dated, so don’t expect a Disney experience, but it gives you a decent idea of what it is like to travel that fast down a mountain. Inside the ski museum we took an elevator to the top of the ski jump where we got an outdoor panoramic view of Oslo with our cruise ship off in the distance. We walked back down to the train station and rode down to the center of town to pick up our Hop On Hop Of. Next stop was the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Vigeland is a very pretty park that you can do in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, our wait for the Hop On Hop Off to leave Vigeland was about as long. Only time for one more stop and our must see attraction the Kon TIki Museum detailing the adventure of Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition on a balsawood raft from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. Fortunately, we had shown our kids the Kon Tiki documentary so they knew what they were seeing. It was amazing to see it up close and person. Keeping our eye on the clock, back on Hop On Hop Off and back to the ship. My advice for Oslo: Do the Hop On Hop Off if you want to get a quick bird’s eye view of the city. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki museum, but make sure you see the award winning documentary before going as they only show it once a day in the museum. You’ll have a much deeper appreciation for the men and their voyage after seeing the Kon Tiki in person. The sculpture park was lovely, but the wait for hop on hop off was a drag....maybe it was just bad timing on our part. Avoid the ski jump if you are afraid of heights or can’t walk up steep hills as the walk from the train station to the ski jump museum is up hill about 15 minutes. GOTHENBERG, Sweden We docked a bit further away next to the Volvo museum and enjoyed a complimentary shuttle into the center of town. We gave the kids a break today and took them to Leisberg...and large amusement park. Once off the complimentary shuttle we figured out how to take the train/trolley 10 minutes to the amusement park. We arrived at Leisberg at 10 AM and they don’t open to the public until 11 AM so we waited. We purchased an all-day pass for the kids and there were some very good rides in the park. The park is quite pretty with floral landscape. It reminded me of a little Disney World. My son and husband LOVED the wooden rollercoaster which was quite good. Other rides were very good as well and the kids enjoyed the park. Back on the train/trolley to catch the complimentary shuttle by 3 PM and on the ship at 3:30 for departure at 4:30. My advice for Gothenburg: If you are going to Leisberg, take your time and get there when the park opens at 11 AM. It is a good family take-in and a nice break from the museums and other adult cultural stops you’ll force the kids to suffer through. COPENHAGEN, Denmark Here again, we decided to do the Hop On Hop Off to get a bird’s eye view of what we wanted to come back to at the end of our cruise for our overnight layover. Our initial intent was to ride the whole tour without getting off, but we couldn’t resist Stroget, the world’s longest pedestrian street full of shops and restaurants which then led us to the famous and often photographed Nyhaven. It is truly a picturesque street of cafes/bars along the canal. We found the happy wall where people leave messages on wooden panels that open and close like small doors. From there we walked to Tivoli garden and were surprised that it is entirely walled off and we had to walk around the entire garden in order to find the entrance to pay for admission to the park and rides. We opted to save it for next time since we only had 2 hours left and still had to had to take Hop On Hop Off about 40 minutes to the Little Mermaid stop where we would have to wait up to 45 minutes in order to catch a complimentary shuttle (20 minute ride) back to the boat. In retrospect, we should have done Tivoli and taken a cab back to the boat, but we thought we could finish our Hop On Hop Off tour and get a few more nuggets of information on Copenhagen. TALLINN, Estonia Walt Disney could not have built a more picturesque, cobblestone village. It was so quaint and pretty and well maintained. We docked in Tallinn and walked 20 minutes through some unattractive hints of Soviet occupation before we reached the entrance into the old town next to the church with an observatory tower. We went through the gate of the old city, along the cobble stone streets (hint: wear comfortable walking shoes) passed shops and restaurants. The city was just waking up as it was about 8:30 AM and nothing was open yet. It began to rain and none of us were prepared because we left the ship under blue skies. (Note to self: it rained for a few minutes every day during our 12-day cruise in Northern Europe so take an umbrella or light rain coat everywhere). We took refuge under café umbrellas that were starting to leak when a kind gentleman opened the door to his subterranean restaurant Wana Wiipuri (Pikk 33 street in Tallinn) and invited us in to stay dry. Before we knew it he ushered us (a party of 7) into a private dining room and served us coffee, Coke and water. His name was Heinrick and he was eager to meet us and tell us about his newly opened restaurant. We visited for about 40 minutes and once the rain let up I paid him for the coffee which he never charged us for. We were all touched by his hospitality that we promised to return for lunch later that day. We enjoyed walking the cobble stone streets and looking up at the beautifully maintained buildings from long ago. The city was beginning to come alive, restaurants and shops and cafes had opened, waiters standing outside dressed in clothes of yesteryear speaking with tourists and warmly giving directions and advice on where to go and what to see. Tallinn looked like it was out of a fairytale village that Disney animated artists had created. There was plenty of shopping, especially in the town squares, where vendors had set up an outdoor market. Prices were very reasonable. Woolen hats, mittens, sweaters were plentiful. Wooden souvenirs like kids’ toys, cheese knives, cheese boards, trivets were hand crafted and lots to choose from. Back to Wana Wiipuri for lunch that did not disappoint. Heinrick was happy to see us and saved his best waiter Igor, who spoke perfect English, for us. He welcomed us with complimentary vodka shots and we dined on typical Tallinn appetizers of pickles and pickled onion shoots with a dipping sauce. The food was fresh and delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal and the warm hospitality Henrick and Igor provided. On our way back to the ship we went to a wonderful chocolate shop across the street from Wana Wiipuri and climbed the observation tower of the church. The climb is not for claustrophobics or people with knee problems. It consisted of about 150 – 200 steps (a ladder type climb at one point) to the top of the tower where you walked around outside and got a spectacular view of Tallinn. It was crowded as the stairway was narrow about 4 feet wide at best and people were coming up and down simultaneously. Often times you had to wait for people to pass before you could proceed. My advice for Tallinn: Walk around the city, bear in mind it doesn’t really wake up until about 10, but enjoy a café while you are waiting. The streets are easy to navigate, just wander and let yourself get lost. There are few cars in the old section, so walking in the street is fine. Prices are a welcome change from Norway, so indulge yourself in a sweater or souvenir. Don’t miss lunch at Wana Wiipuri and if you are game, climb to the top of the church tower only a few minutes from Wana Wiipuri. We found the people to be extremely warm and hospitable and English was not a problem. This was a great port. HELSINKI, Finland I had booked rental bikes a month in advance from Helsinki Cityride only to receive an email 1 week prior to arrival in Helsinki that they couldn’t honor my reservation. A bit disappointed, but on to plan B. Our group of seven took the complimentary shuttle into town and we began walking toward the harbor. Lots of cafes along the way and a nice outdoor market selling all kinds of breakfast and luncheon foods as well as souvenirs like animal fur hides, handmade mittens/hats, T shirts. It was nice meandering through and looking at all the beautiful fruits and local delicacies which the vendors were kind enough to offer samples of. We ended up at the ferris wheel with enclosed cars (Helsinki’s version of the London Eye). It opened at 10 AM and we enjoyed a few times around and got a good view of the city and a rather funny statue of a 40 foot tall, old man peeing. Naturally, the kids got a kick out of that. Only minutes from the Helsinki Cathedral we meandered over, climbed the steps and peeked in. During our daily drizzle, we walked about 30 minutes to the church built into the side of a rock aptly called Rock Church (or Temppeliaukion Church). We went in to check that out. We tried looking for a particular restaurant and got hopelessly lost, but enjoyed our 45 minute walk and ended up at a traditional Finish restaurant. Everyone said you have to see Sibelius Monument dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was in a very remote area of the city. We figured out how to take the public transportation and then walk 20 minutes to a rather unattractive location. Once we got there, we were all a bit disappointed and unanimously decided that it was not worth the 45 minutes it took us to get there. Tired after quite a bit of walking, we caught a public bus to the center of town to catch the complimentary shuttle just before the rain arrived. My advice for Helsinki: Definitely take the complimentary shuttle, explore the outdoor market, take a ride on the ferris wheel and check out the two churches (Helsinki Cathedral and Rock Church) then call it a day. There really is just not that much to do. ST PETERSBURG. Russia Avoid the high cost of HAL’s large bus tours and the hassle and expense of getting your own visa and contact TJ Tours http://st-petersburg-tours.ru/. I found Tatiana, the owner, to be extremely friendly, competent and professional. For the reasonable price of $315/adult and $280/child for a 2 day tour with a private van, dedicated driver and English speaking tour guide. Our guide was Ksenia and we thought she was excellent. Our tour lasted from 8 AM – 5 PM both days and we opted to sign up for dinner with a Russian family at their home for $55/person….worth every penny. Dining with the Russian family was the highlight of the entire trip! Don’t miss out on this wonderful experience. When the ship docks you immediately go through immigration. Expect long lines and delays. It took us over 30 minutes to get through immigration and all kiosks were open. There are separate lines for each kiosk so just pick one and wait. The HAL staff is on hand to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible, but there is really not much they can do to speed up the process...this is Russia after all! Once through and past the kitschy souvenir shops, Tatiana, the owner, was waiting with several of her guides. We started our tour hitting all the sights that I had outlined via email months in advance. We chose to see: Peterhof by hydrofoil, the upper gardens and lower parks. We did not go into the palace. We had a traditional Russian lunch at an out of the way restaurant. The food and service was excellent. Next was a master class of Matreshka doll painting, but my son was fighting a cold and we preferred to go to a typical Russian supermarket (similar to Wal-Mart). My husband was severely scolded by the security officer for taking photos. We returned to the ship to freshen up before our 7 PM pick up for dinner with a Russian family. We had the privilege of seeing a typical Russian apartment and met a lovely woman, Olga who made us a lovely meal and we talked about Russian life. Everyone agreed, it was the highlight of the trip. On the way back, it was 9:30 PM and there was only 1 immigration window open allowing people back on the ship. Russia can and should do a much better job with their immigration procedure. Day 2, we met at 8 AM and caught a boat ride for a guided tour of the rivers and canals, then to the Hermitage museum where our English guide gave us a private tour, traditional lunch at a sandwich shop and a visit to the Church of the Spilt Blood. We were taken to TJ Travel’s office to pay Tatiana. Everyone was extremely happy with the tour guide, driver and the entire experience. To have TJ handle visas, transportation and provide a tailor made tour is worth every penny. Don’t do Russia any other way. Each day, we had one or two obligatory stops at a tacky souvenir shop that provided free vodka and coffee. A small price to pay in my opinion. My advice for St. Petersburg: Use TJ Tours…sit back, relax and enjoy….enough said. Berlin, Germany The city is about 2 hours from the port of Warnemunde. We used ToursByLocals.com and had an excellent tour guide. Months in advance I crafted our own itinerary which included pick up at 8 AM, a 2 hour drive to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where our ToursByLocals tour guide gave us a complete guided tour through the camp, then off to Berlin where we saw the Berlin wall and a section of “no man’s land.” We also saw the site of Hitler’s former bunker, the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, through Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, a quick stop at a museum and a church and then said goodbye to our tour guide and the driver took us back to the ship (2 hour drive). Our group of 7 traveled very comfortably and the tour cost approx. $1300 for all 7 which included admission to museums, the camp, the driver and tour guide. My advice for Berlin: Use ToursByLocals. They provide extremely friendly and professional guides. You get to craft your own day and see Berlin the way you want to see it. Kiel, Germany This was our last stop before ending the cruise in Copenhagen and I didn’t think our group would be up for another long day in the car with a 2 hour drive to Hamburg. We walked around Kiel which had lots of shops and malls. It is heaven if you are a shopper. The one cool thing we did find was in the church which has an observatory tower that is only open 2 days a week. The tower was closed, but adjoining the building is a government office which has a set of continuously moving elevators without doors. You’d think my kids and husband were in Disney Land. They got the biggest kick out of jumping on and off the elevators and riding them up a floor or two. You’ll never see anything like it in the States, so check it out. We were back on the ship by lunch. My advice for Kiel: Had it been a nice beach day we would have gone to the beach because it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, it was cool and rainy.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Let's start with the cabin. We paid for a verandah, but when we got on the ship, our 11th floor room had a small 'Romeo & Juliet' balcony without furniture. There was room for two to stand on it, and there were no ... Read More
Let's start with the cabin. We paid for a verandah, but when we got on the ship, our 11th floor room had a small 'Romeo & Juliet' balcony without furniture. There was room for two to stand on it, and there were no dividers from the adjacent rooms (no privacy when on the balcony). We were disappointed and went to get the room changed but were told that since we booked through Expedia, we could not change it. They claimed it was an upgrade, a spa room, but we didn't see that the spa features were a good exchange for a nice verandah on which we could sit and enjoy the view or read. We got a yoga mat, two free vitamin waters and two bottled waters, a deep tub for soaking, and a little fountain which was never turned on. On the other hand, being near The Crow's Nest was very nice, and we spent a lot of time there and also enjoyed the deck above on the 12th floor when it wasn't too windy. Other than our disappointment with the balcony, our room was acceptable and we were well cared for by our stewards. The food was adequate (no Wow factor), and we met a lot of really nice people at our open seating dining. We didn't feel we got the attention from the dining room staff that we were used to on other cruise lines, but perhaps that's because it was open seating. Every night that we ate in the dining room, it took a full two hours for dinner. It wasn't because we were so slow but because the waiters didn't come back to the table for a long time after each course was served. For that reason we missed the early shows in the theatre several times. The performers in the theatre were excellent but the sound quality was not good, or they had to volume turned up too high. It had a tinny quality to it, and I heard others remark upon the same thing as we left the theatre. We enjoyed all the shows we attended, though, and especially the comedian. The BB King Blues group was excellent! We booked four tours with others online before going on the trip. They were all excellent and much cheaper than the HAL tours. It was nice to be in small groups and to have listening devices for the most crowded places. We also booked some tours with HAL and they were good, but so expensive. We didn't feel they were a good deal for what we got. For example, we had 2 full days in St. Petersburg with a private company, and our tours included full lunches with wine or beer, for much less than what a comparable HAL tour cost. Also the HAL tours consisted of much larger groups on large buses. Their tours were driving through a city listening to the guide, getting off to take a photo, then putting us on our own for lunch. My advice is to book tours ahead of time with others, but do read the reviews and see what others have experienced with private operators. Overall it was a good trip, and all of the ports were wonderful and very interesting. We were lucky to have great weather every day, which we were told is rare in that part of the world. We enjoyed the white nights in the far north, and we saw beautiful sunsets most nights. We recommend this trip.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and places: ... Read More
Me and my father had participated in a Holland America cruise with MsPrinsendam from 2 to 14 October this year at Black Sea. It was a round-trip, we sailed from Piraeus and disembarked there after visiting the following ports and places: Volos-Pelion in Greece, Sinop in Turkey after cruising the Dardanelles and Bosporus, Sochi in Russia, Sevastopol in Ukraine, Constanta in Romania, Burgas (though initially Nessebar was out port of call) in Bulgaria, Istanbul (Constantinople) in Turkey and Mykonos in Greece. I would like to make a few comments on the destinations, before I go on with our experience on the ship. I come from Greece and three ports were actually in Greece, but I’ll try not to let this color my review. • I am sure Athens was a top destination for many travelers who flew from other continents, as Americans, Canadians, Philipinos and Australians. • Volos and especially Pelion with its unique architecture and autumn colors was a marvel even for us who have visited before. * Cruising Dardanelles and Bosporus, this area so heavy from memories and history, where different continents and cultures meet, was a special opportunity for lovers of history and for photographers as well – watching Constantinople from every angle as the ship sailed through Bosporus was spectacular! • Sinop was the first port where many of us wandered: “why did we really stop here???” It’s a small provincial town with almost nothing to show in terms of natural or urban environment, apart from the Walls, some Mosques and a few old Greek style houses. Though for Greeks (7 out of 750 passengers) Sinop might have some sentimental value (we visited an interesting Archaeological Museum with Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine relics), I am wandering how much money Holland America has saved by wasting one day here and not at some other important port as Samsun, Giresun, Ordu or Trabzon. Nevertheless people at Sinop were very hospitable and warm and they offered tasty pies and the traditional tea in their shops. • Sochi in Russia was a good example of how a communist city transits to black economy “development”. This usually means: ugly expensive hotels, casinos and malls, where all the upstarts –God knows how- come to show their culture or the lack of it. This could be a gate to Paradise, built across the coast of Black Sea and at the roots of Caucasus with all its beauty and botanical diversity. Anyway, we didn’t see much of it, since we needed Visa, and our travel agent had given us the wrong impression that the ticket to the off-shore excursion to the Nature Reverse would be the ticket, for a few hours, to the land of the (still) highly suspicious Russians. • Sevastopol is a city which we will have nice memories of: built on hills and small peninsulas entering Black Sea, gave me the impression of a city of Ancient Glory, as we were entering the harbor at sunset and its simple but imposing buildings were turning into gold. It’s a very clean city, very friendly to pedestrians, with a lot of open public spaces and trees. However, there is something always and everywhere present, in a rather disturbing and loud way: the Russian Army and the monuments for its participation to the great wars. Russian Army and Navy still uses this place as its basis, so there are numerous buildings with the Russian Flag on the top and people in uniforms coming and going in and out of them. We didn’t follow any excursion, it’s a waste of money anyway, and we took an old small bus (marshrutka) from their bus station and went to Bakchisaray, an old village with the Khan’s Palace, once the capital of the Crimean Tatar Khanate, where Khans had ruled for 400 years before Russians came to impose their dominance. On the way, the Cave monastery is a very interesting place, with monk cells caved in the rock, but unfortunately there was no time to make a stop. I would come back and explore the whole Chersonessos of Crimea. It’s a very cheap destination anyway! • Constanta takes the “Decadence Award”! One a charming and vibrant city is now full of deserted buildings and houses one step before collapse and it’s a shame. When we visited, the municipality was undertaking restoration and reconstruction work on streets and public areas and hopefully they will save some of the city’s previous glory. As for saving their culture, I do not think there are many hopes for that! Along with the poverty everywhere you would turn your eyes, you see the signs of a lustful consumerism: on cars, on west-style malls and on people’s behavior: aggressiveness and indifference, especially of their drivers. Constanta has left a rather depressive feeling in most of the travelers… • Next day we couldn’t dock at Nessebar so we went to Burgas, which was a pleasant turn of events. In spite of the obvious poverty and cultural confusion due the fast development of Bulgaria (some get rich but a lot of others stay in the dark), Burgas is a clean city with very interesting architecture. However, we still wanted to visit Nessebar, since we had heard a lot for this World Culture Heritage Monument. We used public transportation to get there. Today, it is solely a “tourists’ exploitation” destination: all its numerous 12th century churches, wonderfully restored, have a fee and they are surrounded with taverns and shops with souvenirs. Still, it is a picturesque place with cute wooden houses, but its lack of connection with today’s life has created a “fake” feeling in me. Like Sinop, I do not think this should be a destination by itself. Burgas or Varna, with the option of an excursion here, could be better . The company’s interests once again… • And then Istanbul which I visited for the second time – what can I say! It is the City of Cities – we should have spent 2-3 days here, but they are never enough. It’s a place you have to visit many times in your lifetime. Words are poor… • Mykonos at last is always a disappointing destination for me: picturesque but so exploited and so badly used. Lesvos or Chios would be a much more interesting destination. To end with, from all the ports we visited I would only choose Sevastopol and Constantinople: the first will stay in my mind, the second in my heart. Cruise experience As it is obvious above, only a few destinations in the cruise itinerary were worthwhile. In general, the cruise was unjustifiably expensive for what it offered. The whole ship is old and needs either to be removed or renovated, especially the cabins/staterooms. Though the bathroom was OK, the furniture in the room and other amenities are not even close to the “luxurious” ship we were told about. The air condition was horrible in many rooms and we spent two of the coldest days in rough sea …with cold air, so we had to cover our sea-sick heads with a duvet and a blanket. Then they supposedly fixed it and we spent the rest of the journey in a tropical envrionment with super-warm air. At the same time, the toilet blocked, but at least that was fixed after a few hours. Noisy room, near the machines of the ship. The food was mediocre. The choices were not as many as one would expect from a “luxurious ship”, so we had chicken, beef and salmon over and over again. In two occasions, fruits were one step before rotting and the slices of bread had signs of mold. In general, it was OK and the choices helped you maintain a healthy diet. I will remember one night we had Indonesian food served by staff dressed with traditional clothes. The food tasted more authentically, perhaps because it was closer to their hearts… We found entertainment awful, and this was how most non-Americans felt. Despite the talent of some of the performers, there were very few “canned” choices that were mostly directed to elderly Americans. The only performance I would distinguish was that of Mr. Cristian and Mr. Valentin on violin and on piano respectively. They performed with real passion diverse peaces from different parts of the world which created a very romantic and nostalgic atmosphere. These two gentlemen, who are also very kind and interesting people, have literally saved me during this cruise. Another issue that was inconvenient and unpleasant for us and many other passengers was the amount that was withheld from each passenger (60 dollars per person per day) and the tips that were mandatory. I do not know which policies apply to other cruise lines, but to find out that a couple needs more than 1300 dollars to be disposable, even if they do not intend to spend it them on the ship, is still incomprehensible for me. A cruise is not for everyone something they do whenever they wish. For my father and me it was a “once in a lifetime” thing and personally I didn’t have 700 dollars extra. “Tips’ policy” is another issue. I do not disagree that this is a way to honor those really hard-working people, and I do that wherever I go. But it is me who judges who deserves it and I make sure that she/he gets and not the owner of the company/store etc. I am almost 100% that the tips do not go to these poor people’s pockets and that they rather make up the minimal salaries of hunger they are paid for 16-18 hours of work each day. And this leads me naturally to the service from the lower staff in the rooms, restaurants/bars and machines of the ship – all those people we never really see and to whom our journey relies on: it was excellent, human, warm and thoughtful. It was overwhelming for me to watch these low-paid tired people smiling even though their feet hurt and needed sleep. Someone would say that they are treated better than in their homelands (mostly Philippines and Indonesia) and that they have the chance to see the world and make a budget to build the house or the shop of their dreams in their hometown when they return. But they deserve much more: better salaries, better work conditions. And this is something Holland-America should have in mind: these people never complain but many passengers know what happens. The shore excursions then: “canned” just like the entertainment aboard. Much money for less time and fewer places. Do not follow. Use the local transport: you’ll get a deeper look in everyday life than when you’re lead by others stacked in a bus in a predetermined root. Should this option intimidate you, book a local guide before your journey. And of course, read before you travel. Before I conclude, I feel that I should mention the cruise director of Ms Prinsendam which me and many other passengers found arrogant, rude and disrespectful of other people’s cultures and status. A lady from Turkey was insulted in a multiply racist way when she dared to complain about certain incindents on the ship: her origins, her experience from the rest of the world and her ability to speak and understand foreign languages were questioned. Holland-America should consider her replacement. Of course, I could have made all these complaints to the company directly but you know what? Although, they asked us to feel in a form with our e-mails, nor me nor the lady from Turkey have ever received their survey to complete it… Am I suspicious?...   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I chose this cruise because of its Black Sea itinerary, mostly places I have never seen. Spending a few extra days in Athens was the icing on the cake. Check-in and boarding staff were efficient and cordial. My stateroom, a free upgrade ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of its Black Sea itinerary, mostly places I have never seen. Spending a few extra days in Athens was the icing on the cake. Check-in and boarding staff were efficient and cordial. My stateroom, a free upgrade surprise, was large and luxurious with a bathtub and walk-in closet. Cabin stewards were gracious and eager to please. The small size of the ship gave me a chance to get to know some of the guests I saw regularly. What a delightful, well-traveled group. The food was excellent with extra emphasis on local specialities. Our first port, Volos, Greece, gave me a chance to visit the breathtaking Meteora Monasteries on a excellent shore excursion. This is a must see site with religious communities perched on top of pillars of rock formations that are like something out of a sci-fi movie. The guide was wonderful. The Dardenelles and Bosporus cruising was narrated and a wonderful scenic tour in both directions. Our entrance into the Black Sea was cold and blustery so the crew did everything they could for our comfort. Sinop, Turkey was a delight. It is small, walkable and a great view of seaside life. I enjoyed a talk with a young weaver who spent her time telling me about her country and shared a traditional Turkish coffee with me in her shop. Others I encountered were equally gracious. It was a delight to visit a place not built just for tourists. Sinop is historically significant as well as delightful Sochi, Russia was an interesting Russian experience as well as a preview of the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. My chosen shore excursion was to a Caucasus nature reserve but most of the time was spent visiting the high mountain Olympic Villages that were still under construction. It will enhance my enjoyment of the Olympics but we never got our walk in the nature reserve. Due to rough seas the captain arranged an early and overnight stay in Sevastopol as a treat and it was. I enjoyed a dinner in town where the restaurant staff were gracious and negotiated with us about a meal since we couldn't read the Ukrainian menu. The food was wonderful and the service was cordial and efficient. My shore excursion the next day was a half day that included the ruins at Chernosses, a wonderful experience. I spent the rest of the day strolling around the clean, beautiful city. Constanta, Romania was a view into a post-Communist city that is struggling to reclaim itself after years of neglect. I walked around visiting mosques and churches and enjoyed a coffee with pastry in a bakery. People were friendly and eager to speak English. It was a day of enlightenment and hope for the future of these lovely people. Burgas, Bulgaria, a substitute port due to stormy weather, was a surprise treat. It is full of parks, boulevards, beaches, shops, cafés and delightful people. I walked around alone, resting in coffee shops as needed, enjoying this beautiful city. Istanbul was a return visit for me. I spent the entire day strolling alone through markets, visiting mosques, shopping a bit and people watching. Since it was the beginning of an extended holiday, locals packed the streets providing a great opportunity to observe this diverse culture. My evening shore excursion was to the Whirling Dervish service in a mosque. This was a rare treat that was graciously explained and beautifully presented. Our last port was Mykonos, also a return visit that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is hard to think of a more beautiful place on a bright sunny day, with Sunday church services and low tourist crowds. People are friendly, food is good and scenic views are all around.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I can't say enough about the Europe-Black Sea cruise we took on the Prinsendam in September/October, 2013. The small ship was absolutely fabulous: service, crew, ports of call, entertainment and food were outstanding. We have sailed ... Read More
I can't say enough about the Europe-Black Sea cruise we took on the Prinsendam in September/October, 2013. The small ship was absolutely fabulous: service, crew, ports of call, entertainment and food were outstanding. We have sailed on several of the Holland America cruise ships, and while all of them have been lovely, the Prinsendam is, without a doubt, truly special. They treated us like family and took care of our every need. Our cabin was a lovely ocean view room - very spacious and comfortable. From our cabin steward to the chef in the Cafeteria, to the cruise director to the Captain - every single one of them were exceptional. If you're looking for a small, cozy, intimate cruise, I would highly recommend the Holland America Prinsendam. The ports of call were especially lovely: France; La Specia/Cinque a Terra, Obla and Brindisi, Italy; The Greek Islands of Hydra, Mykonos, Rhodes and Lindos; Isanbul, Ephesus, and Meteora, Turkey; Kotor, Montenegro; Romania; Socchi, Russia and the Ukraine. What an amazing trip. We opted to take off on our own and rented cars and motor scooters in most of the ports and saw even more on our own than if we would have taken the ship's shore excursions, and much less expensive. If you're adventurous, I'd recommend spending some time on line investigating the different ports and then exploring on your own. In Kotor, do not pass up walking the 1600+ steps to the old fort - it's definitely worth the effort. Take the train in La Specia to Cinque a Terra and just stroll the small towns - beautiful. The only place that you might want to take a tour or hire a guide would be Ephesus, since there's so much history that unless you have a book or guide, you may miss a lot. I just can't say enough or recommend this trip highly enough - it was truly a cruise of a lifetime.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
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