1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Holland America Line
  4. Holland America Line Cruise Reviews

19 Holland America San Francisco Cruise Reviews

Maasdam cruise to Alaska 2019 Positive Experience: Our Holland American Line (HAL) cruise consultant, Amy, was a great help to us in managing our cruise including a cabin upgrade. The ship is beautiful, very clean and in excellent ... Read More
Maasdam cruise to Alaska 2019 Positive Experience: Our Holland American Line (HAL) cruise consultant, Amy, was a great help to us in managing our cruise including a cabin upgrade. The ship is beautiful, very clean and in excellent condition. The HAL staff in all areas was very friendly, competent, and professional. Our cabin stewards UGIH and Deni were the best we have had on any cruise we have taken. For a pleasant change, the internet, while expensive, was the fastest we have ever experienced on a cruse by a factor of ten. Boarding and disembarking was fast and efficient. Negative Experience: The TV news stations, CNN, BBC, Fox were not available most of the time and on an unpredictable schedule. The “no signal available” message was even on all day while moored in locations like Anchorage & Juno AK and Vancouver & Astoria OR. With all the electronics that is on that ship, they can’t find a satellite signal?. On a Maasdam cruise two years ago they found a signal in places like Pago-Pago, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The food in the main dining room deteriorated since our last Maasdam cruise in 2017. I ordered prime rib that was so tough that cutting it with a table knife was difficult and I could not chew it enough to swallow. I doubt that it was even prime rib. My wife had strip steak that was very tough and four others at our table had similar problems with their strip steak. My wife and I are not “meat and potatoes” people but it appeared to us that the chief tried to outdo himself with mostly “gourmet” offerings every night. An example of some choices in one meal: Foie Gras with Apple Tarte Tatin, Sunchoke Soup, Lemon Grass Coconut Tofu Curry, Pan-Seared Cobia. Additionally, at least four times per day we would be approached by a staff member trying to sell us on the pay restaurant Canaletto. We had dinner there one evening and the food was good but not as good as our two previous Maasdam cruises or our neighborhood Italian restaurants. The laundry service was poor. Anything that we sent that required pressing had to be sent back because it was wrinkled. My wife and I are both retired corporate executives and strongly suspect that there was a change of management or operating budget on the Maasdam since our last cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We like Holland America. And we selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We were on the ship for 8 weeks starting in San Francisco on June 18. The Maasdam went to a lot of ports in the first 3 weeks. Namely Ketchikan, Sitka, ... Read More
We like Holland America. And we selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We were on the ship for 8 weeks starting in San Francisco on June 18. The Maasdam went to a lot of ports in the first 3 weeks. Namely Ketchikan, Sitka, Anchorage, Kodiak, Valdez, Homer, Haines, Juneau (where we did a helicopter flight to 2 glaciers), Wrangell. We saw Hubbard Glacier up close and also College Fjord. Then we did the Inside Passage and went south to Vancouver (the only rainy day) and on to Port Alberni and Astoria before returning to San Francisco. This was the end of 3 weeks. We then started north again and went to Seattle, Victoria BC, Ketchikan, Sitka, Dutch Harbour (and Unalaska), and then on to Nome. This port even the captain hadn't been to and he still hasn't because the seas were too choppy for a safe tender journey. So we missed it unfortunately. Then we went on to Petropavlovsk in Russia and from there to Kushiro in Japan. All brilliant places. Our second 3 weeks ended in Yokohama, Japan. And so the last 2 weeks of our cruise started. Yokohama is a very modern city and it is quite easy to get around. Our next port was Shimizu, then Kobe, Takamatsu and Kochi where it was market day. Very hot in Japan in August though. Kanazawa was lovely. Then we went back to Russia to see Vladivostok and Korsakov. From there back to Japan. Otaru is a lovely town with great shopping. Our last port before returning to Yokohama was Hakodate. Also really nice. So all in all a great cruise with lots of very different ports to visit. We really enjoyed it and we met great people on this cruise. We would certainly do this cruise again if we could. We did not use the ship's shore excursions as they are too expensive. We went on independent tours with local touring companies and they were great. Some were booked by us (and listed on the relevant Cruise Critic Roll Call pages)and some by other Cruise Critic members Embarkation went very smoothly, disembarkation was also great as long as you waited until the last moment and most people were gone. The Maasdam is an EXC ship and therefore hasn't got the production shows that other ships in the fleet have. There were lots of lectures relating to the areas we sailed through. But we enjoyed that. We especially enjoyed Naturalist Gloetta, she is a marvel and so enthusiastic. Everyone loved her and at the end there was standing room only. But still, every night there was some show, either singer(s), piano players, violinist, even a rock and roll band and a hip hop group. Plenty of things to do We especially liked Lee the piano man. We sat most nights around the piano and sang our hearts out. Really great fun. Dining was hit or miss. Some meals were absolutely fabulous and others so so. Breakfast and lunch were mostly good. The crew is fantastic, from cabin stewards to bar staff to Lido staff and also the dining room. Laundry was done perfectly. Were there any hiccups? Sure, there always are small problems, but they were overcome and we all learned from it. Would we sail Holland America again? Absolutely. Our next cruise will in December, again on the Maasdam. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. As with most HAL cruises, it was port intensive. On board were a geologist, naturalist, a chief of the Tlingit people, an indigenous wood carver and a couple who shared their music, stories ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. As with most HAL cruises, it was port intensive. On board were a geologist, naturalist, a chief of the Tlingit people, an indigenous wood carver and a couple who shared their music, stories and experiences living in Alaska. We were able to learn from these presenters and interact with them daily. In addition, there was evening entertainment, including, singers, comedians and magicians. This cruise was an opportunity to visit small ports that were more authentic, without the multitude of jewelry shops lining the sidewalks. We were able to support local businesses and speak with the people who lived in these communities. Of particular interest and enjoyment was Port Alberni, British Columbia. We sailed up the Alberni Inlet and were received with the warmest welcome that we have ever had in another port. To begin with, a group of indigenous people canoed to our ship (which was tendered) and sang a welcome song. On shore, the local people were there to greet us and assist us in any way. The Book Club participants dressed in period costumes, the indigenous peoples did a welcoming dance, volunteers offered rides to see local attractions. As it was a Saturday, there was a wonderful Craft Market on the Quay. There were offers of free local tours. When we admired the restored logging trucks at the Quay, we were personally driven to the Industrial Heritage Centre, where they have restored numerous vehicles and machinery from the logging hey days of the area. There were vintage trucks and antique machines that have been restored over the past 35 years by a group of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers. The volunteers showed us around the various vehicles, giving a history of each one. Unfortunately, their steam train is currently out of service. When it is running, it goes from the original train station to the Historic R B McLean Lumber Co. site. If this attraction is restored, it would be a wonderful addition for cruise visitors. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I had been to Alaska on a one week guy;s fishing trip on the Kenai Peninsula, and a one week family, adventure small ship cruise in SE Alaska. The itinerary for this cruise caught my attention, as well as the smaller size ship, and EXC ... Read More
I had been to Alaska on a one week guy;s fishing trip on the Kenai Peninsula, and a one week family, adventure small ship cruise in SE Alaska. The itinerary for this cruise caught my attention, as well as the smaller size ship, and EXC In-Depth program. I was not disappointed. Indeed, in many ways, my overall experience exceeded my expectation. True, the zodiac excursions did not come about, and the SE Alaska weather was rainy and cold, But, the quality of the In-Depth programs and presenters, the less frequented ports of call, the scenic cruising (especially Hubbard Glacier and College Fjord), and the on-board entertaintainment and activities made for an exceptional cruise. In the dining room, food quality was good, presentation excellent. The Pinnacle Grill dinners were excellent in both quality and presentation, though the service was slow at times, due, I believe, to understaffing. Overall, however, HAL's signature service was in evidence throughout the ship. The Maasdam is an older ship, but has been well-maintained, and the tasteful refurbishment of the public areas last year makes for a pleasing environment. Though very comfortable and well-serviced by our fantastic cabin stewards, our cabin could use some updating, and the bathtub replaced by a walk-in shower. Neither, however, got in the way of our enjoying a memorable time in Alaskan and Pacific Northwest waters. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We picked this 21 day cruise, longer than most Alaska cruises, because we love Alaska and the ship went to ports not often visited by cruise ships. The Maasdam is a relatively small ship that has a great variety of decks to view glaciers, ... Read More
We picked this 21 day cruise, longer than most Alaska cruises, because we love Alaska and the ship went to ports not often visited by cruise ships. The Maasdam is a relatively small ship that has a great variety of decks to view glaciers, etc. Cabin was standard but we loved that the bathroom door had a magnet that would hold door open so you don't have to turn on a light at night to use the bathroom. We only ate at Lido - Food was OK, but "hot" food was almost always cold. According to the crew, the salmon served were pink salmon - the second least flavorful of the 5 species of Alaska salmon - I expect a premium cruise ship to serve quality salmon - at least they were Alaska salmon, not farm raised. This cruise was an Exc In-Depth cruise - the program was basically in disarray; only Kent Syverson, a glacier geologist, was excellent; others provided little of value. The evening entertainment was mostly very good - there were no ship singers and dancers - a good move. The sound system/speakers in the showroom were excellent - much better almost distortion free sound than on the other 3 Holland America ships we have been on. Housekeeping service was very good. Lido service was friendly but seemed to be understaffed - most of the time we got our own coffee, tea, and refills. The ship had some problems with managing tendering - it was such a long time to get ashore (about 2 hours) in Juneau that we decided not to even go ashore. In the crew's defense, they did better on some later tenderings. Cruise director Lance did a credible job of providing Port information. The woman in charge of Shore Excursions gave a couple of briefings on available excursions that showed she knew nothing about Alaska or what a National Park was - after the 1st week she didn't give more briefings. Weather was wet much of the trip but that's the chance you take in Alaska. We would go again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I chose this short cruise to introduce a 'newb' to cruising. It was intended to give her a taste of cruising.......more than a one day overnight repositioning. By the time you add airfare to SF, and cost to get home as well ... Read More
I chose this short cruise to introduce a 'newb' to cruising. It was intended to give her a taste of cruising.......more than a one day overnight repositioning. By the time you add airfare to SF, and cost to get home as well as port fee's and taxes that matched the cabin charge.....it all add's up to a 'not cheap' cruise.......it's something to consider---cost to value. Arrived in SF to find an 'annual coast guard' inspection underway. The ship had been sailing out of Ft Laurderdale all winter so this wasn't a back to the USA deal......but it delayed getting on board, and then delays getting documents signed caused the departure at 5 pm to be closer to 6:30....... For those that have visited SF going under the Golden Gate bridge is a highlight........unfortunately the ebb tide and delays due to the inspection made a mess of the first night transit. The food in the MDR was less edible than anything I had experienced before. Very few choices for anyone with dietary needs. (GF) We were told more than once that there weren't choices because things cost too much in SF so they had not restocked the ship for the jaunt back to Vancouver. They were simply 'out' of things that they should have had. I believe this was accurate........and further degraded the experience. On the last day we had some good food! While that's nice to see they can produce good entree's.......it's all the more upsetting that they DID NOT, until the last meal. The Captain stated that they have 5 motors/engines on the ship but only need 4. A good thing since he also said the 5th one was not working during our trip. So you spend all day with the coast guard and go out to sea with less than a fully functional ship? I don't care that you only need 4........I'd bet you NEED that 5th one if anything happens to #'s 1-4. We faced Beaufort 10 conditions at sea.............hmmmm, plugging along as best we could with the knowledge that she was not fully rigged. Parts of the ship were extremely cold (Crows Nest, Lido, etc)..........like they had failed to turn off the air conditioning from a more tropical zone (Panama Canal). Thruster and docking procedures took forever---which everyone knows is not a pleasant experience for anyone. I have never listened to so much noise and vibrations as well as the inching of the ship into port or docking or leaving port. So, yet more time was 'lost' with these processes. After docking an hour (or more) late in Victoria--after arriving on time, they 'forgot' to tell folks the ship was cleared for people to get off. During the Captain's talk he made a comment about other captains when a question was asked about an Alaska route. Basically stating that he would not endanger a ship as if other captains had done so when traveling last summer. Very unprofessional given the route in question (Grenville Channel) is a route available to smaller cruise ships and it is a known route to Alaska. This was just plain unprofessional.........if he'll never sail that route, fine, but it's on my list of things to do and sorry I missed the opportunity last year...... I suspect it is not a preplanned route and dependent on tides/condition on the water........for the Captains that have chosen it. Thank you to them........the guests had a rare experience these days! Staff were good overall. Room stewards were great, MDR first night was very slow and not sure if that was new crew or ??? Next two nights we ended up at a different table and service was great. Too bad the food cannot match the service on board! While I have sailed HAL over 5 times, I think this may be the end of our relationship. It's not worth it to have problems with food and the ship. This is not a one off as the last HAL experience 3 years ago had similar issues on the Zaandam. So two strikes are now seen.......dare we try for three or cut our losses and move on. There are other cruise experiences that have been better than HAL' s with Carnival..........it's easier to remember the good ol' days and move on then throw good money after bad........... Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Wanted a break so we took a repositioning cruise from SF to Vancouver, which we have done before on Princess. It's a nice trip; leave out the Golden Gate; one day at sea and come through Juan de Fuca, the San Juans and the Gulf ... Read More
Wanted a break so we took a repositioning cruise from SF to Vancouver, which we have done before on Princess. It's a nice trip; leave out the Golden Gate; one day at sea and come through Juan de Fuca, the San Juans and the Gulf Islands the final morning. Wanted comfort so we paid for a Superior Verandah Suite which was very disappointing. The layout of the room was such that one couldn't see out the window or verandah doors, or watch television comfortably, from anywhere but the bed. The sofa was located directly underneath the TV; there was a desk chair where one person could look out the window. The armchair faced the bed. The bathroom had double sinks which was a feature we wanted but the shower was very confusing and it was very difficult to get the temperature wanted. Bed was comfortable. The food was good but the Horizon Grill buffet was a nightmare. Very difficult to see what was available and very slow service getting what was chosen. Whole ship seemed dark. We enjoyed the Lincoln Center concert, BB King's Blues Bar and the covered pool and hot tubs. Disembarkation was chaotic; never clear what time we were getting off. Had to reschedule ground transportation twice. Embarkation in SF was fairly straightforward. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Noordam 82318 tons 918 cabins Last Drydock 2018 9/28/2017 Room 6090 The Good Our room was in a great location! Only a few rooms aft of the midship elevator. We had two panoramic midship elevators on either side, ... Read More
Noordam 82318 tons 918 cabins Last Drydock 2018 9/28/2017 Room 6090 The Good Our room was in a great location! Only a few rooms aft of the midship elevator. We had two panoramic midship elevators on either side, and also some central midship elevators. We had the pilot boat arrive right under us. We also got to see the Sydney Opera House from our balcony as we arrived into Sydney. On the other hand, we had a crane sitting right outside our window in one of the Fiji stops. Signature Suites come with some nice square footage (280 square feet of room and 100 square feet of balcony). If we’re going to be on a long cruise, we want some elbow room! They’re wide enough that one of us didn’t have to back up if we met at the foot of the bed on the way to the bathroom. For those with mobility problems, this is key. We had a tub/shower with a separate shower and two sinks. The bathroom was also wide enough that one could move past someone standing at the close sink to the other sink. We had a European and American outlet at the desk, and also the vanity. Since we have an international adapter sets for Kindle and iPad, we were able to utilize all the plugs. Great cabin steward! On embarkation day, we give them a written list of preferences to break the ice with them. We about two weeks in, we put him in our top five of a lot of cruises, and later in the cruise we moved him to the top three. We never returned to a dirty room in 38-days. We did leave the “Make Up Room” lock holder when we left for Breakfast and Dinner. Dining - MDR. Another excellent experience. We give the waiter, assistant waiter and boss with a list of preferences to make it easier for them. We had the same team for the entire 38-day voyage. We ate in the MDR. I don’t think we missed an evening. Our assistant waiter served us coffee with HEATED cups! Our waiter managed my allergy seamlessly. He would bring the next day’s menu with the dessert and say “take your time.” Lectures - The lectures San Francisco to Sydney were fabulous. The container lecture was the most interesting lecture of the batch for me. Especially when we got to the Pacific Islands, and saw all container ports. We wished they’d been able to continue the lectures after Sydney. Pinnacle Grill - Lunch - Really great service! We had the same waiter the five or six times we visited. I loved the chocolate dessert with caramel popcorn! Ocean Bar - Great Waitress! Again, one of the top waitresses we’ve had! We met each sea day at the Crow’s Nest for Knitting, Crochet, and Stitching. Our group numbered over 20, and we had a great time sharing stories, suggestions for upcoming ports. (One member planned to do all the Lord of the Rings Shore Excursions.) After Sydney, one of the bartenders visited daily for drink orders. All cargo ports in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, so no Wifi. All Kiwi (New Zealand citizens) needed a permit to enter their ports. Security entered the bus and checked all ship cards and identification cards. Before we could leave the ship, they played a recording of forbidden items in New Zealand: no food, honey, wood, of any kind, etc. Only commercial bottled water. Once or twice the cruise director told us only unopened bottled water. In Napier they had a band playing in port when we returned from our EXC tour. Bus drivers must take a driving test every year, and we were happy to learn that they must exit the bus and stand next to the door to help tourists if needed. EXC Tours - Each Guide was very knowledgeable and made our tours memorable. . Clean Windows on the Buses. Nice grab bars to help climb those really tall steps to onto the bus. Good lectures by the guides. Great buses with nice long seatbelts in Sydney and Melbourne. Mentioned the super high bus steps (Tasmania’s bus step came up to a couple inches below my knee), to the EXC staff must have mentioned this to the tour groups, because the bus drivers started providing step stools. Also, noticed the bus drivers started driving the buses right up to the gangplank in New Zealand. Fabulous guide in Hobart Wildlife and Waterways. This lady is finishing her PhD in Tanmania History. Best tour guide of the trip! Napier - Sheep Sheering & Scones Mountain Ride! Great guide and great bus. This bus had comfortable seats, a screen at the front showing a live view of the road ahead. With strict food rules in New Zealand, it’s a good idea to book an excursion with a snack or meal included. This guide trained the others to drive up the mountain road. “Ice Cream Sample” was much larger than expected, I think those 4 ounce single servings at our grocery store were smaller! It would have been much better to stagger the two busloads. At the sheep sheering and afternoon tea, since both were at the same location, have one bus doing the tea while the other did the inside part of the sheep sheering, then switch. Very crowded store at the sheep shearing stop. Wellington - Guide’s coffee recommendation was SO true. Very strong coffee but not bitter. We’re so glad he suggested it, but it’s taking a long time to get used to American Coffee. Wellington has some very interesting rules for bus drivers. He pulled down a narrow street, and the cars had to make room for him by either backing up or going over curbs. The Needs Improvement One of the elevators was down for four straight days. Cruise Director did not schedule our Knitting, Crochet and Stitching group in the daily program, but it may not have been his fault. We heard this decision came from corporate. He seemed glad we found each other. At the collector’s cruise lecture, he read word for word from the handout. At the end of the presentation, he declined to answer a question about a possible conflict with a EXC tour and muster drill, and walked back stage. EXC Tours I had sent an email to headquarters about my disappointment with the way they organize the shore excursions, but so far no answer. The tours need to be staggered so only one bus load at a time at each stop. Some of the tours were to crowded, I didn’t want to shop the local stores. With a few exceptions, too rushed, not enough time at each stop, too crowded. Each bus seemed to have something wrong: A/C blowing very warm air, middle bus door didn’t open, etc. When we have a 15-minute stop, and it takes five minutes to load and unload the bus, there’s not much time left for viewing the sights. Cancellation policy now 48 hours. EXC employee worked at the desk and in the Vista Lounge with some type of upper respiratory infection. She tried to announce shore excursions on port days while she had no voice. A few days later, we both came down with upper respiratory infections too. Some EXC tours had meeting times at 11 am, but the Lido opened at 11:30 am. Also, no food stalls just off the ship in port. With strict food rules in New Zealand, I wish they’d have at least a snack on all tours offered. Tauranga - Yes, it goes in the “bad” section. We’re not planning on booking any more EXC tours in Tauranga. Our bus had very uncomfortable seats, no head rests, no seatbelts. Front seats foot area was so narrow, a man next to us couldn’t put his foot all the way down. It had a ramp down the center aisle to a step, and I saw several people fall. Also, the bus had backward facing seats. The tour guide sat in an open seat for a few minutes, then stood back up and spent the rest of the four hour tour standing at the front of the bus. We almost quit the tour at the first stop and took a taxi back to the ship. Did you make the sale? Yes, we got a couple more Future Cruise Deposits Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
I would rate the Noordam excellent for the stewards responsible for room, dining, and buffet. The ship was clean, food good and service excellent. BB King club was great. The itinerary, weather and seas were perfect for us. The problem ... Read More
I would rate the Noordam excellent for the stewards responsible for room, dining, and buffet. The ship was clean, food good and service excellent. BB King club was great. The itinerary, weather and seas were perfect for us. The problem with our balcony. An outside vent was so strong in odor we couldn't open the door for even a moment. After twelve days they finally covered it with tape and plastic that took five minutes. It fixed the problem but I still can't believe it took constant phone calls to the front desk to get them to do that. You could also smell the odor in other parts of the ship but not as strong as our balcony. If Holland would have fixed the problem when it occurred I would have been fine. Like I say it took 12 days. Sour note on the trip. Lost a lot confidence in Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Firstly, we had an amazing 34 night voyage. The crew and friends we made were the best part of the trip. The dining room, restaurants, shops, bars, casino and all of the staff working in these areas were wonderful and we wouldn't ... Read More
Firstly, we had an amazing 34 night voyage. The crew and friends we made were the best part of the trip. The dining room, restaurants, shops, bars, casino and all of the staff working in these areas were wonderful and we wouldn't change very much at all. Our cabin was excellent, although the Neptune Suite on the Noordam is no better or worse than the Owners Suite on Royal Caribbean ships we have cruised on. The food on HAL was generally better than on RCI The wine list on RCI is better The entertainment was on a par, as was the casino, although the Texas Hold-em was an electronic game not a real dealer. There were a couple of things that we found disappointing. The on-board singers and dancers could have been a lot better. The disembarkation process for suite guests could have been much better. Despite having priority we were still faced with long queues. The ship board activities were almost non-existent. This wasn't such a big issue for a long cruise as we made lots of new friends and found ways to amuse ourselves. I'd be unlikely to take a shorter cruise (2 weeks or less) with HAL. Other than the sail-away party, there were no on-deck activities either during the day or in the evening. America's Test Kitchen was very disappointing. It seemed to be focussed on people who had never cooked before. The nightclub was deserted on every night. I was told they plan to move this when the ship gets refurbished. This will be a good thing. Only BB Kings and the Piano bar had any signs of life after 9pm in the evenings. The Cruise Director and staff only seemed to appear once each day - during the morning Coffee Chat. Not sure what they did for the rest of the day, but we didn't see them. On the whole, we had a great time, and next time we consider a longer cruise we'll definitely look at HAL, though probably not the Noordam. For any cruise up to 3 weeks in length, we won't be looking at Holland America. My wife and I are in our early 50's, so maybe this isn't the cruise line for us yet. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
While, as a couple, we may not be seasoned cruisers we are probably well past the bland point of on-board experiences. This was our fifth and shortest HAL cruise and we took it for three reasons. One, we wanted to take advantage of ... Read More
While, as a couple, we may not be seasoned cruisers we are probably well past the bland point of on-board experiences. This was our fifth and shortest HAL cruise and we took it for three reasons. One, we wanted to take advantage of the on-board future cruise offers, two, we wanted to add another HAL ship to our collection, and three, we needed to more get two more at sea days to get to the next level. All three expectations were met so the experience was an unmitigated success. If those happen to be your expectations I would heartily recommend boarding Amsterdam at your earliest opportunity. Now, if perchance you come aboard with loftier expectations I will share a few of our impressions. I have read of people upset because there was noise at sea. I would say get real. We were on a ship motoring up the coast of the Pacific North West. Heavy weather is to be expected and is beyond the control of HAL. Even my home has been know to creak and groan a bit when when the winter storms blow in from the ocean. If your complaints are from moving of chairs or music just remember who chose your room. Our stateroom was neat, well maintained and while we never met our room steward, the room was always made up in the morning and the beds turned down at night. We got both chocolate and towel animals and I never get those at home. The one detractor and the reason for only four stars was our experience in the main dining room. The wait staff were always cheerful and bent over backwards to make our dining experience pleasant. The menu just failed to make the grade. On the cruise previous to this one (Maasdam) we were treated to variety of menus that were prepared and presented in a manner that made us look forward to the next meal even after 39 days at sea. Thankfully we were always seated with wonderful table-mates that enhanced the dining experience. HAL does excel at attracting wonderful people. As usual on HAL, we barely had enough time to do the things we wanted to do during the cruise. It may be because I move slower at 75 than I did at 25 but with mornings in the gym, culinary demonstrations, art auctions, happy hour, movies, and meals we seemed to stay busy. The people at HAL that put together the HAL singers and dancers almost always do a magnificent job. This troupe was no exception. Our only shore excursion was a bus ride from the ship to the airport via Vancouver. It was a little over two hours of downtown traffic jams build around two quick dashes through the rain in the park to snap quick pictures of totem poles and Lionsgate bridge. We did not travel with children and given the choice we probably won't. There were several families on-board with children of various ages and we are so grateful to them for having raised well behaved children. If you are reading this, "Thank You." In summary, we will continue to cruise with HAL. With around 200 days left until our next one we are anxiously counting the days. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We went with another couple (dear friends) who had never cruised before. I made all of the arrangements, and therefore, felt somewhat responsible for everything surrounding this Panama Canal cruise. The embarkation process, the ... Read More
We went with another couple (dear friends) who had never cruised before. I made all of the arrangements, and therefore, felt somewhat responsible for everything surrounding this Panama Canal cruise. The embarkation process, the friendliness of the staff, and the condition of the ship was exceptional. That's where it stopped! I think the entire experience was that of "cheapskate". 1. They didn't have enough dining room staff to service the number of guests. One night, our dining experience took 3 hours! 2. The food quality was so-so. 3. The offerings at the buffet was the same every day, and very limited. One line on both port and starboard sides. 4. The entertainment was average. About half the time, the shows were with the "singers and dancers" of the staff. How many ways can you make a ham sandwich? I must say, the entertainers brought on board were quite good. 5. There was not enough time in the ports of Cabo San Lucas and Cartegena to enjoy ourselves. 6. The major cheapskate was offering a Mexican Fiesta on the fantail to watch the sunset. They piped in Gypsy Kings music (old and from Spain) over the loud speakers,, when for a few pesos, could have tendered a Mariachi band in to do it right. 7. Getting tired...I could go on and on, however, I think you get the idea. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
I was lucky enough to be a guest of my parents for this lovely trip from San Francisco, down the Mexican Coast, through the amazing Panama Canal, and up through Caribbean waters to Ft. Lauderdale. First, I'm now a big fan of ... Read More
I was lucky enough to be a guest of my parents for this lovely trip from San Francisco, down the Mexican Coast, through the amazing Panama Canal, and up through Caribbean waters to Ft. Lauderdale. First, I'm now a big fan of reposition cruises as the itineraries are a bit varied. Second, know that this line is indeed for more sedate crowd. Although there were a few, "hipper" activities, don't go on this cruise for excitement and thrill seeking. No water slides or wave pools here, just lovely, nooks and crannies such as the Crow's Nest on 11 forward where an ocean bookstore environment can be found consisting of several computer terminals, vast lending library, specialty coffee bar (extra $) and comfy chairs surrounding the huge windows to laze the day away in. There is also a huge bar and many tables for games, puzzles or visiting. On excursion days, there might be either a guest lecture providing commentary on the wonders of the Panama Canal or the excursion lead providing insight on the town. Also on 11 forward are the private cabanas which I was lucky enough to enjoy throughout the voyage. Our cabana, the Costa Del Sol, was a femily cabin on corner, equipped with 2 large and comfy lounges, table and 4 chairs. Daily amenities were fresh fruit, chilled waters and chilled Evian mist bottles. Almost any food or beverage could be provided and afternoon brought champagne, chic strawberries and frozen grapes. Sprinkled in the day when hot, were chilled towels. Dedicated cabana servers were attentive and charming, anticipating every need and doing best to provide. Perfect spot to spend the day going through the canal. For those lucky enough to be in Neptune Suite, the Neptune Lounge is lovely- note- lounge is almost smack midship on deck 7 so if you want to be real close, book accordingly. Lounge is open 7 am to approx 8-9 pm. And has delightful self serve cappuccino/latte. No hot eggs, bacon etc, but great continental assortment and also meats cheeses a la European boast. And no pursers desk needed for you; the lovely concierges (shout out to Mimi) will care for every need. Our cruise was fortunate to have two great speakers, who provided daily lectures (on sea days) on relevant topics such as Panama Canal history. The other activity which was highly attended were the computer classes. Of course the usual shopping and art auctions were also included as were trivia, bingo, towel folding, various crafts and myriad of other activities. In short, great, relaxing cruise choice for those who wish a more sedate experience and not looking for a bar scene. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
What a shame. After a combined 320 nights on Holland America Lines (HAL), this middle class family who has earned Three-Star Mariner Society status is done with this cruise line. For the record, we are professionals in our early 50s, and ... Read More
What a shame. After a combined 320 nights on Holland America Lines (HAL), this middle class family who has earned Three-Star Mariner Society status is done with this cruise line. For the record, we are professionals in our early 50s, and our daughters are 16 and 12, all well-respected by adults and peers. We are the kind of family you would appreciate meeting on a cruise. Here is our story: Over the past eight years, we have seen a noticeable decline in the way Holland America Lines (HAL) has services our young family. When we first decided to travel HAP, we knew it was skewed to older travelers, with less young families traveling. But we thought that there was some comfort traveling with a cruise line who serves older travelers. We justified to ourselves that this was going to be a more upscale experience; that there would be less riff-raff. A better total family experience. What we have seen over this time is the erosion of services to young families. Small and important things, like taking PB&J off the room service menu entirely. Pizza which was once served in Lido dining and room service has been relegated to outside near the pool, cold, and unmanaged. It even seems like there are flies hanging out at the Pizza. But that is more image than reality. The entertainment, activities, movies, and media center largely ignore the interest of young families. A good part of the media offering is “old and inappropriate for kids. I have tried in a productive and collaborative way to get help with small things on and off the ship. I tried my best, and I can be effective at getting help. Ultimately, Holland America Lines (HAL) does not care. And for good reason – they don’t just cater to seniors, but to the elderly. Big different, w learned, in behavior. By elderly, we are talking about travelers in their 70s and 80s and 90s (we and a number of 90 year olds) who forgot to enjoy the company of young families and who find themselves treating younger passengers with bitter jealousy. I haven’t seen this many walkers and carts – ever. Not even in a skilled nursing environment (we own a couple of these buildings). There is nothing wrong with the elderly and travel. But a cruise line can only serve well one or two demographics. So the lack of amenities and services for young families, and the sometimes unwelcome disposition of the elderly passengers, say to us that after 320 family nights – we are done with Holland America Lines (HAL). More suitable cruise lines in the future will be Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity. So how did we get to 320 nights before we learned this lesson? Well, the 320 is a little overstated. Divided by four family members, this is really over 80 nights each family member. Still a great amount of travel. But these experiences and observations have taken hold very quickly over this time. The dramatic change in menu and entertainment gets to the point where Holland America Lines (HAL) is happy to take the money from young families, but is unwilling to serve them. During this last trip (17 nights through the Panama – the elderly will camp out all night to grab all the chairs on the deck for Panama Day – and they won’t let them go! God bless them and their single-mindedness.), loyalty to Holland America Lines (HAL) has its disadvantages: Like good customers, we booked early. I found out a few weeks before our cruise date that our same cabins were selling for thousands of dollars less. Thousands! I tried very hard, working each step of the way in advance, throughout, and even after the trip, to get some type of parity for our hard-earned travel dollar. Any type of parity. Anything! Even something as soft dollar as an upgrade the cabin to get us the value for the cruise. I have documentation of this if you chose to request it from me, with the caveat that although I tried hard, I am sharing our own experience and hope that yours will be different and better (but I bet not!). But Holland America Lines (HAL) refused to support our request and right-size that experience. Finally, HAL double charges us on an excursion. I pre-paid on my credit card before the trip, and then again they charged me (unbeknownst to me) on the cabin folio. I have written proof of this, which I have shared three times now. You think this would be easy to fix. It has taken a lot of work, but they are not listening to the facts and as a result I have to dispute the charge with the credit card company rather than get HAL to issue a proper credit. This is not deliberate I think. This is just sloppy servicing. Lesson: Do not prepay your excursion unless you want to take on the risk of being double charged and the time and hassle of clearing this up! Once again younger families, please do not make the same mistake we did thinking that older cruisers night be better. Older means much older than you imagine. And it means that given the choice to maximize their services to a target customer base, Holland America Lines (HAL) will underserve your young family! I am exhausted with my experience with HAL. And am hanging up our Mariner Society stars. Young families with hard-earned vacation dollars, consider yourself advised! Signed, the forgotten Holland America Traveler   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We travelled on a 16 day repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale in September/October. The cruise had good and bad points. Good first :- Staff were very friendly and helpful throughout - nicest staff on any ship I can ... Read More
We travelled on a 16 day repositioning cruise from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale in September/October. The cruise had good and bad points. Good first :- Staff were very friendly and helpful throughout - nicest staff on any ship I can remember. Best was the Maitre d'hotel on the open dining restaurant who remembered our name, room number and preferences after just a few days! Cruise Director also excellent. Cabin staff lovely (but they always are!) Cabin large and well appointed - nice area to sit and watch TV, lots of storage space and hanging area. Food generally good although rarely had a wow factor. Portions not too big which we like, as it means you are never over-full. Icecream excellent and nearly always available. Lots of sunbeds and loungers on deck - never a shortage. Nice outside pool at back of ship Open dining good - we usually never booked and never had to wait for a table. Bad points:- No cool areas except on Promenade deck, miles away from pools. It was very hot and sunny on the cruise and the only way to escape the heat was deck 3 or inside. The outside pool area had no shade except where smoking was allowed - why were they so favoured?! There was another area with cover in the middle of the ship but it was constantly like sitting in a sauna because there was no breeze or aircon in that area. All other upper deck areas were in the full sun and, as a result, were hardly used at all. Where there were covered areas, the covers had been removed, for no obvious reason. No forward visibility because all open areas faced sideways or backwards. There was one forward deck but it was closed at all times except for the Panama Canal transit, again for no apparent reason. Why not open it all the time?!! The staff were all lovely but badly trained and also understaffed in places - we waited a long time for breakfast in the dining room, tables were often not set when we sat down, we had to keep requesting things that should be there. Some small examples - plates at buffet were too hot to hold but there were no napkins to hold them with, one course was often being delivered when other diners were eating the previous course, very often the food did not match what was described on the menu, staff at customer services denied there was a navigation chart even though we had seen it (and found it again!) - all minor things but lots and lots of them!! Dining room not open for lunch on most land days which meant only the Buffet was open. As a result, there were long lines and nowhere to sit. Many of the passengers were very elderly - at 55, I felt like a teenager!! I am used to some elderly passengers but I think more than half were over 70 and many much older! Tendering was a disaster - we wondered if the crew had ever carried out the process before - it took so long and was so disorganized. We waiting 35 minutes for a tender on full sunshine even though we were third in line!! Also, the staff operating the tender did not seem to know how to moor the boat - as a boater myself, I could have done a better job! Finally, the tenders were filled and then wheelchairs put in the aisles which was a definite safety risk if we needed to get out quickly for any reason. God help anyone who has to evacuate this ship - it would probably go down while passengers waited to join the lifeboats!! Altogether, OK but not the 4 star experience we expected from the good reviews on Holland America Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Embarkation at San Francisco was quick, easy and efficient. Our time for embarkation was 3:00 pm and we arrived shortly after 2:00. No waiting and our luggage arrived in the stateroom before dinner. My only complaint was that there was ... Read More
Embarkation at San Francisco was quick, easy and efficient. Our time for embarkation was 3:00 pm and we arrived shortly after 2:00. No waiting and our luggage arrived in the stateroom before dinner. My only complaint was that there was very little, Welcome Aboard information with what was going on that day. We didn't have the daily sheet showing times of dinners, shows etc. Shortly after sailing, we had our first lifeboat drill - we felt that we were being tugged in a dozen directions and weren't sure which way was up. Do you explore ship? How do you find out where to go and what to do? Next day, much better. Daily sheet arrived, met Charlie our cheerful, competent Steward. At 11 am the Cruise Critics who had registered on the Roll Call Forum met in the Crows Nest, wearing our Mardi Gras Beads. We weren't a large group so we were able to meet for lunches and get-togethers during the voyage. One couple was English, one American and 3 couples were Canadian. Our fellow CC certainly enhanced our enjoyment of the holiday! Since this ship had departed from Vancouver, there were a lot of Canadians aboard and the Zuiderdam staff provided Canadian Newssheets and had a Turkey Dinner for Canadian Thanksgiving. Dining in the Vista Lounge was interesting. Each menu had a myriad of choices and the description of the meal often didn't match the finished product. They were all tasty though and the creative writing descriptions gave our table companions some laughs. Plates were beautifully presented with servings not huge (thank goodness) and quite varied. On occasion, one of our tablemates would request a second helping and it was not a problem for the dining room staff to comply. We enjoyed our table companions very much but sharing a table for 18 days is quite a long time. It would have been interesting to have different dinner companions sometimes. I understand that other cruise lines are experimenting with free style dining but there are problems with this style too. Wines: We purchased wine with dinner and the house wine at $18 was quite acceptable. The steward was pleased to recork it and serve us the remainder the next day. We ate lunch at the Lido restaurant and enjoyed the variety. Breakfast was usually room service. Ports of Call: This was a fantastic Itinerary. Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatalco, Acapulco, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cartagena Columbia, Jamaica, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas in addition to the piece de resistance, the Panama Canal. We participated in shore excursions at most ports and found them to be well run and interesting. The only hiccup was Cartagena which is the most interesting city with its ancient fortifications and cathedrals. 47 buses lined up to take passengers on excursions - most of which were city tours. They all seemed to end up at the same place at the same time causing tremendous traffic jams. The tour was billed as an easy tour but hiking up the battlements of the fort and up the hill to the cathedral was quite strenuous. As usual, there wasn't enough time to explore everything you wanted to, but such is life. They always find time to deliver you to the Approved Shops which sell the same ugly tee shirts and tourist souvenirs. Columbia had the benefit of Emeralds though and many people were sporting some lovely pieces at the next formal night! Some of our fellow cruise critics hired a taxi and had the benefit of a guided tour with their private guide. Half Moon Cay was a delight. Lovely white sand, warm, turquoise sea. A few chaise lounges in the shade would have been appreciated. All of the cabanas were gone early - you would be well advised to book these in advance. We took a snorkeling trip on a boat and just loved it. We have a few physical limitations (age, artificial joints) but had no trouble entering the water and snorkeling in the choppy water. Everyone wore a swim vest that could be inflated and there were two lifeguards. Entertainment: Showtimes were just great. We went to most shows and they had a great diversity. The theatre is quite sophisticated and holds about 650 people. Early shows were quite full, the later show was not. We also enjoyed the Zuiderdam Superstar show - home grown Karaoke talent which was excellent and much fun. Daily entertainment was good too. They had a series of lectures on Geology as it pertained to the area we were transiting as well as a series of enrichment lectures: Spies, Gismos and Gadgets. There was an ACBL Director giving Bridge Lessons and hosting a game in the afternoon of sea days - both Duplicate Bridge and Party Bridge. This was great as many people who have played bridge for years were able to update their methods. There was a guest chef aboard, James Mazzio. He gave a culinary demo which was interesting, informative and fun. Later in the cruise he and the Zuiderdam's executive Chef had a cook off which was lots of fun. We also had a tour of the galley. In addition to these activities, there were trivia contests, ballroom dance lessons, singles get-togethers, exercise classes, gym, spa services, movies, bingo, afternoon tea - it was impossible to participate in more than a fraction of the entertainment aboard ship. We found the layout of the ship very pleasing. There are lounges scattered throughout the public areas and we never found ourselves overwhelmed by people. Many times we would go for a drink in the Crows Nest and there would only be a dozen or so other people there, a small band playing and a few people on the dance floor. In the pool area there were many lounge chairs empty; the Promenade deck had lots of shaded lounges just waiting. Management of people departing for tenders to Ports was well handled and we were never waiting in line for more than just a few minutes. It was hard to believe that there were 1,800 people aboard the ship. The layout of the ship is such to encourage you to use the decks for exercise In General: Passengers were an older crowd - it was a 3 week cruise from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale so that is to be expected. There were only a few children and 1,000 grannies! The staff was wonderful - friendly, helpful and cheery. We will be cruising again and believe that Holland America offers excellent value. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
This was our first cruise on HAL. Our check-in was okay, except for filling out the same boarding forms in the terminal that I previously filled out online. The terminal agent could pull them up on her computer screen, but said she ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL. Our check-in was okay, except for filling out the same boarding forms in the terminal that I previously filled out online. The terminal agent could pull them up on her computer screen, but said she couldn't print them out. Other than that our boarding was uneventful and our luggage was at our stateroom when we arrived. We found the stateroom to be very nice. We had more room than on Celebrity's Mercury with the same category. Lots of closet space and the whirlpool tub was a special treat. The Mercury did not have a tub. The dining room service and food were excellent. The portions were smaller than Celebrity's, but that was a plus in our minds. We also liked the idea of having nightly substitutions available, such as sirloin steak, in lieu of the offered entrees. I opted for the sirloin steak on the last night just to try it out and found it to be very good and cooked as I ordered. The buffet was very good every day as was the hamburger, pizza, and taco venues. Since this was a coastal trip, the weather was variable between sunny and light rain. We enjoyed having the movable cover over the Lido pool which was adjusted according to the weather conditions. While we did not attend any of the onboard entertainment, we just enjoyed the laid-back feeling of the ship. Our first port was Astoria, Oregon. It was raining, but we had prepared ourselves with raincoats and rain pants which proved to be invaluable. The local townspeople were very helpful in directing us to transportation to the downtown area, which looks as though they are trying to develop into a tourist area. The best spot we found was Lindbergh's Danish Bakery which had great pastry and really great prices. We walked back to the ship, approximately a mile or so, along a pleasant waterfront walkway. Astoria does have a weekend tram, but we found the walk very nice even in the rain. Our second stop was Victoria, Canada. We had bought a Butchart Garden and winery tour, but the night before arriving in Victoria, the ship's tour officer called to say the tour had been canceled and would we want to go on another tour. We had made previous appointments onboard the ship, so all the other tours we considered interfered with those appointments. A reason was not given for the cancellation. We took a bus to Victoria's inner harbor which was very nice. We walked around some shops and through the Empress Hotel. Upon our return to the ship, my fiancee (Vicki) went to the ship's spa for an "exotic" manicure which was to include a neck and shoulder massage. Vicki was extremely disappointed and quite upset at the results. The manicurist ripped and tore at her nailbed (didn't bother to soften the cuticle), which was quite painful and left Vicki's cuticles sore, jagged, and very unattractive. Thank God for Neosporin which she began applying immediately once she was back in our stateroom. Vicki had received a manicure in Sacramento just four days prior; the amateurish manicure given on board the ship left her nails in far worse shape. In addition, the neck and shoulder massage was extremely disappointing. The entire experience was far from relaxing or beneficial. In order to avoid this experience, Vicki recommends that you check credentials and inquire about experience. All in all, we had a nice, albeit short, cruise. HAL is in our plans for a possible October cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
Just returned from 14 Day Golden Gateway Cruise on board the MS Prinsendam! If you have the opportunity to partake in this itinerary, don't waste another moment debating it. Jump at the opportunity! This limited itinerary was a last ... Read More
Just returned from 14 Day Golden Gateway Cruise on board the MS Prinsendam! If you have the opportunity to partake in this itinerary, don't waste another moment debating it. Jump at the opportunity! This limited itinerary was a last minute replacement for Europe and its planners took full advantage of the Prinsendam's size and opportunities for the path less traveled! Once boarding, one cannot help but think this is the way cruising was meant to be! Her elegance is inviting and dEcor subtle and sophisticated, not at all overwhelming and determined to maintain a single theme. If anything, it is obvious her theme is elegance, and cruising as it once was. We were fortunate enough to be in suite 002. Prinsendam has very few cabins other than suites that can accommodate a third person. Therefore, a family must use additional cabins, or upgrade to a full suite. Warning, once you have "suited" I fear it will be hard not too suite again and again! The room was beautiful. Dark soothing woods and a VERY comfortable size for the 3 of us! A wonderful wraparound curtain completely separated the "living area", where my son slept on a sofa bed, from the sleep area! The suite utilizes 2 comfy blue sofas and appears quite different than photo on HAL website. There is a desk on the same side of the room as the beds, and an "office module" in the living room side. There two televisions in the room, and both VHS & DVD players with plenty shipboard to borrow! Bathroom hosted a full size tub, 2 sinks, and 2 entries allowing the toilet area to be closed off from bath! Although cabin placement was initially a concern to us, due to being adjacent to Crow's Nest, it was an unwarranted concern. On the Prinsendam, the Crow's Nest is a Piano bar with a beautiful round window overlooking the full view up ahead! In no way is its volume intrusive or passersby a problem. On the contrary, we often left our cabin door open to welcome visitors, and spent far more time in Crows nest than we might have otherwise! The suite passengers benefit from the Neptune lounge that handles snacks, excursions, and any other arrangements or assistance you may desire! Suite passengers are also invited to dine in the Odyssey Restaurant for breakfast and lunch if they so desire. We were a party of 7 in 3 cabins... some of us preferred formal dining... others preferred the Lido. Food was yummy in both, so either way- all were pleased! Suite dinner was quite formal, held in the Neptune lounge, and while I was glad I opted out for our 2 tweens, all the adults had a great meal! Suite luncheon had an Indonesian theme, and only 2 of us chose to attend since it was last sea day. They said it was excellent! This voyage was full capacity (approx 750 passengers) and rarely did we wait on line for anything! The Lido had ample seating both indoors and out! The Lounge had easy show viewing from all angles I tried! Guest performers were wonderful and greatly enhanced our trip! The La Fountaine dining room is separated into two actual rooms, with the larger of the two having full view of where you have been. We sat at a table for 7 as a family, but there were many people joined at large tables, as well as tables for two. The food was enjoyable, and the Lido buffet was ideal for a less formal and relaxing meal. Near the pool they have a chef cooking burgers, sausage, and salmon patties, etc., one by one, all made to order that are delicious! My kids were also thrilled with the made to order pizzas inside the Lido! Beware of the ice cream bar! Varying flavors will call out to you each day, as you slowly grow addicted to this afternoon snack! Both the Dutch Dinner and Indonesian luncheon are not to be missed! There is an Internet center available, and for suite passengers in room hookup! We used our laptop, my folks borrowed one the full trip! The Prinsendam does not have quite as many scheduled activities on board as the other HAL ships... but there is more than enough to do! My kids even used the swimming pool nearly every day... Got to be young for that one in Alaska! No roof... but they insisted it felt great and had a ball! Jen, who was all on her own, but handled it great, schedules Club HAL. While the hours were far less than other Club HAL's, the kids had a great time! We had been quite concerned about number of kids on board... I now know that during the summer, the Officers children are also welcomed on board, so there were kids of all sizes and all interests to "hang" with. They all had a wonderful time! On initial appearance the guests are considerably older than on the other ships I have traveled... but most were young at heart. The smaller size allows more passenger get to know ya, and by cruise end I felt like I knew at least half the passengers by name! Dress code on this journey was both more formal than I've seen on other ships, and LESS! On Formal nights I saw mainly tuxes and gowns. Informal nights most men wore ties with required jacket. BUT Informal is where the difference really was. Daily schedule requested no shorts or t-shirts in dining room on casual night. I saw folks enjoying food in Jeans, Capri's', and jogging suits. And for the record, it seemed to be the oldest of the cruisers who were the most relaxed about the dress code! I hope to cruise on her again next summer! Prinsendam Golden Gateway Cruise to Alaska!Day by Day: Part 2 Departing July 12th, 2003 from San Francisco, California with ports of call in Astoria, Oregon, Alaska's Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, cruising Yukatat Bay, Ketchikan, Cruising Misty Fjords, Inside Passage, and Victoria, British Columbia, Holland America put together a 14 day cruise I was thrilled with! Since it was a last minute replacement it is perhaps less known than other HAL itineraries, and it is currently unknown if it will be repeated. The smaller size of the Prinsendam allows for cruising where larger vessels cannot. Day 1: At sea... While the seas were never what I would call rough, I must admit, from the time the Prinsendam pulled past the Golden Gate Bridge I was in desperate need of sea legs. SFO is open seas and many people were surprised they affected them, including myself. Fortunately, California Native had posted from the ship and warned us, so we brought remedies, and of course they were also available shipboard. Day 2: Astoria, Oregon... I am convinced the citizens of Astoria were as enthusiastic about our ship in their port as we were. What a welcome! Local music, local artisans set up at the doc to welcome you, feed you, and sell you a bit of their region! We took HAL's Historic Astoria & Fort Clatsop Tour. We reviewed history as we visited sites as described by Lewis and Clark! We made many stops during our tour, including the Maritime Museum. Day 3: Scenic cruising of Vancouver Island: a lovely warm relaxing day: DON'T forget the WARM WEATHER CLOTHING! Day 4: Wrangell, Alaska... The larger ships often skip this small port. And while I must admit, my parents who wandered through town said it was very small, and an excursion is a must, for us it was the entry to my favorite excursion! Unfortunately it was a wet rainy day when we departed the dock just beside where our ship had docked via covered jet boat for Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory. It is a 45-minute or so ride to Wrangell Island. But please note: The easy to moderate ½ mile boardwalk hike as it was described, is anything but! I cannot tell you what it would have been like without the rain. However, with the rain it was muddy and slippery. I am not sure who decided this was a "boardwalk", but it is a hike along the edge of a "path" in the rain forest and the boardwalk is more of a narrow path that appears at times to overpass areas where there is no stable ground. This hike (in the rain, and it is a rain forest) is treacherous and we had 3 people from our ship leave via ambulance with injuries! This is not a hike for the timid, or limited, we used all our limbs and senses! That stated, what a reward for tolerating the hike to the observatory platform! We immediately spotted our first brown bear feeding on salmon. We photographed, video'd and just observed the bears feeding in Anan Creek. The guide carries both mace and a rifle, just in case, and I must say, using the outhouse via riffle escort is an experience I will never forget! Day 5: Sitka... We tendered ashore with scheduled port time of 8AM until 6PM, (Which really means all aboard 5:30 for those of you new to cruising. We participated in HAL's Historic Russian America, Raptor Center & Dancers 3 ½ hour excursion. While this tour covered all the "key sights" it left me eager for more. This port is positively charming and I hope to someday return for a stay of a few days. It's citizens are so proud of their heritage, their home, and their environment. We ate lunch locally, a real treat, and definitely could have spent two to three times the allotted time at the Raptor center! Day 6: Scenic Cruising of Tracey Arm, followed by a port visit to Juneau... When the Captain bubbles over the microphone with enthusiasm and tells you he wants the whole ship awake between 4:30 and 5:00 AM to experience Tracey Arm, don't question it. It is simply beautiful, and while I suppose the timing is due to HAL's late decision to relocate the Prinsendam, the sunrise it stunning and well worth the early rise!!! The Crows nest was full of sleepy guests sipping Hot Chocolate in awe of the beautiful surroundings! As if this grandeur were not enough for one day, we also made a port stop in Juneau! It was a brilliant day and the views were remarkable as our family Enjoyed HAL's Four Glacier and Dog sledding Excursion! If you have never seen Alaska by Air... it is a totally different perspective and to me, a humbling experience to witness nature at its finest. For our family, this was our second dog sledding adventure after doing so in Skagway last summer. The biggest difference between the two camps is time. In Skagway, once around the camp was about a mile, in Juneau it is 2 ½ miles. However, they also told us it was the first day out of five the helicopter had been able to fly, so we know we were very fortunate. Day 7: Scenic Cruising of Yakutat Bay & Hubbard Glacier... For all those eager to debate whether Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier are better and if they were being cheated out of one or the other, let me reassure you... BOTH ARE SPECTACULAR! Weather will greatly affect your views, but either way you are very fortunate to visit. Somehow the calving seemed far more intense the day we were at Hubbard Glacier than last summer when I visited Glacier Bay, but both are wondrous! We spent hours up on the top deck just witnessing the calving and wildlife all around us... It is simply awesome! Day 8: Skagway... Due to elevator problems, and one member of my family in a wheelchair, we missed out on our train journey by 5 minutes. I was very disappointed, and HAL did provide apologies and a full refund. They sent us in to town to visit the port shore excursions office. While I plan to someday return and finally take my train, (this is the second time I have missed out on the White Pass railroad!), We couldn't have ended up with a better tour! We booked the Yukon Photo Safari Tour at an office just past the docks. Our family of 7 and 3 others we met on the van and befriended the remainder of our cruise followed the same path as the White Pass railroad, but stopped frequently for photos and went deeper into the Yukon than the train. The waterfalls and mountain vistas were plentiful. I was fascinated as the lakes and mountain views suddenly gave way to a dessert! We ate lunch, visited a zoo, and shopped at a wonderful general store in Car Cross. Day 9: Ketchikan... Since we had visited only the previous year we stayed local and shopped a bit in town. This is a great port to finish up those gifts you still need to purchase for those left behind, especially in the former red light district called Creek Street. My DH went on a fishing trip for Salmon and while the actual fishing did not require very much exertion on his part, when he wasn't fishing he was enjoying photographing! Day 10: Scenic Cruising of Misty Fjords AND Grenville Channel... Once again, the size of the Prinsendam is a true asset for allowing entry where larger ships cannot go. If somehow you had still not sighted a bald eagle, a whale, a dolphin, and/ or a sea lion, today was your day to do so. It was hard to believe by now there were still things to photograph... But Alaska's beauty is plentiful and endless. According to our extremely enthusiastic Captain, we also saw a moose or a bear.... Well, it seemed everyone in a uniform could see them, those of us sipping our hot chocolates and visiting out on deck failed to spot either. Day 11: More scenic Cruising of the Inside Passage... At one point this day we were surrounded by Whales on 3 sides of the ship... we stayed put for quite a while to allow all to enjoy! Day 12: Victoria, BC... Since the Prinsendam is only in port from 7AM-til 1PM it is essential to plan time well in this port. We took HALs excursion Butchart Gardens and Short City Drive. This plant-lovers paradise was the reward after a 40 minute or so bus ride on a Double Decker bus. A flower lover's palette to photograph, appraise, and inhale. Long meandering Wheelchair accessible paths allow you to tour the gardens, However, in my case the seduction of this wonderful gift shop did indeed cut my garden tour short. Day 13: At sea... An awful day. Realizing our dream cruise was at its end, I dragged out the overwhelming job of packing up after 2 weeks all day long. I clung on to new friends like long lost relatives, and teared up at the debarkation good-bye show. Okay, so I am a softie. But lets face it, when one has a cruise like this one, it isn't easy to say goodbye. Day 14: San Francisco... A very easy disembarkation, and sad goodbye... To ease the pain we decided to travel on her again next summer to Europe... Here's hoping! Prinsendam Golden Gateway Cruise July 12-26, 2003 Up Close and Personnel: Part 3 I want to take some space to acknowledge some outstanding people who truly made a difference on our voyage and some personal experiences that made the Prinsendam extra special for us. Firstly, I want to thank Charlotte Turpin, our PCC from HAL who handled all our arrangements. A great vacation always begins with great planning, and she was always there to lend a hand. Many on these message boards assisted me with excursion and packing advice, and all were an invaluable resource! Cruise Critic and Unofficial HAL buddies who enthusiastically waited and planned on line with me quickly became shipboard companions that I hope to keep in touch with for a very long time! Our Captain on the Prinsendam was Peter Bos... He is truly one of a kind. He was personable, very visible, and a very active participant in our adventure. I doubt there was a sole on board who grew more excited about the opportunities to view wildlife than he. His determination for everyone on board to see Alaska at its finest was evident shortly after embarkation and it was a theme that was carried out all through this cruise. When he told you to awaken at sunrise to witness Tracey Arm, you knew it would be worth it. He often grew so excited over his views from the bridge that he overrode the whole system with wildlife spottings during meals, and even when others were already speaking overhead. On a more personal note, my husband and I renewed our wedding vows and it was an honor to have him preside over the ceremony. It is a very pleasant experience that I highly recommend, especially if its been a while since you have looked into your spouses eyes and remembered how you can to be a couple in the first place. In today's frenzied routines, we rarely take that time for each other any more because we know that person will still be there when things calm down. Vow renewal demands you slow it down right then and there and take a few minutes to remember, renew, and repledge! The Prinsendam already provides the most beautiful ship to sail on, but the extras are what made it really special. Live flowers everywhere all arranged by the same young lady allowed a sophisticated consistency throughout the ship. Suites on Prinsendam have so much space that unpacking was a breeze and there is more than enough room to store everything! Our cabin steward Hillman, did his best to keep up with us, and Putu (my mothers cabin stuart) helped out as well, and both enhanced our voyage. Putu even made us a charming origami that we then had the challenge of transporting home. Sure wish I could have brought one of them home with me to help with all this unpacking, laundry, and cleaning! I cannot say enough about the treat of shipboard dry cleaning and laundry as a suite benefit. After more organization sorting laundry than I have ever partaken in, the reward is returned a day or so later either hanging in the closet, or in a neatly folded, tissue paper gift wrapped basket! Our Cruise director Doug and his staff had the challenge of entertaining us, educating us, and keeping us moving so the food didn't over come us. This small ship held a very wide variety of talent, enthusiasm, and experience and all of us benefited by it! None of these folks were at all standoffish, and were quite personable and inviting! We had a blast participating in shipboard games, and friendships blossomed throughout this cruise. Guest entertainers were wonderful and we looked forward to them. My daughter, after much determination found Mr. Prinsendam, concluding a wonderful icebreaker game to get to know fellow passengers. She was very excited to be invited on stage and receive her goodie bag full of prizes! I doubt there was a passenger on board who did not meet her! Jen in the Neptune Lounge pampered all the Suite guests so much so; that I fear all of us would miss the Neptune Lounge, its services, and her smile too much not to suite again. The Cappuccino machine was addicting, snacks changed throughout the day and cozy sofa & chairs inviting. Another Jen ran Club HAL single handedly! She was responsible for organizing, presenting, and implementing all club HAL activities and my 2 kids thoroughly appreciated her efforts. When they weren't with us, or Club HAL, they were in the pool. There were always warm towels to welcome them out, and the Lido deck is kept so clean and inviting, we spent far more time on it enjoying the company of others than on our own veranda. Thank you Debbie, shore excursions manager, who helped us plan, and helped us refund after delays caused us to miss an excursion. If you can't make it to shore presentations live, remember to watch on television, these folks are a font of great information. And don't miss the presentations of "Naturalist", or the "Historian" for extra insights into your journey. Of course there is no real way to discuss a cruise without the mention of food since sadly for most of us, once the destination is decided, is the center of the cruising experience. Let's face it, we pack for it, hope for a great table, and salivate as we await it! Cooking was great in formal dining room both in taste and presentation, as well as Lido and Grill. What a treat to have each item individually grilled to order! Thanks to our waiter and busboy, Samuel & Gusti, for keeping us fed... oh; all right I admit it, overfed! Not only was the food prepared on board delicious, but also they always went the extra mile to meet the kid's quirkier tastes and exaggerated concept of a portion of dessert! Also, Sandy the wine stuart, not just for wine and soda, but for my ginger ale when I had not yet gotten my sea legs, and I was a tad green... it made all the difference. Thanks to all who entertained us, played games with us, and pampered us. Thanks to all who serenaded us, musically soothed us, and enhanced our cruising experience. We enjoyed dining at the suite dinner with future cruise consultant Deanna. The day before our cruise ended she talked us into planning our next cruise, so we could accept the ending of this one with a bit less sadness. In closing, I want to discuss tipping. HAL is a tipping not required line, but hey, tips are of course hoped for and appreciated, and by some, even expected. The Prinsendam is the very first ship I have been on that handles this with class. Doug clearly stated the policies of the line regarding tipping and then discussed how to tip if you chose to do so. This included not just when, but also to whom it was appropriate to tip. It was explained that you do not tip someone for doing his or her job, but for going the extra that you wish to acknowledge. It is requested Tipping be given out Friday night if you desire to do so, in case you do not see that person on Saturday. Envelopes are available at the "front desk". We tipped our room steward, waiter, and busboy, wine stuart, hotel manager, and Club HAL director. We also tipped along our journey as folks helped with wheelchair on and off ship, and excursions when we chose to. Prinsendam is our first cruise where the treatment was equally gracious upon boarding as it was departure. There was no altered attitude now that tipping had passed, or eagerness to get you out of the dining room, lounge, or obvious desperation for you to get off the boat so they could prepare for the next group leaving a break time in between. I am not saying they don't feel that way, I mean, they are anxious to cleanup and prepare, but the Crew of the Prinsendam succeeded where all before her have failed to make us feel welcome all the way through, and very eager to return. Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click