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