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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
We did a fifteen day land and sea journey that started in Fairbanks and loved every minute of it. The Westmark hotel in Fairbanks was terrific, we stayed in South Tower, how anyone could complain about these rooms is beyond me. We went ... Read More
We did a fifteen day land and sea journey that started in Fairbanks and loved every minute of it. The Westmark hotel in Fairbanks was terrific, we stayed in South Tower, how anyone could complain about these rooms is beyond me. We went on the River boat cruise and did the Gold Dredge eight which was a lot of fun, a great way to get started. Denali was awesome, we spent two days there before moving on. Rode ATV and did the Denali Tundra wilderness tour, which was eight hours but had the most amazing sights and we saw a decent amount of wildlife along the way. The weather was perfect for most of trip, rained first day and last day, other than that we had tons of sunshine and warm temperatures. The two lodges were very nice with a rustic feel, we really enjoyed them. Then we took the train to Talkeetna and the train was fun with great views, and good hosts pointing out highlights as we passed them. Saw two moose along the way as well. Bartender on board to make sure everyone had a good time, we certainly did. After spending the afternoon in Talkeetna a great little quaint town with fun people, from there we went to Mt. Mckinley Princess Wilderness lodge which gave us some amazing views of Denali as well. Off to Anchorage on a tour bus to the Westmark Anchorage, an older hotel but kept up nicely. Spent the evening, morning exploring Anchorage which is a very nice city on the inlet. In the afternoon we went to the wildlife preserve where we say many of the native animals up close. Then we went to Mt. Aleyska Resort to spend the evening in the town of Girdwood. The resort was fantastic, very beautiful, high end with endless scenery. Many chose to go into town, we to the tram to the top of mountain and spent the evening eating dinner up there and enjoying the view. Then we went down and spent time exploring the hotel and it's many bars. After an enjoyable evening at Mt. Aleyska we boarded a bus for ride to Seward to board the ship. We got to explore Seward for a few hours before we boarded the ship which was easy and painless. We had a Verandah room with balcony on port side. Nice room, loved view from balcony, had lots of storage for luggage and clothes. Suitcases fit under bed and closets held a lot of cloths. Our room stewards Anom and Novi met us upon arrival and were great guys who did and outstanding job. Wonderful guy and people. The entire staff on the ship were top notch not a complaint on anyone, polite, friendly, helpful and boy do they keep this ship clean. We had great weather and smooth seas as we left port heading for a day at sea before Glacier bay. Glacier bay was phenominal being on port side we saw everything, Captain did a full two rotations at Margie glacier so everyone could see the glacier, I know we saw some calving it think everyone did, what a great day. Most of the cruise we had breakfast in suite with room service, it was hot an delivered on time. We enjoyed sitting on balcony having breakfast while we docked or pulled into port. Our first port of call was Haines, we had an exscursion planned, Portage glacier so we only had a few hours to tour area around ship. The excusion had a wonderful boat ride to the area of the glacier a bus ride to a camp where we suited up with life vests, boots and an oar (boy was my wife suprised) and hiked a half mile to ten man canoes. We only had to paddle about fifty yards before they could use trolling motor on back of boat. then we went ashore about a hundreds yards from portage glacier for pictures etc. Decent tour not sure wife would do it again, it was rustic, the outhouses were terrible. Juneau was our next port we had time to explore before and after our Whale watching excursion, with Mendehal glacier tour. I wish we had more than an hour at the glacier, theres a water fall Nugget falls thats walkable but its a two mile walk, I got pictures but I would've like a closer view. We saw five whales on our cruise to Orca Lodge for a great lunch and shopping (yes more shopping & the only place they don't have gift stores is the bathrooms in Alaska). It was a nice excusion, very well executed and narrated. We went to red dog saloon, I had five Duck fart shots which were very good, wife didn't care for them. Walked around Juneau for the rest of the day before heading back to the ship for dinner. We only ate in the main dining room once and it was very nice and good. Most of the time we were busy and just hit the Lido buffet which had similar items as main dining room, but finding a seat was a chore sometimes. Food was getting cold by the time we sat down. From Juneau we headed to Ketchickan where we saw first day of rain in some time. We had two hours to look around before we went to Neets bay for bear watching via floatplane. I was worried they may cancel flight but it went off without a hitch. The plane ride was great on the way to Neets bay. At neets bay we saw three bear up close and personal at the hatchery, evidently we were at the end of one salmon run and very beginning of another. The bears were within 20 yards but we were on observation deck. On the flight back to Ketchikan our pilot took us over some of the Misty Fjords and then thru some spectacular scenery, saw seals on rock, Dall sheep on hillside it was a wonderful flight back. Once back on ship we watched two adult eagles with a juvenile down on the shore line. Upon leaving Ketchikan we headed towards the inside passage in the rain and some rough seas. Once we got to the inside passage the seas smoothed out. Woke up saturday morning watched us pull into Vancouver which is a beautiful city for disembarkment. We had breakfast in room as we waited for our group to be called, we had a 9-9:30 time and we were at the airport by 10:15ish very easy. Overall it was a marvelous trip, I'd do it again in a minute. Holland America was very organized and terrific. The Noordam was well maintained, clean and the right size. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2018
Having cruised three times prior to this trip, we were aware of what to expect. Holland America had no surprises, other that the fact they upgraded us two days before departure. The Alaska cruise is so good because it is so close for ... Read More
Having cruised three times prior to this trip, we were aware of what to expect. Holland America had no surprises, other that the fact they upgraded us two days before departure. The Alaska cruise is so good because it is so close for us. A four-five our drive to Vancouver and leaving our car in the Cruise Ship parking, the price is very reasonable, if you pre-book. Both embarkation and disembarkation we very smooth, as in the past, these folks know how to handle large crowds. Prior to booking I had investigated the trip, with my travel agent's assistance the trip planning was a snap. Our three previous cruises where with the HAL Volendam, which we were thrilled with. We actually found that the food provided on the Nieuw Amsterdam was good, we felt it was a step below that offered on the Volendam. In particular the Pinnacle has never changed its menu over the past three years, and the quality was below that of the Volendam. The night shows in the theatre were as expected, the magician and comedian were OK. The crew singers and dancers were outstanding - they had a very professional show. Crew members throughout the ship were ready to give a greeting and smile if you make eye contact. I understand this is a problem with some people - to them I say "get a life!" The dining room servers were above standard and exceeded our expectations. From UCi to Adi to Edgar, thanks you for making our travels a pure joy, even though we didn't find the food level to be as good as the Volendam. That is not to say the food was not good, just a bit lower in our estimation for quality. Would I take this cruise again - in a heartbeat - we love the program. Holland America has made us cruisers. We have people who have travelled throughout the world, and always by air travel. As two seniors, we've slowed down and cruising allows us to see those places we've not seen before, or in case of Alaska cruises, something we can do time and again. Thanks HAL. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
After three cruises on the HAL Volendam we decided to change ships and booked our 4th Alaska cruise on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. We had booked an Oceanview cabin but two days before our sailing, we were informed by email from HAL that we ... Read More
After three cruises on the HAL Volendam we decided to change ships and booked our 4th Alaska cruise on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. We had booked an Oceanview cabin but two days before our sailing, we were informed by email from HAL that we had a change in cabin. When I went to the Check-in page I noticed that our cabin had been changed from the Main Deck to the 8th and our cabin changed to a Balcony Cabin. When I contacted our tour agent she told us we’d been granted a no cost to us upgrade, and that we’d retain all of our benefits. This cruise included a drink package, which allowed us up to fifteen drinks per day with a limit of $9.00 a drink. As this was a free package even if we did not use the full number of drinks per day, it was a wonderful addition because all beverages, were included. Even a bottle of water would constitute one drink. In addition a dinner for two was included in the package in the Pinnacle Grill Embarkation was an easy exercise, after dropping off our luggage we parked in the Cruise Ship parking area. Booking the parking ahead of arrival is a money saver. Keeping track of the parking stall is a very important fact of life. There is a period of line-ups but these folks have been doing this for some time, and the whole operation moves very quickly. We noticed that the Nieuw Amsterdam was larger than the Volendam, our favourite watering hole was the Ocean Bar, which on the Volendam was more intimate. However that did not detract from the Ocean Bar, it was larger but had the same feel and we thoroughly enjoyed our visits. We found the bar staff in all the bars very attentive and pleasant. Throughout the ship we found the crew to be very friendly, they were quick with a greeting and smile. Our cabin stewards, Dang & Ang always greeted us by our names which we found amazing knowing how many different people they must serve in each week. We also found our MDR Waiters (Uci and Adi) and Wine Steward (Edgar) made our meal times memorable. If we had a disappointment it was that we found the meals in the MDR not of the quality that we had come to expect from our cruises in the Volendam. The food was good, but just not quite up to the level of the Volendam. The same was true of our visit to the Pinnacle Grill. It has not changed its menu in three years, and again not to the standard we were used to from the Volendam. While we didn’t partake of the buffet much, we noticed a better selection of food than we remember from the Volendam. The dining area was larger and there did not seem to be the crowding we had observed previously. We did use the Dive in which again provided excellent hamburgers and hot dogs. New to us was the Pizza Bar, it was truly a great addition to the Lido Deck eating establishments. Located on the Seaview deck we had a wonderful lunch. Both the Dive in and Pizza Bar give you a buzzer that alerts you when you order is ready. We will not discuss the shore excursions, we came for the cruise and that’s what we budgeted for. In that consideration our cruise was a success, would we do it again on a HAL cruise ship, in a heartbeat. Thank you Holland American for again exceeding out expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2018
Noordam was a great choice for us. The size and number of people made getting around the ship easy. Staff were very pleasant and always helpful. Cabin 8085 was comfortable, quiet and very well kept up (Thanks Esha & Nougy!). Lots of ... Read More
Noordam was a great choice for us. The size and number of people made getting around the ship easy. Staff were very pleasant and always helpful. Cabin 8085 was comfortable, quiet and very well kept up (Thanks Esha & Nougy!). Lots of choices on on the Lido deck, the dining room was great with good menus and service, room service was terrific. We had a wonderful experience. Recommend booking a meal at the Pinnacle Restaurant-wonderful food, service and decor. We sat on our balcony most of the first day of the cruise watching the changing landscape which was a great introduction. All excursions were excellent. Ketchikan's Misty Fiords Monument, Juneau's helicopter to walk around on the Mendenhall glacier and then an evening whale watching, Skagway's Street Car Tour-a must!- and the luxury White Pass railway was well worth the price. Of course the day at Glacier Bay was spectacular. We ran out of superlatives! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
I choose this cruise for the itinerary. After taking a number of other cruises on various cruise lines including Mediterranean cruises, I wanted to try an itinerary a little closer to home. Unfortunately, my bad experience started ... Read More
I choose this cruise for the itinerary. After taking a number of other cruises on various cruise lines including Mediterranean cruises, I wanted to try an itinerary a little closer to home. Unfortunately, my bad experience started immediately upon boarding the ship. The Rotterdam is an old ship in need of extensive renovation. Additionally, I found the ship to be dirty...dirty windows, dirty floors, dirty deck cushions, dirty decks. The Lido Deck, where travelers should expect some fun and excitement was boring and silent except for some barely audible "elevator music " each day and every day including the day I boarded. The nightly entertainment was terrible! No show the first night, two movies (one that I could have seen on the Discovery Channel) on other nights, and one good musical show. Entertainment on the ship was a horrible value for the money. Boring and inappropriate...I don't need to pay for a cruise to see a movie. The staff was clueless including the Guest Service desk who had to check and recheck with several other crew members for answers because they didn't have answer for any questions that I asked. I booked daily tours through Holland America and with little exception, they were also lackluster and boring. Lastly, and maybe worst of all, is that when I booked this cruise the price that I paid was almost $700 more for the same exact accommodations advertised 10 days before my departure at the greatly reduced amount. I tried to get a credit back to my credit card but was given options... the least objectionable being a $100 drink card, a $125 on board card and $35 toward dinner at one of the restaurants (which I didn't use). I have never written and bad review about any of my many prior vacations but this one was such a disaster that I just can't say enough bad things about it. Disappointing and bad vacation in every way. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
This was a repeat of the same cruise my wife took with her sister a year ago. She enjoyed it so much that we went together this year. I don't think you can appreciate HAL unless you've been on other lines. My most recent experience was ... Read More
This was a repeat of the same cruise my wife took with her sister a year ago. She enjoyed it so much that we went together this year. I don't think you can appreciate HAL unless you've been on other lines. My most recent experience was a repositioning cruise last year on RCI. It wasn't bad, but the experience was so uneven in quality it left me unwilling to ever take another RCI cruise! The only poor experience we had was the Dive Inn burger lunch bar. Someone raved about how wonderful it was, so we put up with a 40 minute wait for cold food that was entirely tasteless. Wendy's makes a better burger! I was incredulous that such a screwed-up operation could exist on such a good shop. We also had some of the signature cocktails in the bar that were strange, and just tasted bad, which were graciously withdrawn. Otherwise, it was simply wonderful. I was very happy with the food. The concept of service on their Lido Market deck was very good. Small batch prep on some items and to-order on others was very well executed. We routinely ate breakfast there. Coffee was decent too. In comparison, the brown sludge served on RCI had us routinely paying for good coffee. The whole RCI strategy is to get you somewhere and provide what you really want and expect for additional money at every turn. Not so on HAL. I'm looking forward to another trip on the Eurodam. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2018
I sailed with my mom, our first trip to Alaska, and her first cruise. It was a last-minute decision, due to the cancellation of another planned trip. We booked via Costco.com, which could not have been easier. It looked like we got the ... Read More
I sailed with my mom, our first trip to Alaska, and her first cruise. It was a last-minute decision, due to the cancellation of another planned trip. We booked via Costco.com, which could not have been easier. It looked like we got the last balcony stateroom available. We selected this particular cruise line/date because it left from Seattle, returned to Seattle, and fit into our available vacation window. Neither of us had ever sailed with Holland America (HAL) before. We were dropped off at the dock by a family member. Our luggage was quickly whisked away while we entered the terminal (no line to enter, yay!). We got to the terminal around 1130am, earlier than our appointed time per tickets. We waited in line about 30 minutes; by noon, we were on the ship and our room was already available. The terminal attendant who checked us in said HAL is one of the few cruise lines that gets people on their ships early with their rooms available immediately. I would consider this embarkation a better than average experience, compared to the 10+ other cruises I've taken. After dodging the annoying photographers (on every cruise line, sadly), we were met by Ship's staff , smiling upon our entry, standing nearby with maps and offering directions to oncoming passengers. Atrium was clean and not clogged with people, making it easy to make our way to our room. For dining, we tried the Lido Market (Casual), Dining Room, and Pinnacle Grill (steakhouse, specialty dining). Food in all locations was good. Lido was difficult to navigate; so many people and all fighting for a window seat. By the time you found a table your food was cold (so we learned quickly to find a seat and then take turns getting food). Some lines there were quite long. I liked that we did not serve ourselves (hygiene), but it did take longer. Food variety was good and quality was good. Dining Room was used for dinner, lunch, and breakfast. We had open seating, but never waited more than 5 minutes to be seated whenever we went. Food was good; better quality and presentation than Lido. Nice variety too. We especially liked the filet/lobster dinner! All desserts were great. Pinnacle Grill was a dining event. Food quality/presentation was a step up from the dining room. I am not sure it was worth the extra $35 per person we paid, though. We did not purchase any drinks, so cannot comment on bar service. Entertainment and Activites: EXC provided several talks and included a naturalist, who provided information on flora/fauna along the way. We enjoyed all talks and learned a lot! We especially enjoyed the Glacier Bay day (at sea all day), as National Parks rangers boarded our ship for the day, gave talks and had materials to share/purchase. The best part though, was the ranger talking throughout the day via ship intercom about the glaciers we were seeing/sailing by. It was not incessant, but pretty regular throughout a several hour period. While some may have been annoyed by it, but we really liked it. Theater shows were good. Singers/dancers/musicians all very talented. Comedian Jim Short was very funny, and we enjoyed the illusionist too (Joseph Reohm) . There were other activities on the ship that we did not partipate in (America's test kitchen, Lincoln Center Stage, BB King's Blues Club). Service was excellent. Friendly staff, always smiling. All spoke impeccable Engish. If you had a frown on your face, someone was right there to ask how to make things right; you didn't even have to verbalize a complaint. Ports included Juneau, Sitka, Ketchitkan, Victoria (Canada). Juneau: A very rainy cold day, but we made the best of it. Easy off ship with 1 block walk to shops (3 other ships in port, so it was crowded). Many chain stores (similar to Caribbean islands), which we avoided. A few local shops, but we wondered how local the merchandise was. One purchase (fabric at a quilt store). Back near ship in time for our HAL-purchased Gold Panning/Alaska Salmon Bake excursion. "Tundra Tom" collected us and took us to a creek for gold panning. We all found a few flecks (retained in small vials) and boarded the bus after admiring the creek and nearby waterfall. Next stop was the salmon bake, an outdoor venue in the woods (also with a creek). Rain moved off, but they had covered picnic tables and portable heaters. Salmon cooked on wood planks and sides served buffet style. Not gourmet by any means but all was tasty. Coffee and dessert were lacking, with help slow to replenish. Marshmallows were offered for roasting over a campfire, but that was a challenge given the recent rain (we just had smoke). A quick tour of creek and waterfall and we were in line for the bus, which took us right back to our ship. Sitka: warmed up and no rain; yay! Again off ship was easy (shops across the street). Shops less chain-oriented. Purchased a specimen of Pyrite and some local yarn. Toured the Russian Orthodox church (gave donation). Back at port to meet our HAL-purchased Tongass National Forest Hike. This was advertised as a moderate 2-4 mile hike, depending on the group. Well, this was a STRENUOUS hike that was 4 miles. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our 5th cruise first trip to Alaska and on Holland. We booked last minute and ended up with a cabin on the main deck 2647. It was quiet with a walk in shower! We bought the spa pass and felt it was our own spa for the cruise. ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise first trip to Alaska and on Holland. We booked last minute and ended up with a cabin on the main deck 2647. It was quiet with a walk in shower! We bought the spa pass and felt it was our own spa for the cruise. We used it in the morning after our exercise in the gym and it was empty. The service was top rate from room Stewart to dining to ocean bar. Everyone referred to us by name and were very attentive. The food was the best I have experienced on all cruise lines(carnival, celebrity,norwegian and royal caribbean). We were in the dining room for lunch and dinner and it was fantastic. We did 2 excursions: In Juneau we did the whale watching and Mendenhall glacier. The whale watching boats so crowded 150 people? Too many! In Sitka we did an ATV which was fantastic. There was only one other couple. We took a small boat to a volcanic island and saw 3 whales, sea otters and bald eagle. The ATV was fun and beautiful scenery. Afterward we went to town and the totem pole park. Hubbard glacier was breathtaking. In Ketchikan just walked the town. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2018
This is a long, "Log style" review. If you just want the summary scroll all the way down. Prinsendam 8-19-18; Scottish highlands and Icelandic Fiords We left Pennsylvania for Newark airport a little after noon on Friday ... Read More
This is a long, "Log style" review. If you just want the summary scroll all the way down. Prinsendam 8-19-18; Scottish highlands and Icelandic Fiords We left Pennsylvania for Newark airport a little after noon on Friday August 17. We enjoyed an uneventful drive to our reserved off-airport parking and they quickly took us to terminal B. There was no line at Aer Lingus check in and we dropped off our two bags. I noted they marked the bags for “Quick transfer.” The arriving flight was delayed and by the time we pulled away from the gate we were an hour late. Thanks to a brisk tailwind our arrival in Dublin was only 15 minutes late. We quickly transferred to our connection and were able to change our seats to an aisle and middle for the short flight to Amsterdam. This flight was also delayed and we arrived at our gate nearly 30 minutes late. It took about an hour to get through immigration and obtain our luggage, which was about the last ones off our flight. Schiphol airport has changed since our last visit and we had a time finding an ATM. The prior “Row” of competing ATM’s is gone and it seems ABN bank and Travelex now have a duopoly. We used the Travelex ATM and they now have a 2 Euro charge to use the ATM. That is still the least costly way to obtain Euros. We had a light, late breakfast at “Dutch and Delicious.” We obtained our Chip Kaarts (transit debit card) and left for the train to Amsterdam. We ended up on an express train with no stops. While that was fast, it was not as luggage-friendly as the regular train. We would take the regular train when we do the return. From Central Station, it is a 5 minutes’ walk to the Amsterdam Doubletree. We agreed to take a courtyard view room rather than our assigned harbor view in order to get an early check in. The courtyard room is actually quiet while any room with a view will have some noise from the trains immediately adjacent. We took showers and changed. We walked through town to DAM Square where we had pre-bought tour tickets for the Dutch Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is a very nice tour however with being so tired after about half the tour we had enough. We went looking for a late lunch / early dinner and ended up at the central library next to our hotel. The LaPlace restaurant we had enjoyed on our last visit has been replaced with another restaurant and we did not think it was as good. Our hotel stay included access to the executive lounge so we enjoyed beverages and snacks in the evening and called it a long day. Sunday, August 19 – Amsterdam We woke about 6:15 after eleven hours of wonderful sleep. Breakfast began at 7:00 in the lounge and we were there shortly thereafter. Omelets were made to order if desired and lots of nice coffees and teas were available. The city outside was very different on this Sunday morning (very quiet) as opposed to a very bustling Saturday! We took a short walk enjoying the quiet and snapped photos. We repacked everything we took apart at the Doubletree and began walking back to Central Station to catch tram #26. The tram pulled up just as we arrived. We took the tram for the short ride to the Amsterdam Passenger Terminal. Upon arrival at the terminal we followed signs for the Prinsendam (as the Koningsdam was also in port) and dropped our luggage. We proceeded through check in and joined the line for security. By about 11:40 we were on board and in our cabin #270 on Deck 7. We put our soiled clothing in a laundry bag and hung it outside the cabin. We walked down to our traveling friend’s cabin at 276 and to our delight they had just arrived! After a short chat we went to the dining room for lunch. Lunch was very nice and we had a great time catching up since we were last together15 months ago. We also spoke with the dining room host about possibly changing to a dinner table in the smaller dining room. We have enjoyed that on previous Prinsendam cruises as it is quieter. We walked over a good portion of the ship pointing out some of the unique features of Prinsendam. We returned to our cabins and found our luggage delivered so unpack we all did. Everything was stored away before the muster drill. We attended the muster drill and at its conclusion were told we were leaving as quickly as possible to make room for another ship docking early due to a medical emergency. The sail away from Amsterdam is very nice. We had a narrated departure and enjoyed seeing the various buildings and landmarks along the way. Part of the sail away is industrial but portions have nice residential neighborhoods as well. Along the way at times the water is much higher than the surrounding land demonstrating how the land has been reclaimed from the sea. While we were at dinner we reached to locks to the North Sea. The wind became very strong but regardless I walked around the promenade taking photos of the lock area. Dinner food was very good but service was lacking. It was 7:45 by the time we left the dining room, 2:15 after we arrived. Once we hit the open sea we could feel the movement of the sea in the 2.5 meter waves. This made for great sleeping and by 8:30 we called it a night. The clocks go back an hour tonight as Scotland is an hour behind European time. Monday, August 20 at Sea We woke and prepared for breakfast in the dining room. We were there when they opened at 8:00 as we have a 9:30 cruise critic meet and greet. Breakfast was very nice and prompt. We enjoyed our company. The meet and greet was a nice success with about 25 of the 50 on our roll call attending. Half is about what we expected and everything worked our nicely. We met our friends at the M&G and next went to the 11:00 destination talk on Edinburgh. The destination guide is very good and we enjoyed his talk. I walked around noting the sun has come out and taking photos. We met back at our cabin and went to the Pinnacle Grille a few minutes before our 12:30 lunch reservation. We were immediately seated and truly enjoyed our lunch. At 2:00 the ladies went to flower arranging demonstrations while I enjoyed the aft pool. The aft pool is salt water and it was a little brisk. After 10 minutes or so floating around the pool I moved to one of the hot tubs. It was very nice just relaxing in the hot tub before drying off and heading back to the cabin to ready for our invite to a 4:30 cocktail gathering hosted by our travel agency prior to the first gala evening. The first Gala Dinner tonight was not pleasant. Despite arriving on time, and a special request to our wait team to get us out before 7:30 so we could attend the captain’s welcome reception, this was not to be. They seem to be split between fixed seating and ‘as you wish’ dining. Being at table 105 is a distraction at best as we see the constant line of as you wish diners waiting for seating. DW’s special diet order was mixed up and one of our tablemate’s meals had been giving to another table making our main courses staggered. My water glass was empty for a long time and when enjoying my beef there was nothing to wash it down. By 7:15, DW left to go to the lido in search of something she could eat. I ended up meeting with the assistant DR Manager and expressed our concerns with the dining room service. He promised to get back to us on all matters. They tried to deliver DW’s meal to her in the lido but it again had issues. She made up a big salad instead. We did attend the welcome toast followed by the cast show “American Crossing.” While we have seen this on a prior cruise this is an excellent show and the cast did a great job. We returned to our cabin and called it a night. One of our friends attended the piano bar entertainer and told us he was very good. We will need to try this soon! Tuesday, August 21 – Rosyth, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK We were up early to prepare for a very long day of touring and excitement in Scotland! I did not go up on deck for the sail under the three bridges crossing the Firth of Forth as it was very foggy early in the morning. We had breakfast delivered to our room and it was okay. We met our touring buddies at 8:10 in the Ocean Bar and joined the line for UK Passport inspection. We were through the line by about 8:25 and off the ship to meet Helen, our tour guide with “Local Eyes tours.” We were off to the Central Highlands and must say we sure saw a lot. Helen began by driving us over the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge. She drove us through South Queensferry and we stopped for a photo stop under the railway bridge. We then headed out of town with our first stop being the Kelpies, towering metal horses from mythical Scottish legends. The visitor’s center provided a nice chance for a rest stop as well. Added to the tour at my request was a stop at the Felkirk Wheel. This one of a kind engineering feat allowed the reopening of a canal system into the highlands. We then toured Stirling Castle. Stirling is largely restored to as close to the original as historians can figure it out. After the castle we stopped in a nearby village at a market, used the ATM, and bought lunch items which we enjoyed in the park at Loch Lubnaig (Crooked Lake). Helen also provided samples of two very different Scotch Whiskeys for us to try. At the lake there was a coffee shop and nice teas were enjoyed. We drove to Doune Castle and enjoyed touring this mostly original and unfurnished landmark. Doune is rather famous of the castle used for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as well as the TV series Highlander. The audio guide is narrated by one of the actors from Monty Python. Finally, our last stop was the village of Culross, the best example of a 16-17th century village in Scotland. We enjoyed a walk through the village. We returned to the port at exactly 5:00. We had a quick dinner, with DW’s special order being delivered to the room and I obtained some excellent Prime Rib and good fish from the Lido. Then we gathered at 6:35 to head out and meet our driver from Capitol Cars to take us to Edinburgh for the Royal Military Tattoo. Our driver was delayed by traffic but we still made it into town with plenty of time to spare. Edinburgh is very crowded with both the Tattoo taking place as well as the “Fringe festival” with 5 stages of (mostly) free entertainment throughout town. The Tattoo performance is a 10 on a scale of 1-10. The Tattoo is simply incredible and very hard to describe. As US citizens, we were surprised by the amount of positive USA involvement, from the pipe and drum corps dressed as during the revolutionary war and the positive portrayal of George Washington, to the US Air Force Drill team’s performance. I can only wish everyone at home would be as supportive of the USA as the Scottish are. The final farewell before the fireworks was “Auld Lang Syne” and as the audience was standing we used that as an opportunity to exit before the crowd. We made it down to our pick up point and I let Capitol Cars know we were ready. Our driver and van were there within 10 minutes and we returned to the Prinsendam at 11:30, just as the late night Lido buffet was opening. We enjoyed some time to unwind with a snack and as the bus groups began arriving a little after midnight we called it a night. This was a very full day but well worth it! Wednesday, August 22, 2018 – At Sea We slept in this morning after the long day before. With no hurry on a delightful sea day we slowly began getting ready and after being dressed I was looking at the daily schedule to find that it listed the Lido closing for breakfast at 10:00 and it was now 10:05! I went up to the lido and an Omelet cook generously made me two omelets for myself and DW, who followed me about ten minutes later. We kept breakfast light as DW had special ordered a dining room lunch for 12:30. We attended the “Ask the Captain” session at 11:00. This was very nice and the captain dispelled the opinion shared on cruise critic that certain US requirements prompted the sale of the Prinsendam. Being the only ship of its kind in the HAL fleet simply makes it too difficult to maintain as it continues to age as all the other ships come from the same shipyard and despite major size differences share many components. He is sad to see it go but is looking forward to being the captain during the last four or so sailings next Spring. We enjoyed lunch in the dining room and then relaxed a bit as we were still tired from the day before. We attended the travel talk by Brett at 3:00 and then enjoyed happy hour and the Ocean trio at the Ocean bar before dinner. Speaking of dinner, we have been moved, along with our friends, to table 27 in the small dining room! Dinner tonight was excellent with the main course complete at 6:40. This is so much better, relaxing, and enjoyable than where we were. The performer tonight was Scottish Soprano Elaine Gray. We sat near the back not knowing if we would enjoy an opera singer but she was very good and mixed up the style performed quite a lot. We listened to the Ocean trio and went with our friends to the crow’s nest for the late happy hour before calling it a night at 10:00. Tomorrow we visit Torshavn, capitol of the Faroe Islands. Thursday, August 23, Torshavn, Faroe islands We enjoyed breakfast is the Lido. Some of the servers know us and take good care of our needs. We had a ship’s tour to the Vestmanna Seacliffs. The provided motor coach was first class with just enough room to be comfortable. We stopped at an overlook on the hill above Torshavn for a photo stop. Across the road was a Hyundai dealership. The narrated ride was informative and the roads were in excellent condition. The Faroe Islands is greatly expanding its inter-island road network by building bridges (two) between islands and tunnels (two) with two more planned the longest of which will be 26 KM long with a small breather on a small island midway. Due to their weather the ferries are not reliable as storms often create unsafe conditions. We reached the town of Vestmanna and boarded a nice boat to sail to the seacliffs. The first 40% of the boat trip was magnificent. Regretfully the weather turned a few moments before reaching the main cliffs and with pouring rain I was not able to get any clear photos of these cliffs or the birds thereon. I nodded off on the way back but the weather did not improve much until we were almost back to the dock. We took a faster route back with the bus (through a new mountain tunnel) and we took the port shuttle to downtown. We walked around and took photos of the Danish Royal family yacht as they were visiting Torshavn. We also stopped in a few shops but made no purchases. Returning to the Prinsendam to our delight we found it was “Dutch lunch” in the Lido. Lunch was good and the desserts were incredible. Olle Bollen, Apple Floppies, Butter Letter and other wonderful Dutch treats were on all the dessert table. I would not need much dinner that night! Still recovering from our long day in Edinburgh, it was time to rest a while before getting ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice although I kept it very light. After dinner we enjoyed the Ocean Band and were able to dance for a bit. The entertainer was Ruben Vilagrand, billed as a “Unique Illusionist & Visual Artist.” I will say it was unique. Ruben never said a word the entire performance. Not really my cup of tea but it was different. Immediately after the show we made it to the Crow’s Nest for Piano Bar Entertainer Steve. We enjoyed him so much we made it to 10:00 before calling it an evening. The seas are 6-9 feet and the Prinsendam rocked us to sleep. Tomorrow begins six days in Iceland! Friday, August 24, Djupivogur, Iceland This is our first tender port. With a 9:00 private group tour we had some concern over getting everyone off timely. We went to the 4 & 5 star waiting area in the Ocean Bar and were quickly dispatched to the tenders. Much to our surprise, our touring friends were already ashore upon our arrival. We met our guide, Hrönn Jónsdóttir, who led the group of ten on a tour of the area. We began by visiting the “Elves’ church,’ rock formations that sing from interaction with the wind. We next visited two beautiful waterfalls, each quite different from the other. Hrönn showed us a local farm and told us the value was about 90,000,000 Krone (about $900,000 USD). We made our way back to town where we walked along the harbor enjoying the ‘egg’ sculptures made of polished granite, each egg commemorating one of the local bird species. Our last stop was the best – the black sand beach with magnificent rock formations. We shot many photos here. The black sand is a fine powder and the contrast with the ocean and mountains is stunning. Hrönn returned us to town, dropping a few of us off at the local bank to use the ATM and bringing the rest of the group to the tender dock. Walking back to the tenders we stopped in a local souvenir shop but made no purchases. We ended up on the same tender as the rest of our group and enjoyed lunch in the lido. Just as Hrönn predicted, the last buses from the long tour to the glacier did not return until nearly 3:00 and Prinsendam finally pulled away at about 3:40. Dinner was very good with our wait team taking good care of us. We were done before 7:00 but lingered a bit talking. The performer in the show was Pete Neighbor, a clarinet player. Backed up by the band Pete played a tribute to many of the great leaders of the “Big band” era. Pete created some of his own scales as I certainly heard notes never before heard from a clarinet. After the show we were exhausted and called it a night. Saturday, August 25 – Akureyri, Iceland Prinsendam docked a few minutes early in pretty Akureyri. One thing that became very clear on this day was that if one doesn’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait a few minutes and it will change. We had a car rental reserved from Europcar, and they were literally right outside the port gate. I had to call and within a few minutes a young lady arrived with our keys and a credit card reader. No rental agreement to sign and off in a full size Toyota on an adventure with another couple we met on our roll call. We had planned five stops and five stops were made. Number one was the “Waterfall of the gods” (Godafoss) which was a wonderful sight. The name of the waterfall comes from the first Christian leader in Iceland who threw all his statues of gods into the waterfall. We hiked around to see the falls from several angles, made a brief rest room stop, and headed on to stop number two, the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations (Dark Castles) near lake Myvatn (mosquito lake). The Lava Formations are unique in the world and we certainly never saw anything like this. We also have seen nothing quite like the midges that swarm around any living thing when there is little wind. While they do not aggressively bite, they sure are a pest. This was the only spot we encountered a real midge issue and surely cut this visit a bit short due to them. Next we moved on the #3, the Namafjall Geothermal area. At Namafjall it certainly looks other-worldly. I can’t imagine that numerous Sci-Fi movies have not been filmed here! Between the bubbling mud pools and the orange mountain hue, craters and ridges, flowing heated water, this is something to experience! We walked around trying to avoid the worst of the direct Sulphur fumes and took many photos before heading to stop #4, our longest stop, at the Myvatn Nature Baths. We were ahead of schedule so we took a few minutes for a light lunch before changing to enjoy the baths. The water was delightfully warm and it didn’t matter to us if it was raining, foggy, cloudy, or sunny. During our 80 minutes in the baths, we experienced all four of these weather conditions. One thing that seems very true is that if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five or ten minutes and it may change! This is a wonderful spot with very pretty views of Lake Myvatn but without the midges. Leaving the baths, we made stop number 5, the Skutstaoir Pseudocraters. We walked the 1.5KM trail around these unique volcanic craters, formed when lava interacted with lake water some 2200 years ago. There are many birds in the area and the breeze had picked up enough that the midges were gone. Next we drove back to Akureyri where we filled up the gas (3600 Krone, about $33.50) for a quarter-tank. We stopped to take a photo of Prinsendam at dock and dropped off the car. We returned to the ship through a gift shop (the only way into the port area) but carrying wet towels we did not stop to look. We were back on the ship at 4:30 giving us just enough time to get ready for dinner. Dinner was very nice and we were finished before 7:00. We listened to the Ocean Band for a while and attended the singers and dancers show, Stage & Screen. We are sure we have seen this before but it was a good performance. We left the show for the crow’s nest and enjoyed Stevie until about 10:10. We hated to leave as that left Stevie with an audience of two but we needed to call it a night. Sunday, August 26, Isafjordur Iceland No need to rush out this morning as our walking tour doesn’t meet until 10:20. We slept in and enjoyed breakfast in the Lido. We left the ship a bit early and walked around before finding our meeting spot. Four of the eight on this tour did not find the spot immediately so we did begin a little delayed. This was a nice tour of the industrial and historic part of town. It was billed at 90 minutes but it actually ran 2.5 hours. Our guide, Herbert, told us a lot about living in the northernmost town in Iceland. Isafjordur is surrounded by mountains and they are sheltered from the worst of the winds. Normally their temperature range is from -5 C in winter to +9 or 10C in summer. There is still snow on the higher mountain tops near the town. The tour brought us back to near the ship. An enterprising individual had set up a souvenir trailer with a “Last ship of the season sale.” We took advantage and bought Icelandic gloves and a hat with some of the Krone we had. Back on board we had a nice lunch, took photos of the surrounding mountains, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon before dinner. We made arrangements for a Pinnacle Grill dinner near the end of the cruise and pre-ordered DW’s meal for the next evening’s Canaletto dinner. Dinner tonight was the best meal of the cruise so far. The Prime Rib was large and perfect. The sweet & soup shrimp (tempura style) were great. We left the dining room for the game show in the showroom; it was entertaining watching the proceedings. The show was a variety show. Regretfully they started with Ruben Vilagrand, who talked this time and put us all to sleep. Elaine Gray completed the show and despite a cold was wonderful with three numbers including Amazing Grace and Danny Boy. The highlight of the evening was certainly Stevie in the Piano Bar. He had a bigger crowd with lots of interaction. Samantha the cruise director also circulated among the guests. At 10:15 we called it a night. Monday, August 27, 2018 – Reykjavik, Iceland No rush this morning as our Golden Circle with Geothermal Bakery tour doesn’t meet until 9:15. A leisurely morning with breakfast in the lido was enjoyed. Prinsendam must have ‘drawn the short straw’ as we are docked 4.5 KM from Reykjavik town center. We need to take a shuttle bus (or walk three blocks) to the ship’s tour buses or a taxi or shuttle to town for 2200 Krone each. We met for our tour and walked the three blocks to the tour bus. This was a great tour, among other reasons we had a full size coach for just 24 guests, so we had lots of room to spread out. Our tour guide was very informative the entire time. We headed out of town first to Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir is a Unesco World Heritage Site for two reasons. It is the site of the first Icelandic parliament in 930 AD and was the capitol for many years. Additionally, this is the only place in the world where the North American and Eurasian plates are above sea level and the separation (by an inch a year) is actually visible. Leaving there, we headed to Laugarvatn to visit the “Geothermal bakery.” There, we witnessed the digging up of the bread pot buried in +100 C mud, where it baked for 24 hours. The bread was cut, spread with Icelandic butter, and then fresh local trout was added on top. There was plenty for seconds (and thirds) and this stop was greatly enjoyed by all. Third, we went to visit the Gullfoss (Golden) waterfall. The waterfall is actually a series of two falls. At that time the wind had become so strong that it literally ripped my glasses off my face. Fortunately at the time I was returning to the bus from the falls so they fell in a field and I was able to retrieve them. The last stop was at Geysir. Yes, this is the original Geysir from which all other Geysers are named. We watch two eruptions and caught them on video. We then drove back to the ship in a wind-driven rain. With no rain during our stops we were most fortunate with the weather as it rained in Reykjavik nearly all day. We stay docked tonight and tomorrow have a day planned in town, hopefully the weather will be better! Dinner tonight is late for us as we are eating at Canaletto, the Italian restaurant on board. Monday night the featured special is swordfish thus our choice of tonight. This also avoided a mad rush to make our 5:30 dinner in the dining room. Dinner ended up being less than great. In 20 or so HAL cruises this was our first time in Canaletto, and the only reason we went there was for the swordfish. Of course, once seated, they told us the swordfish had gone bad and they did not receive their new shipment today. We ordered Sea Bass, after double-checking that this was real “Sea bass” and not “Mediterranean sea bass.” It ended up being Mediterranean Sea bass. While it was okay it was not what we expected. We won’t return to Canaletto. There was no show tonight and it was late so we called it a night. Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - Reykjavik, Iceland Tuesday brought mostly sunny skies and we caught the first hop-on; hop-off bus. The Ho-Ho bus was less than satisfactory. The commentary was unreliable as the connections did not all work. We rode the Ho-Ho around to the stop for the famous “Church of the hill,” the Hallgrims-Kirkja. We took photos of the church and the Leif Ericson statue out front. From the church we walked down the main shopping street to downtown. We went by the parliament building and city hall, and toured the old harbor. We thought about having lunch in town but decided we didn’t want to drop $100 on lunch for two. We tried to find the Ho-Ho stop #4 but couldn’t find it so we walked to stop#5 at the Maritime Museum. After a rather long wait we rode the Ho-Ho back to the ship. If we had to do this again we would not have used the Ho-Ho as for the 16000 Krone the four of us paid I’m sure we could have gotten a taxi both ways. But better yet in Reykjavik, get out of town. There is too much to see outside of town. Back on Prinsendam we had a nice late lunch in the lido. They had wonderful cod and I made myself a fish sandwich. I enjoyed the hot tub and then started to get ready for the evening. Our friends had an appointment with the future cruise consultant, Sheryll. She could not match the pricing on a potential cruise in February that I received by e-mail from HAL so we just bought future cruise deposits. I even showed her the e-mail. Dinner tonight was great and every table was filled. There was a problem with DW’s special order (Dewa does a great job triple-checking it) and that delayed our meal a bit. Turkey and a rib-eye steak is hard to beat. After dinner the show was the singers in “Sessions,” covering a lot of popular music from the last 40 years or so. This was a very interactive show, kind of like the piano bar on steroids. Stevie had a night off so after the show we headed back to the room to call it a night as we have an early tender tomorrow at our last Icelandic port of Heimey, the “Pompeii of the North.” We had noticed the last two evenings an apparent wet spot on our rug in the middle of the room. At first I thought our cabin steward may have spilt some rug or other cleaner, but it seems to be getting worse. I wrote a note to drop off at the office tomorrow morning. Wednesday, August 29 – Heimey, Iceland Early in the morning the Prinsendam anchored off the coast of the Westman Islands. Despite a beautiful sunny day it was cool and the winds were still at 20 knots so getting into the tenders was a bit of a challenge. We went over early, at about 8:20, and there were only about a dozen passengers in our tender. This was a fantastic port! Upon arrival it was very quiet except for the ferry leaving for the mainland. Nothing opens in Heimey before 9:00 AM. We walked around and found the travel information office just as they opened the doors. This combination T.I., office supply store, and café offered a clean n/c WC. From there we walked the road into the lava field from the 1973 eruption. 400 homes were buried in lava and 1/3 the land area added to the island. There were no deaths or injuries as there was plenty of time to evacuate. There are many memorials in the lava field indicating the home buried beneath. This provided many other-worldly photos of the various lava formations. We also walked to the Norwegian Stave Church and meeting house, but we were a little too early for them to be opened to see the inside. Keeping a watch on the time we returned to town at 10:40 for our 11:00 Puffin and Volcano Tour with Eyjatours. This was a great tour featuring the tour guide demonstrating Sprangan, cliff rope climbing for bird eggs, Stórhöfði – the windiest place in Europe with loads of puffins, the golf course with more puffins on the sea cliffs, the mouse island formed by a recent eruption off-shore, and a demonstration of the different colors of lava rock and their sources. The tour ended at the small local aquarium which is also a puffin hospital. Local children rescue about 1,000 young puffins every year as they fly into windows attracted by evening lights. The next morning these puffins are brought here. They have two puffins, Thor, 4 years old, and, 2 years old, that sustained injuries such that they cannot be released. These puffins are used to people and pose for photos, they are so cute. We slowly walked downhill back to the tender port. A tender was just pulling in and we were quickly on our way back to Prinsendam. Back on board, we quickly dropped our bag and coats in the room, and found a large fan blowing on the carpet. We went to the lido for a bit of lunch and returned to the cabin to find a message from guest services. They claim the shower is leaking and they repaired the grout. Why a shower leak would show up in the middle of the floor is beyond me. In any case, they said we could turn off the fan when we are in the room but to please start it when we are leaving. Dinner tonight was great. Our wait staff is superb and Dewa outdoes himself taking care of us. The show is comedian William Caulfield. His show was decent and the comedy clean. Stevie was great in the Piano bar with a very interactive audience. One thing I’ve noticed is that some of his numbers are repeats from earlier in the cruise. Tomorrow is a well – needed sea day after seven port days in a row. We called it a night at about 10:30. Thursday, August 30 – Sea day With a time change losing an hour and being rather exhausted, we didn’t leave the cabin until nearly 10:00 AM. We had a very light breakfast in the lido as we were invited to the 10:15 Mariner’s reception in the showroom. The showroom was packed and about 30 or so folks received their bronze medallions for reaching 100 sailing days with HAL. No silver, gold, or platinum medallions were awarded, although platinum and president’s club member couples were both introduced. The reception was followed by the mariner’s brunch in the dining room. It was okay, but the table conversation was very nice. We attended Brett’s talk on Lerwick, the following day’s port of call in the Shetland Islands. We noted that about 80% of what Brett showed us was on our private group tour itinerary. Still being very tired, we both napped until our alarm went off at 4:00. This is the last gala night so we prepared accordingly. The “Gold Gala” dinner was most enjoyable. The chairs were covered with white slipcovers, very elegant. The surf and turf meals were delectable. I thought the turf part was exceptionally well prepared and very tender. The show was Iceland’s own Greta Salome. Greta was Iceland’s performer at the 2012 and 2016 European showcase of some sort. She gave the best show of the cruise. Just WOW! After the show we enjoyed happy hour in the Crow’s nest singing along with Stevie. At 10:15 we called it a night looking forward to our last port of call. Friday, August 31, 2018 – Lerwick, Shetland Islands The alarm woke us at 6:15. A peek outside showed blue skies with not a cloud in sight. The TV showed we were just off the southern tip of the ‘mainland’ Shetland Island. We had a nice lido breakfast and met our tour group at 8:30. A nice surprise was that we are docked rather than tendering! We had a “South Island tour” booked for eight with Grant Redfern. This ended up being a great tour with the only downside being that two needed to squeeze into the front seat and I believe that couple was not entirely comfortable. We left the port and headed to an overlook over the town. From there we stopped at Fladdabister, an 1850’s Norse-style farm and crafters home. Two Shetland Ponies were in the front yard and seemed to enjoy photo attention. 1800’s Shetlanders must have been very short and the doorways were tiny. The house was authentically heated with peat in the fireplace and it was quite smoky inside. The next stop was Jarlshof, where 5000 years of Shetland History can be seen in a small area. Ruins from the stone age through the 1700’s can be seen here, in many cases one building built above the remains of another. We stopped in the hotel next door for lunch, which was just okay. Next we drove to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head, the southern end of the island. This lighthouse in on top of sheer cliffs that are populated with thousands of sea birds. Regretfully the puffins are long-gone but other birds were happy to pose for photos. We drove north along the western side of the island stopping to look at a beach with seals lying in the sun. Grant said a few months ago there were many seals but some have left and others were eaten by Orcas looking for lunch. We stopped at a stretch of beach that connected the mainland to a small island. We actually saw someone swimming in the 54 degree water. Our last stop was Scalloway where we viewed the castle and the Shetland Bus memorial to the Shetlanders who risked all to help the Norwegians during WW 2. Grant took us back to Lerwick and drove us through town showing us the main sites including the very nice town hall building. We were brought back to Prinsendam at 3:33 PM. Returning on board we found that the fan was back in our room. After dropping our coats and bag, we visited guest services who were not sure what was happening and asked us to stop back later. We had ice cream from the lido and visited with friends. Happy hour was going on so we enjoyed the Ocean Bar and watched the scenic sail away from there. Stopping back at guest services they still don’t really know where the water is coming from. They offered to move us to a deck 5 cabin but with only one full day left in the cruise who wants to do that? We were told we would receive a letter tomorrow. We have a 7:00 Pinnacle dinner tonight so we began to get ready. The Pinnacle was a great experience and very enjoyable. The only problem with the Pinnacle is one always eats too much. After dinner we visited Stevie in the Crow’s nest until after 10:30 when we simply couldn’t stay awake any longer. We lose another hour on the clocks tonight to get back to Europe time. Saturday, September 01 – At Sea After being up until after midnight (after the clock change) this was a morning to sleep in. I left the cabin just before 9:00 to bring DW’s dinner pre-order to the dining room. There was a letter in the mailbox from guest services offering a modest amount of OBC for our carpet troubles. We went to the Lido at 9:30 for breakfast and walked around a while before finding a table that two folks had just vacated. After last night’s Pinnacle dinner neither of us finished our breakfast. At 9:50 Samantha the CD made her morning announcements. “On deck for a cause” is this morning and DW decided to participate. During that event I caught her on camera and also downloaded all the photos onto my laptop. We met our friends and enjoyed lunch together. That afternoon was the Filipino Crew Show, always worth seeing. This crew was exceptionally talented especially the group doing the dance with the colliding sticks. We did our last happy hour and got ready for dinner. This was a truly wonderful dinner in the dining room with both Prime Rib and King Crab Legs on the menu. We said our sad farewells to Big D, Dewa, and Giovanni. We saw Greta Salome at the Ocean Bar and after we asked she told us that she was to be the second performer in the variety show. We visited Stevie one last time in the crow’s nest departing at 9:45 to catch Greta’s show. William Caulfield ran a little long but once he was done we were able to get seats. Her performance was terrific and a great way to end the cruise. About 10:25 returning to the cabin, closing up the suitcases and putting them out for transfer to shore in the morning. Sunday, September 2 The alarm went off and we were already well up the canal towards Amsterdam. The Prinsendam docked right on time at 7:00 and we met our friends for one last meal together, a dining room breakfast at 7:25. Breakfast was great and we said our farewells, until the next time! We disembarked at about 8:40, quickly found our luggage and dragged it to the tram stop. A quick tram ride to Central Station (we saw many folks just walking the distance) and then the train to the airport. It was a long walk from the airport terminal to the Hilton. Upon entering the terminal we saw one cruiser from our ship. We checked in and our Hilton status helped and we were given the keys to our room and also invited to complimentary breakfast in the restaurant. After “Second breakfast” (which would double as lunch) we walked back to the airport and took the train to Rotterdam. We ended up in Rotterdam a little early for the 1:30 “Free walking tour” and ended up standing and walking too much before the tour. We found the tour guide and about two dozen folks showed up for the tour. We ended up leaving the tour at about the half-way point as it was too much standing. We did see some interesting sites including the “Cube houses” and the old harbor, as well as a war memorial. We took a tram back to Rotterdam Central and caught a train back to the airport, returning to our hotel a little after 5:00. We enjoyed the executive lounge and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, “The Bowery.” Portions were large and everything was very good. They accommodated DW’s dietary needs nicely. We returned to the lounge for a nightcap and called it a day. Monday, September 3 – return home We had breakfast in the executive lounge at the Hilton and then loaded our luggage onto a luggage cart for the walk back to the terminal at Schiphol. We found the Aer Lingus check in and it took about 20 minutes in line to drop our bags. The offered to check our overnight carry-on “For free” but we declined as all our meds were packed in there. Security was about a 10 minute line and passport control about the same. US passports can use an automated lane for departure. We made a necessary stop and spent most of our Euro coins at an airport shop on waters and chocolate for the flight. At the gate, I asked if we could be switched to an aisle & middle (from our assigned window and middle) and they have us two isles, across from each other. After the door closed, there was no one in the two seats next to me so I moved to the window and DW took my aisle seat. The connection in Dublin was a pain as we unexpectedly had to walk outdoors a good distance, and it was cold! I was dressed for the +90 degrees back home. Eventually we got through the passport check and we had enough time before US pre-clearance to use the airport lounge. We enjoyed some ‘lunch’ there and left for US Customs 90 minutes before our flight as instructed. Our Global Entry helped save us some time. Still, it was another long walk to the gate. We boarded on time. While we had a window/isle two seats the folks in front of us took no pity and reclined their seats to the max, so it was an uncomfortable (to say the least) seven hour flight back to Newark. We arrived on time and while we did not need to clear customs in Newark we waited an hour for the luggage. Park Plus picked us up very promptly and we were in our car within 15 minutes of luggage retrieval. Summary / Conclusion: All things considered this was a great cruise! After the dining room issues of the first two days the rest of the dining was flawless. “Big D” took great care of us in the lido at breakfast/lunch and in the dining room at dinner. The one lunch and one dinner in the Pinnacle were both wonderful. We will not do Canaletto again though. Our room stewards performed well and kept the room clean, although we literally laid eyes on them less than three times the entire two weeks! Entertainment is not Holland’s strong suit. The singers/dancers were okay but we’ve seen all those shows before. The guest entertainers ranged from incredible (Greta Salome) to pretty bad. But there was ‘something for everyone.’ We very much enjoyed Stevie in the piano bar and the Ocean trio at the Ocean bar. We are not by any means big drinkers but we enjoyed the happy hours very much. Since HAL announced the sale of Prinsendam I was hoping we would do one more cruise on her. That seems very unlikely as the remaining Prinsendam cruises have had price spikes as they are mostly close to sold out. We greatly enjoyed the port calls; doing the “Ring road” in Iceland without the driving was terrific! The larger ships cannot get into all these ports so we are happy to do these while we could on Prinsendam. All things considered, this was another four stars out of five Prinsendam cruise. It might have been four and a half but the three days with the damp carpet in our cabin has to detract a half-star. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose HAL Westerdam because we wanted to see Glacier Bay on our first trip to Alaska (and our first cruise!). We actually went against the advice of our travel agent who thought we would be happier with a luxury line even though they ... Read More
We chose HAL Westerdam because we wanted to see Glacier Bay on our first trip to Alaska (and our first cruise!). We actually went against the advice of our travel agent who thought we would be happier with a luxury line even though they don't stop at Glacier Bay. I think she was right and next time we will listen to her. Westerdam Is not a bad ship but the decor is dated and the service can be indifferent and sometimes rude. Here's an idea of what we loved, liked and didn't like: Loved: EXC Explorations Lounge - this lounge, education center and coffee bar is in the crow's nest area of the ship and has magnificent views. It was recently renovated and the decor is modern and comfortable. I could have spent my whole trip there but it was very crowded as everyone else quickly discovered its value too. The EXC education programs (free!) were great as was the free library. EXC Shore Excursions - we booked 4 and all were excellent. We especially liked the Dogsled adventure and musher's camp in Skagway and The Neets Bay Bear Watch from Ketchikan. All our guides were knowledgable and considerate. The Pinnacle Grill Restaurant and Rudi's Sel de Mer (pop up restaurant at Pinnacle)- top notch fine dining. We ate here 3 times and enjoyed every one. Great service and excellent food. Alaska - Wow. Amazing place. Every port was charming, the people are kind and friendly, the scenery is breathtaking. Glacier Bay is awe-inspiring. We loved shopping in Juneau, taking the White Pass and Yukon Railway in Skagway, dogsledding and holding puppies, having fish tacos at Deckhand Dave's, and getting really close to black bears at Neet's Bay. I would definitely come to Alaska again. Liked: Entertainment: We didn't do a lot of it, but what we did do was fun. We enjoyed America's Test Kitchen (even though they are not allowed to give our food samples) and both the magician and the Alaska in Concert programs were great. Our Room - Our Neptune Suite was large, had a lot of storage, a comfortable bed, and a great balcony. It is overdue for a renovation, however. Neptune Lounge and Cabin Steward staff: All our Neptune staff were really great. Very considerate and helpful. The Dive-In: a hamburger and hot dog stand by the pool that provided a great lunch. Disliked: The ship overall - the decor is dated, the one tiny pool is unwelcoming, and there is not a lot of comfortable lounge space. The upselling - Holy Cow, there is a lot of upselling. Besides the usual beverage packages and future cruises, everyone on the ship wants to sell you something. The Spa was the worst. I was hassled in the tiny waiting area (no, I don't want acupuncture) I was hassled during my treatment (how relaxing!) and I was hassled to provide an extra tip after my treatment. The wifi - expensive and awful. I bought the most expensive package hoping it would work. All I wanted to do was play games on my tablet. Nope. Not even at 4 am when everyone else was asleep. The buffet and the main dining room - food was mediocre to bad and the service was either indifferent or rude. One dining steward in the main dining room berated me for my allergies to the point where I couldn't eat my dinner and just left. Other points: Embarkation was smooth and I guess reasonably quick - it was my first time so I don't know how its supposed to work. Disembarkation was fine. We spent two days before the cruise in Vancouver which is a great city to explore. We went to Stanley Park, Chinatown, and Gastown. I highly recommend the Fairmont Waterfront Gold level. Tremendous value as you basically get free breakfast and a light dinner along with your room as well as a dedicated front desk and concierge. They will also transfer your luggage to the ship for free. So overall while we enjoyed many parts of this vacation (especially Alaska!) we've learned we need to listen to our travel agent and next time go with the cruise line she suggests for us. Read Less
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