We (a group of six) were on the Prinsendam on the October, 2014 Black Sea Explorer. This was our fifth HAL cruise in the past six year each on a different ship. We have been on the Zaandam (Alaska), Nieuw Amersterdam (TA repositioning), Noordam (TA repositioning) and Veendam (South America repositioning). We are 3* Mariners and will be 4* when our Prinsendam cruise is credited. In part this review will be a comparison with the other HAL ships.
We choose this Prinsendam cruise because of the itinerary a year ago We wanted to see the Black Sea ports including Odessa and Sevastapol in the Ukraine. When the Russians invaded earlier this year, HAL told us they were canceling the Ukraine stops and substituting Batumi, Georgia, Trabzon, Turkey and Sinop, Turkey we decided to stay with our original plan.
We spent 11 days in Greece on a package arrange through Fantasy Travel (separately review on the Greece Forum of Trip Advisor). Embarkation was smooth. We arrive at the terminal at 11:30 AM and by 12:30 were in the MDR eating lunch. We had no problem carrying on six bottles of Greek wines we had purchased on our travels.
We had SY cabins on the 10th deck. When we booked our cruise we had AA cabins on the 9th deck. We were able to get upgrades to the SY cabins with an additional OBC. As it turned we were assigned adjoining cabins. We were able to open the partitions between our cabins to create a large three cabin veranda. We never had a problem with smokers on other verandas. The SY cabins were large and comfortable. We like the large walk in closet and the bathroom with a separate toilet. We were under the Lido, but never heard any noise from above us.
There is no doubt about it, the Princendam is an old ship, well maintained and clean, but nevertheless a ship showing its age. The crew was constantly cleaning, painting and doing upkeep. We had no problems with air conditioning or plumbing except on tdeparture day our toilet stopped working. They were working on it as we departed.
The Prinsendam is a small ship as compared to the other HAL ships and a minnow if compared to the mega ships. As a result everything is smaller. The fitness center has half the number of exercise machines, the swimming pools are smaller and the MDR is smaller. On the other hand the fitness center was never crowded. The one thin the Prinsendam lacks that is a feature of the other HAL ships is the sliding cover on the Lido pool. On other cruises it is nice to sit around the pool on cool days with the cover on.
The food is typical HAL quality, no better, no worse than other HAL ships. There were old friends on the menu, onion soup in the MSR, different Asian dishes and sushi in the Lido buffet, and great eggs Benedict at breakfast. There are two sides to the Lido which may serve different items. The two sides are connected only by public hallway. I heard one passenger comment that she did not know there was a another half to the Lido buffet until the third day. i ate all my breakfasts in the Lido as well as the lunches on sea days. About half the time we at dinner in the MDR and the other half in the Lido. The line for all meals in the Lido was reasonable. My only complaint about food, and this complaint applies to all HAL ships, is that the Lido stops serving dinner at 8:00 PM sharp. The only food available after 8:00 PM was the MDR, room service or bar snacks in the Ocean Bar and Explorer Bar.
We did not hang out in in the bars, so I cannot comment on the music. There was a piano violin duo in the Explorers lounge. They were good, but their play list is limited. I liked the quartets before HAL made the staffing cut backs. We saw a few shows in the show room, and the musical acts were good. The entertainers were adequate. Because this cruise was so port intensive, we were usually early to bed.
The ports were incredible. High lights included two nights and two days in Istanbul. We went out both evenings to the New District on our own. We ate excellent dinners both nights and were back on ship by 11:00 PM. We never felt unsafe, although we stayed in high traffic areas. On day 1 we explored the Grand Bazaar and the surrounding area. On day 2 we visited the Blue Mosque, Haga Sophia and the Spice Bazaar. On both days we had excellent local lunches.
Other highlights include Ephesus, Meteora Monasteries in Volos, Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, Turkey, spa day at the Ilium Hotel in Cesme, Turkey, food market walking tour in Thessaloniki and wine tasting and Nesebar Tour in Burgas, Bulgaria. All of these tours were privately arranged went off without any problems or surprises. We explored Batumi, Georgia, Constata, Romania, Sinop Turkey and Kavala, Greece on our own without a tour our guide.
Disembarkation was smooth. We did not leave the ship until 9:00 AM. Since our plane flight home left at 6:30 AM the next day, we spent the day further exploring Athens. We spent the night at the Sofitel Hotel next to the Athens airport. A nice hotel convenient to the terminal.
Large cabin on the tenth deck. Big bathroom and walk in closet. Plenty of storage room. The TV is had to view from anyplace other than the bed. No noise from the Lido deck.