Prinsendam 10-5-17 “Adriatic Explorer”
This is a long and detailed "Log style" review. If you just want the summary scroll down to the bottom!
We flew out nonstop on American on Wednesday evening 10-4, arriving in Barcelona at 8:50 AM on 10-5. The flight was as good as it gets in coach as the three of us all had isle seats and DW was very lucky to have no one in the seat next to her.
Arrival was okay with the descent down the many stairs to the stand-up bus ride to international arrivals. It took maybe 15 minutes to clear Europe arrivals and shortly after that our bags all appeared on the baggage claim. Meeting one of our co-cruisers on the plane, we found a cab that took all four of us, and our luggage, ‘snugly’ to the Prinsendam.
Arriving at 10:30 they had not yet opened check in. While we were getting coffee from the (expensive) in-port café, check in opened. Both dear dad (DD) and our friend checked in and received boarding #1. We went to the four star check in and received an “S” boarding card.
Boarding began a little before 11:30. We boarded at the tail end of the S group and were shortly followed by those with #1. Cabins were ready. Our room team was nearby and DW asked for a re-treatment of the toilet and bathtub, which they immediately took care of. We met with the DR Manager and arranged for fixed early dining. The captain’s first announcement was that due to expected severe winds the first port call (Lipari – tender port) was canceled and is being replaced with Massena, Sicily. We’ve not been there so it’s all new to us. All else is fine.
We enjoyed lunch in the dining room, followed by a quick swim for DD and myself while DW relaxed after all the traveling. Dinner was excellent with both DW and I enjoying the pork chop feature. We have a very nice couple at the two top next to us and they were very talkative. After dinner we attended the first part of the 7:30 welcome aboard show but after about 20 minutes called it a night and we slept well.
Friday 10-6 – at sea
Leaving our curtains open, daylight greeted us at about 7:20 AM. We enjoyed a dining room breakfast and made our first visit to the coffee shop on board. We looked through the library for any information on Sicily and found just about everything else – guess someone got there before us! I stopped by the front desk to inquire as our 4-star pins had never arrived and my 3-star was still on my tuxedo lapel. They quickly provided a set of 4-star pins. We had a giant “Cruise critic meet and greet” at 10:00 AM. Well over 60 showed up, and we met everyone we are on tour with in later days.
We had a great lunch at the Pinnacle Grill, leaving there just in time to make our 2:00 complimentary wine-tasting. The sommelier was very entertaining and we learned a lot. At the same time others attended the first port talk which we later caught on the cabin TV. We enjoyed the pool for a while and DW was able to do some of her water exercises. We prepared for the first gala night.
Gala night had a high percentage of men in Tuxedos (likely unique to the Prinsendam) with many others in suits. A handful just met the minimal gala night standards with the collared shirt. Dinner was excellent and our servers Eddie and Andy are efficient, fun, and give the personal touch.
After dinner we headed to the showroom for the captain’s welcome toast. It was the new reduced standard, but the captain did make the announcement that our second port Crotone was being canceled due to port issues. Apparently they gave Prinsendam’s berth to a cargo ship. So we are headed to Corfu, a Greek island instead. He also said town is right at the dock so it is very accessible to all.
The evening show was the singers and dancers with “Atlantic Crossing.” Good show of British pop from the Beatles until today. We left during the last number to get seats in the Ocean bar for “Request evening.” The Ocean Bar was packed by the time the quartet started. The dance floor was full most of the night as well. The quartet is a slightly modernized version of the old “Halcats.” Requests ranged from the 50’s into the 80’s. The cruise director was active in encouraging participation.
When their set concluded we went to the crow’s nest to listen to the Piano entertainer Lee. The crow’s nest was running a late happy hour so two glasses of a favorite wine were ordered. Lee is very good and we stayed until past eleven (very late for us). A wonderful evening for certain!
Saturday, October 07, 2017 – Massena, Sicily, Italy.
A 10:00 scheduled arrival at a substitute port of Massena gave us plenty of time for a nice dining room breakfast at 8:30. The dining room had many guests this morning. By the time breakfast was complete we were entering the port. We went out on the promenade to take photos and while we were outside we saw the black clouds moving towards us. We literally watched the rain come across the harbor and it down poured just as our lines were being secured.
Twenty minutes later the rain had stopped and while we took our cabin umbrellas along for the day (which ensured it would not rain, right?) the day just kept getting better from this point. We left the port building to find many taxi drivers looking for customers. One made an offer of 220 Euros to take the five of us to Taormina and back. Leaving the front seat for DW with her leg issues, I folded myself into the far back seat while the other three took the rear bench. For a thirty minute ride it was tolerable but we will not again go in such a small vehicle if we have five.
Taormina is quite the opposite of Massena. It was crowded, had a high energy level, and offered some beautiful views. Two guitarists were in the main square singing Italian classics. They offered a double CD for 15 Euros so we bought one as that will be the soundtrack for out Italian port videos. We didn’t buy anything else other than a beverage break and then we met out driver at the appointed time for the ride back to Massena. Watching the meter I knew this was going to come to more than 220 Euros.
We had the driver drop us in town perhaps five blocks from the ship, so we could see a few of the buildings and the famous clock tower. The meter was just shy of 250 Euros. We gave him the 250 and then he hit us up for a tip. Okay, I gave him an extra 10. That was still little over half the price of the ship’s tour to Taormina and we had 30 minutes longer to visit there.
Massena was pretty much dead on a Saturday afternoon. We heard the clock tower ring 45 minutes past the hour. We talked to a fellow guest on Prinsendam who was at the clock at noon. They said at noon the square was filled with people as the clock display goes on for twelve minutes and it was quite something to witness. One of us bargained with a street vendor and bought a Sicily hat for six Euros. We walked back to the ship.
Back on board, we had a light lunch and relaxed for part of the afternoon before getting ready for dinner. That was likely a mistake as after the show, Violinist Greg Scott, we were very tired and after a short time in the Ocean Bar called it a night. But, back in the cabin we couldn’t get to sleep. Then once we cleared the southernmost part of Italy the ship began really rocking and rolling.
Dinner was again very good and we really enjoy our wait staff.
Sunday, October 08, 2017 – Corfu, Greece
We are not scheduled to dock in Corfu until Noon. We filled the morning with a dining room breakfast (very few guests this morning in the DR) followed by the 9:00 non-denominational service. At 10:00 the location guide gave a presentation on Corfu. This was helpful in planning our time there.
We put all our shore things together and I went outdoors to take photos of our approach. Corfu looks very picturesque, and for sure I took more photos here than the entire trip before this day. A free shuttle was provided from the ship to the cruise terminal (walking was allowed as well) and a second free shuttle was provided from the cruise terminal to downtown.
We took advantage of this shuttle. The service was prompt and very comfortable on the type of motor coach used for long distance runs. In the cruise terminal was an information desk with booklets of info on Corfu. As we were not a planned ship and this was a Sunday it was not staffed. However, the booklet was very helpful.
The shuttle dropped us off right at the entrance to the “Old fort.” As the old fort was something we wanted to visit we made that our first priority. Six Euros per person to enter (three for DD as he is well over 65) but no map or suggested tour route is provided. We wandered and found many very pretty viewpoints. We climbed part way up to the café area and rested a while. We visited the church built by the British that was converted to Greek Orthodox. It’s quite an impressive building but is now more or less a museum.
I walked the trail about half way to the summit. With more time I would have completed the climb but DW and DD were back at sea level and I didn’t want to leave them too long. I did get some fantastic photos. We left the fort and stopped for a sit down beverage break at a seafront café. Free Wi-Fi was offered here so DW texted back to our sons at home. After a nice rest, we walked through the park into the old town.
Corfu old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so. We visited the Church of St. Spyrigon, where the saint’s mummified body lies in a silver casket. Nearby we found a shop with hand-carved items made of Olive Wood. Several purchases were made both for gifts and for our own collection. We also found (from the booklet) the traditional Patisserie of Papaglorgis. Here we enjoyed the second best Gelato I have ever had. Oddly enough, the best was also in Greece, in Athens some years ago.
We were disappointed to find the shop from the Mavromatis Distillery was closed on Sunday. We had hoped to sample some of the Kumquat items. Yes, there were plenty of shops selling these but no one was offering samples, and this shop normally does. By this time is was 3:35 and after discussing among us we decided to head back to the ship as there would be just enough time to be properly ready for dinner.
Dinner was again quite good. The Short Ribs are usually a very good bet on Holland America and this was no exception. Mine were a little fatty but the fatty parts peeled off easily and it was still delicious. Before dinner the showroom band played in the Ocean bar, and after dinner the quartet was playing in the same venue. The show was comedian Stevie Jo. This was the weakest show thus far. Don’t come late to his show or he will ask if he should buy you a watch!
We again enjoyed the quartet after the show and called it a night at about 9:45. Tomorrow we are in Durres, Albania and have an eight hour tour planned.
Monday, October 09, 2017 – Durres, Albania
This morning began early. We were in the Lido by 7:10 for breakfast as we were meeting our touring group at 7:50. Everyone was on time and we headed down to deck 4 to head out. Even though no announcement had been made we were able to leave the ship. Our tour guide, Bilbil Zhari (Billy) was waiting for us along with driver Vladimir for our “Living with the tradition” tour from Elite travel. We were the first tour group to leave the port and we headed along the main highway to Tirana, the Albanian capital.
On arrival in Tirana we left the nice Mercedes van and began the walking part of our tour. We were shown the central park “Taiwan Park” named after a former concessionaire. The buildings of the many ministries were built in the 1930’s and mostly have a similar appearance. The main square of the city, Scanderbeg Square, is a monument dedicated to the National Hero of Albania. This square was just rebuilt and completed last year.
We visited the mosque on the main square, one of few that survived the 46 years on communism that ended in 1991. Next we toured through the national museum which tells the history of the country from pre-historic times until the establishment of the current republic in the 1990’s. We were then back in the van and had a drive-by tour of the major boulevard, more governmental buildings, the president’s residence, and the area that used to be restricted to high party loyalists during communism.
We left the capitol and headed back to Durres. We enjoyed a local “Seafood” lunch at Vertigo, a restaurant on the top floor of a hotel. We also sampled a local red wine which was very good. After lunch, we drove the length of the beachfront road before touring past the Venetian tower and the partly unearthed Roman Amphitheater.
We were driven back to the ship being let off just steps from the gangway concluding our 7 ½ hour tour. Back on board, I had just enough time for a quick swim and a stop in the crow’s nest for happy hour. Then getting ready for dinner.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving so one of the features is thanksgiving turkey. It was very good. We needed to take care of some things in the cabin so we missed the quartet tonight. We made it to the show, “Stage & Screen” by the singers and dancers. It was okay. After the long tour today and with Dubrovnik on schedule for tomorrow, we called it a night.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Prinsendam docked a little early this morning in Dubrovnik, but we were in no hurry to rush off. In fact, we had a nice dining room breakfast at about 8:30 and left the ship at about 9:30. The travel guide on the dock told us that she had run down to the tourist info center at the port and no one was there. It was also a good distance from the ship (as was the bus station) so we three opted for the 13 Euro cab ride to the old city.
Since the ship was charging $8 EACH WAY, per person for a bus transfer, 13 Euros was ‘cheap’ for the three of us, even after adding a tip. Plus there was no wait. I used one of the ATM’s at the city entrance to obtain Kuna. Although Prinsendam was the only ship in port, the old city was crowded with tour groups. I heard Italian, Chinese, Greek, and Japanese being spoken by various tour guides as we wondered about.
Dear Dad was quite impressed with the old city. We tried to avoid the main drags and explore the ‘flatter’ back streets. We happened upon an outdoor market in one of the squares and found handmade artwork that the artist herself was selling. DW also sampled lavender skin oil and bought a small hand-painted bottle of this.
As we were leaving the market, dear dad failed to notice a step down and took a tumble. Many other tourists stopped to help. He assured everyone he was okay but he did have a small scratch on his face. Consulting my map I found the nearest WC (rest room) and we headed there. We found a line to get in as well as a 7 Kuna charge to use the facility. We asked someone coming out if there was soap provided and the response was negative, none available.
DW asked a waiter at a nearby restaurant, Poklisar, where he could get cleaned up? The waiter, Zvone, asked my dad to sit while he went to get an antiseptic. He returned with an antiseptic and cleaned dad’s face and cut. Then he obtained a bandage and covered it up. He told my dad to leave it for at least a few hours before removing the bandage. I offered him a Kuna note which he refused, but he did ask if we would like a coffee and if so to please sit.
Poklistar is right near the harbor with the passenger ferries to nearby towns. We did have coffee and tea and all was very good, served with warm milk. We used the WC at the restaurant and left after paying the bill and leaving Zvone a generous thank you tip. While we did not eat a full meal there (at 10:30 in the morning!) we highly recommend Poklisar for the service they gave without hesitation.
We went to find a ferry and one of the companies had a boat “Just now leaving.” Literally, just then it was starting to pull away. For three more fares they quickly came back and we were able to board and are on our way to the town of Cavtat. Cavtat was everything TripAdvisor said it would be. We enjoyed an 8 Kuna one scoop gelato (and a generous scoop it was!). We walked the entire seaside stroll through the pine forests and enjoyed all the views from the various points. We very much enjoyed our visit to Cavtat.
We caught the 2:00 bus back to Dubrovnik and told the driver we needed to go to the port at the end of the line. The bus ride was interesting for sure. The price, at 25 Kuna each, could not be beat. Some folks boarded for just one or two stops. At a shopping mall about half way between Cavtat and Dubrovnik a huge group boarded and maybe 15 folks were standing. After two stops they all got off.
The only thing that went wrong is the driver may have misunderstood where we needed to go. He stopped at a place and said ‘This is the port.’ I questioned him but he insisted this was the port stop. We were the last on the bus at that point, so we got off. I knew where we were, and while we were near the port, we still had a way to go. That likely ended up being a ¾ mile walk back to the ship. We passed right by the actual bus station on the way, and the bus we had exited was there. Live and learn.
Back on board sometime in the pool and hot tub with a little snack seemed appropriate. We were in no rush for dinner as many were still ashore with a 10:30 all aboard tonight. We arrived in the dining room at 6:00 and Andy and Eddie was happy to see us. Eddie recommended the pork tenderloin as his #1 choice for the evening and DD and I went with that. We enjoyed it. The Sundae dessert tonight was the best yet – White Chocolate and Marshmallow!
We listed to the quartet in the ocean bar and after a very long day called it a night. There was no show tonight just a 9:30 movie on the big screen. After the last few days we were not going to make that for sure! Tomorrow is a sea day and we really need one about now!
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 – At Sea
A day we sorely needed after the past four port days. Without planning to, we slept in until after 8:00. Even dear dad slept until 7:30, which is way late for him! We went to the dining room for breakfast at about 8:40. Breakfast was very good as usual and DW tried a ‘make it yourself’ omelet that she really enjoyed. The next three mornings we will be in the lido as we have early tour plans.
We wandered around the ship some and found that the shops had sunscreen on display. As we were running low and the price was about half what we found in Greece, we bought some. We were invited (our first time since we received our bronze medallions) to the Mariner’s award ceremony at 11:00. This was nicely done with 26 cruisers receiving their bronze medallion and five receiving silver. We also learned that five President’s Club members are onboard and they were introduced.
After the ceremony we all moved to the dining room for the Mariner’s lunch. The “Red fish” was actually “Red Snapper” and was quite good. The new Prinsendam tiles are very nice and inside the booklet was a small representation of each ship class’ current tile.
After lunch it was pool time. The pool was much warmer than yesterday. We were alone in the pool for a while but it seemed like we set a pattern as after a while about eight were in the pool. We dried off in the shade but even though it was just an hour, at 43 degrees north, in October, the right side of my face and neck caught a bit of a burn. Maybe that is why the cabin feels warm again? Is any case we dried off at a shady table and sat there until we were just too cold. The air was 66 and with a breeze (only from the ship moving) that was cool.
We caught up on some tour planning and I distributed to two other cabins our tour plan for tomorrow in Venice. After a short break it was time to get ready for gala night number two.
Dinner was excellent. Eddie got me two helpings of the king crab legs. They were really good. DW also enjoyed the king crab while DD had a double filet mignon (as he could not eat the lobster ravioli with his diet). After dinner we listened to the quartet a while in the very well attended Ocean Bar. But I’ve noticed something. I really enjoyed the quartet earlier in the cruise. They are now repeating their sets. I don’t mean repeating a few songs – seems like they are repeating entire sets.
The show tonight is an encore of the previous guest performers, neither of which we found very good. With a very early start tomorrow (the captain said we would be passing St. Mark’s square at “Dawn”) we decided to call it an evening and complete our restful sea day.
Thursday, October 12, 2017 – Venice day one.
We were up early and coffee / tea was delivered right at 6:30. We were in the lido for breakfast by 7:10 as Prinsendam was already approaching the dock. The rest of the day is a contrast of great and not so great travel experiences.
The five of us were ready to disembark at 8:00. Just as we reached the gangway it was being opened for passengers. Right outside the cruise terminal was an ATM which we used to obtain more Euros. We took the people mover at 1.5 Euros each for the short hop to the main transportation hub at P. Roma. There, we purchased two day waterbus passes for 30 Euros each. We then found that the waterbus 5.2 leaves from port B which ended up being about two blocks away, back towards the ship.
We followed our directions to ride the 5.2 to the Ospedale (Hospital) stop. We were about 30 minutes early for our 10:00 tour but in Venice you can never know how long it will take to get from place to place… There was no obvious place to wait so I called our tour guide, Serantoni Tommaso to inquire. He said he was approaching the waterbus stop and would signal us when he was close enough. Five minutes later we saw a boat approaching from across the lagoon and he motioned for us to move to a small docking area.
We began our four hour private tour on the bragozzo (traditional Venetian boat) “El Sultan.” We had a wonderful tour as Serantoni told us all about Venetian history, shipbuilding, the lagoon, and showed us the salt marsh that was as Venice was before it was built. He took us past two farming islands and we docked at Burano. At Burano we had 1 hr. 10 minutes to wander the streets. While there we say a ship’s tour arrive. There were also tour groups from various countries walking past.
One person needed to find a WC, and in the town square a public WC was available for 1.5 Euros. We saw the church and the leaning clock tower (Leans more than Pisa). On the way back to El Sultan we stopped at a bakery we had passed to try the local special cookie as well as a few other treats. We also purchased some small lace items as Burano is the lace capital of Italy.
Back on El Sultan, we circled around Burano and crossed some of the lagoon to the island of Mazzorbo. Here we visited the off the tourist path Church of Santa Caterina. This church, built in the 13th century, is in remarkable condition thanks to volunteers who maintain it. There is a painting dated 1292 on the front of the balcony boards. The friars would direct the service from the balcony. We had the church to ourselves until much to our guides surprise a tour group stopped in. There was no boat so where they came from to arrive at the church was a mystery.
Next we headed towards Murano. On the way we passed close to a small island where a church occupied the entire island. We were close enough to see the statues in the courtyard. We circled around part of Murano and we paid our guide and bid him farewell. We tried without success to find a glass making demonstration (we just missed one and they told us it was seven Euros to watch but never told us when the next one would be). We had a light lunch at a place the guide recommended. It was just okay and costly for what it was.
We walked the main street and crossed the Murano Grand Canal. The crowds thinned out as it was getting late. We caught the #7 express water bus directly to St. Mark’s square, perhaps 20 minutes away. That area, like always, was crowded. We walked along the waterfront and bought a few items from street vendors. The day, until now, was terrific.
We followed the GPS to the meeting point for our prepaid 6:30 Gondola ride, booked thru Viator. We arrived at about 6:00 and were told “This is the line” and it was already over 30 persons long with no place to sit. It was after 6:30 that they began loading gondolas and even though we were in the middle of the line somehow we ended up in the very last gondola to leave. No one told us that seating would be assigned in the order we boarded, so my wife and I (the only married couple on board) were not sitting together – so much for “Romantic.”
We were supposed to be able to hear the singer on one of the gondolas – that didn’t happen either. For one thing when we were close enough to the next gondola the two gondoliers were talking with each other, for the other we were so far behind anyone singing that we couldn’t hear a thing.
This was supposed to be a 35 minute ride and it was only 25 minutes. For what we had prepaid, just under US$50/pp the five of us could have hired two private gondolas at 100 Euros each and had a much superior experience.
After we got off we went to the person in charge to complain and frankly, they could have cared less. (After arriving home I left them the worst review in 180 reviews I’ve ever left on tripadvisor.)
We headed to the nearest waterbus stop and the waterbus arrived very crowded. Some folks got off and we started to get on. After one (of five) from our group was on they slid the gate closed. I told the driver we were together and again, they could care less. She didn’t know where to get off. The next waterbus arrived much less crowded and the four of us got on. When we got off at P. Roma we looked for our separated friend and could not find her.
We took the people mover back to the port. Boarding the ship was another hassle with airport like security requiring that ALL metal objects be placed in trays for x-ray. We were on board at about 8:45 and went straight to the dining room. We checked our friend’s room and she was not there. After finishing dinner I went to the front desk and they told me she had returned. Getting back to our cabin DW was on the phone with her, she found someone at the Rialto stop with a Rick Steve’s guidebook who told her how to get back to the ship. She returned at 9:30.
After a 13 hour day in Venice, we decided to drop our plans for the second day in Venice and make it a “Ship day.” This ended up being a great decision. Our touring friends had pre-purchased a tour of the Doges Palace and St. Marks so they were committed and ended up having a more pleasant second day in Venice.
Friday, October 13, 2017 – Venice day two
A sleep in morning was very welcome after our exhausting day in Venice. Venice is severely ‘fogged in’ this morning! I sent a quick e-mail to the ‘free walking tour’ folks to let them know we would not be coming this morning. We went to the dining room at about 8:35 for breakfast. Afterwards we walked around the ship and noticed the ‘fog’ coming off the pool and hot tub. I dipped my hand into the pool and found it to be very warm.
We could not even see the cruise terminal building due to the fog. Yesterday’s tour would certainly have been canceled if it were to be today. After a while we decided to use the pool as no one was even sitting outside on the lido deck. The pool was delightful and we spent a lot of time there, followed by the even warmer hot tub. I believe I actually fell asleep in the hot tub until DW came from the pool to join me. Returning to our room at about 11:45, by the time we showered and got dressed we decided to forgo the dining room lunch DW had preordered. We did not know that DD was already in there waiting for us (sorry dad!).
We had a light lido lunch and just needed more rest. We slept part of the afternoon away until woken by a phone call (thanks dad!). After we decided to go to the crow’s nest for happy hour and sail away.
Two folks missed the ship in Venice. You just never know how long it’s going to take you to get from place to place in Venice, and one needs to always leave plenty of margin. From the crow’s nest we saw the Westerdam, which we were told docked at 1:00 rather than 8:00 as they could not enter the harbor due to the fog. There was also an older Costa ship in port. I did not see a single verandah cabin on the Costa ship, but did count four decks (at least) of window cabins.
We left the dock shortly after 5:00 and passed St. Mark’s square about 5:35. There was still a low fog over some of the water surfaces. We were back with our great wait team tonight for dinner and it was good. Looking at tomorrow’s dinner menu we decided that would be the night for the Pinnacle. I quickly visited the Pinnacle and obtained reservations for 6:30 tomorrow.
The show tonight was the production team with “Dance.” The singing and dancing was very well done. My only critical comment is that unlike the two prior production shows, I am about 99% certain this was performed using canned music rather than the live band. With a full day tour tomorrow in the off the beaten cruise path port of Rijeka Croatia we called in a night after the show.
Saturday, October 14 – Rijeka, Croatia
An early start meant a lido breakfast this morning. Walking around deck 7 to take photos, I found that town had a great welcome going for Prinsendam. A band and baton twirlers were greeting the ship. There were also locals dressed in traditional dress offering complimentary samples of the local beverage and candy of choice. Our tour group of seven met on time at 8:15 in the Ocean Bar.
We left the ship and paused to obtain maps and a few partook of the samples. We met our guide, Dragica, from Rijekatrips. Off we went in the van for a short ride to the city center to begin our walking tour of the old city. The clock tower at the Church of the assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary leans more than Pisa. In fact, standard under the side that is leaning it a bit unnerving.
We saw the roman ruins that have been unearthed and the old roman gateway. We also saw the statue to the milkmaids who used to transport milk from the hills to the city on their backs every day. We toured the city market, a bustling place where we sampled a local chocolate donut and Apple Strudel. Dragica showed us the upstairs of the fish market where we had a bird’s eye view over the entire place – fantastic.
We took a coffee break after 90 minutes of walking at the long pier that extends 1.5 KM into the harbor. After our break we were back in the van to ride up the hill to the Trsat Castle. With the van, this was easy to access and the 360 degree views from the top of the castle on this flawless day were stunning. From the Castle we walked to the nearby St. Vitus Cathedral. Here we viewed the church and saw the outside of the monastery and convent. Pilgrims climb to the cathedral on over 500 steps from the town on certain holy days.
From here we were back in the van to the seaside town of Opatija. Opatija was the first seaside ‘resort’ began in the late 1800’s in all of old Yugoslavia. The seaside park and the waterfront walkways are very pretty to see. Folks were in the water swimming and others sunning on the mostly concreate ‘beach.’ We saw the first church of the area and then began looking for a spot for a light lunch.
We found a place and enjoyed a light Croatian lunch. Next we were back in the van to return to Rijeka and one last stop at a small handicraft market near the old town entrance. Here a number of us made purchases of hand-made local items. We returned to the ship, dropped off just steps from the gangway, at 4:10 for our 4:30 all-aboard. I noticed at least two ship’s tour buses that arrived back shortly after 4:30; guess they went some distance away.
We have a 6:30 Pinnacle Grill reservation tonight. Dinner at the Pinnacle was very enjoyable. DW and I both had the King Crab Legs while DD had the 10 Oz. Filet. By the time we finished dinner we were all very full and also very tired, so we called it a night.
Sunday, October 15, 2017 – At Sea
The last sea day of the cruise found Prinsendam heading South in the Adriatic at 19 knots. It was another perfect weather day with nearly no wind on board. We enjoyed a dining room breakfast at 9:00 followed by the “Ask the captain” session at 10:00. At this session the captain and hotel manager were present. This was one of the best such gatherings I have attended.
The captain shared that while the Prinsendam is the smallest Holland America ship, it is also the most difficult to navigate. It was essentially build as an Ocean Liner and does very well in a straight line. Navigating into tight spots is not its strong point. The captain also implied that ships built in Finland are built to last while the ships built in Italy may not have as long a life expectancy.
I asked about on deck barbeques. The hotel manager shared that “About a year ago” during a US Health inspection they dissed on-deck cooking as there are no immediately accessible hand wash stations, the floor is not appropriate, and the cooking area is not ‘covered’ to prevent things from falling into/onto cooking food. My take away is that due to the US Health service, any lido barbeques are eliminated world-wide. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
We next relaxed a little on the nice loungers on deck 7 aft. I attended the 11:30 Microsoft session on “Living postcards with movie moments.” At this session I learned that Microsoft is no longer supporting Movie Maker or Photo Gallery, both programs I learned how to use and now depend on from prior cruises. The presenter said that Microsoft 10 had a photo ap that has movie capabilities.
As I left the Microsoft session, I found DW headed to the pool. So I changed into swimwear and joined her. Soon we found one of our touring friends who also joined us, and then dear dad joined us after his Mariner’s lunch. We stayed up on the lido on this lovely day until nearly 3:00. Then we cleaned up, rested a bit, and got ready for dinner.
Dinner was great tonight for all. DW and I both enjoyed the fruit appetizer with peach schnapps and the sweet and sour shrimp. We finished dinner just as the sun was setting and I went outside to take photos. Ships in the distance passed directly in front of the setting sun making for great photo ops! We enjoyed the quartet who had mostly ‘new’ material tonight before the best show of the cruise so far.
That show was vocalist Penny Mathisen. Her singing is terrific and the stories she wove in to the songs very entertaining. If you have the chance to see Penny perform, we highly recommend it. After the show we called in a night before the early start tomorrow in Ikea, Greece.
Monday, October 16 – Ikea (Delphi) Greece
We were up early this morning as I had arranged an 18 person tour to Delphi with George Terezakis, who I found through Viator guides. Breakfast was in the lido. What I did not know, and was not communicated in any way, was that the ship had ten busloads going to Delphi and they told everyone it was an 8:00 departure. As this was a tender port, this became a challenge.
The prior day, the travel guide told me that if we had the group in the showroom for tender tickets at 7:45 we could get off the ship ‘quickly.’ That ended up being dead wrong. By 8:45 (after sitting in the showroom for an hour with nothing but ship’s tours being called) we began asking questions. Long story short, we were finally on a tender at 9:00. George was waiting for us just outside the secured area of the pier, and off we went.
George was a superb guide both on the bus and on the ground at Delphi. Our whole group made it up to the Sanctuary (temple) of Apollo and most of the group to the theater. The theater was actually not that much further than the temple. I went a little further past the theater only to take photos of the theater from above. The stadium that was used for chariot races and such was at least as far up again as the theater was from the entrance, and none of our group did that.
Returning to the entrance George got the group together and gave us a guided tour of the Delphi museum. Having a guide made a big difference as it’s no longer just “Old stuff” we are looking at but George made it come alive. After about an hour in the museum we boarded the bus for the short drive to the village of Delphi where we walked the main street visiting the shops that were open but our three did not make any purchases.
We drove back to the pier and bid George farewell. Several of us walked around for a while before taking a tender back to the ship. I found that the Greek Coast Guard was providing pier security. Back on board we had a light lunch and took the time to enjoy the pool before dinner. Before dinner I stopped by the shore excursion desk who assured me that tomorrow we would not have the same trouble getting tendered off the ship. They had only 15 at 8:00 and another group at 8:15. If we were early we should be able to get on the first tender.
Dinner was excellent tonight and I even had a surprise Shrimp Cocktail that had been arranged for. Tomorrow is another early start with a call at the island of Zakynthos, Greece
Tuesday, October 17, Zakynthos, Greece
Another early morning meeting our tour group at 7:40. We snagged the first group of tender tickets and sure enough by 8:00 we were on the tender toward the dock at Zakynthos Greece. Someone from the cruise critic roll call had arranged an all day tour of the island with Nefis Travel Zakynthos and while the original group had filled we were in group 3. In total 38 folks took this tour in four vehicles with four guides. Since the ‘last tender time’ was changed by the ship to 3:30 from 4:30, we were a bit rushed at a few points.
First we stopped at a high overlook of the town from near the Venetian fort ruins. Great photos and our guide Spiros Troussas gave us a history of the island including the earthquake that destroyed all but three buildings and the fact that the island has over 2,000,000 Olive trees.
Next we visited a small village “Life as it used to be” with a small general store in one of those surviving buildings. They still use a scale with weights to sell things with rice and flour. From the edge of the village were great panoramic views of the valley, mountains, and the sea.
We drove a while and stopped at a very high spot on the road where a goat herder had a small stand. Again, great views and we learned some of how the goats are taken care of even though in essence they are roaming free. From there, we drove to a seaside town where we boarded a boat to visit the blue caves.
This was amazing as the boat actually entered into two of the caves, with not more than 6 inches clearance on either side or on top. The water in and near the caves is a deep blue and the boat had a glass bottom allowing us to see coral growing on the sea floor. Many photo ops among the caves and then a chance to swim off the boat. Four of our 18 took advantage of the swimming opportunity. The water was really pleasant and warmer than I expected. I only stayed in five minutes and there was no place you could stand and the waves were rougher than I like without a float of some type.
Ten minutes later the remaining swimmers were called back to the boat and we returned to the harbor. From here we headed up and around the mountains to a viewpoint of “Shipwreck beach.” Yes, there was a shipwreck. Yes, it is still on the beach. The viewpoint can barely fit two people and I can’t imagine what this is like “In season.” Yes, it’s very pretty but stay more than 15 seconds and the folks behind you get antsy.
From the viewpoint we drove some more to a mountain village where the travel company had arranged for a lunch. The lunch was very nice, and the Greek musician made the time pass quickly. I still prefer to not spend touring time on lunch. The owner of Nefis briefly thanked our group for booking with them and said how having 38 guests during the ‘off season’ make such a difference to their small company. She also had a gift for the couple that initiated the tour, a very nice gesture.
We drove a short distance to a group of souvenir stands. These were filled with local, hand-made items, the kind we are most likely to appreciate. Sure enough, a hand painted mug and plate were purchased. We were assured these are dishwasher safe. Time will tell if we test that or not.
From there it was time to head back to the pier, arriving at 3:10. All in all, a very good and exhaustive (and exhausting) tour of Zakynthos.
This was to be the last gala night of the cruise. So we got ready, took some photos, and headed to dinner. The surf and turf was offered and enjoyed in one form or other by everyone at our table. We had invited a fellow solo traveler on the last two tours with us to join our table and it was nice having some variety.
Wednesday, October 18, Spetses, Greece
Our port call on the small island of Spetses is from 7:00 to 11:30 AM. Spetses is ‘special’ in that no private autos are allowed in the town limits. Commercial vehicles and motorbikes are everywhere. We did not rush off the ship, preferring to sleep a little and have a dining room breakfast. After the past lido mornings the dining room was greatly appreciated.
We decided to take a tender to shore at about 9:35 and found there was no wait. We walked around a little but more than half the shops were closed. We looked in a few and made no purchases. There is a lovely little beach in Spetses that had we been there later would have made an irresistible chance for a swim. At about 10:45 we headed back to the ship. I enjoyed the pool along with DD. While drying off DW came and suggested we get a light lido lunch. They had Mediterranean kabobs and the fish in those was nice. We sat at one of the nice wooden tables with the huge umbrellas near the pool. We sailed away with the ship making a number of turns. The next two hours the sailing was especially scenic, sailing between island mountains on either side of the ship. We stopped in the shops for the ‘final sale’ of the cruise and a jewelry purchase was made for DW.
We went to the crow’s nest for happy hour and the sail in to Athens. Athens port is always busy and we needed to wait for a ferry to leave before we could enter the channel. One of the Cunard Queens was in port as well as a giant MSC ship. As we docked on one side of terminal A the MSC ship pulled away from the other side. Parked next to us was a small cruise ship, the Aegean Odyssey, a 350 passenger ship. They departed sometime late in the evening.
While many left Prinsendam for an evening tour in Venice we stayed on board. We had a fabulous last meal in the half-full (at best) dining room. The “International menu” on the last night is history and has been replaced with a “Culinary Council” menu. The crusted Prime Rib was delicious and perfectly cooked. The desserts were also a step above the norm. Note to Rick & Sharon – we will need to find another night for the Pinnacle as now the last night in the dining room is a treat. A small ‘parade’ of the chefs took place at 7:00 and again at 9:00 (as we noticed from the Ocean Bar). We bid our farewell to Eddy and Andy, and also the assistant DR Manager who stopped by every night, a huge difference from our last cruise (Veendam) where we never were visited by a manager at dinner.
We took in the quartet at the Ocean Bar and returned to our cabin to pack. Packing was done at 8:50 and we returned to the quartet until heading to the showroom. Tonight was a treat with a one-time only show of a local Greek music and dance company. This was a fantastic show and the almost full showroom gave them a standing ovation at the end. We put the luggage out and now have 4 star priority luggage handling (which is nice as we are no longer really able to handle the ‘expedited’ by ourselves). This allows us to disembark any time after the expedited group or we can stay onboard until we are kicked off!
Thursday, October 18, Athens Greece
Time to get off the ship, but our adventure in Greece is not quite over. We enjoyed a last dining room breakfast and the host (who knows us by name) wished us well and said “Hope to see you again soon!” Our Pink 3 luggage tag was called at 7:45 while finishing up in the dining room. We returned to our cabin for final preparations and double checking all the hidden places and proceeded to disembark. A number of the ship’s staff was at the gangway wishing us safe travels, a very nice touch.
We had arranged for an 8:30 pick up by “George the famous taxi driver of Athens.” We were outdoors at about 8:00 and George was there waiting for us with a sign. George loaded our luggage which could not quite all fit into the Mercedes trunk. He suggested we stop at our hotel where they would store our luggage so we did so. George was fantastic all day. He took us out to Corinth, where we saw the Corinth canal. Then we visited the ruins and museum. The podium where the Apostle Paul preached to the Corinthians is restored using recovered original pieces filled in with new material.
George also showed us St Paul’s Church (Greek Orthodox) and the triptych mosaic, which is truly magnificent. We would never have found this on our own. Corinth was quite crowded with ship’s tours as about half those on board were continuing on to the next “Holy land” segment. These experienced travelers had no doubt already ‘done’ the main Athens sites so like us, were looking a little further afield.
On the way back, we stopped at another part of the Corinth Canal where a truly unique bridge exists. These two 'sinking' bridges, originally called subducting bridges, exist near both ends of the canal. Rather than rise to allow a ship to pass, they ‘sink’ down to the canal floor, 8 meters below the surface. We happened to arrive just as the gate went down to stop traffic and were able to watch (and photo and video) the entire process. George is a genius!
From here we headed to a wonderful family owned (and served family style) as authentic as you can get Greek restaurant. The Ta4f tavern was wonderful and even serves wine made “At home” by the family. Again, something we would never have found without George. During lunch we discussed our options for the rest of the day. After being baked in the sun at Delphi everyone was tired and so we decided to take in the Acropolis museum rather than attempt the climb to the actual site.
On the way we passed Dromeas, the glass sculpture of the marathon runner. Last visit we were never able to get a good photo of this and we passed it twice. George also took us way up a mountainside where we saw fantastic views of all Athens. We enjoyed the Acropolis museum and rested a while on the patio with a Greek coffee looking up at the Parthenon. The last thing George did was take us to this fantastic patisserie / gelato shop where on our previous visit his son Billy took us. Here we had, in 2012, the best Gelato I’ve ever enjoyed. This visit was ‘close’ but not quite as memorable as I did have a bit of ice in the Gelato.
George then dropped us at our hotel, the hotel Attalos. Our rooms were ready and they retrieved our luggage from storage. Like many older hotels, the lifts are small and would certainly not be permitted in the US, as there are no doors inside the lifts but rather the bare ‘moving walls’ are exposed. Still, it’s a European experience, right? The hotel rooms were spacious for Europe. The beds rather hard but we slept quite well. The hotel has a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Parthenon. We enjoyed those. Down the street is a supermarket where we bought some water and found a bag of sugar free cookies for DD. George had recommended a small bakery/eatery which was a good stop for a snack.
Friday, October 20 – heading home
George had arranged for one of his drivers to pick us up at 8:15 Friday morning to take us to the airport. We enjoyed the hotel breakfast and were ready at 8:00, and so was our driver! Off we went at we reached the airport just before 9:00. While the American airlines ‘ap’ said we needed to check in at the airport due a name issue, the rep at the check in counter assured us everything was in order. She quickly gave us our boarding passes and checked our three bags. We quickly moved through passport control and security, and were in the terminal at 9:30 for our 11:45 flight (with boarding at 10:55).
We enjoyed coffee and tea and found we had 4.65 Euros in coins. DW went on a mission to spend the coins and found 4.60 “Olive oil” spoon in the duty free shop. We boarded on time, left on time, and arrived in Philadelphia about 25 minutes early. What made the flight even better (for me) is that the person in the middle seat next to me (a sizeable guy, not quite as large as I am) got up about 15 minutes into the flight and never returned. Apparently he found a more pleasing seat closer to the front – good for me. I was in 37C, which is the aisle seat where the middle seats go from four to three. The good thing here is my shoulder was not hit once by the flight attendants during their service. The not so good thing is that the tray is in the armrest meaning the seat is just a little tighter. Still, I was happy with this choice.
We stopped on our way home at an Outback five miles from the airport, letting the worst of the rush hour pass while we had dinner. We arrived home exactly at 7:00 PM, eighteen hours after being picked up from Hotel Attalos.
Cruise Summary & Conclusion:
We really like the Prinsendam. The crew is outstanding. Service is at a level rarely seen anymore. Our laundry service was incredible. If we sail Prinsendam again (and I hope we do) I will pay extra over a “Guarantee” to have a cabin on deck 7. This would minimize the need to use the lifts. The lifts are one negative. The two lifts in the front of the ship are very slow (for the doors to close) while the two in the aft are very fast (we were clipped several times).
Our cabin temperature swung quite a bit but we never adjusted the thermostat from “As cold as it gets.” After the one time we mentioned this to the office it did seem to get ‘better’ but if our side of the ship was in the sun and we took our two showers the room was quite warm and took a while to cool.
Entertainment was a mixed bag. Some was good, even great (Penny Mathisen & the local Greek group). The singers and dancers shows were all enjoyable. The other guests were “Ugh.”
Dining was a high point with always at least “Good,” mostly “Very good” and a few “Excellent” in the main dining room. Service was exceptional as previously noted.
The main lido pool is a joy. It’s not large, but it was always warm. DW really liked this and was able to do most of her water exercises in comfort. The burgers at the Dive in seemed not as good as the other ships. The Dive in certainly had the ‘worst’ bread on board. We began ordering burger patties and hot dogs without the bread. The burger patties have too much seasoning, I don’t know why.
This would have been a 4 ½ star cruise except for the tendering issues in Itea. That cost the good ship Prinsendam a half star in the rating so this becomes a four star out of five. With the changes over past years at Holland and other cruise lines outside of the “Luxury” category, I’m not sure another five star experience will come along.
450 is a midship, dolphin deck outside cabin. Love the walk-in closet. Has a full bathtub.