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.
Wonderful location. View is obstructed by life raft containers and a crane.