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Prinsendam European River Explorer 4-24-19 Note this is a long; log-style review. For just the summary scroll on down to the end. We left Pennsylvania on Monday evening April 22 on American non-stop to Rome. The flight was on time and arrived 35 minutes early into Rome. We met one of our fellow cruisers at the airport and had arranged a shared transfer to Civitavecchia. Despite some airport confusion, it all worked out. Note that after leaving through customs I did not find an ATM at the airport. They must be there, but not in the places they used to be! Our driver with Civitavecchia Shuttle Express was kind and professional. He did not talk very much. We were dropped off at our guest house, “MyHomeBLU” at about 10:40. MyHomeBLUE is an interesting guest house on the top floor of a condo building. It has some great views of the city as well as the Mediterranean. We went back to visit our new friend at her hotel and found an ATM. We attempted a walking tour I had downloaded from the port website. Streets are poorly marked, and while we found the two churches they were both locked and we could not enter inside. We were too late for the market. We stopped at a supermarket for two bottles of wine to bring on board and a small gelato container. The gelato became lunch. At 4:00 we met our new friend and went for dinner. Many restaurants are closed from 3 – 7 PM but along the seaside promenade several were open. The “New Gran Caffe” has a very nice upstairs dining room with views of the sea. My dinner was good although not what I expected. We walked along the sea for a while afterwards taking photos. Walking back to our temporary home DW said she was still hungry. There is a supermarket on the first floor of our building so we visited there and she bought some cheese and olives. This was very satisfying as it was enjoyed in the “Living room” overlooking the coast. At about 8:30 we called it a day! Wednesday, April 24, 2019 – embarkation We slept very well. We woke to my phone alarm to get ready for the day. We had a light breakfast in the MyHomeBLUE living room. There is cheese and olives left from last evening and that was helpful as little that was available met DW’s dietary needs. We took a nice walk to the town market. About half the market was fruits, veggies, seafood, & meats. The other half was an assortment of goods including clothing and electronics. We walked back and enjoyed a few minutes rest chatting with the proprietor until heading down for our prearranged 10:30 taxi. He was waiting for us at 10:25 and off we went to the port. We were in the terminal before 11:00. They told us boarding would begin at 11:30 and handed us boarding card #1. At 11:10 they called for #1. We had our photo taken for our last embarkation on Prinsendam, and headed to our cabin. It seemed a few things were not as cleaned as DW prefers but our room steward took care of everything. We sent away the soiled laundry from our travels and headed to the Ocean Bar. Here we found the maître’ de and discussed dinner plans. We handed him our prepared list of DW’s dietary restrictions and he kindly assigned us to table 143, a four top all the way aft. He also took a preorder for dinner. We also stopped at the Pinnacle Grille to preorder tomorrow’s lunch which we are having with several roll call members. Lunch was enjoyed in the dining room and all our special orders were very nicely taken care of. We headed to the cabin and our luggage was just being delivered. We unpacked and had everything stowed away prior to the 2:30 Mariner’s welcome aboard gathering. We attended the welcome aboard party and it was the best one we’ve ever enjoyed. The wait staff kept the beverages flowing freely and we had a great conversation with a couple we met in the elevator. After the party there was just enough time to shower and put on evening clothes before the 4:30 muster drill. The muster drill was pleasant enough with only about ½ the normal crowd as so many have stayed on from the prior cruise segment and they were excused. We were finished by 4:44. We headed straight to the Ocean Bar. At the Ocean Bar we renewed acquaintances with roll call members who we had shared tours with last year on the Iceland cruise. Other roll call members also joined us; it was a lot of fun. We went to dinner at 5:30 and had two sisters join our table. Conversation was very enjoyable and while I thought the menu tonight a little sparse my chicken was better than expected and the sisters both ordered the “Flank steak” but it looked more like a nice London broil. We left dinner with just enough time to stop in our cabin before the 7:30 welcome aboard show. Linda the cruise director was also CD on last year’s Iceland cruise. The Ocean Bar quartet is good with a strong vocalist. After the short show we visited the Ocean Bar to listen to the quartet but by 8:30 called it a night. Tomorrow is a busy day at sea and we are looking forward to it! Thursday, April 25 – at Sea After all our travels this was a morning to sleep in. We were up by about 7:45 but by the time we were ready to leave the room it was getting close to 9:30. With a 10:10 appointment with the future cruise consultant, we decided to head to the lido. To our delight the special of the day was Gingerbread Waffles with Orange Butter. I had asked for these on the Rotterdam recently and they did not know what I was talking about. DW ordered an omelet to her specific desire. To our further delight, Rosiato was serving in the lido. We got to know Rosiato last year on the Iceland cruise and she remembered us right away. We enjoyed breakfast with a couple from Australia and it was very nice. We were five minutes early for our appointment and she was ready for us. Knowing what we were looking for the booking was expeditious and quickly handled. We were also able to book a cabin for our friends who had asked to go with us. We finished just in time to head to the crow’s nest for the 10:30 Cruise Critic meet and greet. This was a tremendous event! Special thanks to cruise critic member KAZU for all her efforts in organizing our roll call and the wonderful name tags that remain on display in our cabin. Only one couple she had name tags for did not attend. We met many folks we have scheduled tours with and it was a super meet and greet. At noon we had a reservation with cruise critic members at the Pinnacle Grille. Our “Captains table” was delightful. The food was good and the conversation terrific. This was a busy sea day as at 2:00 we had our complimentary wine tasting session. This was really not as nice as the tasting we had on Rotterdam’s Christmas cruise. It had become very windy out on deck putting a literal damper on our hopes for a few laps on the promenade deck. All too soon it was time to get ready for gala night. We enjoyed happy hour in the Ocean Bar while the Ocean quartet entertained. On the way to dinner we found another crew member who remembered us from last year. As they say, Prinsendam is like a large family. We will miss the chance to sail her in the future. Friends from the Iceland cruise joined us for dinner. We had a very nice time. After dinner was the captain’s welcome toast in the theater followed by “Atlantic Crossing” by the cast. We have seen this show before but it was worth seeing again. The four vocalists are very talented. I’ve always felt the cast on Prinsendam are a cut above those on the other ships. After the show we went to listen to Daniel in the Crow’s Nest. We had a nice time but it was getting late so by about 9:40 we called it a night. Tomorrow we are in Alicante, Spain and have a full day tour scheduled. Friday, April 26, 2019 – Alicante, Spain The alarm went off at 6:45 although DW was up before that. Our tea order arrived at 6:55. We enjoyed a cup of tea in the cabin while getting ready. It is very sunny today so sunscreen is a must. We went to the lido for breakfast where I enjoyed one of today’s specials, a meat-lovers omelet. We were talking with a couple from Calgary during breakfast. The meeting time for our tour is 8:45. We watched the docking process from our balcony and then went to meet our group. The ship was cleared and off we went. Our tour was with Spain day tours with our guide David and driver Juan Carlos. First we drove to the historic center of Alicante (not very far). We visited the cathedral and the town hall. David took us over to the seaside promenade and introduced us to the specialty Alicante ice cream flavor which is honey and almond. We had just enough free time to walk down the promenade to the first leather merchant where I was able to obtain a ratchet style belt for 12 euros. Back to the van we were off to Guadalest in the mountains. It is about a 1 hr. drive mostly along the coast before crossing a mountain range. Guadalest is very photogenic being set among the hills. Leather and chocolate is produced locally and could be purchased, although we did not find anything that could not be passed up. One of the shops had purses at very good prices (at least so we thought). We returned to the van and headed back to Alicante to visit the castle. We certainly got our exercise climbing from the mini-bus parking area up to the top of the castle. This was a crystal clear day and being able to see everything around for many miles was quite a treat. No one will believe the photos were not enhanced as the color of the sea is just stunning. Back at the van at 3:30 and David and Juan Carlos had us back at the ship before 4:00 for our 4:30 all-aboard. We quickly got ready for dinner although missed happy hour. Dinner tonight was just all right. I was excited to see prime rib on the menu and having skipped lunch was looking forward to it. It just wasn’t juicy as prime rib should be. DW’s fish entrée was also just okay. We listed to the Ocean Quartet until they finished their set and then enjoyed the show. Yaniv Zarif gave a tremendous show with his interpretation of several Broadway and west end hits, in multiple languages. He was excellent and this was one of the best shows seen on a HAL ship in a few cruises. After Yaniv’s performance we called it a night as we have a long tour tomorrow and also King’s Day festivities on board. Saturday, April 27, 2019 – Malaga, Spain Prinsendam docked on schedule this morning in Malaga Spain. We enjoyed a quick lido breakfast with today’s special of Cinnamon & Bacon Waffles and a small ham omelet. We met our cruise critic group for our tour with Spain Day Tours to Granada and the Alhambra. This was a really great tour. We had plenty of time for our guided tour of the Alhambra and the gardens. We really enjoyed hearing of the 800 year history of the palace and fortress. From the Alhambra we were taken into Granada and had 90 minutes of free time. Our guide showed us where the department store and supermarket was, along with a variety of tapa bars. DW wanted shoes as her dress shoes were not working. We were successful in finding shoes. We then picked up a few apples and some local chocolate at a supermarket. The apples were “Lunch.” All too soon our 90 minutes were over and everyone was back on the bus. We returned to the port just after 6:30. After a quick stop at our cabin we went to the lido for the special “King’s day” Dutch dinner. DW’s special order dinner was delivered from the dining room, along with our wine bottle. I enjoyed many of the dinner options served, including poffertjes. The desserts were extra special with almond cookies, Dutch Apple Pie, and Ollie Bolen available. After dinner we enjoyed a little balcony time until we went to the showroom for “Authentic flamenco.” I always enjoy it when the cruise line brings local talent on board; in this case I just wish the troupe had explained the dances a bit. All in all this was an exceptional day and at 10:30 it was past time to call it a night! Sunday, April 28, 2019 – Gibraltar, UK Territory We enjoyed watching the Prinsendam wind its way to the dock this morning. “The rock” of Gibraltar blocked the sunrise. We docked on time and after a nice lido breakfast of today’s special Buttermilk and Corn waffles we met our tour group in the Ocean Bar at 7:45. We all made our way down to deck 4 at 7:50 and were allowed ashore at 7:55. We were the first group ashore and the first van leaving the parking area. This proved to be important. Our guide Rachel took us first to the Pillars of Hercules to view the strait of Gibraltar and in the hazy distance we could see the coast of Africa. From there we visited St. Michael’s Cave. We spent quite a bit of time at the cave. We’ve been to many caves over the years and this was impressive as I don’t recall ever seeing a natural open cave environment so huge. The sheets of limestone formations are extremely impressive. Outside the cave we had our first encounter with a Barbary Macaque Ape. This one was posing for photos and we enjoyed the opportunity. We were the second van to leave the caves and we made our way up the hill to the “Top of the Rock” and the upper Apes den. We spent maybe 30 minutes here watching the apes, taking photos, and being well entertained by the apes. Next we visited the Great Siege Tunnels. In addition to the natural caves, there is over 50 miles of man-made tunnels carved into the rock. These were made to move cannons and soldiers in case of war and siege. After exploring some of the tunnels, we visited and climbed the steps of the Moorish Castle, originally from 1160 and enlarged in the 14th century. This structure has withstood many wars and sieges over the centuries. We drove to Europa Point, the southernmost point of mainland Europe. This means we have now visited the northernmost and southernmost point of Europe. We drove the east side of the rock and Catalan Bay, with colorful houses along the beach. We crossed the active airport runway as the main road does to reach the border with Spain. This was a terrific tour and highly recommended. Back on Prinsendam at 12:10 we enjoyed the British Fish & Chips lunch being served at the Dive Inn pool grille. It was a gorgeous day to enjoy outside dining. DW had some fare from the lido. We met friends who joined us for lunch and had a similar tour. During the sail away we enjoyed watching the African coastline slide by from our balcony. I used the pool and hot tub for a while before getting ready for dinner. Dinner was a nice time in the dining room with a cruise critic member joining us. The show was “Sessions” featuring the Prinsendam cast singers. This was a very nice show. After the show we enjoyed the Crow’s nest piano bar and happy hour, before calling it a night at 10:30. All in all, another super day on Prinsendam! Monday, April 29, 2019 – Lisbon, Portugal We woke at 6:00 (after gaining an extra hour due to a time change!) and found we were already close to shore as we sailed towards the Lisbon cruise dock. As the sun rose we passed the Moor tower along the river and sailed under the Lisbon “Golden Gate” bridge. We enjoyed a lido breakfast and met our tour group at 8:10 in the Ocean Bar. Everyone was early so we headed out to meet our guide. Our group of six had booked the “Setubal Wine Tasting tour” with Lisbon Riders. This was a superb tour. We were met outside the cruise terminal at about 8:20 and our guide gave us a quick drive by of Lisbon and we twisted and turned our way towards the highway over the Golden Gate Bridge. He gave us the recent (and not so recent) history of Portugal on the way. We headed south to the wine region of Azeitao. We visited the small local family owned cellar “Quinta de Alcube” in the middle of the peaceful Arrabida Mountain. We tasted four different wines and visited their very nice shop. Bottles ranged from two to seven Euros each. We ended up buying one of the seven Euro bottles of White “Reserve” to hopefully enjoy on the balcony. From there, we crossed Arrabida Mountain & Arrabida Natural Park. We were always close to the sea and passed a number of beaches with azure waters enjoying the incredible views. Our next stop was the fishing town of Sesimbra. We enjoyed the oldest fish restaurant, owned by generations of fishermen. This place, called, Isaias, was outstanding. We would never have gone there without our guide, as from the outside it is a “Little hole in the wall.” They cook fresh fish, just off the boat, on a charcoal grille built into the exterior wall of the building. We both ordered Swordfish and it was both incredible tasting and a large portion. All meals came with a simple family style served salad, warm rolls out of the oven, and boiled potatoes. I enjoyed a “Lemon beer” and a coke zero while DW had a glass of white wine and bottled water. We all agreed to cover our guide’s meal and the total bill was just under 15 Euros per person. After lunch we walked down to the beachfront and went into the restored beach front fortress. Our guide went to retrieve the van and he took us to an overlook of the town for photos. From there we traveled back towards Azeitao for our second winery visit. Next we visited the oldest cellar of the region, owned by the same family for more than 7 generations. The Jose Maria de Fonseca winery gave a very nice tour and the wine cellars were impressive. We really enjoyed the tour and the samples of two wines, including a 16 year aged Moscatel. From here we headed back to the ship. This trip took longer than expected due to unusual traffic according to our guide. We returned at 4:30 for a 5:30 all aboard. The Lisbon cruise terminal makes you walk through a maze to get past security and it was 4:50 by the time we returned to Prinsendam. That gave us just 40 minutes to prepare for dinner but we made it. We enjoyed dinner and left port on schedule by 6:00. Sailing down the river I took a break to get photos of the Christ the King statue on the hillside near the Golden Gate Bridge. Later that evening we enjoyed a comedian, Rikki Jay. His routine was entertaining. We are exhausted from the last few days and called it a night after the show. Tuesday, April 30, 2019 – Porto, Portugal Prinsendam was just a little late on arrival to Porto today. Our 8:00 arrival became more like 8:25 by the time guests were able to disembark. We enjoyed breakfast in the lido, nothing special today but still a good start to the day. We met the one other roll call member on our “Off the beaten track” photo discovery tour with Pictuary photo tours. Jose was great and met us as we left the cruise port. He drove the three of us in his car to the end of the tram line where two Tuk-tuks were waiting for us. The first 2+ hours of our tour were by tuk-tuk. This was literally a little “Cool” but it was fun, and it sure beats climbing the hills of Porto by foot! We saw so much it is too much to list, but certainly one highlight is the six bridges crossing the Duro River. After one incredible viewpoint to another we bade farewell to our tuk-tuks at the Bridge of Luis 1st. This dual layered bridge was a pleasure to walk over. The top level is for pedestrians and trains. Beware the trains!!! The bottom level (much lower) is for vehicles. After a light lunch, we then rode the Rodonorte Funicular down to the river level. We walked along the river enjoying the sights and incredible buildings of the historical Ribeira neighborhood and went shopping in a 100% made in Portugal shop where DW picked up a handbag made of cork (from cork trees). To end the tour, we rode the #1 “Electric” streetcar back to where the car was parked and returned to Prinsendam at 3:10 for a 3:30 all aboard. DW shot over 200 photos and I took about 300. What a day! Back on board we ran into friends enjoying the lido sunshine and stayed there for sail away. Tonight is “Rudi’s Sel de Mer” at the Pinnacle Grille that we are trying for the first time. We met friends at the Ocean Bar at 5:30 for pre-dinner conversation. At the last minute, they decided to join us and the Pinnacle was happy to oblige changing our reservation for two to four. Sel de Mer was enjoyable and we would do that again on a future cruise. Dinner went for 2 ½ hours but the conversation was most enjoyable. After dinner we visited Daniel at the Crow’s Nest Piano Bar for “Sing along night.” By 9:45 it was time to call it a night. Tonight we LOSE an hour as we are headed to France which is in the European time zone. Wednesday, May 01, 2019 – 2nd day at Sea After five port days in a row a day at sea was most welcome. No alarm, no room service, just sleep. Sleep until 8:30 or a bit after! We got the day rolling by heading to breakfast in the lido. Today’s special was listed as “Dutch pancakes” but other than being made on a Holland America ship I’m not sure what was “Dutch” about them. We were invited to the 10:30 Mariner’s reception which was a nice event. About 20+ copper medallions, five silver medallions, and one gold medallion were handed out. The nibbles were nice and drinks ample, but I did not see wine being offered as an option. The mariner’s lunch followed and we were able to sit with several friends and one couple we had not met earlier in the cruise. The Prinsendam tiles were most appreciated and will be added to our collection. After a cabin stop to store our tiles we visited the lido for ice cream. The ice cream man was funny as he was really ‘pushing’ the macadamia nut ice cream with caramel. It was pretty good but neither of us found any macadamia nuts in our serving! We chatted with friends and before you know it the clock was at 1:45. At 2:00 KAZU from cruise critic had invited the roll call to her Neptune Suite for a “Wine tasting.” At least two dozen (likely more) from the roll call visited and we had great conversation along with lots of wines to try as well as a bunch of nibbles provided by the ship. My favorite was the Tempura Shrimp. Most folks stayed until nearly 4:00 when several, including the host, had an appointment with the Bingo game. DW was the winner of one of two door prizes, a hand-made wine bottle stopper / corkscrew donated by one of the roll call members. We truly appreciate this and will both treasure it and use it regularly at home! A brief cat nap (after all that wine) in our cabin brought us to 5:15 when we headed down to deck 5 for passport collection. For some reason, Bordeaux customs wants to inspect non-EU passports. These will be returned on Saturday. Dinner (and more wine) was enjoyed in the dining room. Prime Rib was on the menu and now having learned the ‘secret’ to ask for a “King’s cut” it was superb and very much enjoyed. The show tonight is “Dance” by the dancers. We have seen this before and decided to pass, just enjoying being on the ship with nowhere specific we needed to be. We caught up with the travel expert’s Bordeaux talk on the TV and called it a night. Thursday, May 2, 2019 – Bordeaux, France We awoke to catch a slight glimpse of Prinsendam sailing under a bridge as we approached Bordeaux. We docked on schedule and the ship was cleared at 7:30. Our tour is not until 10:00 so we had time for a leisurely breakfast in the Lido with today’s special of Gingerbread waffles. We met our tour group at 9:50 in the Ocean Bar and departed the ship. We met our guide from Ophorus Wine Tours right outside and off we went to the town of St. Emilion. During the 45 minute drive our guide told us about the area we drove through as well as about the development of wine in the area. St. Emilion is an incredibly original / restored medieval town centered around a church that was begun by St. Emilion. We toured the underground church – a very impressive structure considering the work was done with medieval age tools. The stones were quarried out and used to make buildings, and the church and catacombs were built in the resulting cave. Regretfully no photos were allowed and after the tour we could not find any postcards to be purchased of the underground monuments. After touring the underground our guide showed us the highlights of town and we had two hours to explore further and have lunch. We ended up at a suggested place for lunch, chosen due to the outdoors patio. We also stopped at Moulierac bakery for almond macarons. These small almond cookies are the closest to what I enjoyed as Dutch almond cookies when I was young. They have just three ingredients; Almonds, Egg Whites, and sugar. Gluten free even DW could enjoy them. After the village we toured two St. Emilion chateau/wineries. To be honest, we didn’t care for the wines. All St. Emilion wines are reds with Merlot being the dominant grape in the region. We returned to Prinsendam about 5:45 and had dinner in the dining room. One note I haven’t mentioned yet is that the dining room menus have been somewhat disappointing this cruise. I’ve eaten three times off the everyday menu, something I have never done in the past. This evening the fish entrée was not very good to my taste, although DW enjoyed hers. I then had the Wiener schnitzel instead. After dinner we left the ship and walked. We passed by the reflecting pool and took photos. We went half way out on the nearby bridge and took photos. We wandered around part of the old town until back at the reflecting pool. The wind was picking up and we became cold and thus returned to the ship at about 8:50. We were bushed and called it a day after watching the sun set from the verandah. Friday, May 03, 2019 – Bordeaux, France day 2 This morning we woke without alarms and enjoyed breakfast in the lido. Today’s special of a meat lovers Omelet called my name and it was nice. We met one other roll call member at 9:15 to head out for our 10:30 “Free walking tour.” We managed to figure out the tram system tickets and rode the tram to the meeting spot. The tour was enjoyable and ended up not far from the ship. We did want to walk the “Longest pedestrian street” in Europe, Rue St. Catherine, at 1.2KM. So we did. We stopped to look in one shop along the way but nothing else. We took the tram back towards the ship and stopped at a Patisserie recommended by the guide from the prior day. They had a Meringue cookie that DW could enjoy while I had a raisin bun and chocolate croissant. From there we walked back to the ship and reached the lido just as they were cleaning up lunch. DW was able to get some chicken and salad, while I ordered a Dive-Inn burger. We returned to our cabin and were entertained by the dogs playing in the park next to the ship. The crew gave one of the dogs a cup of water and that was a happy dog! It soon became time to get ready for dinner and sail away. Dinner was again a bit of a letdown. The Arctic Char was pretty good but the short ribs were overcooked, dry, and inedible. I certainly didn’t go hungry but if you are going to spend 90+ minutes in the dining room the food should at least be good. We ran into friends before the show and they stayed outside for sail away and had dinner in the lido. They said the lido had whole turkeys and delicious fish & chips. I ended up going to the lido to have two slices of turkey with gravy before they shut down. The show was different. This was the “Pianist with the hair” aka as Julian G. Classical piano is not my cup of tea but Julian made it entertaining in various ways so I would give his show thumbs up. After the show we enjoyed Daniel in the piano bar and called it a night at about 10:15. The Indonesian crew show was at 11:00 but there was just no way to stay up for this. Saturday, May 04, 2019 – Sea day #3 Prinsendam spent the day sailing leisurely through the bay of Biscayne with a still head wind but rather calm seas. With the wind from the northwest it was much cooler than our two days in Bordeaux. A 9:00 deck sale of previous port gear had us buying ‘South America’ cruising sweatshirts at 75% off. We’ve been there and are going again so this was a good buy for us. We enjoyed breakfast in the lido and spent 90 minutes talking with another roll call couple before leaving for the 11:00 “Ask the captain” session. No new information was shared during this 45 minute chat. We went with friends to lunch and even though not hungry after the late breakfast, they were serving Turkey again! Two slices with gravy made for a delicious light lunch. I had an appointment at 12:50 with the future cruise consultant to obtain future cruise deposits for a friend that texted me the prior day. We tried walking the promenade but the wind made it too cold, even with multiple layers. We also tried sitting on our verandah and in a sheltered area it was tolerable for a while. A friend made it to the final in the blackjack tournament so we went to support him. He was the third of five to be eliminated. It is a gala night so afterwards it was back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. We met friends before dinner in the Ocean Bar as the time passed quickly. They joined us for the gala dinner. I will say without question this was the best dining room dinner of the cruise. After dinner we exchanged the tulip vase I had purchased earlier in the cruise for one more to DW’s preference. We enjoyed the show with the singers and dancers, “Concerto.” The Crow’s nest Piano bar was hopping with Daniel doing a tribute to the Beatles. At 9:45 the “Chocolate Surprise” took place and everyone had a few specialty chocolates. By 10:15 it was time to call it a day and prepare for our last port. Sunday, May 05, 2019 – St. Peter Port, Guernsey, UK. Last evening we received notice of a mandatory immigration inspection prior to going ashore in St. Peter Port. Well, okay, but they could have notified us much sooner. This caused a lot of concern with the private walking tour that one of the roll call members set up. As immigration began their process early, it all worked out, but this was just poor planning on the part of Holland America. We arrived ashore at about 8:45 and shortly thereafter began our walking tour with Annette Henry. Annette was one of the most interesting walking tour guides we’ve ever experienced with her bag of props and she told very detailed stories of Guernsey’s history. This was a very worthwhile 2.5 hours and we left her at the tour’s conclusion at the sunken garden. Annette gave us directions to the local flower garden, just a few blocks away. This was very nice and a tea room was open. We enjoyed a pot of tea and hot chocolate. While a beautiful sunny day it is cool so the warm drinks were welcome. I took a bunch of photos of various plant arrangements and we headed down the hill towards the harbor. We stopped in a few shops along the way and ended up at the pharmacy as we had a few pounds of coins to spend before leaving. This was successful! Back to the tender and we returned to Prinsendam for the very last time  just after 1:00. We went straight to the lido and enjoyed some lunch. We lingered talking to some folks before returning to our cabin at 2:30 to begin packing. By 3:30 with the majority of the packing complete we began getting ready for dinner. It became pleasant on the verandah. We ran into one of our roll call friends who just returned from a fantastic day exploring all around Guernsey AND taking the ferry for 90 minutes on one of the out-islands. We got to talking so we ended up skipping the Ocean Bar and heading right to dinner. Tonight one of my favorites “Sweet & Sour Shrimp” was on the menu. Scallops were an appetizer. Sorry, HAL, and no disrespect to the chefs, but these had to be about the worst scallops ever. The muscle was not removed and they just looked ugly and did not taste much better. But the Shrimp dinner was good. After dinner we wondered the ship a little and listened to the quartet in the Ocean Bar. Roll call friends stopped by to chat and we wished each other safe travels home. There was a one-time variety show at 9:30 but we did not stay up for that. I wish we could have paid Daniel a farewell visit to the Crow’s nest but with the last minute packing and setting out the luggage that was not to be. At a little after 9:00 we called it a night. Monday, May 06, 2019 – Dover, UK (Disembarkation and travel home) At 6:00 we were entering the port. It took nearly 50 minutes, and the help of a tug before we were securely docked. We enjoyed one last breakfast in the lido. No “Specials” today. We ran into roll call friends to bid them farewell. I’m sorry we never ran into a few others. They began calling for disembarkation right on schedule at 7:15 and with our 8:05 “Purple 1” tags we left the stateroom at 8:00 to head to the elevator. We went up to go down and left the ship at virtually exactly 8:05. By the time we reached the luggage only a part of the Purple 1 had arrived. We waited a few minutes and the cage with purple 1 was unloaded. We retrieved our bags and headed out to the bus. We were the first on the bus and with the luggage stowed underneath it was a pleasant enough ride out to Heathrow. The driver told us to expect it to take 2.5 hours due to “Roadworks” but we actually made it in two hours. I was tracking along with my Waze phone AP. From drop off until check in at the A1 lounge it was less than 30 minutes. We had a few hours to kill so I finished up this log and enjoyed some lunch and beverages. The flight itself was quite pleasant as the plane was far from full. We even landed in Philadelphia 30 minutes early. Then we sat for another HOUR and ended up being 30 minutes “Late” as there was no gate for us (???) By the time we picked up our car it was 7:00 so we had no traffic for the drive home. Conclusion: Oh Prinsendam, Prinsendam, we will miss you Prinsendam. This cruise was a log of fun. With all the ports (except St. Peter Port) new or ‘essentially’ new to us, we had a blast and saw so many things. Prinsendam is the opposite of the flashy new 4,000 – 6,000 passenger ships. The ship is NOT the destination. The trip is for the ports. I doubt HAL has another ship that could go up the river to Bordeaux and fit under the bridge. Is there another that can go to Porto, maybe? Prinsendam is showing its age without question. The new owners will have a lot of work ahead of them. Yet the crew is simply the “Best in the fleet.” I really believe that. We didn’t eat breakfast in the dining room once the entire cruise. Why? I generally dislike the lido. On this cruise, we enjoyed the lido as unlike the other ships, there are always crewmembers to bring tea, coffee, water, etc. And refill them! They help carry items when you are juggling two plates, and the ice cream man is funny and obviously loves his job! On the other hand, it seems that since last year, the lido service times have been further curtailed. I believe HAL is going in the wrong direction here. There is no more “Late night snack” either. If someone takes advantage of a late night or an overnight in port, staying out past 8:00, there is no food available other than room service. Lunch is over at 2:00. We came back one afternoon at 2:10 and while DW was able to grab some left-over chicken, the pickings were slim. We had two mornings that the water in the cabin was yellowish. We used the bottled water from the mini bar to brush our teeth. The front desk couldn’t tell us much about what was going on, but the last afternoon of the cruise they called to apologize and offered a small token as an apology. Customer Service needs a refresher course at the upper levels (likely in Seattle). We had a roll call group tour planned in St. Peter Port. Then, the evening before, the ship springs on everyone that there is a mandatory immigration inspection. Why not notify the passengers at boarding, or even earlier (like, when they changed the port) so those of us making plans outside of ship tours can plan accurately? Our cabin team of Agus & Heri was super, going above and beyond when some sticky substance got all over our hard sided suitcase between embarkation check in and stateroom delivery. They scrubbed it down the best they could. The laundry service is terrific even if at times things may not be as perfect as we like them at home. But they sure do press things to make the clothes so neat! Our dining room team of Setaji & Andrian took very good care of DW’s special dietary needs. The Wine Steward Theresa was great and found nice alternatives that were to our liking and fit within our package. Amin was outstanding both in the morning in the lido and after dinner always greeting us with a smile and a taste of ginger. All in all, the good ship Prinsendam on her fifth to last HAL voyage gets 3 ½ out of 5 stars for the cruise experience.

"River Explorer" gave us incredible port experiences! (Long - log style review)

Prinsendam Cruise Review by StartrainDD

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2019
  • Destination: Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Vista Suite with Verandah
Prinsendam European River Explorer 4-24-19

Note this is a long; log-style review. For just the summary scroll on down to the end.

We left Pennsylvania on Monday evening April 22 on American non-stop to Rome. The flight was on time and arrived 35 minutes early into Rome. We met one of our fellow cruisers at the airport and had arranged a shared transfer to Civitavecchia. Despite some airport confusion, it all worked out. Note that after leaving through customs I did not find an ATM at the airport. They must be there, but not in the places they used to be!

Our driver with Civitavecchia Shuttle Express was kind and professional. He did not talk very much. We were dropped off at our guest house, “MyHomeBLU” at about 10:40. MyHomeBLUE is an interesting guest house on the top floor of a condo building. It has some great views of the city as well as the Mediterranean.

We went back to visit our new friend at her hotel and found an ATM. We attempted a walking tour I had downloaded from the port website. Streets are poorly marked, and while we found the two churches they were both locked and we could not enter inside. We were too late for the market. We stopped at a supermarket for two bottles of wine to bring on board and a small gelato container. The gelato became lunch.

At 4:00 we met our new friend and went for dinner. Many restaurants are closed from 3 – 7 PM but along the seaside promenade several were open. The “New Gran Caffe” has a very nice upstairs dining room with views of the sea. My dinner was good although not what I expected. We walked along the sea for a while afterwards taking photos.

Walking back to our temporary home DW said she was still hungry. There is a supermarket on the first floor of our building so we visited there and she bought some cheese and olives. This was very satisfying as it was enjoyed in the “Living room” overlooking the coast. At about 8:30 we called it a day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 – embarkation

We slept very well. We woke to my phone alarm to get ready for the day. We had a light breakfast in the MyHomeBLUE living room. There is cheese and olives left from last evening and that was helpful as little that was available met DW’s dietary needs. We took a nice walk to the town market. About half the market was fruits, veggies, seafood, & meats. The other half was an assortment of goods including clothing and electronics.

We walked back and enjoyed a few minutes rest chatting with the proprietor until heading down for our prearranged 10:30 taxi. He was waiting for us at 10:25 and off we went to the port. We were in the terminal before 11:00. They told us boarding would begin at 11:30 and handed us boarding card #1. At 11:10 they called for #1. We had our photo taken for our last embarkation on Prinsendam, and headed to our cabin.

It seemed a few things were not as cleaned as DW prefers but our room steward took care of everything. We sent away the soiled laundry from our travels and headed to the Ocean Bar. Here we found the maître’ de and discussed dinner plans. We handed him our prepared list of DW’s dietary restrictions and he kindly assigned us to table 143, a four top all the way aft. He also took a preorder for dinner. We also stopped at the Pinnacle Grille to preorder tomorrow’s lunch which we are having with several roll call members.

Lunch was enjoyed in the dining room and all our special orders were very nicely taken care of. We headed to the cabin and our luggage was just being delivered. We unpacked and had everything stowed away prior to the 2:30 Mariner’s welcome aboard gathering.

We attended the welcome aboard party and it was the best one we’ve ever enjoyed. The wait staff kept the beverages flowing freely and we had a great conversation with a couple we met in the elevator. After the party there was just enough time to shower and put on evening clothes before the 4:30 muster drill. The muster drill was pleasant enough with only about ½ the normal crowd as so many have stayed on from the prior cruise segment and they were excused. We were finished by 4:44. We headed straight to the Ocean Bar.

At the Ocean Bar we renewed acquaintances with roll call members who we had shared tours with last year on the Iceland cruise. Other roll call members also joined us; it was a lot of fun. We went to dinner at 5:30 and had two sisters join our table. Conversation was very enjoyable and while I thought the menu tonight a little sparse my chicken was better than expected and the sisters both ordered the “Flank steak” but it looked more like a nice London broil.

We left dinner with just enough time to stop in our cabin before the 7:30 welcome aboard show. Linda the cruise director was also CD on last year’s Iceland cruise. The Ocean Bar quartet is good with a strong vocalist. After the short show we visited the Ocean Bar to listen to the quartet but by 8:30 called it a night. Tomorrow is a busy day at sea and we are looking forward to it!

Thursday, April 25 – at Sea

After all our travels this was a morning to sleep in. We were up by about 7:45 but by the time we were ready to leave the room it was getting close to 9:30. With a 10:10 appointment with the future cruise consultant, we decided to head to the lido.

To our delight the special of the day was Gingerbread Waffles with Orange Butter. I had asked for these on the Rotterdam recently and they did not know what I was talking about. DW ordered an omelet to her specific desire. To our further delight, Rosiato was serving in the lido. We got to know Rosiato last year on the Iceland cruise and she remembered us right away. We enjoyed breakfast with a couple from Australia and it was very nice.

We were five minutes early for our appointment and she was ready for us. Knowing what we were looking for the booking was expeditious and quickly handled. We were also able to book a cabin for our friends who had asked to go with us. We finished just in time to head to the crow’s nest for the 10:30 Cruise Critic meet and greet.

This was a tremendous event! Special thanks to cruise critic member KAZU for all her efforts in organizing our roll call and the wonderful name tags that remain on display in our cabin. Only one couple she had name tags for did not attend. We met many folks we have scheduled tours with and it was a super meet and greet.

At noon we had a reservation with cruise critic members at the Pinnacle Grille. Our “Captains table” was delightful. The food was good and the conversation terrific. This was a busy sea day as at 2:00 we had our complimentary wine tasting session. This was really not as nice as the tasting we had on Rotterdam’s Christmas cruise. It had become very windy out on deck putting a literal damper on our hopes for a few laps on the promenade deck.

All too soon it was time to get ready for gala night. We enjoyed happy hour in the Ocean Bar while the Ocean quartet entertained. On the way to dinner we found another crew member who remembered us from last year. As they say, Prinsendam is like a large family. We will miss the chance to sail her in the future.

Friends from the Iceland cruise joined us for dinner. We had a very nice time. After dinner was the captain’s welcome toast in the theater followed by “Atlantic Crossing” by the cast. We have seen this show before but it was worth seeing again. The four vocalists are very talented. I’ve always felt the cast on Prinsendam are a cut above those on the other ships.

After the show we went to listen to Daniel in the Crow’s Nest. We had a nice time but it was getting late so by about 9:40 we called it a night. Tomorrow we are in Alicante, Spain and have a full day tour scheduled.

Friday, April 26, 2019 – Alicante, Spain

The alarm went off at 6:45 although DW was up before that. Our tea order arrived at 6:55. We enjoyed a cup of tea in the cabin while getting ready. It is very sunny today so sunscreen is a must. We went to the lido for breakfast where I enjoyed one of today’s specials, a meat-lovers omelet. We were talking with a couple from Calgary during breakfast.

The meeting time for our tour is 8:45. We watched the docking process from our balcony and then went to meet our group. The ship was cleared and off we went. Our tour was with Spain day tours with our guide David and driver Juan Carlos. First we drove to the historic center of Alicante (not very far). We visited the cathedral and the town hall. David took us over to the seaside promenade and introduced us to the specialty Alicante ice cream flavor which is honey and almond. We had just enough free time to walk down the promenade to the first leather merchant where I was able to obtain a ratchet style belt for 12 euros.

Back to the van we were off to Guadalest in the mountains. It is about a 1 hr. drive mostly along the coast before crossing a mountain range. Guadalest is very photogenic being set among the hills. Leather and chocolate is produced locally and could be purchased, although we did not find anything that could not be passed up. One of the shops had purses at very good prices (at least so we thought). We returned to the van and headed back to Alicante to visit the castle. We certainly got our exercise climbing from the mini-bus parking area up to the top of the castle. This was a crystal clear day and being able to see everything around for many miles was quite a treat. No one will believe the photos were not enhanced as the color of the sea is just stunning.

Back at the van at 3:30 and David and Juan Carlos had us back at the ship before 4:00 for our 4:30 all-aboard. We quickly got ready for dinner although missed happy hour. Dinner tonight was just all right. I was excited to see prime rib on the menu and having skipped lunch was looking forward to it. It just wasn’t juicy as prime rib should be. DW’s fish entrée was also just okay.

We listed to the Ocean Quartet until they finished their set and then enjoyed the show. Yaniv Zarif gave a tremendous show with his interpretation of several Broadway and west end hits, in multiple languages. He was excellent and this was one of the best shows seen on a HAL ship in a few cruises. After Yaniv’s performance we called it a night as we have a long tour tomorrow and also King’s Day festivities on board.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 – Malaga, Spain

Prinsendam docked on schedule this morning in Malaga Spain. We enjoyed a quick lido breakfast with today’s special of Cinnamon & Bacon Waffles and a small ham omelet. We met our cruise critic group for our tour with Spain Day Tours to Granada and the Alhambra.

This was a really great tour. We had plenty of time for our guided tour of the Alhambra and the gardens. We really enjoyed hearing of the 800 year history of the palace and fortress. From the Alhambra we were taken into Granada and had 90 minutes of free time. Our guide showed us where the department store and supermarket was, along with a variety of tapa bars.

DW wanted shoes as her dress shoes were not working. We were successful in finding shoes. We then picked up a few apples and some local chocolate at a supermarket. The apples were “Lunch.” All too soon our 90 minutes were over and everyone was back on the bus. We returned to the port just after 6:30.

After a quick stop at our cabin we went to the lido for the special “King’s day” Dutch dinner. DW’s special order dinner was delivered from the dining room, along with our wine bottle. I enjoyed many of the dinner options served, including poffertjes. The desserts were extra special with almond cookies, Dutch Apple Pie, and Ollie Bolen available. After dinner we enjoyed a little balcony time until we went to the showroom for “Authentic flamenco.” I always enjoy it when the cruise line brings local talent on board; in this case I just wish the troupe had explained the dances a bit.

All in all this was an exceptional day and at 10:30 it was past time to call it a night!

Sunday, April 28, 2019 – Gibraltar, UK Territory

We enjoyed watching the Prinsendam wind its way to the dock this morning. “The rock” of Gibraltar blocked the sunrise. We docked on time and after a nice lido breakfast of today’s special Buttermilk and Corn waffles we met our tour group in the Ocean Bar at 7:45. We all made our way down to deck 4 at 7:50 and were allowed ashore at 7:55. We were the first group ashore and the first van leaving the parking area. This proved to be important.

Our guide Rachel took us first to the Pillars of Hercules to view the strait of Gibraltar and in the hazy distance we could see the coast of Africa. From there we visited St. Michael’s Cave. We spent quite a bit of time at the cave. We’ve been to many caves over the years and this was impressive as I don’t recall ever seeing a natural open cave environment so huge. The sheets of limestone formations are extremely impressive.

Outside the cave we had our first encounter with a Barbary Macaque Ape. This one was posing for photos and we enjoyed the opportunity. We were the second van to leave the caves and we made our way up the hill to the “Top of the Rock” and the upper Apes den. We spent maybe 30 minutes here watching the apes, taking photos, and being well entertained by the apes.

Next we visited the Great Siege Tunnels. In addition to the natural caves, there is over 50 miles of man-made tunnels carved into the rock. These were made to move cannons and soldiers in case of war and siege. After exploring some of the tunnels, we visited and climbed the steps of the Moorish Castle, originally from 1160 and enlarged in the 14th century. This structure has withstood many wars and sieges over the centuries.

We drove to Europa Point, the southernmost point of mainland Europe. This means we have now visited the northernmost and southernmost point of Europe. We drove the east side of the rock and Catalan Bay, with colorful houses along the beach. We crossed the active airport runway as the main road does to reach the border with Spain. This was a terrific tour and highly recommended.

Back on Prinsendam at 12:10 we enjoyed the British Fish & Chips lunch being served at the Dive Inn pool grille. It was a gorgeous day to enjoy outside dining. DW had some fare from the lido. We met friends who joined us for lunch and had a similar tour. During the sail away we enjoyed watching the African coastline slide by from our balcony. I used the pool and hot tub for a while before getting ready for dinner.

Dinner was a nice time in the dining room with a cruise critic member joining us. The show was “Sessions” featuring the Prinsendam cast singers. This was a very nice show. After the show we enjoyed the Crow’s nest piano bar and happy hour, before calling it a night at 10:30. All in all, another super day on Prinsendam!

Monday, April 29, 2019 – Lisbon, Portugal

We woke at 6:00 (after gaining an extra hour due to a time change!) and found we were already close to shore as we sailed towards the Lisbon cruise dock. As the sun rose we passed the Moor tower along the river and sailed under the Lisbon “Golden Gate” bridge. We enjoyed a lido breakfast and met our tour group at 8:10 in the Ocean Bar. Everyone was early so we headed out to meet our guide.

Our group of six had booked the “Setubal Wine Tasting tour” with Lisbon Riders. This was a superb tour. We were met outside the cruise terminal at about 8:20 and our guide gave us a quick drive by of Lisbon and we twisted and turned our way towards the highway over the Golden Gate Bridge. He gave us the recent (and not so recent) history of Portugal on the way.

We headed south to the wine region of Azeitao. We visited the small local family owned cellar “Quinta de Alcube” in the middle of the peaceful Arrabida Mountain. We tasted four different wines and visited their very nice shop. Bottles ranged from two to seven Euros each. We ended up buying one of the seven Euro bottles of White “Reserve” to hopefully enjoy on the balcony.

From there, we crossed Arrabida Mountain & Arrabida Natural Park. We were always close to the sea and passed a number of beaches with azure waters enjoying the incredible views. Our next stop was the fishing town of Sesimbra. We enjoyed the oldest fish restaurant, owned by generations of fishermen. This place, called, Isaias, was outstanding. We would never have gone there without our guide, as from the outside it is a “Little hole in the wall.” They cook fresh fish, just off the boat, on a charcoal grille built into the exterior wall of the building.

We both ordered Swordfish and it was both incredible tasting and a large portion. All meals came with a simple family style served salad, warm rolls out of the oven, and boiled potatoes. I enjoyed a “Lemon beer” and a coke zero while DW had a glass of white wine and bottled water. We all agreed to cover our guide’s meal and the total bill was just under 15 Euros per person.

After lunch we walked down to the beachfront and went into the restored beach front fortress. Our guide went to retrieve the van and he took us to an overlook of the town for photos. From there we traveled back towards Azeitao for our second winery visit. Next we visited the oldest cellar of the region, owned by the same family for more than 7 generations. The Jose Maria de Fonseca winery gave a very nice tour and the wine cellars were impressive. We really enjoyed the tour and the samples of two wines, including a 16 year aged Moscatel.

From here we headed back to the ship. This trip took longer than expected due to unusual traffic according to our guide. We returned at 4:30 for a 5:30 all aboard. The Lisbon cruise terminal makes you walk through a maze to get past security and it was 4:50 by the time we returned to Prinsendam. That gave us just 40 minutes to prepare for dinner but we made it.

We enjoyed dinner and left port on schedule by 6:00. Sailing down the river I took a break to get photos of the Christ the King statue on the hillside near the Golden Gate Bridge. Later that evening we enjoyed a comedian, Rikki Jay. His routine was entertaining. We are exhausted from the last few days and called it a night after the show.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 – Porto, Portugal

Prinsendam was just a little late on arrival to Porto today. Our 8:00 arrival became more like 8:25 by the time guests were able to disembark. We enjoyed breakfast in the lido, nothing special today but still a good start to the day.

We met the one other roll call member on our “Off the beaten track” photo discovery tour with Pictuary photo tours. Jose was great and met us as we left the cruise port. He drove the three of us in his car to the end of the tram line where two Tuk-tuks were waiting for us. The first 2+ hours of our tour were by tuk-tuk. This was literally a little “Cool” but it was fun, and it sure beats climbing the hills of Porto by foot!

We saw so much it is too much to list, but certainly one highlight is the six bridges crossing the Duro River. After one incredible viewpoint to another we bade farewell to our tuk-tuks at the Bridge of Luis 1st. This dual layered bridge was a pleasure to walk over. The top level is for pedestrians and trains. Beware the trains!!! The bottom level (much lower) is for vehicles. After a light lunch, we then rode the Rodonorte Funicular down to the river level. We walked along the river enjoying the sights and incredible buildings of the historical Ribeira neighborhood and went shopping in a 100% made in Portugal shop where DW picked up a handbag made of cork (from cork trees).

To end the tour, we rode the #1 “Electric” streetcar back to where the car was parked and returned to Prinsendam at 3:10 for a 3:30 all aboard. DW shot over 200 photos and I took about 300. What a day!

Back on board we ran into friends enjoying the lido sunshine and stayed there for sail away. Tonight is “Rudi’s Sel de Mer” at the Pinnacle Grille that we are trying for the first time. We met friends at the Ocean Bar at 5:30 for pre-dinner conversation. At the last minute, they decided to join us and the Pinnacle was happy to oblige changing our reservation for two to four. Sel de Mer was enjoyable and we would do that again on a future cruise. Dinner went for 2 ½ hours but the conversation was most enjoyable.

After dinner we visited Daniel at the Crow’s Nest Piano Bar for “Sing along night.” By 9:45 it was time to call it a night. Tonight we LOSE an hour as we are headed to France which is in the European time zone.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019 – 2nd day at Sea

After five port days in a row a day at sea was most welcome. No alarm, no room service, just sleep. Sleep until 8:30 or a bit after! We got the day rolling by heading to breakfast in the lido. Today’s special was listed as “Dutch pancakes” but other than being made on a Holland America ship I’m not sure what was “Dutch” about them.

We were invited to the 10:30 Mariner’s reception which was a nice event. About 20+ copper medallions, five silver medallions, and one gold medallion were handed out. The nibbles were nice and drinks ample, but I did not see wine being offered as an option. The mariner’s lunch followed and we were able to sit with several friends and one couple we had not met earlier in the cruise. The Prinsendam tiles were most appreciated and will be added to our collection.

After a cabin stop to store our tiles we visited the lido for ice cream. The ice cream man was funny as he was really ‘pushing’ the macadamia nut ice cream with caramel. It was pretty good but neither of us found any macadamia nuts in our serving! We chatted with friends and before you know it the clock was at 1:45.

At 2:00 KAZU from cruise critic had invited the roll call to her Neptune Suite for a “Wine tasting.” At least two dozen (likely more) from the roll call visited and we had great conversation along with lots of wines to try as well as a bunch of nibbles provided by the ship. My favorite was the Tempura Shrimp. Most folks stayed until nearly 4:00 when several, including the host, had an appointment with the Bingo game. DW was the winner of one of two door prizes, a hand-made wine bottle stopper / corkscrew donated by one of the roll call members. We truly appreciate this and will both treasure it and use it regularly at home!

A brief cat nap (after all that wine) in our cabin brought us to 5:15 when we headed down to deck 5 for passport collection. For some reason, Bordeaux customs wants to inspect non-EU passports. These will be returned on Saturday. Dinner (and more wine) was enjoyed in the dining room. Prime Rib was on the menu and now having learned the ‘secret’ to ask for a “King’s cut” it was superb and very much enjoyed.

The show tonight is “Dance” by the dancers. We have seen this before and decided to pass, just enjoying being on the ship with nowhere specific we needed to be. We caught up with the travel expert’s Bordeaux talk on the TV and called it a night.

Thursday, May 2, 2019 – Bordeaux, France

We awoke to catch a slight glimpse of Prinsendam sailing under a bridge as we approached Bordeaux. We docked on schedule and the ship was cleared at 7:30. Our tour is not until 10:00 so we had time for a leisurely breakfast in the Lido with today’s special of Gingerbread waffles.

We met our tour group at 9:50 in the Ocean Bar and departed the ship. We met our guide from Ophorus Wine Tours right outside and off we went to the town of St. Emilion. During the 45 minute drive our guide told us about the area we drove through as well as about the development of wine in the area. St. Emilion is an incredibly original / restored medieval town centered around a church that was begun by St. Emilion.

We toured the underground church – a very impressive structure considering the work was done with medieval age tools. The stones were quarried out and used to make buildings, and the church and catacombs were built in the resulting cave. Regretfully no photos were allowed and after the tour we could not find any postcards to be purchased of the underground monuments.

After touring the underground our guide showed us the highlights of town and we had two hours to explore further and have lunch. We ended up at a suggested place for lunch, chosen due to the outdoors patio. We also stopped at Moulierac bakery for almond macarons. These small almond cookies are the closest to what I enjoyed as Dutch almond cookies when I was young. They have just three ingredients; Almonds, Egg Whites, and sugar. Gluten free even DW could enjoy them.

After the village we toured two St. Emilion chateau/wineries. To be honest, we didn’t care for the wines. All St. Emilion wines are reds with Merlot being the dominant grape in the region.

We returned to Prinsendam about 5:45 and had dinner in the dining room. One note I haven’t mentioned yet is that the dining room menus have been somewhat disappointing this cruise. I’ve eaten three times off the everyday menu, something I have never done in the past. This evening the fish entrée was not very good to my taste, although DW enjoyed hers. I then had the Wiener schnitzel instead.

After dinner we left the ship and walked. We passed by the reflecting pool and took photos. We went half way out on the nearby bridge and took photos. We wandered around part of the old town until back at the reflecting pool. The wind was picking up and we became cold and thus returned to the ship at about 8:50. We were bushed and called it a day after watching the sun set from the verandah.

Friday, May 03, 2019 – Bordeaux, France day 2

This morning we woke without alarms and enjoyed breakfast in the lido. Today’s special of a meat lovers Omelet called my name and it was nice. We met one other roll call member at 9:15 to head out for our 10:30 “Free walking tour.” We managed to figure out the tram system tickets and rode the tram to the meeting spot.

The tour was enjoyable and ended up not far from the ship. We did want to walk the “Longest pedestrian street” in Europe, Rue St. Catherine, at 1.2KM. So we did. We stopped to look in one shop along the way but nothing else. We took the tram back towards the ship and stopped at a Patisserie recommended by the guide from the prior day. They had a Meringue cookie that DW could enjoy while I had a raisin bun and chocolate croissant.

From there we walked back to the ship and reached the lido just as they were cleaning up lunch. DW was able to get some chicken and salad, while I ordered a Dive-Inn burger. We returned to our cabin and were entertained by the dogs playing in the park next to the ship. The crew gave one of the dogs a cup of water and that was a happy dog!

It soon became time to get ready for dinner and sail away. Dinner was again a bit of a letdown. The Arctic Char was pretty good but the short ribs were overcooked, dry, and inedible. I certainly didn’t go hungry but if you are going to spend 90+ minutes in the dining room the food should at least be good. We ran into friends before the show and they stayed outside for sail away and had dinner in the lido. They said the lido had whole turkeys and delicious fish & chips. I ended up going to the lido to have two slices of turkey with gravy before they shut down.

The show was different. This was the “Pianist with the hair” aka as Julian G. Classical piano is not my cup of tea but Julian made it entertaining in various ways so I would give his show thumbs up. After the show we enjoyed Daniel in the piano bar and called it a night at about 10:15. The Indonesian crew show was at 11:00 but there was just no way to stay up for this.

Saturday, May 04, 2019 – Sea day #3

Prinsendam spent the day sailing leisurely through the bay of Biscayne with a still head wind but rather calm seas. With the wind from the northwest it was much cooler than our two days in Bordeaux.

A 9:00 deck sale of previous port gear had us buying ‘South America’ cruising sweatshirts at 75% off. We’ve been there and are going again so this was a good buy for us. We enjoyed breakfast in the lido and spent 90 minutes talking with another roll call couple before leaving for the 11:00 “Ask the captain” session. No new information was shared during this 45 minute chat.

We went with friends to lunch and even though not hungry after the late breakfast, they were serving Turkey again! Two slices with gravy made for a delicious light lunch. I had an appointment at 12:50 with the future cruise consultant to obtain future cruise deposits for a friend that texted me the prior day.

We tried walking the promenade but the wind made it too cold, even with multiple layers. We also tried sitting on our verandah and in a sheltered area it was tolerable for a while. A friend made it to the final in the blackjack tournament so we went to support him. He was the third of five to be eliminated. It is a gala night so afterwards it was back to the cabin to get ready for dinner.

We met friends before dinner in the Ocean Bar as the time passed quickly. They joined us for the gala dinner. I will say without question this was the best dining room dinner of the cruise. After dinner we exchanged the tulip vase I had purchased earlier in the cruise for one more to DW’s preference. We enjoyed the show with the singers and dancers, “Concerto.”

The Crow’s nest Piano bar was hopping with Daniel doing a tribute to the Beatles. At 9:45 the “Chocolate Surprise” took place and everyone had a few specialty chocolates. By 10:15 it was time to call it a day and prepare for our last port.

Sunday, May 05, 2019 – St. Peter Port, Guernsey, UK.

Last evening we received notice of a mandatory immigration inspection prior to going ashore in St. Peter Port. Well, okay, but they could have notified us much sooner. This caused a lot of concern with the private walking tour that one of the roll call members set up. As immigration began their process early, it all worked out, but this was just poor planning on the part of Holland America.

We arrived ashore at about 8:45 and shortly thereafter began our walking tour with Annette Henry. Annette was one of the most interesting walking tour guides we’ve ever experienced with her bag of props and she told very detailed stories of Guernsey’s history. This was a very worthwhile 2.5 hours and we left her at the tour’s conclusion at the sunken garden.

Annette gave us directions to the local flower garden, just a few blocks away. This was very nice and a tea room was open. We enjoyed a pot of tea and hot chocolate. While a beautiful sunny day it is cool so the warm drinks were welcome. I took a bunch of photos of various plant arrangements and we headed down the hill towards the harbor. We stopped in a few shops along the way and ended up at the pharmacy as we had a few pounds of coins to spend before leaving. This was successful!

Back to the tender and we returned to Prinsendam for the very last time  just after 1:00. We went straight to the lido and enjoyed some lunch. We lingered talking to some folks before returning to our cabin at 2:30 to begin packing.

By 3:30 with the majority of the packing complete we began getting ready for dinner. It became pleasant on the verandah. We ran into one of our roll call friends who just returned from a fantastic day exploring all around Guernsey AND taking the ferry for 90 minutes on one of the out-islands. We got to talking so we ended up skipping the Ocean Bar and heading right to dinner.

Tonight one of my favorites “Sweet & Sour Shrimp” was on the menu. Scallops were an appetizer. Sorry, HAL, and no disrespect to the chefs, but these had to be about the worst scallops ever. The muscle was not removed and they just looked ugly and did not taste much better. But the Shrimp dinner was good.

After dinner we wondered the ship a little and listened to the quartet in the Ocean Bar. Roll call friends stopped by to chat and we wished each other safe travels home. There was a one-time variety show at 9:30 but we did not stay up for that. I wish we could have paid Daniel a farewell visit to the Crow’s nest but with the last minute packing and setting out the luggage that was not to be. At a little after 9:00 we called it a night.

Monday, May 06, 2019 – Dover, UK (Disembarkation and travel home)

At 6:00 we were entering the port. It took nearly 50 minutes, and the help of a tug before we were securely docked. We enjoyed one last breakfast in the lido. No “Specials” today. We ran into roll call friends to bid them farewell. I’m sorry we never ran into a few others. They began calling for disembarkation right on schedule at 7:15 and with our 8:05 “Purple 1” tags we left the stateroom at 8:00 to head to the elevator. We went up to go down and left the ship at virtually exactly 8:05.

By the time we reached the luggage only a part of the Purple 1 had arrived. We waited a few minutes and the cage with purple 1 was unloaded. We retrieved our bags and headed out to the bus. We were the first on the bus and with the luggage stowed underneath it was a pleasant enough ride out to Heathrow. The driver told us to expect it to take 2.5 hours due to “Roadworks” but we actually made it in two hours. I was tracking along with my Waze phone AP. From drop off until check in at the A1 lounge it was less than 30 minutes. We had a few hours to kill so I finished up this log and enjoyed some lunch and beverages.

The flight itself was quite pleasant as the plane was far from full. We even landed in Philadelphia 30 minutes early. Then we sat for another HOUR and ended up being 30 minutes “Late” as there was no gate for us (???)

By the time we picked up our car it was 7:00 so we had no traffic for the drive home.

Conclusion:

Oh Prinsendam, Prinsendam, we will miss you Prinsendam. This cruise was a log of fun. With all the ports (except St. Peter Port) new or ‘essentially’ new to us, we had a blast and saw so many things. Prinsendam is the opposite of the flashy new 4,000 – 6,000 passenger ships. The ship is NOT the destination. The trip is for the ports. I doubt HAL has another ship that could go up the river to Bordeaux and fit under the bridge. Is there another that can go to Porto, maybe?

Prinsendam is showing its age without question. The new owners will have a lot of work ahead of them. Yet the crew is simply the “Best in the fleet.” I really believe that.

We didn’t eat breakfast in the dining room once the entire cruise. Why? I generally dislike the lido. On this cruise, we enjoyed the lido as unlike the other ships, there are always crewmembers to bring tea, coffee, water, etc. And refill them! They help carry items when you are juggling two plates, and the ice cream man is funny and obviously loves his job!

On the other hand, it seems that since last year, the lido service times have been further curtailed. I believe HAL is going in the wrong direction here. There is no more “Late night snack” either. If someone takes advantage of a late night or an overnight in port, staying out past 8:00, there is no food available other than room service. Lunch is over at 2:00. We came back one afternoon at 2:10 and while DW was able to grab some left-over chicken, the pickings were slim.

We had two mornings that the water in the cabin was yellowish. We used the bottled water from the mini bar to brush our teeth. The front desk couldn’t tell us much about what was going on, but the last afternoon of the cruise they called to apologize and offered a small token as an apology.

Customer Service needs a refresher course at the upper levels (likely in Seattle). We had a roll call group tour planned in St. Peter Port. Then, the evening before, the ship springs on everyone that there is a mandatory immigration inspection. Why not notify the passengers at boarding, or even earlier (like, when they changed the port) so those of us making plans outside of ship tours can plan accurately?

Our cabin team of Agus & Heri was super, going above and beyond when some sticky substance got all over our hard sided suitcase between embarkation check in and stateroom delivery. They scrubbed it down the best they could. The laundry service is terrific even if at times things may not be as perfect as we like them at home. But they sure do press things to make the clothes so neat!

Our dining room team of Setaji & Andrian took very good care of DW’s special dietary needs. The Wine Steward Theresa was great and found nice alternatives that were to our liking and fit within our package. Amin was outstanding both in the morning in the lido and after dinner always greeting us with a smile and a taste of ginger.

All in all, the good ship Prinsendam on her fifth to last HAL voyage gets 3 ½ out of 5 stars for the cruise experience.
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Cabin Review

Vista Suite with Verandah
Cabin AB 114
Verandah cabin with double-wide verandah. One can hear the bass from the showroom immediately below.
Promenade Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins