My wife and I had been wanting to visit these countries for the Outlander Tours (wife and Viking interests. Celtic portion, 14 Days: We enjoyed our foray to Jersey and visited the castle and enjoyed local food. Many of the towns that Holland America Line chose to stop at were small and quaint. We found some had absolutely nothing to do except to walk around have a beer and a bite of local food.
Tobermory, Scotland had a great scotch distillery. They invited us to take the tour for free and were generous with bottling up some free samples of the whiskey. We walked about a mile out of town to visit a dairy and see some cheese making. No one was in sight so we walked through the barns and saw the cows and had a close up wet tongue visit with the calves.
Dublin Ireland is a very busy and bustling city. The tourist maps that are put out make the town look very walkable. It is walkable but not as much as the maps make you think.
DO NOT TAKE THE GREEN HOP ON HOP OF BUS. There are 3 HOHO lines, Green, Red & Blue. TAKE THE RED HOHO BUS. the blue seemed like it did not cover too much.
The green line covers a lot, too long of a route, and time consuming especially if you are riding when they change drivers. The drivers will talk for 15 minutes and then the new driver will sit there and take a 30 minute break which cost us a taxi back to the ship on our 2nd day there.
We ate at Nancy Hands at their back bar and had a great salmon meal on slate and of course, some pints of Guinness .We also ate ate at The Guinness Storehouse on the top floor. It was good but not real good. DO GO TO THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE. What a wonderful story the tour has to tell. Get there in the morning and there will probably not be much of or no line to get in.
We took a really good Outlander Tour with Clansman Tours. Tom (owner) was great to spend the day with and share some good scotch in the van at the drop off. He picked us up at the dock.
Brugge Belgium was very interesting. We (3 couples) hired a round trip taxi at the Zeebrugge port Very cheap splitting the cost. Antwerp was good also. Don't miss the Chocolate Museum, (Chocolate Nation). We wanted to go into the diamond district but since it was Saturday and Jewish Shabbat, nothing was open so we had to skip it.
In Amsterdam we took a canal tour with a red HOHO boat and spent quite some time at a street market. The food was great and some stalls were difficult to pass up.
In Alesund , Norway we had to ask 8 different people for directions to the bus stop going to the Sea Park Aquarium. It was very nice.
In Bergen, Norway we ate at Bernard Tonghandel's stall in the fish market and had great mussels and fish. It was located near the end and close to the information cent with a good view of the Bay. er. He offered sit down dining with a good view of the Bay. Don't miss it.
Take the ferry across the bay to the 3 Viking museums. Very good and informational.In Flam (Pronounced Flome), (Norwegian town names get butchered in English), we took the train and had a good time. One hour up and one hour back. The best souvenir prices we found were at the main building by the railway. Other towns had a lot of the same things but were moderately to much higher priced. This is the place to buy a caribou hide if you want one. They are MUCH less costly. There was a food truck there and we tried grilled whale. Along with generous samples they offered it was very good and the samples also.
In Stavenger, Norway you will want to go to the very interesting Canning Museum, with a great guide Piers Crocker. He was funny and very informative and the Petroleum Museum. It's a very walkable town. See the Viking Center across from the docks.
As with just about all European towns the streets may be curvy and not well named, Most street names are on the corner of the buildings if they are there at all. We are an older couple and find it difficult to find our way around the towns. It can be difficult to find people to give good directions. The tourist maps can also be inaccurate.
As for the Holland America cruise we were on the Prinsendam which is the oldest and smallest of their ships. Our cruise was from May 6 to June 3, 2019. The ship has been sold to a German line and will go out of service for HAL on July 1.
Our stateroom was not an expensive one but had a good sized unobstructed window. How ever that window along with every other window on the ship was always dirty on the outside, unlike other lines we have been on. The room was comfortable and had plenty of room for two. The TV and DVD player were constant problem all through the voyage. I think they didn't want to repair it as the ship was sold.
The dining buffet was not good. Most of the food was over cooked or too salty and very repetitive almost every day. On HAL I have always found their salmon benedict my go to breakfast but not on the Prinsendam. The 1st morning I had to tell the cook how to make one and found their hollandaise sauce to be like mayonnaise with some strange flavor. I tried it the next day and it hadn't improved. It remained unimproved for the rest of the cruise. There were a few things that were acceptable for breakfast but most were repetitive. The coffee was great.
Lunch usually found us on shore except for "at sea" days. Lunch and some suppers found me at the hot dog stand by the pool. This was a cool to cold weather cruise.
I found the main dining room very noisy as I wear hearing aids. The waiters were very attentive to our needs and good at what they did. The menu was somewhat repetitive here also and portion size was not consistent. We would find a dish we liked with a nice size portion and the next time get a very small portion.
The ship was small and some people have been lead to believe the small, older ships have a quaint ambiance that is lost on the larger ships. We ran onto people on the Prinsendam that had been on board 100+ days. I got bored and couldn't even drink my way through it due to the high cost plus a 15% sure charge on every drink.
There was a movie every night and some were good. Theater was comfortable there was popcorn for the viewers. In that same room during the day America's Test Kitchen would put on a live demonstration. Went once and it was a joke. The demonstrator couldn't even make a simple omelette. I like their TV show.
I couldn't figure out why Oprah is the "godmother" of HAL. All she does is appear on their on board TV channel and promoted a book she liked.
The crew was friendly and for the most part helpful and caring.
On the good side, Prinsendam offered a couple of free laundry rooms with 6 washers and dryers each unfortunately many were routinely out of service. The exercise room, steam room and dry sauna were free also. These we enjoyed immensely and used them often.
The EXC excursions purchased from HAL were very expensive. Many passengers did not take them for that reason.
I hope that HAL keeps up their ships as we have found them in the past. I also realize Prinsendam was pretty worn out. I would also recommend to HAL to install free laundry to all ships. This is such a big plus and so helpful to be able to have clean clothes. Keeps your room smelling fresher too.
Nice cabin roomy enough for two. It had a very nice 4X4 window with a nice ledge to store items. The window as with all windows on the ship was never clean on the outside. It had a very nice sized walk in closet with plenty of hangers, 2 robes, an umbrella and a safe. The room also had a sofa , coffee table, chair and a desk with a chair. The TV and DVD player worked just barely enough to be called a TV and DVD player. The queen bed and pillows were very comfortable. The thermostat was able to be easily adjusted to one's own comfort.
The bathroom was of a nice size but the water sometimes took a long time to get hot and sometimes only warm. There was always fresh towels and a mat in the bath.