Prinsendam is going out of Holland America Service on July 1. I wondered if I should write these reviews, but since Veendam is taking over some of the Prinsendam itineraries in 2020 I’ve decided this might still help future cruisers. We took two back to back itineraries, Celtic Explorer and Norwegian Fjords Explorer on the MS Prinsendam.
The 14 day Norwegian Fjords Explorer started with a sea day before arriving in Oslo. In Oslo the ship docked at someplace other than where the EXC Guide told us we would be. It was not on the map that HAL provides for each port. We were told that there would people with maps and a currency exchange, there was none of that, only a couple of cabs and a hop on hop off bus. The map for the Ho-Ho did not have our dock marked. It was a “special stop.” There was one sign pointing to downtown but no indication on how far a walk it was. I understand that sometimes things change. But when they do HAL has the responsibility to make an announcement of the different docking venue. We took the Ho-Ho. It was fine for getting us where we wanted to go but terrible for sightseeing. They had decals across the front window on the upper deck and blocking the windows on the bottom deck. The bus stopped running before we ran out of Oslo so we took a cab from Central Station to the ship, more than $30.
This was Prinsendam’s first, and last, call at Arendal, a charming town. We were greeted by a dance troupe who performed on the walkway climbing up from the dock. We walked through the town, spent time in the old town hall, a classic old, large wooden building. At a café we had some local pastries and coffee. A man sat next to us, his brother joined us, and we had a conversation about their grandfather who immigrated to America and made enough money to come back and buy a fishing boat. It changed the family’s life, giving them cash and status.
Sailing into Eidsfjord includes a trip through Hardanger Fjord, worth getting up early to watch. In Eidsfjord we took a HAL tour to the highlands, a lake, waterfall and the alpine tundra. The guide was a farmer who raised a traditional breed of sheep. He is also a snow plow driver full of stories about sheep, farming, and rescues on mountain roads.
The next stop was Flam. We took the HAL tour on the train. We should have just gotten off the boat and gotten our own tickets. It would have cost us half the money and we would have been on a less crowded coach. Having said that, it was worth the trip. There is a nice railway museum.
We needed the sea day that followed Flam because after there were 6 ports in six days. Trondheim was a walking day. We went to the cathedral, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed although you couldn’t tell by the number of people whipping out iPhones. The crown jewels were a disappointment. After paying the admission fee to the museum they told us that because of concerns over security the exhibit was not open. We could stand at the door to the room where the jewels are displayed and look through the iron bars. They had tied a pair of binoculars to the bars for us to get a better look. The resistance museum next door is worth your time. The old wooden houses in Trondheim create nice neighborhoods to walk through. Rockheim, the Norse Rock and Roll Museum, is right where the ship docks.
Ålesund burned down in the early 20th century and was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style. We walked through the town, stopping at both the Art Nouveau and Modern Art museums. Both were well done. The Modern Art exhibitions were expressions of people’s relationship with the sea. We took a cab to the lookout for a great view of the city. It was worth the NOK 300 ($33.00)
Geiranger is approached through a long series of fjords. It’s worth getting up early for the sail in. In town we took the Hop-On, Hop-Off. It stopped at an overlook, a mountain farm and the Fjord Center. From the Fjord Center you can walk down more than 300 steps, along a waterfall, to town.
It always rains in Bergen, like my hometown Sitka, Alaska. We wanted to go to the Hanseatic League Museum but last October they discovered it was sinking, it’s 300-year-old pilings were having problems, so it’s closed. The museum shop and some exhibits are spread around Bryggen, the old section of Bergen. The Bryggen Museum was also closed for renovation. It may be open by the time you read this. There’s a free shuttle bus between Bryggen and the Fisherman’s Museum. Living in a fishing town I found comparisons interesting. The docents are more than willing to talk fish.
Stavanger was the next stop. The ship docked right at the old wooden residential section with its white buildings. It was a short walk to the commercial district, also made up of wooden buildings and beyond to the petroleum museum, which does a good job of discussing the importance of the oil industry to Norway’s economy while also discussing the ramifications of oil on climate change. It raises a lot of questions and leaves you thinking about the answers.
The final port of call was Esbjerg, Denmark. Because of tides the ship has to time its approach to hit an hour and a half window to make it into port. Sailing through the sand banks we pass by offshore wind farms. Docking was difficult because of winds and currents. Prinsendam had to hold steady while a second tug came alongside to help her dock. In Esbjerg we spent the day with friends visiting Tirpitz, a museum made from an old German bunker with a lot more. It talks about WWII, the occupation, fortifications and other seafront topics like fishing and amber. HAL’s tours miss the most interesting stuff, Tirpitz and the original Legoland, located near the Lego factory. If you stop at Esbjerg consider these alternatives.
When we got off the ship in Amsterdam from the Celtic Explorer, they did not stamp our passport because we were going back on the ship. When we got off after the Norwegian Fjords Explorer there was no one to stamp our passport because everyone had gotten on in Amsterdam. As a result We were detained at the airport leaving Amsterdam because we did not have a proper entry stamp. The immigration people were polite and helpful, there was no problem there, but it was time consuming. Had we not arrived at the airport three and a half hours before the flight, instead of the recommended two we would have missed our flight. We finally got to the plane at the tail end of boarding. Part of the problem was the 30-minute walk from immigration to the gate. Be prepared if you fly out of AMS.
Here are a couple of other notes. Because of the small number of sea days there was no outside lecturer on board. We missed this but Brett, the EXC Guide gave good port talks and a lecture on Norway and one on the Vikings that we enjoyed.
May was a good time to cruise. We had unusually good weather and the ship was not nearly full. Prinsendam has a capacity of 835. On the Norwegian Fjords Explorer there were 665 on board, short lines for dinner, an uncrowded lido and lots of seats in the Showroom at Sea.
I’m sorry to see Prinsendam go out of Holland America service. We’ve enjoyed Prinsendam in the past. She’s an older ship but we like her size, her aft saltwater pool good for swimming laps, her classic but understated appointments, her generous cabins and her walk-in closets. We’ve been on other HAL ships and enjoyed ourselves, but not as much as on Prinsendam. We will still cruise on HAL but we will be reading Cruise Critic reviews, looking for smaller ships that match our lifestyle and budget.
The cabin was roomy with a nice walk in closet. I like the fact it has a fridge. I wish it had more electric outlets. The lighting could be better. The bedside lamps lit the whole room. Would rather have had smaller and more directed bed lamps so I could read without disturbing my wife.
The toilet clogged or backed up several times. The plumber had to come to fix it. He said that somewhere along the line someone had flushed too much stuff and several rooms had problems. We were comped a meal at restaurant for our trouble. Wish the toilet had a night light. I loved the shower.
The cabin crew were great. We had some pulled muscles and they always had ziploc bags handy with ice..
Prinsendam did not dock where the EXC guide told us it would. So there were no maps, there was no money exchange and no instructions of where we were or where we should go. There was one sign that pointed to "Downtown" with no distance. The Hop on Hop off was there but where we were was not on their map. They told us this was a "special" stop for the ship. We took the Ho-Ho. The bus went through a tunnel that did not allow pedestrians. So it did not help us figure out how to get to where we were going.
But the HO-HO took us to where we wanted to go. It was good for transportation but lousy for sightseeing. There were decals over the front window on the top deck and on the lower deck there were decals that blocked our view.
We enjoyed Frogner Park, the Folk Museum, the Fram Museum and toe Opera House. The HO-HO stopped running before we ran out of Oslo so we stayed in the downtown area and took a cab back. It cost $30.
We took the Waterfall and Waffles tour. It was worth it. Eric was a great storyteller. He is a farmer/fireman/snowplow driver. It was worth it to get out of town into the alpine tundra. The tour was well run, with no more than one bus at each stop at a time.
The sail through Hardanger Fjord was worth.
The train was great, but it would have cost us less than half the price to book it ourselves and we would have been in a carriage that was not as crowded. The stop for waffles was disappointing. It was like eating in a church basement, sitting on plastic chairs with no view. We would take the train again but would not through the HAL tour.View All 212 Flam Railway Reviews
Good walking town, enjoyed the wooden buildings .Everything we wanted to see was within easy walking distance.
A combo ticket fort the cathedral and bishop's palace cost 200 NOK, about $22.00. The Cathedral was worth it but the Bishop's Palace's main attraction, the crown jewels, were in a room that was sealed off with an iron gate. They closed it because they decided security was not good enough. They did tie a pair of binoculars to the gate so we could squint through them to to get a peek at the jewels.
Rockheim is the Norwegian Rock and Roll museum. It is right where the ship docks.
We loved this town. It burned near the beginning of the 20th century. It was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. It is a wonderful town for strolling. The Art Nouveau and Modern Art Museums are really good. The Modern Art Museum concentrated on people's, the artists', relationship to the sea.
Then we took a cab to the overlook for a wonderful view.
We took the Hop on Hop Off bus and it was worth it. It took us to a great overlook, a mountain farm and the Fjord Center. From the Fjord Center over 300 steps take you down to the town along a waterfall. It was a wonderful walk. We then did the loop on the Ho-Ho again, in the top deck, just for the view.
The Hanseatic League Museum is closed because the building is sinking, It will be closed for 6 years. They have placed some exhibits around old Bryggen. The Bryggen Museum was also closed for refurbishing. It was Ascension Day, therefore a holiday, so a lot of things were closed. Buses were running on holiday schedule and taxis were on holiday rates. There is a free shuttle bus from Bryggen to the Fisherman's museum. That was very much worth the visit. i live in a fishing town (Sitka) and learning about fisheries somewhere else was It rained most of the day but the sun came out for the sail out, which was glorious.
We docked right near the old town residential district with its white clapboard houses. The downtown has more colorful wooden buildings and is an easy walk from the ship, as is the petroleum museum, which does a good job of describing the Norwegian oil industry, what good it has brought, the social disruption it has caused and the threat of climate change. It left you with a lot of questions and some ideas of how to find answers without giving them to you. It was an excellent experience. As a bonus, if you have kids there is lots of interactive stuff geared to kids.
Amsterdam is always a wonderful city to explore. We took a canal boat cruise in an open boat this time and enjoyed it tremendously. We also walked along canals soaking up the ambience of this city where we have spent a lot of time in the past.