I am an active, adventurous mature adult who has seen the world on 56 cruises to date. I travel solo (with the constant wish that more cruise lines would offer better rates for solo travelers!). I love the sea and sailing, and probably enjoy the ride on the ship as much as the ports. I remember the “old” Holland America from the years before Carnival obtained it, and wish that this historic cruise line could have remained independent. I am a Two Star Mariner with Holland America’s loyalty program. This cruise had a lot of interesting ports I’d not seen before, plus the chance to sail on a unique ship before it left the company. Due to some serious quality issues, I had to rate the cruise average, but in many ways it was also very good (service and itinerary, especially).
I flew to England from Boston for the cruise, spending one night at the very good Hilton hotel near Heathrow Terminal 5. I had a private chauffeur service for the scenic ride to Dover the next morning. I’ve not officially toured Dover, but have seen some of it by car several times when arriving for cruises.
Embarkation was one of the best ever at the small Dover cruise terminal. The staff are mature adults with lots of smiles and courtesy. From check-in with a very gracious lady to entering my suite, the total time was 24 minutes. Might have been even faster, but I used stairs rather than elevator from the entry level deck to my suite with my carry-on bag. My luggage arrived about 20 minutes after I did. Holland America is planning on selling the “Prinsendam” to another shipping company in July. The ship had previously been in service with Regent Seven Seas, among others. It is a small “boutique” size, with an elegant, yacht-like profile, and considering its age, looked extremely well maintained on the exterior at first glance. The classic blue and white hull of Holland America is lovely in its simplicity. The full passenger contingent is close to 800, approximately, but on this sailing we had just 535 people, mostly from the USA, England, and other English-speaking countries, plus a nice mix from around the world. Crew is international, with the famous Indonesian service crews in the cabins and dining rooms. Amenities are similar to other cruise ships, but on a smaller scale. You will not find the rock climbing walls and amusement park attractions, nor the huge size so popular with today’s newer ships. Classic, almost English country estate style décor throughout the ship. Magnificent fresh floral arrangements are everywhere, and are changed frequently throughout the ship. This cruise line must have the world’s best florists onboard their ships. It’s easy to get around inside the ship, and I was given a useful map of the ship with my room keycard upon check-in. Plenty of stairs and elevators to keep things moving. Traditional wood promenade deck circles the ship, but no jogging is allowed – have to jog on the very top deck on a designated track. The ship appeared to be extremely clean on the inside, and crew were visible night and day at their assigned housekeeping tasks. There is no spectacular atrium, only a few decks with an open center with art work in it. There are gorgeous art objects and collectibles of museum quality in display cases throughout the ship, as well as very nice paintings of the ship in its various incarnations and in various places around the globe. There is an observation lounge forward and high up in the ship with a stunning view forward. Fairly small lido buffet, lovely main dining room and other small dining venues nearby. The usual “you are here” ship maps are displayed on each deck. Nice central pool area with hot tub, sheltered areas with tables for outdoor dining nearby. One popular feature was the “America’s Test Kitchen” venue, with theater-type seating for a small audience. Whatever they cooked, however, sent its aroma throughout the entire ship, as did the galley area. A small lounge area had an elegant marble fireplace, and it looked straight out of Downton Abbey – really beautiful. Huge library with game tables, books on many subjects, computer stations, comfortable seating. The few shops were not large, but staffed by extremely nice crew. Large jewelry store, small sundries/logo item shop, usual duty-free items. The guest services area was far too small and too public, and it was often hard to hear when all the agents were serving guests and people were speaking loudly to be heard over the other guests. The future cruise consultant worked at a small desk in the main foot traffic pattern just off the guest services desk area, again with no privacy. This was a very busy and popular area, with people signing up on a clipboard for time to meet with the future cruise consultant. The clipboard filled within minutes for each day’s chance to book another cruise. Lots of very loyal cruisers and Mariners Club members on this cruise with plans for more cruises.