Evening entertainment might feature a performer whistling Schubert's "Ave Maria" or a juggler who also tells jokes, a swing clarinetist or a singer and his ukulele. On our cruise, there was a classical music concert, regional performances by dancers and musicians in ports of call, and talent shows put on by Indonesian and Filipino staff. A roster of assorted musicians, vocalists and ventriloquists round out the program on long cruises.
Shows are generally offered twice nightly and programming is planned for lengthy voyages.
Activities vary during the day, especially when the ship is at sea. You can take a rumba lesson or play bingo. Speakers lecture about politics, sociology, geology, history and the environment, and offer insights on the history and culture of ports of call. There are also classes in digital camera and computer use.
Shore excursion offerings are plentiful, but are mainly geared toward less active travelers.
The 424-seat Queen's Lounge, Prinsendam's main theater, features the latest in high-tech lighting and acoustics. Performances include song and dance shows and classical concerts. During the day, the theater serves as a venue for dance lessons and lectures.
Other Holland America stalwarts are represented on Prinsendam, too. We always love the Ocean Bar; on Prinsendam, it's situated in the center of the ship's main public deck and so offers fabulous people-watching at just about any time. The Bar's blue leather banquettes are tucked under windows facing the Promenade, and its brushed chrome banisters are curved like waves upon the sea. The Ocean Bar is also a cozy location for taking in a shipboard seminar or meeting friends for drinks. There's a bandstand and dance floor as well.
The Explorers Lounge, another Holland America tradition, is another impressive space, featuring mahogany-stained wooden walls, old fashioned (the thick kind) Venetian blinds covering the windows, and leather armchairs with seats just long -- and wide -- enough to encourage passengers to tuck in and get lost in a great book or stimulating conversation.
By far, Explorations Cafe is one of the best innovations at sea today. The sprawling room has a lot of comfy chairs in which to read or watch the sea, an extensive library, puzzles, music listening stations and a very sleek and well-equipped Internet cafe, offering laptop computer rentals and access to wireless Internet connections. Explorations Cafe is busiest on sea days, but a hardcore popular spot on all Holland America ships -- and though new to Prinsendam, it didn't take passengers long to discover it on my voyage!
Though on the small side, the casino is laid out well and features table games as well as slots (we were amused to find some 10 cent machines).
The Java Cafe is set right next to the casino. Note: This is not part of Explorations Cafe where coffee bars are located on Holland America ships. Though small and dark, the Java Cafe is pretty and offers not only coffee and tea, but also espresso and cappuccino -- at no extra charge. A tray of sweet delicacies is always at the ready and the coffee always tastes fresh. A big screen television set parlays the room into a kind of sports bar.
The Oak Room's dark wood walls, leather furnishings and (fake) fireplace are reminiscent of the stodgy gentlemen's clubs of yesteryear. Women are cheerfully admitted in this smoker's lounge, however. Other public room highlights include the Erasmus Library and the Half Moon (card and game) area. Holland America's signature Crow's Nest observation lounge is featured topside. A grand piano sets the tone for the evening entertainment here, which is usually low-key and traditional but at times raucous, depending upon the crowd.
The Wajang Theater and Culinary Arts Center does double duty showing recently released films -- with complimentary popcorn -- and offering one of the best cooking programs at sea. You can participate in intimate cooking classes (extra charge) and tasting events (usually involving a surcharge), and attend larger scale presentations by onboard and guest chefs.
Auction art collections are showcased in a lovely, wood-paneled boutique with windows fronting the promenade deck.
The gym is smallish, but offers yoga, Pilates and spinning, and features new exercise and weight-training equipment. The Greenhouse Spa & Salon, a Steiner, Ltd. offering, is extremely attractive. It features a Greco-Roman theme replete with columns and murals and offers all of the traditional spa rituals and beauty salon features. A massage and a facial both left me feeling well pampered.
The wonderful Promenade deck is unobstructed and a quarter-mile in length. Don't miss the chance to participate in Holland America's "Walk for the Cure" program; passengers all walk together in support of breast cancer research on a designated day.
Lap swimming is suitable in the aft deck pool. The main pool area -- outside on the Lido deck -- is the most crowded area on the ship.
As noted, there's a nominal Club HAL program; activities are held in the Stuyvesant Room only when kids are onboard and counselors are available during holiday periods -- but this is not a ship that markets to families with children.