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CruiseReportHolland America Cruise Line ms Prinsendam4A cruise review of Holland America Cruise Line ms Prinsendam in South America
by Bill Belt
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Holland Am.
  ms Prinsendam  
Adventure Up The Amazon River
November 2014
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
THE SHIP---This is an older ship built in 1988 and has sailed under the name of Seabourn Sun and Royal Viking Sun before becoming the Holland America's Prinsendam. The ship is being maintained as well as can be expected; however, there seems to be constant issues that cosmetic repairs cannot help. We boarded the Prinsendam in Ft. Lauderdale and had what was labeled as a suite cabin (043) and found our cabin to be without air-conditioning. The temperature was measured in the cabin and was approximately 88 degrees. It took four days for the ship’s maintenance staff to be able to get air conditioning for our cabin. We were issued a fan for cooling.

While our cabin, and others hovered close to 90 degrees the showroom was at such a low temperature you usually had to wear a jacket to stay warm.

You could always count on one of more of the elevators being out of service. One explanation was the lack of parts at sea and they would have to wait until return to Ft Lauderdale for repair parts. A tour of the ship revealed numerous repairs needed. For example some of the deck joints on the pool deck were uneven and the crew spent parts of two days closing the section off and doing repairs. Baseboards at the bottom of walls around the ship showed significant wear as did sections of our cabin.

The ship is small enough that you will be able to visit some ports that larger ships cannot and this is the real plus for sailing on this ship. The cruise passengers, if you let them, will tell you about their many travels throughout the world and how grand the ship you are on is. While many on the Prisendam have indeed traveled aboard a cruise vessel for many nights, it is very easy to “weed out” the hype from the facts. At high tea one afternoon, one senior lady at our table told us Holland American always contacted her to see where she would like to cruise and that was how the selection of ports came to be. She actually believes that and I can only say, “bless her heart”. If you just stay on the ship for the ride and never or seldom get off at the various ports, I am sorry but that does not make one a world traveler. Most of these passengers on board have the necessary funds and time to take a 28-day cruise (and longer) aboard the Prinsendam, so don’t expect to see young couples that have to stay home and work or those families with three children, as this cruise is far too expensive for them.

THE CABIN—We were under the impression that we were paying for an upgrade to a suite and what we actually received was an upgrade to one of what was originally a deluxe verandah cabin. There was about 50% more floor square footage in this level when compared with the verandah cabin. There was also a flat screen TV in our cabin and other cabins apparently did not have that “luxury” item. The bathroom was quite nice with two sinks and separate commode room. There is a walk-in closet in this cabin. The tub is a little hard to get out of as there is an 18-inch drop from the top to the floor. The sliding glass door to the verandah has a lock that is virtually worn out. One day my spouse closed the door and found herself on the outside verandah unable to get in due to the lock dropping during the door closure. The lock was loose and is just worn out and will lock occasionally if the door is slammed too hard.

Cabins are nice but not elegant. Our mattress was lumpy.

THE STAFF---The staff on the Lido deck was very friendly and helpful. The staff in the La Fontaine's dining deck were too few, overworked and, at least in our section, not the best. The service was not consistent from meal to meal. I ask for tea each night at dinner and about half the 28 nights I was never served a glass of tea. Ordered a bottle of wine the first night and I am still waiting as it was never delivered. The wine steward, and I use that title loosely, said he was sorry but that he forgot. Frankly, the wine steward was not very knowledgeable about the wine list except for the prices.

The staff in the Pinnacle Restaurant were excellent and we had great service in the Italian restaurant. The drink staff around the pool was good one day and you could not find them the next day. Service in the various lounges was usually very good. The front desk staff needs “people training” very badly. The third day at sea I had run out of small bills and went to the front desk to ask for change for a $50 bill. I was given two twenties and one ten. I asked if I could get the ten broken done into some one dollar bills for tips. The girl rudely admonished me by saying, ”We are not a bank”. And then she actually tossed the ones down on the counter. She never spoke another word and I found this attitude prevalent for days to come. Then about five days before the end of the cruise, and just before evaluation time, the front desk could not have been nicer. It was “Good Morning” every time you passed by.

---The cruise on the Amazon and the ports visited were all fascinating. While we had been to some of the ports before, a revisit was just as adventurous as had been our first visit years ago. We know we went places that large ships could not go and that is one of the great experiences of traveling on small ships.

THE FOOD—The Pinnacle Dining room serves excellent food. The steaks were delicious and cooked exactly as we ordered them. The shrimp were colossal in size and just as good as the steaks. The seafood was all very good and cooked exactly as we ordered. The side dishes were first class with creamed potatoes and asparagus. The desserts may have been the low side of the meal; however, they were good, not outstanding though. You are served before dinner a “special concoction” from the chef. On two dinners this was a cappuccino coffee that contained mushrooms. This is correct as I repeatedly “questioned” the waiter as to what it was. It was one of the worst combination of food I have ever tasted. There was an extra charge for dinner of $29 per person in the Pinnacle and $10 per person in the Italian dining room. This extra cost did not appeal to everyone we talked with, so that is a personal decision that you will have to make. For king crab legs there was another $29 tacked onto the first $29. So for a couple that means an extra $116.00 for dinner. Sounds a little bit too much but then that is your choice to make.

The food on the Lido deck for breakfast is about what you would receive at a Denney’s Restaurant. It was all-passable—generally. You could get items cooked to your request, such as eggs, but depending upon the fry cook, your over-easy eggs may come out differently each day you order them.

Lunch on the Lido deck was usually about the same, like sandwiches, soup and meat, Mexican section and an Italian section. Soups were generally good except for some combinations that we noticed just about everyone that took that particular soup tasted it and then left a full bowl. You could generally find something toward your liking on this deck at lunchtime. There were some exceptions that need attention though. Tomatoes were sometimes served that actually needed to be tossed, as they were soft and mushy. The watermelon had usually been prepared so early that the watermelon juices filled about two inches of the bottom of the bowl as the juices had drained from the sliced melons. Some fruits also were not ripe. Lettuce was served with brown spots on the leaves and you had to pick though the lettuce to get enough good pieces to make a decent salad. Desserts were poor. Their texture and taste left a lot to be desired. Ice cream was always good and fresh. For some reason, all juice glass filled with juice were at room temperature. None were cold and there was no ice around the juice glasses to keep them cold. Orange juice, while being fresh, tasted as though it had been watered down.

On the pool deck is a Dive In where one can get hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. Stay away from that horrible sauce they coat the hot dogs and burger with. Must have been a mixture of mustard, mayo and catsup that had to be scraped from the meat in order to eat the food. The French fries were excellent. Drink service was slow at times.

Food presentations often looked like the plates of food came directly out of Food & Wine, as there were excellent presentations. However, food in the La Fontaine was very inconsistent. The service was likewise. One evening good service and the next being “no service”. Some items appeared on the dinner menu night after night. For example, the onion soup, which was very good, was on the menu practically every night. The Caesar salad was also on the menu every night. Salmon was a regular as was chicken. Most of the soups were good; however, occasionally during the cruise there would be a soup that was horrible. The Caesar salad was ordered many evenings; however, some of the evenings I had to leave parts of the very small salad as the lettuce contained too many brown spots on the leaves. This was definitely old lettuce that should have been “tossed”.

The quality of the entrees were all over the board. The one night there was meatloaf, I was certain I had been served a less than good quality entree. The meat was horrible and we saw plate after plate sitting on tables that had not been eaten, only tasted. I ordered flounder one night and the piece served me was mushy and running with liquid. It was old-old and that was another meal I had to leave. I missed the liver and onion night as we ate in the Pinnacle, however I was told it was very good. You could eat the roasted chicken but how badly can you destroy chicken to begin with? Some of the other entrees were just plain not good. The presentations were nice and they looked good for a photo op but eating the “stuff” was another issue. As I look around the dining room, many of these passengers are just like me. An occasional gourmet meal but not that “fancy stuff” every night that can only be looked at and not eaten.

----Very small by any standards. The staff was friendly; however, watch your cards closely as some time I noticed the reading was not always correct.

—Small but good service and coffee. One TV set on the wall . Not a great gathering place for the passengers.. More people gathered next door in the library and computer room. Microsoft offers free instructions on Windows 8 program in one of the rooms and if you have a PC and use Windows 8 this is all free and the courses are very good. The main problem you might encounter is someone that thinks they have a better way and wants to ask a million questions. Everyone else has to suffer with that ignorance.

THE SHOWROOM---Except for some single entertainers that were brought aboard for a one night stand, there is little positive one can say about going to shows in this venue. You don’t have to pay is the best thing that can be said as the entertainment is not usually something you would want to pay for.

---There were some good speakers on subjects that we found entertaining, interesting and knowledgeable while there were speakers that had no presentation capabilities, had done a poor job in developing a speaking outline and were ones that you should save your time and do something else. You will know the ones I write about after just one or two presentations by them.

TOURS---Not the friendliest staff and the way they dressed you never knew who was an employee and who might be a passenger. They wanted things done in a second and with a crowd of seniors 70 to 90 years old that is not going to happen. They need to re-read the definition of patience, as they need lots of it if they intend to continue as tour people. Just ignore most of their demanding directions and enjoy the day, might be the best policy to have.

---If you have ever taken a cruise where there has been a massive outbreak of some virus then you will know what I write about. On this cruise there are hand sanitizers on every deck and in every venue and most of the passengers used them regularly. The serving line staff usually wore rubber gloves and kept the hot food area clean. Passengers often dropped food at the salad bar and never once did I see anyone of them clean up what they had dropped. I was disappointed to see almost no cleaning of tables after passengers had finished dining. The dishes were removed but the table never sanitized or even wiped down. The staff that constantly wiped the railings, stair case rails, door handles, etc especially impressed me. This can certainly help prevent an illness outbreak.

SUMMARY----I have not listed a lot of the other sections of the ship nor have I listed everything one can do such as movies, culinary, fitness, etc. Most of it is all there, just in a reduced small venue than what you will find on the larger ships. If you plan on cruising on this ship, you must be patient and have lots of it. These are almost all seniors, 70 to 90 and many with disabilities. It is wonderful that they are still traveling and getting out into the world. You will find tenders to be a special problem for many of them so patience is once again the key word. Watch out for motorized scooters as some operators will literally run you down. If you want a little adventure in your life and would like to visit some third world locations, then travel on this Amazon Cruise and for 28 days enjoy some towns and sites that you have never before seen. Don’t be discouraged by the food remarks I have made, after all I am just an old country boy from Kentucky that does not know that much about eating fancy food. You may really enjoy the food and leave the cruise with some rave reviews. In my case, I lost 5 pounds in those 28 days. And you know what, that is not all that bad. I just need to get back to some country ham, eggs, grits, and biscuits to get that weight back.

One last thought about the “mandatory tips”, that are added to your bill. You are supposed to get good service and that is what tips are all about whether at a restaurant or on a cruise ship. In this case that “good service” was just not present and giving any tips at all was not a pleasure. For years I have tipped above and beyond for great service and that included tips to the cruise staff even after the mandatory tips started to be added. I did not follow that policy though on this cruise. If you will note in the Holland America travel guide it states that ”others” on the ship such as laundry and galley should be recognized. While HAL also states you may make adjustments in this mandatory tip process, I would challenge you to try to do so. These “mandatory tips” have no doubt led to a deterioration in the level of service we all used to receive aboard cruise ships.

We had a good time and have many great memories along with the more than 5000 photos we took along the way. Before making your own decisions about this ship or any ship for that matter, read several of the reviews. I always discard the reviews that says everyone “walks on water” and the negative ones that say everything on the ship was bad.

Have a great cruise wherever your destination may be and on whatever ship you choose.
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