Tag Archives: prinsendam cruise review

ms Prinsendam Med Cruise Foul Weather Days

Bad Weather Soon Prevents Two Scheduled Port Visits

The ms Prinsendam Mediterranean & Aegean Explorer cruise spends many more days in port than at sea, or at least that is the schedule.  Foul weather ahead will alter the Prinsendam’s scheduled stops after a call at Toulon, France.

Toulon France Harbor and Marina                        Overlooking Toulon Harbor from Prinsendam

After embarking at Barcelona, we dock at Toulon the following morning. Regrettably, all the main attractions are a good distance from the port. These include the Old Harbor at Marseille and the Provencal city of Aix-en-Provence, usually pronounced simply as the letter X.  Aix is famous as the home to Cézanne and for its 17th and 18th century buildings bordering narrow streets in the city center.

Aix is known for its famous flower markets held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Linda is most interested in the Saturday flower market, supposedly the largest, but the ship is docked on a different day.

Having seen the day’s cloudy forecast, Linda is happy to forego Aix and for the walk around Toulon to view the food markets and other sights. Speaking of views, we have an excellent one from the ship of Toulon’s harbor, marina and waterfront buildings.  Toulon’s skies are kind most of the day, a mix of cloud and sun.  It’s the last good weather we see for days.

Prinsendam Captain one of its greatest assets

When most cruise ships leave a port, it’s customary to hear some sort of announcement about the weather and the upcoming day. On the Prinsendam, this is not done by the cruise director but the captain himself, who makes almost all of the public announcements.

It’s not an ego thing but an obligation Captain Tim Roberts seems to feel is part of his job.  More approachable and with a greater presence than almost any cruise ship captain I’ve ever met, Captain Roberts was born in Liverpool and resides in Scotland.  His quiet, competent manner and daily announcements add real flavor to the cruise.  We look forward to hearing his comments, which can be wry or serious or a bit of both.

Tonight, he has bad news for us. We will not be able to dock in Calvi, Corsica, tomorrow as scheduled, which is disappointing.   It is where Christopher Columbus was born.  Calvi is one of two ports where tendering ashore is necessary. Unfortunately, the seas will be too rough for us to attempt landings in Calvi.

However, Captain Roberts says he has an alternative port where the Prinsendam can dock:  Ajaccio, Corsica, France, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Sounds good, trading one famous Corsican for another. And Bonaparte is far more interesting. However, the weather at Ajaccio also will be iffy with possible clouds and rain.

Foul weather sends Prinsendam to birthplace of Napoleon 

Ajaccio appears a pleasant and compact town. We are not the only ship to deviate here.  A big floating city with at least 3,000 to 4,000 passengers is docked near us. The Prinsendam is toy-like in comparison.  That larger ship has lots more bells and whistles but we’ll visit ports later it could never enter, an advantage of small ships.

Napoleon is celebrated as a great hero in Ajaccio.  A military general and first emperor of France, he is commemorated in monuments, street names and the Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport.  The entire Bonaparte family of the 1800s also is held in equally high esteem.

The grandest monument of Napoleon is on the ocean side of the large de Gaulle Square (formerly Diamant Square).  The statue depicts Napoleon on horseback dressed as a Roman consul and  wearing a gold wreath. He is flanked in front and back by the standing statues of his four brothers, Joseph, Lucien, Louis and Jerome.

Napoleon Bonaparte Statue at Ajaccio Corsica     Statue of Napoleon and his brothers, Ajaccio France

Not far from the square is a simple but spacious house where Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769.  He spent his early years at this house on the Rue Saint-Charles but never returned.   The building is now houses the National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence in Corsica.

After leaving Ajaccio, Capt. Roberts has an especially disturbing weather report for next day’s port, Olbia in Sardinia, Italy.  Captain Roberts says the mayor of Olbia has issued a Code Red due to heavy rains that “could cause flooding and loss of life.”  All cruise ship tours there are cancelled and passengers are not allowed to leave their ships.

Instead of wasting a day in Olbia watching it rain, the Prinsdendam will continue to Rome, our next stop, to spend an extra day there.  Unfortunately, the weather report for Rome  is “heavy thunderstorms.”  That is not surprising.  BBC news shows show severe flooding in France and neighboring countries.  We never receive news about the extent of damage (if any) in Olbia.

Our first day docked at Civitavecchia, Rome’s cruise ship port, the weather is beyond dismal. The rain easily compares to some tropical storms. Those who try to reach Rome return saturated, and not by wine.  A good number regret their outing.

We have to be optimistic. The sun will come out tomorrow, right? Actually, it does.

Getting to Know the ms Prinsendam

Prinsendam Holland America’s Smallest Ship

The embarkation process for the ms Prinsendam is amazingly smooth. Our American Airlines flight 112 from Miami direct to Barcelona arrives at 10:15 a.m. A cab puts us at the cruise port by 11:30, and within half an hour we are aboard the Prinsendam and in our stateroom.

When I did my initial Google search for “Prinsendam,”  what comes us first is the sinking of the ms Prinsendam  off Alaska in 1980. No, Holland America did not raise that smaller 523-passenger Prinsendam,  scrape the barnacles off and  place it back in business (as some recent passengers believed  based, on their web  posts).

The new ms Prinsendam was built in 1988. It carries only 793 passengers, making it Holland America’s smallest vessel.  And like the original ms Prinsendam, it is one of Holland America’s most beloved ships. We quickly learn that a substantial number of ultra-loyal passengers on board prefer not to cruise on any other vessel.

Prinsendam Small But Comfortable

Ms Prinsendam's tiny size is part of its appeal

Prinsendam dwarfed by mega-ship. Tiny size is its appeal.

At only 669 feet long and 106 feet wide, the Prinsendam is an easy ship to move around.  Although it is only 51 feet shorter than the 1,258 passenger Maasdam, the  Prinsendam carries about 450 fewer passengers. That gives the ship a comfortable, homey feel, a place where everyone relaxes.  The Prinsendam quickly works its charm on us. (While writing this, I notice the Prinsendam 2016 voyage is extended from 25 to 30 days. I have a surprising desire to do it all over again.)

Still, there are a few things about the Prinsendam that take us some time to adjust to. The Lido restaurant has two separate buffet areas but for some reason, most passengers congregate in the starboard (right side) buffet.  They’re missing a lot.

At breakfast, it is the ignored port side restaurant only that offers eggs Benedict.  We soon  choose to have breakfast only on the port side where Edwin cooks better eggs than anyone else on the ship; his omelets are the best I’ve ever had.  After a few days, we will graze at both buffets but usually sit on the less crowded port side.

We inquire at the front desk about the possibility of upgrading from our ocean view room to a verandah suite.  There are vacancies but it’s not clear which staterooms are available for the full length of our cruise.

Our Prinsendam Cruise Becomes Two Cruises 

Our 25-day cruise turns out to be two back to back segments: a 14 day Mediterranean & Aegean cruise and a 12-day Black Sea segment. New passengers will be coming aboard for the last part of the cruise and some staterooms that are empty now may be reserved for later.   If that is the situation, we may need to switch cabins, not a problem for us.  As it’s the weekend, the Seattle office is closed. We are also 7 to 8 hours ahead of them. It will take time to determine where and when we might move.   In the meantime, we partially unpack and continue exploring the ship.

Looking at the Black Sea itinerary, we see we will disembark the Prinsendam in Istanbul two days before the second  segment  ends  in Athens. The one port we will miss is Kusadasi, Turkey, known for its excavated city of Ephesus. We should be able to see Ephesus at Izmir on the Mediterranean segment. No loss there. And Istanbul over Athens also is a better place for us to disembark.

Waiting until boarding the ship to make excursion reservations for Sochi, Russia, turns out to be a problem. Sochi is on the Black Sea part of the cruise.  The excursion office will not allow us to reserve any Black Sea trip until that cruise leg starts in another 12 days.   The woman in charge of excursions is adamant in enforcing this rule. She could care less we technically are on a single cruise itinerary.  Since anyone on the Black Sea segment is free to schedule trips until they embark in another 11 days–and we’re blocked from doing so–it’s probably good-bye Sochi for us.

The cost of a Russian visa fee is $160 for anyone going ashore who is not part of a tour, it’s safe to say we won’t see Sochi–due to excursion office red tape, not the Russians’.  Fortunately, most other departments—particularly the front office staff—are operated with more reasonable and accommodating people.

If you join the 2016 cruise, book all your excursions ahead of time. You can always cancel when on board. It’s what we should have done, but who knew this is a twosome?  We have questions about the tour that can be answered only aboard ship.

NOTE:  In 2016, this Prinsendam cruise is extended from 25 to 30 days and is more accurately named Mediterranean and Black Sea Explorer.  I like this itinerary even more. As I said, for a few minutes I consider doing the cruise  over again.