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
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.