The former Royal Viking Sun. Just 793 guests, single seating dinner, excellent service, subdued surroundings.
Best For People Who Want
To sail on a ship known in the industry as a break-through vessel in the world of luxury; longer cruises with few children; very exotic itineraries.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
The more modern and diverseHolland America ships like Eurodam
What is called Prinsendam today is a ship that was originally built by Royal Viking Line, the cruise line that invented the concept of luxury cruising. The ship has changed hands more than almost any vessel still sailing for a mainstream cruise line, but she deserves a special place in the hearts of many who remember her as the pinnacle of what was a much-loved cruise line, Royal Viking Line. Over the years she moved from Royal Viking to Seabourn, the Cunard, then back to Seabourne and now with Holland America.
Prinsendam is small ship (38,000 tons), the only Holland America ship built before 1990. Passengers enjoy a quiet life at sea, attending in-depth enrichment lectures about history and culture of the ports at which they'll call. Such ports vary almost all year long, and include a 100-day world cruise as well as visits to Antarctica and elsewhere. Wooden deck chairs on the wrap-around promenade, the 180 degree observation lounge, and vast upper decks provide myriad vantage-points from which to admire the view.
Captain Peter Halle Thon Gunderson has been with Prinsendam since she was first designed for Royal Viking Line, and helped to oversee her construction at Wartsila shipyard in Finland. Having been aboard over the course of her many name and line changes, he is often seen around the ship chatting with passengers, who, from the open decks, can watch him at work on the open-air wings of the bridge. Try doing that on a modern mega-ship.
Even with her small size, the ship is signed on to Holland America's "Signature of Excellence" widespread program of enhancements, including the wonderful Explorations Café which features the largest library at sea, as well as comfortable music listening stations and Internet access. New features include tableside waiter service at dinner in the Lido, and new shore excursions. Staterooms now offer the best mattresses and duvets sold in Europe, flat screen TVs, and DVD players. There's early boarding and a choice of four dinner seatings. Moreover, HAL hired the ship's original architect, Tomas Tillberg, to reconfigure the Prinsendam's public spaces, and Frans Dingemanns to curate its very impressive art collection. Because so few families choose this ship, there is almost nothing in the way of children's facilities.
Announcements are kept to a minimum, and there is very little of the promotion of daily specials in the bar and shops that you would suffer on other ships. You're not constantly inveigled to buy drinks in souvenir glasses. Reams of promotional flyers aren't pushed under your cabin door.
Prinsendam's look varies markedly from area to area. Subdued lighting and paintings depicting rural Dutch life make some areas serene, while bold colors, chrome, and brighter lighting make others much more vibrant. The ship's Scandinavian origins - she was originally built in Finland as the Royal Viking Sun for Royal Viking Line in 1988 - are evidenced by the wealth of Norwegian art on display. A collection of artifacts to recognize the ship's long and distinguished globetrotting career adds to the ambiance.
On acquiring Prinsendam in 2002, Holland America spent $30 million to update and refurbish the ship, purchasing $350,000 worth of art. Additions include a new alternative restaurant and Lido buffet, Internet Cafe and a facelift to the main theater for production shows.
14 staterooms were added bringing the total passenger capacity to 793. There is a dedicated smoking room.
All the HAL signature rooms are found onboard - the Explorer's Lounge, Ocean Bar, Crow's Nest, Java Cafe, Wajang Theater, and the Half Moon Room. Situated in the center of the ship's main public deck, the Ocean Bar, with blue leather banquettes tucked under windows facing the Promenade, offers fabulous people-watching. The Queen's Lounge showroom has a new stage with sophisticated sound and light system, with tiered seating assuring good sight lines.
Once having decided to offer two dinner seatings, HAL was able to convert some of the La Fontaine Dining Room into The Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey specialty restaurant, a new Internet Center, the Art Gallery, and the Ocean Bar, complete with bandstand and capacious dance floor. A Concierge Lounge was installed on Lido Deck for the convenience of suite occupants.
The Half Moon Room, with a wonderful sea view, attracts bridge and other card players. The Crow's Nest observation lounge offers a 180-degree view. The Erasmus Library has a huge selection of books, so many on fact that seating is limited causing readers to flow into the nearby Explorer's Lounge. Cruise staff conduct quizzes and games therein by day; by night it becomes a piano bar. The newly refurbished 90-seat Wajang Theater offers first-run movies, while the 12-station Internet center offers an ocean view.
Might-have-been booty-shakers will be disconsolate to learn that Prinsendam has no disco. The casino is one of the smallest on any mid-sized ship at sea, though elegant. Feeling lucky? Try one of the ten-cent slot machines.
Coast Guard regulations preclude the use of its fully functioning fireplace, but it enhances the atmosphere of this wood-paneled, cigar and cognac lounge in the Oak Room, whose warmth actually emanates, not so romantically, from an electric heater.
Overall, Prinsendam offers a wide variety of cuisine with the casual Lido Restaurant on par with the dining room. A flambé dessert is available every night in the dining room, but not prepared tableside. Luncheon buffets include soup, salad, cold buffet, hot meat and fish entrees, carvery, pizzeria, sandwich deli, taco bar, dessert buffet and ice cream bar. Hot dogs and hamburgers are served poolside at the Terrace Grill. 24-hour tea and coffee is available in the Lido.
The Prinsendam also offers its own version of the Java Café coffee bar, which serves cappuccino and espresso.
Room service menu offers continental breakfast, or hot meals, 24 hours/day. All are grandly presented with silverware and doilies on the tray. Afternoon tea is served in the Explorer's Lounge, and an afternoon Dessert Extravaganza in the La Fontaine Dining Room. Tea dances are held in the Queen's Lounge.
The LaFontaine Dining Room is a rearranged, repurposed design from the original version. It has two sections, mid-ship and aft, both with good sea views but aft slightly better. Tables are set with Rosenthal china and white linens. There are two seatings with tables assigned by the cruise lines, however it is easy for the maitre 'd to make re-arrangements after the fact if needed. The Lido Restaurant is open for buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Entrees and pizzas can be made to order. The Terrace Grill, just outside by the pool, offers burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and fries. The reservations required Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey alternative restaurant features Pacific Northwest cuisine and wines. Also on tap are filet mignon, lamb chops and cioppino. There is a $15 per person charge to eat at the Pinnacle Grill.
Prinsendam has the highest ratio of crew to passengers in the HAL fleet. The Indonesian and Filipino staff are warm and gracious, and the cream of the crop are sent to this ship.
While tipping is still optional on HAL ships, "nominal" gratuities of $10.00 per person per day (including children) are automatically added to the shipboard account for dining and stateroom service. The amount can be increased, decreased or removed by visiting the front desk. A service charge of 15 percent is automatically added to bar bills.
The Queen's Lounge's a state-of-the-art sound and light booth adds considerable razzle to the dazzle of the shows it presents -- and make no mistake about its Broadway-style shows having improved almost beyond recognition over the past decade. Each of the cast of seven is a terrific singer and dancer. One caveat: the low ceiling, characteristic of ships built in the 80s, inhibits jugglers and Sousaphone players, but comedians and other musicians seem unperturbed.
Scrabble, chess, monopoly and dominoes all seem popular with Prinsendam passengers, even though there are bridge instructors aboard. Fresh popcorn is served at the Wajang Theater before showings of first-run movies. Prinsendam presents excellent lectures delivered by esteemed experts in various fields. The cruise staff supervise daily games, quizzes and bingo around the ship.
Holland America spent more than $25 million upgrading cabins. Dowdy old draperies and carpets have been replaced with new ones featuring a blue and gold floral pattern. In the bathrooms, new sink units were added and tile and plumbing repaired. New French doors and classic rattan-look furniture were added to verandahs, and the teak decks refurbished. Spacious and handsomely appointed, Prinsendam cabins feature a walk-in closet, refrigerator, hair dryer, phone, locking drawers, and safe. Most bathrooms have a tub as well as shower. The mattresses, pillows, towels and al linens are excellent quality, with duvets on the bed instead of blankets. The in-cabin television features CNN, TNT, movies and programming about the ship and your cruise.
Most cabins have a sitting area with love seat, table and chair, and twin beds that convert to kings. Additional amenities for deluxe cabins and suites include bathrobes, extra-luxurious towels, DVD (and access to the DVD library), personalized stationery, a verandah and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Suites offerings include; deluxe verandah outside (228-238 square feet), large outside (181-191 square feet) and standard inside (128-138 square feet), of which there are only 25. Of the 373 staterooms, 155 have private verandahs. There are eight wheel-chair accessible cabins and three cabins for singles. The 577-square-foot Penthouse Verandah Suite has a whirlpool bath and dining area. Superior Verandah Suites bathrooms feature large tubs and sinks connected by a door to a separate room holding a toilet and sink, which design eases the "getting ready for dinner" rush.
Some of the staterooms, it bears noting, are irregularly shaped, a charming reminder of a more romantic time, when identical staterooms weren't installed as pre-built modular units. There are two self-service launderettes on Main and Verandah decks for those who enjoy a good tumble.
Roman columns, statues, and wall murals adorn the magnificent 4,834-square-foot Ocean Spa on deck 9. A mini-fridge is stocked with chilled towels for those who get themselves all hot and bothered on or with the treadmill, stair machine, stationary bicycles, free weights, weight machines or exercise videos. The Spa has nine treatment rooms, including five for thalassotherapy, and massage rooms for a wide array of European, Middle Eastern and Asian treatments. A relaxation room, sauna and steam rooms, and a full-service beauty salon/barber shop complete the facility. Complimentary exercise, beauty and wellness classes are offered during the cruise.
For those who feel that no cruise would be complete without quoits, shuffleboard, or ping pong, they're all available on the upper decks. The sports court on deck 12 can be used for volleyball, basketball or as a practice tennis court. There's a jogging track around the Sports Deck.
Prinsendam and the Vista-class ships have Holland America's only golf simulators, which allow you to play 22, 18-hole courses, many used for PGA tournaments, in a variety of weather and course conditions. The cozy, wood-paneled Golf Club and Pro Shop has its own lounge area, a nice place to catch up on golf magazines to which you may have allowed your subscription to lapse. Lessons are available from the golf pro, who also leads excursions ashore during the cruise. A large golf cage is located on Sports Deck for driving practice.
A particular treat is the glass-enclosed swimming pool area on Lido Deck with two whirlpools and a swim-up bar.
A dressy ship on formal nights, with many men wearing tuxes; daytime attire is casual.