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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and ... Read More
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and better than most. Lots of stops on this cruise. First the positives- Great deal, around 50 bucks per night base price. Great ports. Less structured freestyle dining equals more flexibility in most cases. Crew was excellent for the most part ( some exceptions noted later ), Helpful and Friendly. Check in at Venice was a breeze compared to some other embarkation points we have visited. The Spirit is the oldest ship Norwegian has but is in great shape for her age. Next the Negatives- The food in the main dining rooms(once again Norwegian) was not really up to par. It sees as if they are trying to steer you to their pay, specialty restaurant options which are all very good. We did have dinner in the Bistro, Cagney's and The Italian place on board. All very good- VERY good. Food in the main dining rooms was average at best. Food on the buffet, average at best. Next Negative - On several occasions I felt like some ships personnel had lied to me from the shore excursion desk. We rarely use the ship's shore excursions but since we had never ventured into this part of the world we were curious about getting back safely. We had already made arrangements for some off ship activities (not through the ship) but were still curious about our options. So I stopped in the shore excursion desk on two different occasion to ask some questions. Was told by one young lady on the shore ex desk that Athens Greece had no public transportation available on the days we would be in port so if we wanted to get around, we had to buy their shore excursion. We had heard of similar experiences from other cruisers. Also, on our trip, we had to verify our time many times- for some reason some of the ships people couldn't get the time right. Had this same story again a few days later for a stop in Turkey, shore ex desk people told some areas were not open for tourists unless we booked passage from them as it was a holiday. Perhaps I misunderstood, but we did talk to some other couples with similar stories. I hate to just make the statement that we were intentionally lied to, but it sure seemed that way. After we actually got ashore, a nice 10-12 min walk to the public train station and a 4 euro pp ticket ( all day ) got us easily to the Acropolis sites and back ( this versus 149 pp for a Norwegian tour of the same ). Summary of my story, do your research first, for each and every port, days you will be there, bus & train schedules, locations, etc. and do not completely 'trust' the ship's people to give you advice. Compare notes and ask for second opinions. Now if you have an extra thousand dollars just laying around and don't want to go to the trouble to do an hour of research, then the ship's sponsored shore excursions are for you. Once again about the time, as this cruise does cross a time zone you must triple check your time before you leave the ship and with more than one source. We had a printed daily newsletter stating the ships time change and a loudspeaker announcement with an update and a clock at the front desk showing another time. PLEASE verify the time. On our cruise some passengers were left behind at each and every port ! The time confused staff and announcements may have played a small part. OK next negative- The ports, all are very historic with a lot to see and do. Having this said you should not try to see or do it all. That is not possible and you will stress yourself out. Most of the ports are not exactly close to the sights that most came to see- so a lengthy ride on a bus or train is needed. Example, Florence Italy is a great, MUST SEE city, but it is about 1 HR 20 mins by train from the port. OK - that is 3 hours travel time taken away from your in port time. so don't be fooled by the time in port listed on the itinerary. This is not Norwegians fault that they cant drive the boat that far inland but it must be taken into consideration when you book this cruise. Florence has many beautiful and historic sites so my suggestion is pick one or two must see places and stick to those and spend the appropriate amount of time to enjoy them. Another example is Rome, over an hour inland by train from the port. Rome is a really big city with too much to see in 6 hours, so once again pick one or two things, don't pressure yourself to do it all, because you cant see it all in a week. This is not the fault of the cruise line that the ports are not very close to the sites, but the way it is advertised it can be a little misleading. Please take into account the travel time, distance and costs for these ports before you book this cruise. you will find that you have about half the time available that you think you have. A little tip about money, most European countries use the EURO, Turkey still uses the Turkish Lira. Most places in Turkey will accept Euros or even US dollars but you can usually make a better deal if you travel with the correct local currency. We exchanged money at our home bank BEFORE we left getting EUROS and LIRA. We got a better exchange rate doing it this way versus using the ship or a port side agency. Then when we did make local purchases we were able to negotiate a better price. I estimate we saved about 20% doing it this way. Just watch the exchange rates to make sure the vendors don't un-do your savings. Another tip, I think the Turkish government requires that all ship shore excursions must include a portion of that tour for a hard sell. In IZMIR we were required to sit through a leather fashion show and sales pitch at a leather store- about 40-50 mins of the sore excursion. In ISTANBUL we were required to sit through a carpet demonstration and sales pitch at a carpet store.( once again 40 mins or so ) Purchases are not required but participation is required if you book the shore excursion from the ship. So be prepared if you book an excursion from the ship. Getting off the ship in Barcelona- easy, smooth, trouble free. Plenty of available taxis. We had a taxi for 4 from the port to the airport for 36 EU . The Barcelona is beautiful and wished we had most time to explore. We did arrive 3 days prior to the cruise in Venice and spent a few days getting acclimated to the weather and time change. 3 days in Venice was wonderful. Overall, Norwegian cruises did a good job, We will probably go with them again. If we ever do Italy again it probably will not be on a cruise as the ships cant get too close to the good stuff and you need more time to see it than a one day stop can provide. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
This was our fifth cruise on Holland America, and the longest to date that we have taken. Our previous cruises were a seven day Alaska cruise on the Volendam, a ten day Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam, and 14 day Panama Canal cruise on the ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise on Holland America, and the longest to date that we have taken. Our previous cruises were a seven day Alaska cruise on the Volendam, a ten day Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam, and 14 day Panama Canal cruise on the Volendam, and the 35 day Voyage of the Vikings again on the Maasdam.We are both in our 60's, retired, and very active. We are both avid photographers and take a lot of pictures when vacationing. For example, on this cruise we took over 8000 pictures between the two of us. For this trip we took Amtrak from Washington DC down to Fort Lauderdale, arriving on March 8. We stayed at the La Quinta Inn and was quite pleased with the hotel. Very clean and the front desk staff were very friendly. There is places to eat close by, but it does take about 15-20 minutes to walk there, so a car is nice to have but not absolutely necessary.We had rented a car for our stay, and on March 9 took off and went to Butterfly World. We have been there before, and will probably go back there anytime that we are in the Ft. Lauderdale area. It's a wonderful way to spend part of your day, with hundreds of butterflies flying around. They also have an area with various types of birds flying around. They include many species of hummingbirds, and many other very colorful birds. You can easily spend 3-4 hours there. After that we went to the Flamingo Gardens. The Flamingo Gardens is a non-profit organization that takes in birds that have been injured and can no longer fly or take care of themselves. There are many species there including bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks, owls, and many others. There is also an area where you can actually walk among cranes of all kinds, ducks, pelicans, etc. About two hours is all you really need for it as it is rather small.March 10 we went on an all day trip to the Everglades, with the folks from Eco Safari. They picked us up at the Flamingo Gardens, and drove across the state  to Naples. Along the way we made many stops to see aligators, cranes, hawks, osprey, manatees, etc. Once in Naples, we had a airboat ride, a pontoon boat ride, and a short nature hike. The guide we had was terrific and the day was well worth the price paid.EMBARKATIONWe turned in our car at noon, and was taken to the pier via the rental cars shuttle. Arriving around 12:30 we walked into the terminal and were greeting by Captain Gundersen. That was a first for us. Check in was a snap with no waiting.We had no longer got to the Lido when they announced that the rooms were ready, so we immediately turned around and went to our cabin to drop off our carry on luggage. We were assigned to D334 on Deck 2, the Main Deck. Not bad for an OV guarantee, and we were very pleased. The walk-in closets on Prinsendam are fabulous. It's too bad that when HAL refits their ships or build new ones, they don't put them in all cabins. CABINOur cabin was just outside the atrium, on the starboard side of the ship. Of decent size, perhaps just a bit smaller than what we have had before, but that wasn't an issue. The couch and chair that were in the room should be replaced. They were very uncomfortable because the stuffing was simply old and worn out. Another issue is the placement of the TV. It's in the corner by the window, but very high up. If you sit on the couch you must crane your head up to see it, which becomes very uncomfortable very quickly. Other than that we really didn't have any problem with the room.FIRST ISSUEI had rented a tux from Cruiselineformal for the cruise, and had splurged and upgraded to their better quality tux, and ordered two vests with ties, etc. It wasn't in our room when we got there, but I didn't think too much about that at the time, assuming that our room steward simply hadn't had the time to get it yet.We wandered the ship until dinner, where we met our tablemates for the cruise. After returning to our room my tux still wasn't there. Our room steward wasn't around so I went to the front desk and spoke with Candice, who we became quite close with during the cruise. I explained the situation, and showed her a copy of my order. Well, the bottom line was the tux I ordered and paid $170 for was no where to be found and they offered me a regular tux from their onboard stock. I told them that I would not accept it unless I was completely reimbursed for my original order. I was told that all they could do was either reimburse me the difference between the two (about $50) and give me a regular tux, or cancel my order and reimburse the whole amount but I would not have a tux for formal nights. I decided that we would simply not participate in formal nights and took the full reimbursment. SECOND ISSUEThe first night at sea, my wife got up around 2am and went into the bathroom, to find water on the floor. We quickly discovered that the stool had back flooded and was spilling water over the edge. We called the front desk and someone came down immediately, flushed it and went away after cleaning up the water from the floor. The second night the same thing happened again. It was obvious to me (from my extensive Navy career) the the valve that allows water to enter the bowl had a slow leak and needed replacing. However this seemed to be beyond the maintenance folks knowledge until I explained very carefully what was happening. Finally that afternoon one of the maintenance officers came, looked at it, and a couple of minutes later someone came in, replaced the valve and all was well with the world.ACTIVITIESThere is a lot more of them on a Grand cruise. Besides the usual trivia, bingo, etc., there were Ti Chi lessons, water coloring lessons, kniting classes, and many other activities. There were also the usual dam dollar events which we participated in. That was a great way to meet a lot of people and really get to know them.THE SHIPThe Prinendam is small, holding only slightly over 700 passengers, and for this voyage there were only 637 onboard. It doesn't take long to cover the whole ship. The public areas were very nice, but if you really looked she is showing her age in places. There are only two "shops", one selling the jewelry etc., and the other selling HAL products, some over priced snacks, and booze that will be held until the last day of the cruise. Really nothing special.The theater was very small, but the chairs were the most uncomfortable chairs I have ever sat in. We went to two movies during the cruise and simply couldn't handle any more. After that we waited and saw the movie the next day on the TV if we wanted to see it. The best place on the ship in our opinion was the outside covered section of the Lido. If it's not too breezy, it's wonderful to sit outside while eating your meal. Speaking of the Lido, the starboard side had a coffee pot that was broke our entire cruise, while the other one poured extremely slowly. We found out from some folks that had taken the previous cruise and they said the pot was broken when they went aboard. It seems to me that in that amount of time they could have ordered a new one and replaced it, but that's just my opinion.THE CREWOur room steward was adequate, but nothing to write home to mother about. On several occasions we had to ask for a new floor mat for the bathroom as it was picked up in the morning but never replaced, two other times we called him to come back and finish cleaning because the stool and glasses had not been cleaned. It was simply little irratating things but not enough to ruin our vacation.The front desk folks were fabulous. Always there with a smile, and always willing to go beyond to ensure your every needs were met. We became very close to Chris and Candice and both were the picture perfect HAL employee.The main dining room staff were also great. Our table server Januar was the best we have ever had. Absolutely super. The Lido staff on the other hand seemed to be new perhaps? Their overall comprehension of English seemed to be lacking, and sometimes trying to get someone to take our tray away (YES, THE PRINSENDAM STILL HAS TRAYS IN THE LIDO!!), was impossible. I don't like putting my tray on another table but on occasion I had to.PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONSWhat can I say about the ports. All were everything we thought they would be. Yes we did have a couple of days of rain, but when it did it wasn't that hard a rain and didn't spoil the shore time. We did not take any of the ships excursions, but booked our own with two other couples for most of the ports, or went off on our own.SUMMARYThe Prinsendam is a small ship, and there will be a bit more movement than you might have experienced on other ships. She is old, but has aged well. Some of the furniture is beyond the point of being usable and should be replaced. Overall the crew was top notch with a few exceptions. I have heard rumors that next year will be the last year for the Grand Med and Black Sea Voyage, so if you want to go you better book now. After that it will be there but as segments not a Grand Cruise. Read Less

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