Sunday, November 18, 2007

Prinsendam Mediterranean Cruise

On October 19, 2007 we boarded a plane bound for Athens, Greece, full of anticipation for the coming two weeks when we would be able to explore ports in the Mediterranean. We had a delayed take-off from JFK airport, but our flight and landing in Athens were uneventful. After we collected our luggage we were met by Holland America representatives, who soon had gathered the people from several flights and led us to our waiting bus. During the bus ride to the port of Piraeus, we were able to see the Acropolis in the distance. That made me wish that we'd been able to spend some time in Athens prior to boarding the ship. We would definitely do that next time. The boarding process went very smoothly, including passport inspection by the Greek authorities.

Of course the first order of business once on board was finding lunch. It was very nice to be back on board a Holland America ship. We were warmly welcomed and started building relationships with some of the crew members immediately. The atmosphere on the Prinsendam (as well as other Holland America ships) was in great contrast to what we encountered on the Norwegian Spirit. The latter was rough going from the start, where the Prinsendam immediately felt like home.

The Prinsendam has
a passenger capacity of 793, making it the smallest of the Holland America ships. With 443 crew members, the ratio of crew to passengers is significantly higher than average, which adds to the pleasant atmosphere. One thing I really liked, that reminded me of being on Celebrity's Zenith (alas, no longer owned by Celebrity), was a wealth of beautiful fruit and vegetable carvings, done by the Lido sous chef. I was quite intrigued by the rear stairwell - the photo included is only one of many I took, trying to capture its essence on film. Our cabin was really nice, also. I don't think it was any larger than what we'd had before, but the shape & arrangement were different, and much more livable. We also had a great walk-in closet with a large supply of real hangers (as opposed to the hotel style where the hanger detaches from a part left on the rod) that was more than enough to accomodate two women with significant wardrobes.

We decided to change from early dinner seating to late seating, and the dining room manager hand picked a table for us. That was an incredible blessing because we were with three couples who were fun, and always enjoyable and interesting to talk to. They were also very generous in sharing their wine with us. Another aspect that made the table a lot of fun is that one of the couples had been on the ship at the same table for the prior cruise, so they had the stewards primed for having a good time with us.

My favorite lounge entertainment was the Rosario Strings group: Evangeline on piano, Jason on violin, and Ariel on string bass. Their music was wonderful, and Jason played Czardas (my very favorite violin piece) as if it were easy - which it is not. I don't think I've ever seen fingers fly so fast before. All three of them were delightful to talk to, as well. It doesn't get much better than that for me. I also enjoyed having the dance hosts on board. Both Wayne & Hamid are excellent dancers
as well as being interesting people.

We had one day at sea before docking in Alexandria, Egypt. While many people opted for a trip to Cairo to see the pyramids, Tina & I decided to catch a cab and go to the Bibliotek in Alexandria. That was a great idea, but we could not get in because security forces were preparing for a visit from President Mubarak the next day. That was a great disappointment, but we did end up having a very interesting cab ride through the city. It was difficult to get our driver to understand that we just wanted to go back to the ship. When we got back we did a little shopping at the bazaar on the dock. The whole atmosphere, especially the traffic, felt very crazy to me, and both of us were glad to get back on the ship.

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