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Found 1,593 results

  1. Cruisemom makes some excellent points about the pros and cons of cruising in a location-rich area such as Europe. Back in June, we were on Prinsendam's final voyage for HAL. That allowed us to visit ports such as Honningsvag, Narvik, and Tromso that would have been much more difficult to reach on a land tour. But that may have been our last cruise in Europe because we are very concerned about the ecological damage cruise ships do. We thoroughly enjoyed sailing in and out of the Bay of Kotor ten years ago. These days, with 450 ships bringing more than half a million passengers, the Bay is an ecological disaster waiting to happen, especially when Montenegro (not an EU country) has lax environmental protections. We hate to see the Adriatic coast go the way of the Caribbean and Southeast Alaska. We think it best not to participate in this degradation.
  2. Cruisemom: Excellent points! This coming April, my wife and I will be spending two weeks of independent travel in the Azores. Although I had always been curious about what the Azores might be like, it wasn't until we took a transatlantic cruise on the Prinsendam that we actually got to go there. We were there only one day (in Horta), but it was enough to whet our appetites for more. I can think of other places we were introduced to through cruises and then returned to for extended land stays (Lisbon, Amsterdam, St. John's Newfoundland, Lima Peru...). We still cruise---we're going on short cruises next month and in December---but after about 25 cruises we've been to most of the places we've truly wanted to see. From this point on, anything longer than two weeks is going to be an independent land-based trip.
  3. After completing her last voyage for HAL on July 1st in Amsterdam, Prinsendam sailed to the Blohm + Voss yard in Hamburg, Germany where she will undergo her conversion to Phoenix Reisen's Amera. Some pics:
  4. My goodness, a fellow "queue hater." DW and I sometimes talk about our "queue avoidance" strategies and I once thought about writing a book about "queue avoidance" techniques. Cruise ships are a perfect place to practice my craft :). Having been a confirmed "people watcher" for most of my life I am convinced that there is a segment of our population who truly enjoys waiting in long lines. Even on HAL we have seen interesting examples of this "line/queue loving" practice. I once came upon a couple who were waiting patiently outside the MDR about 20 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open for dinner. We had a chat and they mentioned they had a Fixed Seating table for 6 with two empty chairs....if we were interested in joining them (we were not). I asked why they were waiting in line when they already had an assigned table and they told us they just like to be first into the MDR. We have also seen this queue loving thing when boarding HAL cruises. On one long Prinsendam cruise we cleared security (at embarkation) and were directed to the priority line for 4-5* Mariners. The line was very long (about 2/3 of the 600 passengers were 4-5*) and moving at a snails pace. Next to us was the regular check-in line which was empty. So we simply walked over to the regular line and were processed within a minute (it would have taken over 30 min in the priority line). One lady actually remarked to her companion "I worked hard to get into this line (priority) and I will not get into the regular line!" Of course we heard this as we were walking past on our way to board the ship (we wonder if that lady is still waiting in line. Hank
  5. I’ve done the pop up several times and yes, as others have said it’s in the Pinnacle Grill and $49 pp (before Mariner Discount). We enjoyed it every time on both the Rotterdam and the Prinsendam. (Prinsendam’s was superb IMO on every occasion.)
  6. It depends on whether the ship is docking or will be tendering. Last time I was there the Prinsendam tendered, while a huge ship was at a new (to me, anyway) dock. If you are docked, then you can go right ashore. If tendering, you may have to wait quite a while from such a large ship.
  7. In the following video you can see a walkthrough of the new Amera, the former Prinsendam. It is in German but I thought that maybe the tour itself could be interesting. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r3pd6eG1SqI
  8. That was the question I asked myself as we boarded in Seattle - the flagship of the fleet, the World Cruise ship, the newly-refurbished almost 20-year old... And I was even more confused at muster drill when I saw a familiar tall figure on the deck with us. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but later on our CD, Bruce, mentioned the opportunity to book a cruise with our Future Cruise Consultant, Sheryll, and I knew I had seen our (multiple) Prinsendam master, Captain Jeroen Schuchmann. (He was on board as a passenger, prior to going for training for the Amsterdam captaincy.) However, I have to say, I don't think Amsterdam will be the new Prinsendam, which was confirmed by Sheryll, who announced that Veendam will be taking over all of the late, lamented Prinsendam's cruises, except for the Kiel Canal, which will no longer be on any HAL itinerary. Amsterdam will be doing a Grand Africa, and the World Cruise, but others will be done by Veendam. Our last cruise - on Prinsendam - was part of a Grand Voyage, so it is difficult to make comparisons. The Amsterdam is beautiful, I think she most reminds me of Zaandam, with a few differences, most of which are probably across the fleet. No orchids in the Lido Market, new bags, no amuse bouche at dinner in the Pinnacle, Club Orange as part of the dining room.....
  9. That was the question I asked myself as we boarded in Seattle - the flagship of the fleet, the World Cruise ship, the newly-refurbished almost 20-year old... And I was even more confused at muster drill when I saw a familiar tall figure on the deck with us. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but later on our CD, Bruce, mentioned the opportunity to book a cruise with our Future Cruise Consultant, Sheryll, and I knew I had seen our (multiple) Prinsendam master, Captain Jeroen Schuchmann. (He was on board as a passenger, prior to going for training for the Amsterdam captaincy.) However, I have to say, I don't think Amsterdam will be the new Prinsendam, which was confirmed by Sheryll, who announced that Veendam will be taking over all of the late, lamented Prinsendam's cruises, except for the Kiel Canal, which will no longer be on any HAL itinerary. Amsterdam will be doing a Grand Africa, and the World Cruise, but others will be done by Veendam. Our last cruise - on Prinsendam - was part of a Grand Voyage, so it is difficult to make comparisons. The Amsterdam is beautiful, I think she most reminds me of Zaandam, with a few differences, most of which are probably across the fleet. No orchids in the Lido Market, new bags, no amuse bouche at dinner in the Pinnacle, Club Orange as part of the dining room.....
  10. I have decided to do a live blog from the Zuiderdam for the 2109 Voyage of the Vikings. I am aware that sansterre has started a live blog of the cruise as well, and I initially had thought to post on that one. But, as I was preparing to post about the first day or so, I discovered that the files I had compiled were numerous, and I did not want to clobber sansterre’s blogs with a very large number of my postings. So, I am doing another blog, as a complementary one to sansterre’s. We no doubt have different writing styles and different interests, and probably will do different things ashore. I used to do live blogs for years, but recently shifted to after-cruise reviews, primarily because of the difficulty and time needed to upload images to photoshop and then import to CC. But, I learned that the new iteration of CC allows me to upload and post directly (once I finally figured out how). So, I will try a live blog again. I found on three previous Viking Passage cruises that the internet connectivity was surprisingly good throughout the cruise, and hope for the same this time. I will catch up if I fall behind at some point. This is a bucket list cruise for us – we have been working our way through our list since I retired in 2016. We, like a lot of us onboard now, originally booked the Rotterdam cruises round-trip Boston that included Greenland and Iceland, but nothing in Europe. When Prinsendam was sold and HAL rearranged the cruise schedules, we were offered a cabin on the Zuiderdam for the VoV, and we leapt at the chance. Here is a map of our itinerary: We, like a lot of us onboard, originally booked the Rotterdam cruises round-trip Boston that included Greenland and Iceland, but nothing in Europe. When Prinsendam was sold and HAL rearranged the cruise schedules, we were offered a cabin on the Zuiderdam for the VoV, and leapt at the chance. More later, Dave
  11. Here is the latest update of the Dry Dock, Charter and Groups file. Please consider this a 'work in progress' which will evolve from month to month. Westerdam is not showing a sailing between 4th January 2020 and 16th January 2020, so she may also be dry docking or maybe a charter. Eurodam is not showing a sailing between November 29, 2020 and December 9, 2020 so again this may be a charter or it may be a dry dock. The file consists of information gathered from the internet or information kindly posted on these threads by other cruisers and should not be considered a complete indicator of group activity. If you have information about groups charters or dry docks then please post here and I will update in the next file. New information is shown in Red DRY DOCKS Amsterdam : 12 May 2020 – 26 May 2020 (?) TBC Noordam : 29 September 2019 – 13 October 2019 : Dry Dock, Victoria Shipyards, B.C. Volendam : 18 – 31 October 2019, Drydock, Freeport, Bahamas. Zaandam : 07 April 2020 – 21 April 2020 : (?) TBC Zuiderdam : 01 – 09 December 2019, Drydock, Freeport, Bahamas. LAST COMPLETED DRY DOCK Amsterdam 28 April 2018 – 10 May 2018 Eurodam 08 April 2018 - 17 April 2018 Koningsdam 02 December 2018 - 09 December 2018 Maasdam 31 August 2018 - 08 September 2018 Nieuw Amsterdam 07 December 2017 - 19 December 2017 Noordam 10 April 2015 - 19 April 2015 Oosterdam 21 March 2018 - 02 April 2018 Prinsendam 07 December 2018 – 15 December 2018 Rotterdam 26 October 2017 - 03 November 2017 Veendam 06 April 2019 – 14 April 2019 (28 March 2016 - 08 April 2016) Volendam 24 November 2017 - 05 December 2017 Westerdam 14 April 2017 - 26 April 2017 Zaandam 02 April 2018 - 13 April 2018 Zuiderdam 23 October 2017 – 04 November 2017 CHARTERS (i.e. full ship charters) Amsterdam: Eurodam: 26 October 2019 – 02 November 2019 : Mexican Riviera : Legendary R & B Cruise 25 July 2020 – 01 August 2020 : Alaska : Gaither Homecoming Cruise 29 August 2020 – 05 September 2020 : Alaska : ??? 05 September 2020 – 12 September 2020 : Alaska : ??? 25 October 2020 – 01 November 2020 : Caribbean : Legendary R & B Cruise Koningsdam: Nieuw Amsterdam: 02 November 2019 – 09 November 2019 : Caribbean : Malt Shop Cruise 09 November 2019 – 16 November 2019 : Caribbean : Faith & Family Cruise 18 January 2020 – 25 January 2020 : Caribbean : Soul Train Cruise 25 January 2020 – 01 February 2020: Caribbean : Country Music Cruise 07 March 2020 – 14 March 2020 : Caribbean : JoCo Cruise Nieuw Statendam: 19 January 2020 – 26 January 2020 : LRBC Blues Cruise 09 February 2020 – 16 February 2020 : RSVP Charter 15 March 2020 – 22 March 2020 : ??? 22 March 2020 – 29 March 2020 : Inspiration Cruises Charter 31 January 2021 – 07 February 2021 : E. Caribbean : Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise Noordam: 14 February 2020 – 29 February 2020 : New Zealand : ??? 12 March 2020 – 19 March 2020 : New Zealand : ??? Oosterdam: 22 February 2020 – 29 February 2020 : Mexican Riviera : All Star Irish Cruise Veendam: 22 January 2020 – 29 January 2020 : Cuba : Olivia Charter (ex Port Everglades) 20 November 2020 – 27 November 2020 : Caribbean : Olivia Charter (ex Tampa) Volendam: 23 April 2020 – 29 April 2020 : Pacific Coastal : Olivia Charter Westerdam: 04 January 2020 – 16 January 2020 : Singapore : Charter? Dry Dock? GROUPS ONBOARD Amsterdam: 04 January 2020 – 12 May 2020 : World Cruise 2020 : Road Scholar Group 26 May 2020 – 06 June 2020 : Atlantic Coast : Knitting Group 25 July 2020 – 01 August 2020 : Canada & NE Discovery : Road Scholar Group 08 August 2020 – 15 August 2020 : Canada & NE Discovery : Road Scholar Group 05 September 2020 – 12 September 2020 : Canada & NE Discovery: Road Scholar Group & Gospel Music Group 19 September 2020 – 26 September 2020 : Canada & NE Discovery : Road Scholar Group Eurodam: 09 November 2019 – 16 November 2019 : Mexican Riviera : Gospel Music Celebration 01 December 2019 – 11 December 2019 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 26 January 2020 – 05 February 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 05 February 2020 – 16 February 2020 : Panama canal : Road Scholar Group 01 March 2020 – 18 March 2020 : Circle Hawaii : Road Scholar Group 18 March 2020 – 05 April 2020 : Circle Hawaii : Road Scholar Group 15 April 2020 – 02 May 2020 : Hawaii : Quilting Retreat Group 06 June 2020 – 13 June 2020 : Alaska : Quilting Group 13 June 2020 – 20 June 2020 : Alaska : Continuing Education Group 15 August 2020 – 22 August 2020 : Alaska : Continuing Education Group 22 August 2020 – 29 August 2020 : Alaska : Quilt Seminar at Sea Group Koningsdam: 13 September 2019 – 24 September 2019 : Ancient Empires : Political (Conserv MRC) Group 06 October 2019 – 18 October 2019 : Med Ancient Empires : Footsteps of Paul/Inspiration Group 04 March 2020 – 15 March 2020 : S. Caribbean : Quilting Group 11 July 2020 – 18 July 2020 : Alaska : Pathway to Victory/Inspiration Group Maasdam: 16 February 2020 – 01 March 2020 : Australia/ NZ : Road Scholar Group 27 April 2020 – 04 May 2020 : Pacific Coast : Knitting Group 04 May 2020 – 18 May 2020 : Alaskan Explorer : Knitting Group 15 June 2020 – 29 June 2020 : Alaskan Explorer : Road Scholar Group 13 July 2020 – 27 July 2020 : Alaskan Explorer : Road Scholar Group 27 July 2020 – 10 August 2020 : Alaskan Explore : Road Scholar Group 10 August 2020 – 24 August 2020 : Alaskan Explorer : Road Scholar Group 24 August 2020 – 07 September 2020 : Alaskan Explorer : Road Scholar Group Nieuw Amsterdam: 11 January 2020 – 18 January 2020 : Caribbean : Mercy Me at sea 08 February 2020 – 15 February 2020 : Caribbean : Gospel Music Celebration 22 February 2020 – 29 February 2020 : Caribbean : Pastor’s Wives/Inspiration Group 29 February 2020 – 06 March 2020 : Caribbean : Phillips, Craig & Dean/Inspiration Group 14 March 2020 – 21 March 2020 : Caribbean : Quilt Retreat Group 28 March 2020 – 04 April 2020 : Caribbean : Continuing Education Group 09 January 2021 – 16 January 2021 : Tropical Caribbean : Mercy Me at Sea Group 16 January 2021 – 23 January 2021 : Eastern Caribbean : Katinas & Kuzins/Inspiration Group Nieuw Statendam: 27 September 2019 – 07 October 2019 : Med Mosaic : Road Scholar Group 07 October 2019 – 17 October 2019 : Med Dream : Road Scholar Group 17 October 2019 – 27 October 2019 : Med Mosaic : Continuing Ed Group/Road Scholar Group 01 December 2019 – 08 December 2019 : E. Caribbean : Continuing Education Group 08 December 2019 – 15 December 2019 : W. Caribbean : The Nation Group 29 December 2019 – 05 January 2020 : E. Caribbean : Turning Point/Inspiration Group 02 February 2020 – 09 February 2020 : E. Caribbean : Continuing Education Group 05 April 2020 – 12 April 2020 : E Caribbean : Continuing Education Group 10 May 2020 – 23 May 2020 : Baltics : Road Scholar Group 07 June 2020 – 21 June 2020 : Voyage of Midnight Sun : Road Scholar Group 05 July 2020 – 19 July 2020 : Voyage of Midnight Sun : Road Scholar Group 19 July 2020 – 26 July 2020 : Norse Legends : Continuing Education Group 30 August 2020 – 13 September 2020 : Baltics : Road Scholar Group 05 October 2020 – 15 October 2020 : Med Dream : Mark Steyn Conservative Group Noordam: 08 September 2019 – 15 September 2019 : Alaska : Road Scholar Group 09 November 2019 – 23 November 2019 : Australia/NZ : Road Scholar Group 18 January 2020 – 01 February 2020 : N. Z. Discovery : Quilting Group 26 February 2020 – 12 March 2020 : Aus/NZ : Knitting Group 14 June 2020 – 21 June 2020 : Alaska South Bound : Road Scholar Group 12 July 2020 – 19 July 2020 : Alaska South Bound : Road Scholar Group 26 July 2020 – 02 August 2020 : Alaska South Bound : Road Scholar Group Oosterdam: 01 September 2019 – 08 September 2019 : Alaska : Continuing Education Group 08 September 2019 – 15 September 2019 : Alaska : Bridge Group 06 October 2019 – 13 October 2019 : Mexican Riviera : UFO Group (large!/ early dining) 06 November 2019 – 23 November 2019 : Circle Hawaii : Road Scholar Group 30 November 2019 – 07 December 2019 : Mexican Riviera : Continuing Education Group 14 December 2019 – 21 December 2019 : Mexican Riviera : Quilting Retreat Group 11 January 2020 – 18 January 2020 : Mexican Riviera : Continuing Education Group 29 February 2020 – 07 March 2020 : Mexican Riviera : Bridge Group 14 March 2020 – 21 March 2020 : Mexican Riviera : Continuing Education Group 18 April 2020 – 25 April 2020 : Mexican Riviera : Flying Leap Vineyards Group 03 May 2020 – 10 May 2020 : Alaska : Continuing Education Group 28 June 2020 – 05 July 2020 : Alaska : Intentional Living Group 26 July 2020 – 02 August 2020 : Alaska: Quilting Group 30 August 2020 – 06 September 2020 : Alaska : Deeper Faith Cruise 24 October 2020 – 07 November 2020 : Australia/NZ : Road Scholar Group Rotterdam: 07 January 2020 – 23 January 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 08 February 2020 – 24 February 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 11 March 2020 – 27 March 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 18 July 2020 – 25 July 2020 : Viking Sagas : Road Scholar Group 08 August 2020 – 15 August 2020 : Viking Sagas : Road Scholar Group Westerdam: 16 August 2020 – 23 August 2020 : Alaska South Bound : Road Scholar Group 30 August 2020 – 06 September 2020 : Alaska South Bound : Road Scholar Group 30 January 2021 – 19 February 2021 : Antartica : Quilting Group Veendam: 28 September 2019 – 05 October 2019 : Canada & N. England : Continuing Education Group 23 May 2020 – 06 June 2020 : Baltic : Knitting Group Volendam: 04 September 2019 – 11 September 2019 : Alaska : Mark Steyn Conservative Group Zaandam: 07 September 2019 – 14 September 2019 : Maritimes & N. England : Road Scholar Group 21 September 2019 – 28 September 2019 : Maritimes & N. England : Road Scholar Group 28 September 2019 – 05 October 2019 : Maritimes & N. England : Joshua Fund (Religious) 31 January 2020 – 22 February 2020 : S. America & Antarctica : Knitting Group 23 May 2020 – 30 May 2020 : Canada & N.E. Discovery : Road Scholar Group Zuiderdam: 15 September 2019 – 27 September 2019 : Colors of Canada & NE. : Knitting Group 10 November 2019 – 20 November 2019 : Panama Canal : Quilting Seminar Group 18 January 2020 – 25 January 2020 : E. Caribbean : Sporthorse Group 26 February 2020 – 08 March 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar Group 08 March 2020 – 18 March 2020 : Panama Canal : Road Scholar /Continuing Education Group 20 June 2020 – 02 July 2020 : European Splendour : Quilt Seminar at Sea 02 July 2020 – 16 July 2020 : Northern Isles : Knitting Group 16 July 2020 – 26 July 2020 : Jewels of the Baltic : Road Scholar Group 27 September 2020 – 07 October 2020 : Canada & New England : Continuing Education Group If anyone has any further information, please post it here and I will include it in the next update. Thanks! E & O.E.
  12. Some months ago, HAL took Ravenna off our itinerary and substituted Rijeka, Croatia. Today, almost a month before we sail on Koningsdam, we got a notification that Rijeka has been removed, Split moved a day into the place of Rijeka, and Korcula, Croatia is now where Split used to be. Korcula is a tender port. So strange. Does this happen often? We only had something like this once, on Prinsendam, when they removed all the stops in Turkey and completely re-jigged the itinerary. But that was understandable, then.
  13. so agree - even on your itinerary it may be marked as tender and you may dock. I can’t name all the ports listed as tenders as 1/2 of them aren’t even on the list. the ports are gone with the loss of the Prinsendam. We docked in Monte Carlo on the Prinsendam while the N Amsterdam anchored and actually rescued/harboured their people on board when the N Amsterdam couldnt’ hold anchor. Fuerteventura created a dock for a ship but no one would try it. Prinsendam did. An unforgettable moment. Loved it when the announcement came - sorry ladies and gentleman, but we can’t tender today. You’ll have to walk off. 😉 A ton of ports where this happened in the past. On the larger ships, most ports are pretty much a tender but that isn’t always the case.
  14. Bolding mine. On Prinsendam I requested tip envelopes (I needed a few more than I brought) and also was given regular #10 envelopes. When I was surprised the staff member told me that is what they use.
  15. We’ve had this happen several times. Twice pre-cruise and the others on the ship. All of the reasons by HAL were “operational” or “improve the passenger experience”. One of the pre-cruise changes was due to the political situation in a country (good move by HAL) and the other 3 were weather related. Really bad weather in the South Pacific so ports were switched up so that the Westerdam could safely load supplies and we would hopefully be able to get to a couple of the islands. The others were due to tides (Bristol) which would have limited our visit and silt in the river (Seville) preventing the Prinsendam from sailing up to Seville. It is a shame that HAL uses “operational” reasons in their messages about itinerary changes. If they were to simply state the issue, I suspect most passengers would understand and appreciate the changes.
  16. Brain surgery (and congrats on your successful one) is part of medicinal help. It’s not an enjoyable experience by any means and comparing it to a cruise is like comparing apples to lemons (forget oranges 😉 ) Cruising on the other hand is supposed to be enjoyable and if one hasn’t the appreciation for it nor listened to passengers then you don’t “get” it. I know OA wasn’t happy when he was on the Prinsendam (I forget if it was a whole day, 2 or 3) and heard from the fans who were willing to pay (and did) a lot more than any other HAL cruise.
  17. People in their 20's and 30's don't use Hal, they use Yahoo lines like NCL, RCCL and Carnival, that's why we don't need a Carnival II. We shook hands with Orlando on the Prinsendam 2 years ago, nice person, but that doesn't make him competent..
  18. Thanks all. Kazu, this thread pales in comparison with the one you did recently on the Prinsendam. I don't know how your posted all you did on that very busy itinerary. After doing this one, I appreciate you and your efforts even more!
  19. We had Norm on the Prinsendam in March. I guess he's had some time off in between contracts...
  20. I see this is where Norm, the former Prinsendam security officer has ended up. A familiar voice. Roy
  21. Last year on the Prinsendam, there were special 4 or 5 course meals for Christmas and New Year's Eve dinners in the Pinnacle Grill.
  22. Excellent and welcome news! I am 99% sure that HAL would have wanted the Volendam to have her drydock before she assumed the Grand South America/Antarctica itinerary of Prinsendam. Sailing on Volendam's Christmas/New Year's Cruise just prior to the South American itinerary, I have been concerned if my cruise would need to be cancelled in order to accomplish the dry docking for Volendam.
  23. The walk in closets are still there, the Amera deck plans show them with plenty of references to walk in closets. The cameraman toured at least two accessible cabins and one of the former Prinsendam AB added cabins that did not have them. As a man, he was not interested in showing the closets. Trident, English is the official language of the staff.
  24. The staterooms look nothing like the old Prinsendam! The bathrooms are the same, but I guess they had to reconfigure the rooms to accommodate the big tv's. No more walk-in closets! (except in the "Neptune" suite) Thanks for the link, whogo.
  25. 2019 Travel Notes, 28 Day Prinsendam Cruise: Norway, Scotland & Ireland (sorry for any typos, got tired of typing, maybe not such a condensed review as planned!) Originally I had not planned to review these two cruises as the Prinsendam is no longer a HAL option. However I realized that many of the ports of call are still visited by other HAL ships so will post the following for those still considering a cruise to these splendid friendly English speaking countries. This was welcomed after so many visits to countries where English is a second language. You might initially argue that Norway is one of those. Later you will see why our experience there says, not so. Four of us, a mini family reunion of sorts, booked this adventure 16 months out which was just before the announcement of the Prinsendam leaving the fleet. Are we ever happy as both two week, back to back cruises, sold out months before embarkation. Fortunately we had direct flights from Orlando-Amsterdam and return. This was the first time we’ve booked tickets with HAL and we were satisfied with the air fare and transfers airport to ship. Before returning to Florida we decided to upgrade to more comfortable seating, which Delta botched for two of us in their computer system. All was forgiven when a short delay checking in at the terminal resolved everything. I could go on for several paragraphs heaping praise on the merits of the much smaller Prinsendam, our first cruise on her, but knowing that many/most of you long time HAL cruisers already sing her praises I’ll just give you my Readers Digest version. Loved the shorter commute distances; noticeably superior service in the Lido; the panoramic views from the Canaletto (thanks KAZU for the tip reserving there on fjord sailing days); proportionally larger library; the separated ½ bath in the Signature Suite and the Front Desk attendants with a ‘we can solve anything’ mind set. Oh my gosh, how could I forget: this ship had TWO yum yum men. Isn’t that unusual, or have I just had my head in the sand before? One was posted, as usual outside the main dining room but there was a second in the back entrance/exit of the Dining Room Annex which we had requested, enjoying quieter dining and improved scenery closer to the windows. Our only glitch was a stateroom noise issue which was solved promptly by switching us to accommodations in a higher category which had not been available when we originally booked. What prompted the change was a simple request for ear plugs. Not only did we get to enjoy the suite life as usual on our Vista Class ships, but without lightening our pockets. Sometimes you just get lucky! And now for the ports of call, once again a condensed version: NORWAY, May 20 - June 2 What wonderful friendly people they are, so pleasant with calm dispositions. We read in a guide book that they are among the happiest people of all countries. Amazingly they almost all spoke perfect English! I asked a coffee shop barista why it seemed like his lack of an accent made me think he was American? His answer was: "Every year of our schooling we are taught English along with our native language." Still it was freaking weird hearing him enouncing every syllable precisely like our English teachers back in the day I when I was enduring read'n, right'n 'n' rithmetic. Actually many Norwegians spoke better English than myself! Something else noticeable from day one: the public spaces, coffee shops, parks, stores, etc. are all populated with an equal number of men as women pushing baby strollers. Actually they are buggy’s, likely because the high sides keep the frigid winds off the infants. When we finally asked why so many men were caring for infants our answer was: In Norway it is mandatory for men as well as women to take time off from work to care for newborns and it is a paid leave. Mothers have 1st cycle home & then fathers care for the baby when the mothers return to work. Their economy, extreme socialism, is very successful; complete opposite as to what FOX news says re the evils ofsocialism. The Norwegian economy, oil based and nationally owned, is so successful that the national wealth fund, not national debt, if divided up between every citizen, would aprx.$1,000,000 each; impressed me! (according to our tour guide, not fact checked by me) Obviously socialism works for them. Also immediately evident: no litter on streets, alleys, anywhere; even in the large cities. To put it in perspective: at our second port of call I saw my sister staring at a spot in front of her on the sidewalk saying, “Look, a cigarette butt.” Immediately the other 3 of us circled around. Finally I said, “Do you realize what we are doing, looking at a butt on the sidewalk as if it is a meteorite from Mars?” That gives you an idea of how much Norwegians respect others space. One of our tour guides told us that nature is revered so much that all land, even privately owned, is considered public domain. Anyone hiking, and that is a big pastime in Norway, is allowed to cross any private property and freely partake of any natural food, fruits, berries, etc., along the walk. Also they are allowed to camp on your land, no questions asked, as long as they stay a respectful ‘x’ number of feet from the dwellings. Bottom line: Norwegians restored my faith in humanity! Wow! those fjords, such magnificent unspoiled beauty. We had been tipped off to dine in the Canaletto Restaurant with it’s 180 degree view back end of the ship on the 4 fjord cruising days. Several months in advance we had reserved the best table there on those evenings ensuring us really spectacular viewing. SCOTLAND, June 3 - 9 The National Botanical Garden in Edinburgh (a 25 minute train ride from the port, Rosyth) was the highlight for me, 60 acres of unparalleled flora and fauna, manicured, but not at all sterile looking. Walking the heavenly woodland area was better than the marijuana highs of my youth. I can only imagine how much it is enjoyed by the elemental kingdom; wee folk, fairies and such. My sister rented a car in three different ports so we could ‘get out of dodge’ into rural areas. I found that refreshing after so much time spent in port cities of the Mediterranean. Did I say refreshing? Driving on the wrong side of road; scary! Traffic Circles are abundant in the British Isles, some delineated only by a solidly painted disk on the road surface. If not astutely observant one would be upon/in it not prepared. A wonder we did not have an accident. Yes, we-got-honked-at! Once when trying to return our rental car to the agency at the port in Stornway we could not figure out how to weave through the confusing opposite traffic flow, so my sister asked me to query a driver leaving his parked bus. He started giving directions but then said, “ I will just get in your car and direct you until you get there.” I said, but how will you get back to your post?” He said, “Oh it’s not far, I’ll walk” Absolutely mind blowing how considerate the people in all the British Isles were toward us. I was blown away. IRELAND, June 10 - 17 We were expecting temperatures noticeably warmer than Norway but temperatures were much cooler than normal this spring. We even had snow one day on the ship approaching an Irish port. Global warming seems to have done a flip flop this year, at least spring wise, in northern Europe. We left the ship in Foynes, rented a car in Limerick, had an overnight stay in Kenmare (charming little town) and caught up with the ship the next day in Cork. Rural Ireland is rustic, serene, simply beautiful, and still unspoiled. Try and venture inland; we loved every minute of it. The highlights were a breathtaking mini van drive up, and a challenging walk the last few hundred feet, to the top of the majestic Sleive Cliffs (tour booked in advanced out of Kellybegs). These cliffs are on the Atlantic Ocean and recede inland meeting at the point of a ‘V”. This narrowing, with the ocean wind, becomes intensified exponentially as the ‘V’ closes. At this juncture a magnificent freak of nature allows folks to climb the last 100 feet or so to the top, but the wind now funneled, is almost hurricane strength. But the view! out of this world! looking down hundreds of feet and across to the cliffs on the other side of the ‘V’. Anyhow we are climbing the last 100 feet up and I’m occasionally blow over! Carolyn and I made it to a huge rock to sit on and looking back down we observed our cousin Judy, 90 pounds if soaking wet, being blown around like a ‘wind sock’ at an airport in a tropical storm. It was crazy funny. Yes she was safe, having left the stone steps, careening up the luxuriant grass hillside, flung hither and yawn, falling, laughing, clawing her way up. Priceless! One of those times in life better than any drugs! Was she ever in any danger? Not a bit. Born and raised on a Kansas farm Judy is as plucky as Dorothy in Oz and has an abundance of True Grit that John Wayne could have only dreamt of. Not a single bruise dared to show up on her limber body. In fact she said, “If we go back I’ll climb even farther including the crest Dead Man’s Path our guide warned us of.” As for myself, twice I had lost my dignity falling flat on my face. I asked my sister, "why the wind did not send you flying?” She replied, “Every time I started to fall I just squatted.’ And then I got it: My Virgo sister, once she squatted on her bodacious booty, mother nature had no choice but to flow around her as if she were a light house firmly anchored, challenging, “Bring it on.” A day later, we tentatively approached Healy Pass, a gut-tightening-precarious drive above an incredibly beautiful valley. I shall never forget it--still trembling, never to forget the many seemingly near mishaps plunging head first across the non existent guard rails into a beautiful long fall but nevertheless certain death. One noteworthy take away of Ireland was some regions of the populace resolutely holding onto the past Protestant Catholic War (‘The Troubles’ is their moniker) which lasted thirty plus years. Even though peace was made about 20 years ago they still have huge walls, reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, dividing neighborhoods. Gigantic political murals are prominent in a great deal of the most severely conflicted areas of Belfast. It’s almost as if they let it all go they fear loosing something of their heritage. My niece has a Disney movie wherein the lead character repeatedly sings, ‘Let it go.’ Guess the Irish did not see it. Don't miss the Titanic Museum close to the dock in Belfast. We misjudged the extent of it's fabulous displays and had to cut short our fascinating well spent time there. Although the museum was almost within spitting distance from our ship it was not walkable due to the dock configuration. A much better value than booking the HAL excursion was to take the shuttle into town and get on a city bus for the short 10 minute ride back to the museum. Easy peasy. GUERNSEY A British Commonwealth island, was an unexpectedly pleasant stop before ending our cruise in Amsterdam. After tendering ashore we got on a city sponsored tour bus at the end of the dock and enjoyed a 90 minute tour with commentary of the island for only 10 pounds; great value. In all of my European travels this trip stood out, as far as the welcoming from the populace. Possibly it was because we are all more so kindred spirits (English ancestry) but Norway refuted that. Perhaps their comradery results from living more rural in the north, isolated from the tribal elbow rubbing of the close quarters in mainland Europe. There are still lots of open spaces in the Green Isles; harder to come by in the intensely populated cities of mainland Europe. Would I like to go back? Yes, but right now we are catering to ‘our Italian Joe,’ fast approaching 80, so the four of us are looking at Northern Italy early October 2020. There we plan to spend 10 days in an iconic villa, returning to Florida on a 27 day cruise originating in Barcelona, shamelessly pacifying my cruise fix! c'est la vie, Chuck & Joe
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