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Andrea Davison

Age: 60

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 15

Cruise Line: Holland America

Ship: Prinsendam

Sailing Date: 2009-09-20

Itinerary: Black Sea

The Prinsendam is a wonderfully elegant smaller ship. It's used by HAL to cruise around the world and as such, the service was excellent, the food was delicious (some of the best we've had in recent years). Everything was just as it should be. Because it's small, it's easier to see familiar faces, make new acquaintances and feel part of things. The cruise director was outstanding; a middle-aged professional who told a great joke, mingled with the passengers and did a super job of finding good talent. We met people who had been on the ship for weeks and weeks and all had only good things to say. I would not hesitate to book a cruise on this ship, in fact, I would highly recommend it, particularly if you enjoy old style cruising and won't miss a 10 story atrium and glitz and glitter.

The food was excellent. Everything was done exactly as it should have been. My friends and I thought since this ship is used for the world cruise, Holland was careful to put in a great chef, myriad choices and excellent quality food. The Lido also was the same quality, although with fewer choices. We chose anytime dining, but found a waiter and busboy, Asep and KuKu from Bali, who were delightful and attentive. After 2 nights requesting them, for every dinner, there was a table in their area waiting for us, regardless of the time we showed up. Only one night of 14 did we have to wait for 10 minutes until other people finished. Never had to request more iced tea or another cappuccino, it appeared automatically. Wonderful!!

The outside stateroom was standard for Holland America: good pillow top mattress, love seat and table, flat screen TV with one large exception - the bathrooms were totally new. The sink and tub had a glass tile surround, brand new sink, new shower-head, full bath tub, and lots of room. I also had a walk-in closet with loads of shelf and hanging space, a safe, an umbrella to use and a shoe basket in case I wanted my shoes shined. I usually book a balcony, but since this is an older ship, they are at a premium and quite pricey. I found this cabin to be just fine, although at times, I had to turn down the air conditioning: it was very cold.

Activities were pretty standard, although limited in some ways because it is a smaller ship. The entertainment was very very good. Seven singers and dancers provided production shows that were excellent. The other talent, singers, comedian and magician were good. The Culinary Arts Center provided a good number of programs during our 2 weeks, the theater showed first run movies, also playing in the stateroom the next day, and there was even a certificate-earning simulated dip in the Black Sea at the pool one day. Also I like the Walk for the Cure one morning that raised money for Susan Komen Breast Cancer charity. There was plenty to do for a small ship, but not the amount of activity that is found on the larger ships.

Don't miss the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon Turkey. It's one of the "I can't believe I'm here" moments not to be missed. Also the full day tour of Istanbul is excellent. Stay very far away from a "Stroll through Sochi". Everyone on that tour had their money fully refunded because it was so bad. I went to Stahlin's dacha in the afternoon in Sochi which was interesting, but Sochi was not my favorite port. Also, in Sinop, Turkey, we took a tour that brought us to a lovely fjord and an archeological museum with wonderful artifacts, but no English annotation. We enjoyed it anyway, but would have liked to have known more of what we were seeing. Also, get ready in Turkey for toilets that are holes in the floor surrounded by porcelain. The women all managed with a smile.

My friends and I agreed that if this was not our best cruise, it was definitely at the top. The intimacy and quality of the ship, the very unusual ports and the smiling faces we met everywhere made the trip stand out. There were 27 nationalities on board, so we met and spent time with people from all over the world - in some cases, even if there was just enough language between us to get by. Some of the ports were less well-known, but, with the exception of Sochi, Russia, fascinating. In the small port of Sinop, Turkey, we were walking the streets and a man in a wheelchair, in broken and halting English, smiled and said, "Hello! Welcome to my country." It was one of those moments that makes you remember why you travel. Or the pharmacist in Trabzon who gave me aspirin for free because I had no more Turkish lira, even though I tried to give her euro or dollars. Or meeting the First Lady of the Republic of Georgia since we were the largest ship to ever sail into Batumi. Go on this ship, and take this itinerary, you will not be disappointed!

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