Updated: Aug 1, 2019
MY VERY LENGTHY POST ON PRINSENDAM'S FINAL VOYAGE...
A BIG SEND OFF FOR HOLLAND AMERICA
SATURDAY JUNE 15 - Miami to Amsterdam...
Miami, FL USA / Up at 4AM, there is work to do. I'm 98% packed. As I await the sunrise, it's just my camera gear and computer to pack...and the final details around the house. I'll order my LYFT ride to the airport just 10 minutes away as soon as my travel-mate arrives which she does promptly at 8AM. We'll fly from Miami to Chicago for a four hour layover and lift off at 6PM for our nine hour flight to Amsterdam. Prinsendam is in sight and in mind of the hearts of her loyalists, guests, staff and crew, who love this 800 passenger iconic ship. The final itinerary (WOW) :
14 DAY NORTH CAPE & GEMS OF NORWAY EXPLORER
June 17 Amsterdam
June 18 Cruising
June 19 Stavanger
June 20 Alesund
June 21 Trondheim
June 21 Trondheimsfjord
June 22 Arctic Circle
June 23 North Cape
June 23 Honningsvag
June 24 Tromso
June 25 Narvik
June 26 Cruising
June 27 Geiranger
June 27 Geirangerfjord
June 28 Flaam
June 28 Sognefjord
June 29 Bergen
June 30 Cruising
July 1 Amsterdam
This is not my first date with Prinsendam...Last year, I joined her twice - first for her TransAtlantic crossing in October from Lisbon to Ft. Lauderdale and again for a short six day jaunt to the Caribbean in December. The primary purpose for these voyages was to acquire photos for my second book, "A Tribute to Prinsendam, Elegant Explorer" (and of course to sail on her for the first time.) As witnessed by this web site, you may have noticed I'm obsessed with ships, the oceans and travel - it's a spiritual thing. For my complete review of Prinsendam, go here.
17 JUNE / DAY 1 - Made it !!! WELCOME ON BOARD
Seemingly, many of the passengers were on the previous cruise (British Isles) so check in took all of about 3 minutes (ok, 8.) Boarding was at 1PM and entering Prinsendam was like visiting an old friend.
Stateroom 104 - the very first balcony on Upper Promenade, Deck Nine forward port side features a bonus-sized balcony thanks to the ships design. Grabbed a quick bite at the buffet and reacquainted myself with the ship. Noticed a keen logo being painted on the ship's hull, aft base of the mast and foc'sle: PRINSENDAM-2002-2019. Mid ship's pool was a delight and so was the weather. Clear blue skies - about 75 F. Dinner at 7:30pm, web work and downloaded my first batch of photos from the previous 24 hours. SUNSET: well, it's now 12:45AM and I saw a glimpse of the sun just about an hour ago...that will soon change as we head north. Until tomorrow, the 18th / DAY 2, it's bedtime. JD
18-19 JUNE / DAYS 2 & 3 - SEA DAY AND STAVANGER
What a glorious trip on a great ship this is...our first sea day was splendid. Sunshine and warm temps kept the lido deck alive. Captain Albert, a long time Master of Holland America Line's ships delivered his first of three presentations. The series first brought us up to speed on the history and birth of Prinsendam folowed by her evolution through Royal Viking Line, Cunard, Seaborn and finally Holland America Line. Some great photos of her during construction in Turku, Finland and how little she has changed since her delivery in 1983 were featured.
On to Gala Night and some tasty beef tenderloin followed by watermelon sorbet. I only eat beef when I sail so it was a treat. JP, the Maitre'D and I had a chat and discovered that he lived in the same building in Miami. Talk about a small world. No shows for me, in fact, most of my evenings are spent working on my design and marketing projects for clients. I travel with a computer and a hard-drive - many of my clients have no idea where I am. The digital age is great, thank you WIFI.
Now for the sunset - about 11:53 PM !
What I didn't see when I took the above photo, and what you can only see in a photo, is the wind-farm. In a few days, we won't witness a sunset...the Arctic Circle is on the horizon. We watched the sunrise as it set.
Sailing into STAVANGER around 7:00AM on the 19th was exciting. My second visit to this Nordic port - picturesque and vibrant with a Starbucks of course. I asked the server how is it so many young Norwegians speak English so well. I though the girl was from Portland Oregon. Besides English in school, many of the younger generation stays in tune with American TV. Fascinating- in an attempt to learn Spanish living in Miami, I tune into Latin channels. Doesn't work for me.
As the day progressed, lack of sleep wore me down and a lengthy nap prevented me from Captain Albert's second installation of Prinsendam. I'll be catching it on TV tomorrow since the life and times of Prinsendam are the essence of this voyage as well as the distribution of my book "Prinsendam, Elegant Explorer", gifted to every guest, staff and crew member on board. Savoring the journey we are, minute by minute.
Tomorrow the 20th, we land in Ålesund, a bustling town, that is situated between mountains and the ocean. The town is Norway's fisheries capital, and one of the world's largest export harbors for dried cod. Ålesund is renowned for its Art Nouveau buildings.
20-22 JUNE / ALESUND, TRONDHEIM AND THE ARTIC: HONNINGSVAG
We docked in Alesund next to Windstar’s Star Breeze and in the shadows of Mein Schiff 9’s stern. Sailing in through the bay into this port was yet another discovery to a new destination.
We’re slowly climbing north, the sun setting a bit later, rising a bit earlier. Alesund portends what a true Scandinavian town is. I lost my mouse and was on a mission to acquire a new one and headed out to Alesund Data, a computer shop referred to me by a friendly security guard at the pier’s gate. Strolling through town I realized the love Norwegian’s have for interior design and clothing. While some of the shops target tourists, many were filled with the great stuff Scan design represents. Simple, unpretentious well-made fixtures, furniture, gadgets and appliances.
There are also stores (throughout Norway and Europe) that have the neatest nick knacks; not touristy – rather slick stuff that makes every-day life simpler. The catch with these shops is they’re designed so one must walk through the entire confines in a maze-like fashion ending up at the cashier. The only way out is to view every item in the store. Brilliant concept.
Prinsendam and its crew never fail to amaze me. In fact, all of Holland America Line’s crew relentlessly yet effortlessly seem to be happy people. It’s 4:15am. I’m writing this in the Lido sipping coffee with my headphones on. The early shift is setting up - waving at me with smiles. Did I mention it’s 4:15am? You just can’t train people to be this kind, so jovial.
Speaking of the morning, we’ve just crossed the Arctic Circle: 6AM.
On the 21st, we ported in Trondheim. A somewhat quiet city which burned down decades ago to be rebuilt into is more a center for commerce than a tourist destination; just fine by me. I hopped on a train which I do frequently and headed in any direction for an hour at which point I reverse direction transiting back to my origination. A great way to experience everyday life in a city unknown. It’s cheap, just $9 for an injection of every-day life in Trondheim or any new city. This little jaunt took me up through the Trondheim Fjord well past the city and to the airport featuring some great architecture.
We sailed promptly at 5PM heading back to the North Sea through Trondheimsfjord. The clouds and intermittent rain dissipated and once again, the sun did its magic as it does every day around 8PM barely setting at 12 midnight. Tomorrow, the Arctic and our arrival at Honningsvag.
Prinsendam is magical yet this voyage is bittersweet. After this cruise, I will have sailed close to 8,000 miles on her including my Transatlantic crossing and Caribbean cruise last fall and winter. As we venture north and the days accumulate, we all know this is Prinsendam’s last voyage with Holland America Line. The ports are great – hell, we’re going to nearly the top of the world (our heading is 005). The real essence and appreciation of Prinsendam exude from this exotic experience to the top of the world. I live for ocean travel where the journey is the destination.
This little ship has a funk. Most of her interior remains unchanged from her previous life – well before Holland America acquired her in 2002. The moment I stepped on board on the 17th, I felt at home. Holland America Line’s continuous enhancements include great bedding, Lincoln Center, Pinnacle Grill, Elemis bath products and the likes resulting in an eclectic fusion of the best of all worlds. This is the sad part of it. As I wandered back to the ship yesterday with Prinsendam in sight I pondered as to when I would sail on her next – and then I woke up. Never again as Prinsendam. She will be missed.
As the sun pierces through the windows of Lido Market a few fellow guests mosey in to grab coffee, read their kindles or just watch the ocean pass. It’s closing in on 7AM…time passes with such ease at sea with nothing in the world to worry about. Right now, I’m as far away I can be, literally from anything important. The North Sea is churning a bit today. Six-foot swells add a comfortable roll to the ship. The top of the world is in on the horizon. Life is good.
June 24th – Honningsvag, Arctic Circle. The sail into Honningsvag took us about five hours from the North Sea. The morning started out cloudy with some drizzle, this would soon change. At Noon, we were tied up under crystal clear blue skies.
Not a cloud in sight. A stiff breeze and cool temps brought to life where exactly we were: it was the Arctic. Most of everything is closed on Sundays. However, a few of the cafes and most of the souvenir shops were open. I stopped at the King Crab Café for a cappuccino after a couple of hours of wandering through this Arctic village. There was a bluff that sheltered the haborwhich I ventured out to capturing Prinsendam and Hurtgruten’s Nordkapp.
These ships are scattered throughout Norway running freight and mail to the local towns with at times, two stops a day. The company has evolved into a full-fledged cruise operation with new ships being launched and itineraries to far away EXTREME destinations.
I wonder what brings anyone to live in such a remote locale. Not to criticize, but it’s a form of isolation that takes courage and an ability to withstand conditions which would test anyone’s inner strength. Essentially dark for half of the year, light for the rest, the time clock associated with what we associate ourselves with is just the beginning of an altered lifestyle. The few people I met were not of Norwegian origin. Awkward.
The day in Honningsvag was life changing. I’ve been to Norway, in fact just a month ago, but never this far north. I learned about the two poles and the Arctic Circle in elementary school. Past that, perhaps a show on fishing in these regions, or iron ore that’s carried from Narvek to consumers of this raw material (I think the Discovery Channel had a show featuring a “Mighty Ship” which executed this demanding year-round journey.) Me, the Arctic? I never imagined…it’s as close to going to the moon I’ll probably ever get and frankly not that far off.
The photos are nice. The experience: priceless. A fellow passenger told me one of the locals he met said the day was an “ice cream day.” So pristine the weather was, it was deserving of a scoop of ice cream.
We sailed at 7:50PM, a few minutes early with all accounted for. I just can’t craft the right words for what this 23rd of June, a day in Honningsvag, stood for or meant – it was mesmerizing, inspiring and too short. Next: TROMSO and NARVIK....
On the 26th, Wednesday, we have a sea day featuring a presentation of my photography and my book. Prayers and thanks for this wonderful opportunity Holland America Line has afforded me.
This will be the wrap up - my last words on this amazing voyage. The book presentation went without a hitch (not bad for my first-ever) and included a 10 minute intro to who I am followed by 200 slides of my photos from the SS Rotterdam to the eight other Holland America ships I've sailed on...ending with several new photos of the Prinsendam including those from the ports visited on this final voyage.
The fjords of Norway are beyond description -
After Geirangerfjord, then Sognefjord and Flam, the end of this epic journey was in sight with our final port stop in Bergen. I met a friend and toured the city ending up the funicular which whisks one up to the top of Mount Fløyen. Got some great shots then walked down after realizing the line to ride down was five times that of the line to ride up. The walk was a journey in itself winding down some 1,000 feet to the city center where I picked up some last minute nick knacks, had a coffee and headed back to the ship.
Some interesting ships were in port; TransOcean (CMV) Vasco de Gama (formerly Holland America Line's Statendam) and Ocean Majesty, a 1966 built ferry turned cruise ship operating under a German tour operator. The weather turned nice and sunny (rare as Bergen is one of Europe's wettest cities) as we headed out under two bridges and out to the North sea heading towards Amsterdam.
My friend told me Bergen is more of a rambunctious city compared to the rest of Norway which says a lot since most of Norway is rather serene and calm. I will say the streets were lively with lots of interaction among both locals and tourists. The city of Bergen is 1,000 years only. Talk about history.
JUNE 30: SEA DAY, OUR FINAL PRINSENDAM DAY
A wonderful sunrise (one of the first since it really never got dark) opened the day with mixed emotions. First, the ship's company and guests had all become very tight - bonding would be the word. Hugs and kisses were everywhere akin to a last day at summer camp, or the end of a school year but this was the end. The finale. FIN - Prinsendam would be no more and we all knew it. This final sea day was also a special day - an event took place I will never forget. I sat next to Prinsendam's Captain and the Fleet Captain (Albert) which each co-signed my book, "A Tribute to Prinsendam, Elegant Explorer". I expected a few souls to show up. After one and a half hours, we had signed over 300 books in Explorations Cafe. Looking back to last fall when I boarded Prinsendam for her Transatlantic with cameras in hand, I had no idea any of this would come to fruition.
We docked promptly in Amsterdam on the 1st of July. Red Tag 3, I disembarked through a mob of crew and staff applauding us all as we exited the ship pierside - in tears. Talk about savoring the journey. Priceless...
Thank you Holland America Line, Prinsendam and my higher power for this life-changing gift. Journey on...
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