Fond farewell to the Prinsendam

By Jean Byers
This item appears on page 24 of the July 2020 issue.

It was my privilege to sail on the final Holland America Line (HAL) cruise of the MS Prinsendam*, the “14-Day Norwegian Fjords Explorer,” June 17-July 1, 2019, round trip from Amsterdam.

I sailed with my nephew’s wife and her 20-year-old son. She and I had a Signature Class cabin, and her son had an interior cabin.

Just three months earlier I had taken another cruise with Holland America Line, or HAL (855/932-1711,, the “14-Day Australia & New Zealand,” staying in a Neptune Suite on the Noordam. There was no comparison. Our cabin on the Prinsendam was far superior to my suite on the Noordam.

The Prinsendam’s cabin had a tub bath, a water closet with a second sink, a walk-in closet, a desk with a refrigerator, a curved sofa, a TV, and twin beds with a second desk. The wood-finished veranda had a table and two chairs with ottomans. Our cabin may have had fewer square feet than the Neptune Suite, but because it was laid out so logically, it was infinitely more efficient.

The whole ship was beautiful, with etched glass, beautiful woods and, as on all HAL ships, artwork — all evoking luxury sailing from another era. It had the feeling of having been made by people who loved the sea, not a designer intent on packing as many people on board as possible. 

Everyone aboard, from the cabin stewards right up to the captain, seemed delighted to be there and went out of their way to make us feel this ship was special. One of our dinner waiters made a rose for me out of a paper napkin right before my eyes. At a ceremony, I also received a bronze medal for 100 hours of sailing aboard HAL ships, followed by a special Mariners’ lunch.

Because of the smaller size of this ship (669 feet), we were able to sail from Amsterdam instead of Rotterdam. We enjoyed the leisurely cruise down the North Sea Canal to the sea, which we reached at sunset.

On any HAL ship, when passengers return from a shore trip, they’re offered water and hand sanitizer. Whenever we returned to the Prinsendam, we were met dockside with not only water but hot chocolate and smiling faces. It seemed special. Maybe having one crew member for every two passengers made it more like family. 

The Prinsendam could hold 835 passengers. I’ve been on several of the larger HAL ships, and, even though they’re still considered “mid-size,” they are too big for me. Lines for everything!

Describing all of the ship’s shore excursions I took would fill up this magazine, but I was happy with the ones I chose. Several experiences stood out: seeing fresh king crab caught before our eyes, cooking by campfire in a lavvu tent, having fresh brown cheese at the Herdal goat farm, and visiting the Skjomen Golfpark.

Memories that were not part of the ship’s excursions included walking around in Honningsvåg, where we saw peonies in a market, and eating the best meal at Brasserie Posten (Geirangervegen 4; in Geiranger — farm-to-table lettuce, cheese, eggs and olive bread. We were blessed with good weather, so the excursions were easy.

I especially enjoyed the lectures by a former captain of the Prinsendam, Captain Albert Schoonderbeek.

At the end of the cruise, everyone received a certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle, a book of photos of the ship, and a boxed set of six plates with paintings of the ship. (Yes, we made room in our luggage for them.)

Sailing on the Prinsendam was a privilege. The experience I had on this cruise was the way I believe sailing SHOULD be!

Burbank, CA

*The “Prinsendam” was sold in 2018 to the German cruise company Phoenix Reisen ( [in German only]), who leased the ship back to Holland America Line so they could finish out their cruise schedule. In July 2019, the ship officially joined the Phoenix Reisen fleet and was renamed MS “Amera.” Its first sailing with Phoenix Reisen was a North Sea cruise that embarked from Hamburg on Aug. 16, 2019.