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Ship Visit to PRINSENDAM
(Holland America Line)

Tilbury - 23rd July 2010

Report by MARK CORNFORD

All images ©1992 or ©2010 Mark Cornford unless noted otherwise

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010Mark Cornford


     
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN at Villefranche in 1992

ROYAL VIKING SUN
ROYAL VIKING SUN in Cunard colours

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM at Southampton




ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Stella Polaris Room in 1992

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Crow's Nest




PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - The Bridge

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - The Bridge

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Captain's Day Cabin




PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Titus Suite

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Eriksson Suite



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Garden Cafe in 1992

ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Garden Cafe in 1996 with current chairs

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Lido Restaurant



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - pool in 1996



PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Java Bar & Cafe

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Explorer's Lounge

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Explorer's Lounge



PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Wajang Theatre

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Shop

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Explorations Cafe/Library



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Norway Lounge in 1992




PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Ocean Bar

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Pinnacle Grill



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Dining Room in 1992

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - La Fontaine Dining Room



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Lido Deck

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Lido Deck



ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Atrium in 1992

ROYAL VIKING SUN - Photo: ©1992 Mark Cornford
ROYAL VIKING SUN - Midnight Sun lounge in 1992



PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Fitness Centre

PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Neptune Lounge

PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM at Tilbury

It is always a thrill to go on a ship visit, but all the more so when you have the opportunity to revisit a ship you have cruised on in the past. In this case though, that thrill became an honour, because this visit was at the specific invitation of the ship’s Master, Captain Albert Schoonderbeek, who would also personally conduct our tour. Where possible, images of both Royal Viking Sun and Prinsendam have been shown for comparison.

Holland America Line’s Prinsendam began her life in 1988 as Royal Viking Sun for the prestige Royal Viking Line and she was consistently the highest rated cruise-ship in the world for a number of years. At 37,845grt and just 740 passengers, she was exceptionally spacious and provided single-sitting dining of just about the highest standard available at sea at the time.

Regrettably, quality seldom comes without a cost and unfortunately, it was Royal Viking Line that ended up bankrupt, having failed to make enough money out of their flagship. She was operated under the same name by Cunard Line for a time but they did not succeed either and when Cunard became part of the Carnival Group, she was re-assigned and re-marketed as Seabourn Sun. However, it was not until 2002, when she was switched to another of Carnival’s brands, Holland America Line, that she found a more comfortable and successful place as the Line’s Prinsendam, or the 'Elegant Explorer', as she is now affectionately called.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Crow's Nest

We began our tour in the Crow’s Nest on Deck 12 forward. This used to be called the Stella Polaris Room after the lovely Norwegian coastal steamer of 1927, of which there used to be a model behind the bar. Sadly, it was no longer there; neither was the great ship’s wheel and harp that once graced the centre of this lounge. Instead, a piano and a rather tiny dance-floor seemed to emphasise the void. Although this lovely room has a wonderful 180-degree view of the sea, in my view, it now lacks a focal point and I must confess that my first feelings were a kind of wistful sadness for times I spent here in the past.

I soon cheered up though, when I discovered the original model of Royal Viking Sun on the main landing outside the lifts on Deck 11. Captain Schoonderbeek was at pains to point out that Holland America Line have no wish to conceal the ship’s past and indeed they celebrate it; she has, after all, a highly respectable pedigree.

I was even happier when I discovered the missing model of the steamer Stella Polaris in a display cabinet of the new Neptune Lounge, an exclusive lounge for guests travelling in the suites and deluxe verandah staterooms. This used to be officers’ accommodation, so heaven knows where the Chief Engineer sleeps now!

PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
Captain Albert Schoonderbeek on the bridge

Being conducted by the Captain, we were given the added treat of visiting the Bridge – in these days of excessive security, such things are a rarity and it was nice to have some of the technical stations and details explained by the man in charge! It was while we were there that the veteran motor vessel Balmoral came up river and passed us. I think we all felt rather like royalty, waving to the humble day-trippers from the ship’s starboard Bridge wing!

More royal treatment was in store for us, as we were then ushered into the Captain’s Day Quarters, a substantial room for such a small ship but one which the Captain uses for private parties for his special passengers.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Titus Suite

Up on Deck 12 is the penthouse, the Titus Suite; at 724 sq ft, it is the largest suite on the ship and used to be called the Owner’s Suite. There are also 18 Deluxe Verandah Suites on Decks 11 & 12, somewhat smaller but no less luxuriously appointed.

When the ship was designed in 1988, her standard cabins were considered at the time to be larger than average and much more luxuriously appointed. All have walk-in closets instead of wardrobes and over half of them have baths rather than the more usual shower-only configuration. And while slightly fewer than half of them have balconies, today, 22 years on, they still rank as better than average amongst the standard cabins on most modern cruise ships.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Lido Restaurant (previously the Garden Cafe)

At this point, lunch beckoned. This was taken in the Lido Restaurant, aft on Deck 11. With its fine view of the sea, this self-service restaurant has changed little since its days as the Garden Café; even the furniture is the same. However, it has now been enlarged into the area that used to be the once-exclusive Royal Grill on the port side, to accommodate the larger number of passengers using the Cafe these days. In addition, the enlargement of the Fitness Centre on the deck below has created a canopied Lido Terrace, with stunning views off the stern of the ship.

In the enlarged Fitness Centre below, I couldn’t resist reminding the Captain how, in choppy seas, Royal Viking Sun used to regularly tip the contents of the pool down the aft decks, in a cascading chlorinated waterfall! The relocating of the pool further aft, in order to enlarge the Fitness Centre may have improved the facilities but it cannot have helped alleviate this little idiosyncrasy.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - pool aft

It is in fact at the stern that the ship has been significantly altered. Aft on the Upper Promenade Deck, there used to be the Midnight Sun Lounge but this was lost in 2002 with the creation of 8 new balcony staterooms and 2 unusual Lanai staterooms facing aft onto the open deck. Earlier this year, however, the covered deck was completely filled-in and another 21 balcony staterooms created. It is unfortunate that this has rather “squared-off” the ship’s rather lovely terraced after-decks but her overall profile is nevertheless still quite an attractive one. The remainder of the Upper Promenade Deck is given over to public lounges etc. The layout is much as it was but the various spaces have been restyled and redecorated under Holland America Line. The Casino has changed little, while its adjacent Wine Bar is now the Java Bar & Café. The lovely little Oak Room study is still there, with its artificial fireplace, but it is thankfully no longer the sole domain of the ship’s cigar-smokers.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Oak Room

The Explorer’s Lounge is now an even more comfortable room than it was as the Compass Rose Room, with its fascinating circular staircase down to the Restaurant. However, the room now has a huge faux-antique Dutch naval painting gracing one wall, giving the room a distinctly maritime feel.


PRINSENDAM - Photo: ©2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Explorer's Lounge

One of the most significant things I noticed about the recent restyling of the ship was, in fact, the glorious collection of art throughout. Much of it evokes a nautical or aquatic theme, as in the case of the stunning etched Bolle glass sculpture now in the Atrium, its fibre-optic lighting serving to emphasise the graceful turtles, fish and dolphins in its form. In more traditional style, though, is an impressive collection of paintings of Holland America Line ships by marine artist Stephen Card, on the various landings of the aft stairway.

The tiny Starlight Theatre, hidden away in the middle of the Upper Promenade Deck has now been reinvented as the Wajang Theatre & Culinary Arts Centre, where passengers may now be entertained with live interactive cooking demonstrations, when the room is not being used to show films on its small video screen.

The ever-present shops and photo-gallery are a compulsory part of cruising life and things are no different here. However, where there used to be a card room, there is now the Explorations Café & Library. Now an impressive room, its well-stocked bookshelves are watched over by a full-time librarian and your coffee can be enjoyed while reading in one the room’s sumptuous leather chairs as the sea passes by outside.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Showroom at Sea

Forward on this deck, what was once the Norway Lounge is now the Showroom at Sea, the ship’s main entertainment lounge. Unlike on larger, more modern ships, there is no Show Theatre as such and so the productions that can be put on here are scaled down. Indeed, the room is slightly smaller than it used to be because the stage has been moved forward to provide better backstage accommodation. Nevertheless, this is still a lovely large, bright room with a raked floor, good sightlines and a rather stylish 80’s retro look about its décor.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Ocean Bar

Below is the main Promenade Deck. When the ship was built in 1988, this was, rather unusually at the time, the location for Royal Viking Sun’s massive single-sitting restaurant, comprising three separate dining rooms and which, with their enormous galley, took up nearly 70% of the space on this deck. With the change to two restaurant sittings and the loss of both the aft Midnight Sun Lounge and the Royal Grill up on Deck 11, it is hardly surprising that the large midships Dining Room has now been redesigned into a new lounge, the Ocean Bar, a relocated card room, the Half Moon Room and a new a la carte restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill. Today, it all looks and feels so natural that you would think it was originally designed like this.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM -La Fontaine Dining Room

The remaining two dining rooms occupy the same space as they always did; the smaller room with its graceful spiral staircase from the Explorer’s Lounge above now decorated with warm wood finishes set against rich mauve and plum colours, while the main aft La Fontaine Dining Room is in soft blues and greys with glass ceiling lighting in the style of La Belle Epoque.

Concluding our tour, we enjoyed a final Q&A session with Captain Schoonderbeek in the Ocean Bar, as one or two passengers looked on with curiosity. Departing with our goodie-bags of brochures and keepsakes, I reflected on what a stunning job Holland America Line have done in turning the once highest-rated cruise ship in the world into the truly 'Elegant Explorer' that she is today.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to Captain Schoonderbeek on behalf of myself and the Ocean Liner Society, for giving us the opportunity of this visit and for spending so much of his time with us.


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Lido Deck



PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Atrium



PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
Captain Albert Schoonderbeek



PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - © 2010 Mark Cornford
PRINSENDAM - Neptune Lounge


PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - Photo: ©2010 Ian Boyle
PRINSENDAM at Tilbury - ©2010 Ian Boyle

PRINSENDAM at Tilbury
PRINSENDAM leaving Tilbury - ©2010 Ian Boyle





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