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Cruise Diary: My First Dispatch From Prinsendam

HAL blogger Gary Frink is currently sailing on board Prinsendam’s 24-day Amazon River and Caribbean adventure and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout his time on board. Enjoy!

Our two days at the Holiday Inn in Hollywood, Fla., were tranquil to boring. My most profound occurrence was a not-so-hot haircut at Hair Cuttery, late Friday afternoon. Whoopee! Then on to a mad cap swoop through a large supermarket, where we stocked up on cheeses, pate and crackers and pop (Midwestern-speak for soda)! Can it get more exciting? Saturday was watch college football on the telly day, as Michigan-Beat-Ohio State-For-The-First-Time-In-Seven-Years (and Virginia Tech clobbered Virginia.) Throw in a Saturday brunch at Denny’s (big excitement: the couple seated next to us walked out on their check) and you have vicariously experienced our two day saga: The Frinks Take Hollywood. Suddenly, Sunday arrived and POOF, we were gone!

Registration at the Port Everglades cruise terminal was snail-like slow. The reason was the need for the Holland America clerks to ascertain that each passenger had a correct Brazilian visa; further, they had to determine that each guest had a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. No one dock side would become a Prinsendam passenger without the yellow (no pun) World Health Organization form, even if they were to remain on board during the Prinsendam’s 2,000 mile trek up and down the Amazon River.

Once registered, Barbara Caulfield, a cheerful and energetic shore employee led us on board; she turned us over to Aaron, Assistant Dining Room Manager, who saw to it that we met Andrea, the Guest Relations Supervisor. All and all, it was a very warm welcome back into the bosom of Mother Holland America. Our balcony cabin is on deck nine, forward, with a large walkin closet, a first for us, after numerous voyages on cargo and cruise ships (we have over 300 days aboard Holland America ships alone.)

The Prinsendam is unique within the HAL fleet. First, it is the only ship that Holland American didn’t contract to have built; The Royal Viking Line owned her when her keel was laid in 1988 and she became the Viking Sun. I assume HAL acquired her because of her size, as she can ply shallower waters that behemoth cruise vessels of today—1,000 feet long, carrying 5,000 passengers—would never dare attempt. Thus, I would guess, we are aboard the only Holland America ship small enough to safely get 1,000 miles deep into the Amazon River. Second, the master of the Prinsendam, Captain Halle Thon Gundersen, is Norwegian. Our first ship master, when we began sailing with HAL in the 1990’s, was Captain Vandenburg; all subsequent HAL masters have been Dutch, until now.

The Prinsendam is only 673 feet-long, with a 24-foot draft. She carries up to 793 passengers, with a crew of 439. The ship is a minimalization of the other HAL ships we sojourned on. Everything is in the normal location: The Crow’s Nest bar has the same sweeping 180 degree view from deck 11, over the bow; it is remarkably smaller than the other ships in the fleet. The same comparison applies to the aft Lido casual dining restaurant: It is in its usual place, 11th deck aft, but compacted down, as if squished by a pair of giant hands. All of the public places aboard the Prinsendam are in familiar locations, but downsized to meet the small overall structure of the ship.

Today we have cruised by some of the Bahama Islands, churning along at a brisk 18.3 knots (top speed 21.5) on a two-day straight line nautical propulsion southeast to Gustavia, on the miniscure island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barts to all.) To those who follow Jeanne’s exploits on the penny and nickel slots: When she arrived back in the cabin at midnight, after a diligent night-fight with the machines in the Tom Thumb-sized casino, I asked her what she had for her efforts. “I broke about even. I couldn’t find the right machine,” she wearily replied…

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