I’ve never been on a cruise and until recently, I’d never even been on a cruise ship. So when two of Holland Amerca Line’s finest cruise ships both threw out their anchors in Belgium for the day, I found myself irresistibly drawn to them. Welcome on board the MS Rotterdam and MS Prinsendam, rulers of the oceans and stars of the day!
Waking up with the sound of the rushing waves, eating a generous breakfast on your own private balcony with an unobstructed view of the sun-kissed sea, wondering if you’ll start the day with a gentle swim in the pool on the upper deck, a relaxing massage in the voluptuous spa area or a good book from the extensive collection in the on-board library. Or perhaps you’ll go for a little stroll on the large promenade, sip a light cocktail in the piano bar and get dressed for a night of great world food and class entertainment in the theatre lounge fit for a king. And whenever you cast a glance back at the water, the view has changed. Every time you go ashore, another beautiful metropolis, exotic paradise or glorious bay lies at your feet. This is how I always imagined it would be like if I were ever to go on a cruise. Turns out, I’m not far off at all… No matter how much of a land lubber you claim to be, I bet you’re still reading!
Two cruise ships of the Holland America Line were docked in Belgium and while the passengers left for Bruges for the day, I boarded both ships with a bunch of other journalists. All photos are mine apart from the two aerial views.
The MS Prinsendam: modern elegance
- Capacity: 835 passengers
- Length: 669 feet (204 m)
- The ship made its first voyage in 1988.
- The ‘godfather’ of the ship is the actor James Stewart: he smashed a bottle of champagne on it for it departed on its first world cruise in 1989 (a 100-day cruise to five continents).
- The MS Prinsendam is the most ‘intimate’ ship of the Holland America Line.
- The former name of the cruise ship was the Royal Viking Sun. After it was in service for HAL, it was changed to Prinsendam. The nickname of the ship is ‘Elegant Explorer’ because of its sleek design, smaller size, which makes it easier tot maneuver. Because of its smaller size and lower weight, the Prinsendam is also able to sail to exceptional destinations like Antarctica and the Kiel Canal, which only a handful ships are able to transit.
- The MS Prinsendam team saved the lives of 8 fishermen in Portugal in 2012, whose fishing boat was sinking.
- A few highlights on board: the Pinnacle Restaurant, the Explorer’s lounge, the Lido pool and the Queen’s show lounge. The ship also has a sports deck with a jogging track and putting greens!
The MS Rotterdam: arty and colorful
- Capacity: 1404 passengers – which makes it a midsize ship like the Prinsendam.
- Length: 780 feet (238 m).
- The MS Rotterdam was HAL’s first ocean liner (transporting people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance routes)
- The ship sailed its maiden 15-day voyage from Rotterdam to New York City in October 1872.
- There’s $ 2 million worth of art and antiques on board of the MS Rotterdam! One of the eye-catchers is a 2,000 year old Han Chinese figure, which is the oldest art piece on any HAL ship. I missed it on my tour, unfortunately.
- The ship has ten passenger decks, 12 elevators, 3 restaurants and 5 pools (two outdoor, 3 indoor).
- A few highlights: the atrium centerpiece clock, the casino, the Queen’s Lounge and the overall artwork. Pretty impressive! There’s also a cinema, basketball field and tennis court. Classic cruising combined with modern facilities!
What you (probably) don’t know about Holland America Line
- It’s a notable British-American owned cruise line.
- Johan George Reuchlin, one of the first directors of HAL, was a passenger on board of the Titanic. He didn’t survive.
- With its 15 ships, HAL presents over 500 different cruises to 415 ports in 98 different countries in all 6 continents. Cruises start from one day and go up to 110 days.
- There are over 100 works of art on every HAL ship – they’re like floating art galleries! Especially the atrium of every ship is a real eye-catcher. There’s an iPod art tour on board of every ship, with at least 26 stops to listen.
- All ships have their own full time florist on board, who makes sure all flowers in every restaurant, room and facility are fresh and watered every day.
- On board, there’s one staff member per two passengers. That’s like having a private butler …
- The logo of HAL is a ship named ‘De Halve maen’ (Crescent in Dutch). It’s the ship of Henry Hudson who discovered Manhattan in 1609.
- On HAL, you’re eating and dining in style. Master chef Rudi Sodamin was voted Best Cruise Line Chef twice in a row by the renowned international Porthole Cruise Magazine. He’s also the author of numerous cookbooks, including ‘A taste of Excellence,’ ‘A taste of elegance’ and ‘A taste of celebration’, with recipes from each of HAL’s vessels.
- That said, you can imagine there’s a lot of food going around on every HAL ship. About 50.000 kilo’s every week… Needless to say durability is of very big challenge, especially since a lot of the ships enter vulnerable areas like Alaska and Antarctica. Here’s a few fun and remarkable measures HAL takes to lower its ecological footprint: only environmentally friendly soj based ink is used on board. All cleaning products are biodegradable and based on orange extracts. The toilets are low-flow and every ship has its own waste sorting and water treatment systems on board.
- There’s 24 hour room service on board of every HAL ship. Yeeha!