Just returned from the Fall Foliage trip on the Prinsendam, continued on to Fort Lauderdale.
I must say that, even though this was our first cruise, we were traveling with my parents, who have cruised often in the past. Most of their trips have been on HAL ships, although they have taken a few other cruise lines also. So this review combines not only the 'first timer's' view, but the input of my parents.
First off, neither my husband nor myself nor our 9 year old son can wait to get back on another cruise ship. So yes, it was an incredible experience.
The ship was lovely. There were a few spots that weren't perfect, but certainly less than in some of the supposed five star hotels I've stayed in. My parents were in a Deluxe Verandah Suite on the sports deck (004), my husband and I were in a Superior Verandah Suite (026 on the Verandah deck) and our son and a family friend were in a Oustide Stateroom on the Lower Promenade deck (212), so we had a range of rooms to look at. Obviously, my parents' cabin was bigger than the others, but even the 'basic' room my son was in was quite spacious, with a sofa, two twin beds, a walk in closet, mini-fridge and a good window. I should note that their cabin only had a shower, no tub. Both of the other cabins had tubs/showers along with DVD players. My parents cabin had a Bose CD player also.
The public areas of the ship were delightfully decorated, very subdued and elegant. While we were on ship, they were busy in every port replacing glass in many of the windows. I was quite taken with the intaglios of the ships on deck 7, those were amazing.
Food was very good. I'm not a gourmet, but my husband and our family friend are, and they were always content at dinner, and often times raving about how good the food was. I was less impressed with the poolside grill, but the lunches in the Lido were good, as was breakfast. My husband wants to have coffee delivered to his room every morning now...
I mentioned that we took our son along. He was the only child on the ship, and we came prepared to have no Club Hal program at all, however, they DID run the program in the evenings for him, as well as the few sea days we had. It wasn't a all day program, but it provided a nice break in the day for all of us, and certainly was WAY more than we were expecting. Jo, the assisant cruise director who also doubled as the Club Hal director, was excellent. And all of the crew quickly adopted Chris as their own, it was like being around a celebrity for 17 days.
The ports were good. We really enjoyed the Canadian calls, even with having weather issues and being unable to make Charlottetown (the day we were to call there, there were gale force winds, and it was unsafe to dock). We also enjoyed Bar Harbor ME and Portland ME, but were very unimpressed with Martha's Vinyard. The rest of the calls were so-so, but that may have been because the ship was mostly repositioning.
The shore excursions we did take were good, especially the Soldier for a Day at the Citadel in Halifax. THat one was WELLL worth the money if you are interested in history
The service was excellent, from all the staff. My only problem was convining the stewards in the Lido that I could carry my own tray! Our waiter Geddy and his assistant Bobby were attentive and outgoing, our maitre'd Mac was excellent and both our wine stewards - George and Jess - amuising and wonderful.
My own cabin steward - Kas - was like magic, we'd leave and be back and the room would turn spotless. And somehow he found time to fold my dirty laundry as well as clean everything. If anything, my mother's steward - Hillman - was more impressive, which is scary. Our son's steward was still good, but not quite to that standard. Still excellent, but compared to the others he suffered a bit.
My husband loved the spa, and averaged a massage every other day (ouch to the bank account). We aren't big show folks, so we never went to one. I think our son saw more, as some of the Club Hal activities involved appropriate shows (marionettes, magicians and one of the production numbers). For what's it worth, he liked them.
I could go on and on about the things we liked, but it was definitely a wonderful experience. I loved the small ship, but both of my parents seem to prefer a slightly bigger ship, and we shall probably sail on one of the 1200 to 1400 capacity ships next time.
A few nit picky things - our cabin door needed some work ... the only way to get it shut from the hall was to slam it shut. I was not that impressed with the service from the shore excursions staff when they were ashore - they were fine on the ship, but seemed to be a bit burned out when they reached shore. As I mentioned before, I wasn't impressed with Martha's Vinyard, and I question it's inclusion in the ports as it was basically closed up in October, and was a wasted shore call in my mind. I mentioned that the ship hit heavy weather and missed Charlottetown, and that disappointed a few passengers, but that wasn't an issue for me. The weather WAS bad, however, and we pitched quite a bit and had two nights that were quite rocky. However, that's what you risk going to the North Atlantic in October.
All in all, i must rate the ship a 9. It probably isn't for everyone, but if you like to relax and aren't big late night folks, but want elegant and small, without being on a luxury yacht, this would be your ship.