No one had an excursion ticket to get this close. Most were noticeably hushed. It was the captain’s pleasure to maneuver the m.s. Prinsendam, up close to the sputtering Stromboli Volcano, spewing her vapors and ash. This was part of the ship’s Strait of Messina passage, which separates Italy’s mainland from the island of Sicily. Though it hasn’t had a serious eruption since 1921, the 2,000-year-old Strombolli remains continuously active and fascinates many the world over. This is also where the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ionian Sea connect and the beautiful Aeolian Islands stand rimmed at their base by small, quiet, white villages, the region where the dramatic “Strombolli, God’s Land” was directed by Roberto Rossellini and starred Ingrid Bergman. The year was 1950, also the year the life of the beautiful Isabella Rossellini began.
“Being Holland America’s official Elegant Explorer means we sail all over the world finding new, interesting ports,” explains her captain, Halle Thon Gundersen. “This ship is made especially for worldwide cruising. We have most of the things bigger ships do, but at the same time I can take her where smaller ships go. We have a collapsible mast for sailing under low bridges such as on the Kiel Canal in Germany,” he adds. Captain Gundersen, a native of Norway, was a navy frogman in the Arctic Circle before entering Norway’s Royal Naval Academy. Later, he became part of the supervising team which built the Prinsendam, and he’s served as one of the ship’s permanent masters ever since.
The Prinsendam, built in 1988 underwent a massive renovation in 2002. It is an intimate-sized ship accommodating fewer than 800 passengers. Her crew of 443 strike a favorable service-to-passenger ratio. At 38,000 tons, with eight passenger decks, this world roamer is a very maneuverable 669 feet in length (the HAL fleet’s m.s. Westerdam is 951 feet long.)
“We never travel back and forth from only one port,” Gundersen adds. “Normally, we do a world cruise every year from January until May, then we go to northern Europe in the summer and the Mediterranean late in the year. We always try to sail where the sun goes.” He smiles at this.
On this particular journey from Lisbon, Portugal to Athens, Greece with entry through her glamorous seaside port, Piraeus, the Prinsendam called at Gibraltar, Minorca, Spain, the island of Sardinia and Civitavecchia in Italy. She then cruised on to the Greek islands of Argostoli, Katakolon, Santorini and Rhodes, with a day in Kusadasi, Turkey.
Even though there’s a sense of adventure out there, there’s no lack of service and dining surprises cruisers come to expect. Guests actually have four dinner venues to choose from each evening: the optional, fine-dining Pinnacle Grill, the LaFontaine Main Dining Room, the Lido Restaurant which now serves casual dinner and room service and a movie, if this is a kickback and relax type of night.
Jan Willem Kuipers is Prinsendam Hotel Manager and a native Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Of the Pinnacle Grill, he states, “Only
Pacific Northwestern fare is served in this special room. The finest seafood and special meat cuts are prepared on our 1600-degree grill. The Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake with Whipped Cream is very, very special,” he hints.
The LaFontaine Main Dining Room menu has a generous format. Under Appetizers each night is a special pasta dish also available as an entrée. These are followed by Soups, Salads and general Entrees, separate from healthy selections from the Grill. To show range of appeal: Pheasant, designer Chimichanga, Fresh Anti Pasto Platters with locally procured salami, coppa, bresaola and sardines, local Jamon Serrano, Paella, Rack of Lamb Aromatic and Veal several ways accompany less elaborate dishes. Fancy or hardy the Prinsendam’s chefs are imaginative and resourceful. Each night a separate dessert menu features sections devoted to: Ice Cream, Flambe, No-Sugar-Added Desserts, an Assorted Cheese Plate and Cappuccinos, Espressos and Lattes. These are in addition to four sugar-rich, homemade delights.
Special food events crop up on the day sheets: Vienese High Teas, Sangria & Tapas Parties on the aft deck and late night Dessert Extravaganzas with towering marzipan, torte and chocolate masterpiece surprises. These are in addition to day-long offerings of deli foods, pizza, tacos, pasta, salad bar, desserts and ice cream bar. On random days chefs present food demonstrations and arrange kitchen tours. The early Dutch bonding with the Indonesian people continues today with an all-Indonesian dining room staff, graduates of Holland America’s SS Jakata, an ongoing, year-round training school.
In keeping with the Prinsendam’s image, the “Elegant Explorer,” chefs keep the local touch by purchasing local foods for regional recipes served in the LaFontaine Dining Room. “We get fresh vegetables from many ports during all cruises. For the Spanish dinner, we bought fresh Sorenno ham,” explains Kuipers. “Yet we have two traveling chefs who go around and make sure we maintain the quality and standards.”
Holland America’s Prinsendam, known for her long range, exotic itineraries, looks forward to her next 115-day, “Grand World Voyage.” beginning in the middle of January, 2005. Captain Gundersen has planned this journey from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to New York City. Passengers will spend 49 days in port, stopping in known and little-known ports including Zihuatanejo … Hilo … Upolu … Tauranga … Geelong … Muara … Hong Kong … Kauntan … Victoria in the Seychelles … Pt. Louis and Santarem, to name a few.
New ports, new faces, new foods and new sights. Life is richest for its experiences