ms Prinsendam, Holland America Line, Bantry Bay, Ireland In June, we sailed on Holland America Line’s 14-day Celtic Explorer cruise on the ms Prinsendam. Due to high winds and heavy rains, Captain Ane Jan Smit had to alter the planned itinerary several times. After the second or third of these “we have to change the itinerary messages,” Captain Smit jokingly called our sailing “The Magical, Mystery Cruise.”

ms Prinsendam, Holland America Line, Scheldt River, NetherlandsDespite the fact that cruise on the Prinsendam missed three planned ports  — St Peter Port, Guernsey; Milford Haven, Wales and Galway, Ireland — we visited two unplanned replacement ports, and we had a terrific cruise experience.

This much change can make a cruise difficult. Reflecting back, we realized that we had such a great cruise was because of some hospitality superstars among the Prinsendam staff and crew.

Dining stewards on Holland America's ms PrinsendamOur dining room waiters, Dheny and Arya, are some of the best we’ve had at sea. In addition to providing timely, gracious service, waiter Dheny was very familiar with the menu each evening, and would make excellent recommendations.

Even more impressive — in comparison to other cruise ships — was the way the entire wait staff team handled breakfast in the dining room. They worked together well to ensure coffee was filled, orders were taken, and food was delivered hot and in a timely manner. This level of quality service, and teamwork was surely enhanced by the hospitality talents and leadership skills of Pulung Baskoro, the Dining Room Manager on the Prinsendam. Pulung was headed home for vacation when we left the ship.

Beverage Manager Mario JelicWe had the opportunity to dine one evening with Beverage Manager Mario Jelic, who is a personable dinner guest. He led an excellent staff of bartenders, wine stewards and bar servers throughout the ship.

Crow's Nest bartender, Prinsendam, Holland America LineThe Crow’s Nest is also the Piano Bar on the Prinsendam.  It was our favorite place to hang out after dinner, listening to music and meeting new friends. Gilbert was the Crow’s Nest bartender, and he made the venue welcoming and friendly.

bar server, Holland America, PrinsendamFor the Prinsendam guests enjoying the Crow’s Nest but not sitting at the bar, Esmi — Princess Esmi as well called her — provided outstanding service with a great smile. 

Whether meeting with friends, enjoying a cocktail, or just taking in the ocean view, the Crow’s Nest on the Prinsendam is a special place, enhanced by the excellent staff.

wine attendant, Holland America, PrinsendamOur table enjoyed wine with dinner most nights in the main dinning room. Wine steward Allan took care  of our table as well as many others. Yet his service was always gracious and timely.

Location Guide Dorine — aka Dora the Explorer — put on terrific, detailed programs on the highlights of each port, even when the port was newly announced as a replacement for some of the canceled port. We ran into Dorine during her free time in port, because she’s always exploring new things (such as how to ride the public bus between Killybegs and Donegal, Ireland) so that she can share first-hand insights with cruise guests.

Future Cruise Consultant Chantal Hettich is articulate, knowledgeable and patient in helping cruise guests determine their next cruise. Chantal is also a consummate dinner host if you are lucky to have her at your dining table during a formal dinner.

Ecco & Niken, room stewards, Holland America LineWe only have a picture of our Cabin Stewards Ecco and Niken’s card (as we rarely saw them.) We knew they were cleaning our cabin and many others with extraordinary care. Our laundry was always returned promptly and hung in the closet. The ice bucket was always filled. Best of all, whenever we were out of the room, it was cleaned and made up, like magic.

We are certain there are more hospitality superstars throughout the Prinsendam, as the ship’s hotel operations appeared well run. These eleven people are the ones that we remember as helping make our “Magical, Mystery Cruise” something truly special.

Have you sailed on Holland America’s Prinsendam? Who provided superior service for your cruise?

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We’ve visited the Belgium city of Antwerp several times, most recently during a 22-hour overnight stay while sailing on Holland America Line’s ms Prinsendam. If you are going to Antwerp, these are 14 things we recommend to eat, drink and see during your stay.

Brabo statue in front of Town Hall, Antwerp., Belgium1. Head to the ‘Grote Markt’ historic city center. Check out the Brabo statue in front the Town Hall that celebrates the legend of how the city of Antwerp got its name. A mythical giant named Antigoon lived by Scheldt River and demanded a toll from all who crossed the river. If anyone refused to pay, Antigoon would sever one of their hands and throw it into the river. One day, a brave young soldier named Brabo cut off the giant’s hand and tossed it in the river. The name ‘Antwerp’ was derived from Dutch words that mean “to throw a hand.”

The Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium2. While in the historic center, marvel at the 400 ft. spire on The Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp’s Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral that dates back to 1352. The cathedral contains famous Peter Paul Rubens paintings including The Raising of the Cross, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and The Descent from the Cross. 

Waffles at Waffle Factory, Antwerp, Belgium3. Have a waffle and a coffee. For fast service and a convenient location, stop by the Waffle Factory at 60 Grote Markt. Belgium waffles are distinct, and some shops offer both the softer, doughy version (left, with chocolate, in photo above) as well at the kind with a crisp outside (right, with powdered sugar, in photo above.)

Waffle Désiré De Lille, Antwerp, Belgium4. For a more decadent and upscale waffle experience, head to Désiré de Lille at 16 Schrijnwerkersstraat. You can have lunch or make lunch out of the ice cream- topped Waffle Désiré de Lille pictured above.

Interior, The Church of St. James, Antwerp, Belgium5. Admire the interior of The Church of St. James. Artist Peter Paul Rubens is buried here, with one of his paintings above his tomb.

Lange Wapper statue in front of Het Steen castle, Antwerp, Belgium6. Notice the unusual Lange Wapper statue in front of the Het Steen medieval fortress beside the Scheldt River. The statue depicts the giant Lange Wapper — a Flemish folkloric character who used to terrorize the people of Antwerp during medieval times.

Hoegaarden white wheat and Hoegaarden Rosée fruit beer in Antwerp, Belgium7. Try one or two of Belgium’s 1,600 different beers. We enjoyed this round of Hoegaarden wheat beers while people watching at one of the many outdoor cafes also the Hoogstraat. Hoegaarden Rosée, (right in the photo above) is one of the fruit beers

Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium8. Explore the 10-story Museum Aan de Stroom or MAS, Antwerp’s largest museum filled with maritime history and the development of the city through the ages.

city view from the rooftop terrace of the MAS Museum, Antwerp, Belgium9. Take in a panoramic view of Antwerp from rooftop terrace of the MAS Museum.

Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, Belgium10. Follow the footsteps of millions of immigrants to North America at the Red Star Line Museum.  The museum is housed in the former shipping line’s warehouses in Antwerp’s old port district called The Eilandje.

Wijngaardstraat - street in central Antwerp, Belgium11. Explore narrow streets such as Wijngaardstraat in Antwerp’s historic center. In addition to the romantic heart-shaped street lights, you will find a lovely cocktail lounge on Wijngaardstraat.

Dogma cocktail bar, Antwerp, Belgium12. Experience Dogma, one of Antwerp’s hip cocktail bars at 5 Wijngaardstraat. While any of the bar’s craft cocktails will be interesting, you might consider trying one made with gin.  The juniper-flavored liquor is said to have evolved from the jenever or “Dutch Courage“ that British soldiers drank to calm their nerves before battle in 1585 when fighting in Antwerp against the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War.

Sherry Cobbler, Cocktails at 9, Antwerp, Belgium13. Broaden beyond gin and beer. Try the too-pretty-to-drink Sherry Cobbler, at Cocktails at 9.  

Cocktails at 9, Antwerp, BelgiumOur friends enjoyed the quiet, comfortable but luxurious atmosphere of Cocktails at 9. The bar is hidden off Lijnwaadmarkt near the Antwerp’s landmark Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral.

Belgium frites with curry sauce14. Try the Belgium frites topped with curry sauce or curry gravy.  Belgium, rather than France, invented the “French fry” during the 17th century, and “frites” are part of Belgium’s gastronomic and cultural heritage. Good frites are cut from fresh potatoes and fried twice, leaving while them crispy on the outside and soft inside. The frites — served with a variety of delicious sauces — make the perfect late evening snack.

Antwerp has many delightful things to see, eat and drink. If you’d like to hire a guide, check out Antwerp: Private Tour with a Local from Get Your Guide.

What is your favorite thing to eat, drink or see in Antwerp, Belgium? 

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Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumWe visited the Red Star Line Museum while in Antwerp, Belgium during our 14-day Celtic Explorer cruise on Holland America’s ms Prinsendam.

The museum — opened in 2013 — is housed in the former shipping line’s warehouses in Antwerp’s old port district called The Eilandje.

destinations of immigrants transported on Red Star Line from Antwerp, BelgiumFounded in 1872 by United States shipping magnates and two Antwerp business partners, the Red Star Line transported two million people to North America between 1873 and 1934. Most of these men, women and children were immigrating to the United States to start a new life. Their trip to the New World began a warehouse in Antwerp.

immigrant trunk, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumThe Red Star Line Museum is located in buildings that the shipping line had used for medical examinations and baggage handling for third-class passengers immigrating to the Americas. One part of the museum displays the baggage (or trunks) that passengers used to transport their most treasured belongings to their new home.

inside of immigrant trunk, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumWhen viewing this open trunk, I tried to image putting all of my belongings in it.

immigration issues from 1921-1924, Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, BelgiumAnother part of the museum focuses on the issue of restricting immigration throughout history. The Red Star Line’s passenger count declined dramatically after the United States decided to restrict immigration in 1921.

In 1924, the U.S. further tightened strict quotas for each country of origin.

first class passenger display, Red Star Line museum in Antwerp, BelgiumFirst class passengers always traveled differently than those in steerage. In 1923, the Red Star Line expanded into cruises and car importing, in response to the decline in U.S. immigration.

historic cruise menus and programs, Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, BelgiumCruise line fans will admire the display of historic cruise menus and programs from the “cruise focus” period of Red Star Line’s company history.

The change in marketing efforts did not make up for the number of lost immigrant passengers. On the verge of bankruptcy in 1934, the Red Star Line name and two ships were sold to Arnold Bernstein from Hamburg, Germany.

Bernstein, who is Jewish, was arrested by the Nazis in 1937, and his assets were confiscated by the German government.

Then, in 1939, the German government sold Red Star Line to the Holland America Line in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Holland America Line — from its Rotterdam headquarters — continues to run a Red Star Line service between Antwerp and New York until 1950.

search Red Star Line passenger lists at museum in Antwerp, BelgiumVisitors to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp can also use one its computers to search Red Star Line passenger lists.

A museum gift shop sells Red Star Line posters, books and other memorabilia similar to these:

If you are visiting Antwerp, we recommend a visit to the Red Star Line Museum. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We walked to the museum from the cruise port. It was about a 25-minute walk. The cruise line also offered a shore excursion that visited the Red Star Line Museum.

Have you visited Antwerp? What is your favorite attraction? 

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Scenic Cruising on the Scheldt River into Antwerp, Belgium on Holland America’s Prinsendam

August 21, 2017

Scenic cruising on the Scheldt River, from Vlissingen, Netherlands into the city of Antwerp, Belgium was a unique part of our 14-day Celtic Explorer cruise on Holland America’s ms Prinsendam. The 220-mile long Scheldt River begins in northern France, and runs through western Belgium to Antwerp, where it turns and broadens to a tidal estuary flowing through the southwestern part of the […]

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