Frequently Asked Questions

Select a topic from the list below:

Here you will find answers to the more common questions we have been asked about our cruises.

Before sailing with us you must read and sign our Terms and Conditions, which spell out important and contractually binding guidelines for our cruises.  They contain important basic information about our cruise.


We strongly recommend that you visit Holland America's website. You will find extensive and detailed information about sailing on their ships. They have been in the business much longer than us—please make use of their expertise.

Executive Meetings and Incentives, Inc. (EMI) is your partner in travel. They are your first stop for any help you may need with travel arrangements or any question you may have. See EMI's website for more information.

Who are we?
Prairie Home Productions (PHP, APHC) is an independent company licensed by American Public Media Group to produce Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and its related ventures. With them, we chartered the ms Ryndam and will produce the cruise. Prairie Home is responsible for all the changes and additions that have been made to the regularly scheduled HAL cruise. We will provide the APHC performers, entertainers, lecturers, and hosts sailing with you.

Holland America Lines (HAL) operates and manages the Ryndam; provides for passenger safety and comfort; and is responsible for your cabin accommodations, food, beverages, recreation, and shopping while on board. Go to HAL's website for information about life aboard ship.

Executive Meetings and Incentives (EMI) is our agent in charge of selling our cruise and booking your accommodations. They will provide you with the highest levels of professional travel-related services. They will book your passage on the ship. EMI will, at your choosing, assist you in booking a hotel before the cruise; book air travel; arrange transfers between the airport, hotel, and ship; assign table seating; and facilitate cabin set-ups.  They will help us manage your activities while on board. See EMI's website for information about cabins, hotel rooms, transfers and dinner seating.

For other questions contact us by e-mail or call EMI at 800-225-5364 x2179.


I. Booking

How much does the cruise cost?
For pricing information, visit EMI's pricing page. We have cabins in a wide range of prices.

What types of cabins are on the ship? Where are they located?
We have a wide variety of cabins from inside rooms to Verandah suites. See HAL's Ryndam Info for pictures, descriptions, and deck plans.

How do I book a cabin? What types are currently available?
For booking information, visit EMI's pricing page. You will see a list of the currently available cabins. Just click on the one you are interested in and follow the instructions.

Are wheelchair accessible rooms available on board?
Of course. Holland America, APHC and EMI do not discriminate against persons on the basis of disability. We seek, to the fullest extent feasible, to accommodate guests with disabilities. Holland America offers a limited number of staterooms designed to be wheelchair and scooter accessible. Most public areas of the ship are wheelchair accessible. To learn more about HAL's options for guests with special needs see HAL Cruise Planning and Advice section. You can explore the deck plans in HAL's Ryndam Info to see where the wheelchair accessible rooms are located. Please contact EMI directly at 800-225-5364 x 2179 to discuss any special needs you may have.


II. Payment/Finances

Is travel insurance necessary?
While this is solely your decision, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. Insurance is your only recourse for reimbursement in the event of changes, delays, or crisis.  For more information, see EMI's pricing page

What is included in the payment and what will cost extra?
Please see our terms and conditions page.

I'm a Holland America Stockholder. Can I get a discount on my cruise?
No. This cruise is private and chartered.

I've booked my cabin. What's next?   
EMI will confirm your reservation with you electronically. Upon submitting your registration you will receive a confirmation number that EMI will use to track your reservation. Closer to the cruise EMI will provide your HAL booking number and cabin number, which you will use to prepare for your trip and book shore excursions .

Check-in and preparation for your cruise is now an entirely electronic, online process that HAL calls Express Docs. All passengers will be required to check-in using this HAL online check-in system in advance of the cruise. You will need your HAL booking number to do this. You may not check-in until you have returned the signed terms and conditions for the cruise. All documents necessary for your cruise will be provided online through Express Docs, including your cruise contract and your boarding pass.

You will receive a final package from EMI through the mail containing any additional information you need, including confirmations and vouchers for hotel and transportation arrangements they may have made for you.

It is essential that you review all documents thoroughly and that you bring everything with you.

May I cancel my reservation?
You may cancel, but in fairness we have a strict refund policy. One week after registering your deposit is non-refundable. After January 14, 2010 your full cruise fare is not refundable. Please see our terms and conditions page.

How do I pay for extras while on board?
While on board HAL maintains a "cashless society." All additional purchases made will be charged to passengers' on-board accounts. These accounts must be settled before disembarking.

When you board the ship, your account will have already been activated and you may make purchases by simply showing your guest identification card and signing a receipt. On embarkation day, you will need to register your credit or debit card in order to use your onboard account for shipboard purchases. Your card will be pre-authorized for US $60 per person for each day. At the end of your cruise, you will receive a final statement, and your card will be charged only for the actual amount of your purchases. Please inform your credit or debit card issuer in advance that your card will be used on a Holland America Line ship. This will help prevent delays in obtaining pre-authorization on board. Some banks may keep the pre-authorization in place for up to 30 days. If you do not want to use a credit or debit card, the ship will collect a cash deposit from you at time of boarding in the same pre-authorization amount. Any excess deposit will be refunded to you at the end of the cruise. Travelers' checks may be cashed at the front office to make your deposit. Personal checks are not accepted on board.

What about tipping? To whom and how much?
A gratuity of $11 per person per day ($77 for this cruise) is included in your cruise fare. This is shared among the HAL staff. In addition, an automatic 15% tip is added to all bar and beverage service. Any tipping above this is entirely up to you. It is common, but not expected or required, to tip for personal service in your cabin, and at the spa. Tipping for bar, restaurant or transportation service is not expected. For more info, see HAL Service Charge Info .

In terminals, airports, ports of call, on shore excursions, and at the hotel; we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary practices.

Are guests from outside the US able to purchase on-line?
Yes. International guests will be able to book their cabins on-line. All credit card charges will take place in USD and then be converted to your local currency the day of the transaction.


III. Travel To/From the Cruise

When do we leave? When do we come home?
You must arrive in Tampa prior to 1:30 pm on Sunday, March 14, 2010. Boarding will begin at approximately 11:30 am on March 14th. You must be on board no later than 3:30 pm. We sail at 5:00 pm. The cruise is seven days long.

Disembarkation will begin at 8:00am on March 21st. If you are flying please plan to depart out of Tampa International Airport any time after 12:00n on Sunday, March 21, 2010.

We recommend you purchase airline tickets early since it is the high season for travel. EMI can help you book your flights, see EMI's website for more information.

What if my luggage gets lost by the airline?
In the event your bags don't fly with you we will make every effort to work with local operators to help your bags catch up with the ship.  However, we have been told this will be very difficult if they do not arrive at our first stop, Key West.  We have also been notified that certain major discount air carriers require that luggage, once designated as lost, must be signed for personally by the owner.  This means that, when flying certain airlines, if your luggage is delayed it will stay in Tampa until we return.  Please check policies carefully before booking your air travel.

Where can I stay in Tampa?
EMI has blocked out rooms at the Renaissance Hotel Tampa International Plaza. They would be happy to book you a room the night before the cruise, see EMI's websitefor details.

What are the arrangements for travel from airport to ship?
Regardless of who books your air travel, you must send EMI a copy of your flight itinerary.  EMI must provide HAL with travel itineraries for all passengers.

We recommend that you purchase a transfer package from EMI when you purchase your cruise. EMI will be able to arrange group transfers to and from Tampa International Airport. With these packages you and your luggage will be transferred from the plane, to the hotel if necessary, to the boat, and return. You may also, of course, take a cab or other means of transport on your own. However you decide to arrive at the ship, your baggage will be collected at the terminal and delivered to your cabin. See EMI's website for more information.

When you first get on and last get off the boat, there will be a period of time when you won't have access to your baggage or to your cabin. Please be prepared with a small carry-on bag to hold the stuff you need, including all of your travel documents, medications and any valuables you may have with you.

Will I need a passport?
All passengers need passports. No exceptions. They should be good for six months beyond the duration of the cruise. You may have been on similar domestic cruises that did not require passports. This is a relatively new regulation and is strictly enforced. For more information, see HAL Passport Info .

I am driving to Tampa to meet the ship. Will parking be available?
Yes.  Holland America has a parking lot adjacent to the terminal.  Parking is $14 per day.

May visitors come aboard?
Sorry, no. Due to customer and safety concerns, HAL has established a no visitor policy. As at most airport terminals, only booked passengers will be permitted past the security check-in point. One fun way to send off a loved one is to have a gift delivered directly to their stateroom, see Onboard Gifts on HAL's website for more information.


IV. Traveling Abroad


Will I need a passport?
Yes, all passengers must carry a passport that expires a minimum of 6 months following the cruise.

Will I need a visa?
Most U.S. Citizens will not. Travel from another country or under different citizenship may.

Do I need shots?
Not for purposes of this cruise.

What languages are spoken in Belize and Mexico?
Spanish is spoken in both countries. English is commonly spoken in the regions we will visit and is the language on board the ship.

What about currency?
On shore you may encounter the need to spend the Mexican Peso or the Belize Dollar. Obtaining local currency will be easy, through currency exchanges or ATM machines.


V. Entertainment

What will we do on-board?
Boredom is not an issue. Never has been, never will be. We will schedule a full slate of musical performances. On the mainstage and in smaller venues throughout the ship, you will have ample opportunity to enjoy your favorite "Prairie Home" performers. There will be sing-a-longs and gatherings and a talent show. We will add lectures, readings, and workshops to HAL's regular cruise offerings.

The APHC events are in addition to all of the activities you would expect on a cruise ship: dining, swimming, spa services, eating, relaxing, sports, gambling, shopping, dining, entertainment, other special events, and more eating.

When do we attend the evening performances?
Our main attraction on board is the evening performance in the main showroom. These can be similar to APHC broadcast shows, or they can be music concerts, or even our infamous passenger talent show. Either way, everyone wants to come see them.

The showroom only holds about half of the ship's passengers, which is why we repeat the show each night. The problem comes when people try to see both shows. This can deny your fellow passenger the opportunity to see the show. So we've come up with a plan that we hope you think is fair.

You will receive a sticker to put on your Holland America ID card. This will identify which show you may attend each night. We are going to check this identification for each main evening show, just as we would take tickets for a regular performance. We will clear the auditorium after each show, and we will not allow people to reserve seats earlier in the day.

Will you publish a schedule of activities?
We are always adding new things to do, right up to the day of departure. Once aboard we adjust the schedule daily. Look for an overview of cruise activities in your cabin the day of departure. HAL and APHC will publish an official daily schedule which will be delivered to your cabin every morning.

Will I actually SEE Garrison? How about the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band? And what about the Royal Academy of Radio Actors?
Prairie Home performers will be guests of Holland America just like you. You'll see them in the elevators, on the Lido deck, at the buffets and bars and, of course, on stage. Don't be afraid to say hi, ask questions, or tell us you loved a particular event. But do understand that we may be running to our next event, or just need some time on our own.

Should I bring a musical instrument?
If it is something that you'd like to play for your pleasure in a casual, sit-around-a-campfire kind of atmosphere, yes. While a few people may end up on stage, this is not the place to look for your big break.

Will any of the shows be broadcast?
No, but they will be recorded for possible later use.

Will there be opportunities for autographs?
While on board, feel free to ask for autographs at your leisure. Check in with a Prairie Home or EMI staff member on board if you have questions about this.

Will there be APHC merchandise for sale?
Yes. Check out the gift shops on board. We'll have shirts, hats, and lots of music featuring your Prairie Home favorites.


VI. Dining

When do we schedule our dining? Can we sit together at dinner?
When you register for the cruise, you'll also request your seating preferences for dining. EMI will do everything possible to honor seating requests.

What is the difference between early seating and late seating?
The Dining Room and the Main Show Lounge each hold half of the ship's passengers, so we all need to rotate.
--EARLY seating passengers will eat at the first seating of dinner, about 5:30 pm. Then they go to the show, typically at 8:30 pm.
--LATE seating passengers see the Main Lounge Show FIRST, typically at 6:00 pm. They then go to dinner at the second seating, usually at 7:45 pm.

If I have food allergies or other dietary needs, will the ship be able to accommodate these?
Yes. You can learn more about that at HAL Shipboard Life .

What is the Dress Code?
Because we are chartering the ship, APHC has the freedom to set our own dress-code policies. We are considerably more relaxed than the standard cruise. Sunday-go-to-church clothes is about as fancy as we get. If you like to dress up, please feel free and some of us may join you.

The only time there will be an actual dress code is in the dining rooms during the evening meal.  On most nights the dress code will be "smart casual".  This means long pants and sports shirt or sweater for men, and skirt or long pants and sweater or blouse for women.  We prefer you to avoid casual T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops, shorts, and the like in the dining rooms during the evening hours.  We will designate one evening as "semi-formal". This generally means sport coat and maybe a tie for men; and a dress, skirt or pants suit for women. On that night all patrons eating in the main dining room will be expected to dress in semi-formal attire and the crew will pull out their dress uniforms.  Many people take this opportunity to dress in their finest clothes and make a fun evening out of it, but you sure don't have to.  Be who you are, is what we say.


VII. Life Aboard Ship

How do I contact an EMI or APHC staff person? How will they be identified?
We will staff a question table near the front desk. And we'll all wear an ID badge.

After boarding the ship, how long before I can get into the cabin?
Boarding for the ship begins several hours before we cast off. You'll be able to enter your cabin once your stateroom is prepared. HAL has streamlined this process to a great degree, but please understand that they have to turn around accommodations for over 1,200 people in a very short period of time. You will have plenty of on-board activities, including making a few arrangements for your week, while you wait. And the buffet lines will be open.

What kind of amenities will I find in my cabin?
Cabins on the Ryndam are outfitted much like a good hotel room. You will find them to be extremely comfortable, efficient, and clean. And here's a secret: in February our ship will go in to dry dock to be refurbished, including an extensive upgrade of the cabin furnishings. We will be among the first to sail the new and improved Ryndam.

Like any hotel room, all linens and bedding will be supplied. You will have your own bathroom complete with towels and toiletries. You even get your very own bathrobe. You will find ample closet and drawer space, a dressing table, individually-controlled air conditioning, a variety of cabin lighting, and a television for viewing CNN, movies and on board features.

All staterooms are equipped with standard 110 AC and 220 AC outlets. Personal care items and electronics will work just as they do at home. Hairdryers are available in all staterooms. You may wish to bring a travel alarm clock as they are not provided.

For safety reasons, we respectfully request that you do not iron clothing in your stateroom. Ironing facilities are available in the self-service laundry rooms for your convenience. In addition, full laundry and valet services are available on the Ryndam.

Where can I smoke?
In deference to our performers and your fellow passengers, this is a "non-smoking" cruise. You may smoke only in your own cabin and in certain designated areas on the outside decks of the ship.

How can I be reached in case of an emergency?
Holland America has procedures in place for situations that require emergency contact with your loved ones. Find more details at HAL emergency phone numbers .

What if I need medical attention?
Fully trained medical professionals are on board at all times, and a complete medical facility is available. Aspirin and seasickness pills are on the house, but you may have to pay something for other items or services.

Can I call my friends in their cabin? Can I call home?
Holland America staterooms are equipped with telephones that can be used to call your fellow passengers just as in a hotel. They can also be used for ship-to-shore communication, note that significant charges apply. Find out more about how this works at HAL onboard communications. Passengers may not see our guest roster and we will not give out cabin numbers.

Will my cell phone work?
Probably not for most of the cruise. Call your carrier for details for your plan.

Will I have access to the Internet?
Yes. You may bring your own computer or use ones provided by HAL. You can buy minutes for surfing the Internet at any point throughout the trip. Wireless is available in some locations and is charged under the same system. See HAL onboard communications for more details.

Can I get married on board ship?
No. This is a private, chartered cruise. No weddings. No divorces, either.

Will there be stuff for my kids to do?
Holland America provides a range of activities for kids through their Club HAL program. The Club HAL room is regularly available with games electronic and otherwise, and has daily special group activities. The length and breadth of the schedule is dependent on how many kids show up on the boat.

How should I dress for the weather?
While weather can always change, we will be sailing the Caribbean when the climate is temperate and temperatures moderate. We are sailing in the dry season. Typical temperatures range from the low 60s to the upper 70's.

Bring clothing suitable for the beach and for relaxing in summer weather. Bring a jacket or sweater for cool nights. When on deck it can always be windy and cool, be prepared for that. Of course be prepared for rain. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes for walking on deck or on shore. A hat is a good idea and, of course, bring your bathing suit.

Should I bring anything else?
If you are interested in "knowing stuff," you might want to bring along your binoculars and a field guide or three (birds, marine mammals, wildflowers, and geology are just a few). Previous guests have found benefit from bringing a camera, a journal, an instrument, or their most recent knitting project.

What will sea conditions be like?
We could have calm seas. We could have 15-foot waves. The ship may glide placidly along with barely a perceptible murmur. The ship may rock back and forth, making even the stout of heart (and stomach) reach for the Dramamine. We will probably see a bit of everything. While it is extremely unlikely that we will experience severe weather, HAL does an excellent job of tracking and avoiding storms.


VIII. Excursions

You'll find all the information you need at Shore Excursions.

Booked guests may confirm shore excursion requests in advance of sailing. If you already have a booking number, you may use it to view shore excursion information specific to your itinerary. To complete a booking, please proceed through all screens on the HAL booking page until you receive a reference number, which indicates that HAL has received your request.

Guests may pre-book shore excursions online until 5 days prior to sailing. If your departure date is less than 5 days away, please call Shore Excursions at 1-888-425-9376 to book directly with an agent. All shore excursion requests are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Waitlisted requests for sold-out shore excursions will be processed prior to requests made on board. Please note: Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult over 25.

If you cancel a shore excursion less than 5 days prior to cruise departure you will be subject to a 10% cancellation fee. In addition, if you cancel your excursion reservation after the booking deadline stated in the Shore Excursions Order Form, no refund will be made as transportation and services will have already been arranged.

Please remember that all excursions are the responsibility of independent tour operators. HAL acts only as an agent to help you book your tours. We have no financial or operational relationship with them.


IX. Contact Us

Contact us by email ( or call EMI at 800-225-5364 x 2179

Cruise Bulletin

We had a wonderful time on the cruise, and we hope you did too. We've posted a couple slideshows that captured our time at sea and on stage. You can also visit the archive to hear the best of the cruise performances on the March 20, 2010 show.

Cruise episode»
Cruise photos»

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media. Ship's registry: The Netherlands.
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