Having been bumped off the July 13th sailing by Holland America when they decided to charter the ship out to a Christian group, we were compensated with $300 of on board credit after we chose this cruise instead. It seems HA does this quite often according to some of the passengers. Fortunately, my husband and I could switch dates this time but I would be leery about the next time with a Holland America cruise.
This was our 18th cruise, although only our second on Holland America but our third trip to Alaska. We flew from Baltimore to Seattle the day before the cruise. Shuttle Express picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel for a very reasonable price. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which was very elegant. We chose this location because it was near the restaurant where a small group of us from Cruise Critic were going to meet for a pre cruise dinner. It was so nice to have one of the Ccers take the time to organize this. We all enjoyed the meeting.
We took a taxi to the ship the next day around noon. My husband had checked out prices on line and this was the cheapest way to go the short distance to the terminal. Embarkation went smoothly. Our cabin was ready so we could get rid of our carryons and eat lunch and explore the ship. Although we are not yet "Mariners," friends of ours who are, complained that there was no Mariner lunch in the main dining room as they had been promised. The dining room was only open to some other group.
The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship and well maintained. It was easy to find our way around and the Crow's Nest on the top deck was a great place to meet other Cruise Critic passengers at night for a drink. The ship was just the right size for us.
Our cabin (2617) which was an ocean view cabin was the usual size but it had more storage space than most of the other cabins we have been in. Our room steward always had our bucket of ice each night as we had requested and, like most room stewards on other cruise lines, left us towels wrapped as an animal each night. Having a real bathtub wasn't "a big plus" for us but many people were thrilled.
The food was superb with many choices although on some nights, service in the main dining room was slow and the food wasn't always hot enough. One night we ate at the free Canaletto restaurant for Italian food. Although the menu was simple, we liked the food. Neither my husband nor I eat in any of the specialty restaurants since we enjoy the food we already paid for in the main dining room. Our breakfast/lunch was usually in the Lido where the buffet gave you too many delicious choices. Dwi, a young Indonesian girl was always on one side of the Lido with a big smile every day and so willing to get us whatever we needed. On the 4th of July, a barbecue was held around the pool. How nice!
As for activities on the ship, we are Trivia players. Trivia was played every sea day and on other days. Several nights Name That Tune Trivia was played in the Piano Bar. There was also a karaoke competition, the Marriage Game, a Talent show, and great informative and interesting talks given in the theater about Alaska and its natives. There were other usual cruise activies for people with other iterests from ours.
The entertainment was wonderful. Usually, on a long cruise such as this one, we expected one or two nights to be not as entertaining as other nights but each night, I enjoyed whoever performed. My husband wasn't as sold on all of the entertainment. In addition to the nightly shows, the Filipino crew performed a cultural show one night during the first week of the cruise and the Indonesian crew performed the second week. Everyone enjoyed both shows. How hard they work!
My only disappointment with Holland America is that they never sent anyone to the Meet and Greet. The platters of cookies along with coffee, tea, and juice were set up but Holland America was a no show. Shame on you, Holland America. Couldn't you find the time to send someone? Other cruise lines do.
Our weather was less than perfect. It was cloudy in all of the ports except Victoria. Occasionally we would see the sun but not for long. As expected, it rained in Ketchikan and we had drizzle some of the time in other ports. It was cold in Tracy Arm and viewing the Hubbard Glacier. For great viewing, go to the bow of the ship, right off the fitness center and up one flight of stairs to a public deck. Bundle up because it will be cold but the view is spectacular!
All in all, it was a great cruise. We met some wonderful, friendly people through Cruise Critic, saw Mother Nature at her best in Alaska, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
What a shame that none of the cruise lines will be offering this 14 day Alaskan itinerary next summer. It was fabulous even with less than perfect weather.
After the cruise, my husband and I rented a car and drove to Mount St. Helens. What a great day that was! And it was sunny! That night we stayed at the Peppermill Empress Motel that was halfway between Mount St. Helens and Seattle. It was immaculate and even offered a complimenary breakfast the next morning. We flew back to Baltimore that afternoon.
As we got off the ship, we were greeted by seagulls and their babies perched along the seawall. What a wonderful free attraction! Then we took the free shuttle to Homer's Spit. The Spit is a piece of land that juts out 4 1/2 miles into the bay. It's the tourist part of Homer with lots of boats, campers, shops, places to eat, etc. One place we were told we had to visit was the Salty Dawg Saloon. It had 30,000 one dollar bills taped all over the ceiling and walls. We had tried to take a Creatures of the Dock tour but were disappointed when no one showed up for the $5 one hour tour. So we walked up and down the Spit talking to the shop owners and other customers. It was a friendly place.
We had read great reviews on the Cruise Critic website about Memory Makers so we booked a three hour tour with Dake. We were not disappointed. There were 2 vans with only 6 passengers each, mostly CCers. He took us through Abercombie State Park where we saw dismantled World War 2 artillery and a munitions bunker along with some eagles. We went atop Pillar Mountain but the fog kept us at a disadvantage. We passed the Coast Guard's largest base and stopped for the most delicious cookies we have ever tasted.