We did the ms Amsterdam July 27- Aug. 10th out of Seattle. We had a great time and this itinerary is second to none. It's a shame that it isn't being offered in 2013.
Background: My husband and I did this trip. He has oxygen and mobility issues so we rented a scooter and got his oxygen through Care Vacations. He is wheelchaired on and off the ship in Seattle.
Embarkation: We live north of Seattle so we drive to the port. We got there at 10:00 AM, I dropped off my husband and the luggage, parked the car in the long-term lot and got the shuttle back. We were cleared security, checked in, and seated by 10:45 AM. By 11:45 AM we were being escorted on the ship with my husband being wheeled on.
Cabin: We had cabin 3360 and this was our first time in an ocean view as we usually get balconies. We had done a "C Guarantee" and this cabin was perfect for us! It was between two doors to the promenade deck on the port side. There was one cabin on the stern side and that was it for neighbors. The hallway to the stern side was where they had us park the scooter at night. The room was quiet and a good size. I had everything put away by early afternoon.
Ship and Staff: The ship, in my opinion, is in great shape. Everything is neat and clean and in good working order. The staff are wonderful. They accommodate disabilities so well. We learned that you can fit a scooter (the size we rent) under the Greyline buses! That opened up so many avenues for us.
Dining: We had As You Wish dining and I made reservations in the morning if we were thinking of the dining room. We had tables for 2, 4 and 6 at various times during the cruise. We're not foodies and always found the food to be very good, the service impeccable, and the desserts lovely. My husband particularly enjoyed having the Baked Alaska each night. We ate in the Canaletto one night (no charge, no cotton candy) and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. We also did the Lido a couple of evenings when we were just too tired to change and go to the dining room. Breakfast and lunch were in the Lido and we enjoyed the chocolate croissants, the bread pudding, the wonderful salad bar, the custom made omelets, and the ice cream!
Meet & Greet: We had our meet and greet on Saturday, July 28th at 11:00 AM in the Crow's Nest. We had a great turnout and the Holland America staff outdid themselves. We had in attendance the Beverage Manager, the Hotel Manager, Cruise Director Michael, and the Captain, Jonathon Mercer even came! We were all excited about that!
Meet and Greet Photo: We didn't get a photo at the Meet and Greet - a lot of people, the officers there and everyone was having a good time - so I arranged with Michael, the Cruise Director, to stage a photo on the last sea day at 4:45 PM. About half the group came but we were all tickled to see the officers join us again as well. The Captain, Hotel Manager, and Cruise Director were all smiling away, posing for photos, etc. and Michael arranged for a ship's photographer to take the photo for us.
Ports: In Ketchikan I did some shopping and then we explored to the west as we hadn't done that before. The visitor's center has a great walking map tour if you want to do something different. It was raining - off and on - but that's Ketchikan.
Tracy Arm: We got all the way to Sawyer Glacier! Captain Mercer and his crew did a marvelous job!
Juneau: It was raining (off and on) again. We did the Juneau Highlights tour which gave us time at Mendenhall Glacier, McCauley Salmon Hatchery and a nice city tour.
Icy Strait Point/Hoonah: This is a tender port and the weather was nice. We needed to take the scooter off ship and I was impressed. The crew members manning the tenders carried the scooter down a flight of stairs to board the tender, and up again when we came back. This port is not nearly as commercialized as the other ports and it was peaceful to explore. We did a Hoonah "City Tour" and both our guide and driver were native Tlinket women who had marvelous stories to share and lots of information to give us.
Anchorage: It was a beautiful sunny day in Anchorage and close to shirt sleeve weather. We did the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Portage Glacier tour. It was a full day (1:00 PM - 7:00 PM) but definitely worth it! The views of Portage Glacier we fantastic. We were on the Ptarmigan and it got quite close to the glacier. There was also a National Forest Service ranger on board to provide commentary.
Homer: Homer is an unspoiled town and your transportation is by school bus for all the tours. This trip we did the Homer Highlights tour that went to the Ocean and Wilderness Conservation Center, Pratt Museum and the Lowell Gallery. This also included a city tour - which didn't take long but was still informative. All three stops were nice and we could have used a lot longer at the Lowell Gallery and the Ocean and Wildlife Conservation Center It was overcast and just a bit of rain.
Kodiak: Rain, rain, everywhere rain! We stayed on ship until 11:00. When we got off the Memory Makers vans were just letting off the first group so they loaded us up right away so we could get out of the rain - but we were still soaked. If you can do a trip with them when in Kodiak they are great! There were only 4 of us in the van - another couple and us. We went all over the place including Abercrombie State Park and the Military Museum, past the Coast Guard Station, to the fairgrounds for the eagle nest, and to Belle Flats for some great views of the Russian River. We looked for bears and puffins (saw the latter but not the former) as well as seeing people fishing. We were back on the ship at 2:15, wet but having had a great time. This was formal night and the entertainment was the Amsterdam singers doing Broadway tunes which was very good.
Hubbard Glacier: During the night between Kodiak and Hubbard the waves were high and the wind was blowing. We were to stay off the promenade deck which didn't take a lot of convincing! In the morning things were calmer and we were allowed access once again. The day was an at-sea morning. The rangers and the native people got on board at 2:00 and the ranger did a talk that was ok. From there it was out on deck to look at Hubbard Glacier. Even though it was overcast and there were low-lying clouds the glacier shone and the views were stunning.
Sitka: The day was cloudy and we tendered in. Sitka has free wi-fi pretty much all over town which is nice. We went to a few of our favorite spots then checked in with the email and internet before heading back to the ship.
Victoria: We did the self-guided walk on Dallas Road. We turned left when we left the dock and wandered all along the waterfront to the Empress Hotel then back to the ship. It was about 6 miles total and a beautiful day to walk.
Now we're home and looking back over the trip and we still are reveling in it. This is a great itinerary and I'm sad that Holland America won't be running it next year. The trip was 2 weeks of fun and relaxation, a chance to meet and connect with some really nice people, and a highlight of our summer.