Just returned from 7 day Alaskan cruise on Holland America Amsterdam and had a great trip. Our cruise was in and out of Vancouver and stopped at Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. We have not sailed with HAL before so were curious how it would compare to other cruises we have taken on Disney, Costa, and Royal Caribbean. Our group of 8 was a mixture of middle aged adults and seniors with no children.
Vancouver is a beautiful port to leave from, very clean and safe downtown we stayed at the Delta Suites the night before disembarkation and then just walked the 2 blocks to the cruise terminal the next morning. Embarkation was a breeze.
Amsterdam is the smallest ship we have ever sailed on with only 1400 passengers. On the plus side there were very few lineups for anything and the ship was very easy to find your way around which seniors appreciate. The downside of the small size is not as many amenities such as full size sports courts and climbing walls etc. but as we did not have any children is our group this was not an issue. The other thing I observed is the ship was not as stable as the bigger ones we have been on but once again on this cruise which was on mostly protected waters it was not a big issue. I was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the ship considering it is 13 years old. Both the cabin and public areas were in excellent condition and very clean HAL should be commended.
Our fist stop was Juneau where the ship docks right in the middle of town so everything is easy walking distance. We went on the "Pilot Choice Helicopter" excursion which was a blast as we flew over the Juneau ice field and made two stops on top of the Herbert and Mendenhall glaciers. The flight was about an hour and 20 minutes long and was worth every penny. Back it town I would recommend everyone check out Red Dog Saloon, and have a "Duck Fart". It is a fun place with great atmosphere and not to be missed.
In Skagway we did the White Pass train up to the summit then rode bicycles back down to Skagway. It was quite rainy and miserable at the summit when we started but cleared up on the way down. The tour company gave us rain suits for the ride down. The train ride is not to be missed and they offer a variety of combinations and tours with it.
In Ketchikan we went on the snorkelling tour to Mountain Point as I wanted to tell everyone at home I went snorkelling in Alaska. The water temperature is around 60'F or 13'C but I must say with the wetsuits they have, complete with hoodie and gloves, I was never cold. I have never snorkelled anywhere but the Caribbean so I was curious how it would compare, the reefs were very similar just there were a lot less fish. The highlight was when a humpback wale surfaced about 200ft from where we were snorkelling. The guides were very good (Snorkel Alaska) and gave lots of info on wildlife you were seeing. Overall a very unique experience.
The highlight of the trip was the one day we cruised up the Tracy Arm up to the base of Sawyer glacier. We literally spent 8 hours standing on our balcony as we slowly cruised up the fjord. I was amazed the ship could navigate up the fjord with icebergs the size of houses floating around. They literally pulled right up to the glacier, which calved several times when we were there, and parked with the port side facing the glacier then after 20 minutes turned around so the starboard side was facing the glacier. It was truly a memorable experience, thanks HAL. We later heard that only 3 ships per day are allowed up the Tracy Arm and HAL has all the rights.
We signed up for HAL bus transfer to airport and it was it was well organized and painless.
Overall we had a great experience with HAL and I would say they exceeded our expectations. I think the Amsterdam is well suited to middle aged and senior travellers but it you are travelling with children your may want to consider a bigger ship with more amenities for them.