My husband and I had a wonderful time. It was an excellent way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.This is a great itinerary, and we love this ship. It is a perfect size. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, with marvelous artwork throughout. You can get a printed description of it, or an iPod tour.
We really enjoyed our cabin. It was very comfortable, with excellent cabin stewards. See my cabin review.
The cruise director, Gene Young, was great and the entertainment enjoyable. The HAL singers & dancers were okay, but they had two dancers who were fabulous. Those two dancers did a special show, not usually on the entertainment line up. The guest performers were varied and not too good to excellent. (We walked out of a couple) The HALcats on the deck were fine and the acoustic guitarist/singer was excellent. We enjoyed movies in the Wajang theatre, complete with popcorn.
Team Trivia: All but one session, cruise director Gene Young was the host, and a very entertaining host he was. The prizes were much better than usual, probably because the ship was coming off the World Cruise.
A Ukrainian duo "Adagio" (pianist and violinist) played lovely classical music almost every evening, which we enjoyed as ever. We remember though when "Adagio" was a 4-person ensemble before cost-cutting.
Crew shows with lovely music and dancing, showcased Indonesian culture then a few days later Filipino talent, on a sea day near the end of the cruise.Library quiet, extensive selection, Internet available (not too terribly expensive if package deal chosen). Emily, the librarian/Internet tech was great. She also ran the Book Club, which I enjoyed.
Most of the meals were excellent. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Lido, though a couple of times we ate breakfast and lunch in the MDR.
Lido: We were happy with the Lido, both in food quality and service. We did not experience long lines, cold food, or multiple trips from the line to our table. Several times we enjoyed light fluffy omelets deftly cooked to order while we watched.
MDR: We were at a table for 10 though we had requested a table for 6. We decided to stay anyway since our table-mates were pleasant, as were the waitstaff. One negative: our table was almost always among the very last to get served. This was due I believe to there not being enough wait staff, and the very size of the table. Our waitstaff was great, though overworked.
Ports: Barbara, the Port Specialist, was not all that informative compared to the wonderful Lisa we had on the Westerdam's cruise to the South Pacific. Her talks were only okay because there was not as much content as we would have liked, and she did not have any tips for independent touring as well as ship excursions. Lisa's talks were so informative, so entertaining, and so helpful to make the most of our time in ports.
We enjoyed geo-caching, finding at least one in most of the ports, and even a virtual cache in the Panama Canal. We did a combination of ship's excursions, private shore excursions arranged with other CC members, and doing our own thing in ports. Ship excursions “Antigua on Your Own” at Puerto Quetzal , Guatemala, and “Banana Plantation and Rural Community" near Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, were both very enjoyable.” As usual, we LOVED Half Moon Cay.
Our van tour in Cartagena was quite good with Dora’s company, though the van was too full. The tour with Ricky Riccardo in Costa Rica was excellent through out. It helped that we docked at Puntarenas instead of the originally scheduled Puerto Caldera, a container port.
Cruising through Panama Canal fascinating and expertly narrated, informative and interesting with just the right amount of information. It was endlessly fascinating. We also saw a yellow-blossomed tree in bloom that only blooms for a week, and then is done.
The tour of Leon I arranged with Julio’s Tours at the Corinto/Leon stop was outstanding! I recommend him with no hesitation. Other CC members who went on a Julio's Tours to Cerro Negro were also hugely impressed. Some cruise ship passengers have advised just staying on the ship in Corinto. I disagree. Sure, the country is poor, but all the people we met were very nice, and there is a lot of history in the area.
Puerto Quetzal: The dock is not near the town, but the cruise port is a wonderful facility with a performance area, and fine shops/stalls. My husband and I are not normally big on shopping but on our return from the ship tour, "Antigua on Your Own" we had fun shopping, and made several purchases. We also chatted a bit with the one shop keeper. We really enjoyed the tour. The guide, Roger, on the bus was very informative about the people, the economy, the natural history the area, etc. In Antigua, he gave an excellent briefing about when and where to meet him and the bus. In the Jade Shop we were all given free samples of coffee, and more information about touring the town, as well as an excellent map. Jerry and I loved that town! The buildings are so historic, the Arch of Saint Catherine scenic as well as historic, most of the street vendors were nice and even helpful, and yes, we did some geo-caching. One of our cache hunts took us up to the Cerro del Cruces (Hill of the Cross). There is a neat pedestrian path to get up there, as an alternative to the cobblestone road. There are also great views of the town and the volcanoes. We also were pleased that when we got out of what I will call the sightseeing core, almost everyone we met said a friendly "Hola" as simply one person to another.
In Astoria, some old friends drove down from the Portland metro area to spend a few hours with us. Our friends took us up to the Astoria Column, so we were able to have a more leisurely visit up there than ship tours provide. It is easy to do independent touring in Astoria because so much is within walking distance of where the ship docks. Also, the excellent volunteer cruise hosts ashore give a lot of suggestions. Then there is the historic trolley that goes up and down the town.
In Vancouver, Canada where many people disembarked, and quite a few embarked for the one day cruise to Seattle, Jerry and I did our own thing. We rode the Hop On Hop Off bus, which interestingly enough was exactly the same cost as if we had booked in on board the ship. We enjoyed the ride on the double-decker bus, and narration very much. Among the many highlights were Stanley Park, Brockton Point, and Prospect Point. After the tour, we chose to walk the short distance back to the pier, stopping at a kind of indoor mall, and at some other shops on Water Street. We strolled around Canada Place for a little while before getting back on the Amsterdam.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: We flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of the cruise and were favorably impressed with the courtesy and efficiency of the Holland America employees, stationed in baggage claim and responsible for helping passengers transfer to the ship. In the terminal, we waited in a reasonably fast line for about a half hour. I quickly was embarked; my husband was not. We spent 3 anxious hours because at first HAL was not going to let my husband board. He was the last passenger to embark, with an escort. Put it this way: never play “musical passports” but instead have each person carry their own with easy access.
Many passengers embarked/Disembarked in San Diego and in Vancouver, Canada. For disembarking passengers, and for those of us with plans in San Diego for the day before continuing the cruise, the process in San Diego was a time consuming disaster due to U.S. Customs & Immigration, and a handful of very rude people who did not promptly report for inspection. It did not help that on the ship things were not well organized, which is unusual in our experience. The hallways were clogged with a mixture of disembarking guests and in transit guests. We were an hour late getting to a geo-caching event we had organized. I shudder to think how many people missed flights or at the least had a tense time wondering about making flights. In Vancouver everything was well-organized though a bit hectic as there were several other ships at the cruise terminal. Disembarkation in Seattle was well organized and swift.