Amsterdam Cruise Review by Freon: Relaxation Plus!
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My husband and I cruised on the August 10 sailing on the Amsterdam to Alaska. It was intended to be a complete relaxation cruise as we had been to the ports before though had not cruised the Tracey Arm Fjord. Embarkation was a dream. Even though we arrived at “prime time” around 11:30, it took us about 15 minutes from the time the car dropped us off to arriving in our Stateroom.
We took advantage of bringing our own wine onboard paying the corkage fee up front for our additional bottles. This was included in our 15 minutes to board time! While we mourn the passing of unlimited wine for the stateroom, we quickly got over this. A quick stop to the Neptune Lounge to introduce ourselves to Jersey and her team and we were off to the Mariner’s Lunch in the MDR. The choices for lunch were somewhat limited and we were surprised to see that there were no wines by the glass that met our $7.00 cap for our beverage cards. We met very nice people at our shared table. It More is true that once you meet on board, you will meet many times after that.
Our bags were delivered to our room by 1:30 (possibly earlier, but we weren’t there!) and we were unpacked by 2. Plenty of storage space with multiple closets, drawers, etc. (note to others, make sure to check all of those spaces before you leave as the prior tenants left several t-shirts and things from the shop in the room). We had one of the Neptune suites (Deluxe Verandahs) located at mid-ship. It was perfect. Nicely maintained, close to the midship elevators which we NEVER heard. Only when you were on the balcony could you hear anything from any of the other rooms and only when they were on the balcony. Note to fellow passengers: If you want to play your saxophone on the balcony and you are not particularly good at playing, please don’t do it! We were very lucky as no one smoked in the adjacent rooms. We only smelled smoke once on the balcony and it was very faint. Even the casino was not overly smoky.
The ship was in excellent shape, with little evidence that it had been some time since its last refurbishment. Beds were comfortable with great sheets and pillows. I’m always somewhat amazed by the whirlpool tubs in the bathrooms: Does anyone really ever use them? Walk in showers would be more productive, but that’s just MHO.
The Main Dining Room had good food and amazing service from all from the water guys through the waiters to the wine stewards. All were knowledgeable about the offerings and very good about special requests (salad dressing on the side, an order of chile relleno as a shared side) were accommodated with a smile. Make sure to try the cheese plates for dessert, keeping a few pieces of bread from dinner. The cheeses were great, the Saltines and Wasa were OK.
Jacques, the Sommelier for the ship, was very well educated and was able to take his knowledge and share it on many levels. We attended his more extensive wine seminar where he even opened bottles of champagne with a saber. We consume a lot of champagne, but had never actually seen anyone do this (not once but twice!). We were quite impressed. The wine selection was very nice and there were several Pacific NorthWest wineries represented including the LongShadows wineries. Prices were about 2 to 2 ½ times the wine store rates. Don’t forget the 15% service charge for all beverages.
Oh, the Pinnacle Grill. Service was exquisite, with the tableside Caesar salads. We had three dinners and one lunch there. The first time we did the add on for the crab legs. They were yummy, but not sure worth the $20 upcharge. The caviar appetizer was amazing (since I didn’t know I liked caviar!) and we received a very healthy portion for the $45 upcharge. Jacques and Noel helped with wine choices which were spot on. Try the cioppino. You won’t be disappointed. We had the filet, the porterhouse, the bone in ribeye, the halibut and the salmon (obviously not the same meal!) and loved each one of them.
We were just sorry not to have been able to try the other items! My husband loved the chocolate grand Marnier lava cake. I mentioned that I was sorry to miss the grand Marnier souffle in the MDR, and was delighted that the PG brought in the dessert for me.
We enjoyed Diane in the Piano Bar. Very entertaining, never took a break and kept us laughing and singing throughout the evenings. Pat and Anne Marie held down the bar which was quite busy most evenings. Service was always with a smile. Other than the individual artists, we weren’t overly impressed with the big venue entertainment. We do like having the movie theater available and saw a film that we had not seen before.
The Exploration Café served a very nice latte and by the second day, we were called by name and our order started before we got up to the counter. Their evening beverages were really good and a nice mid point on our evening.
We chose this cruise for Tracey Arm and we were not disappointed. The weather was cool and cloudy, but dry. We were awed by how close we were to land on each side of us. There were hundreds of harbor seals near the glacier which provided us with amusement. We saw lots of whales during the trip, including on our first morning at sea, with one coming right up along side the ship. Plenty of bald, golden and immature eagles as well. Sigh, we didn’t see any bears in the wild.
The Juneau and Sitka ports had solid rain. We got off the ship just to putter around (and Sitka, to avoid the all crew safety drills). We would have liked additional time in Ketchikan as we find it to be a really cute port. In reality, there is only about 2 hours there as we arrived quite early in the morning and were heading out by 1. We were late arriving into Victoria (tides and wind?) and there were two other larger ships already docked. We decided to stay on board, again because of the shorter time there.
We arrived back in Seattle and took our time getting up and off the boat. Again, it was amazingly quick. We got off the boat around 9 am and were waiting, with our luggage for the car service by 9:25. I think it took longer to walk the gangplank than anything else!
All in all, a delightful cruise and we look forward to another trip on HAL. Less
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