This was my 15th cruise for my wife and me and the 12th cruise for my two boys ages 12 & 18. In addition, this was the second cruise with Holland America. We cruised 4 years ago on the Ryndam. We flew from Ontario California to Sea-Tac and arrived at 1:30pm. This is much later then we wanted to, however we booked this cruise at the last minute and really did not have too many other choices. We arrived at the pier just before 3:00pm and had to spend some time filling out luggage tags and paperwork, since we did not have any due to the last minute booking. Other than the last minute paperwork check in was fast, however the embarkation clerk just went through the motions. She did not smile once nor offered us any information. By eavesdropping on people, getting check-in next to us is how we gleaned some basic first day embarkation information. Sure, we have cruised many times; however, there seems to always be a little something different going on the first day of the cruise.
We were in Cabin 1820 on the Dolphin deck. We were happy with the ocean view however the cabin was a little more forward then we prefer. The next day the sea was rough and we really felt it in that forward cabin, the DW had to order some green apples and crackers to get through the evening. There were four of us the cabin and it was surprising that we had enough room to hang up all of clothes, also the closest have adjustable shelves that you can kind of customize. The only time we really felt crowded was getting ready from dinner.
We were very surprised at the cleanliness of the ship. It was well maintained and it is worthy to note that if a ship of this age was so well kept up. Since I have been on other cruise lines and ships, half their ages have shown wear and tear. There were always crews members cleaning and polishing.
As always, the focus of a cruise is the food. When we sailed HAL last we were a little disappointed since their food was a little bland. However, all of our expectations were exceeded on this sailing. We ordered room service breakfast most of the days and it was delivered hot and on time. In addition, if there is something that you want for breakfast just write it in on the card and it came. I was pleasantly surprised at this since I assumed you would only get this type of service in a suite. We had breakfast at the lido once and enjoyed the variety of dishes and omelets they served. On disembarkation day since we were up early anyway, we decided to eat in the restaurant. Of course the menu was much more limited that the plethora of choices on the Lido deck. However, that was brought to us was made fresh and the service was excellent even on the last hour that we were on the ship.
There was no AYWD on this cruise and we were relieved while I like to be progressive with how the cruise lines modernized and change with the time. I feel that dining is one thing that should be left alone, since I think that this is the only link that is still alive today when compared to cruising of old. Our dining team were one of the most professional servers that we have ever had. Our needs were always meet and by the second night, they knew our preferences. We did not have a bad dish the whole week. There was been plenty of criticism of the desserts that HAL serve, however we did not find this to be the case. We just put it into the hands of our waiter and asked which dessert we should get and he never failed us once. We had dinner at the Pinnacle Grill one evening to celebrate my son's 18th birthday. The service and food were fantastic and the beef dishes were on par with Morton's and Ruth Chris. We felt the 20.00 per person was well worth it and we will definitely go again when we return to HAL. The only issue we had is when we booked the reservation they asked if it was for a special occasion, I told them about my son's birthday, and he seemed to be making a note of that on the computer. However, nothing special was done for my son's birthday. During dessert, we thought they would bring out a special cake. Nevertheless, nothing ever materialized and after a two and half hour dinner, I really did not want to make an issue out of it. The next night in the regular dining room, we all celebrated with a cake.
We attended three shows. There was an Elton John tribute guy and a young magician both of these gentleman put on a real entertain show. I though that the boys would get bored at the Elton John Tribute, but they loved it. In addition, if you happened to be on this cruise I am the crazy person who actually kissed him on the cheek when we dared me to. We also stayed up late to watch the Indonesian Crew Show. This was kind of a variety show, where they would sing, dance and play instruments native to their country. It was awesome to be entertained and to learn a little culture at the same time.
We did not purchase any ship-sponsored excursions. In Juneau, we rented a car from Rent-a-Wreck. The picked us up from the pier and in the evening we parked the car in the garage that was located a short walk to the ship. In Sitka, we purchased a tour from the pier. In Ketchikan, we were going to purchase a tour, but several of the tour people in the office at the pier and outside, were very obnoxious and were acting as if they were doing us a favor by offering a tour. Therefore, we said no to everyone and did our own walking tour, which there are signs that direct you. We took the funicular up then walked down to the Hatchery and totem park, then back down around Creek street. We did not bother to get off in Victoria. We have been there before and felt were not missing much since is such a short stop, plus it was raining and we did not want to deal with since we had enough the previous day. When we returned to Seattle we had a late flight so we rented a car from Thrifty right their on the pier. We went to a Winery, Brewery, Pikes Market, and the Seattle Center.
With all the tours that we have done though, I felt the best time we had on this cruise was our day in Glacier Bay National Park. This day is what made this cruise. The glaciers were spectacular and we lost track how many times we saw a glacier calve.
Disembarkation was painless we had an 8:00 pm flight so we left the ship around 9:30am. I also like the fact that there were minimal announcements made during this time. In addition, it was nice to be able to stay in your cabin and just walk off the ship when your time came to leave.
This cruise exceeded all of expectations and we feel that Holland America Line has made extreme changes to their food and menu which makes there offerings much more palatable. Another point I would like to make is that we got a smile and hello from every crewmember that we came across. This is in stark contrast to other cruise lines that would not even acknowledge you if they were not serving you. In addition, announcements were kept to a minimum during our vacation. In addition, we never felt hounded to purchase something or to buy drinks. Actually, I noticed that I bought more drinks on this cruise, and I feel it is because I was not asked every five minutes if I wanted a drink. I feel the Crew and Staff of the Amsterdam went above beyond and we will definitely be returning to Holland America.