This is our first cruise to Alaska. We (me, my wife, my in-laws, our daughter, and one adult friend) boarded the ship at the new Pier 91 in Seattle. We have been on one HAL cruisen (Veendam) in the Caribbean and also Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity.
We arrived at the pier at about 12:00 and there was a ton of people there. One of the huge Princess ships was also being boarded and people were everywhere. The whole process of getting on the ship took about an hour and it went smoothly. At first, I thought it was a mad house but maybe it was organized confusion.
THE SHIP: The Amsterdam is just a little bigger than the Veendam. As far as the decor, I didn't care for it as much as the Veendam. It was dark, dark, dark. Dark paneled wood on the walls, dark navy in the dining room and lots of charcoal gray. The chairs in the dining room were worn, especially on the arms. I could tell that all of the carpet in the public areas had been replaced during the dry dock. The art collection on this ship did not impress me like the one on the Veendam. Oh, I may get flamed for this next comment. I absolutely hated that monstrousity of an atrium piece. It is the ugliest thing I have ever seen on a ship. I guess some like it but everytime I walked by it I wanted to close my eyes. In contrast, I thought the Lido deck and pool were lovely with a bright yellow and blue paint scheme. The bear statues at the pool were so appropriate for an Alaska sailing. They are cute. I must say that even though we did not eat in the Pinnacle Grill I did go by and peek in one day. It is beautiful and elegant. I liked it more than any other room on the ship. O.K, Guys, here is my pet peeve. I was so looking forward to the beautiful FRESH flower arrangements that HAL always puts in their public rooms when we got on the ship. GUESS WHAT? They weren't there! They finally showed up on Monday, the third day of the cruise. I really don't think this crew was ready for the sailing after the dry dock.
CABINS: The cabins were roomy and had plenty of storage. Our in-laws had a balcony and we had an oceanview. Half of our window was so fogged up all the time that we could not see out of it. The balcony cabin was wonderful. My MIL (who had terminal cancer) spent many hours on it viewing the scenery when she did not feel like getting out of their room. The beds are VERY COMFORTABLE! We had no sewer smells. One bad thing was their balcony was covered with mud on embarkation day. It finally got cleaned on Day 2. The cabins were not ready for occupancy at 1:30. Toiletries were not present and other details were left unattended.
SERVICE: This is where HAL is slipping. The dining room service was awful. It took way too long to get a course. I hate the AS YOU WISH option but we had to use it because the set times were booked. After 4 nights of the slow service we decided to eat in the buffet for the rest of the cruise. No, the food wasn't as good, but at least we had time to do something else before bedtime. I like to have the same waiter who knows your wants and dislikes every night. The coffee was just barely warm most nights and it was almost impossible to get the waiter's attention. ROOM SERVICE: One word: TERRIBLE! The orders were never right and they took up to 45 minutes. VERY DISAPPOINTING! Service at the Front Desk was always excellent. The crew was polite and prompt to answer any question with a smile. You really felt like there were there to serve you.
FOOD: This category was hit and miss. I can honestly say there was not one night in the dining room or the buffet that there was a dessert that was good enough to eat. The ONLY dessert that was really delicious was the chocolate cake ordered from room service. It was rich, dark choclolate. The food in the dining room was not a good as it was on the Veendam a few years ago. I really believe that they do this on purpose so you will pay extra to eat in the Pinnacle. I ate the seafood most nights because I don't like beef and I get tired of chicken. I would have to rate the food as just average. A little disappointing. Some of the best things were: chilled soups, spring roll appetizer with sweet chili sauce, shrimp provencale, lobster tail, and the hot dogs. The Lido buffet food was your average cafeteria-type food. Just O.K. I did not try the pizza. The ice cream was a definite downgrade. You used to get Haagen Daz, now you get this awful tasting stuff.
ENTERTAINMENT: All of the shows were pretty good except for the one with a solo female singer. Robin was her first name. Not even good karaoke. The Illusionist was good as was the shows with the ship's singers/dancers. The male and female lead singers were really good.
MISCELLANEOUS: There is an Alaskan Salmon Bake on the Lido where they cook salmon over coals. The line was too long so I didn't try it, but it smelled good. They had the SPECTACULAR DESSERT BUFFET one night at 10:45. I took pictures. There were several ice carvings and lots of pretty desserts, but they did not taste near as good as they looked. THE POOL was wonderful! It was heated and felt soooooo good. Be sure to carry your swimsuit. The hot tubs were a different story. One was almost boiling hot and the other was barely warm. We stayed in the pool.
DISEMBARKATION: It was just fine. We slept til 7:00 and got ready for breakfast. We were in no hurry to get off since our flight did not leave til afternoon. We found our luggage rather quickly and took off to the airport.
SUMMARY: I cannot begin to describe the natural beauty of Alaska. It is AWESOME. This made the cruise worthwhile. Holland America used to be our favorite line, but now I am not sure. There is a definite difference in now and a few years ago. I just thank God that my MIL enjoyed the cruise. She died 9 days after we returned home.