Amsterdam Cruise Review by grandmaR: Amsterdam-May 13-27 2011 to Alaska
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Amsterdam-May 13-27 2011 to Alaska
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. Neither of us has ever been to Alaska before
Pre-Cruise: one night at the Mayflower Park Hotel. I had been to Seattle in 1994 and wanted my husband to see Pike Street Market and eat dinner at the Space Needle. The concierge at the Mayflower said I could borrow a wheelchair to go to Pike Street Market (which we did). She also made arrangements for us to be picked up at the airport in a Town Car ($45) and gave us the Cruise Special which included breakfast the next morning and a shuttle to the port. Internet in the room was free.
Embarkation: fast and easy. We were delivered to the dock about 12:10, the porters took our bags and showed us where the scooter kiosk was on the dock. I got on the scooter and we went through, right onto the More ship with no waiting.
Food: Since this cruise was booked only one day before the final payment, we had non-fixed dining. We went up to eat every day at 5:15 and never had to wait for a table. We had room service for breakfast whenever we had an early tour and it was delivered at the time we asked and had the items on it that we wanted.
On the first few days in the Lido, you could not serve yourself because they said they were trying to avoid people who came on board spreading sickness. But this made the lines very long. There was no way I could do the Lido on either a scooter or with a cane even if I was allowed to serve myself. If I was lucky enough to get food, I would have no place to put it on the scooter. I had to find a table and my husband had to guess what I would want and bring food. On previous HAL ships, the staff has been helpful when people are handicapped and having trouble, but that was not the case here. No one offered to help, and we only were offered tea or water at the table once. So we never ate in the Lido if there was any other option.
Dining Room service was excruciatingly slow and sometimes we did not get what we ordered. I ordered two soups once and only got one of them. A lady and I ordered two different omelets and she got mine but didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle. I understand this was because of mostly new crew.
The food was usually good. I love the cold soups. The breakfast menu in the dining room was changed from when we were on HAL before and I liked it. We were able to get cranberry juice and tea if we wanted. We never ate at the specialty restaurants.
Activities: We did Trivia once. We usually do all the Trivias but we didn't have any fun at the first one so we didn't go again. I went swimming once. The pool was nice and warm, and the bathrobe in the room was good because the air wasn't that warm. We did not use the spa. Bob went to a couple of the shows, but he does not like the flat floor in the HAL theaters first floor. We had good internet access in the room, but the computer lady (who was excellent) couldn't get my computer to stay logged on so she lent me one of the ship computers. That worked for me.
There are several places we visited where you don't have a port listed.
After we left Seattle we went up the Inside Passage and this was beautiful.
Between Ketchikan and Juneau we did Tracy Arm. It was nice weather - not too cold and there was a very interesting naturalist on board giving a narrative. We didn't get to see the glacier, but it was peaceful and beautiful. Bob forgot to get some split pea soup on deck as it is his favorite. I was sorry that we didn't get to go to Glacier Bay which is the prime location for glaciers although I did like Tracy Arm.
We also did Hubbard Glacier. They had a talk in the theater before hand. The naturalist at Tracy Arm was better, although the Glacier itself was amazing and we got to see it having a lot of calves.
Disembarkation - Black Mark for Amsterdam here. They failed to tell us was the breakfast hours or what would be open so we got room service. I had intended just to get a taxi to the airport and that would have worked excellently. We would go off the ship (me on the scooter) and Bob would get the luggage and then we would turn the scooter in and get a taxi. But when Bob turned in the form they persuaded him that he should buy the $19 each bus tickets to the airport. Not only did we have to wait while all the luggage was stowed but the bus dropped us off a LONG way from where we had to go to check our luggage and for me to get a wheelchair. The only airlines who were checking luggage at that location were AAA and Delta. We had to go across the loading area, and up the escalators with four suitcases (2 each) to Southwest and it was very difficult. (There were too many people with strollers and luggage carts to use the elevator.) Very much more hassle than it needed to be Less
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Cabin review: B6116 Vista Suite with Verandah
Very quiet - near the end of the corridor by the forward elevators. Plenty of storage space. Veranda was terrific for photography. We had to move the furniture around a bit to make room to get the scooter in and parked, but there was more room to store stuff than we had stuff to store Even though the steward and his assistant had 29 rooms to do, they kept the rooms clean although they didn't always get to it while we were at breakfast.
Port and Shore Excursions
Our seats were on the left side and I felt that most wildlife sightings were on the right side. They saw moose and Beluga whales. We saw Dall sheep up high on a craig, and a bald eagle on a nest. But we stopped for the eagle, and all the people on the right got a chance to take photos, which we didn't get for the moose. It was difficult to take photos anyway because of the reflections in the windows, although the windows were clean. We could go into the bumper section between the trains to take a picture if we wanted it to be without glass, and there was a food car which had a double decker area, but I didn't go up there.
They announced that they would sell a book for $5.00 which had a mile by mile list of what there was to see, but they didn't get to car C to sell it to us before we left at 10:00 am. They did give us a free brochure.
The weather was nice and sunny when we started out. As we left the city was passed (on the right side) and air strip which went between houses in a community. People had their planes parked by their houses.
We passed Potter Marsh which is officially called the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Apparently the city wanted to make it a dump, but the school kids saved it. We saw lots of ducks and geese. We went past Beluga Point (where the whales were sighted in the river) and then arrived at Girdwood. I didn't see anything there so it must have been on the other side of the train.
We entered the Chugach National Forest which was where we saw the Dall sheep, and the track ran along Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet which has 40 foot tides. There is a bore tide every day. After that was Portage. I didn't see anything there either. The guides told us that during the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, this area registered 9.2 on the Richter scale - it shook for 12 minutes and dropped 12 feet.
We went through two fairly substantial tunnels and got to Whittier where it was cold and rainy. The guide said they got an average of 1.25 inches per day of rain and 20 feet of snow. They have tunnels between buildings.
We started eating lunch before we got there - it was a good lunch with a turkey sub, chips, and apple and a cookie. We did not get off in Whittier although we could have done.
We left Whittier going backwards (and the seats did not switch) and went back to Portage at which point we switched ends again and went forwards to Spencer to see the glacier there. The only way to get to this glacier is on this train. I did get some pictures. Then we went back to Portage (backwards), and got on buses to take us back to Anchorage.
The very hardest part of this excursion was going down the steps to the tender and climbing the ramp to the dock. After the excursion we walked out to the little cemetery.
The bus driver was a cute little girl named Camile and she was a good guide and good bus driver. The weather was really good and the she pointed out a range of mountains that she said they couldn't usually see. We got to the Mendenhall Glacier, and had some time to go to the museum and walk around and take photos. They had an elevator and I took that and Bob walked up the steps. We could have walked out to the waterfall if we did it quickly, but neither of us tried it. At the visitor's center, we saw the film, and it explained that the glacier ice is blue because it is so dense that it absorbs all but the blue light spectrum.
After the glacier we went to Juneau Gardens, which had upside down trees - due to a landslide that blocked the road, all the debris and logs were pushed onto this property and the man (Steve) who owned the property conceived the idea of sticking the top down in the ground and putting plants on the roots that were in the air. They took us on a tram ride up the hill and then we walked up to a platform to see out over the Juneau. I could have done without the walk - the view wasn't that great.
Then we went back to the garden center. There I saw that I could have had a wheelchair. They had a little cafe there and since we would be back to the ship after lunch, Bob and I got some chili (came out of a can and was heated up in the microwave).
Next we went to the salmon hatchery and they explained how they raised salmon. They collect the eggs and milt and then raise the small salmon to a certain size and let them go out to the ocean and swim around for a couple of years and then they come back to the hatchery to spawn. They had a little aquarium there.
Then I thought I would send my children some salmon. But I didn't have my wallet or my address book with me.
Camille dropped us off at the Mt. Roberts Tramway. It was nice weather and we had a good view. But now I had to walk back to the ship. I had to stop and rest a couple of times. The tramway was in front of Celebrity Millenium (from the top of the tramway you could see how much smaller the Amsterdam was) and the Milenium was parked by the tramway so I had to walk the length of both ships. When we got back to the ship I called the children, who all thought there must have been some emergency because I never call. I ordered the salmon and then we took naps after which we went out to get the bus to the salmon bake. This bus was a school bus and it took us out to the salmon bake.
I was a little disappointed in this as it was not as good as I remembered it being in Seattle. But the cornbread was excellent and I had four pieces. They also had a good potato/clam chowder. We got the bus back to the ship and the ship left port about 10 pm
When it got to 0800, I told Bob that I was going to take the scooter down to the embarkation deck and leave it and walk off the ship and to find the Duck tour because I knew I couldn't take the scooter up the ladder to the Duck. He was doubtful, but that's what I did - I parked it next to where the ramp was, and then walked off.
We found our duck on the dock, and climbed in. There was a plastic overlay with round portholes in it that we could open or close. But it was still very hard to take pictures as the holes were up above head level so I either had to hold the camera over my head, or stand up. It was a bright sunny day and was soon quite warm in the Duck. We could take off our coats that we had put on in anticipation of it being cold. First we had a tour through town, looked at the salmon ladder, went by Dolly's House (whorehouse).
Then we went into the water, and motored out of the marina. We saw some bald eagles on the breakwater, but I didn't get a photo. When we got back to land, they had to clean the Duck off and they got some bull kelp out from the wheels and showed it to us.
When we got finished it was only 10 am so we asked in the information deck where we could get a thumb drive (so as to transfer photos and Favorites to the ship computer). They said the business center was open and it was a short walk so Bob said he would walk and get the thumb drives for me and that I should NOT try to get the scooter off the ship as the ramp was too steep.
Of course I wasn't going to get back on the ship, so I went to the ship and watched people with walkers and scooters and wheelchairs getting off and they had a LOT of trouble because the ramp was so steep. So when one of the helpers got down to the dock, I asked him if he would bring my scooter down for me and gave him the key. Pretty soon, my scooter got down to me.
I scootered around town a bit (they had traffic wardens who would stop traffic if you wanted to cross the street just like school crossing guards). Bob came up behind me outside the candy shop where he had bought some fudge - he had watched them making it there but did not, of course, take any photos. We walked out to the Whale Park and took some pictures of the totem there. It was a pleasant day.
I think we could have booked the trolley around town right on the pier but we were happy with what we did.
At the Raptor Center, we saw the flight cage where the birds that they are preparing to release are housed. We were not to use cell phones or flash because we were behind one way glass. It was hard to take photos because of the reflections on the glass from the sunlight in the flight cage.
Then we went into a demonstration room and saw a short video, and then they brought in an immature eagle to show us. This eagle was dropped off when she was about 2 months old. She was starving because she had a malformed beak and couldn't tear her food into small enough bites to eat. So she can never be released.
Then we went into the shop, and I used the bathroom. It was so warm that I had taken off my coat (!!!) and when I came out of the bathroom stall I realized that I did not have my cane anymore. So I went back and found it. Bob meanwhile was walking around the outside cages where the birds that can't be released are kept. I went out and sat on a bench in the sun to wait for the bus to come back. I saw a truck come with a travel container (like a big cat carrier) and one of the workers said that they had gotten an eagle from Juneau.
The bus came back and delivered us to the docks where we boarded a catamaran with about 80 other people who had just signed up for the Sea Otter part of the tour. They would have had a chance to eat lunch before they came, which we did not. Bob had a couple of chocolate chip cookies that he saved from his box lunch in Anchorage so we each ate one of them.
The catamaran had a naturalist on board and he kept us entertained with narrative between sightings. It was cooler, so I put my coat back on. We saw humpback whales really really close, and I actually got some pictures of them. We also saw some sea otters, a bald eagle nest with two chicks in it, and even some starfish (which I didn't get any pictures of as my camera was too slow to focus). They served us a sample of smoked salmon, a scone and hot chocolate.
He brought us right back to the tender dock on the ship, which was good as we didn't have to go up the ramp from the excursion dock and down the ramp to the tender dock and then ride the last tender back to the ship. Also one tender wouldn't have held all of us. The last tender was waitig for us to leave the tender dock so it could unload the last group of people.
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