Activities on Amsterdam kick off shortly after breakfast and continue through the evening hours. Twice a night, there are shows in the Queen's Lounge, and they range from campy versions of Vegas-style reviews (one show featured feather-heavy costumes by Bob Mackie) to sets by comedians and magicians. The two-level Queen's Lounge is equally as opulent as those Bob Mackie gowns with a red, purple and gold color scheme and a stage framed by two large female statues.
The various bars onboard have entertainment at different times. You might catch classical music in the Explorer's Lounge or singing in Rembrandt's Lounge. Both the Explorer's Lounge and the Ocean Bar are great places for pre- or post-dinner drinks (or anytime, for that matter), and you may find that other passengers are decked out in more formal attire for the evening. There is also a small wine-tasting bar tucked across from the Culinary Arts Center, but keep in mind that it has very limited hours, typically open just one hour during port days and about three hours during at-sea days. The Sports Bar, adjacent to the Casino, seemed lightly visited.
You'll undoubtedly also find yourself at the Crows Nest -- part-bar, part-lounge, part-nightclub -- high up on the Sports Deck. While it is open all day, it is busiest at night, with disc jockey-led dance parties and live music. The bar is bustling, but the real attraction is the incredible, panoramic view. Head there after dinner. Long Alaska days make the Crow's Nest a great place to watch the sun slowly set.
Before pre-dinner cocktailing or grabbing a nightcap, there are plenty of ways to fill your day onboard. The Culinary Arts Center, complete with nine rows of cushy, theater-style seats is home to cooking and drink-making demos. Demonstrations are quite popular -- one called Chocolate Lovers Indulge proved to be a standing-room-only crowd -- so plan on getting there at least ten minutes before the start time to ensure a seat.
The Center was packed with all ages (if you have kids, don't miss the awww-inducing, and non-food-related towel animal demonstration), and activities were always interactive. That said, some of the demonstrations seemed too short and a bit superficial. For example, it would have been nice to see something other than a chocolate martini made during the chocolate demo.
In addition to cooking demos, which include the opportunity to taste the chef's creations, there are a limited number of hands-on cooking classes for $29 and scrapbooking seminars for $12. The Culinary Center doubles as the Wajang Theater, where the ship showed a selection of relatively new Oscar-nominated movies, including Doubt and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Another popular activity is the Microsoft Digital Workshop. There are four or five different sessions held each day, covering everything from the basics of getting digital photos from camera to computer, as well as more intensive sessions on editing photos, setting up Web pages and creating home movies. All classes are offered free of charge.
Shore excursion options for our Alaska Explorer cruise were extensive. You'll get a 33-page document that runs through the options in port. Choices range from easy-on-the-feet guided city tours to thigh-burning, half-day hikes to thrill-inducing (and more expensive) helicopter and float-plane tours. Meeting points for excursions were well organized by the ship's staff, who were always happy to direct us to a restaurant or pub onshore that was a little off the beaten path and not overrun with other cruise ship passengers. It's worth noting that, as the Alaska cruise season heats up, ports can be quite busy.