11 Holland America Amsterdam First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

I am not a cruise person. I don't feel that I fit in with my idea of what a typical cruiser passenger and therefore was not sure what I would think of my first cruise to Alaska. Although I have never really wanted to go on a cruise, ... Read More
I am not a cruise person. I don't feel that I fit in with my idea of what a typical cruiser passenger and therefore was not sure what I would think of my first cruise to Alaska. Although I have never really wanted to go on a cruise, I have always wanted to see Alaska, and especially SE Alaska and felt that it was best seen by ship. The idea would never have come to fruition had my step-mother not announced that she wanted to cruise to Alaska and she wanted us (her 2 step-daughters and step-son-in-law - all in our 50's). We were doing an old lady (73 with a dodgy knee) a favour. My sister dreaded it and was convinced she would not like the experience. I actually jumped at the opportunity as I thought it would be fun as a group. I was amazed at what I enjoyed and never thought I would. For one, I loved the rocking motion of the boat and being rocked to sleep every night. Having said that, I found it difficult to sleep because I wanted to see what was happening out side the window at all times. The buffet food was delicious and there were even healthy options. The staff were so wonderful I wanted to take them home. They remembered our names and greeted us everywhere - 1400 people on the ship that they only see for 1 week. I worried that our 'at sea' day would be boring and brought reading material and a sketch book (on a rocking boat, duh) but never bothered as it was so relaxing to just sit in the library or some other quiet corner and stare out the window. My sister quickly changed her tune as soon as she stepped on board. She, like the rest of us, loved every minute of it and had a good laugh with the other smokers in the small corner of the ship where smoking was allowed. She even convinced me to play bingo with her (my first time). I'm glad she did, we won a 7 day cruise and are now planning our second cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our first cruise, and hope it isn't our last. The ship was beautiful. We were spoiled everyday by staff.....from the ones that cleaned our room, to those that served our meals. All were extremely cheerful, friendly, and ... Read More
This was our first cruise, and hope it isn't our last. The ship was beautiful. We were spoiled everyday by staff.....from the ones that cleaned our room, to those that served our meals. All were extremely cheerful, friendly, and helpful. It was easy for first timers to get on and off at the beginning and all the ports we stopped at. All staff were very helpful to the passengers that got lost almost everyday! We were on the Gaither Homecoming Cruise, the music and entertainment were awesome. What a Blessing! Our 'mail' everyday kept us informed about all the activities for each day. We met some wonderful people that will be friends forever. Very nice to go on a trip with Christian people. A room with a window or balcony would be nice, but we had ample time and opportunity to go out on deck. Deck 3 was covered and went all around the ship, so we could walk for exercise or just look at the view. It was amazingly easy to get to our shore excursions and back on the ship, guides were funny and full of history and information. Very simple to disembark and get to our next destination. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was the first time cruising for my 14-year-old son and me. Alaska was the dream cruise for me and I looked forward to beautiful scenery, great photo ops, relaxation, good food, and comfortable, undisturbed sleep. Everything was as I ... Read More
This was the first time cruising for my 14-year-old son and me. Alaska was the dream cruise for me and I looked forward to beautiful scenery, great photo ops, relaxation, good food, and comfortable, undisturbed sleep. Everything was as I had hoped. CABIN: I booked us for a midship, lower level, inside room. (I was worried about motion sickness, but there was no need for that, at least not on this trip I could barely tell the ship was even moving; it felt like we were on solid ground. We cruised on the east side of Vancouver Island and very much on the inside all the way up, so there was little wave action.) On arrival I was surprised to find that I had been upgraded to an outside room, still midship, lower level, just down the hall a little ways. Our baggage was rerouted to our new location. The room was clean, the cabin stewards were very friendly, helpful, and always asking if anything was needed. Because of my bad back, I was happy to see that the beds were very comfortable and I had no trouble sleeping in our quiet, comfortable room. I wasnt sure when booking how roomy our cabin would be, but found it to be quite adequate. We had our sleeping area, a lounge area, closet storage, and the bathroom. The seating area had an upholstered loveseat and single seat, a small coffee table, a desk/counter area with three dresser drawers, large wall mirror, and another small upholstered stool. There were five (possibly six, but I dont remember for sure) closets measuring about 36 wide; all but one had hanging space, of which some also had a shelf or two, upper and lower, and one was all shelves. Plenty of hangers were available. One of the closets had a safe (Im told all the cabins had a safe). While the safe was not large, I managed to fit in it the following, without cases: 11 netbook, DSLR camera, two lenses for the DSLR, camera flash, iPod Touch, 7 tablet, various small electronics, medium-size point and shoot camera, wallet, and important documents. Before arriving, I doubted that what I needed to lock up would fit, but I was able to safely fit everything I needed to. (Things that dont fit can be secured with the purser.) The closet storage was more than adequate, with room to spare . . . and we brought a LOT OF STUFF! We were even able to stow our luggage in the closets, but there was room at the foot of the bed for a couple of pieces of luggage. I left out one piece that I could lock so that I could easily and readily access certain large, expensive items such as tripod, etc.) The very clean bathroom was much larger than I expected--room on the countertop, a shelf underneath, and three shelves in the corner medicine cabin. There was something that possibly could be used as a hair dryer in the bathroom, but it got a bit hot to hold within a few minute, so perhaps it was to dry the mirrors. A hairdryer was available in one of the dresser drawers. There was plenty of floor space to move about, hooks on which to hang robes/clothes, and a tub/shower of comfortable size. The showerhead was very nice and the water was always hot, which is saying a lot since we both tend to take long, hot showers. I suspect that there was an instant hot-water tank between the rooms, since the hot water came quickly. NOTE ABOUT ELECTRONICS: A U.S. (110/120v) voltage hairdryer will need to be used in the seating area there are no outlets in the bathroom. And the outlet that is available only accommodates one 110v electrical item, the other is for the 220v hairdryer. You may even want to bring a small adapter because if youre plugging in an item that is boxy (plug with battery holder), it doesnt or may not fit very well because theres limited space between the bottom of the mirror and the top of the table. HAL is concerned about fire, so I think thats why the options are limited so dont plug in more than one thing at a time and ask your steward for assistance if your needs cannot be adequately met; there is probably a solution available. We were able to charge all our many electronics without issue, but we did have one that barely fit. MEALS: We had breakfast in our room on all but two mornings. We selected our desired items from the varied menu the night prior, having to place the menu card on the door handle by a certain time (I believe it was by 1 a.m., maybe 2). On the card you select your items and a choice of several half-hour time slots when you want your breakfast delivered. We dined two evenings, the first and last, in the main dining room on the open-seating option. We never waited more than a few minutes to be seated. The food and service was very good, and we enjoyed the quiet, comfortable dining experience in a beautiful setting. The remainder of the time we ate in the Lido for lunch and dinner. While we enjoyed the buffet selection of foods, it was a little awkward juggling plates. No trays were available, so you had to just select a few items that would go on two plates/in bowls, go to your table and eat, or return for more plates of food and to get your non-alcoholic drinks (stewards served the alcoholic beverages). Juices were available free, but were not for the taking you had to ask for it and the dining steward would go to the kitchen to retrieve what you wanted. Tea, coffee, and water were available near the buffet area. I never saw any milk, though I think it was available, too, somewhere. If youre dining alone, though, which I sometimes did while my son was off with the teen group, leaving your plates of food on the table unattended might mean that the table will be cleared by the efficient steward staff before you return with your drink or other food. So I found it was necessary to notify the steward that I would be returning or leave some personal items at the table to make that obvious. The Lido is the preferred place to eat for the majority of passengers, so seating can be a little challenging sometimes if you dine at the busiest times when it can also be a bit noisy. So if you want a more peaceful, relaxing dining experience, I would recommend you dine in the main dining room. We ate there only two nights, with the second one being the last evening, after which I had wished I ate there more frequently for dinner. But for families and people who want to quickly grab something to eat, the Lido is the place to be! Food is available in the public areas much of the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snack, which included more cooked food as well as deserts! Then, of course, 24-hour room service was available, with a decent selection of foods from the room menu. We got back late one evening from our Skagway adventures, just missing dinner and so ordered room service (it arrived within 30 minutes!). This was actually quite nice since we were very tired and didnt want to have to get cleaned up and dressed for dinner. We didnt plan to participate in formal night, but we found smart casual to be easily accommodated. If you dont wear blue jeans and just dress in slacks or colored jeans and a nice shirt or top, youll be fine. Just be respectful of the formal night atmosphere and all will be well. I wore black jeans or slacks and a nice sweater or top. I did see a few inconsiderate people who were slobbed out a bit, but I dont know if anyone spoke to them or not. The non-formal passengers ate in the Lido or their room on the two formal nights. After dinner I roamed freely in my smart casual wear inside and out on the promenade. CHILDREN/TEEN PROGRAM: My 14-year-old son LOVED the teen program. There was a core group of about 25 teens that hung out together in The Loft where various activities and social opportunities were ongoing from about 10 a.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. He was able to come and go as he pleased. I had him check in periodically with me, and I could also call to The Loft and speak with him when I needed to do that. He loved having all that freedom and social opportunity. SHORE EXCURSIONS: We didnt sign up for any, and just roamed the streets of Juneau and Ketchikan. In Juneau we also took the Blue Bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. (Pick-up point is right off the docks and the price was $8/person each way.) If you take the city bus, its a little cheaper, but it involves a bit of a walk uphill to the visitor center area I believe its a half mile.) It was a rainy day and a bit chilly bring a warm coat to the glacier where its much colder than in town. In Skagway we rented a car and drove up into the Yukon. A smart move on our part we had considered taking the steam train ride up and bus tour back, but on our port day the fog was very thick from just outside of town and all the way up to where the train turns around. We would have seen nothing and wasted a lot of money. Instead, we drove on in our rental car and then broke out of the fog into some very beautiful scenery and had a great day with many photo ops. We even had the delightful experience of seeing a brown black bear and got some nice photos of him. ENTERTAINMENT: I didnt participate in much of it, but there wasnt all that much offered anyway, unlike what other cruise lines seem to offer. However, it worked for me because I wasnt interested in much of that anyway. I went on the cruise to primarily see the beautiful Inside Passage and experience some relaxation and good food. I also like the small ship size which meant lots of elbow room and getting closer to the glaciers than other cruise ships can. My expectations were met. But if you want a lot of onboard entertainment, HAL is probably not your best choice. EMBARKATION: Quite a breeze once we got through the long security lines. Do check your large luggage and only bring on a small piece with you through the check-in. I think it took us about 45 minutes from arrival to get on the ship. DISEMBARKATION: Impressively well organized. Luggage that you want taken off the ship for you needs to be placed outside your room in the hallway no later than midnight. You fill out a form many days prior answering questions relating to your post cruise plans. You have several options for getting off the ship: carry all your own luggage unaided and get off on the first time slot; select from several time slots to disembark if youre traveling independently; or the cruise will make arrangements for those who have post-cruise plans and are meeting tours or have a scheduled flight time. We were traveling independently, chose a time of 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. We are given colored tags for our luggage and a corresponding group number; on the morning of departure our color and group number was called when it was time to leave the ship. I expected chaos in the luggage area not so in Vancouver B.C. It was well organized and took us about two minutes to locate our luggage and be on our way through Customs, which was a fast experience, too. Then off to the shuttle to the hotel to pick up our car which we left at the hotel for free parking as part of our cruise-and-stay special. SUMMARY: I was very satisfied with the cruise experience with Holland America. I do have a standard of expectations and found nothing of any consequence to complain about or regret. All staff were very friendly and helpful, always asking if you need help with anything. The ship was very clean. Theres a 48-hour period in the beginning when only staff handles/serves food to help prevent the spreading of any diseases that anyone may have brought onboard. After a few days sailing, the entire ship is again thoroughly disinfected/cleaned. There are lots of places about the ship to sit and relax, read, look out the window or sit on deck to watch the beautiful scenery go by. I expected the outside deck area to be crowded and difficult to get a good spot to take pictures, but that was not the case. There was only one day for a short period of time when it was a little crowded along the rail, and that was when we spotted a large group of whales when entering Glacier Bay. Even then it was only two deep on the one side and everyone was very considerate and exchanged places with each other so everyone had opportunity to see and take pictures. Great job HAL!!!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We ... Read More
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We called an online American discount cruise company to book our passage. Our agent was able to get us a rate that was $400 less pp than the lowest rate I saw for the same type SA suite on the HAL website. We also received a $75 obc. Before the final payment our agent called to tell us HAL was offering free fares to third and fourth passengers in our suite. At that time we decided to take our two teenagers for the price of taxes ($112 pp) and the hotel gratuity charge ($12 pp/pd.) We had deluxe verandah suite room 7022 on the ms Amsterdam sailing May 25 through June 1, 2012. In the months leading up to the cruise I perused the Cruise Critic boards in anticipation of the trip. My time was well spent as I learned many tips that served us well on the cruise. The first, CC tip #1, which proved advantageous, was the advice to arrive in the port city a day or two before the cruise. We left our home at 4pm on May 23 and arrived in Seattle twelve hours later, with two delays, and an alternative arrangement hanging (KC to Minneapolis to NY to Seattle----arrgh!) I'm glad we allowed ample time as we needed it! We had prearranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at the airport and they were there, in the wee hours of the morning, and for $82 (this includes tip) they transported four passengers and six bags to the Seattle Center Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue (in the dead of night in a strange city I consider this a bargain!) We had a standard room with two queen beds, sofa bed, refrigerator/microwave. No breakfast was served, however the Holiday Inn Express is attached to the Holiday Inn Seattle Center and the express does include breakfast with their rates. We chose our hotel based upon the location and the brand as my husband travels with his work and earns hotel night points on each stay. The next morning we walked a few blocks to the Space Needle. We had made lunch reservations online for the revolving restaurant at the top. It cost $20 to go up to the observation deck for a look around OR you can go up for free and spend a minimum of $25 per person for lunch. We chose the latter and did not regret it. Every seat in the restaurant has a great view of the city. It was a clear day and we sat in the restaurant for well over an hour enjoying the sights---plus we had a great lunch (expensive but good and the view couldn't be beat.) After lunch we took the monorail to the Westlake Center. We walked to Pike Place Market and checked out the vendors, buying some pastries and peaches for the next morning's breakfast plus my husband bought me a huge bouquet of flowers (poppies, lupine, iris, daisies, etc...) for $10!---he said at home those would easily set him back $50. My daughter had to visit the original Starbucks, and my son enjoyed the oddities at the Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront. On the way back to the hotel we passed a chain drugstore and picked up milk for breakfast plus a few toiletries we had forgotten. We were all tired so we turned in early after ordering pizza delivery from Amante on East Olive Way. Try their Thai House pizza as it is fantastic. We had arranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at our hotel at 11:00 am for transportation to Pier 91. The cost was $48 (includes tip) which seems steep for a five mile ride but the local shuttle was charging $10 per person (and there were four of us). As it was we stepped off the elevator into a lobby crowded with cruise passengers waiting for the shuttle and were able to walk through it all and into our waiting car. The car dropped us off at the front door of the pier. Outside the front door our luggage was tagged for the Amsterdam before we proceeded inside with it. There are plenty of HAL representatives to direct the flow of traffic and answer questions. It probably took about thirty minutes total from arrival until we were standing in room 7022 where we put my flowers in water (in the extra champagne bucket found in the cabinet) and then carried the bottle of complimentary champagne down the hall to the Neptune Lounge. CC Tip #2 you can trade your champagne--we requested something non-alcoholic so our kids could enjoy it too and they graciously gave us a bottle of Fre Brut. At noon we slapped on our Transderm Scop patches for seasickness (CC Tip #3) and were prepared for the trip. We did encounter rough seas between Sitka and Ketchikan and I was so dizzy I skipped dinner that night but otherwise all was fine. CC Tip #4 bring your receipts for any pre cruise purchases. I had purchased some onboard gifts with points from our Visa card and they did not show up on our room statement but all I had to do was show the Neptune Lounge concierge my receipts and after checking with accounting she was able to make it all right. She also traded a $50 beverage card purchased with Visa points for two $25 soda cards for my children. The Lido was crazy crowded so we snacked in the Neptune Lounge before taking a mini tour of the ship and attending the mandatory life boat drill. By 4:00 all four of us were enjoying sail away on our spacious verandah (can you tell I'm spoiled by room 7022?) The next week was a whirlwind of activities, food, fun, and beautiful scenery. The kids enjoyed room service breakfast on most days, but my husband and I usually ate upstairs in the MDR. We liked the quiet, unhurried atmosphere. We rarely ate lunch instead opting for afternoon tea around 3:30 in our room. Our son liked eating lunch at the Lido where he met a variety of older folks who enjoyed engaging him in conversation. He hung out some at the Teen Loft playing X-box and old fashioned board games. My son was bothered a few times by some elderly people at the evening shows who kept encouraging him in a quasi-sign language to put his arm around his date (aka sister) or hold her hand. He was grossed out and wanted to hold up a sign that said "She is MY SISTER" but tried to ignore the people. One lady was quite persistent too. Another man came up to our son (who has no tattoos or piercings) and asked him if he was a Mormon. My son came back to the room wanting to know what a Mormon was because some older gentleman said he looked just like one. (I told him as soon as his braces come off he'd be a ringer for Donny Osmond.) Our daughter took off each day and enjoyed the salsa, cha-cha and foxtrot lessons, classical trio, classes, and snacking in the Neptune lounge (she took the $29 cooking class and thought it was worth it---they cooked and ate their own meal plus received an apron and the recipes.) She also managed to spend an entire $50 beverage card on coffees at the Explorations Cafe and mocktails at the Crow's Nest. We all met up for the 8:00pm dinner seating at table 20-- a four top by the window. We were adventurous and tried all of the proffered delicacies by sharing our plates (even the escargot), but I have to say the available daily broiled chicken breast with steamed broccoli and carrots and a baked potato were by far my favorites on the menu. Simple, yet delicious and satisfying. My son liked the spring rolls at the International Dinner, my husband liked the brownie baked Alaska with butterscotch sauce, and my daughter liked the lobster tail. (The former Master Chef Farewell dinner has been replaced on the Amsterdam by the International Dinner. At the end of the meal the staff sings "Love in any Language.") On the night we left Tracy Arm we ate in the Pinnacle Grill which was very tasty but an extremely long ordeal. I know good food takes time, and the food was excellent, but we barely made it to the 10pm show on time and our reservation was at 7:30pm. On the Juneau night we ate in the Canaletto and found it to be an enjoyable experience. The waiters were jovial and my teenagers were delighted with the two plates of piled high pink cotton candy. The taste of the Pinnacle Grill food was far superior, but the food served elsewhere on the ship is acceptable and even good for mass quantity cooking. (We saw on our kitchen tour that the Pinnacle Grill food is prepared in its own small kitchen with its own chef.) We did attend the dessert extravaganza on the second formal night, but we all agreed the presentation far exceeded the taste of the desserts. It would be better to view the desserts and then retire to your room to order a slice of chocolate cake from the 24 hour room service menu (that cake is delicious!) Our accommodations were lovely with plenty of room for four. Our room steward took all the back cushions off the sofa (which does fold out into a queen size bed) and made it up as a twin bed for our daughter and he brought in a roll-away twin bed for our son. Even with the twin bed folded out there was plenty of room to walk around with no one stubbing a toe. Scheduling four people through a bathroom on a formal night was another matter---CC tip #5 bring power strips. We brought two horizontal power strips, one for the dressing room, and one for near the master bed and it made it possible to plug in all our beauty appliances as well as our electronic devices. My daughter discovered a ladies' room near the MDR that had a separate room with lighted vanities so she took to applying her makeup there each day rather than wait her turn in our suite (plus she said the lighting was better in the ladies' room.) The bathroom in the suite is supplied with shampoo, conditioner, liquid body soap, bar soap, bath salts, body lotion, and a loofah, plus cotton balls and swabs at the vanity. There were four pairs of slippers to use and keep, plus four robes to use during the week. If you don't see the two extra life jackets check under the bed. On the first sea day we attended the CC Meet and Greet. I wore my "gamer name" on my badge but most others had on their real names---that made it difficult to match up people with online personalities. I'm glad we attended the party and our suite ended up being next door to a member of our CC roll call! We were invited to and attended two cocktail parties to meet the captain and crew members. At the first party, as guests entered they were introduced by name to the captain and the two crew members who stood with him. Then guests were dismissed to mingle with the other guests. At the second party the captain and crew mingled amongst the guests and we had a chance to speak with them. My husband especially enjoyed talking with the environmental officer and his wife (a delightful couple.) On a do-over I'd skip the first cocktail party and attend only the second party. At that party I met a 12 year old boy who was at the party as recognition for his helpfulness on the cruise. Apparently a couple had left their 3 year old daughter asleep in their room while they went about their fun on ship. The little girl awoke and opened the door and left the room. She somehow managed to get outside on deck and was found (by the young man) sitting on the deck steps crying for her parents. It would have been easy for this little girl to have stepped through the railing enclosure and fallen from the deck. I hope her parents were slapped silly for their stupidity. In Juneau we pre-arranged with Evergreen Taxi for taxi service to the glacier and then a tour around town---we wanted to see how the locals lived. Martha gave us a great tour and she has lived in the area 20 years and knows the ins and outs. In Sitka, Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound tours gave us a wildlife boat tour for our family of four. He provided snacks and binoculars and for about three hours took us around scouting out otters, seals, and whales (his boat has a bathroom.) In Ketchikan we took the incline railway up the hill and then looked at the small circle of totems before walking down the married man's trail into town. We shopped in a few stores and actually found a great deal on hooded, reversible rain jackets with fleece linings ($20) with Alaska embroidered across the left chest (found at the Tongrass store.) We had brought rain jackets but these were of better quality and a bit heavier for winter use back home so we bought one each for my husband and the two kids. I ended up getting a beautiful pendant of aquamarine in a silver setting from a locally owned jeweler, the Jewel Box, in Juneau. The color reminded me of the blue of the glaciers. We encountered fog on the way to Victoria and as a result were two hours late and were not able to make our Pedi-cab tour with Ryan John and Victoria Pedi-Cab tours. His tours sound great and his rates seemed reasonable so we are sorry we missed it! We selected disembarkation between 9 and 9:30. My husband and I went to a leisurely last breakfast at 7:45 am (CC tip #6.) I stopped by the Neptune to say goodbye to the concierge and eat one last peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate (so tasty.) We walked off the ship at 9:15, found our luggage, and were through customs and into our waiting car by 10. The airplane ride home was uneventful (thank goodness!) We had a great time on the Amsterdam. The Neptune Lounge concierge, our room stewards, and our dining room steward were all polite, professional and efficient. The only person that I found the slightest bit annoying was the beverage steward ---although he was polite he had the tendency to assume. If he saw a soda can in our room he assumed we had taken it from the mini-bar and added it to our bill (we did not use any mini-bar items on our trip.) One night in the MDR we ordered sparkling water in a carafe and were charged for it (as we should have been) but the next night we asked for plain water and it too arrived in a carafe and we were charged for plain water (as we should not have been.) He assumed things rather than asked about things and I had to keep a close eye on our bill (I asked for a print out of our bill every few days CC tip #7.) All I had to do was explain the situation to the Neptune concierge and she would remove the charge but it was annoying just the same. So that is my CC tip for future travelers---keep an eye on the drink charges. By the way, unused credit on beverage cards will be refunded to your account. (The exception is soda cards if you already have drank 10 sodas you have used the $25 cost although the card is worth up to $50 value in soda-- so on the last sea evening my son asked "his bartender" to cash out his card in soda and he carried off a few sodas to drink while waiting in the airport for our afternoon flight.) One last thing----unlimited laundry, pressing and dry cleaning came with our room. Believe me I took advantage of it! We were on a Friday to Friday cruise and our last bag of laundry went out Wednesday night at turndown and came back Thursday afternoon. If you don't book a room with laundry privileges you might consider purchasing the laundry package as it allows for half the clothing and you don't arrive home to a pile of dirty laundry! Oh one more thing--as I was packing to go home I couldn't find one of my undergarments so I pulled out the drawer all the way and there it was---it had fallen over the back of the drawer. My husband ended up pulling out all the drawers in the cabin to check and although we didn't find any more of our items we found plenty of other people's items. So my final CC tip is to check behind the drawers. (We returned the items to the concierge.) Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We booked our cruise direct with HAL; at that time we emphasized that we were first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the whole cruise experience and the ship's layout. We asked about cabin 3312 stating that we wanted a quiet cabin away ... Read More
We booked our cruise direct with HAL; at that time we emphasized that we were first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the whole cruise experience and the ship's layout. We asked about cabin 3312 stating that we wanted a quiet cabin away from elevators, kitchens, and any other noisy venues. The agent assured us #3312 would be quiet. We learned on the first night that we were below the Queen's Lounge and that the noise from the shows could be heard because of the excessive volume used for the sound system in the lounge. The HAL website shows that our cabin would have a bath-tub, shower, . . . etc. We never did find the tub HAL advertised; only a shower in cabin 3312! We have contacted HAL customer rep about this since our return, and they acted surprised when they read their own website's cabin description. Perhaps they need a better editor or more honesty in advertising???? Our itinerary was good and a major motivating factor in our choice of this cruise. Alaska is beautiful! The cleanliness, maintenance, and over-all appearance of the ship was superior! Our 2 cabin stewards did an excellent job of maintaining our stateroom. Staff aboard was always friendly and welcoming. Servers and waiters in the restaurants are polite and hard-working. The free technology sessions conducted onboard were informative and helpful. Techspert Tom was personable and knowledgeable, not to mention VERY patient. His presentations were organized and worthwhile for most people attending. Our dining experiences were variable: at LaFontaine we were in the open-seating group. Getting a table for 2 away from the servers' work area was a challenge. It was convenient for HAL personnel to seat people in large groups. The food was sometimes good, but vegetables nearly always were cold by the time they were served. Rolls had a hard crust and all bread was served cold. When we asked that the bread be warmed, it came back "crusty" and returned to the table after we had eaten most of our other food. After several tries at LaFontaine, we began to eat our meals at the Lido. The quality of the food was a step down in most cases due to the buffet serving style. It was more likely to be warm though. The Lido breakfast presented a wide variety of offerings. In LaFontaine, Lido, and the Pinnacle, all vegetables were prepared with excessive amounts of fatty seasonings (bacon for example). Of the 3 meals when rice was served, two of the rice dishes were dry and cold. We had lunch at the Pinnacle ($10/each extra charge) where we chose halibut sandwiches. A direct inquiry was made about preparation: fried or grilled? The server said the halibut would be grilled. If it was grilled, there was so much butter melted into the white-bread bun that a tasteless, greasy product was the prevalent result. The only trimming to the sandwich was a single piece of iceburg lettuce under the minimal fish offering (1" wide x 1/2" thick strip). Desserts were all show and no substance, especially the cake offerings during the cruise. The chiffon type cakes were all air and lacked flavor. We ate more ice-cream after several disappointing cake desserts. The apple and cherry pies were good but again served cold. HAL did have sugar-free desserts offered. A good selection of fresh fruits were available at most meals. As first time cruisers, we felt at times like a captive sales audience; we were always being "reminded" that items were available and all we had to do was show our room card. People who have issues with wise use of their purchase power would be very vulnerable. The photography sales---a camera at EVERY port, meal, etc. are another money-making agenda. We learned during the cruise that cruise lines own or support certain stores where they encourage passengers to shop in ports where the ship makes stops. Reviews for other ports:  Port 5:  HOMER, AKRating:  5Downtown visit the Pratt Museum.  Shop at the Fireweed shop and the shop next door for a good selection of locally made and regional artists' products.  Go to Norman Lowell's art gallery outside of town.On the spit walk around the harbor area.  Lots of shops.  Eat halibut at Captain Pattie's restaurant. Port 6:  Kodiak, AKRating = 4Go to the Baranov Museum where the docents are full of dialogue about the local history of Russian settlement, there are numerous historical photo albums, and interesting displays.  See the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church.  The Federal Wildlife Center has a short film and displays emphasizing the area's wildlife and fauna, along with a complete skeleton of a whale.  Observe the 2nd largest fishing fleet in the U.S. in the harbor. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was ... Read More
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was particularly concerned about sea sickness, so following advice we read, we got a cabin at mid-ship. Definitely a good thing, our cabin being calm when the Crow's Nest was swinging so much that you couldn't dance. We bought ginger chewing gum before the trip, and it did the trick in all but really bad water, where meclizine worked fine but caused drowsiness. We like coffee while we're getting dressed for the day, so we bought a couple of the HAL travel mugs at Explorations Cafe, and made a run to Lido each morning. Saved waiting for room service. We dined in the dining room whenever possible in preference to Lido. We found the food much better, and the service outstanding. The Canelleto was nice but make reservations early, it fills quickly. The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding. We work out at home, and were happy with the equipment in the gym. We took advantage of HAL's policy that allows you to take wine on board. The party started early each evening with a room service order of cheese plates and our wine. Alaska in September could have been the middle of winter elsewhere. The wind was 35 mph most of the time, and it rained a lot. We had to pass up Sitka because the ocean was too rough. Dress for winter and hope for better. Luggage Direct was great. We handed our bags off at our cabin, and picked them up at our home airport. Had the day free in Seattle. This was great fun, and I have no complaints about HAL. The Amsterdam staff was courteous and attentive. Will be cruising again on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We are an Australian couple in our early 60's and fans of Southern Gospel music, so when we saw that this years Gaither Homecoming Cruise was once again to Alaska, we quickly signed up for the 7 day Seattle to Seattle cruise on the Ms ... Read More
We are an Australian couple in our early 60's and fans of Southern Gospel music, so when we saw that this years Gaither Homecoming Cruise was once again to Alaska, we quickly signed up for the 7 day Seattle to Seattle cruise on the Ms Amsterdam. Our home town of Tamworth NSW is a long, long way from Seattle so after a 6 hour train trip to Sydney, over-night at our daughter's and a 14 hour flight to Vancouver that was extended to 17 hours due to having to turn back to Sydney because of a faulty oven switch and then a 40 minute connecting flight to Seattle, we finally arrived the day prior to sailing. We had a very comfortable overnight stay at the Warwick in downtown Seattle and was able to ride the monorail and ascend the Space Needle before heading to Pier 91. Embarkation was busy, but orderly and after arriving dockside at 12:30, we were eating in the Lido(chaotic) by 1:30. Our cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck was ready on boarding and our luggage arrived between lunch and Emergency drill. Sail away was in beautiful fine weather, but this was to change to fog and overcast rainy conditions for the next day at sea. Due to the limited seating arrangements in the "Queen's Lounge", the ship's passenger compliment was divided into the "Blue Group" and the "Red Group". This is all pre-arranged around your dining preference. We had nominated the 8:00pm sitting, so we were in the "Blue Group". Others didn't get their preference as the numbers had to balance. The first "Blue Group" concert was almost straight after deck drill and what a concert it was. Additional artists to those advertised,like The Hoppers, were on board, so we were doubly blessed. The singing was magnificent, throughout the cruise, with heaps of comedy and laughter. On the mornings of the "at sea" days we enjoyed additional mini concerts featuring 5 or 6 of the artist and special events like Reggie & Lady Love Smith,s cabaret and the "Key note speaker" Andy Andrews, were also interspersed during the cruise. Each colour group was further subdivided into "priority" groups who enjoyed front row seats for two of the many concerts. There was a bookstore open at various times that enabled us to meet and mingle with the artist as we bought their CD's and DVD's. A special "Meet the Gaither Vocal Band" was held for both the Reds and the Blues where autographs and photos could be obtained. I took this opportunity to get some "Station ID's" for our local Christian radio station, Rhema FM. Occasionally we bumped into one of the "stars" in the run of the ship, but generally they kept to themselves. One highlight of the cruise for me was a "Gospel Sing-a-long" one evening when we sang some of the great old christian hymns and songs. Each morning at 7:45, one of the Homecoming group led a time of devotions, which where well attended, but on shore days they where a bit hard to fit in. However we could always catch them on the continuous loop TV screening, throughout the day. The food over all was excellent, with breakfast and lunch in the Lido plentiful, although we did try the Main Dinning Room on a couple of occasions for these meals and enjoyed the extra service. Our evening meals in the MDR were very good and although the serves were fairly small, we certainly had sufficient. We were at a table of 8 and really enjoyed the company and interaction, although we didn't all attend each night. Some were sea sick the second night out. My DW and I dined at "The Pinnacle" one night and this was superb. Our shore excursions were; Juneau: Town & Mendenhall Glacier tour. (Self organised on the pier). This was very good and allowed us to explore the town afterwards although it was drizzling rain which aborted our proposed ride on the Roberts Street Tramway. Sitka:HAL booked "Sea Otter and Wildlife Tour". Very relaxing on a lovely fine morning where we saw a small humpback whale, many sea otters and a black bear on a distant shore. We also experienced a full breech of another humpback.Ketchikan: As we only had a short stay here, we opted to just walk the town on another perfect summers day. However one couple somehow didn't make it back to the ship in time and were left stranded. Victoria: Again a pre-booked tour, this time to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. This we loved and would have liked to have spent more daylight time there, but the evening arrival of the Amsterdam prohibits this.Seattle: We booked a post "Seattle by land and sea" tour which enabled us to have our luggage with us and taken to the airport. This tour was fine, but only drove past "Pike's Market", without us going in. The Ms Amsterdam was excellent, the service great and our cabin well located and comfortable. The casino was closed down and very little bar trade, but drinks could be ordered with our meals. Disembarkation was swift once our allocation was called, although this was later than the time slot stated. All in all a very enjoyable cruise with the Homecoming concerts being the highlight for me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This holiday was taken as part of celebrations for my wife's 50th birthday. We flew to Seattle from Sydney and stayed at the Double-tree Arctic Club Hotel for 3 nights. The weather was just fantastic in a place known for rain. Seattle ... Read More
This holiday was taken as part of celebrations for my wife's 50th birthday. We flew to Seattle from Sydney and stayed at the Double-tree Arctic Club Hotel for 3 nights. The weather was just fantastic in a place known for rain. Seattle was a great place to explore for a few days and we can hardly wait to go back. The highlights were the Pike Public Markets, the waterfront, the CBD, and the list goes on. The pier used for boarding was modern and efficient. It's location just outside the city gave us a good view of the city and the space needle. Sail away was smooth although there was no hint of a sail away party that are seen on other cruise lines. Sailing through the inside passage was spectacular, and that was only barely the beginning of the trip. The scenery was stunning with the beautiful water way, the high mountains and snow-capped peaks. It was all the more enjoyable because there were a lot of smaller watercraft enjoying the water. Our ports of call included (in no particular order) Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage, Kodiak, Icy Strait Point, Homer, Hubbard Glacier, Sawyer Glacier and Victoria BC. We can not say anything other than wow! Every place visited has its own character and charm. We loved the float plane flight over the misty fjords national park near Ketchikan (a must do), Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau was beautiful, Hubbard and Sawyer Glaciers were spectacular. the whales in Icy Strait Point were very active and continuously breaching.Homer was quiet and charming. The spit had a couple of great crab places. Kodiak had a small but interesting museum and a picturesque marina. Finally Sitka, was small but beautiful and the trip to see sea otters and other wildlife was fascinating. With the exception of one, the excursions were purchased from the cruise line. No complaints at all. We were well taken care off in every respect. The ship was well-sized with only about 1200-1300 people aboard. The food in the dining was very good quality. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and dream of the day when we can go back. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a ... Read More
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a total mess - people having to line outside for hours in the pouring rain, no chairs inside - had to stand for over an hour in a cold barn before being "processed" Sommelier's dinner at the Pinnacle - extra charge of $69 per person - rushed pace, uninteresting wines, ignorant sommelier, so so food Too many extra charges with no logical explanation: attend a cookery demonstration and pay $29 for the privilege Captain Everson has no social skills - even boorish and while he invited selected travelers to his reception he and his crew stuck together and did not socialise - even refused to shake hands. The excursions are reviewed below. Pauline, the advisor on shore excursions gave the impression of being clueless To find a sun chair on one of the decks requires people to get up at dawn and grab a place - it was almost like on a package holiday in a cheap spanish resort. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ... Read More
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ladies with blue hair". So we deduced that HAL was for old people. Fast forward 27 years and we have the opportunity to give HAL a try with a one night cruise from Vancouver to Seattle on the Amsterdam. I have read and heard good things about HAL so we booked an inside cabin. Embarkation--Was a breeze. Canada Place is a great location. It was raining in Vancouver, but the taxi drove to an underground entrance. We stayed dry. We literally walked up to the counter. We were given an upgrade to an outside cabin. Cabin--We have cruised many times on numerous lines; but this was the largest cabin we have been in. The bathroom had a bathtub! Lots of closet space, a leather love seat. It was wonderful. Ship--The ship was lovely. It holds 1300+ but there were only 700+ passengers on board. So it was not just spacious; it was empty. They had a large pool with 2 hot tubs that were covered with a retractable roof--excellent choice for Alaskan cruises. Food--We headed up to the buffet for lunch. Buffet was served to us. There was a nice variety offered and the food was delicious. The drinks were cheaper than some other cruise lines. For dinner we made a reservation and sat by the window with a family from Vancouver. It was difficult to make a choice, everything sounded good. I had ribs that were so tender they fell off the bone. Everyone enjoyed their dinner. Breakfast was at the buffet. once again an excellent variety of choices. I especially enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice. We heard that the Pinnacle speciality restaurant was amazing. It was a sell-out. Activities--There were activities: tour the ship, Sail-away party, karaoke, and a late night party. However, there was not a show. A show would have been nice for the first time cruisers to experience. But we did not mind since we were able to eat later and not rush through the meal. Disembarkation--We were able to change our time and literally walk off the ship. We loved our cruise on HAL Amsterdam. Now, we are 27 years older, but I do NOT have blue hair. And the ages of passengers we saw were from babies in strollers to senior citizens with every age represented. We will cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was ... Read More
My sweetie came home one day and suggested a cruise to Antarctica. I had never cruised before. But Antarctica as a destination: Shackleton and "March of the Penguins" suddenly came to mind. How could I object? The weather was particularly bad at the time in most of the Northern United States. Flights were delayed and luggage was lost. Taking into account pre boarding and waiting between flights, our commute to Rio took 25 hours. Upon arrival on the Amsterdam, all I could think was that I needed a bed. Desperately. If you've never cruised before, the size of the room will take you by surprise. This is where I'd spend the next three weeks! in retrospect, the room was not that bad and I became quite comfortable in it. Rio in the rain and yours truly somewhat jet lagged. Skipped Rio on the first day, got acquainted with the ship. Good thing to remember, divide your clothes between suitcases. A gentleman we met packed his and hers suitcases; his didn't quite make it to Rio, so the poor chap was wearing t-shirts until his luggage met him in Buenos Aires, on the next port. Two sea days to Buenos Aires. Breakfast in the LaFontaine, followed by 2 hours with my book. There was a lecture at 10 am. I was getting comfortable in my home away from home. Not knowing what to expect, I opted for open seating dinning. I now prefer fixed, but all that is a matter of preference. A cruise will allow one to do as much or as little as one desires. Some people love everything, others find fault with everything. It is not unusual to read contradictory reviews from the same cruise. I was unprepared for Buenos Aires, but was impressed with their Fine Arts Museum. I felt quite at home in Montevideo and was sad to leave the city. Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands was a tender destination. This is a different world. Imagine a rock in the middle of nowhere, where 18 years ago a war was waged between the UK and Argentina. The place looks British. Cars drive on the wrong side of the road, British currency is used, there are red telephone booths. Best way to describe it: Victoria, BC meets Newfoundland. Several options to see penguins. Two days later, we lost satellite transmission and woke up by Shackleton's famous Elephant Island. No TV. From here onward, everything in sight was picture worthy. Only 100 people at the time can disembark on the continent. Due to the size of our ship, no landings were made. Only much smaller and much more expensive Exploration ships have that privilege. They are usually not as smug when they have to cross the Drake Passage. Antarctica has some strict conservation rules. Everything entering must exit, nothing is to remain. No cigarette butts thrown overboard, no littering of any kind. The Amsterdam ensured shift rotation on Palmer Station. New and old members were exchanged on the ship, and we were privileged to a lecture on the Queen's Lounge. Best way to describe Antarctica: powerful, bold, beautiful and desolate. Even with 1300 other passengers on board the experience is not lessened. Crossing the Drake to reach Ushuaia, we rounded Cape Horn on a rainy day. It was windy and grey, but the passage was mild. It isn't always the case. After Ushuaia, we explored the beautiful Chilean Fjords, some Glaciers. All impressive in their own right, but everything pales after Antarctica and this beautiful country is no exception. I skipped Punta Arenas. This destination is mostly used as a launching pad to other destinations, i.e. excursions. By Puerto Montt, Antarctica was but a sweet memory captured in 2 rolls of Fuji NPS 160. Valparaiso was the end of the line. We took an excursion to Concha y Toro winery which included an incredible lunch and the biggest barbecue any of us have ever seen. A visit to the top of Santiago, the artists district and a 19th century church, followed by a drive to the airport. Highly recommended. The Amsterdam is 780 feet long. Not a big ship by modern standards, but bigger than anything else we encountered. I had filet mignon in the Pinnacle Grill with a Pommard. Well worth the extra $20 per person. All my meals in the dinning room were outstanding. Several times not fancying the day's menu, I'd opt for a New York steak. There are three extra menu options in case the day's menu doesn't speak to you. There was a different movie every day. We enjoyed the comedians and the piano trio at dinner. The room was comfortable. I slept with the curtains open and spent most of my time in the room gazing out the window. It was the most relaxing vacation I've ever had. New to cruising? Pick your destination, do your research, put your feet up and enjoy the ride. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 3.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.2

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