5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the ... Read More
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the locks and the gentleman who escorted us on the trip with his facts regarding the canal was very interesting. It's hard to believe in this day and time when something starts deteriorating it is torn down and built anew and these locks are over 100 years old and are still operating in their original fashion with the same wooden gates! Staff on board was very courteous and our room steward, Nyoman and Muss were fantastic. They usually had our room cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast in the morning and were always smiling and making sure that everything was satisfactory. Dining room staff was a little slow the first week, however, they soon learned our beverage of choice and had it waiting for us when we sat down. Menu choices were varied and could have had a little more regular items to choose from, but for the most part, the food was tasty and temperature appropriate. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Panama Canal Cruise 2019 January 7th – 22nd ~~~Departure from Los Angeles, January 7th~~~ Having planned this cruise for many months I was dismayed - to put it mildly - when about an hour before my scheduled pickup time by ... Read More
Panama Canal Cruise 2019 January 7th – 22nd ~~~Departure from Los Angeles, January 7th~~~ Having planned this cruise for many months I was dismayed - to put it mildly - when about an hour before my scheduled pickup time by SuperShuttle to take me to the World Cruise Center in San Pedro I received a telephone call from SuperShuttle informing me that at they had NO vehicle available to me and that they were cancelling my ride! My next thought was to try to get an Uber ride instead but, not having any experience with Uber, I was not sure how to pursue it. With the minutes fleeing by I went next door to ask Nina who I knew had used Uber for advice. It seems that Uber relies totally on the use of cell phones, which I do not have. Nina immediately found me an Uber ride, arriving within 10 minutes, just enough time to turn off my TV and lock up my house. An Uber arrived very soon and I was off only a few minutes later than my original departure time of 9 am with SuperShuttle, arriving at the World Cruise Center and my ship, Holland America’s ms Amsterdam, at about 10:30 am. Almost no one else was checking in this early and I was checked in with no wait at all by 11 am, going into the waiting room until my group numbered 7 was called to board, which occurred just before noon. Very quick process! I easily found my upgraded room, 2633, on the Main Deck 2 and it was as to be expected - almost. About 2/3 back from bow of the ship, its location is about the best possible. One change I immediately observed on entering was the bathroom that had been substantially upgraded with the old-fashioned tub and shower combination now replaced with a beautiful and large glass-enclosed shower. My room on the ms Zaandam last July on my Alaskan cruise was identical - except for the bathroom. Since my luggage would not be delivered for a while I went to the Dining Room for a casual lunch, and a glass of wine - of course! Then I stopped by the Pinnacle Grill to schedule my two evenings’ dining at this specialty restaurant, pre-purchased beforehand online. Departure time for our voyage was to be at 5 pm and occurred shortly thereafter. With my luggage now having been delivered to my stateroom I proceeded to begin my unpacking, delayed by my 8 pm dinner in the Dining Room where I had requested a table of 4. However, it turned out that I was the only one at this table so the Maitre D’ suggested that I might prefer a smaller table for 2, which I gladly accepted. Unlike other cruise first nights, prime rib was NOT offered! Too bad! Expecting rough seas because of the recent stormy weather in Southern California, I was pleasantly surprised by the absolutely smooth seas and had no difficulty at all falling asleep in my very comfortable double bed on this, my first night aboard the Amsterdam, headed for the Panama Canal. ~~~At Sea, January 8th & 9th~~~ The seas continue to be smooth as glass, much to my surprise but not to my disliking. With all of the stormy weather in Southern California, I had expected rougher seas. So far, so good! Being the first day at sea this was the first of three “gala”, or formal evenings during this cruise, so out came my coat and tie to wear. The day had been very relaxing with little to do except to complete my unpacking so I was ready for my dinner scheduled for 8 pm and it was not disappointing. I do not recall my menu choices but they were very good in any case. Then it was another early to bed; I am not the night owl I once was! On Wednesday, our second day at sea, I spent most of the day in my stateroom after enjoying yet another breakfast delivered to my room, which will be my normal habit, I think. Although yesterday I did go to the dining room for breakfast, it is so easy to just order in. I know I am missing all of the interplay with the rest of the passengers but, after 53 cruises, I quickly grow tired of hearing all about their grandkids, health problems, recent surgeries, etc., etc. Enough! Fortunately the TV in staterooms has my favorite MSNBC channel which I watch most of the time. With the government shutdown I am beginning to become concerned about my return flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles on January 22nd, by way of Charlotte, North Carolina, a major hub for American Airlines. I am hoping that the wait time for TSA Security check is not unreasonably lengthy when I get to the Ft. Lauderdale airport for my 1 pm flight. Also the weather is of concern. We shall see... That’s about it so far; I will have much more to report after tomorrow’s stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. ~~~Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - January 10th~~~ After another night of calm seas, our arrival in Puerto Vallarta was right on schedule, at 8 am. There was another Holland America ship, the ms Eurodam, also in port. It has been a few years since I was last here and I was amazed at the recent growth: new port facilities, numerous new high-rise buildings stretching all along the shore of Banderas Bay. My choice of tour for the day was “Best of Puerto Vallarta” departing at 9 am. This is a repeat from the last time I was here, and involved a walking tour of old downtown PV including a walk along the Malecon, or bay front, with all of the many bronze statues present there. The street along here is now restricted to a pedestrian one which was a wise change. We then had a short visit to the famous Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral that incidentally was my first there. Then it was back on the bus for the Tequila Factory part of our tour. The drive out of Puerto Vallarta, past the busy International Airport, was farther that I recalled, but soon we arrived at the familiar Hacienda Dona Engracia for our tour of tequila making, followed by tasting - yeah! - followed by a nice buffet lunch - including choice of beverage - beneath a large tent. My choice was a Margarita, of course! New this time was a performance by a talented group of two couples of fiesta dancers, performed on a center stage in the middle of the tent. Their dances were both quite active as well as exquisitely costumed. There was even a very talented ropedancer performing during a costume change for the dancers. All in all, a most excellent addition to this popular tour. Oh, did I mention the unlimited supply of Margaritas? A good time was had by all! Leaving the Tequila Factory, we returned at 2 pm to our ship, the ms Amsterdam, concluding a wonderful visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Tomorrow is another day at sea until we reach Huatulco, Mexico, on Saturday, so there probably won’t be too much to report. ~~~At Sea & Huatulco, Mexico - January 11th & 12th~~~ Another day at sea on remarkably smooth waters, I spent most of the day in my stateroom, again enjoying my breakfast delivered by Benny, in exchange for a customary $2 tip: black coffee, cranberry and orange juices, ham and cheddar cheese omelet along with hash brown potatoes and English muffin. I can wear my sweat pants and sweat shirt in the privacy of my room - all very laid-back and relaxing. I forgot to mention my dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, a specialty restaurant aboard, on the evening of the second day at sea, Wednesday, January 9th. Online I had purchased for $62 two dinners here, each regularly priced at $35. Starting with a shrimp cocktail of three enormous shrimp - easily the size of small lobster tails, my entree was a 10-ounce filet mignon steak, expertly cooked to medium rare and so, so tender! Dessert was a chocolate soufflé that was incredible. Enjoyable, to say the least! My other dinner here will be on our last evening at sea before arriving at Ft. Lauderdale on January 21st. Huatulco is our second port of call in Mexico, which I had visited on a previous Princess cruise years ago. Today my choice of tour was a “beach break” at one of the many new resort hotels now populating this once-small port, the Secrets Resort. After a small coach ride of about 30 minutes, we arrived at the resort’s gate and were temporarily delayed from entering until proper identification was made. An enormous new resort with many levels leading down to the perfect, crescent-shaped Conejos Bay, the open lobby with high ceilings greeted the 12 of us in our group. After a brief explanation of the facilities and what was available to us, we were allowed the use of all of this inclusive resort’s offerings, including restaurants, pools, beach, and bars. My first choice was a trip to the Castaways Restaurant, located at some distance from the lobby and accessed by means of a small shuttle. I was about 5 minutes early for their 12-noon opening but was soon seated at a table in this open-air luxurious establishment. Ordering a Margarita on the rocks I relaxed immediately for a leisurely lunch. The menu was presented on a large billboard placed near my table and my choice was a rib-eye steak following delicious guacamole and salsa dip with chips. The steak was prepared to perfection as medium rare, and was absolutely delectable! A dessert of coffee flavored mousse topped off my “lunch”. A short shuttle ride brought me back to the lobby where I began looking for the pools. An elevator took me down to the lower level where a variety of beautiful pools were located and, unfortunately, the lounges were already fully occupied. So I sought out a nearby beach bar and ordered more Margaritas. After the two I had enjoyed with lunch, I enjoyed two more here! On the way back up to the lobby I stopped for yet another drink at another open-air bar, enjoying the coolness of it all. We were to meet in the lobby at 3:30 pm for our return trip to the ship, so I went back up to the lobby just after 3 pm, not wanting to be late. There I found yet another bar offering me yet another Margarita while waiting. Others in our group began to appear and 3:30 pm came and went with no sign of our coach back to the ship. Finally, around 4 pm, one arrived - not the same one in which we had been brought here. Evidently through some mix-up, our original coach had been cancelled and another replacement made. Never the less, we were delivered back to our ship, almost on schedule. All in all, a very enjoyable - and liquid! - day in Huatulco, Mexico. Tomorrow we are to be docked at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico a first visit for me. ~~~Puerto Chiapas, Mexico - January 13th~~~ Being my first visit to this small port of call, I had chosen a tour to the Argovia Express: Coffee Tasting and Botanical Gardens for the day. Nothing much else exists at this port except for a new elaborate cruise center. So I was dismayed to be informed the evening before that, due to low participation, this tour had been cancelled! Other tours were offered in replacement but none to my liking, so my visit to Puerto Chiapas was aborted; I chose to stay on the ship all day. Thus, my day was spent much the same as a sea day, relaxing in my stateroom. With ports of call for each of the next three days, the loss of this day was not too great. ~~~Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - January 14th~~~ Originally I had booked a tour just to the old city of Antigua but, having my previous coffee tour cancelled, I decided to change to a tour that would also include a visit to a coffee plantation: “Coffee Estate & Antigua”. Leaving the ship around 8:30 am we traveled on a very new coach for 90 minutes to the Filadelfia Coffee Estate on the outskirts of Antigua where we were given an informative tour of different portions of the estate: nursery, drying areas, mills, and packaging. Then we were invited to a lunch at the estate of an expertly prepared strip steak along with guacamole, black beans and rice, followed by a delicious coffee flavored mousse. Of course, a cup of their finest coffee accompanied this substantial meal. I heard NO complaints at all! Then we were given the opportunity of shopping in their small shop; for me, a bag of their coffee! Switching to two smaller vans, now required in the city instead of the large coaches, we then proceeded into the center of Antigua where we were given a somewhat lengthy walking tour, ending at the city square and the large cathedral. My legs are still crying out in pain! Finally, back again on our large comfortable coach, we spent another hour or so returning to the port and our ship at 4:30 pm, a long, enjoyable albeit energetic day. It was so good to return to my comfortable stateroom for a rest before preparing for dinner. ~~~Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - January 15th~~~ My tour today was first to the ancient ruins of the original capital city of Leon, destroyed by a volcano and seismic activity in 1610, covering it completely, and becoming the “Pompeii of Central America”. Rediscovered in 1967 it is now a World Heritage Site. It involved walking around the several acres observing walls or parts of walls still existing. The destruction was so severe that it was decided to relocate the new city elsewhere. All very interesting if you are into archeology but with all of the walking with not too much to see, my boredom reared its ugly head - in addition to my also sore legs. Returning to the entrance we were treated to an enjoyable and delicious Nicaraguan lunch in a local restaurant, consisting of chicken, steak, rice and beans, along with crispy fried plantains (bananas). A welcome relief from our walk! We then proceeded on for another hour to the modern city of Leon, traveling through very interesting and scenic country, including many volcanoes, most dormant but some still active. Mount Momotombo is the largest volcano and steam clouds could be seen coming from its cone-shaped summit. In the “modern” (really colonial) city of Leon, we were let off our coach near the city square and given a tour of the monumental cathedral there; it is immense! The interior is quite impressive with the many arches, altars and artwork. We were given the opportunity of climbing the 85 steps to the bell tower from which a magnificent view is possible. OR, if not, visiting a nearby restaurant for a cooling beverage; I chose the later! Finally it was back on our comfortable coach for the hour-long drive back to the port and our ship, arriving again about 4:30 pm along with several other buses at the exact same time. Getting back aboard became a lengthy process. Again, it was SO good to be back in my stateroom to rest my weary legs. Tomorrow in Costa Rica there will be MORE walking! ~~~Puerto Calderas, Costa Rica - January 16th~~~ This will be my 5th visit to Costa Rica and it remains one of my favorites. Seeking to try something different as far as excursions, the one entitled “A Walk in the Clouds” caught my attention, and it did live up to my expectations, although my poor legs might disagree. Leaving the ship at 9:30 am our coach departed the port of Calderas, one of the two Pacific ports for Costa Rica, the other being Puerto Arenas, about 20 miles away, and began our slow but gradual climb up into the range of mountains, their tops covered by clouds. Eventually we will have climbed to over 4500 feet above sea level and be right among the “clouds”. The drive was quite pleasant with the vistas right out of a picture book. We drove through several small towns, coffee plantations, and past many luxurious homes. Finally arriving at our destination, the Finis Nature Conservatory, amid a thick cloud cover, our first stop was for the rest rooms. Then after a short orientation talk by our tour guide we were separated into two groups for our trek. The group I was in was assigned a young enthusiastic naturalist student who was excellent in his knowledge of everything we would be observing. Our first stop was a nearby butterfly enclosure into which we entered and saw dozens of the fluttering insects. One in particular was a very large butterfly with bright blue wings, and whose name escapes me. Our guide explained all of phases of a butterfly’s life that I found most interesting. Next we came upon a suspension bridge, one of many that we would be crossing, high above the canyon and definitely a bit scary! We then proceeded to hike down and down along a trail marked with many stair steps, toward the small river below. A thick cable alongside the path aided tremendously in steadying our progress. More suspension bridges were encountered and eventually we reached the creek at the canyon’s bottom. A spectacular waterfall could be seen nearby and it was here that we encountered the other group having traveled in the opposite direction. Then came the hard part: going back UP the other trail, back to our starting point. My legs screaming out to me, my main problem was breathing and exhaustion but with several rest stops, I made it to our stop near the top where many hummingbird feeders were located. Hundreds of these tiny and colorful birds flittered all around, helping themselves to the feeders. Our guide then explained a lot about the different kinds of hummingbirds present, their habits, and aspects of their lives. Then it was only a short distance farther to our starting point where our lunch was waiting in a large open-air building. Lunch consisted of a buffet offering chicken and beef along with salads, rice and black beans. A delicious berry drink completed our hard-fought-for repast. Then it was time to reboard our coach for the trip back down to our ship. In one of the towns through which we had passed, a brief stop was made for shopping at a large store that offered many souvenirs of Costa Rica, including many coffees for which this country is famous. I purchased a bag of Cafe Britt Dark Roast coffee beans for $17; rather expensive I thought. On previous trips to Costa Rica I had toured the Cafe Britt Coffee Plantation in San Jose and had purchased coffee from them there and on their website. I don’t think I paid so much then! Our tour guide decided to take us by way of a different route back to the port and our ship and we passed through many small towns on the way. In each, he pointed out the presence of a Catholic Church, a school, and a soccer field. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates of any country in the world, largely in part to their elimination of a military many years ago, the resulting emphasis then being placed on education. Right on schedule at 4 pm we arrived back at our ship, this time being the only tour getting back. There was an ambulance at the gangway, most probably some passenger had had a medical emergency; I never found out. As always, it was a relief to get back to my stateroom for a rest before dinner at 8 pm. ~~~At Sea & the Panama Canal Transit - January 17th & 18th~~~ Another full day at sea was required for our travel on to the Panama Canal from Puerto Calderas, Costa Rica, and about the only significant activity of the day for me was the “Gala” or Formal Night. As usual I enjoyed my in-stateroom breakfast, delivered by Benny - who gladly accepts my daily $2 tip: ham and cheddar cheese omelet with hash browns, coffee and juices (cranberry and orange). Finally, our Gala Dinner included “Surf & Turf”, fillet mignon and lobster tail, all very good with my steak grilled to medium rare perfection. Dessert was a Peach Crisp, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum-yum! Our approach to the Panama Canal started quite early on Friday morning with our passing beneath the Bridge of Americas occurring around 6:30 am. With the many towers of the very modern Panama City visible in the distance to the right, and the cranes of the port along side our approach in the channel, we reached the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, about 7 am. Passing through this set of two locks took about an hour putting us in the small lake leading to the second lock, the Pedro Miguel Lock, about 8:30 am. The new set of locks recently opened are located to the left and consist of a set of three locks, much larger at 1200 feet long and 150 feet wide, than the original locks at 955 feet long and 106 feet wide. Once past these locks we entered the portion of the Canal called the Culebra Cut where the majority of the construction excavation took place. A relatively new bridge spans the Canal just before this entrance, and is a stunningly beautiful modern structure. Materials removed for this Cut were used to build the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River, creating the Gatun Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Western Hemisphere, and supplying the constant source of fresh water used in the locks. At around the middle of the Canal, before entering the Gatun Lake, we passed by the port of Gamboa at about 10:30 am where much of the maintenance equipment for the Canal is located. Then it was on into the large Gatun Lake for the lengthy passage across to the final set of locks, the Gatun Locks, arriving there around noontime. With three locks, the transit of the Gatun Locks took almost 2 hours. The newly opened set of three locks is located to the right side of the original Gatun Locks, and the super structures of the immense cargo ships using it could barely be seen over the trees. While in the midst of our ship being lowered from one lock into the next, we observed huge cargo ships being raised in the adjoining locks, some stacked so tall with containers as to strain one’s imagination! And yet they were able to use the original locks! One last such cargo ship entering the Canal southbound through the Gatun Locks appeared to be a car transporter because of its huge solid side walls and a ramp on its rear. Gigantic! After returning to the sea level of the Caribbean Sea, we further transited a channel into the Sea, passing beneath an almost-completed new bridge across the Canal, a beautiful new modern bridge not unlike the one crossing the Canal just prior to the Culebra Cut. Entering the Caribbean Sea, the port city of Cristobal was just off the right side. Once we took a cruise on the Grand Princess that, being too large to transit the Canal, ported us here; we then took the train across the Isthmus to Panama City. This railroad predates the Canal by many years and only takes an hour or so to make the trip alongside the Panama Canal. Our entrance into the Caribbean saw the end of our smooth seas; that evening was quite bumpy, a indication of rough seas to come. One good finale to the day was the serving of delectable prime rib in the restaurant that evening. My slice of prime rib was one of THE BEST I have ever enjoyed! Tomorrow: Cartagena, Columbia, our last port of call. ~~~Cartagena, Columbia & Day at Sea - January 19th & 20th~~~ After a night of active sea action, our noon arrival in the huge bay of Cartagena was a relief from the bumpy ride from the Panama Canal. The newer part of this ancient city is resplendent with high towers, mostly residential. On the other side of the bay is located the remnants of the old walled city, walled for protection from the pirates of old. Our ship docked at the main pier to the right of this section, next to another ship, the Monarch, one of Pullmantur’s fleet. The tour I selected for our afternoon in Cartagena included first a catamaran ride from near where our ship was docked, requiring a somewhat lengthy walk, around the bay past the towers on the peninsula to the left and the older section to the right, passing the Colombian Navy installation, finally docking alongside a dock near the walled city. Disembarking the catamaran we were immediately besieged by hordes of street sellers, selling everything from jewelry to hats to T-shirts to water, ... Having been here twice before, I was prepared for the constant barrage, just saying “NO!” repeatedly. Crossing a busy street we came alongside a proportion of the old wall, to an opening that we entered and proceeded with our waking tour of this older part of the city, around the very narrow streets and visiting several plazas. One special plaza was dedicated to Simon Bolivar whose statue adorned the center of the square. A cooling breeze largely compromised the reported high temperatures for the afternoon. Otherwise it would have been miserably hot. Much shade was also provided by the buildings being so closely packed together. We passed by a very elaborate building that had been the one time home of Sir Francis Drake, now available as a high rent hotel. Most buildings facing the narrow streets contain central courtyards with trees and fountains. Also observed was the old cathedral although we did not get to enter. Proceeding around several blocks we eventually returned to our original entrance where a tour of an emerald museum was offered. Entering we were presented with a mock-up of an emerald mine and a museum guide told us all about emerald mining. According to him, Columbia is the largest and best source for emeralds in the world. Of course we were eventually lead into their showroom where emerald jewelry could be purchased. I bought nothing! We were then given an hour or so of free time and, when I asked our tour guide for a good place to get a beer, he indicated a stairway leading to a very nice restaurant just above the emerald museum, where I found a table on their balcony overlooking the square below. Excellent location! After two beers I felt hungry so I ordered a shrimp dish that turned out to be absolutely delicious! And a third beer, of course! When the check arrived, the total - in pesos - was 69,000! Putting it on my Alaska Airlines Visa, this huge total amounted to just over $20. Rejoining our tour group at 4:15 pm, we all then proceeded back to where our catamaran was waiting and boarded for the return boat ride back to our ship. Upon arrival we were offered a free shuttle back along the dock to our ship’s location, fortunately! My poor legs were complaining! As always it was good to again be back aboard and in my stateroom. The ms Amsterdam departed Cartagena at 6 pm. Once past the harbor entrance, the sea action began again and continued through out the night. The next day was another sea day, one of two until our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday morning. My day was as usual, having breakfast in my room, and writing some more on my cruise journal. As the last of our “Gala” nights, I again dressed for dinner in coat and tie. It was a surprise that we again were presented with the same menu as for our previous formal night, “Surf & Turf” which I gladly enjoyed once again, beginning with a generous shrimp cocktail. Staying up way past my bedtime, I waited up to observe the lunar eclipse of the “Super Moon” that occurred around 10:30 pm. My location on the ship for viewing was in the Crow’s Nest Lounge on Deck 8. The full moon was directly overhead as I sat near the front of the lounge. Very cool! Tomorrow I am invited to the Captain’s Reception at 12:30 pm for the Mariners Society, Holland America’s loyalty group of repeat customers, to be followed by a special luncheon in the Dining Room at 1 pm. We will no doubt be receiving the traditional Delft tile from HAL. ~~~Last Day at Sea & Return Trip Home - January 21st & 22nd~~~ The seas had calmed down quite a bit during the day and I went to the Main Stage Theater for the Captain’s Mariners Society Reception at 12:30 pm where I encountered a huge crowd; Holland America has a great repeat business. After struggling to receive my free glass of champagne - I didn’t sit in the right seat! - I did enjoy viewing the many awards to several passengers, mostly quite old, for their unbelievable numbers of cruises taken. My 10 cruises and 129 days had already received a Bronze Medallion on a previous HAL cruise, so I was not individually recognized. Following the Reception we all moved to a special area of the Dining Room for our Mariner Society Luncheon, including wine! Luckily I sat at a table with my new friends, Pat & George, from my many visits to the Ocean Bar on Deck 5. My menu choice was a delectable filet mignon, cooked to perfection - medium rare, and so, so tender! The Captain spoke once more and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. Dessert was a delicious berry cheesecake that was outstanding! All in all, a very nice experience. Then it was the most dreaded time of any cruise - packing up to leave! However, over my 54 previous cruises I have become adept in the accomplishment of this duty so my luggage was almost completely packed by late afternoon, needing only the clothes and dopp kit required for getting ready for my second evening dining at the specialty restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill at 7 pm. I had delivered extra tips to my waiters and wine steward in the dining room the previous evening, so only remaining were my favorite bartenders in the Ocean Bar, and my two room stewards that I would deliver tonight. For a cruise of this length - 15 days - I usually give them each $20; this is in addiction to the automatic tip of $13.50 charged daily to my shipboard account that is distributed to all service staff - they say! I often wonder how much of this substantial amount actually reaches the intended people! As usual I went to the Ocean Bar before dinner where I said my goodbyes to both Suvit and Mervin - both from the Philippines, as well as to Pat & George from Virginia with whom I had become good friends. Then it was off to the Pinnacle Grill for my last meal aboard. My appetizer again was a cocktail of HUGE shrimp - 4 of them, and almost as large as small lobster tails. SO GOOD! And again I chose the 10-ounce filet mignon, grilled to perfection at medium rare, accompanied by side dishes of creamed spinach, mushrooms and grilled asparagus. I ate every bit of it! For dessert I enjoyed a berry Baked Alaska, sufficient size to serve two, but again I finished it off! What a final dinner! Then it was reluctantly back to my stateroom to finish my packing that was done quickly, adding my dinner clothes and dopp kit to my luggage, being careful to leave out clothes to wear in the morning. In addition to my one suitcase I also use a Princess tote bag to carry my iPad, head phones for the airplane, passport, and a SuperShuttle confirmation sheet, along with American Airlines boarding passes which I had earlier printed in the ship’s internet center. All done, I placed my locked and tagged luggage in the hallway for pickup before midnight; mine was out by 10:30 pm. Special tags indicating departure group from the ship had been issued - mine was Yellow 1, and I left right on schedule at 8:30 am for the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and my 1 pm flight to Charlotte, NC, there changing planes for Los Angeles. Of course I missed my usual breakfast room service on the morning of departure, but waiting in my stateroom until my group color was called allowed me to sleep in until around 7:30 am. Departure was through the forward exit door on Deck 2 so it was most convenient for me since my stateroom was 2633, on Deck 2. A special parting touch of this cruise was the lineup of crew members at the exit as we left the ship, all bidding us farewell and thanks for choosing Holland America. I don’t recall anything like this on previous ships. Very nice! After the long walk in the terminal to the baggage collection hall, I found mine quickly and showing my passport to the emigration control agent allowed my exit to the awaiting airport bus located at the entrance. First telling the driver my flight airline - American Airlines, I went aboard and relaxed for the short drive to the airport, very nearby the cruise ship terminals at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. Arrival at the airport was around 9:30 am and, after a short walk from where the bus dispatched us for American Airlines to the terminal, I quickly checked my luggage with an outdoor agent, not having to pay the $25 fee since I have an AAdvantage Visa card. Inside I found NO lines for security check in and rapidly made way through TSA Pre Check with no delay. Then it was off to find my departure gate E5 and then a nearby restaurant to eat breakfast. Luckily there was a Jack Nicklaus restaurant right next to Gate E5 and, after a short wait for a table, I ordered an immense 3-egg omelet loaded with mushrooms, onions and sausage, served with hash browns and wheat toast: and coffee, of course. Since my flight was not until 1 pm with boarding at 12:30 pm, I had a very enjoyable and relaxing breakfast, sitting there watching all the hordes of people now passing by; the terminal had gotten quite crowded since my arrival. With my Main Cabin Extra Seat on American Airlines, I receive early boarding so just on schedule I boarded Flight 1924 for Charlotte and found my assigned bulkhead seat 5C with no delay. Then I got to watch as the plane filled, all passing right by me. After a bit of bumpiness on take off, the rest of the 2-hour Flight was remarkably smooth and our arrival was almost 30 minutes early, which caused some delay in finding an open gate; the one originally assigned was still occupied. Deplaning in this very large and busy terminal of Charlotte, a hub for American Airlines, I located my departure gate for Los Angeles and was dismayed to find it to be Gate B14; our arrival gate had been at Gate C5. So away I went, riding the many moving sidewalks, until finally I reached Gate B14, at the very end of B concourse. Upon arriving I read that boarding would begin in 15 minutes! Very close connection with the gate change. Boarding was actually delayed by our aircraft arriving late and our eventual departure for Los Angeles was not until 4:20 pm. Again I boarded right away and got to my seat 5C right away. The flight was in fact overbooked and the boarding agent was asking for volunteers to take a later flight; I did not do so! An almost 5-hour flight, I enjoyed a Chardonnay wine twice during the flight that was really quite smooth with only few short periods of minor turbulence. Sleep for me occurred in short patches during the flight and I was happy when our final descent into LA began. There was some turbulence as we passed over the Banning Pass moving our plane about, but the landing was smooth. We landed on LAX’s north runway and had to circle the airport, around the new construction area, past Bradley Terminal, until finally reaching our Gate 42B. First stopping at the nearest bathroom, I then proceeded to locate our baggage carousel that turned out to be Number 4. I was lucky to see my luggage come around very soon and, with a struggle to get it off the carousel, I was then off to find SuperShuttle’s dispatcher for my prepaid ride home. I found the dispatcher’s desk vacant and waited for the next SuperShuttle van to come along. With some confusion, the van for John Wayne Airport eventually took me aboard, along with 4 others seeking transfer to Orange County, so I expected it to be another lengthy trip; I was actually the third one delivered, at about 9:15 pm. The end of a long, exhausting day of travel. Struggling to find the right keys to open my front door, finally I was inside and immediately turned on my heater. Everything looked just fine after 15 days of absence, and it was so, so good to slip into my own bed last night. Today, Wednesday, it could not be more beautiful outside and I put the garbage cans out for their regular collection. My luggage full of dirty clothes will just have to wait! I am home! ~Ron Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We were looking for a Panama cruise and this fit the bill as far as the ship, type of passenger, itinerary. The ship itself was very nice, the crew were good, the activities good. There was plenty of room on board with places to relax. ... Read More
We were looking for a Panama cruise and this fit the bill as far as the ship, type of passenger, itinerary. The ship itself was very nice, the crew were good, the activities good. There was plenty of room on board with places to relax. The pool and hot tubs were not too crowded. Overall, a wonderful experience with friends. My complaints were as follows 1. The butter put out at breakfast for toast etc was rancid and moldy. The Lido restaurant staff were told about it by multiple passengers including myself, but it was not until almost 10 days after they were told of the problem that it was finally removed and replaced. 2. The snorkel/beach excursion in Huatulco was a fraud. The coral is almost completely dead. It was a sad experience and a total waste of money. We would have been much better off just going to the beach and restaurants in the main part of town. 3. They were trying to sell water as you got off the ship to go on shore excursions which included free bottled water. Maybe spend a little more time showing consideration for the passengers and a little less time trying to sell them stuff! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We have taken over 25 cruises with all different lines and often select based on where the ship is going.This cruise went through the Panama Canal and stopped at some pretty neat ports. ... Read More
We selected this cruise because of the itinerary. We have taken over 25 cruises with all different lines and often select based on where the ship is going.This cruise went through the Panama Canal and stopped at some pretty neat ports. The ship is in very good shape, small but elegant (we always find the HAL ships to be very pretty ships). The food was the best that we have had in a very long time. The Lido had a lot or variety and the Dining Room was really good as well. We loved our waiters, they were a lot of fun. Service was very good and professional. Our cabin was adequate for the 3 of us (our college age daughter traveled with us) and had lots of storage. We used the fitness center each day and found it to be very adequate. The entertainment was not very good at all. There was nothing to really do in the evening (trivia was big and very competitive probably so because of lack of activities). There was a speaker (Ian) who was very good and entertaining. Other than that, we were bored. Our daughter spent many nights doing puzzles in the library since there was nothing for her to do with her age group.We knew that this was a possibility but were hoping that since it was a holiday sailing that more would be going on. Ports of Call - Guatemala -Did a ship tour for the highlights of the area. Very well done. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - We did our own thing here since our daughter actually lived here with host family, so we went to see them. You had to take transport from the port area (worth it) to get into the city.It is a tourist area for the Ticos, so lots of locals. Beach area is nice and people are friendly. Nicaragua - We did a private tour. They picked us up and brought us into the city. Again, our daughter had been here before so she acted as tour guide. Cabo San Lucas - Did a whale watch here - lots of fun. Cartagena - We have been here before so grabbed a taxi and walked around the old area of town. Puerto Vallerta - Walked around and shopped. Half Moon Cay - Nice beach - went off for a little bit to swim We love to cruise and would recommend this itinerary. HAL does a good job but we feel that it caters to much older people (we are in our 50's) so it will be some time before we cruise them again. For now, we will stick to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (we like the perks that come with cruising them a lot). Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Trip was on our bucket list.Ship is old but in excellent condition. Our bed was under the window and since we like to look out made it difficult at times. The food and service in the main dinning room were excellent. Food in the Lido was ... Read More
Trip was on our bucket list.Ship is old but in excellent condition. Our bed was under the window and since we like to look out made it difficult at times. The food and service in the main dinning room were excellent. Food in the Lido was good and usually good choices.service was excellent. We were not thrill by the Pinnacle Grill, we were there for lunch and left a lot to be desired. The whole experience of the Panama Canal was more than we expected, from entering the Canal at 6am to the onboard narration by the guide to going through the locks and leaving the Canal at sunset(we were going NW. We took the ships tours in Cartagena Puerto Caldere, Corinto and Cabo, some were better that others but we did get to see each location and get a feel for each country. Disembarkation was fast and well organizes we were able to stay in our cabin until called Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
I am totally sold on Holland America - Just finished my 19 day Panama Canal Cruise - Started in Ft. Lauderdale. Visited Cartagena, Panama Canal , Corinto, Nicaragua, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, Huatulco, Mexico Cabo San Lucas, Mexico ... Read More
I am totally sold on Holland America - Just finished my 19 day Panama Canal Cruise - Started in Ft. Lauderdale. Visited Cartagena, Panama Canal , Corinto, Nicaragua, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, Huatulco, Mexico Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - San Francisco, Vancouver, and ended in Seatle. Embarkation went well - my cabin was ready - #3377 - Lunch at the Lido Market Buffet was very good. Food on the cruise was very good - they have the same food in the Lido Buffet as in the Dining Room - We didn't want to go to the Dining Room on Gala night for Lobster so we had Lobster in the Buffet (I had four!) I had an issue with my room - with water - and they changed my room - I was originally on the Promenade Deck with an obstructed ocean view - they changed me to the Dolphin Deck (Deck #1) which at first I wasn't too happy with - but my room was larger and there is very little movement when the ship is rocky. The staff is super friendly and very efficient. The ports were fine - I didn't do any excursions. Holland tries to make sure that anything you need is taken care of. The Microsoft classes are very informative! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
This was a good itinerary starting in Ft. Lauderdale, going through the Panama Canal up the West Coast to Seattle w/an Alaska cruise included. HAL calls this a Collector's Voyage. The Amsterdam is smaller than most medium sized ships ... Read More
This was a good itinerary starting in Ft. Lauderdale, going through the Panama Canal up the West Coast to Seattle w/an Alaska cruise included. HAL calls this a Collector's Voyage. The Amsterdam is smaller than most medium sized ships w/mostly an older crowd and other than an on-going problem with a persistent series of water leaks mostly on deck 5, the cruise went on w/o a hitch. We had an OV on the Main Deck which I would take again in a heartbeat. The only irritation w/the cabin [and just about everywhere else] was a continual vibration when the engine were going. Then crew worked hard to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. Many went out of their way for us. Esp. the crew in the MDR and Lido. The Lido was OK, the Dive-In was really good, and the MDR was excellent [not every dish was great, but many were really, really good]. Entertainment was just OK. The HAL Singers and Dancers [two troops as they were changed out during the cruise] did a very fine job. The best was getting to listen to "Island Magic" [Steel Drum Band] again. Had been entertained by them on the Zuiderdam. The excursions we took went from bad to great. Great was the Boeing Factory Tour in Seattle and a RIB ride out to a volcanic rock island in Sitka. Bad was a catamaran tour in Huatulco, Mexico cancelled by the Harbormaster before the boat could even clear the dock because one engine wouldn't run. The crew tried to get that boat out of the harbor but w/only one engine that big rig just won't turn. We hit several boats before being shut down. All-in-all, we will probably do this trip again someday. Only we will probably get off in San Francisco like many did for HAL sold lots of 3 day cruises on the Amsterdam from there to Seattle. Turned out to be a party boat for 3 days. :( The MS Amsterdam is a fine ship but she is need of a make-over. A refreshing would put this vessel in a 5 star category. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We sailed the first leg of the 2017 World Cruise, disembarking in San Diego. Overall experience was pleasant, but we had to overlook inconsistent food, a musty smell in our stateroom, and a toilet that malfunctioned three times. The ship ... Read More
We sailed the first leg of the 2017 World Cruise, disembarking in San Diego. Overall experience was pleasant, but we had to overlook inconsistent food, a musty smell in our stateroom, and a toilet that malfunctioned three times. The ship hasn't been refurbished in years, and it shows. Service was excellent, entertainment good. This particular cruise attracts a lot of old people, the majority of whom are 80+. I question the value received for the price paid. This was our second HAL cruise, the first being on the (superior) Eurodam. Was frustrated trying to watch NFL playoff games via satellite. The audio channel carrying the play-by-play call was not working. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. Tours are expensive for what's offered. The majority of the passengers on the Amsterdam world cruise take the entire, 4-month trip. There were many repeat customers who apparently don't mind this ship's shortcomings but focus, rather, than on the socializing that goes on. Like other cruise ships, internet service is slow and expensive. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
Very friendly staff, amazing song and dance group, and my family (brother and sister in law) and I can't stop raving about what a great time we had! We were going to be happy with large inside staterooms but were moved up to ... Read More
Very friendly staff, amazing song and dance group, and my family (brother and sister in law) and I can't stop raving about what a great time we had! We were going to be happy with large inside staterooms but were moved up to obstructed ocean view at no extra charge! We have recommended the same ship and cruise to anyone who will listen. Loved the buffet, but found the formal dining room to be nothing special so we chose to take most of our meals in the buffet. (Not too crazy about wearing a tie on vacation) Not crazy about the casino, I enjoy blackjack but found the ships game seemed to be stacked for the cruise co. We adjusted to the fact that there are lots of extra charges for various activities and things, felt hustled at first but experienced cruisers shared that it's pretty universal in the cruise industry. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
My first on Holland America and I've done 9 on Princess and I'm still partial to Princess. Nothing at all wrong with Holland America. I just think Princess is the better of the two. I don't know that I could pinpoint any ... Read More
My first on Holland America and I've done 9 on Princess and I'm still partial to Princess. Nothing at all wrong with Holland America. I just think Princess is the better of the two. I don't know that I could pinpoint any one thing, but there were a lot of things that needed to be revamped or redone on the Maasdam. It's obviously an older ship and just needs to be redecorated and updated. Some of the shows were also a bit raunchy and the shows are one of the main things I enjoy on the cruise. Service was o.k., but most not outstanding. We did have 2 boys in the dining room that we loved and were very attentive to us and I tipped them more. I'm on a walker with oxygen, so I didn't really do many shore excursions, but what I did were fine. Food, for the most part was fine. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We had a delightful time on this cruise. My mom and I had cruised before about 12 years ago on Princess. This was a different experience because of the older clientele Holland American tends to draw. We really enjoyed the ... Read More
We had a delightful time on this cruise. My mom and I had cruised before about 12 years ago on Princess. This was a different experience because of the older clientele Holland American tends to draw. We really enjoyed the lectures/speaker series on board in the afternoons for the days at sea on the history of the area. The virtual tour of the Panama Canal by our Location Guide Wallis was also excellent and a great introduction to what we would be seeing. We didn't attend the shows as much as we did the movies in the early evening. We liked that some of the movies and food were themed around a port or activity. There were some negatives to our trip, but nothing to dampen our time. Due to the older clientele who had traveled extensively, we often felt out of place because everyone talked about going to Honduras or Puerto Vallarta for the winter. My mom and I have actually both travelled quite a bit ourselves, but it just didn't seem to compare. We booked all of our excursions in advance so we were prepared for each day and so we could attend the excursion we wanted at the time we wanted. It seemed like many people waited until they were on the ship to book an excursion or would just get off the ship and do their own thing. We felt much more comfortable and safe with our pre-panning. Again, though, many people at dinner would react like we were wrong to book in advance when asked what our plans were for the next day. I also felt like there was a different air with the passengers' attitudes. Sometimes it felt like people reacted to situations like I spent the money, so wait on me and I'm entitled. While standing in line one night to enter the main dining room, I overheard someone say that they didn't know why the doors were not open yet - his watch said 5:16 and dinner was supposed to begin at 5:15. Another woman was near us in the Crow's Nest on Canal Day and berated someone for sitting in front of her because she had been there all morning - mind you this woman had gotten up temporarily and left her stuff there, but to the newcomer, there was no way to know where she was sitting and how her view would blocked. I guess some of that felt to me that I would not be given the same latitude in my attitude since I'm younger (I am 31 years old). When we went on the kitchen galley tour, many people were lined up going up the staircase, but then others just pushed their way into the line. Overall, we had an excellent time. The Panama Canal is a cruise my mom has always wanted to go on. This particular cruise had the most ports of call and fewest days at sea for the length of the cruise. Being able to see and do as much as we could was the most important for us. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2016
This cruise was to places unknown to us, in Central America, which was a wonderful highlight, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and fascinating Guatemala. Mexico, and even in the US, San Diego, which was delightful .The public spaces, and there are ... Read More
This cruise was to places unknown to us, in Central America, which was a wonderful highlight, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and fascinating Guatemala. Mexico, and even in the US, San Diego, which was delightful .The public spaces, and there are many, on Amsterdam are the best we have experienced, a smaller ship with a great atmosphere. A very good crew of helpful, ever friendly people, we thought they must be hand picked for the World Journeys this ship does, their patience was amazing.! Entertainment was quite good, it is hard to please everyone all of the time, but a very comfortable Movie Theatre ,with good choices in movies helps there. The Digital workshops, were certainly enriching, taken by the most patient man on the Planet.! So helpful to everyone. A pleasant Captain makes for a happy ship and this shone through, a great journey and we look forward to our next Holland America Line experience in the future, made possible by the very busy Future Cruise organiser, with the most taxing job on board, another indicator of satisfied passengers. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
First let me say that I believe that my expectations were way too high. Having read blogs from Bill & Marianne on their world cruise aboard Amsterdam and being on Ryndam last year for the cruise before the "holiday Cruise" ... Read More
First let me say that I believe that my expectations were way too high. Having read blogs from Bill & Marianne on their world cruise aboard Amsterdam and being on Ryndam last year for the cruise before the "holiday Cruise" set me up for a huge let down! I also have been debating on doing a review because there were so many negative items about the whole experience that I don't want to "dampen" others enthusiasm. But anyway here goes. We had originally been going to stay in Florida this year for Christmas & New Years but on the 15th of December we saw this cruise. Luckily for us the kennel had a spot and we got decent flights and hotel reservations in Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego so we did it. We boarded which was very easy and found our cabin. WOW! Underwhelmed is an understatement. The whole cabin is about the size of a postage stamp and as far as being "partially obstructed" it should read "Mostly obstructed" We did find that the way to see out is to kneel or stand on the bed and crane your head sideways. From that position you can see out. We tried for an upgrade, but that is another long and boring story which I won't even go into. The first thing we find out and only by going to the dining room is that there is no Mariner's lunch. It reminds me how much I hate the Lido. But dh wants to get something to eat and so up we go. Big mistake. Lets just say I detest the Lido. We go back to our "cabin" and find that all our luggage is there. Since we are supposed to be "upgraded" we decide not to unpack but sit in the postage stamp with four suitcases. The next morning we decide that "we aren't going to be upgraded so we do the unpacking. Good thing as it took the front office two days to call and say "there are no upgrades available" DUH! I guess we can figure some things out ourselves. Then we come to the question of Electric plugs. We have none. The one and only one above the desk had a plug in it already and its attached to the refrigerator under the desk. I'm sorry, but where are we supposed to plug in things like dh's razor, the batteries for my camera and dh's camera and my lap top. Back down to the front desk. We will need to leave a $50 (25 each) for an extension cord and surge protector so we can plug in all our electronics. Our "postage stamp" comes with one other strangeness about it. It is actually brighter at night than during the day! I found this out the first night. I kept waking and couldn't get back to sleep. There are two flood lights just outside the window which flood the area with light but dim and turn off during the day. During the day we would keep the curtains closed after we had people come right up to the window, put up their hands around their face and try to look in! We started to wonder about some of the people on this cruise after that. As for decorations and Christmas atmosphere. Forget it! The only Christmas Carol we heard until the 23rd was coming aboard the ship. Once inside there was nothing!!! No decorations, no carols, no nothing! (Now remember the previous year we were on Ryndam the cruise before the Christmas cruise and the ship was beautiful. Totally decorated from top to bottom. On Ryndam at the bottom of the atrium not only did they have a wonderful tree, but a huge gingerbread garden It was amazing!) So here we are with nothing. We wait and we wait and finally about the 20th they start putting up some decorations. Let me just say that for the Amsterdam being HAL's "signature" ship the decorations were puny. Maybe HAL should change signature ships! And by the way there are still no Christmas Carols. Then we realize something else we are in port both Christmas and New Years day. Which means no Christmas or New Year's Dinner. (Where I come from Christmas dinner is served in the middle of the day as is New Year's day dinner) I go to the Front desk and ask if the dining room will be opened for these holidays during the day. No they will not be I am told. That is when I realize with out a doubt that we have just made a huge mistake. Forget about all you hear. If you love Christmas and the Holidays don't ever take a Holiday cruise. I guess its time for me to come to the food on this cruise. All I can say is OMG! The worse of the worse. The very first night in the dining room I ate right out of the freezer Perdue breaded chicken breast with melted velvetta cheese drizzled on top! Now I am no chef, but I would put my Beef stroganoff up against HAL's any day of the week. HAL's stroganoff had no sour cream in the gravy nor any mushrooms and there weren't even any noodles! The meal consisted of what would be called beef in drippings with a dab and I mean a dab of sour cream on top and on top of the sour cream was sour pickles! That sat next to a ice cream spoon full of rice! Hals Beef Bourguignon was another dish which did not resemble anything to do with my Beef Bourguignon. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is if you are going to call a dish something at least use the ingredients which are generally considered part of the dish or just call it something else. In my survey to HAL I did offer to lend them my copy of Julia Child's "Art of French cooking" if their "chef" needs to read what one of the items should taste like and my private recipe of beef Stroganoff. My husband said it best. Now, you have to know my husband. He is not picky, but he told me that the best food he ate on board the ship was the Nathan's hot dog he got from the dive-in counter. Most of the other food was pretty bad and he even said some of it was in-edible! Just wanted to interject here that for Christmas "dinner" (which where I come from is served in the middle of Christmas day) dh and I had "Nathan's hot dogs. That evening (Christmas night we would call supper) we did have turkey, believe me when I say it wasn't worth the wait! Now remember folks we are on a ship with 1200 guests and about 80 to 100 are children. I generally like children and have a couple of them myself, but I would not inflict my children and grand children on a small ship where most of the people are elderly. Putting it bluntly there isn't much for children to do on this ship. There isn't much for adults to do unless you want to gamble, learn to cook (sorry, but I really don't think HAL can teach me anything about cooking, I'm eating the food remember?) or work on the computer. Other than that it's reading or going to the pool. We finally decided that the children's source of entertainment was driving the elderly crazy at the pool! Now there are a lot of elderly who use the pool for their P.T. as I do. Forget it or get out very early. The children use it to jump around and generally cause havoc. The poor guitar player was trying to play his music over the screaming and splashing of all the kids. We felt sorry for him and clapped though most of the time we could hardly hear him. One family in particular was what we call "the awful" family. Their kids were not only out of control, but mostly unsupervised. I never did figure out how many kids they had with them as I think it was a number of families traveling together, but I believe they were raising them as a pack of wolves. Two incidents stand out in my mind. One, some poor lady thought she had bingo, but when the announcer announced that she didn't this "family" actually stood up and cheered, and the family was led by the "father" or a large male leading the cheering! The second thing was an item of mine went missing, it was gone for about two to three days and I go to the pool and one of the children is playing in the pool with my item. When she sees me she just lets it float away and leaves it there. Now picture this, your child has something that doesn't belong to the child and you don't turn it in to lost and found? You tell me who does that? The rest of the passengers were on the whole nice with only a few exceptions. I do know many were happy to know that they were getting off in Ft. Lauderdale and several were very unhappy about the cruise. Several people we talked to had paid big money and felt that it wasn't worth what they had paid. Since HAL is a part of the Carnival family I guess it is a good thing that they didn't offer to give you your money back after the first day or when you got to the first port. (I believe it was Carnival that had that guarantee several years back) I can see a lot of people taking them up on their offer on this cruise! Dh actually admitted to me later in the cruise that he had thought of leaving when we got to Puerto Vallarta, but he said he thought it would be too time consuming and too costly to fly home. I was very surprised. We did over hear a man talking to his wife (we weren't ease dropping, but at a two person table it's hard not to hear the next table over) he said he couldn't wait to get off this ... Boat! We saw him leaving the next day with a carry-on bag when we docked in Puerto Chiapas. We didn't see her leave. I will have to say that New Year's Eve was the most entertaining we have had in a long time. We loved it and danced the night away. We had dinner with two couples and they graciously allowed us to join them. We all laughed and danced. The seating was a bit squished, but who cares we were celebrating. The second wonderful thing about this trip was seeing the Panama Canal. Now this was our fourth time and each and every time it's wonderful. There isn't much more to say about the Canal. The entertainment was good. We love to listen to the Adagio in the evening. We also like the shows and really enjoyed the piano player in the queens lounge along with the guitar player and then enjoyed them when they teamed up and did a show together. We saw two movies which we really enjoyed. One was 'A walk in the woods" and the second was "spy". Now when "spy" first started we thought OMG what a corn ball, but then we realized it was a comedy and that's when we really started to enjoy it. The ports were I guess all right. The two that we had not been to before and wanted to take tours, but the one Puerto Chapas the nearest town was about 25 miles away and Puerto Quetzal the drive was 90 min each way. Now I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not driving 90 each way to see anything. So some we got off the ship and just walked around and some we stayed on the ship and enjoyed the quiet of the pool! The crew was outstanding. They really went out of their way to help with whatever. We really can't say enough about our room stewards. They were great!!! All in all the trip was ok. Would I do it again NO! DH and I have no intention of having Nathan's Hot dogs for Christmas dinner any time soon! We booked on a HAL cruise for 42 days. I'm calling before final payment and asking how many children will be on board. If there are any more then ten I am out of there. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the ... Read More
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the time we sailed until we left the ship, we were entertained, fed, left alone, instructed, sold stuff and fed again. The ship is mid-sized, and that is fine. It has all the features except the water slide. The staff did a fine job. When an issue popped up, they handled everything with speed and a smile. The Cruise Director and his staff kept the announcements to the point and the entertainment activities fun. The menu needs some updating, but the food was good. The restaurant service and the cabin service were all I expected. The stores all sell the same goods, but the sales staff went out of their way to help me find the exact watch I wanted. This was not a party barge. It was a relocation cruise, so the guests were older. The younger guests mingled and seemed to have a great time at the shows and activities. The excursions were noteworthy, with one exception, and that was handled. I was not sure what to expect in ports I had not visited before, so I took the highlights tours at most places and coffee plantation tours at others. Seeing the inside of a live volcano under clear blue skies was fabulous. Learning that Guatemala is my new "next flight out" trip showed me a new view of Central America. The ship is now headed to Alaska, but it has the same crew, so you will have a good time! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the ... Read More
I have been to Panama before, but this voyage showed me a whole new way of seeing Central America. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia, then through the Canal to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and on to San Diego. From the time we sailed until we left the ship, we were entertained, fed, left alone, instructed, sold stuff and fed again. The ship is mid-sized, and that is fine. It has all the features except the water slide. The staff did a fine job. When an issue popped up, they handled everything with speed and a smile. The Cruise Director and his staff kept the announcements to the point and the entertainment activities fun. The menu needs some updating, but the food was good. The restaurant service and the cabin service were all I expected. The stores all sell the same goods, but the sales staff went out of their way to help me find the exact watch I wanted. This was not a party barge. It was a relocation cruise, so the guests were older. The younger guests mingled and seemed to have a great time at the shows and activities. The excursions were noteworthy, with one exception, and that was handled. I was not sure what to expect in ports I had not visited before, so I took the highlights tours at most places and coffee plantation tours at others. Seeing the inside of a live volcano under clear blue skies was fabulous. Learning that Guatemala is my new "next flight out" trip showed me a new view of Central America. The ship is now headed to Alaska, but it has the same crew, so you will have a good time! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
First off, overall the service and attention to detail was excellent. The names of the dining room staff people who impressed us with their professionalism and friendliness and excellent service were Presty Sumitra, assistant dining room ... Read More
First off, overall the service and attention to detail was excellent. The names of the dining room staff people who impressed us with their professionalism and friendliness and excellent service were Presty Sumitra, assistant dining room manager - he was everywhere helping guest and his team members without taking a break - and always smiling; Ali Mansur, our waiter and assistant Leika Patrya, they were excellent to put it mildly; Benjamin Schutte, Pinnacle Grill Maître d'hôtel - again, always friendly and helpful and managed a superb serving staff; Intan Rosmalia - La Fontaine hostess who always smiled and expertly defused a situation where an irate passenger who was upset with his cabin was taking out his frustrations on Intan - she smiled, took notes, thanked him and told him she would contact the front desk to remind them of his concerns - incredible customer service; Aleksandre Gruaz, masseuse in the spa who not only gave excellent massages with a friendly smile but also suggested other treatments to help my badly knotted leg muscles; Clifton Bolton, on-board acupuncturist who was able to provide me relief from my restless leg syndrome and suggest follow up treatment back on land. And we cannot forget the Front Desk staff who always smiled and were very professional and were able to defuse and calm down some passengers who were having problems (of their own making). The ship was always spotless and the housekeeping staff were always visible keeping things shipshape. The public rooms were very comfortable and the staff always helpful and smiling. The food was excellent in all venues at all times. The La Fontaine main dining room has excellent food, well prepared, not overly large servings and the menu did not repeat itself in the 19 days we were on board. The Pinnacle Grill was exquisite - the La Cirque night was well worth the extra charge and is among the best restaurants at which we have dined, if not the best. The Lido restaurant was buffet and for the most part the choices mirrored those in the La Fontaine dining room. The Dive-In Grill was by the pool and had excellent hot dogs and a super small buffet with a Mexican theme - build yourself tacos and burritos and any combination you wanted to try. They both were and excellent break from La Fontaine. And the ice cream in the Lido Restaurant was always appreciated. My wife tried room service for one meal when she was feeling a tad seasick. almost every morning we did have rolls and coffee in our cabin before getting out and about. Having a Catholic Priest on board was one of the reasons we choose to sail with Holland America. Being able to go to Mass daily was a highlight of the cruise. Holland America is the only cruise line that I have been able to find that has a priest on board all of their sailings. A couple of small issues in the La Fontaine dining room. Being served instant hot chocolate at breakfast was a bit of a disappointment. I would have preferred the hot chocolate from the Explorations Café - it was very tasty and made with a sauce instead of mix. And the consistency of the coffee was a bit erratic. Sometimes it was exceedingly strong and needed to be watered down to be drinkable and at other times it was just about perfect. One waiter explained that when it was brewed the amounts of coffee going in might vary from time to time. This could stand a bit of consistency. And on to the fitness center. Overall it was excellent. Good aerobic equipment with enough to handle the people who wanted to use it. The weight training equipment was also very good with no waiting needed to use it. Pawal or Paul (the personal trainer and Pilates "instructor") was excellent as far as personal training is concerned. However, his Pilates approach was a bit off the wall in my opinion. I have been a student of Pilates for about seven years now. When I talked with Pawal and showed him some of the exercises that my instructors at home wanted me to do he did not know what the Pilates Hundred was - and this is the basic exercise that Joseph Pilates based most of his exercises on and is taught by almost every Pilates certifying agency in the United States and most worldwide. If you are going to advertise Pilates classes in the North American market it might be best if the instructors were vetted to insure they were familiar with classic Pilates. Pawal did what he characterized as "callisthenic Pilates", not really Pilates as taught by Joseph Pilates and his students. The spa itself had a few problems. The men's sauna was not working for the entire cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle. There was no sign posted and no alternatives were volunteered to passengers. After I talked with guest relations about this I was allowed to use the steam room as a part of my massages and acupuncture treatments. I should not have had to talk with guest relations. The steam rooms were excellent and hit the spot. Cleanliness was not always consistent. One morning when I went into the fitness center to do my Pilates exercises on a mat on the wood floor the floor was dirty and had bits of something on it. The showers in the men's locker room were not properly cleaned each day. On one occasion I found a used bandage that was in there for 2 days and on another occasion I found an piece of body plaster tape that remained for over 24 hours. Not acceptable. And the grout between the tiles on the shower floors was partly clean and partly black, I did bring these to the attention of the guest relations manager twice over a two week period. Having three different groups of entertainers in the theatre provided plenty of variety that appealed to all age groups. But most of the evenings we were in the Explorer's Lounge where a duo of a pianist and a violinist were playing classical music ever day from 6pm to 10pm. Two delightful ladies, Linsey Rogers and Rhonda May, respectively, kept a small group of 15-20 devoted listeners entertained daily. The Holland America name for the duo was Adagio and the Adagio duos appear to be on board all of their ships. Overall, an excellent voyage. Five star would be how we would rate it. We will be back on board either the Amsterdam or another of the ships in the R or S class within a year. That good. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Although we cruised the Panama Canal westbound with HAL several years ago, we decided to repeat the cruise going eastbound for several reasons. Our main reason was to avoid the expensive flight home from San Diego to Orlando at the ... Read More
Although we cruised the Panama Canal westbound with HAL several years ago, we decided to repeat the cruise going eastbound for several reasons. Our main reason was to avoid the expensive flight home from San Diego to Orlando at the conclusion of our ms Amsterdam's 78-day Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage. The 14-day Panama Canal cruise was back-to-back with our Grand Voyage. For just a few hundred dollars more, we would avoid the hassle of the west coast flight, the jet lag, excess luggage concerns and could simply drive home from Fort Lauderdale. Fifty passengers decided to do the same thing. Our 14-day Panama Canal Cruise departed San Diego on December 8, 2014 visiting the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Huatulco, Mexico, Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, Corinto, Nicaragua, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, Cartagena, Columbia and Fort Lauderdale. We even remained in the same stateroom. We spent embarkation day in San Diego doing some independent sightseeing that included the Midway Museum, Little Italy, and Seaport Village. The destinations were within walking distance of the ship. Embarkation for us involved simply showing our stateroom key card and a special card alerting the personnel that we were already on the ship then putting personal items through security. It took just about a minute. We bypassed the usual boarding process. The Panama Canal cruise had a completely different feel to it than our previous cruise. Half the crew departed and new staff came on board. The number of passengers increased; they were much younger and there were more children. The music around the pool changed as did the activities around the ship. Darcy and the HALcats replaced the Amsterdam Orchestra and did a nice job. Even the lounge entertainers were different. The room service menu was shorter and the choices on the MDR menu were different. Some things did not change. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable ocean view stateroom #2595 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. It was fairly roomy by industry standards. We had a sitting area with a large end table, lamp and adjustable coffee table, a desk, a safe, a comfortable queen (two twins) size bed, good bedside lighting and two end tables. The magnifying mirror came in quite handy every day. The one thing that I did miss in the room was a mini fridge. HAL generously sent to our stateroom a vase of flowers that stayed fresh almost the entire cruise. There was also a complimentary bottle of champagne and a plate of sweets, rewards to us for taking the back-to-back cruise.. We chose to use the captain's Complimentary Dinner for Two in the Pinnacle Grill on Embarkation night. We were treated royally and service was professional and leisurely. We saw several other tables of guests from the previous cruise. Soon after being seated, we were served the captain's complimentary appetizer; it was a delicious scallop. Our (Jumbo) Shrimp Cocktails were truly jumbo and delicious. Filet Mignons with Béarnaise sauce and garlic butter were cooked exactly as ordered - rare and were very tender. Sautéed mushrooms and jumbo baked potatoes complemented the entrees and were scrumptious as was the bread. Although by this time we were full, we did manage to take a few bites of our desserts. I highly recommend this specialty restaurant. We definitely will come again on another HAL cruise. The only thing lacking in this restaurant are windows. We requested the same servers and same table #330 near the windows in the La Fontaine Main Dining Room. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining Room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Although Jumbo Shrimp cocktail was no longer on the menu nightly I found plenty of other choices to keep me happy. We found the food to be great and the chefs continued to accommodate my husband's meal restrictions. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Several times we took advantage of the Drink of the Day for $5.95 and Happy Hour: Buy 1 Drink, Get the 2nd Same Drink for $1 for Select Beverages. Happy Hour was the best deal on the ship. The selection of food in the Lido also changed somewhat but was still good. For example the large selection at the sushi station was now significantly reduced but there was still plenty of other choices. The same ice cream station was still there so I was a happy camper. Be sure to check both sides of the buffet as a few selections are only offered on one side. For the best fries on the ship, visit the Dive In poolside. We enjoyed all the nightly entertainment, especially the Amsterdam Singers & Dancers Shows: Variations, Can't Stop the Music and I Write the Songs. The singing was excellent and the dancers were talented and energetic. For us, these shows were repeats but still enjoyable. A few of the other entertaining shows that I recall were vocalist Jacqi Michaels, Comedian and magician Nick Lewin, Pianist, Singer, Marty Henne and Live wire (Celtic music and spirit.) Jeff Burghart did funny impressions. Other Queen's Lounge (theater) shows were the lounge entertainers Adagio, Dancing with the Stars and the lively Ole, Ole flamenco with a difference. I missed the crew show on this cruise since it was performed at 11 PM, too late for us to stay up. I had seen the two crew shows on the previous cruise that were performed at 3 PM, a better time for us. We enjoyed many of the activities on the ship especially the very interesting talks by On Location Guide, Alanna. She made learning about the history and culture of the area fun and educational at the same time. Alanna had a easy rapport with the passengers. We were very impressed with Alanna's knowledge of the workings of the Panama Canal and the port of calls even though this was her first visit to these ports and the Panama Canal. Her research was thorough and she answered all the questions asked of her. All the on board computer Digital Workshop classes that I attended were easy to understand and helpful. I enjoyed the several cooking shows and brought home the printed recipes. Board games, crosswords and Sudoku are available in the Exploration Cafe. Just as an aside, the sweets in the cafe are complementary. One night there was a lively Mexican Fiesta BBQ with live Mariachi music and a selection of grilled favorite. That night was the Lido Pool Party with a night of fun, music and dancing under the stars as we sailed from Puerto Vallarta to Huatulco, Mexico. Carlos, the Cruise Director was wonderful in getting passengers involved and up dancing. Be sure to take the interesting Kitchen Galley Tour and learn interesting facts about how the kitchen operates on the ship. HAL offers daily religious services and is one of the few remaining cruise lines that still does that. Movie buffs will enjoy the movies shown in the Wajang Theater 3 times daily. Popular ones were, If I Stay, The Maze Runner and Jersey Boys. The One Hundred Foot Journey was shown on a large screen in the Queen's Lounge. The ship's public areas are stylish without being trendy. Their decor is subdued with an air of quiet elegance. When not in use for live entertainment or presentations, the lounges with their lovely fresh flower arrangements, fine art and antiques are inviting places for reading or writing. They are well used by passengers. Of course, the biggest excitement on board was the daytime full transit of the Panama Canal. Although this was our second full transit, it was just as much fun and equally interesting. HAL permits passengers access to the bow so you are close to the action; there is plenty to see all day starting at sunrise. HAL provided a continental breakfast of juice and Panama rolls as well chilled lemonade and water throughout the day to keep everyone hydrated. Alanna gave a talk over the loud speakers that reached the public areas. Her talks were supplemented by a local canal lecturer who provided commentary from the bridge, heard on the outside decks, the Lido Restaurant, the Crow's Nest and on TV in staterooms. Unfortunately the speakers weren't working properly even though they worked fine when tested the previous night. These things happen and HAL worked around the problem. We were outside on the bow as we passed under the Bridge of America, passed through the Miraflores Locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks and entered Gatun Lake and the Gatun Locks. We also saw where the new locks were being built. This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Historic Panama Canal. The ship celebrated with a Panamanian Market, authentic foods, drinks and live music poolside. Your friends and family can even watch your ship sail through the locks in real time online by the live webcams located in the Panama Canal. Ship photographer, Birdie was out and about taking candid shots throughout the transit. Throughout the cruise she always seemed to be everywhere - in the MDR, on the pier on shore excursions and in general around the ship where something was happening. She offered her services but never push them which everyone appreciated. Her photos were so wonderful that we purchased all our candid shots at the conclusion of the cruise. Although they are expensive purchased singly, $20, as a package they are most reasonable. They bring back happy memories every time I share them with family and friends. The shore excursions that we purchased through HAL in each port of call were all worthwhile and enjoyable. The guides were knowledgeable, interesting and spoke English well. We were most impressed with our Huatulco (Mexico) By Land & Sea tour and Colonial San Sebastian in Puerto Vallarta. Our tour guide in Nicaragua had us all laughing when he tried to convince us that our tour would be in Spanish. Not only did we enjoy his tour and antics but we all learned lots of Spanish words. Although our tour in Cartagena was a repeat of our previous HAL shore excursion, we visited different sights around the city and it actually ran an hour longer than scheduled. We felt that we got our money's worth on all these excursions. One of the nicest features on the ms Amsterdam is the dome over the mid-ship swimming pool. While it is especially useful when the ship sails Alaska, it also protects passengers from wind gusts and sudden, brief thundershowers in the warmer climates as well. One poor element about the ship is that the comfy couches in the Queen's Lounge are lower than the theater chairs, which makes seeing the performers, especially the dancers' feet much harder. I also missed the stage sets and back drops at the shows. However, the excellent service, big smiles of the crew and the good food more than makes up these shortcomings. All too soon our 14-day Panama trip was over. We watched as all the dazzling Christmas decorations were put up (there was a menorah lit each night of Hanukkah, too) in preparation for the Christmas cruise. Hopefully another great cruise with HAL is in our future perhaps on their new ship, Koningsdam a Pinnacle-class of vessel scheduled for delivery in 2016. This will be HAL's sixteenth ship in its fleet. Before I end the review I want to mention the Bonus Days that HAL offers for every $300 spent, which includes prepaid beverage packages and shore excursions, gratuities as well as onboard purchases. I do not know of any other cruise line that does this. Through this perk, we are now only eight days shy of reaching the Four Star Level when they offer free laundry service.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
This is the reviewer's second cruise. The first was on the Nieuw Amsterdam (same line, western Caribbean), and I enjoyed it so much I booked this cruise on board. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, with marvelous artwork throughout. ... Read More
This is the reviewer's second cruise. The first was on the Nieuw Amsterdam (same line, western Caribbean), and I enjoyed it so much I booked this cruise on board. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, with marvelous artwork throughout. Pluses of the ship experience: Immaculate cleanliness throughout, the artwork, easy to find things. The ship is well-designed so that families with young children and older people such as myself can both enjoy the cruise and "not get in each others' way" either physically or psychologically. Cabin spacious, well-appointed, and expertly and courteously serviced daily. Water in shower almost instantly hot -- no waste of water! Meals excellent, perfectly cooked (I ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido, dinners in the upper promenade deck. Superb variety of selections (appetizer, soup or salad, main course, dessert) for dinner. Lovely light fluffy omelets cooked to order for breakfast while you watch. Unexpectedly (not advertised in advance) this cruise had a bridge instructor/director who, on all sea days, gave a lecture at 10am and ran a duplicate tournament at 1:30pm. He was Armand Grassi. My previous and first cruise was with Audrey Grant in this role. Armand is her equal in expertise, and surpasses her in patience and clarity of explanations. A Ukrainian duo "Adagio" (pianist and violinist) played lovely classical music almost every evening, a highlight leading up to my 8pm dinner seating. One sea day Eddy deGroot (male) gave a fascinating tour of the lovely flower arrangements he makes for the ship, providing insight into his artistic themes and talents. Lovely music and dancing, showcasing Indonesian culture, on a sea day near the end of the cruise. Excellent shops, wide variety, lovely Faberge eggs (I can't afford one, but I enjoyed admiring them). Library quiet, extensive selection, Internet available (not too terribly expensive if package deal chosen). Daily news leaflets available (US, Canada, UK, Spanish, German, Dutch). Cruising through Panama Canal fascinating and expertly narrated -- narration was informative and interesting without ever being "overmuch" TMI [too much information]. Minuses of the ship experience: Evening dining (our table was in exact center aft of upper promenade deck) area too hot. Incompetent cruise shopping information person Chris Langley. He gave talks, in the theater, on where to shop at each port. These talks were too much "rah-rah" (like high-school cheerleading) and too little information. Very seriously, he never warned people about Cuban cigars (he touted their availability in Cartegena) vis-a-vis the United States. What if an Australian or European buys some, and then disembarks in San Diego or Seattle, or disembarks in Vancouver and then flies home via a US transfer? Prison! He promised to answer my question about post office in Cartagena and never answered it. The day before Costa Rica, he told me a museum would be open; after a long hot walk I found it closed. On Holland America's site (they requested review) he is the specific and only reason I gave the overall rating 6 instead of 7 (highest). Occasional service flaws (slow and/or interchanged entrees) at dinner. I flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of the cruise and was very favorably impressed with the courtesy and efficiency of the SIX Holland America employees, stationed in baggage claim and responsible for helping passengers transfer to the ship. Embarkation smooth, comfortable, and well-organized. US Customs inefficiency and discourtesy combined to make disembarkation (I disembarked in San Diego; some passengers went on to Vancouver or Seattle) a slow, exasperating mess (Holland American NOT to blame for that!). After the tour, I stayed one night before flying home to the Midwest. I stayed in the San Diego Airport Hilton: superb hotel, immaculately clean and quiet, excellent restaurant, superb service throughout. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We have cruised on several Holland, Princess, and Carnival ships. From our experience, Holland just doesn't deliver on their "upscale" image. We end up on HAL primarily because of their itineraries. The Amsterdam is in good ... Read More
We have cruised on several Holland, Princess, and Carnival ships. From our experience, Holland just doesn't deliver on their "upscale" image. We end up on HAL primarily because of their itineraries. The Amsterdam is in good condition and clean. The public areas are plentiful and well kept. Our OV stateroom on the lower promenade was small but as expected. No complaints. The ship had just come off the world voyage route, so a few glitches are understandable. But the first half of the trip was inexcusable. It just seemed as though they were very understaffed and the hotel management didn't have a clue what was going on. Keys didn't work, which meant waiting in long lines at customer service--numerous times since even replacement keys didn't work. No apologies--just "well a lot of keys don't work." (And that makes it okay?) Our cabin steward didn't make it to our rooms 'til late the first night, and didn't get the room cleaned at all the next day. Repeatedly we heard "We were supposed to have a ____ person onboard, but they didn't make it in FLL." Or, "We didn't get 'x' or 'y' like we were supposed to in FLL." Fill in the blanks--it was a common theme. People who ordered wine packages were brought the list, then told they only had one kind available but they might be getting more in a few days. The Lido seemed terribly understaffed (always difficult in HAL's 'code orange' time, but worse than usual). There was only one server for Happy Hour in the Crows Nest for the first few days, and he literally RAN around the room trying to serve everyone. The MDR was ridiculously slow, and 2 1/2 hours wasn't enough time to get to dessert. We were told a price for shirts on the deck merchandise sale, waited in the hour long line (not enough cashiers), only to be told the person working on the deck "was new" and had given us the wrong price. And no, they wouldn't honor it. The crew didn't know about one of the time changes on this itinerary, causing passengers to miss wake-up calls and the Lido to open late. About half way through things improved. The service was never terrific, but it definitely got better over time. The cruise director, Gene Young, was great and the entertainment enjoyable. The HAL singers & dancers were just okay, but they had two dancers who were fabulous. A highlight of the cruise was a special show those two dancers did, not usually on the entertainment line up. The guest performers were varied and good-excellent. The HALcats on the deck were fine and the acoustic guitarist/singer was excellent. The Microsoft teacher was outstanding, as was the Bridge instructor. Movies in the Wajang theatre were generally new releases and well attended. Food was okay. We were not at all happy with the Lido, either in food quality or service. The set-up of HAL's buffet creates long lines, cold food, and requires multiple trips from the line to your table. In our opinion, HAL buffets fall far short of either Princess or Carnival. The first few days in the MDR were very disappointing, but it did improve over time. The special BBQ's at Half Moon Cay and for a sail-away on the Lido deck were both good. We enjoyed the Crows Nest, although they frequently didn't have all of the ingredients to make the drinks listed on their menu. We don't usually do ship's excursions, but we did several this time and were very happy with them. Disembarkation involved an extra 3 hour "inspection" of all non-USA passport holders. Apparently this isn't unusual in San Diego, but our crew didn't seem to know about it, and passengers weren't told until a few days before disembarkation. This caused a lot of stress for people who went by the original schedule to book flights and tours. HAL boasts that it has the highest number of repeat cruisers in the industry. When we talk with people, many tell us that they've never tried any other line because they've heard that Holland is the best. We sure don't agree, and we will cruise with HAL again only if the itinerary and price are better than others.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014
My husband and I had a wonderful time. It was an excellent way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.This is a great itinerary, and we love this ship. It is a perfect size. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, with marvelous artwork ... Read More
My husband and I had a wonderful time. It was an excellent way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.This is a great itinerary, and we love this ship. It is a perfect size. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, with marvelous artwork throughout. You can get a printed description of it, or an iPod tour. We really enjoyed our cabin. It was very comfortable, with excellent cabin stewards. See my cabin review. Shipboard life: The cruise director, Gene Young, was great and the entertainment enjoyable. The HAL singers & dancers were okay, but they had two dancers who were fabulous. Those two dancers did a special show, not usually on the entertainment line up. The guest performers were varied and not too good to excellent. (We walked out of a couple) The HALcats on the deck were fine and the acoustic guitarist/singer was excellent. We enjoyed movies in the Wajang theatre, complete with popcorn. Team Trivia: All but one session, cruise director Gene Young was the host, and a very entertaining host he was. The prizes were much better than usual, probably because the ship was coming off the World Cruise. A Ukrainian duo "Adagio" (pianist and violinist) played lovely classical music almost every evening, which we enjoyed as ever. We remember though when "Adagio" was a 4-person ensemble before cost-cutting. Crew shows with lovely music and dancing, showcased Indonesian culture then a few days later Filipino talent, on a sea day near the end of the cruise.Library quiet, extensive selection, Internet available (not too terribly expensive if package deal chosen). Emily, the librarian/Internet tech was great. She also ran the Book Club, which I enjoyed. Food: Most of the meals were excellent. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Lido, though a couple of times we ate breakfast and lunch in the MDR. Lido: We were happy with the Lido, both in food quality and service. We did not experience long lines, cold food, or multiple trips from the line to our table. Several times we enjoyed light fluffy omelets deftly cooked to order while we watched. MDR: We were at a table for 10 though we had requested a table for 6. We decided to stay anyway since our table-mates were pleasant, as were the waitstaff. One negative: our table was almost always among the very last to get served. This was due I believe to there not being enough wait staff, and the very size of the table. Our waitstaff was great, though overworked. Ports: Barbara, the Port Specialist, was not all that informative compared to the wonderful Lisa we had on the Westerdam's cruise to the South Pacific. Her talks were only okay because there was not as much content as we would have liked, and she did not have any tips for independent touring as well as ship excursions. Lisa's talks were so informative, so entertaining, and so helpful to make the most of our time in ports. We enjoyed geo-caching, finding at least one in most of the ports, and even a virtual cache in the Panama Canal. We did a combination of ship's excursions, private shore excursions arranged with other CC members, and doing our own thing in ports. Ship excursions “Antigua on Your Own” at Puerto Quetzal , Guatemala, and “Banana Plantation and Rural Community" near Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, were both very enjoyable.” As usual, we LOVED Half Moon Cay. Our van tour in Cartagena was quite good with Dora’s company, though the van was too full. The tour with Ricky Riccardo in Costa Rica was excellent through out. It helped that we docked at Puntarenas instead of the originally scheduled Puerto Caldera, a container port. Cruising through Panama Canal fascinating and expertly narrated, informative and interesting with just the right amount of information. It was endlessly fascinating. We also saw a yellow-blossomed tree in bloom that only blooms for a week, and then is done. The tour of Leon I arranged with Julio’s Tours at the Corinto/Leon stop was outstanding! I recommend him with no hesitation. Other CC members who went on a Julio's Tours to Cerro Negro were also hugely impressed. Some cruise ship passengers have advised just staying on the ship in Corinto. I disagree. Sure, the country is poor, but all the people we met were very nice, and there is a lot of history in the area. Puerto Quetzal: The dock is not near the town, but the cruise port is a wonderful facility with a performance area, and fine shops/stalls. My husband and I are not normally big on shopping but on our return from the ship tour, "Antigua on Your Own" we had fun shopping, and made several purchases. We also chatted a bit with the one shop keeper. We really enjoyed the tour. The guide, Roger, on the bus was very informative about the people, the economy, the natural history the area, etc. In Antigua, he gave an excellent briefing about when and where to meet him and the bus. In the Jade Shop we were all given free samples of coffee, and more information about touring the town, as well as an excellent map. Jerry and I loved that town! The buildings are so historic, the Arch of Saint Catherine scenic as well as historic, most of the street vendors were nice and even helpful, and yes, we did some geo-caching. One of our cache hunts took us up to the Cerro del Cruces (Hill of the Cross). There is a neat pedestrian path to get up there, as an alternative to the cobblestone road. There are also great views of the town and the volcanoes. We also were pleased that when we got out of what I will call the sightseeing core, almost everyone we met said a friendly "Hola" as simply one person to another. In Astoria, some old friends drove down from the Portland metro area to spend a few hours with us. Our friends took us up to the Astoria Column, so we were able to have a more leisurely visit up there than ship tours provide. It is easy to do independent touring in Astoria because so much is within walking distance of where the ship docks. Also, the excellent volunteer cruise hosts ashore give a lot of suggestions. Then there is the historic trolley that goes up and down the town. In Vancouver, Canada where many people disembarked, and quite a few embarked for the one day cruise to Seattle, Jerry and I did our own thing. We rode the Hop On Hop Off bus, which interestingly enough was exactly the same cost as if we had booked in on board the ship. We enjoyed the ride on the double-decker bus, and narration very much. Among the many highlights were Stanley Park, Brockton Point, and Prospect Point. After the tour, we chose to walk the short distance back to the pier, stopping at a kind of indoor mall, and at some other shops on Water Street. We strolled around Canada Place for a little while before getting back on the Amsterdam. Embarkation/Disembarkation: We flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of the cruise and were favorably impressed with the courtesy and efficiency of the Holland America employees, stationed in baggage claim and responsible for helping passengers transfer to the ship. In the terminal, we waited in a reasonably fast line for about a half hour. I quickly was embarked; my husband was not. We spent 3 anxious hours because at first HAL was not going to let my husband board. He was the last passenger to embark, with an escort. Put it this way: never play “musical passports” but instead have each person carry their own with easy access. Many passengers embarked/Disembarked in San Diego and in Vancouver, Canada. For disembarking passengers, and for those of us with plans in San Diego for the day before continuing the cruise, the process in San Diego was a time consuming disaster due to U.S. Customs & Immigration, and a handful of very rude people who did not promptly report for inspection. It did not help that on the ship things were not well organized, which is unusual in our experience. The hallways were clogged with a mixture of disembarking guests and in transit guests. We were an hour late getting to a geo-caching event we had organized. I shudder to think how many people missed flights or at the least had a tense time wondering about making flights. In Vancouver everything was well-organized though a bit hectic as there were several other ships at the cruise terminal. Disembarkation in Seattle was well organized and swift.   Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
What a shame. After a combined 320 nights on Holland America Lines (HAL), this middle class family who has earned Three-Star Mariner Society status is done with this cruise line. For the record, we are professionals in our early 50s, and ... Read More
What a shame. After a combined 320 nights on Holland America Lines (HAL), this middle class family who has earned Three-Star Mariner Society status is done with this cruise line. For the record, we are professionals in our early 50s, and our daughters are 16 and 12, all well-respected by adults and peers. We are the kind of family you would appreciate meeting on a cruise. Here is our story: Over the past eight years, we have seen a noticeable decline in the way Holland America Lines (HAL) has services our young family. When we first decided to travel HAP, we knew it was skewed to older travelers, with less young families traveling. But we thought that there was some comfort traveling with a cruise line who serves older travelers. We justified to ourselves that this was going to be a more upscale experience; that there would be less riff-raff. A better total family experience. What we have seen over this time is the erosion of services to young families. Small and important things, like taking PB&J off the room service menu entirely. Pizza which was once served in Lido dining and room service has been relegated to outside near the pool, cold, and unmanaged. It even seems like there are flies hanging out at the Pizza. But that is more image than reality. The entertainment, activities, movies, and media center largely ignore the interest of young families. A good part of the media offering is “old and inappropriate for kids. I have tried in a productive and collaborative way to get help with small things on and off the ship. I tried my best, and I can be effective at getting help. Ultimately, Holland America Lines (HAL) does not care. And for good reason – they don’t just cater to seniors, but to the elderly. Big different, w learned, in behavior. By elderly, we are talking about travelers in their 70s and 80s and 90s (we and a number of 90 year olds) who forgot to enjoy the company of young families and who find themselves treating younger passengers with bitter jealousy. I haven’t seen this many walkers and carts – ever. Not even in a skilled nursing environment (we own a couple of these buildings). There is nothing wrong with the elderly and travel. But a cruise line can only serve well one or two demographics. So the lack of amenities and services for young families, and the sometimes unwelcome disposition of the elderly passengers, say to us that after 320 family nights – we are done with Holland America Lines (HAL). More suitable cruise lines in the future will be Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity. So how did we get to 320 nights before we learned this lesson? Well, the 320 is a little overstated. Divided by four family members, this is really over 80 nights each family member. Still a great amount of travel. But these experiences and observations have taken hold very quickly over this time. The dramatic change in menu and entertainment gets to the point where Holland America Lines (HAL) is happy to take the money from young families, but is unwilling to serve them. During this last trip (17 nights through the Panama – the elderly will camp out all night to grab all the chairs on the deck for Panama Day – and they won’t let them go! God bless them and their single-mindedness.), loyalty to Holland America Lines (HAL) has its disadvantages: Like good customers, we booked early. I found out a few weeks before our cruise date that our same cabins were selling for thousands of dollars less. Thousands! I tried very hard, working each step of the way in advance, throughout, and even after the trip, to get some type of parity for our hard-earned travel dollar. Any type of parity. Anything! Even something as soft dollar as an upgrade the cabin to get us the value for the cruise. I have documentation of this if you chose to request it from me, with the caveat that although I tried hard, I am sharing our own experience and hope that yours will be different and better (but I bet not!). But Holland America Lines (HAL) refused to support our request and right-size that experience. Finally, HAL double charges us on an excursion. I pre-paid on my credit card before the trip, and then again they charged me (unbeknownst to me) on the cabin folio. I have written proof of this, which I have shared three times now. You think this would be easy to fix. It has taken a lot of work, but they are not listening to the facts and as a result I have to dispute the charge with the credit card company rather than get HAL to issue a proper credit. This is not deliberate I think. This is just sloppy servicing. Lesson: Do not prepay your excursion unless you want to take on the risk of being double charged and the time and hassle of clearing this up! Once again younger families, please do not make the same mistake we did thinking that older cruisers night be better. Older means much older than you imagine. And it means that given the choice to maximize their services to a target customer base, Holland America Lines (HAL) will underserve your young family! I am exhausted with my experience with HAL. And am hanging up our Mariner Society stars. Young families with hard-earned vacation dollars, consider yourself advised! Signed, the forgotten Holland America Traveler   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This is to let all know about the Holland American Cruise, my wife and I took December 5 to the 22nd of 2012. It started off with only some weather problems, fog. You live with it. We got met at the airport by a nice gentleman who ... Read More
This is to let all know about the Holland American Cruise, my wife and I took December 5 to the 22nd of 2012. It started off with only some weather problems, fog. You live with it. We got met at the airport by a nice gentleman who greeted passengers from Holland American, to get us to the ship, We contracted for this and it helps my wife relax, knowing that transportation is taken care of. When we got to the Dock, early that day, about 1100 or so, we were told it would be at least 1400 before we would be able to board the ship. This was due to a viral problem on the ship and they wanted to disinfect the surfaces better. Well about 1500 we started to get processed to board the ship. This is not our first cruise, so we knew what is expected. We could not get to our cabin for a while, so we went to the buffet area and had a snack. About 1700, after we had toured the ship some, we got to our cabin. Our bags were there and the room had been picked up. The room stewards told us they had disinfected the carpets and bathroom floors, so it would not be vacuumed for a couple days. Okay. We went to dinner after a very long day and slept hard. The next couple of days, was a nice relaxing time at sea. We found the guest laundry facilities and every one was shut down due to the virus on board. Well, now it has been a week. The floors in the cabin have been vacuumed, the bathroom floor is no longer sticky due to the disinfectant, but no laundry facility for the guests. No complimentary movie check outs, no books, no hot tubs open but the casino has been operating since the first day? Medical concerns? I would think a virus could be spread easier in a casino than from checked out CD's. A guest laundry could get cleaned up with Lysol or bleach and cleaned in a day, I would think. Hot soapy water, rinse and more HOT disinfectant and soap, re-rinse and now ready to clean underwear and clothes. I am not impressed with Holland American Cruise line. The employees have been very polite and accommodating though. It was two weeks and still no guest laundry facility, no use of complimentary CD's and the ship is not in a normal sanitary condition. You cannot even purchase over the counter diarrhea medication at the convenience store on board. Well its day 15! And the hot tubs are finally working. Yes and you can even get your own drinks and buffet food. Unbelievably the complimentary movies are finally available with only two days left on the 17 day cruise. Good thing I brought my own motion sickness pills. I am normally easy to please but this was a disaster on a trip of a lifetime. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price ... Read More
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price dropped on higher-category cabins to $300 pp below what I had paid. When I called and requested an adjustment or shipboard credit, I was offered a Veranda for an additional $599 pp as the only option. After much discussion, they offered me an full ocean view guaranteed cabin for an upgrade - I took it. Just before we sailed, we were assigned a C category cabin, which is on the Promenade deck, with views of the lower part of the lifeboats, ship's railings, deck chairs and other passengers - not exactly a full ocean view. After much arguing and two calls, we were given a D category with a true full ocean view. We were notified before going to the dock that boarding would be delayed due to the Norovirus and special cleaning of the ship. When we arrived at the dock, we were given a letter offering us the chance to cancel the cruise if we so desired. We were committed to sail and looking forward to the cruise, so we declined the offer. Our cabin was very nice, but wasn't fully stocked with items until day 7. Our bon voyage gifts did not all arrive until day 2. We had to ask our cabin attendant for our bathrobes, replacement soap, replacement bath gel, washcloths, and ice. The only way to contact him was by dialing 90, which was rarely answered. We got his card with his name on it on day 10. The self-service laundries were closed until day 15. When we inquired about the ship's laundry, we were told to use the bag in our cabin, which was not there, so they gave us one and told us it would be $20/bag. After much arguing, we got it down to $5/bag, but found out later that if we had argued longer than that, it would have been free (per some fellow cruisers). Smoking rules were not enforced; not were the rules about no non-toilet trained children in the swimming pools. We were in a "Code Red" and babies who could not even walk yet were taken into the Seaview pool by their parents for several days without even swim diapers on (which were also banned from being in the pools). There were also two children on board who were totally out of control and their behavior ignored by their parents. They ran through the formal dining room shrieking many nights; climbed in the windows of the dining room; ran around the tables eating with their hands, and pretty much disturbed anyone unfortunate enough to be seated near them. That was us one night, and I had to ask to be moved in the middle of our meal due to the noise from those kids. They also appeared at almost every 10pm show in the theater, again running throughout the theater and shrieking. I never saw one crew member or maitre d' say anything to that family. When we were at the Atlantis hotel in Reno, there were some children acting similarly in the buffet - in no time, the manager was there telling the parents to control their kids or leave the restaurant. HAL has published rules about what will not be tolerated on their ships - smoking outside of designated areas, babies in pools, and disruptive guests, to name a few - they need to either enforce them or revise them to lower the expectations of their passengers. I have never been on a ship that ran out of food. The Amsterdam did. In the buffet with 1 1/2 hours left to serve, they ran out of potato chips, tomatoes and olives, and were unable/unwilling to replenish the supply. Oh the last formal night, they ran out of the featured Surf and Turf, and it took us 2 1/2 hours to have dinner. At least that got us out at 10:30pm, too late to attend the 10pm show and have to listen to the screaming kids. With Room Service, we rarely got all the items we ordered, and once got 2 carafes of coffee, but only one cup. They had the same five groups of musicians for the 17 night cruise, playing the same music every night. On other cruise lines, we usually get a variety of musicians cycled in. The "Sail-Away" parties on the aft deck were a joke. The single guitar player played riffs and improvised pieces at every Sail-Away - the music in no way reflected either the cruise or the port we had just left. It was not conducive to a party atmosphere. Very few drinks were offered or ordered. Actually, that was true most days on the aft pool deck - not many waiters available for drinks or people asking for them. People were going into the buffet and bringing out their own water or iced tea, unfortunately in real glass, so there was a bit of breakage out by the pool with all those bare feet around. The entertainment in the theater was marginal. One performer, a pianist, brought out a blow-up doll to dance with while he jiggled her buttocks and bounced her breasts-pretty cheesy. Another performer balanced a flower on his chin. And they each performed more than one night! Anyway, you get the picture, not really first-rate entertainment. The Art auction emcee gave an informative talk early in the cruise to explain the different styles of art available, to give us a brief history of his life, to introduce us to his assistant, and also to let us know that he was sleeping with her - too much information! Overall, the food in the dining room was good, nothing special. The first week the food in the buffet was not very warm and the pork and chicken was dry and tough. Some of the beef in the dining room was very tough, but seemed to improve later in the cruise (maybe they took on a new supply?). I think the Code Red for so many days really put an extra stress on the crew and prevented them from performing as they would have liked. If extra crew were not brought on board, perhaps they should have been. A cabin steward on our deck told me that he was responsible for 30 cabins, which seemed a little high to me, but I don't know what the average is industry-wide. Also, if you sail into Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, be prepared for incredibly long waits at the taxi stand. We waited 1 3/4 hours for a cab, and we started out #4 in line!! By the time we left, there were maybe 150+ people in line. Everglades needs to fix their transportation issues when 7-8 ships come in at once. Our cabbie said that this is a common occurrence. They did call for larger shuttles to take people to the airport - that took the pressure off the taxis, but we still had a long wait to get to our hotel. Anyway, we love NCL and Princess, and only booked HAL because of the ports they visited on this cruise (and the ports were lovely!) and because some of my cruising friends raved over HAL. I guess either different strokes OR we just hit an unbelievably poor coming together of many problems on the Amsterdam. Good Luck if you decide to sail with her. I hope your experience proves to be better than ours. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the ... Read More
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the morning, when we turned out at 4:30 am so as not to miss anything, is the way to start the day. With a ship in front of us and one behind us, the day's journey through the locks and across the long lake and river were fascinating, a trip back one hundred years and crossing from one great ocean to another with time for lunch and a nap in between! The dreaded bug was present on the ship and the staff exercised extreme diligence in serving at the Lido, which is all the better, given the sanitary habits of some folks, I far prefer to have the staff give the extra service, which they did with enthusiasm and courtesy. The food was wonderful at Lido and especially in the main dining room. The elegance of the ship is fitting for another era and a relief from some of the more glitzy venues on the high seas today. The specialty dining room was worth the upgrade fee and we enjoyed it immensely. The computer lessons were well-attended as the geezers have finally figured out that its time to learn how to use those infernal devices. The speaker on the ship was entertaining and we really enjoyed the various shows and bar lounge entertainers. Aruba and Curasau were wonderful to visit and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room ... Read More
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room and the buffet area. At dinner, I had steak 6 of 15 nights, and every time is was served well done, not medium rare as requested. I sent it back 3 nights, one night twice. Beef quality was poor. Food was sometimes not hot. Wine was outrageously expensive for quality and the wine pour was a "short pour" - much less than a typical restaurant. One of the higher quality wines (per the wine list) was Columbia Crest Merlot, which sells for $9-11 per bottle at Sam's or most grocery stores. The cost for 2 short pour glasses for dinner was $17.83. Drinks in the lounges were also short, many of the single malt scotch's on the drink list were not available Two of 5 port stops were cargo ports, isolated 10 miles from nowhere with no ability to walk around. You had to take one of their somewhat expensive tours, but then they had a captive audience so why not charge more. Everything on the ship was as expected for a 4 star line, why skimp so much on the meals and drinks. Read Less
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 3.9
Family 3.0 3.9
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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