1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Holland America Line
  4. Holland America Line Cruise Reviews
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average ... Read More
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average age of the cruisers was probably about 75. My wife and I are in our early 50’s so we were some of the youngest on board. We are very active so this review, especially the port stops is geared to the more active types. Volendam is now 20 years old and she shows her age a little bit but it is well taken care of and still very luxurious. It was below capacity (about 1200 passengers) so there were rarely lines anywhere and it is a very spacious considering it’s a small ship compared to most of the big beasts out on the Caribbean. There were plenty of activities on board to keep us busy on the sea days. America’s Test Kitchen was very cool and the EXC port talks and historical talks were fantastic. Pools and hot tubs were never crowded. Our room was an Outside View right on the promenade deck. We were right next to a door leading out to the wrap around promenade, so it was almost like having a balcony…. We loved the accessibility of the room to the walking deck. The had plenty of storage space even with all the clothes we brought for the 17 days. We used the $20 laundry bag service 1 time in the middle of the cruise. The bathroom had been remodeled and the new glass door shower was the largest we’ve ever had on a cruise ship and the temp and water pressure were always consistent. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale took only about 20 minutes once we got to the terminal which was only a couple miles from the airport. Debarkation took about 30 minutes in SF. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning was also quite spectacular. All in all, with ship, the canal, calm seas, and 9 port stops, it couldn’t have been better. Every part of the cruise exceeded our expectations. The food and service in main dining room was fantastic and even the buffet was quite good. Room service was also excellent, with a different towel animal every night! That’s 17 different animals…. Cartagena: We took a taxi to the old walled city and walked around for several hours. Beautiful architecture and very Caribbean looking. The port had a shop and a nice aviary for no charge with many parrots and other exotic birds and animals. Leave a half hour to explore this area. Panama Canal: Awesome piece of engineering and history. Very cool to see the lock systems and the many other big ships transiting the canal. Costa Rica: Did a HAL zipline excursion. The place was near the coastal town of Jaco and we rode an aerial tram to the top then zip lined our way down the mountain. There were reptile and butterfly displays at the base that were very interesting. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife other than iguanas. Very fun tour though. Nicaragua: Took a peddle taxi tour of the little port town. The place was very poor, but our driver was very cool and spoke good English, so we learned a lot about the country and the politics. Not much to see, but made us appreciate what we have here at home. Guatemala: Took a HAL bus for a “on your own” tour of Antigua. It was about an hour bus ride through the countryside with guides giving some history of the area. Antigua itself was very pretty with many fabulous churches. We walked all over town and it was very nice. Puerto Chiapas: Took a HAL excursion to some Mayan ruins and then to a demonstration of how cocoa beans are grown and processed into chocolate. Nice tour but we thought a little over priced at $100 per person. Huatulco: Our favorite stop. Excellent swim beach right by the pier. We took a $5 taxi to Playa La Entrega a couple mile away and it was great. Excellent snorkeling and many restaurants right on the beach. We were there on a Sunday so many locals were there with us which actually made it more fun. The vendors pester the locals too….. Manzanillo: Ship docks right downtown. Lots of shops right there. We took a grueling hike up to the cross on the mountain to the right of town. We were hot and sweaty but the view was amazing. Puerto Vallarta: Did another zipline tour through HAL. This was a great excursion but only for the very physically fit. Right of the ship we boarded a little speed boat that whisked us about 30 minutes south to a bay where we switch to Unimogs to drive to the Zipline. Basically like an Army truck. Perfect for the crazy dirt road. Then after getting geared up, we rode mules up to the top of the mountain. And then it was more than just ziplines. We also repelled down a waterfall, did 2 giant waterslides, and then a new roller coaster zipline to end the tour. Very awesome!! This was our favorite zipline ever. Cabo San Lucas: Went parasailing then walked all over town. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
Nine of us traveled together to cruise the Panama Canal. Our group consisted of three married couples and three single ladies ranging in age from 50 on up. Despite different interests among the members of the group, I don't remember ... Read More
Nine of us traveled together to cruise the Panama Canal. Our group consisted of three married couples and three single ladies ranging in age from 50 on up. Despite different interests among the members of the group, I don't remember anyone complaining of being bored. Three of us enjoyed the trivia contests, others spent lots of time (and money!) at bingo, some enjoyed the movies and entertainment in the theatre, one single lady in our group enjoyed visiting all of the lounges, and one of the married gentlemen in our party (my own DH) enjoyed hanging out on his balcony, reading and enjoying the scenery. Our signature suite, SY 8094, was situated where the ship juts out and featured a long balcony, which we both enjoyed immensely. My only complaint would be the casino, which was dinky and did not feature a good variety. Of course, I would have done better if I would have stayed away, as I lost a bunch of money. It wasn't like there wasn't enough to do.... The shore stops were long enough to provide a good overview of places that we'd like to revisit. Entertainment was good, food was good, and I would recommend anyone for this ship and PC itinerary! Consistent quality keeps us coming back to HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not organized and although our luggage was labeled "priority" it was the very last on - not that it mattered but what did is we kept wondering if it would show up at all. But note that the disembarkation was very well organized and fast. Holland America has figured out how to make money - we paid $150 for water, $300 for internet (it is just $150 if you stick to social media only) and they must have saved a lot by purchasing low quality food. The Gala Dinner with filet mignon and crab béarnaise was the worst with crab nearly too spoiled to serve a piece of meat that was not filet mignon but some grass-fed animal's "surprise." Some meals were good but spaced well apart and the Lido food began to taste the same no matter what you took. The crew was very well-trained and friendly. Our Neptune suite was ok but I do not believe this ship was updated in 2017 or 2018 as it was worn pretty well including our suite. The ports of call were good and although many were shipping ports, I understand it is hard to find dock space for a ship sized like Oosterdam. The people we encountered onshore were very friendly. We will use another cruise line for our next cruise maybe we just expected better like we got on the Ruby Princess last year. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and we like longer cruises. We booked the Signature Suite. We needed extra room for the walker and no accessible rooms were available. The first glitch we encountered was that there were only 3 people available to get the wheelchair passengers to their rooms so we waited an extra hour to board. Upon eventually arriving at our suite, we were distressed to find that they have scaled down their bathroom doors below standard size, so it isn't possible to get a standard sized walker through the door. He had to grasp the counter and walk the length of the room holding on to reach the toilet. There was a full sized bathtub--useless to us--and the shower was so small with only one grab bar that he could barely use it. It was just about impossible to shower without flooding the bathroom. After having paid a couple of thousand dollars extra for a suite, this was a disappointment. The balcony door is very heavy and the thresh-hold very high. The good: the showroom, The Main Stage, is great for the disabled; one could put another row of seats between the row of seats on the lower floor and access is great. They have UHD huge televisions in the staterooms and a fair assortment of late movies to choose from. However, we couldn't get enough volume to be able to understand the dialog in the movies, while on all other channels you could have blasted it high enough to hear for a half block in either direction. The Main Stage did blast all their shows that loud. We had to go through immigration twice and had a serious issue with getting wheelchair assistance to get on and off the ship. We were misinformed both times by Guest Services. Phone contact, and even personal contact with Guest Services was poor due to lack of fluent English on the part of staff and difficulty hearing them on the phone. We had a dinner in Canaletto's which wasn't any better than in the main dining room. We had lunch in the Pinnacle which was very good, except that they served instant coffee with our dessert. The "worker bees", as always on HAL are wonderful. Food was acceptable, if not great. Over all, I think many cruise lines are subtlety (sometimes not so subtlety) trying to discourage disabled passengers, while trying to appear welcoming for good public relations. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Embarkation was organized by group number you're assigned as you check in. We spent a few minutes chatting with fellow passengers and soon enough we were called aboard. There probably is not a wait if you arrive after 11 or so. We ... Read More
Embarkation was organized by group number you're assigned as you check in. We spent a few minutes chatting with fellow passengers and soon enough we were called aboard. There probably is not a wait if you arrive after 11 or so. We were early for this cruise, unlike others where we sailed through embarkation. We chose the expedited group for disembarkation, meaning we carried our own luggage off at 7:30 AM. I highly recommend it because we were through customs and in a cab to the airport by 7:45. It sure beats hanging around the theater or a bar for a few hours waiting for your group to be called. We were very happy with the remodeled bathroom in the cabin. The glass walk-in shower is super-convenient, drained well and was tiled with a no slip surface. The clothes line in the shower served to dry wet clothes overnight, no problem. The cabin was clean and comfortable. Gatot and Sigit took great care of us including the towel animals and chocolates every night. The TV is small and could be upgraded, but it's just fine to catch MSNBC in the morning and maybe get a DVD for a movie one evening. There were plenty of hangers in the closets and there were plenty of drawers and shelves for all your things. We took advantage of the flat-rate laundry bag and got our clothes back and pressed the same day, both times! I'd say the food was very good. We ate at the Lido Buffet and in the Dining Room. I was very impressed by the caring service we got at anytime dining. The beverage service was prompt too. We shared meals with new table mates each time. There were always plenty of laughs. The final night was a standout, from the excellent service in the dining room to the excellent seared Ahi and the rest of the menu. The burgers at the Dive-In are delicious as are the crunchy fries. Be sure to visit the various musical venues as they're all very entertaining. The Adagio pianist and violinist were great! We met members of the house band and their music was as nice as they are in person. Don't miss the Blue Earth show! America's Test Kitchen is definitely worth the time. The presenter is super and you get new ideas. It's too bad that the food wasn't passed around for tasting at the presentations we attended. The gym is clean and has good, new equipment. It's cool to watch the ocean go by as you're on the elliptical. Bar service is great, as always. We spent most of our time at the Aft Bar in the smoking section. You always meet fun people there, and this trip was no exception. Bernard the bar man took great care of us and even arranged for servers to come by after he closed for the night. We found the Signature Beverage Package to be a good deal on this cruise. There are six sea days when you can really enjoy the package to your heart's content. The Panama Canal is the highlight of this cruise and it sure didn't disappoint. Just wrapping your head around locks without pumps takes some understanding. The on board narration helped make you feel like you're part of the experience, regardless of where you happen to be. The ship itself is beautiful. Be sure to notice the beautiful and creative flower arrangements all over the place. There's even orchids on the tables in the Lido Buffet. I noticed workers sprucing up the white paint in preparation for opening the forward decks to passengers during the canal passage. The naturalist is a gifted font of knowledge. Glenn-Michael, the lead EXC is super. He was all over the ship and uniformly seen chatting with one guest or another. He shared some great hints during his port talks too. The officers impressed me by being so accessible and always being around for sail-aways and sea day parties. Even the captain had time to chat for a few minutes. One of us needed some medical attention and found the crew there to be excellent. The check on you and make special arrangements as needed. The small charge for a bit of medicine plus the personal care turned around what could have been a major downer. Holland America does a great job; the Volendam is a fine ship with a highly skilled and friendly staff. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
Panama Canal was the reason we chose this cruise....I found it very acceptable for an older ship....We stayed in an outside cabin...of course, smaller cabin but was sufficient...room stewards were very good as were our dining room ... Read More
Panama Canal was the reason we chose this cruise....I found it very acceptable for an older ship....We stayed in an outside cabin...of course, smaller cabin but was sufficient...room stewards were very good as were our dining room waiters...Food was very good..the entertainment in BB Kings lounge and Billboard Lounge was absolutely wonderful...Now the negative .....we took a shore excursion in Panama..Aqua Clara locks and area tour....it was terrible...They drove around old housing of former base(about 20 mins) then they took us to Aqua Clara locks and left us there 2-21/2 hours....it was interesting to see ships go through these locks...it is about a 1 hr tops stop....the food at the concession stand was out of food only chips, ice cream and drinks were available....then we were driven to port in Colon to sit until ship arrived.....Definitely not worth the money......In Cartegena, we took the gem stone making tour..it was an acceptable tour until you had to go through the jewelry store to exit...Pretty high pressure to buy emeralds...Maybe they should have paid for the tour so they could get the chance to sell us their emeralds? Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this particular Panama Canal cruise for the itinerary. The ship stopped in Aruba, Curacao and Costa Rica, in addition to traveling through the canal, which were all new ports for us. After reading reviews, I did not expect a ... Read More
We chose this particular Panama Canal cruise for the itinerary. The ship stopped in Aruba, Curacao and Costa Rica, in addition to traveling through the canal, which were all new ports for us. After reading reviews, I did not expect a "new" ship, but since it had been in dry dock less than 2 years ago, I figured it would be okay. My husband and I have taken about 10 cruises over the years, and this was our first Holland America cruise. The cruise before ours had a norovirus outbreak, and we received an email the day before embarkation alerting us to a late embarkation due to their need to sanitize the ship. A bit disconcerting to say the least, but we preserved. As a result, embarkation was a bit hectic due to the larger crowds boarding the ship at the same time. The embarkation agent forgot to give us the activities planner for embarkation day, which we did not realize until much later, when we did not find any information in our cabin. After asking our room steward for the activities information we kept hearing others speak of, it was only then that we realized we were missing information. That did not start us off on the right foot, but we let that go and had a nice evening. The first stop was Half Moon Cay, the private island of HAL. There was another ship on the island that day as well, so it was extremely crowded. The ship arrived around 8:30, and after disembarking and being tendered over at 10:00, the clam shells we had signed up for (and paid for) were nearly gone. We had to walk a VERY long way down the beach, speak with a variety of (grumpy and inattentive) personnel at stations along the way to continue to direct us to some open clam shells. We stayed on the beach for a couple of hours -- which WAS beautiful -- then decided to head back to the ship. The thought of fighting for a meal with so many on the island was unappealing. Not the most auspicious start to our much anticipated cruise. Recommendation for Half Moon Cay - many of the loungers are under trees and are nicely shaded. Save your money and do not get a clam shell. We would not have had to walk so far if we wanted a free lounger in the shade. The next day was a sea day, and we attended a wonderful wine tasting. The day was really relaxing and enjoyable. The following days at the various ports of call were fine and we enjoyed Aruba and Curacao. Going through the Panama Canal is an experience not to be missed. We THOROUGHLY enjoyed the experience, and we very happy with the day. We opted to get off the ship in Colon "just to say we were in Panama." We spent about 10 minutes there and got back on the ship. Not a nice place, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was POURING rain in Costa Rica. We did go on a canal tour, but honestly, it was pretty miserable due to the weather. It was raining so hard, it was hard to see into the jungle at times, and we were just plain wet. No one's fault, to be sure, but it did take much of the enjoyment away from that day. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, and we met some wonderful people with whom we dined with and enjoyed our time with on sea days. Our experience in the main dining room was EXCELLENT. The staff was warm and accommodating. We had anytime dining, and never had to wait more than 5 minutes to be seated. And as the cruise went on, we went to dinner with a group of other couples, and were easily and quickly accommodated. The food was varied and tasty. I think there was only 1 night that I was underwhelmed by the choices for the evening. The wine stewards were helpful and accommodating as well. We had ordered a wine package which we felt was a good value. However, there were some problems that HAL needs to address, and we did tell them so in our survey response to HAL. 1. Maintenance: It was VERY disruptive the amount of maintenance that was ongoing during the cruise. There was the smell of paint/varnish several times when sitting and relaxing on our veranda. Also, one day after arriving back on ship, we grabbed a meal in the Lido and went to sit outside to enjoy our meal. Amazingly, there was LOUD banging and sanding/sawing going on right above the area where the tables were -- so that option of where to sit outside was totally out of the question. WHY?? And to our shock, one day when we had just arrived in a port and were readying to leave our cabin, all of a sudden a man was on our veranda hosing down the entire deck, and he was opening all the dividers and washing all the decks on our side of the ship. No warning given at all by anyone. All the cushions were soaked, as was a beach towel we had left on a chair. We were flabbergasted to say the least! If maintenance such as this needs to be done - and it so disruptive to those of us who have paid a considerable amount of money to enjoy a vacation - this ship should spend a week out of rotation to be attended to. Much of this was "routine" maintenance, not something that broke while at sea. We found this unacceptable that we were forced to endure noxious fumes and "wet paint" as well as sanding/noise etc. on various decks. 2. Lido Dining: Okay, so Lido is the buffet/cafeteria style dining. I do understand one has to pack some patience for the buffet, We went there for lunch when on the ship, and for breakfast on days when we were heading out early for an excursion. . But the drink stations were woefully inadequate - there were only 2 for the entire dining room. That means only 2 water filling spots for a ship that had 1,700 people on board. Waiting in line for a glass of water, from machines that trickled out water (thus the line) and the ice machine that was frequently empty, was inexcusable. We did discover that the staff in the eating area inside would bring you water (they had pitchers), but they were busy with lots of folks, and it was hard to get them to focus to get to your table. We really did feel that we had to "work too hard" just to get a glass of cold water during dining times. Also, while in ports where we had early calls, they did open the Lido earlier than usual so we could get breakfast -- the problem was they only opened half the available stations, so the lines were VERY long, and the staff was fairly inefficient. This made for a stressful start to a vacation day - as we were on a time schedule to make our excursions. Fellow cruisers: We are in our late 50's and had plenty of company. There were very few younger than us, however, and there were plenty older. Disembarkation: We opted to take our own luggage and leave as soon as they allowed as we had a morning flight. This was the quickest disembarkation we ever experienced. From the time they let us off the ship to arriving at Ft. Lauderdale airport less than 30 minutes. No stress at all! Overall, in spite of some "head shaking" worthy circumstances, we really did overall enjoy our vacation. We chose to focus on the positive. Interesting ports of call, meeting wonderful people whom we hope to remain in contact with, and for the most part, very accommodating and caring staff. Was it the best cruise experience we ever had - no - but honestly, when we reflect back on the trip, it was a good trip overall, one that we were happy we took. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We ... Read More
We do an annual late winter cruise every year. We've traveled mainly on HAL, and have been pleased with the smaller ships and good service. This year we did the full transit of the Panama Canal, leaving from San Diego. We splurged this year on a Neptune suite. We have had one in the past, and really enjoy the bigger room, but especially the larger balcony. They are twice the size of the Vista suite. The extra perks of the Neptune Lounge and the Concierge service is excellent. We met quite a few other Neptune suite passengers, and had many interesting conversations. The room steward was top notch. Always had ice, coffee and fresh fruit. Laundry service was top notch and was always ready by the next day. Embarkation was very smooth. Neptune passengers go through the same embarkation as the 4 star Mariners. There is virtually no line. For tender ports, there is no need to go for disembarkation passes. You simply hold up your room key, and you're put on the next tender. Unfortunately, there is no priority disembarkation after the cruise. We travel with our daughter, who has a learning disability. She gets her own room. But, she gets to know everyone on board. Her favorite breakfast was an omelet. The Lido omelet chef knew her by name, and what she ate. The same goes for the salad bar crew. We chose to eat in the dining room, along with another couple. Our daughter ate salmon nearly every night, and she had a chocolate mint mocktail every night. For desert, it had to have chocolate. Our dining staff went our of their way to accommodate. On the last night of the cruise, there was no chocolate deserts. But, they went back and got one for her. In addition, my daughter had told them previously that she liked carrot cake. They brought out 2 pieces of carrot cake. She ate one, and carried the second one back to her room. You can't find service like that just anywhere! Every evening, the wine steward would make an origami animal. We did have a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. It was very good. It was more than I would normally eat. Steak done to perfection. The only thing I regret is that I didn't try breakfast at the Pinnacle. It was included with the Neptune suite. But, I did have breakfast at the dining room. It is a step above the Lido and I would recommend it. Lunch is also very nice. Lido is a typical buffet. I didn't eat breakfast in the Lido, but opted for a light breakfast from the Neptune Lounge. Lunch offered an International option. They rotated national foods, and it was interesting to try foods from other nations. They were all Asian offerings. The ports were very nice. Some of the places aren't as developed as much as on the Caribbean ports. Cabo San Lucas is a tourist trap, and we didn't have a bunch of time there. We booked a glass bottom boat tour on Viator. A long walk to get there, but well worth it. We didn't book anything in Guatemala, and their port area was very relaxing. On Honduras, we booked with a local guide and it was very informative. In Costa Rico, we booked the eco tour, which took us to a rive to see crocodiles. We visited the aviary in Cartengena, which was very enjoyable. Entertainment was very good. John Wing was the comedian on board. He was runner up in America's Got Talent. I'm not big on production numbers, so I didn't attend. We did spend several evenings at the Crows Nest. Some nights we were the only ones there, some nights there were quite a few. Happy hour at the Crows Nest is always a lot of fun, especially the 2 for 1 drinks. The crew was very accessible, even the Captain. The team at the Neptune Lounge couldn't do enough. I would definitely travel this itinerary again, and would definitely would travel on the Volendam. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about ... Read More
As frequent travellers, we are used to backpacking, expeditions, and vacations in 1 to 5 stars resorts, all inclusive or not, on all continents, but we never travelled with a large cruises ship. Yes, we had preconceptions about cruises, on their misuse of obsolete maritime transport laws to create tax free tourist resorts. Or their bypass of immigration laws and hiring cheap labour from around the world. However, listening to enthusiastic cruise adepts, we expected that this trip will made us change our minds. On the positive side, we found the international staff very kind and helpful. But we did not meet many Spanish speaking staff. This HAL cruise surprised us by the very similar customers aboard: mostly white couples in their seventies. As cosmopolites, somewhat younger, we enjoy more age and racial diversity, and it was strange to be in such finely targeted crowd. There was a double talk when it comes to environmental creeds, which are emphasized by HAL especially when it comes to save money for the operation, like to remind you avoid changing your towels frequently. The plastic water bottles sold in your cabin are from Europe. Fortunately, there is little plastics items used for the food service. Food is not supplied locally, everything came from US, for the whole cruise. Quite some paper spoiled with the leaflets advertising for the shops aboard. To be serious about environmental virtues, we should bear in mind that this form of sea transport use four time more fuel per passenger than a modern airplane. The 750 litres of fuel used by passenger for this 2 week cruise correspond to what I use a year with a car. And worse, after the booking, I had the feeling to be framed in a well rehearsed marketing process, with an objective to make me spend a maximum as I spend time with this company. A lot of staff and accessible surfaces on the ship are meant to bring additional income. I would have preferred a better service. The number of additional charges, and the high price of them perfectly reflects this financial objective. The time to spend on shore is very limited and the excursions highly priced. Come on, why charge $120 pp for a short visit to San Diego zoo? Before the cruise The call centre did not properly answer our questions before booking, as we noticed later. The booking process is cumbersome, with too many computer glitches encountered with browsers (I tried Microsoft explorer, Edge and Android). Some beta testing by HAL would be beneficial. Even we booked long in advance, HAL’s website, contrary to claims, did not allow us to book an hotel in FLL. The only choice offered was at $12000 per night. We booked elsewhere at a reasonable cost. Due to a light handicap, HAL requested additional documents for the cruise, and the details about these documents was not provided by HAL. We had to consult elsewhere. Due to the same condition, we booked our flights directly, and had also to organize our own transfers. The web checking process difficult, again with too many issues with browser. And finally, the departure flight information was requested again by HAL on the ship. I had also to sign an abusive long contract, which I should better have read before booking. In a summary, it reads ‘HAL is not responsible’. Eg the amount covered for lost luggage are ridiculous low. Embarking Very noisy hall at FLL terminal, it was hard to sustain a conversation in it. Luggage handling was OK, but with some delay. At the counter, it took long because person there did not know how to handle our special documents. Finally, we were asked to go to customer desk to have copies of our extra paperwork (even they had to be emailed to HAL before the cruise) For doing so there was a long waiting line at the customer desk. The customer desk clerk made copies of these documents, but forgot to return one original. Glad we checked, so we could get it back. The dinner time requested at booking was changed by HAL to less favourable to us, without explanation or excuses. It was difficult to have it changed afterwards. Even so, we were surprised by the absence of hosting from staff, in the sense of grouping people by affinities or languages. The second day of the cruise the customer desk requested again these documents. We had to elevate the tone and threaten to file a complain about harassment before we suddenly got to talk to somebody reasonable. In conclusion, the customer desk staff is not competent for anything but routine. The coordination between headquarters and the ship seems poor. Too long waiting time to access the customer service desk. Ship More than 2000 passengers. A dining hall and a self-service restaurant (plus 3 speciality restaurants, accessible at an additional high charge). Large surfaces devoted to shops, casino, photography, spa, wine cellar and other income generating activities. Not much space left for sports. Outdated decoration, interior brass and gold plated, in fifty shades of beige. Display of art not curated. More than 800 employed on the ship. Seems quite a high figure, but a share of staff is in income making activities at casino, spa, jewellery shops, excursions. And there is also the sailing, navigation crew, and the maintenance crew counted in it, so we understand that the customer service crew or hotel staff was overwhelmed. As welcome drink, we observed the desk selling beers, bottled water and soft drink cans. One day as we returned to the ship we were offered a glass of water and a refreshing towels. The other days nobody was around. The number of elevators is insufficient with such high proportion of customers with mobility issues. Expect to wait. The best spots for seating outside on the deck are covered with a tent and named ‘cabanas’ and accessible only at an additional fee, and left empty most of the time. The Neuw Amsterdam is not so new anymore, and the maintenance was done during the cruise. Unfortunately, we were nauseated by the smell as the whole hull was getting a new coat in Puerto Vallarta, or as the handrails were varnished, or at sea when the upper part of the ship was repainted. More precautions should have been taken to avoid unhealthy solvent be pumped in the air-conditioning system. We had to vacate our cabin. And so, HAL saves on ship yard. Last day ‘at sea' we refused to leave the stateroom to allow for more scheduled maintenance, in that case, a wet carpet cleaning. On the day of arrival, we could not access the patio again, as the outside of ship was undergoing more M&R. Cabin (called stateroom) Small. Balcony (pompously named verandah) allows for two chairs. The safe was not ok, as its battery was low. We had to wait quite long in the room to have it fixed. Clean, except stained sofa, walls and bed cover. On windy days, to avoid draft and strong whistling, we patched the patio door joints with duck tape. Fridge hardly cold. TV entertainment not as good as on an airline. Sink with cracks. Cabin due for an update. As the weather got colder at the end of the cruise, we were surprised that the air-conditioning could not to be disconnected, even temperature went too low. With a non-responsive customer desk, it took 10 hours to be fixed. Food & beverages Generally speaking noisy restaurants. Room service at no additional charge for a limited selection of dishes or drinks, or with an additional charge for others. Breakfast was delivered half an hour before requested time, with the explanation ‘It is a busy day’. Slow on some other days. Breakfast time at restaurants should have been adjusted for early arrival at port of call. Dining hall The dishes served did frequently not correspond to the pretentiously redacted menu, with ingredients listed missing or substituted. Obviously, the cooks did not read the menu, or tried to do savings on ingredients. Eg Grand Marnier, truffles, half avocado, maple syrup. Meal after meal, the comparison of the dishes with the ‘fancy’ menu became a subject of laughter. We had fun with the leftover potato soup was renamed Sunchoke Soup on Gala Night. Generally speaking rather poorly presented dishes with bland taste. Service was kind, but staff overwhelmed. Not trained to handle dishes, bottle and glasses quietly. It generally took 1 ½ hour for a seated dinner. Nice white tablecloth and tableware, and even a flower. Too many breaded dishes like scallops, sweetbread, sole, chicken ‘pillard’. Large parking area for scooters. Self service restaurant Lido No available tables as many tables for 4 are taken by couples or singles, even for filling the daily (free) crossword. To choose your table, arrive early! Chairs adapted for high BMI. Large choice of food, put on a plate by the staff at the stations where you line up. Due to communication issues, we frequently got too large servings. By the end of the cruise we got the impression that some buffet dishes were left exposed too long, like dried out mexican rice or sour smelling beans. Exaggerated additional charge for speciality restaurants. The ginger lobster served at the ‘fusion’ Tamarind was excessively salted. We did not visit the two other ones, as we got the same feeling of pretence from their fancy menus (Escargots? canned or frozen?). Not much spices used and the bland food served is compatible with dentures, except short ribs or striploin. Selection of sugar free dishes. We did not have the impression that many clients had digestive troubles, but be prudent about complaining about it at the medical facility, as you may get quarantined. In short, pretentious menus and mediocre food. Drinks Drinks are highly priced and another service charge added on each bill, on top of the daily $15 pp obligatory service charge. Wine or beer billed at 5 to 6 times the market price. Water, tea or filter coffee are complimentary. Unlimited fountain drinks for $8 per day. Other daily passes for unlimited alcoholic beverages. Unfair and peculiar rules about these passes, as they have to be bought for the whole cruise, or that everybody in the cabin has to buy the same pass. ‘Enrichment’ activities onboard Quite a high proportion of activities with additional charges, e.g. Half an hour meditation for $12. Many activities are meant to showcase the shops, casino, bars or spa. Bingo cards at $5. The cycles at the fitness are only meant for cycling classes at 12$. No fitness instructors besides classes. Very slow internet access at an excessive price. At the arrival, on a day of disrupted air travel, it would have been kind to make the wifi free for everyone. The mainstage had some pleasant shows, by professionals, but they lacked spontaneity. As we travelled during Carnival week, we vainly expected some reference to it. The sound on the BBKing club and the mainstage is set so loud that if you do not wear hearing aids, you will soon need some. Better use protective ear plugs. Small shows with local dancers on the rear deck. We liked the dancing classes. Excursions Long waiting before departure. The EXC staff selling them seemed overwhelmed, and there was a long waiting line. Anyway, they could not provide us the practical information about where was the supermarket we needed or where to get a fast web access. We had an enquiry about an excursion, and were told that we will get the answer later… we did not get it. Generally speaking the excursions are highly priced. E.g. in Huatulco, a snorkelling tour was offered for $80 pp. We took a taxi to this same beach and rented the equipment for a total of 300 pesos for two. Unfortunately, in three ports of call the ship was moored along a similar sized cruise ship, the Coral Princess. This was not a smart, as it brought quite a crowd getting ashore. A port of call, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala was very unpleasant, as the ship moored in a polluted coal harbour. Taxis were not allowed to access to the ship there and we had to walk a mile way from the entrance of the port to the ship. The time allowed ashore was short, and we made the best of it with a local taxi or just by walking. So, we had the chance to practise some Spanish, and we could adapt to the weather and our envy. And got also quite some authentic memories or photos. Disembarking The announcement on the PA were not very audible, as the are mixed with music and static on TV. It was delayed, and service staff impatient to get to cabin. The questionnaire we received by email after the cruise did not cover all the sides of HAL’s services. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies ... Read More
Ship is very pretty & clean. Lovely decor and artwork. Our cabin 5090 had plenty of storage, and a bathtub! Bring a bar of your own soap if you don't like the liquid soap dispenser on the shower wall. There were inconsistencies between our cabin and our friends next door. We had a mag makeup mirror and a small note pad on the night table (which I used a lot). Our friends didn't have these things. We had the open dining and because of the great dining room hostess, had the same wait staff each night, whom we loved. Dining room food was usually ok. There was a meal or two we traded in, the red snapper being one. Great presentation, small quantity. We were disappointed that we were on one of 4 HAL ships in an experimental dining mode, charging $10 for a second entree. I hope this initiative fails as trying different foods is one of the best parts of cruising. We did the buffet twice for breakfast and a few times at around 3pm for a snack. We are never fans of the buffet. This one wasn't too bad though. TAMARIND is by far the best dining experience on the ship. Try it early on and go often. So pretty up there too, at the bar. Weak entertainment, disappointed at how poor most of it was. There were three nights of 14 in which we thought the Main Stage entertainment was up to cruise ship standards. BBKing All Stars consistently great in the BB King lounge. Gets people up and moving and happy. More activity choices needed, especially on sea days. America's Test Kitchen could be better with another cook/demonstrator. Same with the EXE talks by Jeanette, boring. Cruise director Nick also lackluster. This may all be by design as the clientele, at least on this cruise, much older. Many over 80. At 58 I was definitely in a minority decade represented by the guests. All services were *impeccable* EXCEPT for room service and the wait staff at both Canneletto and Pinnicle Grill restaurants. In fact room service breakfast on port days was as if it was the first day they ever offered room service breakfast on a port day. Many complaining. We had a snafu where we never did get any breakfast on a port day waiting for pre ordered room service which never arrived. I must mention they did make it up to us with hand written notes, a bottle of wine, follow up phone calls and priority delivery of room service breakfast the second (and last) time we ordered it. Loved the unlimited laundry service and they did a superb job. Passing through the Panama canal was wonderful, being served the Panama rolls and coffee throughout the early morning hours. I recommend you don't miss the early up at 5:30am to experience the canal at the beginning. I was going to skip it, BUT am so very glad I decided to get up for this once in a lifetime experience. We headed to the back of the ship on deck 9 by the pool as we left the first set of locks. Nice perspective, and not many thought of doing this. Central America hot & humid . Costa Rica our best day using a private tour company call Thumbs Up tours, their 10 in 1 day tour.Ten folks in a nice, cool van. Perfect. We loved our day at Huatulco, MX with the sandy beach and restaurants right off the ship. Great swimming cove. We did enjoy all ports. Did not do a tour in Guatemala, only walked around the "faux" town just off the ship. But with food, bars, entertainment and shopping, we had a great time there. This was my 5th cruise. Probably would use another line (Royal Caribbean again maybe) for our next one in a year or two. HAL was very good, but just a bit too low key for us. I would suggest another itinerary which may cater to younger guests or maybe not choosing HAL at all if under 45. Research it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the ... Read More
We have only sailed on Celebrity ships before; enough to rise to the elite level which also entitles us to several perks. So why sail on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam? We wanted to do the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary in the late winter or early spring when it was cold in the Washington, DC area. Celebrity no longer offered this cruise during this time of the year. So, we reviewed the ships that sailed during this time and decided that the Nieuw Amsterdam would be our choice. (Note: We did compare the Nieuw Amsterdam to the other Holland America ships that provided this itinerary. The Nieuw Amsterdam was reviewed best by Cruise Critic.) How did we like the cruise? Staff. The service staff in all areas of the ship were wonderful, especially their personalities and how they strove to accommodate all requests. Of course, we would only politely ask for something that our experience indicated was reasonable and also within the prevue of a particular service person. We particularly were impressed with the towel creatures left on our beds at night and learned onboard about how they were created and surprisingly how little time each one takes to create. Stateroom. We thought the stateroom size, bathroom (with tub), balcony, comfort of the bed, sitting area, and storage areas were all quite nice---certainly not to be outdone by the Celebrity Infinity which was their ship sailing this itinerary. The stateroom attendants kept the cabin clean and neat daily and were very responsive to requests; although, we had few. Dining. We were pleased with the breakfast and lunch buffets in the Lido; although, we thought the choices and quality of the food were good, but not exceptional–choices and quality for breakfast better than for lunch. The poolside hotdog/hamburger and pizza options helped to make some of our lunches enjoyable. We were not so satisfied with the Lido evening dining because of the limited selection and quality of the food the one night we dined there. Of course, the staff was attentive and friendly. Our regular evening meals were in the Dining Room on deck 3. We thoroughly enjoyed the staff. However, there were only a few dishes that we truly enjoyed eating. We found most of the food unappealing, often inadequately prepared, and providing unsatisfying pleasure. The wienerschnitzel and the surf and turf were the two entrée selections that we found quite appealing. We particularly enjoyed the desserts which had plentiful choices and were mostly prepared well and quite tasty. The entrees we selected in the Pinnacle Restaurant, particularly the Alaska King Crab, was by far the best entrée enjoyed during the cruise. We would have expected that the regular Dining Room would have provided more of this level of quality. Entertainment. The performers in the Mainstage theater were just ok, especially in comparison to our Celebrity experiences. That said, the comic John Wing and the English piano player/comic, Brett Cave, were quite enjoyable. We wouldn’t want to see any of the other acts twice. The cruise’s backup band and the classical quintet were superb. Playing together on the Mainstage to provide the musical background for the featured nature film was a great way to highlight their talents. A particular performance highlight was the Columbian Ambassadors who provided a show on the Mainstage one afternoon. In our opinion, they provided the best performance of the entire cruise and should have had more exposure--perhaps an evening performance. Finally, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance featuring members of the wonderful Filipino staff performing with great enthusiasm. Shore Excursions. We enjoyed the excursions we selected which included city highlights, horseback riding, rafting, snorkeling, zip lining, nature watching on a river, and an equestrian show. The only excursion we were quite disappointed with was the Lake Atitlan full day excursion which required a 2 ½ hour, extremely bumpy bus trip followed by a 45 minute boat ride across an average-looking lake to an unexceptional resort for a basically enjoyable lunch followed by a 45 minute return boat ride exactly the same as the first one, followed by a 2 hour return bus ride exactly the same as the first one, but a half-hour shorter because of driving downhill, and less bumpy apparently due to the lighter loads of trucks going toward the port. All in all, this excursion included too much traveling with very minimal enjoyment for the effort. We also noticed that the Holland America written descriptions of the shore excursions that we took were often not truly reflective of the actual experiences. That said, it was still only the one excursion mentioned above that was disappointing and perhaps a more accurate description of the excursion would have helped us to make a better decision. Informational and Cultural Lectures. In particular, the Shore Excursion informational leader, Jeanette, was superb. Her presentation describing the next day’s experience of sailing through the Panama Canal was clear and comprehensive, allowing an enjoyable understanding of the next day’s experience. Additionally, Jeanette’s other presentations providing information of what we’d see upon arriving in other destinations was thoroughly well done and appreciated. Holland America Onboard Internet. The Holland America onboard internet that provided information about daily activities and dining menus, person-to-person onboard texting, and enabled us to keep track of our own cruise itineraries was extremely effective, reliable and useful. That said, access from our cell phones were not up to the exemplary level of the in-cabin TV access and the technical staff should strive to make both access pathways equally effective. In Conclusion. The purpose of the trip was to enjoy the ocean to ocean Panama Canal itinerary during the late winter or early spring. Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam provided the desired itinerary. The stateroom, the Lido breakfast and lunch buffet along with the hotdog/hamburger and pizza poolside options, the shore excursions, the informational/cultural lectures, the Pinnacle specialty restaurant, and the entire staff were, in our opinion, quite good. The entertainment and the evening dining were, in our opinion, just average. Will we sail with Holland America in the future? Probably not, particularly because the entertainment and evening dining we’ve experienced on Celebrity ships—which we consider to be extremely important parts of the cruising experience—are much better. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and ... Read More
Cruising through the Panama Canal was on the bucket list. HAL cruised all the way through which was the high point of the 14 day cruise. The ship was beautiful and the service overall was good, but the spa staff was highly aggressive and treatments way too expensive. Watch your bill - we had multiple charges for other people's alcohol and for things that were included in our beverage package. They did reverse the charges, but it took time away from our cruise to get the items corrected. The cabin was comfortable and clean and the cabin stewards were wonderful. We were on the 8th deck near the bridge and had no issues with rolling seas or noise from any of the entertainment. We did have to walk through the spa area every time we went to higher decks - odd set up. We are 60 and felt like we were the babes on this cruise. This appeared to be an older group that was in bed by 9PM. The first night at sea we expected to be wowed by the entertainment. Instead we got a movie on the main stage and the sound system was not good. We saw perhaps 3-4 entertainers that were good, but this was highly disappointing for a 14 day cruise. We arranged our excursions a month or so before cruising. The descriptions were somewhat misleading - "a motorized catamaran" was actually a booze cruise with 150 other passengers - not what we pictured. We thought we were going to a nice cove to swim where we could snorkel and see the native fish. After cruising with everyone else drinking we got perhaps 30 minutes in the water with no fish at all (didn't need to bring our snorkeling equipment or the rolls we took from breakfast to feed the fish). We did sign up for one excursion on the ship and then chose not to go because we were not feeling well. HAL has a 14 day refund policy - not very accommodating on a 14 day cruise. We couldn't get a refund but could trade to a lesser priced excursion, but still lost the money. We did have a wonderful time with our dinner table - table for 8 at the 8PM seating. Overall we did enjoy our cruise. We chose the itinerary for this cruise and not the cruise line. For a number of reasons we perhaps will not cruise with HAL again. They are way too focused of making a buck. For example - every cruise we've been on before with other lines we've been able to use all of the spa facilities on the day we had a treatment. Not on HAL. Everything had a separate price tag. As a last thought - we completed HAL's online survey after our cruise and indicated that they could contact us for clarification or comments. It's been a month and there's been no attempt on their behalf to follow through. Aside from the on board cruise staff, HAL needs a lesson in customer service. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that ... Read More
We wanted to see Panama Canal, particularly the old part of it. I have done one passing in my previous career at sea more than 30 years ago, on a freighter. Since HAL had a good itinerary suiting the best for our schedule and that there was so good ratings with HAL with travelers with similar preferences we did not hesitate to book this trip, our first on HAL. Our preferences were quite traditional: Piece and quietness, well mannered co-passengers, dining experiences with lots of choices and styles, civilized onboard activitities and entertainment, interesting excursions, kind and friendly staff and responsible shipowners with competent crew. Particularly we were not after activities some other latest cruise ships may offer for families and younger clientele, We tried to avoid cruse lines with all-day partying and noisy teens and kids around. As a summary HAL offered all this in very sophisticated way. Onboard staff exceeded any of our previous experiences. Based on recommendations on the CC HAL group, before boarding we visited at the Total Wine iand picked up a 6 bottle box of selected wines based on their recommendation of "a taste of America". However, after the trip found that the selections onboard was perfectly adequate, if not US-centric. Check-In Fort Lauderdale was done in breeze by very helpful officer, particularly noticing we were not that experienced cruisers on HAL. We boarded soon before noon and had a wonderful lunch served in the MDR after settling in to our cabin. The VD Class cabin was on the 7th deck with a veranda. It was not a suite, but spacious enough for two of us. For our surprise, there was enough storage space even for a much longer trip. There was absolutely no noise from neighboring cabins or from the corridors. Completely quiet, apart quiet hum from the AC. We found ship interiors very nicely designed and we felt being at home soon after boarding. Most of the fellow passengers were naturally from US and Canada, also quite big part, probably a few hundred passengers from Europe and from South America and Far East.. Based on the Skipper's, Jeroen van Donselaar's note, there were some 2100+ passengers and 800+ crew members onboard, so the ship was practically fully booked. Cruise itself offered everything and beyond we expected. For our surprise the seadays were anything but boring. The days were full of activities, e.g. starting from presentation of the ports we were going to call, Digital Workshops, recitals on the Lincoln Center, stand up shows and other performances after dinner at the Main Stage ending upto enjoying the B.B. King's Club. BTW, they played really well. About dining experience, we had dinners in all the restaurants, twice in the Pinnacle Grill, once in Rudy's, once in Tamarind, once in Canaletto and Lido, rest in the MDR. In general, we were fully content with the MDR, but Pinnacle offered us the something to remember for long time. My personal favorite was the Sole Meunier at the MDR, but it was available only once soon after departure, Based on our experience it's difficult to fully understand those who in CC HAL Forum have complained MDR being not upto their standards. Dover Sole in Rudy's; the Maine Lobster, Tartar Steak and Filet Mignon at the Pinnacle. Tamarind was excellent, but as have traveled lots in the far east, we found it a (little bit) too westernized. Sushi was available daily at the Lido. And now we still miss Hamburgers in the Dive In. They were special. Really. Shore excursions we pre-booked, were mostly as expected: In Cartagena the old town was really nice and worthwhile to visit, could have spend a lots of more in the town. Passing Panama Canal was a really highlight of the day. For an ex Sailor (Master Mariner), like me, this was a really meaningful event. We passed the Canal through the old locks, far more interesting than the new ones, which were apparently not that busy on our day of passing. In Costa Rica we chose an Exc to flower gardens up to the mountain having a magnificent view over to the Pacific. We managed to see a pair of macaws not too far away in the garden and a number of crocodiles on the way. It was most beautiful landscape. Time to visit there was far too short, again. In Nicaragua we had a trip to a banana plantation owned by a local prominent family, supplying their products to major brands. Lots of manual, minimally paid work needed before products can be shipped. Highlight of that trip was to see the landscape with active volcanoes on the way. Local people were extremely friendly with us. Really difficult to figure out how they manage to struggle with the average salaries paid in that country. We hope they will manage with their struggle with economy, e.g. expanding from agriculture to tourism. In Guatemala we had another trip to a Coffee Plantation and a small city on the mountain area. Was really beautiful, again. There were also two Mexican ports, Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta on the way. Enjoyed both excursions to the country side. Street vendors in Cartagena and Guatemala were some degree of nuisance, but nothing unexceptional for 'seasoned travelers'. Before the trip we had concerns, e.g. how to cope potential 'cultural differences' during the two weeks with the fellow passengers mostly from US and Canada since we are not that extrovert. That proved to be a non-issue. With all people we spoke with were most friendly curious and knowledgeable what's going outside US. Quite a number of them had visited even to our home country, Finland, on their previous cruises or careers. So overall, would wholeheartedly recommend Panama Cruise with HAL anyone expecting a classy experience to pass the Canal, see beautiful countries with friendly people of Columbia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, spend time with fellow most nice passengers on a well maintained ship with a stellar crew. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 ... Read More
Our trip consisted of a group of 8, all arriving from different destinations across Canada. We had a house rented in Fort Lauderdale for 3 days before the cruise, a lovely home within walking distance to the beach. Good thing we had 3 days, because of weather we where delayed by over 24 hours. We embarked the ship in groups and met up in the buffet for lunch. Our bags arrived quicker than expected, so we sorted ourselves out, then went for a group party in one stateroom. We where on decks 4, 6,8. And we where very happy on deck 4. Turns out to be a good location to scoot out for the safety drill, a nice walk around deck 3, and also easy to run up to deck 3 if there was something to grab a photo of. We kept the tv on in our room when we where there, tuned to the forward cameras. Loved the option of viewing the Canal crossing on the TV, that was a long hot day. Every morning we enjoyed the buffet. You can’t go wrong, everything you can imagine plus some extra surprises. Lunch was by the pool at the burger place, or pizza. We only attended tea in the afternoon one day, but it was a very nice treat. Dinner we had a group table in the dining room for 8. We didn’t dine there every night, but made sure we all attended the gala nights. Other times we tried some of the different specialty restaurants available. The Pinnacle was a dinner that made you feel like you won the lotto. But our true favourite was the Tamarind. The staff made the dinner fun, and you felt truly welcomed. Plus the exceptional food, and presentation, made it a feast for the eyes. Most days, pre dinner, we attended the martini tasting, or the happy hour in the various bars. But be pre warned, the happy hour bars get full fast. We had beverage cards, so we didn’t worry about happy hour pricing. And I am glad we did, the cards where good for everything we wanted to drink, from sparkling water, to special coffees ,and drinks all around. Every day we had wonderful coffees made in the exploration area, the staff there knew your name and coffee within days. Days we didn’t go on excursions, we spent at the pool, loved the unobtrusive music. But there does need to be more shady areas. We found often people pulling chairs into doorways for shade, but that made it very inconvenient for others. Our group had all been at most of the locations on this cruise, so we didn’t depart at every port. But we really enjoyed the small markets they set up by the ship, for those who just want to purchase a souvenir. The casino was very quiet the entire trip, we did go to the bar there and lost some money at the machines. They did have some very nice piano players there as well . After dinner, it was usually a walk around deck 3 , before seeing what was on the show that night. Most nights we didn’t stay, we all found the entertainment to be lacking, the jazz band was not a group to dance to, so most just sat and listened. We all loved the national Geographic show, with the live performance. Disembarkation was a slow process, they called groups by colour, and there was even colours called that were not on the list, we where close to last. The whole finding your suitcase thing and getting in line , seemed confusing for some. Enjoyed a lovely night in San Diego before flying home. Staff who made this trip memorable: Jerry and Jenny in the martini bar. Janny in the exportation cafe. My perfect mocha. Abdul and Made who made our cabin home. Miguel and Joel who had the wine knowledge. Wayo, Davee, who served table 91 with grace. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
I chose this cruise because it the most interesting, historical cruise to celebrate my retirement! Loved every minute of it. We are big fans of Holland America, especially the Nieuw Amsterdam ship. Embarkation and disembarkation always ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it the most interesting, historical cruise to celebrate my retirement! Loved every minute of it. We are big fans of Holland America, especially the Nieuw Amsterdam ship. Embarkation and disembarkation always go smoothly. People! There are thousands of people in the cruise terminal. You have be patient and get a grip! You are not the only person on this ship! The ship is always clean and the staff is outstanding. Our cabin is comfortable and exactly what we need. We have a suite on Deck 7 and have access to the Neptune lounge. The concierge (Christine and Kim) are helpful and friendly. Lucia and Martin always cleaned out suite quickly and thoroughly. Always greeted us with a cheerful Good Morning. My husband I went to the entertainment each evening and enjoyed it very much. Yes, there are hit and misses (comedians and magicians), but you have to remember that the Holland America ships do not have a large guest list like other cruise lines. Therefore, the entertainment they can hire will not always be the highest, but it’s the best they can obtain. I loved the orchestral accompaniment to the Earth film. Outstanding! Restaurants are always the best. We love the Pinnacle Grill for formal nights, Canaletto has really stepped up the menu, the Tamarind so lovely - it’s one of our favorites! Lido buffet is always good for lunch or a snack. We’re fine with them serving, rather than self serve if it helps in keeping the ship healthy and no waste. Pinnacle Grill staff - wow! Amin, David (the magic!), Tamas, Anne, Rosalina (!) and Aris. Thank you! The bar service is always outstanding and we’ve made many friends. Louis in the Pinnacle Grill bar - the best mixologist and now friend! The Panama Canal is so outstanding and amazing! Over 100 years and still working! The people of Panama, thank you! I would do this cruise again and again. And best for last our cabana crew! You guys are so awesome! Christian and Joseph - friends forever! We didn’t do any excursions as we have started using the ship as a hotel. However, we did get off on the piers to connect with the people and walk around town. I think that you have to go into your vacation with an optimistic attitude yet not think everything has to be perfect. There will be situations that aren’t ideal, but remember, you are on vacation! You are in the Panama Canal, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Columbia!! If you can’t be excited about that amazing opportunity, then maybe you need to sit on a Florida beach and wish you were here. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so ... Read More
The Panama Canal was exciting.it was awesome to see how it was done, The crew on the ship was fabulous expecially as follows Danny , was so amazing always making sure everything was okay, and went out of his way to make you feel so welcome and enjoyable Rene our drink guy , was so informative of drinks , wines ,if you weren’t sure what you liked he was sure he’d bring something you like and he did Zeri, our mint man after dinner was so entertaining and such a comedian , he even went out of his way to take a picture with the professional photographer. Lucky, our waiter was so deliteful to see every evening, how he remembered everyone’s name was amazing, so astonishing. Aguhn, our server, was so remarkable how he knew everything on the menu. Olivia in Lido restaurant, was so sweet and pleasant. It was a delightful day to see her smiling face every morning and afternoon who went out of her way to make sure you got what you wanted and came and talked to see how your day was going. Sweet as cotton candy, I told her. I will cruise again with Holland American. One complaint, was the evening menu, seem to be a lot of the same, except each night things were changed a little. We did start with the norovirus, it was amazing to see how well everyone was sure not to make it spread. , very well accomplished so our cruise was deli. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout ... Read More
My wife and I thought Holland America was a step above and tried the Panama cruise. First the ship is in disrepair ie: broken windows, window seal deteriorated causing windows to fog in main dining room, burnt out bulbs throughout especially at the elevators and Old wooden deck chairs on deck three of which 50 percent were broken. Attitude of the Hotel manager was not his problem. Staff throughout the ship in restaurants, cabins, bars etc. A 10 +++. The main dining room meals were over cooked much of the time during dinner hour though breakfast was fine. First night of cruise turkey was served bright pink ( scary !). One night tuna was so overcooked , it was like saw dust and most left it on their plates uneaten. On another evening the wiener schnitzel was served and waiters came around suggesting that we add gravy before we even tried the dish and through the gravy was not part of the menu the waiters were trying to correct another bad meal. Now the Pinnacle Grill was a great experience but we were forced to pay the extra charge to have good food compared to main dining room and we ate there four nights. Entertainment was very good and we enjoyed every performance. The shore experience in Costa Rica called canal tortuguero was a 100% waste of time. When we arrived by bus, there were bathrooms on the second floor of the building that were so unbelievably filthy that I perferred to not use since thing did not flush and one small sink to wash hands shared by men and women with nothing to wipe hands. The boat tour showed two iguanas,three birds and a couple monkeys. The second part of the tour was a banana plantation which consisted of the bus pulling off the main road to point out a few banana plans and return us back to the ship. So much for a plantation. Holland America charged 100 plus dollars and does not care how bad it is. Now it explains why Holland America does not even get mentioned in many ratings and independent reviews. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour ... Read More
It was a good cruise. Our main attraction in selecting this cruise was to go through the Panama Canal. The ship goes through the first lock. We bought a ship tour that took us through all the locks. It was a great experience! Wish the tour took us to see the Panama City also, as the tour was not cheap. The service, food was good. I would like to recognize Gede, Eko, KD and Mauro for their excellent service and taking care of us during dinner. Our room was serviced by 2 pleasant people. Computer classes were a hit, the instructor was pleasant and wonderful. But the space was limited. 5-10 more computers would help. Shows and entertaining was good. Enjoyed the drums show. Went to all the bingo games, thought it was a bit expensive. Adding one or two more ports would have made the experience a bit more fun. We were at sea for more than 2 long stretched days, Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus ... Read More
Our group chose this cruise unanimously in spite to the fact that at least 6 of the 26 of us had been through the Panama Canal on a cruise before. We had excellent cabin and dining staff. Brilliant Entertainment! The dining menus were up to par as we had experienced on the previous 4 cruises our group had taken on Holland America. The food quality in the Main dining room and in the Lido restaurant was very very good. Our group evening at the Pinnacle Grille was exceptional. The staff on the ship were exceptionally courteous and helpful. One of the very high points was the classical pianist, Hyperion Knight, who entertained us. His on stage work was enthralling but the real cherry was the "practice sessions" he had in The Explorers's Lounge. My wife and I happened on him one morning early in the cruise in the lounge playing the piano. There were only 3 other couples in there at the time and we sat through what turned out to be a "private" concert. He played (without sheet music) for and hour and a half almost continuously and his music had us entranced. He was very personable as he chatted with us and talked about his music. This happenstance became more widely known as the cruise progressed and what started out as a concert for 6 persons became a "practice" session to a full lounge to another day with standing room only to having to be there half an hour ahead of his impromptu unscheduled sessions. He was also a fun participant in the twice a day Trivia sessions. His trivia knowledge is formidable and it was great fun playing with and against his teams. At the end of the cruise everyone of our group were expressing how much they enjoyed this trip and were asking when we would be planning the next one. For a bunch of 75 year old high school pals it was a great time. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
My wife and I had been planning this cruise for several years to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary as well as her completing her PhD. We had booked an ocean view cabin on Deck #1. We did not find out until out first night that we ... Read More
My wife and I had been planning this cruise for several years to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary as well as her completing her PhD. We had booked an ocean view cabin on Deck #1. We did not find out until out first night that we had a cabin under the B.B.King nightclub! Could someone please explain to me why a cruise line would put passengers in a cabin under a noisy night club! We complained to Guest Services several times and finally we moved to another cabin. 4 nights of a 10 night cruise spent in a cabin we could not sleep in! GRRRRR! I wrote to Holland America corporate customer service after the cruise to express my displeasure with their accommodations. They offered us $500.00 in Ship Board credits on our next cruise. So in order to avail ourselves of their offer we have to spend several thousand dollars. Not a good option. We also booked a Romantic Getaway Package. We were supposed to get complimentary pictures, casino lessons and credit at the casino, as well as flowers, sparkling wine, (upon entering our cabin on the first cruise day) and chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin. The wine was not chilled. We were told the florist was running behind. In order to get the pictures and the lessons and credit at the casino the letter with the package was not accepted. We had to go back to Guest Services and get a card showing that we should receive the services. We ended up doing this over several days as we tried to get our package services. So, basically we went to customer service on a nearly daily basis. GRRRRR! Holland America had many opportunities to make things right. Many of the onboard staff did a commendable job trying to resolve these problems. Corporate could have done a better job. The dining room staff and the Green House spa staff were great. The excursions were good. Overall I would have to say that when a problem arose the onboard staff tried to make the situation right. Holland America Customer Relations - Not so much. 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
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to sail through the Panama Canal and we had experienced an amazing transPacific cruise on the Holland America Noordam in 2018. This was a type of journeyman cruise compared to that on a ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to sail through the Panama Canal and we had experienced an amazing transPacific cruise on the Holland America Noordam in 2018. This was a type of journeyman cruise compared to that on a smaller, older ship with fewer passengers, amenities and activities. The shop’s air conditioning was faulty with many of the public areas kept at painfully cold temperatures. I talked to the cruise director about reading of this issue on earlier Volendam cruises and he admitted the frigid air conditioning was an ongoing problem which they had not resolved. There was also, perhaps not coincidentally a ship wide respiratory infection. The crouping, coughing etc. must have affected half the passengers. Everyone had the Volendam virus. My husband and i both came down with it and are still affected more than two weeks after disembarking. The good: the meals in the dining room and Lido were very good. The EXC tour director, Jude, was excellent and entertaining. The Adagio violinist and pianist were excellent as was the pianist at the Ocean Bar. The rest of the entertainment was mediocre. The crew were friendly and helpful. But the boat is so in need of updating and repair. The ports were fine but most everyone was interestedin the canal experience which was remarkable. Gatun Lake was beautiful. Cartegena was impressive. We liked Huatalco and the city of Antigua in Guatemala. The port of Corinto Nicaragua was not good. Costa Rica was interesting and we enjoyed the combination aerial tram and river rafting tour. The commentator thriugh the canal was excellent. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
This was our second sailing on the Volendam (Sixth on Holland America, twenty sixth overall) It was a simple 15 day Panama Canal crossing from San Diego to Ft Lauderdale. What was remarkable to me about this cruise was that there was so ... Read More
This was our second sailing on the Volendam (Sixth on Holland America, twenty sixth overall) It was a simple 15 day Panama Canal crossing from San Diego to Ft Lauderdale. What was remarkable to me about this cruise was that there was so LITTLE to remark on. Everything worked, everything ran smoothly, the food was great, the ports were as advertised. On the subject of ports, we called on eight, and with one exception, we were the only ship at each port. That made for VERY pleasant days. As has always been our experience on HAL, the ship was full of "Baby Boomers", with few younger people on board, and virtually NO children. (Perhaps because the school holidays had just ended?) This led to all of the (many) enrichment lectures on board being VERY well attended, and late night entertainment being almost non existent. The ship itself was in very good condition, with virtually no issues. The only thing we noticed was one flooded bathroom, and that was (According to one of the engineering officers) due to "something" (I will refrain from being graphic) being flushed down the toilet that should not have been. Reaction by the crew as fast and efficient, and the effected passengers were well taken care of. Food on board this ship was "cruise normal", with meals in the main dining room being slightly above average, the food in the LIDO above what I have come to expect, (on mainline cruise lines) and the food in the Pinnicle Grill well above expectations. All in all a great cruise, well worth the cost, and highly recommended (IF you have no children with you, and IF you can entertain yourself and are not looking for the ship to entertain you all day every day. Read Less
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise