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66 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

This was our second cruise (my wife and myself) and we anticipated an enjoying week. For the most part it was,if a little boring, mostly due to the dearth of shipboard activities and the ports of call that mainly catered to those wanting ... Read More
This was our second cruise (my wife and myself) and we anticipated an enjoying week. For the most part it was,if a little boring, mostly due to the dearth of shipboard activities and the ports of call that mainly catered to those wanting to buy souvenirs (most of which were made in China) from tourist "traps." The most interesting Port, we missed due to, ostensibly, the ship's inability to dock because of windy conditions. We say ostensibly because we saw other cruise ships in port from our anchorage outside of Victoria, BC. We believe, as many fellow cruisers did, that the Captain was over an hour late in arrival to Victoria, which was to be a short stay of 4 hours anyway and chose to use the excuse of high winds and unsafe conditions. Neither of these conditions was experienced by many of us onboard and obviously not by the Captain of the Golden Princess who was able to safely dock his ship in Victoria for all to see. The Holland American Line would not reimburse anyone for missing 1 out of 4 ports. I think a voucher for a couple of hundred dollars off our next cruise would have been a nice gesture. The best way to experience Alaska would be to purchase excursions (not from the cruise line) from the vendors on shore or those running the excursions themselves (save a bunch of money that way). The cabin was a little cramped but clean and well taken care of. The food was mediocre and repetitious; frequently calling the same salmon dish by a different name does not change it. The serving staff was good and attentive but the ability to select a desired table was difficult as they frequently closed off sections of the dining room until they filled every seat of another section so getting a desired location was more a question of probability rather than trying to please. Many of our fellow cruisers complained of overflowing toilets which, thankfully, was a problem we didn't have but felt badly for them as they frequently had to wait long times to get it fixed, some more than a day. They were told to use the public rest rooms until repairs were done, not very helpful at 3 in the morning. To first time cruisers beware; they nickel and dime you for everything on this cruise. The drinks were expensive and we rarely saw a winner in the casino. Disembarkation at ports was a little chaotic especially at ports where passengers had to be tendered and at final destination in Seattle. They first said they were going to use numbers in Sitka but then soon abbreviated the process by having a first come first serve process and thus long lines in tight corridors to board tenders. It took us 3 hours to get off the ship in Seattle, then a good deal of time finding our luggage and our son threading his way through the smallish area to pick us up. The entire process left one with a haphazard feeling. Our advice is if you want to cruise Alaska, choose another cruise line with a different set of Ports. Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan are nothing more than a bunch of shops for buying foreign made souvenirs and sweatshirts. At these ports, skip the shopping in deference to shore excursions if time and the wallet allows. Victoria is a very nice city as we've been there before and it would have been a very nice place to spend a few hours in but, alas, we sat at anchor just a few miles off shore of this grand city. We drank and/or walked the deck with the winds and sea unusually calm at this time, contrary to our Captain's pronouncements. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This was our first cruise ever. 1. Price & Stateroom: We loved the deal-paid $1,100 per person (two of us) for a verandah suite. We had picked category BC but chose "guaranteed" option. We were assigned a spa suite (BQ)- same ... Read More
This was our first cruise ever. 1. Price & Stateroom: We loved the deal-paid $1,100 per person (two of us) for a verandah suite. We had picked category BC but chose "guaranteed" option. We were assigned a spa suite (BQ)- same sized stateroom (292 sq ft) but with certain additional perks like vitamin water, sparkling water, bathrobes, and i-Pod docking station (was very helpful to charge our i-phone). Our stateroom was good and provided us with enough space to store our luggage and relax. Balcony was small but still provided enough space for two people to sit. 2. Crew: Rotterdam crew is very friendly and accommodative. They took care of us very well. Crew is mostly Indonesian but could spot few Dutch, British, Pilipino and Indian crew members. 3. Itinerary and Ports of Call: We were OK with the itinerary and ports of calls. Alaska is beautiful. Most of the state is untouched and nature at its best. Our ship went pretty close to Hubbard Glacier-this was the highlight of our trip-saw few chunks of ice fall into the ocean. Juneau is overrated. Ketchikan and Sitka are really good port of calls. Victoria, BC was another good port to visit.   4. Ship: Rotterdam is a mid-sized ship. It is pretty old. Even after the "signature of excellence" enhancements, it is still just okay. 5. Amenities: Greenhouse spa/fitness center was very good. We spent a lot of time in the Exploration cafe, sipping nice cappuccino and playing scrabble or reading books from the library. Mix (bar) and other shops were mediocre. Internet (wi-fi) is available for a price. We paid $100 for 270 minutes- you don't really need that much internet time. 100 minutes for $55 was a better deal. Public bathrooms on Deck 8 (lido deck) NEVER worked. 6. Entertainment: Most of the activities are geared towards older (60+) crowd. We loved the comedy show by comedian Jeff. Other than that we didn't care for any other activity. Crow's nest has a Karaoke but surprisingly they don' have any Bollywood songs at all. They still need to catch up to modern vibes. 7. Crowd: We could hardly find folks in our age group (29-35). This cruise ship caters to older crowd. Their food and activities are designed for aged population. 8. Disembarkation: This wasn't smooth for us. We had signed-up for luggage direct service with HAL by paying $19 per person. This service was supposed to take our bags and check-in our bags with Southwest airlines all the way directly to our destination. We filled all the paperwork on Day 2 of the cruise. On Day 4 when I went to enquire, front desk had lost my paperwork and had to resubmit. On Day 6 (previous night before disembarkation), I went to front desk to submit feedback forms and noticed that one of the co-passengers had already got luggage tags for her bags (it read AAAA, CCCC etc.). I got baffled and asked the front desk why I haven't got mine yet. They told me at that point that they canceled my request!! They had already charged me for the service too!! When I confronted them, they took out the charge but still had no explanation on why luggage direct didn't go through. This completely upset our plans in Seattle on Day 7. We had to goto Airport with our luggage and store it over there until evening. Special Note for Indians: 9. Visa Requirements: Do not rely upon HAL to provide you any guidance. They have no idea on how to handle visa holders. Even worse- they have never heard about EAD and AP. They just know- Green Card and nothing else. After booking, they will send you cryptic e-mails that state that your immigration status is unknown- that is because their website and database is not designed to properly handle visa/EAD/AP holders. You will need a Canadian visa to board the ship. Even if you don't get down from the ship in Victoria or Vancouver, you will still need a Canadian visa since the ship traverses through Canadian waters. HAL front office kept our passports upon embarkation on Day 1. They held it with them until we came back to ship from Victoria on Day 6. They take care of immigration paperwork with Canadian officials upon arrival at VIctoria. You just need your ship ID card and driver's license to go out in Victoria and come back to the ship. Front office will not explain this to you- most of them don't know this procedure. 10. FOOD: HAL and Rotterdam food is HORRIBLE. They had us fill out big forms soon after booking. This form let us choose from a host of Indian Veggie Food choices. We promptly sent the form to them in advance. However, it was a different story after we boarded the ship. Main dining room claimed that they never received our form. They tried to provide us some sort of Indian food for dinner from Day 2 but it was not good at all. We were told that there is only one Indian Chef and he is busy making soups. There was one more big Indian family in the ship as well. They also had the same pathetic experience. Even worse-They have no idea what "Vegetarian" food means. In the Lido deck, they told us French Fries were vegetarian. However, upon further enquiry, we found that the fries were cooked in lard or beef fat. Most of their seemingly veggie soups are made from Chicken or beef broth. We pretty much ate bread-butter-jam, green salad, fruit salad for our lunch and dinner. Breakfast was the only thing that was manageable. We pretty much starved every day and lost some weight!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This was our first cruise with the "upscale" Holland America and most definately our last. The room was not what we expected on many levels. We have cruised with several lines in the past and were amazed at the cleanliness and ... Read More
This was our first cruise with the "upscale" Holland America and most definately our last. The room was not what we expected on many levels. We have cruised with several lines in the past and were amazed at the cleanliness and service provided - Holland America is NOT one of them. The bathroom floor was covered with hair from a previous guest(s), walls and mirrors were dirty, couch/fold-bed was stainned, the head board was covered with ink drawings possibly from a child on earlier cruises, curtains could have used a good washing, floor needed shampooed badly, etc. The public areas were somewhat better. The adult area on the ship is most unuseable on the Alaska cruise since it is NOT covered and the cruise is in a cold area most of the time. Entertainment was "slow". The only good entertainment was the comedian other than him the entertainment would have rivaled that of a nursing home. Activities onboard consisted of Sales of junk and jewelry or "how to shop" courses. The last time I was solicited this hard for money was in Las Vegas. Public areas were randomly closed off for private functions which created a problem since there was so little to do. If I was 90 years old the ship activities and entertainment may have been of interest. Pool closed at 7pm leaving the children with nothing to do, therefore they ran up and down the halls of the ship. SERVICE: the first thing we noticed was how SHIP EMPLOYEES DID NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT AT ANYTIME nor did they attempt to speak. Getting assistance was impossible. We were owed a $65 credit to our spa services but never received it. Was told by the Main Desk Managment that it was being "checked into". That was the comment for the entire cruise. Quality of the spa was below poor. FOOD - as in the my title - the only cruise I have ever heard of or been involved in where I left the dinner table as hungry as when I arrived. I have jokingly told friends that I was on the Jenny Craig cruise and that the food services group could feed the world with one cow for 10 years. Let me hit some highlights - Crablegs, my favorite food, was served. Let me be more clear, A CRABLEG, split down the middle and cut in sections was served on the 1 and 1/2 new potatoes as my entree'. This was after my 9 leaves of lettuce salad and the quarter sized seafood cake that I swallowed before I tasted it. The first night after dinner - what there was of it, I was thrilled that I had requested a cheese tray for midnight to celebrate our 25th anniversary with the bottle of Champagne I had ordered. I will say we laughed a great laugh when, at midnight, we received the 3 1/2inch squares of cheese and the 3 packs of crackers. The croutons with spread squeezed on top with an icing bag was the most comical of food items we were served. I did receive a raw veal parmasan which was replaced with the new one that contained the broken toothpick. The restaurant manager attempted to prove to me that the tooth pick was indeed an herb that had dried during cooking. I wasnt sure if I should laugh or be angry that he viewed me as an idiot. The quality of food was very poor for any restaurant. The serving sizes were well below any I have ever experienced anywhere. The inability to get a decent meal was beyond our belief. The late night buffett consisted of a limited (VERY LIMITED) amount of food and once that was gone it was GONE! Upon returning from shore excursions there would be NO FOOD to be had. Room service was joke - if they did not forget then you might get some of what you ordered. The Ham and Cheese omelette consisted of no ham nor cheese and brown heavily on both sides - also known as scorched. Cresents - my favorite bread was as small as an egg and hard as a rock. The only good meal and flavorful food I received was from the lunch time sandwich guy who built the sandwich as I ordered. Overall the cruise ship/line was subpar with poor chance of referral from us. I would never recommend this cruise line nor will I ever book with them again. The only good part of the cruise was the shore excursions - I can just as well cruise with Princess in the future and I will. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Four of the seven days on board our May 23rd HAL cruise on the Ms Amsterdam, we had ZERO toilet facilities because they were experiencing huge problems with the sewage system so ours either OVERFLOWED or DIDN'T WORK. It was really no ... Read More
Four of the seven days on board our May 23rd HAL cruise on the Ms Amsterdam, we had ZERO toilet facilities because they were experiencing huge problems with the sewage system so ours either OVERFLOWED or DIDN'T WORK. It was really no surprise when a lot of people(reported 78) came down with gastro-intestinal illness onboard resulting in a code red from Thursday thru Saturday. Weather resulted in us not being able to get off in Victoria so being on board with limited toilet facilities and a lot of sick people was not fun in any way shape or form. Of course coming down with the cooties from Saturday night thru yesterday(Monday) made the trip all the more horrible for me. The front desk and guest relations were not terribly concerned or responsive, we were given a bottle of wine after my husbands keys ceased to work to comp us for the technical difficulties however lack of toilet facilities didn't result in anything other than a pat, "we are aware of the problem and are working on it" or my least favorite, "people flush things down the toilet they shouldn't so it's not really a surprise yours is broken." Presumably, I am those people? At one point 50 plus staterooms, crew cabins etc. were affected by a faulty sewage tank on a day at sea from early morning until 6:30 pm. Service in the dining room for our table #55 was abysmal on our first night(we never returned), our wine steward never showed, food came at different times or not at all. The people we were traveling with complained and got re-assigned to table #43 and a superb waiter named Reo who was indeed  excellent. Our room stewards were great and our room was topically clean at least. Disturbingly I never smelled bleach or any other agent that would leave me to believe our room was bacteria free nor was our room/bathroom cleaned with hazmat gear meaning that our raw sewage was presumably tracked thru our cabin, down the hallway and any other room the repair people and or stewards visited. The singing barista, Leo, was a joy, Andi in the gym and a few of the Lido staff but otherwise the service was rather unremarkable. I have ten years in the hospitality industry and choose my land bound accommodations based on value versus service. Sadly HAL didn't even come close to breaking even in this regards.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Please enter your review. We just returned from a 7 day Inside passage cruise. It was the cruise from hell!! 1st of all, we never got any announcements from the bridge as for sea life sightings. For example, luckily we were in the crows ... Read More
Please enter your review. We just returned from a 7 day Inside passage cruise. It was the cruise from hell!! 1st of all, we never got any announcements from the bridge as for sea life sightings. For example, luckily we were in the crows nest when we went thru a pod of Orca's. We were in them about 15 minutes and never once was a announcement from the crew about the outside activity. The Captain was never visible. During our Mariners luncheon he came and made his required speech then left. During the meet the captain nite he was on stage to introduce the crew, we made a toast then he left again. Of course we didn't get to hear all of that because we were late getting there. (See below) Also, our wait staff was terrible. Our head waiter would come and fill a couple of glasses of water then walk away leaving the other 4 empty. Also we notified him every night that we were going to the entertainment after dinner and only 1 time did we make it before the show actually started. The wine steward never could get our wine right even tho we purchased the package during boarding. Sometimes we would not even get it until dinner was served. As far as the activity director again the only time we heard him was during the performances, and the departure briefing. Never once did he come on and announce the daily activities or anything else. On the shore excursions we felt we were abandon at the gangplank. All of our tours were "meet at the bottom of the gangplank. Could not the activity director given us a little help there as to what we should be looking for instead of us have to ask everyone at the bottom of the gangplank? The dress code was never enforced. There would be people in the Lido deck at 10 AM in their bathrobes. This is not home folks!!! There was one night during the entertainment that the performer even chastised one of the guys about the way he was dressed. It happened to be "Barnaby" the comedian but he was not kidding. The guy had on shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes with a ball cap. Another time a lady was in line for the late seating with her son. She had on a pair of jeans (not designer) and a t-shirt and her son had on "camo" with a t-shirt not either t-shirt even tucked in. This is smart casual??? I have to say that during our mariners luncheon the lunch and service was as to be expected. Very professional, courteous, food was hot and glasses never empty. That is the way all of the dinners should have been. We sailed Holland America on the Volendam thru the Panama Canal Feb 2006 on a 17 day cruise and the crew was wonderful. The wait staff was there to help us get seated and with the napkins, the wine steward was there within minutes of us being seated, they knew we wanted cappuccino coffee after dinner by the 3rd day without having to ask, and we were always to the shows on time. There was never anyone running around the ship in bathrobes. And the activities director was always updating us on the daily activities. Also she would have us meet in the theater before going ashore to brief us on what to do and where to meet our shore activity guide. The crew was always informing us of any whales, or crocs and telling us ship information such as depth of the ocean, sea and air temp etc. We were even recognized by one of the Lido buffet waiters on this cruise from a previous cruise. On the Panama Cruise the Captain was always visible and pleasant to answer questions. The meet the Captains nite he was there for pictures and to dance in the Crows nest later. We thought that is the way cruising is supposed to be and what we expected. I'm not sure we will sail with Holland America again! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Our family (my wife, me, 3 adult children, daughter-in-law) choose Holland America because while we had wonderful experiences on Princess, Royal Caribbean, and NCL, we were looking for a little more service and luxury on Holland American. ... Read More
Our family (my wife, me, 3 adult children, daughter-in-law) choose Holland America because while we had wonderful experiences on Princess, Royal Caribbean, and NCL, we were looking for a little more service and luxury on Holland American. In particular, we wanted something a little less hustle-and-bustle, and great food. We got half of what we were looking for, and a few pleasant and one very unpleasant surprise. First the good. The ship was beautiful - tastefully decorated and spotless. Room layouts were beautiful. Easy embarkation and disembarkation. We found the front-line service people (stewards, waiters, etc.) to be accommodating and very friendly. Food was wonderful, and actually exceeded our expectations. Excursions were life experiences (although I'd note that the Juneau dog sledding is very frequently cancelled due to weather). Sounds wonderful, and these aspects were. Not withstanding this, we'd NEVER go on a Holland American cruise again. To our surprise and amazement, the ship was over-crowded, and this manifested itself in many ways. Buffet lines were often long (I waited 30 minutes for my wife to join me at breakfast and actually thought we had missed connections - she was waiting in the waffle line). Wait for tender was very long (we expressed concern that although we were an hour early for excursion that tender line might cause us to miss excursion departure, and staff shrugged their shoulders). Often times all the treadmills, bicycles, and ellipticals were taken at gym. Most frustrating, if you wanted to eat at the main Lido buffet during a popular time, there were no tables to be had - you had to walk around looking for someone to leave and dash to the spot, or alternatively take your tray to your room. I was incredulous to see, on multiple occasions, a senior ship officer taking up a large table to himself (eating and talking on his cell phone) during this prime time. We had to reconcile ourselves to long waits, or eat, exercise, take tenders, etc at "non-prime times." Not a terrible problem, but ironically, it was to avoid this kind of thing that we choose Holland American in the first place. However, by far the most frustrating aspect of our cruise was the rooms we got for our adult children. While my wife and I got a suite, we had one exterior room for our daughters, and an adjoining room for our son and daughter-in-law. Turned out that the rooms were directly below the piano bar. In our opinion, they NEVER should have had rooms there. It was open late (until the last customer left, which could be well into the morning). Loud (my daughter, who is a music teacher, could identify the chords while wearing ear-plugs). Foot stomping. Margaritaville night. The ship people claimed they never had complaints before, which we just felt wasn't credible. They'd claim to try to contain the noise (never were willing to close the bar at a reasonable hour) but then came the foot-stomping! Ultimately after 4 noisy nights, they sent chocolates (nice gesture but room service was free anyway), put a fan in one room to drown out the noise, and gave my son and daughter-in-law use of an interior room from another couple who had to leave for medical reasons. And, they credited us $75 per person - while this was a nice gesture, of course it didn't address the problem, and had we been given the choice of a noisy room for a $75 discount, of course we wouldn't have taken it. We felt betrayed that a line like Holland American, or any cruise line for that matter, would do this to passengers devoting their time and considerable money for a top-notch memorable vacation. Okay, it was memorable. Yes, we had a good time and as I said, there was lots to like. However, ironically, we felt that the service was meaningfully short of the other lines we had been on that were much less expensive. By the way, our final departure gift was that two of our heavy-duty suitcases were damaged on debarkation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
From the moment we stepped on this ship, everything seems a bit "off". I'm accustomed to being greeted with a glass of champagne, but on this line passengers are just shuffled through. Our veranda suite was spacious and ... Read More
From the moment we stepped on this ship, everything seems a bit "off". I'm accustomed to being greeted with a glass of champagne, but on this line passengers are just shuffled through. Our veranda suite was spacious and attractively furnished, except that the sofa pillows were stained and dirty. I hid them in a cupboard for the rest of the trip. The sofa was upholstered with slick vinyl, and was extremely uncomfortable. the veranda was large, had an attractive wicker-look table and chairs with cushions, which were a huge improvement over the veranda furnishing on Celebrity ships. The bathroom was also nicely done, with twin sinks, plenty of storage and both a stall shower and a whirlpool bathtub, but the fixtures were an unattractive shade of pinky-beige. The towels and bath mat were thin and dingy. Things didn't improve much in the public areas. The shops were small and crowded, the merchandise indifferent. The library wasn't convenient to use - each time I tried to get a book it seems that the librarian was "out". The Internet center was good, made even better by the package deals which offered a significant discount. Packages are sold by the number of minutes you use. The quality of the coffee and espresso in the coffee bar was absolutely horrible - worse than in your average fast-food venue or a convenience store. The bars were nice, except when an art auction blasted noise into what was meant to be a quiet, relaxing spot. And now ... to the food. There are three dining venues, all mediocre. The first is cafeteria style "casual dining" in a very ugly dining room. The carpet was a bright royal blue; the tables had tartan plaid laminate tops. IMO, not a particularly appetizing combination. The food was nothing special. Meat was often overcooked and dry, veggies were soggy. Although the desserts looked appealing, they were almost universally tasteless. The Vista Dining Room serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Passengers can choose either open seating or assigned tables. But, as another reviewer noted, other passengers didn't seem to be as open and friendly as on other cruise lines. I can only speculate that their subdued demeanor was due to the generally uneven quality of the food and service. One difficulty we experienced was a "language barrier" with the mostly Indonesian wait staff. Many have accents that were difficult to understand, especially against a background of clanking dishes and cutlery. On one evening the dining staff in the Vista puts on a "show" that is incredibly cornball and annoying, unless you consider silly hats and parades of napkin-wielding waiters entertaining. The third dining option is the Pinnacle Grill, touted as "speciality dining". Considering that this dining room comes at an additional cost, it is definitely not worth it. When we made our reservation, we were told they would "fit us in", but when we arrived the room was nearly empty. Once diners are seated, the waiter trundles over a large trolley displaying enormous cuts of raw beef, from which a diner is expected to choose. Maybe it's just me, but I would rather not see my dinner in the raw before I eat it. Despite the massive display of raw meat, the cooked beef was oddly tasteless. My husband had the fish, which was better but not spectacular. Desserts were better than in the Vista. I will never take another HAL cruise, but will stick with the more reliable Celebrity ships. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
I just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise onboard the Amsterdam. I would like to share some of my experience with my fellow cruise critic members. Embarkation in Seattle: Very organized, fast and efficient. Plenty of porters to take ... Read More
I just returned from a 7 day Alaska cruise onboard the Amsterdam. I would like to share some of my experience with my fellow cruise critic members. Embarkation in Seattle: Very organized, fast and efficient. Plenty of porters to take your luggage. Check-in was a breeze and in no time we were onboard the ship. Lunch buffet served in the Lido Buffet while the cabins were being cleaned. Cabin: We were in a verandah suite on deck 6. The cabin size was very good. The large couch and sitting area made a difference. The size of our verandah was also very good. That's where the positive stops. The cabin was filthy dirty. Piles of dust behind the flat screen tv, dust on the couch, a beat up refrigerator ( I mean you could have dropped it from the side of the ship and let it spend a month at sea and bring it back on board, that's what it looked like). Rust and scratches. Bathtub had rust lines that leaked down the wall every time we took a shower. I was absolutely shocked. I had heard all the wonderful things about Holland America Line and found this to be outrageous. I'm wondering if this is what they mean by "Signature of Excellence". Cabin was not made until 2 or 3 p.m. Ship: The Amsterdam looks like a floating retirement home. The carpets are worn out and dirty, the decor is drab and old. I have never seen such a fashion emergency on a cruise ship as on this one. It's in desperate need of time in dry-dock and a good update of it's fabrics,carpets, curtains and soft goods. Chairs in the lounges are beat up. Windows are dirty. Power lines are taped to the floor. Refrigerator cord goes over the edge of the vanity before being plugged to the wall. Service: The crew tries very hard. They are personable and friendly, but that's where it all ends. The service is confused and lacks focus. The ship is understaffed. There aren't enough bar waiters, cabin stewards and staff to make this work. This ship is in desperate need of a good Hotel Manager. Food: Someone here made the right statement about the food onboard: "It sounds good, It looks good, and it tastes of nothing". Horrific food in the dining room. Food is always served lukewarm. The only meal I had the entire week served at the proper temperature was the escargot. Even the famed Pinnacle Grill left lots to be desired. They had an iron, I kid you not, plugged and sitting on the top of the main vanity in the Pinnacle Grill dining room, which they use to take the creases off the tablecloths in view of all guests! Plates were picked up before all guests in the table finished each course. We asked to start with choice A just to have choice B brought to our table. This happened over and over, at different tables in the dining room and during our evening in the Pinnacle Grill. Food in the Lido Buffet is actually good. The Asian choices are particularly good. Room service is also very good. Front Desk and Shore Excursion Office Staff: FANTASTIC! These are well trained and efficient employees who really make a difference on board. Entertainment: The production show I attended was very good. The dancers and singers were actually very capable, it has been a long time since I have felt a show on a cruise ship didn't feel like a high school production, and on this Holland America exceeds. Ports of Call: All Alaska ports of call were wonderful and disembarkation and optional tours worked out great at each port. I am particularly fond of the optional tour in Ketchikan where you take one of the fishing boats which took place in the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" show. We went out with the Aleutian Ballad for four hours on what I call the highlight of our trip to Alaska. The crew is fantastic, the ship, which was converted to a tour boat is impeccable, and the experience is as authentic and original as one can come to in Alaska. We spent four hours with the wonderful crew learning and seeing first hand how crab fishing is done in Alaska. This is a brand new tour. I can't thank them enough for the great job they did. Disembarkation: Amazing! very organized and fast. We didn't have to stand in line for Customs or Immigration. We handed in our customs forms to a Holland America employee and we got on a taxi within 15 minutes. Overall: I'm afraid to say this was not a positive experience with Holland America Line. I have no doubt they have the knowledge, the employees, and the resources, but for some odd reason this rates as one of the worst cruises I have ever taken. I would like to see them live up to their slogan of "Signature of Excellence". I hear great things about other Holland America ships, but I must tell you the MS Amsterdam which is only 7 years old, looks like a 50 year old ship. What they do well: The Lido Buffet, the beautiful place settings in the dining rooms and the Pinnacle Grill, the fresh orange juice machines, the linens and silverware in the buffet, the fresh towels in the public bathrooms, the quality of the bedding in the cabin, including nice linens and pillows, the fresh pastries and breads which are amazing, the quality of the Asian choices in the buffet, the outdoor decks and nice chairs in the promenade deck, the nice outdoor pool, the large bathroom in the cabin. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Background: We have just returned yesterday from a week long trip to Alaska. We had traveled with the Windstar (then part of Holland America) on our last trip and had loved it, this was nothing like it (which is a great advert for Windstar ... Read More
Background: We have just returned yesterday from a week long trip to Alaska. We had traveled with the Windstar (then part of Holland America) on our last trip and had loved it, this was nothing like it (which is a great advert for Windstar I suppose!). We were traveling with my 77 year old father and wanted a ship that wasn't too big, but had a good reputation and offered good accommodation, access to tours etc. We worked with our local travel company and they suggested this one. Hotel: We self booked and stayed the Westin in Seattle, well recommended, it is a $30 cab ride to the pier though, as it is on the other side of town, but was worth being in the middle of things the night before we left on the cruise. Ship Info: We pre registered, I highly recommend it, we sped thru the on boarding process. People started turning up at 12, the earliest they were letting you on board (we were there at 1). There were lots of people to help, beware of the offer to load your cases and carry them thru for you, it is only a 40 feet max trip before they get dropped off for x-ray and you don't see them again till you are in your state room. Look your best, the photo opportunities (and trust me there are many!) started before you even get on the ship. The ship is well signed, three sets of elevators and stairs with maps in each elevator lobby you can't get lost too easily. But be careful not all floors are accessible by taking any elevator and expecting to be able to walk forwards and backwards. If you are assigned lower Fontine restaurant (main) seating, which is on the 4th floor, you have to go up or down stairs midships and then walk towards the back (aft) then go up / down to get to your floor (the kitchens are on the 4th). Activities: Not many and childish in the main. Bingo (be prepared to spend $20 - $30 for your cards), Casino while at sea, the usual art auction of stuff they haven't been able to sell before. A few 'hole in one' competitions on the pool deck (they cover the pool, so it is swimmable if you want and there is a spa). Unending sales promotions for jewelry, how to shop in your next port talks (and funnily enough they seem to be happy to guarantee your purchases if you buy them from particular stores....). They had few activities for active people (towards the end basketball and ping pong) and the cruise director comes across as talking to 5 year olds all the time, false smiley voice sort of stuff. They did have a cooking demo a couple of days and they did have blackjack and Texas Hold'em comps on several days, they fill up quickly and yes of course it costs to join them. Did the kitchen tour, worth seeing behind the scenes. Service: Excellent, the staff were all willing to go the extra mile, from the people in the dining room who ran upstairs to get some sugar free ice cream for my diabetic father to the cabin steward who left surprises in our rooms most nights for us. The people on the ship were excellent, I have no complaints there only praise, they all seem to care. Shore Excursions: Again we booked ahead of time and was glad we had. We got the trips we wanted and the ship left an envelope in our room with all our excursion tickets in it, so we knew exactly what we were doing and when. We had been worried about booking a trip too close to the arrival of the ship at port, but there was no need to worry. They give you priority and if your trip is delayed getting back (and it is one you booked thru the ship) they will wait for you - they won't if you just wondered off to explore on your own! We choose to go Whale Watching, we went out to the Otter Sanctuary, we went on a float plane trip over a glacier and also choose to visit a rain forest. Only the rain forest one was not a good choice. Both the Whale watching and the Otter one's are MUST do's, they were awesome. Bring layers of clothes, including a light rain jacket, it can get wet there on the top deck. All the boat tours supply binoculars, so one less thing for you to carry. The guides were knowledgeable, young and just as excited at the things we saw as we were - we did get to see 5 whales bubble net feeding, several times - the true highlight of the whole trip. Staterooms: We booked a suite for ourselves and a standard double room for my dad. We were able to link him to ours so we could disembark together on the one day we had to tender ashore. If you can afford it, I highly recommend it, there was plenty of room and a decent sized balcony. We also got binoculars as part of the room, complimentary laundry, champers from the captain, free DVD and book rental and access to the Neptune Lounge, where they have good coffee/tea and juices as well as no added sugar snacks, fruit and cookies, chocolate etc. The concierge in that room was great, anything you needed could be sourced by her, including last minute trips, reservations etc. The double is tiny, not a room you want to spend much time in, cramped sitting area at the end of the bed and a functional bathroom. We were ticked, they charged my dad 200% single occupancy for being on his own. They can arrange the beds as one king or 2 doubles, I suggest in order to be able to see out of the window behind the bed, that you consider asking in advance for them to separate the beds. The beds are comfy, good pillows and the suite has a large sofa that converts into a queen if you did want to put someone else in there too. Plenty of hanging room for clothes and drawers etc. A fridge in every room which was useful. Dining: 5 choices: pool side: (burgers, hot dogs, little salad bar)no frills cooked to order Lido: average buffet stuff, with up to 10 people in front of you for the omelette in the morning and just 1 chef making them. The food was plentiful and when they say they close at xx.xx then they really are shut by then, so don't wait till the last moment. Tea and coffee available all day there, check your daily sheet for their times and specials, including the ice cream offerings (including sugar and fat free) and the changing late night buffet. Don't expect too much, it is far more like Denny's does buffet instead of the Ritz!! If you are looking for seafood coming out of the yazoo, you are going to be very disappointed. Pinnacle Grill: $30 per person charge and the portions are not big. If you go there, make sure you don't bank on sharing any side dish, order one each, they are all included in the price, order as many as you want the rice is good, worth a try, but you only get one soup spoon size of it, so don't be polite or you'll end up in the lido afterwards! If you order wine there and don't finish it, they will have it delivered to the main dining room for you the next night. The menu doesn't change there. If you do go, order the baked alaska, they turn off the lights and make it into real theater - very enjoyable. Avoid the lamb chops, ours were tough! Main dining room: set seating, excellent service, food sounds wonderful, looks good, tastes of nothing! Very ambitious menus, not executed well, you won't leave hungry, expect to spend up to 1.5 to 2 hours there, it is just a pity that the food lets the staff down! In room dining: 24 hour (providing they are not serving dinner, in which case you wait till the 2nd sitting is done!), they have a limited 24 hour menu, but they also offer the main dining room menu at night while the dining room is open (you can order it, they just deliver it a little later, bizarre). No french fries available unless you visit the lido, so if all you want is burger and fries be prepared to have chips or potato salad instead. My husband is a 'fussy eater' just plain food, no sauces etc. they did have (on all but one night)an alternative menu so he could have his steak or salmon. Read the menu all the way thru, they offer soups in 4 different places on it!! TIP: Be there a couple of minutes AFTER the restaurant opens, they don't open the doors till your set time and the crowds are bad as everyone just huddles together blocking the elevator doors, standing on the stairs etc.. 2 formal nights on board, they do rent tuxes and dresses if you really want to be pretentious and uncomfortable. Most people just wore pants and a jacket, but they do look for a tie for the men and a lot of the women either wore a nice dress or smart pants and a nice top. My husband refuses to dress to suit other people just decided to wear a collared shirt and smart pants without the tie or jacket - they did approach him as he entered the dining room to tell him it was formal night but he told them he was eating there and wasn't prepared to dress to impress others and they immediately backed off. The restaurant manager had already told us plenty of others do it too and it was fine! Entertainment: Is that what they called it? Oh boy. Amateur night for the main part. A piano singer that can not sing in the piano bar, and wana'be's, never were's and won't ever be's in the main show room. The crew show was good, at least you felt it was genuine. The young musical based entertainers on the first night were ok for a high school production (lots of energy and false smiles), the rest were hit and miss at best. The captain: Avoid the captain and his toasts, unless you really need that glass of cheap champaign. He is dour and on all the time there we never saw him smile. They even ask you not to shake his hand in case your germs infect him!! He was so rude that while the cruise director was introducing the department heads on to the stage he just kept talking to the person beside him instead of paying attention. You really got the impression that he'd rather be pulling his toe nails off with a pliers than being there with his guests on the 3 occasions we were at the same functions as him. Points of particular noteworthy: They bombard you with 5 or 6 pieces of info every morning which they then add to as the day goes on. The daily broad sheet tells you very little but the bottom section tears off and is worth carrying with you. It tells you events for the day and the meal times and choices. They do supply a recycle can in your room, we filled it every day with useless shopping info on board and on shore, I really wish there was a way to opt out of the advertising paperwork, we could have saved half a rain forest!!! Buy, buy buy: The seemingly non stop activities to get you to part with your money was very annoying. From the soft drinks card (yep, they aren't free) to the photo opportunities to the withdraw up to $1000 a day at the casino and we'll charge it to your card for just 3% commission is irritating. From the bling laden jewelry stores, to the over priced coffee shop (Starbucks eat your heart out, almost $7 for a frozen coffee drink) to the 'sign up for another cruise' talks, invitations for one on ones with the future cruise guy etc.. What they needed was 'here is our next port', this is what the town has to offer, this is what they are famous for, here are the names of some of the restaurants there, these are the sort of excursions we still have space for, instead of 'here is how to shop at our favorite stores there' (they even admit they get paid to advertise for them on board). The whole trip seemed like a way to part you with as much money as you could instead of a pleasurable, expensive, vacation for you. Bitter? yes we are, the over commercialized feel and lack of real substance of activities and quality of entertainment for the almost $8,500 we spent is criminal and we will be avoiding this line again. The Windstar line really is 180 degrees from the norm, and now we know why! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
The Noordam is a Crowded and Unattractive Vessel Introduction: My husband and I have cruised twice previously: once on Royal Caribbean and once on Carnival. I arranged this cruise on the Noordam for us and 10 other family members, all of ... Read More
The Noordam is a Crowded and Unattractive Vessel Introduction: My husband and I have cruised twice previously: once on Royal Caribbean and once on Carnival. I arranged this cruise on the Noordam for us and 10 other family members, all of whom were first-time cruisers. Although our family had a wonderful time together at meals and in the entertainment venues, my husband and I were extremely disappointed because of our expectations based on our previous experiences. The Holland America Noordam didn't even compare favorably to the Carnival Pride. The main problems: Overcrowding: The most popular venues on the Noordam were extremely crowded. Specifically: 1) The Lido restaurant had terribly long lines and way too many people milling about, especially at peak hours--you can forget about finding a table by a window at meal times. 2) The showroom was always packed prior to every show and we often ended up in the balcony even though we arrived 15 minutes early. 3) The blackjack tables were so crowded that I once stood for an hour before getting a seat. If you don't mind playing the sucker games (face-up with dealer taking all pushes or blackjack with all the queens removed), you may find a seat because most of the blackjack games in the casino have a gimmick that favors the house. 4) The top deck during scenic cruising of Glacier Bay was packed and there was no space along the rail. 5) The two hot tubs in the adults-only area are usually taken and they are so tiny that you better be good friends if there's more than two of you. 6) Get in line very early for the dessert buffet or the wait will be horrific. All of these venues were much more crowded than similar venues on our other two cruises. Ugly dEcor and furnishings: The Noordam is not an attractive vessel. The carpets, furnishings, art work, etc. are not appealing The doors to the cabins look like plywood. The carpeting in the hallways is an ugly blue pattern, which clashes with the red and orange circles in the area by the elevators. Bizarre-looking silver benches can be found in each landing by the elevators. Poor maintenance and supervision in the adults-only pool area: Even though several people complained, neither of the hot tubs worked properly throughout the cruise. The jets in one of them were inoperable and the jets in the other blew cold air. Also, the "adults only" policy in that area was not enforced and kids were all over. The pools and hot tubs close very early. Victoria, BC shouldn't really be counted as a port of call: The ship docks at 6 p.m. and sails at 11:15 p.m. When we booked the cruise, we didn't look closely enough at the schedule and many of us were planning to visit the Buchart Gardens in Victoria. We were shocked to learn that the ship wouldn't arrive in Victoria until 6:00 p.m. and everything worth seeing was about 30-45 minutes away from the dock. We decided to get to the dining room at 5:00 p.m. and be ready to disembark right at 6:00. Well, we weren't the only ones! The line to enter the dining room began forming much earlier and we had a long wait to be seated. We disembarked only to turn around and get back on the ship again after discovering how far the gardens and the Empress Hotel and downtown area were from the dock. During the entertainment that night, the cruise director asked how everyone had enjoyed the various ports. Only a few hands went up when he mentioned Victoria. Embarkation: This process was proceeding efficiently when someone apparently fell on a ramp leading to the boat and the doors from the terminal were shut for over 30 minutes. We were not advised of the reason for the problem until later. The Positives: 1) The entertainment was great, especially Joel Mason and the magician, but be sure to get to the Vista Lounge early to get a decent seat. 2) The beds were very comfortable and the rooms were more attractive than the common areas in the Noordam. 3) The hard-working staff were just as wonderful as on the other ships we have been on. 4) The park rangers who came on board at Glacier Bay are terrific. 5) The cruise director was quite a comedian. 6) We enjoyed the question-and-answer session with the captain. Conclusion: We expected a lot more from Holland America and chose the Noordam because it's a relatively new ship. We won't be sailing on HAL again. Carnival is just as good and Royal Caribbean is much better in many ways. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a ... Read More
This cruise departs out of Seattle around 4 p.m. Sunday, travels out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rounds up on the outside of Vancouver Island and heads north overnight getting you to Glacier Bay Alaska by mid morning. Then it meanders in a southerly direction to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan then heads back out to sea, back into the Strait to Victoria (arriving at night) and departs late in the evening for a slow put back to Seattle disembarking Sunday morning. I will start generally from the beginning experience and with the disembarkation. I did not arrive by plane so I have no real experience with it. I was, however, picked up after the cruise at the airport so I got to witness the next group of cruisers being herded around. It looked fairly organized (although I did see panicked cruisers from every line looking for assistance). The guys wrangling the luggage were frighteningly rough with the luggage throwing pieces and surely breaking whatever fragile items were stored within. Not a good way to start your cruise. Pack fragile goods on you. Some packing notes: If you drink wine, bring it. Wine is expensive on board and the selection is mediocre at best. The corkage fee is in the $20 region. All liquor purchased on board is charged a hefty surcharge. It is worth the trouble, plus you get to drink something delicious. Pack a few warm layers and do not forget your raincoat with a hood. Don't bring a crazy amount of warm things because the ship is warm. The dressy nights (2) are actually dressy. Men in nice suits and occasional tuxes. Women mostly in cocktail dresses, but a few women were in gowns. Honestly, they were a little out of place. Bring a cocktail dress. OK, embarkation: This was the first cruise for me so I haven't anything to compare it to, but I found it to be very orderly and stress free. We were dropped by family so we had to find the way there on our own. It was easy to find and well marked. Porters meet you at the car and will handle your luggage. There are two short lines. One for those who filled out their forms online and another for those who did not. We did it on line. We were asked a few questions, gave them our forms and filled out one. Our pics were taken, we were given our docs to get on board and then sent to a queue to get on board. Easy and friendly folks. A good way to start. The line moves haltingly from here because of the picture taking and selling of various packages for onboard. A lot of people looked annoyed. Your goods are then quickly x-rayed then you are on your way on board. Something to note here. Your checked luggage sits outside in the elements for a LONG time. If you packed your lovely silk dress on top and your luggage ends up on the top of the stack... and it is raining (it IS Seattle!) I was lamenting not carrying it all on or not having packed in a hard sided piece. Luckily, it only sprinkled rain. Our rooms were not ready yet so we went to the Lido Deck (you have no choice) where we slogged through the hawkers again making way to a table. Many ravenous folks were rushing around and knocking over the less hardy for their chance to get a premade sandwich. Be warned. It is less dangerous to life and limb (especially fingers and feet) to hike out to the aft outdoor deck. 1:30 or so they announce it is time to head to your room. Finding your cabin is easy and there are signs everywhere to aid the lost. Your checked luggage arrives sometime before the evening. Plenty of time to get unpacked and freshen for dinner. Night one is casual. Oh yeah, this is the time when you are wondering about laundry and pressing. It is really expensive and no self-laundering/pressing is available like on other ships. Consider either bringing clothes that pack well or bringing a steamer (no irons). I was in one of the less expensive rooms. It was an outside stateroom with obstruction. It had an unopenable window blocked by a lifeboat, but if you stood high or got on your bed, you could see the water and land. We were a party of two women (my mom) and we were very comfy. There was ample closet space with hangers and room below beds to store smaller bags. Larger ones fit nicely in the lockers. Three COULD fit in the room, but it would be tight. Make sure you are really accommodating and close if you decide on a trio. The odd man is on a pullout couch. The other two are on an extremely comfy bed (or two beds). They are long singles and they are the highlight of the room. They tie with the pillows. My mom could not stop talking about the pillows and wrote the name of them down so she could get them for home. Really. Our first night out was pretty rough and she spent the evening hugging them for comfort. Her new best friend I guess. Anyway, the lav was plenty roomy. There was a short tub/shower, kitty corner toilet and a sink. The cabin includes a vanity where hairdryers are furnished and used. There is also a lighted makeup mirror with magnifier. The negative is that the lighting at the vanity is smoked and dark. I would apply my makeup there and then walk to the bathroom to see I looked crazy with uneven makeup because I could not see what I was doing in the dim light. The stateroom also has a loveseat, table and a chair. None of which we sat on. We used the table for room service and plunking down our junk on. Sheets are changed one time during the trip and the blanket is covered with another sheet. The food and dining: Might as well get to that since lots of time is spent doing it or contemplating doing it. Are you sitting down? I LOST weight on the trip. I kid you not. I was not sick either. The food was just incredibly dull and uninspired even in the Pinnacles. Lots and lots of the same things every day. Lots of food rehashed (emphasis on the hash) day after day. Dining room food selections that I found myself saying (to myself) "well, if I have to select something (sigh), I guess I will have the pork chop." It would be slapped down in front of me in a very dismal way and I would pick through a pretty meager portion (they are ALL about portion control on this ship) trying to find the small nugget that was not overcooked or looked edible. Let me digress for a moment. Dining room info.: It was my mom's birthday. We were in open seating. I called when we got on board and asked if we might get a table near a window and maybe a table for two. We would take any time. NO. And we never ever could. And the man taking the reservations was RUDE. I am mad writing about it now. That and the men greeting diners at the front door were either strange and inappropriately familiar or rude and unaccommodating. I can only assume that we were not given a decent seat because our room was not an expensive one. We also tried arriving without reservation during the waning hours of dining to a emptying (about a quarter full) room and beg for a table either by ourselves or by a window and they told us it was not possible after asking our room number then there was no further conversation allowed. A ticket was printed and we were led to a center table with other bewildered diners. Everyone at the table commented on the empty window seats. No one was pleased. OK I feel better now. Sorry. Laughs~ The dining room food. I already mention... yuck. But to explain. They tout their culinary prowess on this ship. When they do people in the audience giggle (at the disembarkation lecture). It was good to know it was not just my mom and me (and our other lesser appreciated table mates). The only good thing I had in the dining room was a lamb shank. It was good. It was plunked atop a half cup of insipid mashed potatoes and sided with 2 small carrot balls the size of marbles. By the end of the cruise I dreamed of fresh veggies. Toward the end of the cruise I got a little gumption and if food arrived that looked simply too nasty or unsafe to eat I sent it back and asked for something else. Things served that were disappointing: . The last night my mom ordered scallops. They were rank, overcooked and one was a strange pink color. Chateaubriand asked for rare/ medium rare and arrived medium well with goo pastry. No taste to boot. Filet folks! That was the fancy night. Other things: Pasta (don't do it in the dining room), Salmon - they do not know what kind and won't go find out. Another diner had it, it looked overcooked and unappetizing. We were in the salmon capital of the world for chrissakes. The portions were usually smallish (except for pasta (but blech!) and lacked veggies. Mixed salads contained plenty of lettuce pieces that had gone bad and clinged secretly to other leafs. Watch for that. Caesars come pre tossed with oh so much dressing and iffy croutons. OK I do not want to discuss that anymore. I did like the chocolate cake. Of course it could have been pretty inferior and I would have loved it. I suggest they pour fudge over their entrees. The service. OK I will confess that in a former life I was a restaurant owner. I think that really great service can smooth over a rocky food experience. Bad food and robotic and startlingly abrupt service may account for my weight loss. I just found myself putting on a happy face, enjoyed talking to my fellow dining partners and tried to get it over with. Many servers have a real problem with English. That may account for the weirdness like "What do you want?" or not taking a beverage order or picking up a napkin from the floor and making a diner use it versus getting him a new one. Also, they do not take drink orders unless you ask and never before food ARRIVES. Sigh. Lido Dining. This is a quasi buffet area where you will eat breakfast and lunch and perhaps dinner. Mornings you can elect to freely select pastries and fruit. Other items (including hot) are doled out to you as you go through cafeteria style. Sausages were good and one day they had potato squares that were fried like McDonalds. They were also good. Everything else looked ick. I was amazed that people were eating the steam tabled pancakes and the limp and strange looking french toast. Grapefruit was grey. Raisin bread was pretty good, but don't ask that it be toasted for you. I elected to either have room service (which is good) pasties with juice and coffee or trundled up to the Lido for a bagel. I always scanned for the potato wedges. They never reappeared after morning one. They were replaced with gacky home fries. There was an asian style breakfast available with miso soup (and accoutrements) and plenty of congee which many a Southerner mistook as grits. Lunch on the Lido is a salad bar (see previous lettuce admonition) which included white tomatoes, purple coleslaw goo and potato salad, cukes and a rather rancid Greek mixed salad. Pass. My fellow cruisers, lunch bliss exists in the sandwich department. I had a croissant sandwich with turkey, bacon and cheese, lettuce and tomato and it was good. Other times when I longed for something else (like asian lamb stirfry) I wished I had stuck with the sandwich. Incidentally, they dole the hot food out to you and start out with a tablespoon of meat mix with a cup or so of rice (in asian) they will hand that to you. You will have to speak up if you require more than that.and they will make you say more after each spoonful. I always regretted asking for more. Outside on the Lido is a hamburger and hotdog line and a pretty good self-serve taco bar. Room service. This is the highlight of the onboard dining. The bread on the sandwiches may be stale and the croissants are cold, but the food quality is better and the service excels. Raves to the club sandwich and breakfast pastries. Also the chocolate cake is fresher delivered to the room than in either dining areas. Confirm orders and ask for extra creamer. Pinnacles. Your server will be able to communicate with you here. Service was vastly superior. They actually timed your meal, did not rush you, attended to your drinks and bread and served without intrusion. We also got close to a window. Oh glee! I again had a filet here (the entrEe choice was minimal). It was overcooked again. I could have gotten a porterhouse. I was afraid the NY side of the porterhouse would be rubber so I opted for the filet. The side I cannot recall. It must have been unremarkable. I do however remember that I ordered Tuna sashimi for an appetizer. Easily the highlight of the onboard food. My mom got it too and we lamented every night thereafter that we did not simply have 10 plates each of that. Paper thin pieces of heaven. Ship in general and its entertainment offerings: The ship is pretty and new. Smoking is allowed on deck, in rooms (I know ick) and in the casino and bars. Thankfully no smoking in halls or dining areas. I was with a smoker. Sigh. Cheap rooms lack ventilation for smoking. Also I thought it was strange that you cannot have an iron in your room, but you can smoke like a chimney in them. The library area is roomy and pleasing with lots of books (check out early for best selection - I saw one woman in the early moments of the cruise with a stack. She must be a veteran). They rent DVDs there too. You can buy your favorite coffee drink and sit in nicely appointed seating areas to play games and read books. I camped out here a lot working on crosswords. Here is where you can access the internet for a heft hefty hefty price. They also have wireless available. I skipped the net for a week. Live entertainment was not what I expected. The shows were strange and uninspired and the singers often off key. Instead, go for the karaoke competition where the true talent lies and laughs can be had. It is done in a series of competitions with the winner being crowned on the way to Victoria. There was a quasi-calypsoish band in the atrium area one day. Very loud, did lots of Caribbean and Jimmy Buffet songs done like elevator music. The woman singing should consider a career change. OK a moment to retract my claws! Many folks were abuzz about the bingo. I did not go, but the major boat's main constituency was of the more mature set so... you figure it out. The pools were all for adults and children. No separate pools. They were often empty even though our cruise was sunny. There were a few takers for the Jacuzzi and many felt at ease enough to take a pass through the casino and other areas in their robes. I thought that was amusing. It horrified my mom when a man sat next to her at roulette wearing his bathrobe. Casino: Poker is by video table and is only in tourney form. They play 60 and 120 buy in games. Humans run the roulette and blackjack. The house's take is massive. Slots and video gaming... look at the payout. I never got bored enough to toss my money away at slots. Also there is a woman on a wireless mic talking a lot of the time. She is loud and can induce a headache. She was touting some running lottery or guessing game. Take comfort that she will eventually tire and stop. Gym: Big and good equipment. Windows open to a beautiful view. You will want to spend time here. Lots of treadmills with one always available. Aerobic classes and pilates are available for a fee. I was on the lookout for the water aerobics class, but it never happened. There is a sauna, but I did not use it. I also did not use the spa. It looked nice (I examined it at about 4 in the morning night one when everyone was in their rooms vomiting - I do not get seasick). It also seemed expensive, but... you are on vacation. Cinema: Lots of currentish movies. I went a few times and enjoyed it. It was relatively empty. They should offer drinks with the popcorn. There is a concession stand, but it stood empty. Generally, the ship is clean and nicely done. There is one glass stair system, but it was blocked the entire cruise so it was look, don't touch. No grand stairs on this boat. I do not know what other boats looked like, but it does not seem as open as other boats look like on commercials. It WAS clean though and there were elevators open to the port and starboard water views. I nice touch. I spent a ton of time on deck. Decks are wide, scrubbed, equipped with lots of blankets and ample sturdy (yet lovely) teak loungers (you can purchase one). The only time you are allowed up on the very front part of the bow is at Glacier Bay. The rest of the time you go just inside. You can go all the way to the stern. A side note about cleanliness. There are many men devoted to polishing the public areas, but we found our bathroom handle and door to the cabin grimy and sticky. I cleaned it with an antibacterial wipe they offer in the public restroom. Every morning around 6 a.m. they walk a catwalk outside the bedroom window to clean the liferafts. Be sure to close your curtains before going to sleep. It is unpleasant to find them gawking in as you wake. General notes: You will have many many times where photogs will be scrambling to take your pic.. You will be given many opportunities to buy things like jewelry and other things you did not know you needed. You will pay for seminars that do not involve something being sold to you, the classes were unbelievable dull, but the lectures on wildlife were the ship's highlight as far as entertainment value goes. It was free. There is a TV in room where you can watch the view from the stern and one from the bow of the boat. I watched that a lot. There is also a channel with revolving screens providing ship info. Like very general track, ship's speed, time, air temp, sea conditions... I liked that. What would have made it even better would have been a sort of GPS display instead of they far off general map they use. I wanted to know what body of water I was in and what I was looking at land wise. Also there was very little offerings over the loud speaker about what we were looking at. Many folks were annoyed by that especially at Glacier Bay. Also, speaking of loudspeaker announcements, during the first night they did an evening crew safety drill. The man announcing it could not speak easily understood English and I could hear a commotion of folks in the hallway wondering if there was an emergency (they sounded alarm). The captain had to get on and tell people it was for the crew to go to muster stations and not for passengers. I won't get into what is to do at each port of call since I have seen other descriptions that would be far superior to mine. I will speak generally about them. I loved each stop, but then again our weather was absolute perfection. Getting on and off the boat was a cinch even the day we used tenders. They were tender towards those with disabilities. I thought that was nice to see. Some gangway security fellow was rude to my mom. I did not witness it, but she was fairly hot about it. Personally, outside big excursions, I would wait until I got to port to book it. If the weather is bad what is the point of shelling out tons of money to appreciate a view shrouded in clouds. The tour groups are plentiful at dock and the prices seem better with an addition of competition. Each town is enjoyable and the locals surprisingly accommodating considering the ships probably double town population and we wander around dazed and into traffic. There is always an exception to the kindness of locals. Best to brush it off and get over it. A small thing about one of the stops... Victoria at 6p.m.? Really? Why bother? The brochure sez no trip to Victoria is complete without a trip to Butchart Gardens... but it is night? Also the ship docks outside of Victoria and you have to hoof it a mile and a half or bus in. Stores are closed and areas of town can be dangerous and crowded with bums, beggars and drug addicts roaming in the shadows. A walk on the jetty and back to the boat is better. What else? Highlights: Glacier Bay. Amazing even without calving. Good binoculars are a must as is a good camera. I brought binocs with image stabilizer. Great for bear spotting. The wildlife lecture. The guy giving it was interesting and entertainment and lots of the pics he used were his own. He should have been providing running loud speaker commentary in Glacier Bay or at least doing a deck walk about answering questions on the fly. Disembarkation: You fill out a form prior to cruising with your departure particulars and are assigned a color/number ticket corresponding to travel urgency. You wait for that color number to be called and you proceed to gangway. Easy and orderly. I was last off since I was in no hurry. My room attendant was not pleased that we were last off and demanded we vacate the room. You can opt to have express checkout of sorts where you get off first and bags are transported to the airport for you and checked on to the flight. It is a pay service, but a nice touch I thought. Big bags are put out in the hall the night before for collection and await you in the port. I elected to carry mine down since I packed lightly. I was glad for it. There was a minor scrum to get aboard Grey Line busses to the airport and the ticket taker seemed confused when I gave her an online confirmation ticket versus one bought through the cruise line. I had to stand there and explain it. If it were raining I would not have been so patient. Grey Line driver was pleasant and entertaining. A nice way to end a cruise. Follow the admonition about breakable goods in the luggage on the outbound portion if going Grey Line. They are the same tossers used for the inbounders. OK That's all she wrote. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
m/s Oosterdam Embarkation 5/5/2007 We flew into Seattle a day ahead and visited the space needle and visit Pikes Market. The space needle was great for views and picture taking. If you elect to eat dinner at the restaurant at the top of ... Read More
m/s Oosterdam Embarkation 5/5/2007 We flew into Seattle a day ahead and visited the space needle and visit Pikes Market. The space needle was great for views and picture taking. If you elect to eat dinner at the restaurant at the top of the space needle, the cost will run about $75.00 per person not including drinks. This was our 4th cruise on Holland America, our friends who traveled with up insisted on this cruise line but I prefer Princess. Boarding- We stayed at the Comfort Inn on Roy Street offering an excellent free breakfast and an $8.00 shuttle to the ship the next morning. After arriving at the port we started walking in to start the boarding process, we had to stop to prove we had our immigration forms filled out then took a few steps and another person stopped us to make sure we filled out another form showing we are not sick and then stop showing our state ID's. Having to stop and grab and show stop grab show stop grab show and drop and re-gather our luggage every time was nerve racking. Once on board we have disinfected our hands a few time with that gel we proceeded to our cabin (6022) inside and so small it was scary. There was just enough room to walk to the bed, bathroom and closets but they put a table and chairs in the way so you could jostle around them for the entire cruise. The room was not much bigger then the queen size bed in side. The bathroom was small and the drain was clogged and drained very slowly so our showers had to be in short duration or the water would flood the floors. The toiletries have been upgraded and were very nice, and the bedding was fantastic, comfy, clean, nice sheets...I can't say enough nice things about the bedding. In typical Holland America fashion we immediately got a bill 1.00 per person for additional port charges that were not charged initially when we booked. The food: The food in the Lido was not very good, you really know the difference when cooks measure and follow recipes and when they fake it. All of the prepared salads were so salty I had to throw them away. The pasta bar was interesting, they grab the pasta, drop it in boiling water, drain some of the water and then place it on a plate with a few tablespoons of sauce on top....hospital cafeteria food would put the Lido's food to shame. The food at the Vista Lounge was very good, care was taken for quality, taste, and presentation featuring Fillet Mignon, Lobster, and Alaskan king crab. Sterling's Steak House was overpriced and every time I looked it sat empty. Ports of call: Ketchikan & Juneau had fantastic scenery, the towns were shanties. Sitka was the most breathtaking, bald eagles flying about and snow crusted mountains reaching up to and through the clouds. Beautiful islands dotting the calm inland sea and covered in pine. The town was also very pretty, the people were friendly and took great pride in their town. To really get the most out of this cruise I think people should bring a camera with a zoom lens, and binoculars. I did the Douglas Island Sea Kayaking, (about $120.00) and was told by the tour desk that we would be kayaking around glaciers however there was only one about 10 miles away however the scenery was fantastic & we had an excellent time while also having a surprise visit from a Sea Lion who popped it's head up very near by to see us. The other tours I signed up for were so overpriced they had too few people sign up and were cancelled as a result. The canopy tour was sold out immediately, if you want to do this Canopy tour zipping though the forest on cables then sign up before the cruise or it's too late when you get on board. The entertainment was ok, the Indonesian crew show was long and pretty bad. The hot tubs were drained and closed a day early to prepare for the next cruise, during the cruise they they were also often covered up so no one could use them, the pool crew seemed to think this was a great way to keep them clean. I learned the trick to using the hot tubs, look and see if their available, run like mad to your room and get into a swimsuit, run like mad back to the hot tub and if it's available and not covered up with nets then you got really lucky. While not a premium cruise line Holland America advertises my experience was exactly what I expected. Go on board with low expectations and "all in all" you can have a really nice & enjoyable cruise, I know I did. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
My husband and I have been on more than twenty-five cruises. We had sailed with Holland America previously. Embarkation in Seattle was relatively hassle free. We arrived around 1:30 and it took us about thirty minutes to get through the ... Read More
My husband and I have been on more than twenty-five cruises. We had sailed with Holland America previously. Embarkation in Seattle was relatively hassle free. We arrived around 1:30 and it took us about thirty minutes to get through the line. Lines need to be adjusted to accommodate those of us who had checked in on line. Our cabin was ready and waiting for us, and within thirty minutes our luggage arrived. The cabins on the Noordam are well designed the bathroom was spacious and there was plenty of storage/hanging space. The beds were comfortable. The deck furniture was perfect, quite comfortable and very clean. Our room steward was excellent. Dining on the ship was another story. We were assigned to open seating for dining. We have experienced this before with Princess and at that time were very pleased. Each time we requested a table by a window, each time we were seated away from windows, eventhough many window tables were available. The staff that greeted us in the dining room were arrogant and difficult. The food selection could have been more varied. Many times hot foods came cool and lacked much taste. Dining room seemed under staffed and most of staff needs customer service training. About half way through our voyage we complained to hotel staff as dining room was not the only place service was almost nonexistent. We asked that our name not be given to dining room staff. Well from this point on the staff in dining hovered over us, making us very uncomfortable. Entertainment in main venue was below average in quality. Ports of call were as expected. Tours were fine and arrangements to connect with tours was hassle free. Probable will not sail with Holland America again. One would have to question if Carnival's ownership has made the difference in the first class service we anticipated. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Thinking about taking a nice relaxing cruse on the Westerdam, think again! Better pack your EAR PLUGS and a GAS MASK. Heres my familys 7day Alaskan trip. July 16, 2006 Sunday room 1107 -- After our family arrived in our stateroom we ... Read More
Thinking about taking a nice relaxing cruse on the Westerdam, think again! Better pack your EAR PLUGS and a GAS MASK. Heres my familys 7day Alaskan trip. July 16, 2006 Sunday room 1107 -- After our family arrived in our stateroom we could not help but notice the noisy commotion coming from under our room. Coming from somewhere directly below us was the banging of hammers (so loud making the floor vibrate) a drilling noise and metal grinders. We excitingly unpack looking forward to our great relaxing trip. Hoping the noise would cease when we left port, we said nothing. July 17, 2006 Monday room 1107 -- Monday started off just as noisy as the day before. Again all the same noises we heard yesterday. They started up and never stopped the entire day. We spoke with Sheila Arcilla (day manager) and she informed us that this construction was part of the daily maintenance and it would go on until the job was done. That it was an environmental job and it would get done no matter how long it took. But they would only go on until late afternoon. When we left for dinner at 6:00 p.m. the noise was still going on. After a day and a half of this we were told that there was a room available down the hall and we could have it, but only during the day for the next two days. Another family was coming in two days and it was their room when we reached Juneau. We could sleep in our room at night and relax in another room during the day. This was not what we wanted to do. We just tried to stay away from our room during day light hours. July 18, 2006 Tuesday room 1107/1087 -- Today the pounding and noise was still there. We explained that we still werent happy with all the racket and vibration. We have been quite pleasant considering the circumstances. My husband has been doing most of the communicating now. I am starting to get somewhat irritated. We try to explain that we have come on vacation to relax and that just wasnt happening. They have agreed to let us have the other room 1087 for the duration of the trip. We packed up all our stuff. Put it back in our suitcases and we moved everything to the other room 1087. There was no more noise. Although, the room was noise free that first night in our new room we were awakened at about 4:00 a.m. to an extremely strong smell of bacon coming from our air vent. By the time morning had arrived we could barely stand it. We did not say anything to the front desk. Embarrassed that everything is going wrong, I told my dad, who was on the cruise as well. My dad went to the front desk and informed them of our newest problem. We talked with Lizabeth. Lizabeth said that the vents were probably stuck from the galley and that she would look into it. July 19, 2006 Wednesday 1087 -- The day and night went well. With the exception of the bathroom floor drain backing up in the bathroom. This happened after one of our showers. Chunky black water smelling like rotten eggs came up through the floor surrounding the toilet. When the water receeded it left a black residue all over the floor. We threw towels on the floor in order to use the bathroom. We did not go to the front desk with this new disaster we just informed our room attendant Abdul who took care of the mess. There was no galley smell this night/morning. July 20, 2006 Thursday 1087 -- Smell back. We are awakened to the sickening smell once again around 4:00 a.m. We get out of bed open our door to the hallway to clear out our room. This seems to work. We sleep with the door open for the rest of the night. Talked with Lizabeth again. She said that the wind must have changed and thats why the smell is back. She said that she would move us again if there were an open room, but there were not any available. We are beginning to lose it. We have been very patient and have been extremely polite. July 21, 2006 Friday 1087/1065 -- Bathroom backs up again and our sleep is interrupted once more by cooking bacon. The combination smell is indescribable. We call the night manager, Taufik. He arrives at around 4:00 a.m. and states that it is awful and that we have to leave to another room. This is unbelievable. I cannot even talk I am so mad. We gather up our family at 4:30 am and wander down the hall to our new room again! We are now moved to room 1065. This is now our 3rd room. Carla (from the front office) calls at 10:00 a.m. to ask how we slept and wakes us up. We havent had a good night sleep except for Wednesday. I am angry and spitting nails, but I keep my composure. Getting very tired of all of this. No sleep and the aggravation of the entire mess. They put a ventilator in our room for the rest of the night, whats left of it, so that when we return to our smelly room the following day the smell will have been filtered out. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that they are being so gracious! July 22, 2006 Saturday 1065 -- Today we are told that if we want to we can use the same room again tonight. We think we should considering we have not had any luck with our first two rooms. We tell them that we will sleep in the new room; they said they would have it ready for us. We are not willing to pack up everything for a third time. We decide to just take what we need and travel down the hall once more when it is time for bed. We napped most of the day. Extremely tired. That evening we gather up what we need and head down the hall to room 1065 for the second night. The room is not ready for us; there is a rack of bathrobes in the middle of the room, a pile of used sheets on the only chair in the room and they know we have our 10 year old son with us I guess they expect him to sleep on the couch without any sheets or blankets. I call the front desk and a cabin attendant comes and retrieves all the mess, makes up the sofa bed and apologizes for not having our room ready. You would think that this has got to be the end to this story. There isnt much night left but no, it not over yet. Later that night after we are all in bed all comfortable in our third room. We need to use the restroom in the middle of the night. Low and behold the door to the bathroom is locked (of course) and we cannot use it. AGAIN, I call the front desk and ask that someone come and unlock our bathroom. After the attendant leaves my son says to me mom just breath. Bon Voyage! P.S. I want to let you know how sympathetic Westerdam was to our situation. They were extremely apologetic after ever incident. They always said how sorry they were. They always said too bad there wasnt an open room, but would eventually move us to an empty room. They were gracious beyond words they offered us a huge $200.00 off our on board bill. I cannot tell you how this offer made us feel. These facts are true. Even though they are to hard believe. My husband and I agree on the facts, but we cannot remember if Wednesday took place on Thursday or visa/versa. With all the things that went wrong it was hard to remember which disaster happened on which day. That is the only thing we are sketchy on. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Having read numerous reviews about the Oosterdam it was clear that half were positive and half were negative. While I was hoping to be in the positive half suffice to say that it did not meet up with my expectations. We have cruised with ... Read More
Having read numerous reviews about the Oosterdam it was clear that half were positive and half were negative. While I was hoping to be in the positive half suffice to say that it did not meet up with my expectations. We have cruised with both Princess and Celebrity and Holland America does not come near to either of these with regards to service or value. I will try and give a detailed review in hopes that others are prepared in advance as we were. The check in was surprisingly a positive given we did not have a suite. It was rather smooth with the only negative the long line to pass through the security check after you did finish registering in. Many reviews had the same complaint regarding the Lido buffet and I have to agree. HAL made a major error here as there is not enough seating to accommodate the demand and I highly recommend that you obtain a table before you get your food. In fact during the sea days they even set up additional folding tables by the pool and this still did not satisfy the demand. The way the buffet is handled with the separate stations is good for controlling lines but the full benefit is not realized as almost every item is served to you rather than serve yourself which slows down the process. Our ports of call Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan were all magnificent. The shore excursions are grossly overpriced and I would recommend going off the ship as you can obtain most of the same excursions for 30-40% less than what they cost onboard. We had one breakfast in the dining room, to alleviate the crowds at the buffet, and the service was outright awful. They were rude and inconsiderate and we even spoke to the maitre d' after it and got the feeling he could care less. The service at dinner started off a bit rocky but turned around (after our complaint) and was acceptable. I believe, as others do, that the automatic tipping policy is counter productive to providing good service as there is no incentive. We did adjust it at the end and tipped the few who did provide excellent service like our cabin steward who was phenomenal. I found the decor and the ship to really not have that "wow" factor as I have found on two Princes ships. In fact I walked past the atrium three times looking for what I expected to find in an atrium and came to find out I was already in it. It was small and nowhere near what we have seen on the Princess lines. While most cruise lines nickel and dime for everything this one was even greater. For example the internet access required that you "establish an account" that cost $3.95. Then unless you purchase a plan the charge was .79 per minute which is higher than what I paid on Princess. The account is a joke as all you do is enter your name and cabin number. On Princess all you did was swipe your card and away you went. The entertainment was very good with good shows and the times being 8:15 and 10:15 worked out well with our early dinner seating. They only have one alternative dining restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, which I highly recommend. If you book it the first night the service charge is 1/2 off $10.00 instead of $20.00 per person. The other cruise lines had numerous alternative dining options available. The food on the buffet was OK typical buffet food. The deserts were mediocre and the food in the dining room was a bit boring. They also were limited in optional choices that were available every night again unlike Princess. We had four in our cabin which while tight at times was bearable. The one down side was that the fourth bunk folded down from the ceiling over the main bed and only left 10" of room between your head and the bottom of the bunk when you were laying in the bed. Needless to say the first two days you woke up a bit sore having bumped your head getting up at night and forgetting it was there. Princess has theirs fold down over the pull out sofa which is a much better set up. Make sure you get a balcony as the views are spectacular especially the Hubbard Glacier which the ship did get very close to. Needless to say we were quite disappointed and given a choice would not sail on HAL again. Our future cruises will be confined to Princess. Read Less
Sail Date June 2005
This was our first cruise with Holland America, and could end up being our last. This particular cruise departed on Friday, May 6th from Seattle- spending Saturday in Victoria, B.C. - and docking at Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday morning. It ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Holland America, and could end up being our last. This particular cruise departed on Friday, May 6th from Seattle- spending Saturday in Victoria, B.C. - and docking at Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday morning. It was billed as a "Mother's Day cruise", a fun weekend getaway, and an introduction to Holland America. I should preface at this point by saying that we discovered once onboard that we were joining up with the last segment of a 22 day transit cruise that started in Tampa, through the Panama Canal, and ended in Vancouver. Many people had been onboard for 20 days already. We also discovered that this Seattle-Vancouver portion is a apparently a "maintenance" cruise for most of the public areas. During our cruise - the carpeting was pulled out, the chairs were removed and reupholstered, the ship was being washed with solvents and repainted, etc. There were 5 of us traveling together, 3 in a suite, and two of us in an inside cabin. I personally stayed in the inside cabin, number 750 - on "A" deck about mid-ship. Although we had fun - We were really disappointed with the poor service and lack of coordination among the Holland America staff - it became immediately apparent that the majority of them were departing when the boat docked on Sunday, and as such they just stopped caring about their passengers a few days too soon. They did not have their act together in the slightest, and gave the impression of a bunch of high school kids with only 2 days of school left - very, very anxious to leave with no tolerance left for us "passenger" types who only seem to want things from them. Also - just about everything on the ship was closed on Saturday, which was the only "full day" we were onboard. The casinos, the shops, the salon, the spa - everything was closed the entire day. This was not advertised. ("Duh! Who'd want to advertise THAT!" you are probably thinking...) Yeah, well, it would have been good to know beforehand. I also want to preface that I am not one of those well-to-do types that gives out low ratings because the color of the duvet was slightly too red, or the champagne too effervescent, or whatever. You really have to go out of your way to try my patience, and unfortunately, the Holland America people really did. No one thing really went disastrously wrong, but when you take them all together... well you be the judge. To counterbalance, many things also went well, and so I will break this out into two sections. -------------------- First, here are some of the things that went pretty well: 1) Actual embarkation was extremely smooth. There was no line at all, and as we had all our forms already filled out and ready, we breezed through in under 5 minutes. The Seattle debarkation staff was very friendly and helpful. Zip, zam, and we were on board. 2) After getting on the ship, I forgot my camera at the security station, and didn't realize it until I got to the cabin. The staff already had it stored at the front desk, and I was able to retrieve it with a quick phone call and trip to the front office, much to my relief! (Being a photography nut, you can imagine this would have ruined my trip more than anything.) 3) The cabins themselves were ready when we arrived and very nice. The inside cabin had room for a nice "loveseat" sofa and little table which really made it feel roomier than many inside cabins. The bed was firm but still soft, and the decor was pleasing. The usual "welcome aboard" documents were in place. The suite was quite impressive - a lot of room to spread out and a HUGE balcony. 4) The ship itself is pretty nice. I particularly like the upper "sun dome" pool deck (which I didn't get to try out due to the short nature of this cruise) and the Crow's Nest lounge. The Crow's Nest in particular - I wish every ship had a lounge like this - it's perched right over the bridge and looks forward with some terrific views. Service was also very good in the Crow's Nest - something that stood out markedly from what we experienced everywhere else. Decor across the ship is well done and it's a pretty nice place to be. More upscale than a lot of ships. 5) The ship runs very quietly. There was no discernible engine noise other than a VERY faint hum. I only actually felt the boat "move" twice, both during sharp turns. Granted we weren't in "open seas" at any time, since the Puget Sound is pretty calm. 6) The food, once you could convince someone to bring some for you, was pretty good. I am sure the most discerning palettes would disagree, but I enjoyed the meals served in the Rotterdam dining room - a nice place! Good views out the rear and sides of the ship. The Lido ice cream parlor was also okay - not particularly premium ice cream, but hey, it's ice cream! (You just walk up and they give it to you! You probably know this! It still excites me though!) The food areas were open throughout the ship at the scheduled times, unlike some of the other services on this cruise. 7) We had room service deliver breakfast on Saturday morning at 9:30am, and it was very good. Hot food, well done, and delivered right on time with a smile. Top marks for room service. I also heard several others saying that room service was one of the highlights of the (longer 22) day cruise. 8) Victoria, our Saturday port of call, went very smoothly. Getting off the ship was easy and quick, as was getting back on. Transportation to downtown was cheap ($5) and readily available. Victoria is a great city to see and we had the entire day to see it - although since we had been here before we opted for about 6 hours and then returned to the ship for dinner, etc. -------------------- Here's the things that did not go so well: 1) We embarked at 3:00pm, which we were told repeatedly by communications from Holland America was the earliest time we could possibly get on board the ship. Turns out a good portion of passengers actually boarded about 12:00 with no problems at all, apparently oblivious to the fact that they weren't allowed to, and had time to get a nice lunch. Rather annoying, as we would have liked to have boarded earlier if someone had communicated this. Sometimes being oblivious pays off, I guess. 2) Upon arrival in our cabin, we discovered that the safe was broken. The safe operates by scanning a credit card through it, which locks it. Ours was not working, it just beeped. We tried over 10 different cards. We called the information desk, and they took some convincing, but reluctantly sent down someone to take a look. The lady that arrived then demonstrated by running her safe master key through about 20 times that the safe was working fine - which it was, with her key. I then showed her that it was not working with any actual credit cards - and of course her reaction was to say "you have a bad credit card". So I patiently explained and showed her that none of the other 10 cards we had worked either. Still not believing me, she took out one of her own, tried it, and VOILA - it didn't work. Finally convinced, she left and said she would send down a locksmith. 3) The locksmith arrived, verified that the safe wasn't working with credit cards, removed the safe door and disappeared. We left to look around the ship at that point, and it was reattached upon our return. It still didn't work or anything, but it was back. We just gave up at this point. Especially since we could just store things in the locking night stands, right? Which leads us to: 4) Both the locking nightstands were broken. One of them could simply not be opened, nor the key removed. The other one was jammed also. We were eventually able to get this second one to pop open by bending the key back to be semi-straight. Rather than having to deal with explaining another problem to the front desk again, we made due and kept our valuables in this for the cruise, carrying around the bent key and wrestling it open when necessary. 5) We called for an extra blanket on our second night of the cruise. It arrived quickly and with a smile. We went up to get some drinks in the Crow's Nest. Upon returning, the cabin had been entered and the blanket had been removed. Time elapsed: approximately 30 minutes. I still don't understand this- Did he think we just needed a blanket for a few minutes? It took another phone call and patient explanation to get our blanket back. 6) The "cabin directory" has information like phone numbers, room service menu, stationary, etc in it. Someone had spilled water on the phone number page, rendering it unreadable. I pointed this out to our cabin steward as a friendly "FYI" while leaving the room once. Upon our return, the entire directory had disappeared, never to return again- An innovative, if rather unhelpful solution. I kind of wanted one of the post cards they put in there too, so this was disappointing. 7) On the second evening, we returned after drinks to discover our radio was on, and would not turn off. It's built into the side of the cabin, and none of the buttons were working at all, nor was there any way to "unplug" it. We called to the front desk, and they suggested we just turn it off. This took another patient explanation. Eventually they rousted our cabin steward, who arrived and apologized for leaving the radio on, hit the button to turn it off, and turned to leave. Before he got out, we pointed out that the radio was still, in fact, on. He returned and did the "mash every button possible" dance we had done earlier, without any luck. He left with a promise to have a technician come down. When we returned from dinner and our evening a few hours later, the radio was still on. We called the front desk, and were put on hold for ~30 minutes. Someone finally picked up the phone, and hung up without saying a word. I was in the process of putting my shoes on to walk upstairs to complain when mysteriously, and with no visible trigger, the radio turned just turned itself off. Luckily it stayed that way. 8) A few more cabin nitpicks - all of which would have been completely overlooked if not for the service issues mentioned above. The sink had two settings: off and fire hose. The shower temperature fluctuated rapidly between "Refreshing and Warm" and "The Alaskan Iceberg Experience", which made for a rather musical showering experience. What looked like "dirt" started appearing in the toilet the night before departure. Flushing it to get rid of the dirt would actually get you even more dirt. (This was ship-wide, as it also affected those staying in the suite.) No idea what this was from - maybe the water tanks were running low? 9) Our party members staying in the suite reported a few anomalies also - only 2 of them had their names on the stationary and welcome champagne. The hide-a-bed was not turned down the first night, despite both an individual request to the cabin steward and a phone call asking that it be done. (The second day he asked if there were three of them staying in the room...) Apparently the entire "white glove" suite service was almost non-existent in the suite. The lady staffing the private lounge spent most of her time talking on the phone about her job worries to someone on the other end, and essentially ignored the first class guests actually in the lounge, much as you would expect from a New York convenience store clerk. In summary, mirroring our own experience, the cabin was nice but the service and coordination was just not there. The crew seemed only dimly aware that someone was actually staying there. Since they paid several hundred dollars more per person for this suite - you can imagine that they were expecting more than this. 10) Our cabin steward never did figure out that we had an 8:00 dinner reservation, not 5:30. He tried on both nights multiple times to come turn down the beds while we were getting ready, at which time we would explain again that we were not eating until 8:00, and may be using the room until then to get ready. He seemed absolutely crestfallen and mystified by this, but that wouldn't prevent him from trying again in half an hour. 11) Speaking of dinner reservations - this turned out to be a comedy of errors. We arrived the first evening at 8:00 which was our scheduled time, and I told the maitre d' that we were in table 47. Unfortunately, table 47 was already occupied. I thought maybe I had the wrong table, so I left to get our reservation card. Sure enough, we had 47. He was very friendly about it, but I got the impression that this sort of thing had never happened before, because he seemed entirely unsure what to do about it. He left for about 10 minutes, and finally returned with room for us against a window table. He told us that the next day we would be in table 17. On Saturday evening, we discovered we had been moved from table 17, and were now to sit at 46. We did so, and it was fine. But through the whole thing, it just seemed like they really had no idea what to do with us, as if we were somehow unexpected to show up for dinner? 12) As for dinner - As I mentioned above, dinner itself was pretty good. The issue I had was in the speed of the service - they really didn't seem to know what to do with us, and serving us took FOREVER. We did not get finished until 10:05 the first night, and 9:50 the second night. And we eat pretty quickly, too. The first night was 45 minutes between the time our salads arrived and the entree finally arrived. That's a long time to wait! At least the "bar server" was very quick; he refreshed our drinks many times during this period. 13) Entertainment on this cruise was comically bad. The show Friday night in the main showroom was so bad as to be funny. No amount of describing it can do it justice, but I will try anyway. Imagine about seven gals/guys in bright purple jumpsuits leaping across the stage doing various pirouettes with big silver balloons while singing "He sure plays a mean pinball". I felt bad for them- in-between my hysterical tears- because a few of them actually had nice voices. 14) Speaking again of entertainment, we had drinks and appetizers in the Crow's Nest during a scheduled "performance" time. There was a trio- keyboardist, singer, and "guy playing with amplifier". Their sole performance over the entire 45 minute period we were there was to say "Testing, 1-2-6, Testing, 1-2-6." into the microphone. They did this every few seconds, for the entire 45 minutes, and "guy playing with amplifier" was not happy. He never got happy, and so the singer would again repeat "Testing 1-2-6" while he frowned at things. They did provide a bit of campy entertainment in the speculation of why 1-2-6, particularly? Were 3-4-5 given the night off? Was 1-2-6 their cabin number? Did they require the proper sequenced response before they would actually sing something? It was a mystery. If you ever do see the 1-2-6 Trio, but sure to let me know if they actually ever play anything, they looked like they might be good. 15) We did not see the cruise director even once on this cruise. We only heard from him over the loudspeaker when he was announcing the mandatory lifejacket drill, or asking cabin numbers to come settle their bill, or when announcing departure numbers. Previous cruise directors have been MUCH more energetic and welcoming (as well as occasionally "visible"), and this guy gave the impression that he had just given up even trying. 16) There was not a SINGLE thing done for Mother's Day. No events, no announcements, no dinner desserts, No "Happy Mother's Day" in the ship notes, NOTHING. Whoever billed this as a Mother's Day cruise did not apparently get to talk to anyone on board the ship?? 17) From our inside cabin, there was a VERY loud metal crashing noise late the first night and again early in the morning that bolted me upright out of bed and genuinely concerned me. Turns out this was the apparently how they get the gangplank hatch opened (explosives, perhaps?) because it happened each time. So just fair warning that if you're on the lowest deck on the Veendam and don't react well to occasional loud noises, don't near get cabin 750. 18) The Casino was never open. In retrospect, I understand why since you need to be in international waters to do this, and we really never were. I think they should publicize this though. 19) The Shops and services did not open at all on Saturday. That means we had to do all our shopping immediately after boarding the cruise on Friday night. I presume this was due to the maintenance that was going on? Still pretty disappointing. 20) Due to the maintenance, there were areas of the ship that could overpower you with fumes. The paint fumes wafted up to the deck of the suite and ensured that we didn't spend more than about 30 seconds on the balcony while in Victoria. The cleaning agents used in the promenade deck had a similar effect. Even half of my favorite lounge the "Crow's Nest" had half of it's seats removed at one point. I recognize the need to do cleaning and maintenance, but when everything is being done at once it makes it pretty hard to find a "safe" spot. I imagine they were trying to get the ship ready for the Alaska season, but I will know better next time to beware of these short transit cruises for just this reason. 21) Disembarkation - This is a long section. I will summarize the general attitude of disembarkation as "OKAY PEOPLE, GET THE HELL OFF OUR SHIP!" The gloves were off now, you could tell. They wanted us gone, and they wanted us gone NOW! (Presumably so they could go home too.) The day before, we were given our debarkation number - 23. In other words, the rats in the ship's hold probably had a lower debarkation number than us. This was fine though, expected with an inside cabin. We aren't morning people and weren't anxious to rush out anyway. We packed up the night before and planned to rise about 7:15. It was to begin at 8:15am. At 7:20, while my gal was in the shower and I was still asleep, someone showed up at our room to "check the wet bar". He knocked a few times and then just marched right on it, ignoring the "privacy please" marker, turning on the lights, walking right by my gal who was wearing nothing but a hastily covered towel, and ignoring the fact that we did not even HAVE a wet bar. He glanced at something on the counter, grumbled something and then beat a hasty retreat. I don't know who he was, but this guy should get fired - he was VERY rude and definitely invaded our privacy. I wish I'd gotten his name. Then began the announcements from the cruise director, which consisted of an hour of nothing but calling off a number of cabins who had to come down and settle their accounts. This consisted of several hundred cabin numbers, which he would repeat every 5 minutes with more and more urgency. (".. and finally cabin 820. We strongly insist that you to come to the front desk. Now. Really.") You could tell he was tired. Finally, at about 8:20, they began disembarking, starting with number one. The instructions given us, which I will quote verbatim here, read as follows. "Holland America is concerned about the comfort of our guests, and would therefore like to invite you to remain in your cabin until your disembarkation number has been called. Please do not congregate in the public areas of the ship, as this will slow down the disembarkation process." We figured it would be about 10:00am for our number. So at 8:25, our cabin steward showed up, and was very concerned that we were still in our cabin. We explained to him that we were number 23, and would probably be there for some time. This alarmed him greatly, and he urged us to go upstairs to the Lido deck to get some breakfast, so that he could prepare the cabin for arriving guests. I said we'd be happy to, except that according to the schedule breakfast ended at 8:00. He assured us that breakfast was being served all morning, and we could remain on the Lido deck until our number was called. So we took our belongings, left the cabin and went up to the Lido deck where - SURPRISE! - breakfast was no longer being served. We were given a few sidelong glances by the crew who were obviously concerned with our "congregating" in public areas. At this point, we joined our suitemates (debarkation number ONE, but who were patiently waiting for us), and we decided that we had just been upgraded to first class. We marched off the ship together, ignoring requests for our debarkation number. 22) The pièce de résistance was parking. As mentioned, this was not a round trip cruise, it was one way from Seattle to Vancouver. We parked at the Seattle cruise ship terminal on Friday night, and took a train from Vancouver to Seattle to get back. After parking, we inquired to make sure that we would be able to get our car out on Sunday night. “Oh yes, it will be open at that time” we were assured by the port staff. It wasn’t. It was completely locked. We were fortunate only in that a man who had the same problem had arrived earlier and had finally managed to get the gate codes to let us out of the parking lot. Since the “dock area” of Seattle is not particularly known as a safe spot to be around 10:00pm on a Sunday night, we were very fortunate he was there. If you take a one way cruise from Seattle, and park at the cruise ship terminal, do NOT BELIEVE THEM if they say you will be able to get your car out of parking! Park somewhere else! I’d only park here again on a roundtrip cruise. --------------------- In summary, this was not Holland America at its finest. The combination of this being the "end-of-the-line" for most of it's crew, combined with the maintenance work being done, probably make this type of transit cruise one to avoid for the future. I don't think this cruise was representative of most Holland America cruises, but it could be representative of how badly things COULD go. Since a cruise line is only as good as its worst cruise, I have to give this one pretty low marks. We actually had a pretty good time, despite what this review may indicate - as most of our time was NOT spent dwelling on any of these problems - and as said earlier nothing by itself was too serious. It was just the combination that gave things a sour flavor. But our fun was in spite of service we received, not because of it. I definitely will be trying out some of the other cruise lines before venturing back out with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
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