1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Holland America Line
  4. Holland America Line Cruise Reviews

281 Holland America Seattle Cruise Reviews

Arrived in Seattle the day before embarking on the Rotterdam for our seven-day cruise to Alaska, via the inside passage. This was my 5th cruise to Alaska on as many cruise lines. Embarkation was a breeze. Absolutely smooth as glass. We ... Read More
Arrived in Seattle the day before embarking on the Rotterdam for our seven-day cruise to Alaska, via the inside passage. This was my 5th cruise to Alaska on as many cruise lines. Embarkation was a breeze. Absolutely smooth as glass. We were directed to our room and our luggage arrived about 2 hours later which was no problem. We enjoyed a cocktail on deck while waiting for the ship to sale. The first night of the trip was rather rough so I popped a couple Dramamine......oops! I was out like a light for about 13 hours. Be sure to check the milligrams on the label. The beds on the Rotterdam and very comfortable, much better than the beds on RCC. The service was excellent in every area of the ship. The Pinnacle Dining room was absolutely amazing. Literally the best steak I've ever had in my life. This is no joke. Here's where it gets a little dicey! The food in the Lido is mediocre to good, depending on what time you get there. I think the main problem is the way they have it set up. You don't just stand in line and go through and select what you want. They have various stations from which you get different courses. For instance, they have a line for "starters", a line for "Entrees", etc. It's inconvenient and everyone is crawling all over each other. One night we had dinner in the Italian restaurant, the Cannelloni, I think it's called. It was the pits! Service, as usual, was beyond excellent. Food was awful. Really the worst! It was truly the polar opposite of the Pinnacle Grill. The ports of call.......typically beautiful. The presentation at Hubbard Glacier was excellent, the gentlemen who boarded the ship to give history of the glacier, etc., were quite good and the whole glacier experience was wonderful. Our excursion in Sitka was the best of the best. Overall, the cruise on Holland America's Rotterdam was adequate. The service was top drawer, the food overall was very average (with the marked exception of the Pinnacle Grill which was great). The main disappointment on this cruise was the entertainment. It was by far the worst on any line I've experienced. The cruise director was a nice guy and did the best he could with what he had to work with. The other entertainers and emcees were just awful. They were condescending and disinterested. We made it through two shows and gave up!! Really bad. Getting off the ship was easy, no problem. Royal Caribbean has Holland America beat hands down in the entertainment area. Now on mattresses, they could take a lesson from HAL. Service on HAL was probably better than RCC. HAL beats Carnival, NCL and Celebrity and Princess without even trying. Overall, good. Not exceptional. Will go RCC next time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I wanted to catch your attention with the title and the introduction. Now I should mention that we are 65, but do enjoy having children on board and young adults around who were on board, thank goodness. The Rotterdam wasn't a ship ... Read More
I wanted to catch your attention with the title and the introduction. Now I should mention that we are 65, but do enjoy having children on board and young adults around who were on board, thank goodness. The Rotterdam wasn't a ship for the elderly by any means. Before I talk about the ship, I'd like to address the port of Seattle. Seattle - It is ridiculous what you are charging for parking. We have sailed out of Long Beach, San Francisco, San Diego, New Orleans, and Boston. No place is as expensive as Seattle, pier 91. It is uncovered and almost $150 for a week; shame on you Seattle. You must be trying to get even for our California bridge tolls. Alaskan ports Juneau - Get off the ship and take the $14 round trip bus ride to Mendenhall glacier. If you're a senior citizen and have the National Park Pass, it won't cost you to get in there or at Sitka sites or Ketchikan sites. The tour bus drivers have wonderful stories about the town, bears, what goes on during the long winters, etc. My favorite was about Walmart coming in and having to change their drug testing policy because they couldn't find 300 people in the whole town who could pass the test. You can take the city bus to the Alaskan Brewery which is lots of fun at the brewery and talking to the locals on the bus. Only $1.50 for the bus ride. Sitka - You can walk to National Park with the Totems, the Raptor Center, and don't miss the Bishop's House. Ketchikan - Plenty to do and see just walking around. If you have lots of money, of course, do misty fjords, etc. but you can still have great fun in Alaska on your own.Now for the Rotterdam. The ship was beautiful. Clean. Staff friendly and helpful. We had anytime dining, but the first night we liked our servers so much we requested table 162 at 8 for the rest of the cruise. We asked about the yum yum man and he was sent over to meet us. What a personable young fellow, who came to greet us every evening, and would see us on the ship and always stop to talk. We liked the food. Some was better than others. I wasn't crazy about the Lido, except the rum raisin and black walnut ice cream. Three o'clock tea with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam was grand. I don't know anyone who could turn his nose up at them. We enjoyed the musical entertainers. However, on the final night of the cruise there was a talent contest for the passengers that just blew us away. One young man should be on America's Got Talent. We are always amazed at the talented people in our midst. One negative note, the casino was the pits. Will we sail with Holland again? Statendam through the canal in November.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise ... Read More
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise (12-day Norway) and our first Costa Atlantica (Norway), out second Costa Atlantica cruise was a nightmare due to the rudeness of the passengers and the hopelessness of the staff. But I have digressed... AMBIANCE The Amsterdam impressed as a very relaxing venue for a vacation. As opposed to the frenetic pace seen on larger liners with a younger crowd, this ship's smaller size and the advanced age bracket of the passengers combined to make this a very mellow experience. No fighting crowds, no conga lines, and no loud bands around every corner. Just some real peace and quiet. While we were one of the younger couples aboard (late 50s), we really enjoyed it. However, if you like a lot of wild action, this ship may not be for you. FOOD and BEVERAGE We don't have very high expectations for cruise line food, however, we were very pleased with the Amsterdam's menu, variety, and taste. For those who are salt-sensitive, you can rest assured that salt is NOT the main ingredient in the Amsterdam's kitchen. The wait staff were very pleasant and the dining room captain arranged for us to have a special Indonesian menu on one night (most of the wait staff are either Indonesian or Filipino, so we just asked for the special meal). Holland America allows you to bring aboard your own wine (and champagne) and water, which saved us a ton of money. A wonderful policy. The Pinnacle Restaurant charges $25pp for dinner. We did this one night, and it was well worth it. ROOM We had a veranda suite, which was comfortable and well-maintained. It was about the same size as our mini-suite on the NCL Jade, although the balcony was larger. The decor was not flashy, again a plus. Having a DVD player in the room was a nice touch, and the Amsterdam has a large library for DVD checkouts. The Amsterdam has coin-operated laundry rooms throughout the ship. This was another great feature. FITNESS The fitness facility was not as large as on other ships we have been on, but it was large enough given the use by the (older) passengers. Again, it was very relaxing, without the blaring music typically had in some fitness venues. We worked out daily. SMOKING Holland America really has to move beyond catering to the 10% of the population that smokes. Ban it! We never stepped foot in the casino or the shopping plaza nearby the casino because of all the smoke. Holland America would earn more money from the 90% of the population that does not smoke if they banned it. That being said, we did not smell smoke in our cabin. We could smell it in the stairwell. PORTS of CALL & EXCURSIONS Our itinerary was fantastic, with the highlights being Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. On both of these "cruise-only" destinations, we had naturalists aboard that helped us understand the vistas we were seeing. We very much enjoyed the Mendenhall Glacier excursion as well. Alaska fjords are quite different that the Norway variety, and we enjoyed seeing the tidewater glaciers that are not present in Norway. EMBARK/DISEMBARK Very orderly. Very quick. High Marks! TRANSPORT We took our own cab from disembarkation to Seattle Airport. Tons of cabs lining up. Price was about the same as the bus that HAL would have supplied, but we got dropped off right at the airline door. SECRET TIPS 1. When in Anchorage, go to the top of the Hilton Hotel for a great view! 2. The on-board Microsoft training was free and a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an ... Read More
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an interior cabin, but this time I thought I'd treat my sister to a much deserved vacation and splurge a bit on the accommodations. Imagine my surprise when I realized that for just a few hundred dollars more than I'm used to paying for a solo inside or outside cabin, I was able to book an SB Deluxe Suite for the two of us on a 4-day Pacific Northwest itinerary on the Amsterdam out of Seattle. Seattle Pre- and Post-Cruise: Neither of us had ever been to Seattle, so we got to play tourist. I was able to gather a lot of useful information from the West Coast Departures board here at Cruise Critic. Using Hilton Honors points, I booked a room for one night before and one night after the cruise at the Hilton Hotel at 6th and University. The Hilton was within walking distance of most of the downtown attractions and transit stations. The morning of the cruise, we strolled through Pike Place Market and bought postcards for family and friends back home. On the way back to the hotel, we spotted the IGA Kress grocery store and each of us purchased a bottle of wine to take onboard with us. The IGA is less expensive than the specialty wine stores you find in the downtown area. The day we returned from the cruise, we checked back into the Hilton and got rid of our suitcases, then walked down to Westlake Center to catch the Monorail to the Space Needle. After coming back to Westlake, we walked to the Transit Tunnel on Pine and caught a bus to Pioneer Square. Taxi rides to and from Pier 91 ran us about $15 each way. If you're flying into Sea-Tac and staying at one of the downtown hotels, I recommend using the Grey Line Downtown Airporter. The shuttle costs about $25 round trip compared to $32 each way for a taxi. Embarkation: Embarkation at Pier 91 was easy and organized. This is where we experienced our first Deluxe Suite perk - priority embarkation. Deluxe Suite passengers had their own check-in window, and we were able to bypass the lines waiting to board the ship. Ship: This was my first time on the Amsterdam, but having previously sailed on some of HAL's R and S class ships, I was familiar with the overall layout and deck plan. Everything appeared to be spotless and in good working order. Cabin: The first words out of my sister's mouth when we opened the door of the suite were "I can't believe how big it is"! Our SB suite was probably twice the size of our hotel room in Seattle. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards, with a spacious shower. We made full use of the veranda, as well as the desk, sofa, coffee table, and bar area. There was more than enough drawer and closet space for even a 7 or 10 day cruise. Having the separate dressing room was helpful when we were getting ready to go out in the morning or before dinner. One of us could be in the bathroom while the other one was getting dressed or putting on make-up. Our cabin stewards were Dudi and Harris, and both of them were friendly, helpful, and efficient. Deluxe Suite Amenities: The concierges in the Neptune Lounge (Daphnae and Sienna) helped us with a shorex change, as well as ordering pre-dinner appetizers one night. It was nice walking down there for an early morning coffee and croissant or a quick mid-afternoon snack. Because of the short length of our cruise, we didn't take advantage of the free laundry service. The binoculars in the room were handy when we spotted a pod of whales one day within viewing distance of the ship. Deluxe Suite passengers are supposed to get breakfast served to them in the Pinnacle Grille. I knew from a another regular poster on the Cruise Critic HAL board that on the Amsterdam, breakfast for suite passengers is in the King's Room. I called the concierge to confirm this, and she said we had our own section in the main dining room. I was confused. So, the first morning, we went to the main dining room (Deck 5) where we could see passengers being seated. The waiter told us to go down to the lower level (Deck 4). The waiter on the lower level asked us our cabin #. He said since we were in a deluxe suite, we needed to go to the upper level! So back up the stairs we went. I think the original waiter was a bit chagrined at having banished us to the lower level. Anyway, it was very odd that our private dining area turned out to be the upper level of the main dining room. I really don't know why they even bothered. The Pinnacle Grille (or even the King's Room) would have been a bit special, but on our sailing that particular suite perk turned out to be very ordinary. Ports and Shore Excursions: Our itinerary consisted of a day at sea, Astoria, OR, Victoria, BC, and then back to Seattle. In both Astoria and Victoria, we took HAL shore excursions. The Historic Astoria & Fort Clatsop tour included stops at the Astoria Column, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and Lewis & Clark's winter camp. I was very surprised at how interesting the Maritime Museum was. I had no idea how dangerous the area is where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. In Victoria we took the Short City Drive and Butchart Gardens tour. The Gardens were spectacular. Originally I had booked the Victoria Walking Tour because HAL wasn't offering any excursions to Butchart Gardens, and neither was Grey Line. When we boarded the ship, I happened to glance at the shorex order form in our cabin and noticed that tours had been added, so I had the concierge exchange the tickets for me. I highly recommend both tours. They were interesting and informative, and it was a lot easier having someone else drive us around rather than trying to figure out on our own how to get to the various points of interest. Activities and Entertainment: It was a good thing I brought my sister with me and we had the veranda, because there was a real lack of onboard activities and entertainment on this cruise. We spent 3 afternoons sitting on the veranda drinking wine and watching the go by. The sea day was the only day there was a good mix of onboard activities to choose from. In Astoria and Victoria, it would have been nice to have something to do on the ship when we got back from our shore excursions. There was a lot of time to kill before getting ready for dinner at 8 pm. The first night's entertainment in the Queen's Lounge featured a ventriloquist. We didn't attend because it started before we were done with dinner. The second night was a Broadway production show with the HAL singers and dancers wearing Bob Mackie designed costumes. The costumes were gorgeous and definitely a cut above what you normally see in this type of show. Third night was another production show with the same group of singers and dancers that showcased songs from different rock eras. The last night's entertainment was a movie, which I thought was rather poor on HAL's part. With Seattle and Vancouver so close, I would have thought they could have brought in a comedian, or a piano player, or a singer to fill the bill. Rather than watch the movie, we went up to the Crow's Nest where a young woman playing a guitar was attempting to sing, but was not being very successful at it. Service: This ship had some service issues, which I attribute to the staff not being fully engaged in what they were doing. The cruise after ours was a 69-day Asia and Australia cruise, followed by the World Voyage. It seemed as though their mental energy was directed towards preparing for what was ahead of them rather than focusing on the task at hand, which was us. As an example, on the next to the last night, our wine steward announced that someone else would be filling in for him on the last night. The reason he gave was that he had to start working on the alcoholic beverage order for the World Cruise. His replacement on the last night told my sister he could no longer honor her wine card. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. My sister insisted that since she had purchased the wine card for this specific cruise and the cruise didn't end until the next day, he needed to bring her a glass a wine. In fairness to the wine steward, he said he would check with his supervisor and ended back up at our table with a glass of merlot in hand. An incident like the one I just related has never happened to me on any my previous HAL cruises. It can be very off putting to someone new to HAL and can leave a bad first impression. There were other instances where service just wasn't up to the usual HAL standards. Taken individually they may seem insignificant, but they add up and detract from the overall cruise experience. Food and Dining: We had late fixed seating in the upper level of the dining room and were seated at a 6-top with two married couples. They were a lot of fun and made dinnertime enjoyable and something to look forward to. I found the food to be average to good. The biggest drawback was a lack of appealing entrees on the dinner menu. With the exception of one night, when there were four entrees I was interested in, there just wasn't anything that jumped out at me. Our waiter was Aziz, who was unobtrusive with a dry sense of humor. We ate one lunch in the Lido, which I find to be madness and mayhem since HAL did away with the trays and organized everything into individual stations. I don't like having to forage for my food. Disembarkation: Since we weren't flying home the same day we disembarked, there was no rush to get off the ship. We hung around our cabin until a little after 9:00 am, and then walked off and picked up our luggage. My sister commented on how nice it was not to have to sit in one of the public areas for hours waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. Just like embarkation, the process was smooth and organized. Things we didn't have/didn't get on this cruise - Master Chef's Dinner (thank God for small favors!), formal night, commemorative tiles, postcards of ship, Baked Alaska, and lobster (not even a prawn in lieu of a lobster tail). I didn't realize until I returned home that I didn't get a postcard. I keep a cruise book where I put a picture postcard of each ship along with my room key. I'm sure one of the cabin stewards or the concierge could have found one for me if I had asked. Summary: Overall a nice, short, relaxing cruise with an interesting itinerary. You can't beat a Deluxe Suite, which, along with the ports, was the highlight of this cruise for me. Food, activities and entertainment, and the staff's full engagement were somewhat lacking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was my first cruise on Holland America. All my other cruises have been Royal Caribbean or one of it's subsidiaries. The best thing about Holland America was it's expedited disembarkation. If you take your own bags, get ... Read More
This was my first cruise on Holland America. All my other cruises have been Royal Caribbean or one of it's subsidiaries. The best thing about Holland America was it's expedited disembarkation. If you take your own bags, get off early and don't have transportation arranged by the cruise line, you can get off early without sitting around waiting for your group to be called, and don't have to put your bags out the night before. We really, really liked that. We also liked the tour of the ship's kitchen that was open to everyone, not just the privileged few. The ship had self-service laundry facilities on three decks. For an Alaska cruise, it was nice that there is a cover over the pool that could be closed. It made the pool area much more useful. They had a demonstration kitchen with a guest chef that prepared four different dishes on the trip. The items in the gift shop were moderately priced, but that might have been because it was toward the end of the season. The buffet was well done with nice wrap options for lunch and made to order omelets for breakfast. The bad points were beverage choices, over-amplification, endless sales pitches, limited ports, entertainment and dining. There were only two choices in diet sodas, plus fountain iced tea from syrup rather than fresh brewed. You need to bring earplugs because sound was way over-amplified--almost to the point of pain--in the showroom, the bar, and virtually anywhere a microphone was used. Every time you turned around, someone was trying to sell you something, but this really isn't unique to HAL but endemic in the cruise industry. We had done an Alaska cruise previously on Celebrity. This cruise had much less time in port. It was rarely more than half a day in any port, and we missed Victoria completely due to weather conditions. I know, that isn't the cruise line's fault. The entertainment was not very good. Trying to do Vegas style seems to be a losing proposition on cruises. We really liked the cabaret format on the Azamara Quest. The option seating option in the dining room didn't really work all that well. Unless you made a reservation ahead of time, you often had to wait for a table. Once we were even given a pager and had to wait in the lounge upstairs. The food and desserts for the most part were just good. While a dessert might look spectacular, the taste was just OK. The stateroom with a verandah was average. We were upgraded to a Spa room. That got us yoga mats (unused), a in-room water feature (a table top waterfall) that was mostly unused as it took up the only electrical outlet available, which was most often used to recharge something. We also got some upgraded bathrobes, which were really nice and some bottles of vitamin and mineral waters. Those were given to our travel mates. In general, it is nothing we would pay anything extra for and didn't really consider it an upgrade, just a gimmick.The service was generally OK, but not great, except for Juli in the dining room. I did find that the Indonesian crew members were very cheerful and friendly. The ship itself was nice, but of course there is a certain sameness about all of them. We did have a room (6124) right next to the elevators and stairway but didn't hear any untoward noise due to our location. Getting on and off the ship was well handled at all ports, not just disembarkation. There was a line at embarkation, but it moved quickly. The only problem was standing in a long line in the rain in Ketchikan. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
The wife and I have been on 5 cruises and this was not the best but it was very good. Boarding in Seattle: This was easy. Very small lines. We quickly go on board. One complaint, there was nobody to help me out with our luggage. First ... Read More
The wife and I have been on 5 cruises and this was not the best but it was very good. Boarding in Seattle: This was easy. Very small lines. We quickly go on board. One complaint, there was nobody to help me out with our luggage. First impressions: The ship was nice but showing wear. The help was friendly and helpful. The welcome aboard lunch was not good. We hoped this was a fluke and not the norm. The Cabin: The cabin was good but not great. bed was comfortable. The cabin steward was outstanding. The cabin always was clean and filled out request for another pillow and blanket immediately. closet space was laid out in a inefficient way. The bath tub was nice. The cabin was showing wear, the carpet was clean but had some stains. The Food in the main dinning room: Very good sometimes excellent. Lots to choose from. wait staff anticipated our needs and made sure that our needs were met. My wife had wine with dinner. It was overpriced but the wine steward was good at making suggestions. We dinned at the 8pm dinner service. This presented some scheduling conflicts with after dinner activities. Food in the Lido buffet: Spotty some times good sometimes bad never excellent. The food was displayed well and the lines were short. Pools and such: This is were holland America fell short. the pools were nice but the closed early and there were kids in the adult pool. they closed after 9 PM. Drinks: The drinks were not to expensive. There is happy hour at different times in the bars. This makes the drinks very reasonable. Standouts: Randall Powel in the piano bar was great. We had great fun. Cigar smoking on the fan tail Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time ... Read More
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time cruising on Holland America. Embarkation was easy. Disembarkation was delayed, which was not good for those waiting to catch flights. Stateroom was adequate, lots of storage. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido restaurant and dinner in the main dining room. Food generally good. Restaurant stewards Aziz, Miduk and Benyamin were exceptional; Benyamin always had a smile on his face. We enjoyed the ports of call, especially the ones we hadn't visited before. The Hubbard Glacier was awesome. Diane in the piano bar was absolutely a joy, and the Neptunes were great. Bruce the cruise director was professional and obviously knew his job. Loved the Explorations cafe and the library. Now for the downside: the ship needs an overhaul. The grout was falling off the tiles in our shower stall the entire trip. We got locked out of our room and had to wait several hours for a locksmith. The railings fell off the walls in 2 of the elevators, and one elevator malfunctioned repeatedly. Carpet is worn in some public areas. 2 public bathroom stalls and 2 washing machines were out of service when the cruise began, and a worker told me the toilets had been out since the last cruise; "the plumber couldn't get a part". In Seattle?! There was also a lingering sewage smell on our deck. We had 2 nights of extremely slow service in the dining room; one caused a medical problem, as one of us takes medication that requires food, and waiting for over an hour for the entree to arrive wasn't acceptable. The singer, Ashley, for the Halcats, was not good. She can't sing, which is bad enough, but she didn't know most of the music or how to interact with the guests. The band leader had to constantly cue her, and he left the ship at the end of the cruise. I don't blame him. The presence of cigarette smoke was pervasive; it came from the staterooms, the casino,(which isn't enclosed) and the bars. Not only is it a health hazard, it's a fire hazard, and so irritating that it would be enough to keep us from this line again. The children on the ship need to be better supervised; one of them broke a glass in the Lido pool, necessitating its draining and preventing its use for almost 2 days. An adults-only pool would be nice, as the kids tended to take over the pool, and their parents were AWOL. One other thing, which has nothing to do with Holland America's service; the clientele is mostly elderly, so be prepared for lots of walkers, scooters, and delays. We had an older person with us, and she could have given lessons to some of the seniors on how to act; they were sometimes rude and very inclined to think of the ship as "theirs". Overall a good experience, we would consider sailing on Holland America again. But there do need to be some improvements, most notably in the area of smoking policies. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My family and I just returned from a 7 day Alaskan cruise on the Oosterdam. As 1st time cruisers we had a wonderful time. The scenery of Alaska can not be matched. We flew into Seattle, WA on Saturday and stayed one night at the Fairmont ... Read More
My family and I just returned from a 7 day Alaskan cruise on the Oosterdam. As 1st time cruisers we had a wonderful time. The scenery of Alaska can not be matched. We flew into Seattle, WA on Saturday and stayed one night at the Fairmont Olympic in downtown Seattle. On Sunday we meet the Holland America representative at 9 a.m. Sunday morning in the lobby. The porter brought down our luggage to the Holland America area and it was transported directly to the ship. No muss no fuss. We took a charter bus at noon and arrived at about 12:30 p.m. We entered the cruise ship terminal and lined up for the MV Oosterdam. There were a lot of people at the terminal as two ships were loading that Sunday, the above mentioned Oosterdam and the Sapphire Princess. We wound our way through the lines and eventually walked aboard. We entered the ship on the 3rd deck and were directed to the Lido deck on the 10th deck for a lunch buffet. During lunch it was announced that we could go to our cabins at 1:30 p.m. We went to our starboard cabin finding it set up with a king bed (as ordered) and the sofa converted into a bed for our child. Flowers were placed on the coffee table as well as a iced bottle of Champagne. A bowl of fruit was delivered the next day. We were on the Navigation Deck (9th deck) just below the Lido deck and the pool area. We had a large balcony with 2 chaise lounges, 2 chairs and a table. The luggage arrived by 4:00 p.m. embarkation. We cruised into the Pacific at about 8:00 p.m. passing Port Angeles, WA. For the first night we had dinner in the Vista Dining room, although the ship had a fourth of July BBQ near the Lido deck pool. On the first night's dinner we shared a table with 3 others and got to meet some interesting fellow passengers. The table was set with white linen table cloth, fine china and silverware. The waiter and busboy were great, attentive but not to oppressive in the service. Although we were tired from getting to the ship we did not go to sleep right away as the sun did not go down until after 10:00 p.m. When we returned to our stateroom we found that the beds had been turned down and chocolates had been placed on the pillows. Monday was a full cruise day as we headed for Glacier Bay. Our child went to Club HAL that morning and every day thereafter and had a great time. We toured the ship and my wife learned about the cooking demonstrations/lessons in the Queen's Theater but found out that the class was full. It had been booked by fellow passengers to capacity before sailing! (A lesson learned for our next cruise) Tuesday we arrived at Glacier Bay. The ship slowed went by the glaciers and the captain turned to allow starboard and port side passengers to view. On Wednesday we made out first Port of Call to Juneau, AK. We booked shore excursions through the ship and had a great time visiting the Mendenhall Glacier. On Thursday we stopped at Sitka. Earlier the movie theater had shown The Proposal which was allegedly set in Sitka. The shots of what they called Sitka was not Sitka. I latter learned that Rockport, MA was used as a stand in. On Friday we stopped in Ketchikan, the Salmon Capital of United States. We toured the Totem Bight State Park and had a fascinating lecture about the totem poles. On Saturday we arrived in Victoria, B.C. knowing that the trip was soon to end. The ship left at 11:30 p.m. and we arrived back in Seattle at about 6:00 a.m. Two nights of the cruise were designated as "formal" nights. On one night we made reservations at the Pinnacle Grill and had a wonderful dinner. In the Pinnacle Grill you pay a surcharge of $20 per adult for a meal equal to Ruth's Chris or Morton's. Every morning we went to the Gym and used the treadmills. After all we had to get some exercise with all that great food available. The Gym was very full most mornings. I guess other passengers were thinking along the same lines. Of note, we signed up for luggage direct, which for a fee of $19 per passenger Holland America would confirm our flight home and print the boarding pass. They also gave us luggage tags for all our baggage. Once in Seattle we were allowed to disembark early but no later than 8:30 a.m. We joined 18 others on the chartered bus to SeaTac airport. What was real cool was that we were taken to a special area in the air cargo area of the airport which had it own TSA center. It took less than five minutes to clear TSA security versus the 25 minutes it took for others. A airport shuttle took us to the main terminal before 10:00 a.m. and we made our flight with time to spare. You must sign up for the luggage direct program by Thursday. I am very happy we did sign up and found it very convenient to be directed to a special security check in area. As we are no longer newbie's cruisers, we are really looking forward to our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We are a couple, age 59 and 73 on sailing date. We are not late night people, but are often still going at 11:00. We sailed the Amsterdam 14-night Alaska cruise from June 14 to 28 (with an extra day at each end arranged through HAL at the ... Read More
We are a couple, age 59 and 73 on sailing date. We are not late night people, but are often still going at 11:00. We sailed the Amsterdam 14-night Alaska cruise from June 14 to 28 (with an extra day at each end arranged through HAL at the Sheraton Seattle). This was our first cruise on HAL and had very high expectations based on all of the comments on Cruise Critics. To put things in perspective, we have included a list of our cruises. 14 day HAL Amsterdam Alaska, 14 June 2010 Celebrity Equinox, 10 day Eastern Caribbean, 4 December 2009 Independence OTS, 14 day Western/Eastern Caribbean b2b, 12/08 Jewel OTS, 14 day Western/Eastern Caribbean b2b, 12/07 Brilliance OTS, 11 day Panama Canal. 12/06 Crystal Harmony, 12 day Alaska, r/t San Francisco, 6/05 Island Princess, 10 day Panama Canal, 3/04 Brilliance OTS, 10 day Southern Caribbean, 12/02 Celebrity Summit, 10 day Eastern Caribbean, 12/01 Voyager OTS, 7 day Western Caribbean, 12/00 Majesty OTS, 4 day Bahamas, 8/00 We chose this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship and have no regrets. Although we had a very good cruise, our high expectations were not met. The service we received in the dining room and the cabin was not nearly as good as on Celebrity (or even Royal Caribbean). The food in the dining room was comparable, but the Lido was a step below. The Pinnacle was excellent (both food and service). I won't comment further on the food, since our dining restrictions don't apply to most people. From our arrival in Seattle to our departure, the weather was outstanding. We had no rain (at least at any time that we were out and about). The seas were calm throughout. We got to see much more of the magnificence of Alaska than on our previous cruise. We arrived in Seattle on Sunday evening, were met by a HAL representative, and transported by taxi to the Sheraton. In the morning, we gave our bags to the bellman and they were delivered to our cabin onboard, saving a lot of hassle. We were bussed to the ship around noon and our cabin was ready. We quickly discovered W T Greer in the piano bar. He played non-stop every night from 9 to well after 11 (we never stayed up late enough to know when he stopped). Over two weeks, less than 10% of his songs were repeats. Unfortunately for the rest of you, he was just a fill in on this cruise and left the ship when we did. The young lady who served drinks at the piano bar was unobtrusive, but attentive, even though we rarely ordered anything. We sailed the inside passage from Seattle. We awoke on Tuesday to trees that we could almost touch. About 40 attended our Meet and Greet in the Crow's Nest that afternoon. A much smaller group made it for a farewell on the last sea day. We just walked around in Ketchikan. We took the Sea Otter excursion through HAL in Sitka and saw a lot of wild life. In Skagway, we road to Emerald Lake with Dyea Dave. That was a great day-long tour. We had lunch at the Cinnamon Cache, which unfortunately closed when the owner retired at the end of June. Dave was ready to spend an extra hour or more showing us other sites around town, but we had a commitment on the ship at 5:00. After sailing Glacier Bay on Saturday and across the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday, we cruised into Anchorage early Monday morning. We saw more than a dozen whales Sunday evening sailing up Cook Inlet. We had gambled a lot of money ($750) on the weather, having booked a 3-hour flightseeing tour with Rust's to Denali and Mt. McKinley. This was fantastic. Although there were a lot of clouds near Anchorage, the sky was clear by the time we got to Denali. In Homer, I took the free shuttle over to the Spit. We had a short tour of Kodiak with Bonnie. The Captain got us very close to Hubbard Glacier, which calved often for us. We did Whale watching in Juneau with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises. There were only 19 of us in a boat that seated about 50. We got very close to many whales and sea lions. I have some photos of tails and dorsal fins, as well as many humps. Since we didn't get to Victoria until 4:00 PM and both of us had colds, we decided to skip the excursions there. (Note that next year, this cruise is in Victoria all day.) We had dinner in an almost deserted main dining room at the early seating. They did not adjust dining schedules on late nights in port other than to say if you wanted to come to late dinner (8:00), they would try to accommodate you. Formal nights were Tuesday, the first sea day; Saturday, Glacier Bay; Wednesday, Kodiak; and Friday, Juneau. The Master Chef's Dinner was Saturday, the last sea day. Lastly, here are a few positive and negatives comparing this cruise to our last one on the Celebrity Equinox. None of these were big enough to detract from a very good cruise. The Amsterdam had much better storage in the cabin, but not nearly as good a bathroom. The water temperature in the shower constantly alternated between warm and hot. There were too many hours when the Lido was closed and no place to get food other than room service. The English language skills of many of the staff, particularly in the Lido, were inadequate. The windows had not been washed on the outside in a while, and remained dirty throughout, detracting from the magnificent views (unlike the Equinox where they were constantly washing windows). The Amsterdam's fresh squeezed orange juice and free cappuccino were a definite plus. The elevators were much faster and more conveniently placed on HAL. In summary, we had a very enjoyable cruise and would likely choose this ship and itinerary if we do Alaska again. But, unless we find another great itinerary on HAL, we are more likely to sail with Celebrity or Royal Caribbean next time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL ... Read More
Having always wanted to go to Alaska we selected this 14 day cruise for its itinerary and we were not disappointed. The scenery, the ports of call, the glaciers, the excursions, all surpassed our expectations. We had not cruised with HAL before but based on the reviews on CC we had high expectations. Unfortunately these were not met as the little things, as well as one major disappointment, mounted to spoil an otherwise fantastic two weeks. Our major disappointment was food related. We consider the MDR times for Breakfast and Lunch to be really restrictive and were often forced to use the Lido buffet for lunch. This was disorganised, poorly staffed and contained unimaginative selections. And was invariably cold, assuming of course that they hadn't run out of the item you wanted. Our minor gripes were that the MDR staff seemed incapable of putting the right plate in front of the right person or on occasion of serving the courses in their right order. We never and I mean never got exactly what we ordered for breakfast in our cabin. On another occasion, despite two requests, our ice bucket was not filled. Had to drink warm champagne! The hotel manager did not give us the courtesy of a reply to a letter we wrote to him and therein lies the crux; poor management. Having said all that, and I am sorry to have taken so much space, the good things outweighed the poor. Check in and disembarkation were quick and easy. We found the Amsterdam to be clean and attractive and very easy to navigate around. Our stateroom was fine, the bed being very comfortable We enjoyed the food in the MDR. The bar staff were excellent and generally speaking the room stewards and dining staff were friendly, cheerful and competent. The entertainment was excellent and we enjoyed the dancers and singers, Diane the piano lady, the string quartet and the Halcats band. The itinerary was fabulous. We enjoyed all the ports with the exception of Kodiak which we skipped due to heavy rain. Of the ports not reviewed Homer was great. Although we stayed on the Spit there is enough of interest there and the local brew in the Salty Dawg was excellent indeed, as was the bar. Try the Scottish Ale. We enjoyed a drive to Whittier from Anchorage although it rained and rained. The visits to Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier were highlights of an already memorable cruise. Although we didn't get the best of the weather it didn't put a dampener on our enjoyment of the scenery or the wildlife. I suspect we will not sail HAL again, mainly because our idea of eating times is hugely at variance to theirs and because the micro management is poor. Personally I do not think that uniformed officers should smoke in public areas as it is not a good image. We have lots of the world still to see but I hope that one day we will return to Alaska. If it had not been for the persistent irritations I would have rated this cruise a 5 but a 4 it is! Sorry. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research. Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on ... Read More
I like breaking my review into sections rather than day-by-day so that you can peruse what is most interesting/relevant for your research. Overall: We had a great trip and loved HAL, Alaska, and all of the people we met on board or on excursions. I entitled my review (and included) lessons learned not to complain, but to help others in their research. While I was researching Alaska, I had a lot of this advice available to me (and listened to most of it) but made choices based on our entire group and what I thought was right for us based on our travel preferences and history. There were SEVERAL things I would have done differently if I had it to do over. But overall I would say that this was a fantastic trip and I would HIGHLY recommend Alaska, HAL, and the Oosterdam to all! Thanks to all of the Cruise Critic family for your help in planning our trip! About Us: A family group ranging from 20s to 80s. First Time for HAL and Alaska! We set sail on the Oosterdam out of Seattle on June 13th, 2010. Ports of Call were Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. - with a day of scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park. Some first time cruisers, most of us have a couple of cruises under our belts on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We are from Colorado and Wyoming. Comparisons of HAL with CCL & RCI: This was a topic I was very interested in myself. As usual there are more similarities than differences, but HAL shone in several areas above the previous cruise lines. Food a. MDR: HAL definitely won out in the main dinning room and the lido buffet over other lines, but especially in the seafood area (salmon, shrimp, lobster tails), as these were plentiful in selection and reliably good to great. Beef was very similar to Carnival and below par to RCI, which we feel, is RCI's food strong suit. The hours for MDR for breakfast and lunch are miniscule so plan ahead to eat here. We had anytime dining and this worked well for our Alaska schedule but I missed having the same waiter. We never had anyone fantastic enough to warrant a special request for his or her section. It was also difficult to remember everyone when it came to give extra tips at the end. Lesson: If you are anytime dining - tip a small amount extra in cash on the table each night that way no one misses out. b. The Pinnacle Grill (we ate here twice for dinner) was very good but only slightly better than the Main Dinning Room for seafood (lobster tail, shrimp, and salmon) while the beef was worth the $20 surcharge. Of the filet minon, ribeye, and ny strip steak, the ribeye was the standout. The Golden Fleece Super Club on Carnival is much better in terms of both service and food quality - however, it is a $35 surcharge - so that may not be a fair comparison. Lesson: Eat Beef here for your money's worth. Drinks a. Compared to CCL and RCL the drinks here are MUCH better - stronger, hand mixed, better selection (can you say Mojito!) and the cocktail card, which was given to us by our travel agent, worked really well for us (especially since it was complimentary). We would not get a cocktail card usually though, because the drink prices are just so darn reasonable. There was only one cocktail waitress (who shall remain nameless) in the Queen's lounge who was extremely rude about the cocktail card and always forgot our drinks and gave us constants scowls and eye rolls. The only negative to this was that we loved the Queen's lounge and were there a lot and as she was so rude to my Grandma we were all reluctant to order drinks here. However she was an absolute exception to all of the other drink servers who were fantastic! Service We had heard a lot about the quality of service on HAL surpassing other lines. This is absolutely true. The staff was all soooo friendly and engaging and helpful. This is a definite stand out for HAL and as we were doing a family trip with many different age groups and abilities - this was the absolute right choice for us. I swear my Grandma had a smile plastered on her face 95% of the time (see Queen's lounge waitress above). You will be spoiled all week by smiling and cheerful faces. Live Music The quality and availability of live music on board was excellent! We absolutely loved this! We thought that Jenny and the HALcats were a blast. We loved the Neptunes and the Adagio Strings. The piano bar was also fun but needed to have less trivia and more sing along time. There was definitely something for everyone here. Ports of Call/Excursions: 1. Cruising Glacier Bay National Park: We definitely endured extra costs and scheduling constraints to make this a part of our cruise, as there are limited permits into this area. WORTH IT!!!! Although I have not been to Tracy Arm or Hubbard - this may have been one of my favorite days. We saw 4 Glaciers (several calving events), probably about 20 whales, seals and eagles on icebergs, Dahl porpoises and beautiful scenery. I would rate this as a 10 out of 10 - it far exceeded my expectations (I thought it would be boring). Lesson: Hold out for Glacier Bay on your itinerary. 2. Juneau: As we had a 13-hour call here, our plan for Juneau was to go fly-fishing all day with Luke of Sea Runner Guide service that operates out of the Juneau Fly fishing shop. My husband loves to fly fish and he has always wanted to go in Alaska. We knew that July was a better month for this, but with a family trip and his brother's wedding in mid July we thought we would give it a try anyway. Even though salmon aren't in the streams in June this is prime time for Dolley Varden and since it is catch and release we were just looking forward to having some fun fly-fishing in scenic Alaska. Luke was on time at our meeting place and took us to Auke Bay to get the boat - we saw lots of humpbacks and eagles en route to the site. As we got closer, the water became extremely rough and he said that there was a storm coming in and we would have to turn back or we might get stuck. He said that because of the time of year that there were really no other options for places to go for fishing. He took us back to the fly shop. We were out with him about 2 ½ - 3 hours total. The fly shop refunded our entire fee and apologized. We were not unhappy with them but severely disappointed, as this was our expensive big ticket Alaska item. We had backup plans of course, but were soooo disappointed that we went back the ship and ate lunch to regroup and find a plan B, such as the shuttle to Mendenhall or taxi to the Brewery. We ate and couldn't rally so we went to the spa for massages (great package) and to hang out in the Thermal Suite. It was nice and relaxing with great scenery - especially because we were both SO depressed. Others in our group did the Grand Tour of Juneau through the ship (Glacier, Gardens, Salmon Hatchery) and loved it - they thought the Glacier and Gardens were spectacular where the hatchery was so-so. Lesson: If we could do it over again we would have booked a tour that did a Glacier walk or at least stop at the visitors center and combine with a whale watch - for the cost of fishing we could have done these two things which are much more reliable, recommended on these boards, and representative of things you can see in Alaska and not in Colorado/Wyoming. I should have realized this, but I hope it will help future cruisers. I would rather know that we are going to get to do something fun than take the chance that if everything falls into place we might have a fantastic experience. We loved Juneau and would consider this as a week long stop for a future trip. We are also hoping in the future to do a fly fishing trip to a more northern part of Alaska. 3. Sitka We walked around town in the morning and saw the Russian Bishop's House, St. Michael's Cathedral, and shopped. In hindsight, I would have gone to the Park first (we ran out of time and could not go) and then if we had time visited these two stops. I despise shopping in port and only did this to accommodate the shoppers in our group ;). I do not want to spend time in Alaska in a store. In the afternoon we took a three-hour marine wildlife watching tour with Captain Davey. This was fantastic - we wish that we could have booked the four-hour tour but it was taken over 8 months in advance, so book as early as you can for this one. Because of the three-hour tour we had to pick between puffins and whales - be upfront with Davey and let him know your preference - we went with puffins as we had already seen a bunch of whales in Juneau and Glacier Bay, but it would have been nice to do both. I cannot say enough about Davey - he made it really special and my Grandma and Mom had the best time - he was really good at questions and such a knowledgeable and passionate guy. One of the reasons we chose this sailing was the opportunity to stop at Sitka - which turned out to be the most authentic of any of our calls. Lesson: Book popular independent tours AS SOON AS you know your date. Even an 8-hour call is short enough that you need to plan your time very carefully. If others in your group refuse to do so - make your own plans without them! 4. Ketchikan Hubby, MIL, and I booked with Ken of Northern Lights as our trip was in Primetime King Salmon season. Ken picked us up right at the pier and we went out on his boat, which was parked right next to the ship. He took us out to see an eagle, which would catch fish that he threw in the air. He warned us that the Orcas had been in the bay three days before and that the Salmon were being a little weird the day before and he only caught 1 King, 1 Halibut, and 1 Rockfish. We went out several places and were excited to see the king salmon jumping out of the water everywhere the whole time we were out. Ken and his buddies kept in contact all day and basically no one was having any luck including us. Hubby got one bite, which dropped the hook. That was the only action we saw. Ken worked so hard for us to get a fish and we could tell that he felt so bad that we did not have any better luck. He said that it was incredibly rare for him to not get a fish at this time in the season and that he wished we would have not gone out. He also said that he would tell the people tomorrow that maybe they should go hiking or to Saxman instead. As this was a very short call (6 hours) by the time we got back we just had time to make a loop around the shops and get back on board. No fish the entire trip - what a let down! See Lesson from Juneau. If we could do it over again we would have gone to Saxman. 5. Victoria, B.C. Another short (6 hour) call. To add to that we were about an hour late getting into port (but at least we didn't get in at 9pm like last week). Knowing the common complications of this port we booked the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens all together, mainly so that Grandma could see it (I thought it would be boring!). Getting off the ship was a cluster**** and took almost an hour (excuse me but there is nothing else strong enough to describe it). By the time we got to the Gardens we only had 1 hour and 30 minutes to see it. That was kind of a let down because this place was AMAZING!!!!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT! Totally worth it! I could easily spend all day here. We had to rush but I would highly recommend it! Lesson: Booking the ships tour was worth it for this short and often shortened port of call. Entertainment: Shows were pretty similar quality to other ships, but I thought the themes were a lot more interesting (movies, Broadway, ballroom dancing) and relevant to pop culture than other ships I have been on. We also sometimes opted for the Spa or Live Music at night - a mix of these was perfect for us. The Ventriloquist and Magician were just fantastic - best shows I have seen at sea - hands down! Oosterdam: Great ship, all of our cruises have been on ships of this general size and we really like it - enough going on not to get bored, but small enough to get the layout down quickly and have quaint, relaxing areas to gaze at the sea. Until 11pm there was lots to do, after wards, really only the casino and northern lights, but for us that was plenty! Equipment: We bought Nikon Trailblazers ($125) and Bushnell Perma Focus ($50) binocs - both 10x 50 both Fog free/waterproof and were glad to have them. The Monarchs are of noticeably better quality but for the difference in price and how often we use binoculars this was a good choice for us. As for cameras we have a nice Panasonic with a 12x optical zoom with interchangeable lens and filters and a small Canon. We bought a few filters and such for this trip, but I regret that we did not take the plunge and buy the SLR camera we have been drooling over. We brought lots of cards, extra batteries, and our Dell mini to unload the cards frequently and we used everything we brought. Lesson: If you are considering upgrading your camera before this trip - DO IT. Also: keep your binocs (everyone should have their own) and camera on you all the time - it's worth lugging them around - trust me! Pre/Post Cruise Seattle: Port Choice: We chose this itinerary for several reasons - we wanted Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Victoria. Also we wanted to be able to fly nonstop from Denver due to one in our group being wheelchair bound and having extreme difficulty flying and especially transferring planes (we almost always miss our connection or have a terrible experience with the aisle chair). Port of Seattle: No HAL porters! Grandma had to haul her luggage all the way - Princess porters were everywhere. BOO to HAL for this! The Trade off: The first day at sea was the worst I have ever experienced - strong motion for about 24 hours straight - it's a good thing there are handrails in the shower! We knew that this was a possibility and took Bonine a couple of days before and were lucky enough not to get seasick. Others in our group did NOT take this precaution (or used Dramamine) and were sea sick for about a day and a half. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Lesson: Prepare your self by taking seasick meds ahead of time! Flights: We flew direct from Denver on Alaskan Airlines for $180 each RT with taxes - Great Value. Great airline! Some in our group flew Delta from Wyoming and had to connect - their connection was canceled and their flight delayed - glad we flew in a day early or they would have missed the ship. Delta also lost their bags on the way home. Lesson: Fly in the day ahead ESPECIALLY if you have a connecting flight. Hotel: We price lined a 4 star in down town and won the Grand Hyatt on Pine Street for $95/room. LOVED this hotel! Close to Pikes Place and beautiful accommodations. They even let us check in early at 11am! Great service and great location! Luxurious rooms! Lesson: Priceline and Downtown are good choices for Pre Cruise Seattle. Transportation: Used a mix of cabs and town car services. Nothing fantastic and cabs were pricey! Lesson: We did not plan ahead and wished we had prearranged the same town car service (and preferably a better one) for all of our transportation. Sights: Pike Place, Etta's, Space Needle, Hiram Chittenden Locks. All fun - could have spent the whole time at the Market and would definitely do a food tour next time! Did not have enough time to ride the ferry system or do the wineries, but will make time next time! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
My husband and I enjoyed our 30th wedding anniversary by taking a cruise on the Rotterdam to Alaska. Being new to cruising we were grateful for all the ideas we received by cruising cruise critic first. I can't imagine embarking on a ... Read More
My husband and I enjoyed our 30th wedding anniversary by taking a cruise on the Rotterdam to Alaska. Being new to cruising we were grateful for all the ideas we received by cruising cruise critic first. I can't imagine embarking on a cruise without it. We opted to use the Park, Stay, and Sail aweigh package with the Bellevue Hilton. It was well worth it to us to have someone else take care of the driving, etc. The cost was less than paying for a hotel room and parking for a week at the pier. We had zero hassle embarking - the hotel had a driver drop us off, a porter grabbed our stuff, and we were inside before we knew it. We arrived at 11:15 am and were on the ship by 11:30! We explored the ship, had lunch at the Lido, and enjoyed people watching until the rooms opened up about 2PM. With only one or two exceptions the public rooms were spotless. Service in the main dining room was exemplary - with our server learning our names and preferences on our first night and remembering them throughout the cruise. We found the food at the Lido to be average - it was not up to the same standards as buffets in our home town. Also - it would have been nice to have roaming waiters offer water and ice tea instead of just alcoholic beverages. Our room was well cared for. Our steward kept us supplied with animal towels and ice. We did have problems with the toilet twice, but both times someone was in to fix it before we went back to our room. We had a verandah room and I would recommend it for anyone on an Alaskan cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing ... Read More
We were prepared for things to go south, rather than north considering that we had such a diverse group going on this cruise. 2 very active seniors both quite hard of hearing and both very opinionated were with us, both truly believing that we would be walking through a foot of snow in ports because we were going so early in the season. Never cruised before, so we at least knew the ship would impress them. 1 semi senior, smoker, single, who injured herself 2 weeks before we left which made walking very difficult. Has cruised many years ago, but only Caribbean destinations. 2 mid thirties who have cruised twice before, honeymoon cruise to Alaska, and a 3 day quickie out of Miami. I have a gluten allergy, which makes eating tricky. Holland America was the only line that was reasonable for a single, I applaud them for that. They also made me believe that they would take care of me as far as my gluten allergy, I will give them a 3.5 out of 5 on that, but forms went back and forth prior to the cruise and I felt good about it prior to boarding. Embarkation was a zoo, it really would have been daunting to someone who didn't have a lot of time (we were quite early) or a complete newbie. There was not good instructions regarding tagging of luggage or where it went while you were outside the terminal in line. The lines did move surprisingly quickly, so don't get bent out of shape over the long lines, it moves along rapidly. It would be nice if the embarkation photo spot had a place to set down jackets and carry ons so you could get a nice picture...I would have like one that was good of us all. The first two days there were some rough seas, and Grandma did get sick. After that she was touchy, but not bad. Make sure you get scopolamine or whatever it is called, it works very well. The Lido buffet was, in my opinion, poorly set up as a buffet, but I don't know how else you could do it. Breakfast hours were extremely short in both the Lido and the Rotterdam dining so make sure you are an early bird... I chose for the family to eat sit down meals in the dining room. I just hate buffets, and I felt we all enjoyed the meals much better and had more control over the meals. No elbow football in the Lido line up, with vultures hovering over your table and kids screaming. Be prepared for about and 1.5 for lunch and breakfast in the Rotterdam, but hey, dining is half the experience. I was very disappointed to find that after the hours of paperwork I submitted to ensure they had gluten free breads on board, the bagels I requested never were to be found. I would have been pleased to simply have had the bread, except that I did all this extra paperwork to ensure what I wanted each day. The dining room servers for the most part were good, and after day two they were getting the hang of the gluten free. Don't be scared to tell them something was wrong or you can't eat something, but for goodness sakes, do it politely, I couldn't believe the treatment some people gave these poor servers. English was definitely a second language, which provided some difficulties at times, but overall, the meals were fantastic. One of our seniors partial broke on day one of the trip, making chewing difficult, and he couldn't believe that the meat was so tender he could still eat it. Even our fussiest eater was impressed with the food, and that says something. As you wish dining was all we could get by the time we booked our cruise. That is a bit of a pain in the butt with a group of 5 as there was limited tables for our group. We tried just showing up as they suggested only once, and they did accomodate us quickly, but if you have evening plans your plans might go out the door as there are no guarantees for seating. We had wanted the early seating...no such luck. So, if you get stuck with as you wish dining instead, CALL right away at 8:00 am and get a reservation, usually you will get 5:15 or 5:30, if you wait you likely will get 7:15. Shipboard activities were excellent, but a few of my favorites never appeared again, like the icecarving that would be done on deck for the evening display. There were ice molds I would say, not hand carved, for the chocolate extravaganza and a couple of meals, but not the carvings of old. I enjoyed the three ports and glacier bay, but beware of the 7.50 park tax that has "suddenly" been imposed and will be charged to your room for going into glacier bay. No one informed us of this. This particular cruise was a nice mix of port time and ship time. Sitka, in my opinion, was a poor port, and should have been a half day excursion, rather than taking Ketchikan down to a half day. Sitka was nice, but not much to see on land. I understand the need to stop for 3 hours in Victoria because of the foreign port rules, but they sure don't do anything for ship tourism like the other ports do LOL! The shore excursions people really push Butchart gardens as a fabulous evening tour...by the time you manage to get off the ship as they don't give any preference to excursion people, get to your bus get loaded, it is almost dark. Unless you want to see plant lit up, I can't say it is worth your money and the rush. It was cold rainy and miserable and then our bus broke down. At that point I was proactive and asked for our money back as it would have been 9 in the evening before we even got there. They were accommodating...so maybe try to find someone who has done the evening tour before booking it to ensure you get what you think you are paying for. My husband was taking care of the room bills for the group, and while we were struggling to figure out whether we were going to Butchart gardens, he was making sure our bills were in order for departure. He asked for a gratuity adjustment so we could tip cash to some of the people we wanted to. 3 times he tried to adjust, 3 times they screwed it up. We ended up still in our room at 9:30 the next morning as he tried to fix it, as they now had over charged. In frustration he finally removed all gratuities and scrambled over the ship finding the people we had wanted to tip and got off just before they were going to yell. I will say I accidentally left behind 2 cameras in our cabin, realizing after we disembarked. I had all the pictures off of them, so at least the memories were intact, my pocket book was squealing a bit as I waited heart in my throat to see if they would find them. 15 minutes later they were safe and sound in my hands, so kudos to the staff for that. Overall ship decor and shape 7 out of 10, I had a little higher expectations of the music ship, the piano was a big music box, nothing exciting, played 3 times a day, I thought it was a pipe organ...don't pick this ship for that reason. Smoking is still allowed on the ship and in the rooms, there was a lot of grumbling about this, and a survey on ship too. I am disappointed in this day and age that there was indoor and outdoor smoking wherever on this ship...theatres and dining rooms excepted. I hope this policy changes as it will certainly influence my decision next time around. Food was an 8.5 out of 10, only because of my difficulties with food, which is to be expected, but not after all the pre travel legwork I did. Everyone else would rate the food 10 out of 10 for the dining room, 7.5 for the Lido. Ports of call 7 out of 10 as I was disappointed with Victoria timing and would want to switch the half day to Sitka rather than Ketchikan, or just do both a full days and simply stop in Victoria later and do an evening tour of something else to fulfill the port rules. At the end of the day, we loved Alaska, we enjoyed the Zaandam, the rooms and beds were fabulous as we had been told on Cruise Critic, and we would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for ... Read More
Background Information: My husband, two year old daughter, and I booked this cruise for three reasons 1) Visited glacier bay, a must, 2)Round trip out of Seattle (yes there are more scenic venues, but cost was a factor), and 3) Value for money. Holland America has a fairly good product and has a legacy in Alaska. Hotel Info (if any): Stayed at homewood suite s post cruise. Enjoyed the small kitchen and roomy suite with seperate bedroom. Ship Info: The Zaadam is still a servicable ship. Although she did have areas where she showed her age (slight rust, wear in elevators), she was fairly well maintained. This ship has a full promenade, which is missing in some newer ships, and has a covered pool area which is a must in Alaska. She does not have all the recent hype features (rock climbing, skating rink, flowrider, poolside screen), but the reality is that in Alaska the trip is port intensive and sea days are best spent recooperating or viewing glacier bay on deck. Very limited (NO) activities for toddler set, but staff was generally very friendly to young passengers. Self service laundry available, but beware that signs will point you to a phantom laundry room on deck one that does not exist. Activities: A wide variety of more sedate activities are available (bingo, movies, trivia, cooking demos, wine tastings), but there are some fitness options available with an occassional free workout class in the gym. The gym is functional. Avoid the port shopping talk, as this was 45 minutes of time I will never get back- I wanted to know what eash port's unique items were, not about diamonds international or other generic stores found in any port worldwide. The talks about destinations were somewhat interesting. Service: The service was typically excellent on an individual staff level, but I had to wonder if staff had been cut since we last sailed Holland America. They were eager to please but at times had problems with promptness or personalized service due to being overtasked. For example, while wondering while dinner was taking so long I noticed that our waiter was literally speed walking between tables. Room stewards do a typically good job, but do not seem to have the quirks of individuals passengers in mind as much as in the past.On the other hand, the ice cream lady Elly was very nice to my daughter and had her name memorized. They were too business oriented as a rule, although perhaps they had to be to complete the required tasks. Port & Shore Excursions- We did not book through the ship. We booked family air in Ketchican and for 200 less than the similar cruise ship excursion, had a small private float plane with a personable guide. Highly recommend them as a great way to see Mysty Fjords from the air. Travel To Port of Embarkation- By plane on Southwest. Highly recommend them as there are not as many fees and your luggage actually arrives. Used a towncar $45 for roughly the same price of a taxi, but with the benefit of being picked up by bag claim vs toting suitcases up stairs to wait for a taxi. Stateroom: Oceanview. In May it is typically too cold to fully enjoy a balcony and when cruising glacier bay the promenade is probably you best viewing spot as you can change sides based on view. My only complaint- Room 1958, was that at one point a strong diesel smell was in the room and we woke with major headaches. My concern was if diesel fumes can get into the room, can co as well? The front desk did deodorize the room but a quick check with a co gas monitor should have been performed for safety (this is coming from a firefighter). Room had two singles joined together and a couch that converted to a bed. The toddler actually enjoyed this as it was fairly close to the ground and was like a big girl bed. One feature we enjoyed was the bath tub- a must for young kids. We did miss the refridgerator (none in the room). Dining: Open, which is a mixed bag. Excellent for Alaska as port times are sometimes random, but a negative as the waiters do not learn your quirks. For example, with a toddler serving in a glass vs a goblet and removing extra silverware is a must. Typical fare at the Lido buffet, on par with just about every cruise line and nothing to write home about. In spite an occassional dud in main dining room, rumors of food quality going down seem to be only that. In general the food in main dining rooms seemed to be cooked well, with lobster and crab legs correct vs. rubbery on other lines. Lobster was actually a decent size. Ingredients were of a good quality. Do avoid the salmon- dry and overdone. Children's Clubs: Nothing for under threes or unpotty trained. For two year olds, I do like NCl's policy where they will page you if your child needs to be changed vs. no acess at all with Holland. They did offer to loan a book or toy, but in general was treated as if she had the plague and was not even allowed to play under adult supervision. In room sitting is offered, but we are somewhat hesitant to use strangers. Just a couple hours small group sitting would have been appreciated. Entertainment: Average stage shows. We did enjoy a few of the music groups that played dance music. Movies that were recently out on DVD were available. Disembarkation: Fairly smooth. Out in under 15 minutes after assigned disembarkation time. Summary: Excellent cruise for money that visited scenic ports. Ship was not a destination in itself, but still provided an enjoyable getaway. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
I was on the Oosterdam the week , May 16 - 23rd. Embarkation: We took the train from Portland that morning and arrived at the pier around 12:30, embarkation had been going on for a while, so we only had about a 10 minute wait at the ... Read More
I was on the Oosterdam the week , May 16 - 23rd. Embarkation: We took the train from Portland that morning and arrived at the pier around 12:30, embarkation had been going on for a while, so we only had about a 10 minute wait at the escalators before security. Security only took about 15 minutes. Because we were staying in a suite our check in was so easy, we walked right up had our picture taken and we were on the ship in no time. I have to say I had some issues with our cruise. Our room was clean, I have no complaints there, but I was disappointed in the service we received from our stewards. I also realized about 1/2 way through the cruise how many rooms they had to clean. We were on the 6th deck in a deluxe suite. There are only 6 suites on this floor and we were 2 back from the forward elevators. I appears they start at the ends of the ship and move their way in. So, in light of that our room wasn't cleaned until 2:00 in the afternoon 3 times that week, and twice they came in for turn down at 10:00 pm after we had come back to our cabin. We also waited for our breakfast tray to be removed one day for over 6 hours, I had made 2 calls and the steward had even been in to clean and they just moved it to the desk to get it out of the way. I got to the point where I felt I was putting the stewards out if I asked for ice both in the morning and evening. I don't like feeling that way when you spend that kind of money on a vacation. This week was unfortunate for us as my husband pulled his back a few days before the cruise and he wasn't able to walk very far before he had to sit down, so we spent a fair amount of time in our room. Thank goodness for the suite and balcony, watching those glaciers was fabulous. And we did get a lot of rest. My husband is a chef so he wasn't as impressed with some of the food as I was. We did go to the Pinnacle and the food was absolutely fabulous as was the service. We went to the dining room only once and the service was so bad we never went back. My husband asked for a drink and never got it. Our server only came to our table 3 times total, once to ask about drinks, to take our order and deliver our order. He never once asked how we liked our meal or even came back to ask if we wanted anything else. We finally left frustrated. After that we would just order the nights dining room meal and eat it on our balcony. Some friends we made asked how long we had to wait for dinner, and we told them it was about 45 minutes to an hour and they said they waited that long in the dining room. The lido wasn't bad, the duck we had one night was fabulous. Room service was exceptional, breakfast was delivered usually within 15 minutes of our desired time. Except for 1 morning the food was warm (not hot). I ordered eggs Benedict twice and it was fabulous. The Neptune lounge was wonderful. My husband and I loved the coffee and appetizers. Nette the concierge was amazing and was so helpful and would follow up on anything we asked for. I took the mixology class, it was so much fun, we had Nick as our bartender and he is so funny. He was very free with the drinks and made it a blast. I would do that again in a heartbeat. The people that took the class also were very fun and friendly. Debarkation was a little chaotic, we had the first time slot, but because we had a couple of people failed to show in the morning when their names had been called (3 times). We were about a half hour late in starting the disembarkation process and everyone who had priority and the first time slot, plus whoever else decided they wanted to get off early showed up. It was quite interesting to see people who thought they had priority over others and would jump in the line where ever, but I have to say it went pretty fast for a line that stretched almost to the back of the ship. We got off the ship and our luggage was sitting there and we were in a cab in less than 10 minutes on our way to the train station. My overall impression was pretty good, I am not sure if the lack of service we got was our ship, our stewards or HAL in general. I would like to know if others had the same issues on the Oosterdam this year. I would sail with HAL again, but my second time I would be more vocal about my issues. I can't thank all of you on Cruise Critic, I spent so much time on the boards before I left that I really didn't have any surprises. You guys are all great. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My husband and I are seasoned cruisers and we aim to cross as many major lines of latitude and longitude on a ship as possible, so we were excited by this one as it meant crossing the International Date Line and indeed (from leaving home ... Read More
My husband and I are seasoned cruisers and we aim to cross as many major lines of latitude and longitude on a ship as possible, so we were excited by this one as it meant crossing the International Date Line and indeed (from leaving home in the UK to arriving back) circumnavigating the globe. Whilst this was our 23rd cruise it was our first time with Holland America Line. The embarkation process at Seattle was very efficient and streamlined, and we boarded in time for a buffet lunch in the Lido restaurant which we ate by the pool - a place we were to frequent regularly. Our cabin was a twin-bedded one on the Main Deck (Deck 2) right at the starboard bow of the vessel. It was very quiet and comfortable and we were served by Choky, our very pleasant Indonesian cabin steward. Our first impressions of Holland America's "signature of excellence" were not brilliant. On the first night the service in the Rotterdam Dining Room was extremely slow (we still hadn't finished after two hours at the table) and, for the first three nights, our waiter either forgot to bring courses or brought the wrong thing. This rapidly improved, however, once one of the ship's officers joined our table for dinner. Also, for the first night the cabin steward did not do the evening "turn down" in our cabin, although to be fair this was the only time he forgot and the rest of the voyage the service was impeccable. The quality, selections and presentation of the food I found to be excellent. Also the selection and range of drinks and cocktails, although I did find the bar prices to be extortionate compared to say, P & O or Fred Olsen. I found the evening entertainment in the Frans Hals showlounge to be pretty average. The show company was good but nothing exceptional. The guest performers were aimed more at the 60+ age group; there was a bloke who played the clarinet (who was pretty good), a fairly run-of-the-mill female singer, a cellist (boring) a pianist (who was good) a comedian (good if you could understand the transatlantic humour!) and a pretty average magician. We spent nearly all our evenings, after dinner, in the Crow's Nest, which was the ship's version of a night club. It offered discos, karaoke on some nights, dancing, live music and sometimes a Wii challenge! :-) The cruise director, Jimmy and the DJ/compere, Drew were really friendly guys who we got to know quite well as we were "regulars" in the Crow's Nest. It takes nine full days and nights to cross the Pacific ocean so it certainly isn't recommended for first time cruisers or those who don't like to spend a lot of time at sea. It can also be very disorientating as, for the first 10 days of our trip, we were never in the same time zone two days running. It was a strange phenomenon completely missing out a day when we crossed the International Date Line, for which we received a certificate. Also, the north Pacific ocean is certainly not aptly named as we encountered winds between Force 8 and Force 10, and sometimes a 12 foot swell, so it was fairly rough. All part of the adventure though! Once we reached Japan we visited Hakodate, Otaru, Aomori and Kobe. We had originally planned an overnight-in-port stay at Yokahama in order to explore Tokyo, but as this was right in the path of Hurricane Melor this port of call was, unfortunately, cancelled and the ship changed course. However, the ports of call were very interesting and Kobe was a fantastic city; it's amazing to see how they have built it up again after the dreadful 1995 earthquake. All in all, we had a really good time and would probably cruise with HAL again if the itinerary was to our liking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Overall it was an excellent cruise. We booked this cruise to experience the beauty of AK. We are a semi-retired active couple looking to mix with the locals and find where they eat and drink to get the true impression of the area. We do a ... Read More
Overall it was an excellent cruise. We booked this cruise to experience the beauty of AK. We are a semi-retired active couple looking to mix with the locals and find where they eat and drink to get the true impression of the area. We do a minimum of shopping for souvenirs and gifts. With that said: We flew from Pittsburgh to Seattle via DFW. It was a long flight time. We arrived in Seattle the day before embarkation and traveled via Go Shuttle Express to the Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Ave. They graciously allowed us to check in early. I did my research and found a Steelers bar to watch the season opener that afternoon. We had a restful evening and about 11 AM we hailed a cab ($10) to the pier 91. I was a little disappointed that we had to drag our luggage into the terminal ourselves because there were very few porters available. We waited but no one came out for 20 minutes. Once we go inside it was a breeze. We were on board within 20 minutes. I don't know where all the pax went to... but there didn't seem to be a lot of pax out for the sail away on that perfect sunny afternoon. The view of Mt. Rainier was very clear! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Background info: There were four of us traveling together in an inside cabin. Due to economic conditions and two of us being either unemployed or retired, we questioned whether we should even consider vacationing this year. However, the ... Read More
Background info: There were four of us traveling together in an inside cabin. Due to economic conditions and two of us being either unemployed or retired, we questioned whether we should even consider vacationing this year. However, the cost associated with four in a cabin enticed us to take the jump and go. As siblings it was kind of nice for us to all be together as we don't get together all that often. We are in our late 40s to early 60s and consider ourselves pretty active. Our idea of a vacation is doing fun stuff, not sitting around a pool reading a book. Arrival and Embarkation: We were all traveling from the east coast into Seattle so we booked flights to arrive the night before just so we would all be safe to arrive on time and with luggage. We booked the Marqueen Hotel in Seattle because it was located close to the port and close to things to see downtown. We figured that we would take a taxi to the hotel and from there we could take the hotel's published shuttle service around the city and to the port, as the hotel's website indicated that they provided a shuttle service anywhere within a five mile radius of the hotel. We found that not to be the case. When we advised the front desk that we would need the shuttle to take us to the port, we were told that the shuttle did not go there even though the port was 1.5 miles from the hotel. Apparently the hotel does not know what a 5 mile radius is. When we checked out of the hotel and told them they needed to update their website to accurately reflect that the shuttle service did not provide service as they represented, they discounted it and in fact charged us an additional $30 for having more than two individuals in the room. After reading the fine print, I guess they had us but nothing about this hotel felt good. They did not represent their services appropriately on their website and had fine print in their rules. I would not recommend this hotel for individuals going out of ports. Stay at a nice clean new chain hotel close to the airport, take a cab once rather than twice and don't be nickled and dimed. That being said, we caught a cab to the port and boarded without incident. The boarding was organized and staffed well. We got on the Amsterdam at approximately noon and caught a bite to eat up at the Lido deck. Our room was ready by 1:00 pm and our cabin steward was right there introducing himself and his assistant. Cabin: This was our first time in an interior cabin and our first time with four in a cabin. We mentally prepared ourselves to be cramped. We were not though. With the exception of when all of us were getting ready for dinner, we had plenty of room. Closet space was very good. Suitcases nicely fit under the beds. Things were clean and well organized. Our cabin, 2687, was very quiet. Public Rooms: All were very nice, clean and orderly. The ship is lovely. Dining: When we had breakfast we generally ate on the Lido deck. They had fresh omelets, eggs Benedict, and pretty much everything you could want. For lunch two of us preferred the main dining room while two of us preferred the Lido deck. Each of us did what we wanted and enjoyed it all. For dinner, five nights were spent in the main dining room, one night in the Pinnacle and one night at the Italian place next to the Lido deck. All dinners were fabulous. We particularly liked the main dining room and we really liked our server. We opted for the 8:00 seating as we like the traditional feel of the main dining room. As for the Pinnacle, we did it, enjoyed the large steak but probably would not do it again. For the extra expense, we just did not see it. As for the dessert extravaganza, we went and took pictures but did not eat as we were still full from dinner. The Italian restaurant was very good and if you're not in the mood to dress up, it is a very good alternative. Entertainment: I would have to say that entertainment was ok at best. Being that we have been on larger ships, I guess the quaintness of the small ship also results in less funds available for the entertainment. The shows were ok I guess but almost seemed like high school musical level talent and coordination. Excursions: Whale watching was a blast. Zip lining was awesome. Kayaking in Sitka was relaxing and fun. We had a flight plane scheduled for Ketchikan but due to high winds, that was cancelled. I would recommend all the excursions we went on. Separate from the excursions, we caught a bus ($56 cost) to go to the glacier in Juneau but I would not recommend it. If you are scheduled to see other glaciers like Hubbard, the time spent at Mendenhall seemed limited and the cost associated with getting out to the glacier unnecessary. Disembarking went without incident. All went quickly and was very organized. Overall we had a blast and I'd do the exact same cruise again. The ship was lovely. The crew members were great (except the excursions director who seemed bothered by any questions). Food was very good. The scenery was wonderful. If I had to do it all over again the only things I would change would be to stay in a different hotel and not go to the glacier in Juneau. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our first Holland America cruise and though it wasn't a poor experience, we'll definitely stick with other cruise lines in the near future. We were with a group of about 20 people ranging from teenagers to seniors. The ... Read More
This was our first Holland America cruise and though it wasn't a poor experience, we'll definitely stick with other cruise lines in the near future. We were with a group of about 20 people ranging from teenagers to seniors. The cruise line is definitely focused on an older crowd therefore not too much going on that interested us - in terms of ship activities. The details that Holland America focuses on - fresh flowers, etc - definitely set a different atmosphere. Enjoyable. Just not things that make us go wow! But I'm sure many people appreciate this. Embarkation was hit and miss. We arranged for the transfer through HAL from the airport to the ship. We waited at the airport for about 40 minutes before our bus arrived. This was a tad bit frustrating. We could have taken a taxi and avoided the wait and with two people the cost would have been equal. Fast forward to debarkation. Outstanding! I love that HAL assigns a time and you're off the ship quickly. Plus there weren't hundreds of people crowding the door to get off. There were a few people lingering but not like our past experiences on other cruise lines. Embarkation, the actual check-in process was great! With the debarkation, we used the express baggage service. Loved putting our luggage out for pick up and then not seeing it until we arrived at our home airport. I was a tiny bit nervous that it wasn't actually on the plane but that's just a sign of my failure to not be in control. Ha ha ha. Let's see. What next. The food was quite good. Equal if not better than other cruise lines we have been on. The lido deck attendants were constantly offering extra attention - delivering plates to your table or getting drinks. The dining room was great as well. There were a few nights where I wasn't thrilled with the selection and I am far from picky. Maybe I wasn't hungry enough? The Pinnacle grill was outstanding!!! I had the lamb chops, my husband had the ribeye - both amazing. Do make the time and funds available to eat here. Make your reservations early! They are not joking that the restaurant gets booked up. Though somehow they booked us for two different days and three different times. Maybe this is why they were so booked? As a group, we ate in the Italian restaurant on the Lido deck one night. How nice! Probably my second favorite night of eating. You must try the tiramiso trio. I was tempted to sneak up there nightly for dessert. One of my favorite desserts. The lido deck also serves a bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Yummm. Entertainment. We went to a few shows. I wasn't impressed. Actually I fell asleep. Not the fairest of reviews as we went to 2 shows, I believe. Now what we throughly enjoyed was the piano bar. The pianist was Diane. Definitely our choice of a nightly hang out. She was great about requests. Plus the bartender that works with her, Ogie, was terrific!!! He even sings along. GREAT time!!! A couple in our group decided to renew their vows while sailing. This was done very nicely. Everyone was served champagne and appetizers (there is a cost for the couple as well as all guests). Oh and cake! My favorite cake on the ship. The Captain handled the ceremony and it was very nicely done. Especially his toast! I need to take lessons on better toasts. I'll review the ports in the port review section. Overall we enjoyed our ports. The weather wasn't perfect but it wasn't terrible either. The Hubbard Glacier was amazing. We found a table on the Lido deck and sat there the majority of the time. Then we went outside towards the end of the trip. Perfect as most guests had gone inside. It was chilly! Be sure to check my review on Victoria! There were two ROUGH days at sea. I've decided this was a combination of two factors. The first being that the ship is quite small. Never have we experienced anything like it. The ship did a great job of trying to help those that were sick. Thankfully neither of us had a problem. You could never that by far the majority of the guests were not doing so well as the ship was like a ghost town. The other thought is that the rough seas were due to the change in seasons. Not sure. But had it have been my very first cruise, I probably would never cruise again! The last night of the cruise was a little disappointing. I'm sure the cruise line has done their research but the ship was dead on the last night! The piano lounge didn't have a bar open - you had to head over to the Ocean bar. It was apparent that people get to their room a little early on the last night but this isn't quite our style. We were ready to celebrate the last night of our vacation - not get to bed early. We were pretty much forced to call it a night. Overall we had a good time! Much lazier than our normal vacations. From this aspect, we were very relaxed when we got home! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Let me just say that the Amsterdam is a very nice ship. The all Filipino crew is amazing. I was on the ship for 7 days and it's a good thing the elevator's rug changed every day to say what day it was, because I got confused ... Read More
Let me just say that the Amsterdam is a very nice ship. The all Filipino crew is amazing. I was on the ship for 7 days and it's a good thing the elevator's rug changed every day to say what day it was, because I got confused about how long I had been on the ship. Time just seems to slide on by. The casino was great. Simple slot machines, that actually gave out money instead of paper tickets! Only bad thing was there was smoking in the casino. Very nasty air there. The Queens Lounge is wonderful. Played bingo there three or four times, and had a blast. The jewelry shop had a champagne tasting raffle thing that was fun. The historical shows in the Queen's Lounge were very informative and entertaining. There was Catholic mass every day, which my dad really enjoyed. At the same theatre the mass was held, there were late-release movies every day, complete with popcorn. There were so many bars/lounges that I couldn't count them all. I did enjoy having a glass of wine and listening to classical music. Watching the sea slipping by while sipping chardonnay is pretty awesome. The exercise room is state-of-the-art, and you're looking at the bow of the ship plowing through the water as you exercise. Pretty fantastic. Couldn't believe all the massage rooms they had. I would've spent more time on that deck if I had known how cool it was. Not much for kids. They have an area with lots of video games, but that's about it. This is a ship for older people. All in all, this was a wonderful experience. EXCEPT FOR THE FOOD!!!!!! Okay, it looks nice. Very nice. But it tastes like crap. I really mean it! I guess I know good food, and this wasn't good food. Do you like gazpacho? I do. Except when it's made with WATERMELON, instead of tomatoes. Do you like musli? You know, that great combination of whole grains, cream, and berries? They put MELON in instead of the berries! An abomination! Fruit cup? You know, with, like fresh fruit? It came with one blueberry, maybe a raspberry if you're lucky, and the rest? You guessed it: melon! The Lido cafe slings hash like nobody's business. Unfortunately, it all tastes bland. I found myself craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The La Fontaine dining room looks wonderful. Two levels, great service by really nice waiters, etc. Tough lobster tail, tasteless King crab, yuck. The only consistently good entree was the sirloin steak. Two kinds of salmon every day. Wasn't good. But the salmon barbeque on the Lido deck was awesome! We sat with an Indian couple. She was a vegetarian, and had ordered all her food online before the trip. They brought out all kinds of food for her, much more than she could eat. So she shared it with us. It was the most wonderful food I've ever tasted! Word to the wise: ORDER ALL YOUR FOOD ONLINE BEFORE YOU GO!!! You'll be glad you did! Make up a special diet; whatever. It is worth it! The afternoon teas are a lavish display of pastries. Tasted like crap. Sorry to disappoint you. You'll understand what I mean if you take the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Overall the cruise was great and on my second day back I already miss that ship. This was my first cruise and I wasn't sure if I would like being stuck on the ship knowing only the family I was with and wondering if there would be ... Read More
Overall the cruise was great and on my second day back I already miss that ship. This was my first cruise and I wasn't sure if I would like being stuck on the ship knowing only the family I was with and wondering if there would be anyone my age (37) on the cruise with us. It was no trouble at all meeting and talking with other friendly people. And getting away from the family was as simple as signing up for the spa pass (hiding in the sauna when needed). That spa pass was a great idea. It was so nice to come in from the rain and cold and warm up in the sauna and heated lounge chairs. The music in the room was relaxing and the view out the window was great. I wish there were a few more services and ammenities included though. You could barely get soap out of the dispensers in the changing room shower and no moisturizer for spa guests. That seemed remiss on HAL's part. Dining onboard was fine. Pinacle grill was nearly empty every night except the one night we tried to go, so we never dined there. We ate nearly every dinner in the Vista dining room. Portions were perfectly sized for the four course meals they served. It was nice to know that the steak and salmon dishes were available every night. However, there were so many new options every night that it was a tough decision most of the time. None of us cared for the lunch at the vista though. If we all didn't like ruben sandwiches, we would have left that seating and found something at lido. After getting the sandwich, we wished we had gone to lido. Lido was a disapointment overall, but there were some good things about it. They did have a lot of options to choose from, but if you are a foodie, you won't like most of them. The sandwiches are paper thin with one slice of meat per person--not my idea of luxury. The burgers were good and the taco bar had tasty chicken and lots of good fixins, so I used that as a standby. They did make eggwhite omletts, which I was happy to find. Had that most mornings. It's hard to carry hot coffee without a tray though. The coffee on lido is not worth the burns from carrying it. Most days I ended up paying for coffee in the Explorations Cafe. Explorations, Crows Nest, Ocean Bar -- are all fun places to hang out. The views at Explorations/Crows nest are amazing and the seating is very comfortable. Two-for-one drink specials during happy hour were great and Matt the guitar player was very talented and the HAL Cats were a lot of fun too. I went to a lot of shows onboard. The cast is very energetic and the shows were all really cute. They even performed on one of the roughest nights at sea--with the ship rolling about and scenery parts sliding around slightly. I was amazed they all remained on their feet. I appreciated that because I was sick in bed all day and was ready for some entertainment that night. We also saw Joel Mason's Elton John show and his Eagles tribute, and saw Julie Barr twice. They were both really hysterical and fun experiences. I do have to add though, that as a gay man, the cruise director's warm-ups for these shows made me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Every night he would come out and tell all us guys to give the woman we were with a kiss or applaud for the woman we were with. He made it seem like it was a cruise for married people only. In my opinion that is not inclusive of everyone at the show--gay, single, whatever. All my port reviews below will be very positive, but I am going to end this overview with one negative remark: The excursions crew onboard the ship were no help at all. They might as well not even come along. We got much better service and information from the call center before we boarded. Those people at the call center do take the trips and can answer questions. Onboard we had several poor experiences with the excursions crew. First we showed up at the desk to book an excursion for sitka, since we didn't have one planned. Even though there was only one person behind us, we were told that if we didn't know what we wanted to do, to please step aside. Well we were there to get a recommendation, not just to purchase tickets. But that was just an annoyance that we quickly resolved. The real problem was their performance at the ports--where you are likely to need them most. Alaska is a rainy place (300 days per year) and excursions get cancelled due to weather. In Juneau our 10am glacier trek was canceled and the tour company told us to try back for the 1pm excursion. We wanted to ensure our spot on that, but had a hard time finding the excursions crew. The desk is closed at every port. They don't explain why. Another tour operator told us to wait with him and he would point out the manager that was accompanying him on an excursion, and when that manager came out, she tersly told us that she had no way to help us and turned away. That experience made me aggrevated and anxious the whole day--not knowing what I could do in Juneau other than jewelry shopping (not exciting for me). Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
HIGHLIGHTS Great Alaskan experience - more depth of Alaska information than on our previous Alaska cruise on Princess - thank you HA. Sitka with the wildlife, and the lack of other cruise ships was a fantastic experience. The food was ... Read More
HIGHLIGHTS Great Alaskan experience - more depth of Alaska information than on our previous Alaska cruise on Princess - thank you HA. Sitka with the wildlife, and the lack of other cruise ships was a fantastic experience. The food was great in the Vista and Lido venues. The Pinnacle Grill was the BEST food we've experienced on a cruise ship and rivals what you will find in a 4 Star restaurant, unfortunately our 2nd visit to the Pinnacle Grille was not even close to being as good as the first. Ship's dEcor and the service level of the staff were a level above Princess and RC but then so is the cost of the cruise as expected. LETDOWN The only letdown was the average age of our fellow passengers - older than (we) expected, and the music was for their generation. We're in our late 40's and the average age was somewhere in the mid 60s. Either all of a sudden, I'm very sensitive to caffeine or their decaf isn't very decaffeinated. For the first 2 nights I had decaf after dinner and ended up staying awake past midnight. BOARDING & STATEROOM No surprises, no long waits, easy to get off the shuttle from the hotel at Pier 91. We chose to carry all but 1 of our bags on and had no hassles doing that. We arrived around noon and waited less than 30 minutes until "Group 9" was called to board. we even overheard our apparent table-mates for dining and introduced ourselves before we got on the ship. All passengers (dunno about suites) were kept out of their staterooms until 2:15 and kept on the Lido deck with food and beverage service. Bit different than our other cruises but no problems. We left our 3 daughters behind this time and upgraded ourselves to Holland America - we weren't disappointed, we thought the value and experience were great. Our balcony room was nice, modern, well appointed. Storage space was fine. Bedding, pillows, extra blankets were on par with Princess. Glad we brought our night light! The tub/shower was a nice upgrade from the showers only on other cruise lines' balconies. Towels were first class. Lighting inside & on the balcony was fine. No complaints about our VF cabin. FOOD & GENERAL STUFF What an irritation free cruise - thanks to HA. With less than 20 kids on board it was a quiet environment. Part of that quiet was there were no blaring art auction announcements. In fact there weren't too many announcements of the "come participate/buy/drink/party" type at all. How refreshing. The room service was great. On time, food and drink was hot or warm or cold as expected. In the mornings, just don't plan on getting through to ext. 92 to have them come pick your tray up. Our cabin steward did us right there. We tipped him $10 at the beginning of the cruise and never wanted for anything. The predominantly Philipino and Indonesian crew was a great friendly bunch. We certainly didn't encounter the unfriendlies others have mentioned on the Westerdamn. We decided on the early sitting for dinner in the Vista Dining Room at an 8 person table. That worked fine; however, we'd do Anytime Dining next time so that we could meet more people. The menu selection, taste, and presentation of dinner were a cut above Princess and RC. We weren't disappointed at all. The dining room staff was friendly and attentive, just as it has always been on our other cruises. The Pinnacle Grille is definitely way above the other specialty dining rooms on RC and Princess. The food quality, service, and presentation made our experience on multiple Princess cruises pale. In all honesty the Pinnacle Grille is on par with the few true (Michelin) 4-star restaurants I've visited. We enjoy wine and we brought our own selection of 90 pt wines on board. Even if you have to pay the $18 corkage fee, my $20 bottles of 90 pt wines were far better than anything less than $50 on board the ship. Too bad all cruise lines seem to be above a 300% markup on wine. The ship was constantly cleaned, well maintained, brightly lit, and what I expected from a cruise line that is supposed to be (per my TA) nicer than the rest of the large ship cruise lines. SUNDAY-MONDAY Plenty to do on these sea days. We ended up spending the $250 for the week for the hydropool, saunas, and extras. WOW, nothing like it on our other cruises and well worth it to us to have the quiet, the thermal treatments, and feel pampered. We took advantage of this daily. Regular sized gym worked fine since the older crowd didn't use it. Not pushy for the spa or personal training sessions. We appreciated the staff's expertise on spinning and yoga. We quickly discovered the only two places that play 60's to contemporary music were the Northern Lights club and their guitar player Matt. Matt is GREAT. Crow's Nest and the library/DVD Rental/Internet Cafe are quite "posh". We walked out of the first entertainment review on Monday night and didn't go back. Sorry we missed the much acclaimed (in other reviews and by our fellow passengers) comedian and Elton John imitator, but ya can't do everything! TUESDAY The big HA difference today was the way they handled the Glacier experience. First they had 2 National Park Rangers on board who were a cut above the tour guide on this cruise, and our Princess Alaska cruise. What a wealth of information and experience. The ship was navigated close to the edge of the one tidal glacier and we certainly lingered here longer than a visit to Tracy Arm. Plus we saw so many MORE glaciers in Glacier Bay than Tracy Arm. WOW factor was high here. First formal night was like formal nights on any other cruise. WEDNESDAY Juneau with 4 other cruise ships! Ouch, that's a lot. Weather was above average. We (like always) arranged our own shore excursion with Alaska Boat and Kayak for a 3 hr guided kayak experience on the Tongass National Forest in saltwater. The wife is not an athlete, so I had to pass on the ½ day self-guided kayak trip to the lake in front of Mendenhall Glacier. But from what we heard, that's the way to go if you have the stamina and direction to self guide. Our tour guide was a young native of Juneau - Cody and he was fantastic. The pictures we took in and out of the kayak were great, but couldn't really capture the experience of seeing the mountains, multiple glaciers, and other scenery from water level. Our 3hr tour turned into 4.5 hrs which was fun and taxing at the same time. My hat is off to Alaska Boat and Kayaks. Cody was incredibly knowledgeable as both a local and an educated guide on geology and forestry. Had time after our return to quickly head to the Spa for our hydropool, heated lounge chair, and steam sauna experience again. Ahh, so relaxing. After dinner, we enjoyed ourselves on the balcony and then in the Crow's Nest listening to Matt - he's darn good! THURSDAY Another HA difference today. We actually chose the Westerdam as much for the fact it went to Sitka (instead of Skagway) as for the level of luxury. Sitka's wildlife exceeded our highest expectations. We chose a 3 hr nature boat tour with Davey and his Esther G Sea Taxi. He can carry six people. His all aluminum boat is as unique and classy as his knowledge of plant, wildlife, and local history. He has quite a network of fellow sea captains and zeroed in on some humpback and a gray whales quickly. In the space of 10 minutes (not the first 10 minutes!) we saw all of the following: humpbacks, gray whale, puffins, other diving birds, sea urchins, star fish, and large numbers of sea otters. We were so close to one of the humpbacks that we actually smelled his "shrimpy" breath and were able to get some fantastic close-up pictures of tail slapping. The Russian history in Alaska is unique to Sitka and we were glad to visit the Bishop's residence and other historical sites. We ran out of time and didn't make it to the Sitka National Park and Visitors Center, but like all ports of call, you don't see it all on one visit. Had another great session in the hydropool, too. 2nd formal night and we really enjoyed the Happy Hours in the Ocean Lounge before dinner. Missed the entertainment, but did go see the Dessert Extravaganza at 10pm. Nice work by the chefs and restaurant staff. FRIDAY We got into Ketchican about 7 am. 2nd day we used room service for breakfast. Rainy start to the day. No formal excursions for us on this short visit (left at 12:30) to Ketchican. There are so many things to do by either walking or catching the great bus system. By going in early Sept you are assured of seeing 1 or 2 species of salmon returning to spawn. It's amazing to go see the numbers in the bay, below each level of rapids, and up by the fish hatchery on their way to the lake above. I finally found time to attend one of the digital camera/computer classes (free) they had on board. Fantastic. I learned some new tricks and really liked the free Microsoft Live Photo Gallery software the used - so much that I downloaded as soon as we got home. In all I attended 3 of these wonderful courses on Friday and Saturday. We "rested" in the room and watched one of their good, recent movies on the TV that evening. SATURDAY A sea day with a 6pm stop at Victoria in BC. Ya know, I think that some of the crew on the Westerdam and our previous Princess cruise start to lower their standards on this last full day. We had another dinner reservation at the Pinnacle Grill and the service and the cooking wasn't up to the high standards they set earlier in the week. 3 tables (including ours) sent back food for being under or over cooked. The wait staff and even the maitre-de were seen to scurry away from complaining customers. Not sure what is up with that, but we encountered a similar "slacking off" with Princess on the last night of the cruise also in Victoria. My suggestion is never book dinner at the extra charge restaurants on the last night of the cruise. Lots to do during the sea day with onboard activities. We passed on Victoria since we've been there before (not on a cruise) but we do recommend the museum, gardens, and other sights there -it's a beautiful city. SUNDAY Disembarking was a breeze. Had regular sit-down breakfast in the dining room with plenty of others. We were in the 2nd group off the ship and our checked luggage was easily found in the terminal on the pier. We didn't have ground transportation previously arranged so we "shopped" the cost of a shuttle service and ended up paying $16 per person to the airport. Not bad at all. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Our cruise began August 30, 2009. Since my sister lives near Seattle, we didn't use a hotel or shuttle service to get to pier 91 for embarkation. EMBARKATION: We arrived around 11:30 am to pier 91. There were 2 ships boarding at ... Read More
Our cruise began August 30, 2009. Since my sister lives near Seattle, we didn't use a hotel or shuttle service to get to pier 91 for embarkation. EMBARKATION: We arrived around 11:30 am to pier 91. There were 2 ships boarding at the same time from pier 91. The westerdam and the Star Princess. We had heard horror stories about this process being a true nightmare. I found it to be completely easy and well organized. With the exception of the porter situation. The porters are assigned only one ship, so even though there were a lot of them, they seemed to be working mostly for princess. So we dragged our luggage about half way to the terminal, and then found a holland porter. After that, it was smooth sailing. We were onboard quickly and easily. THE SHIP: After embarking, we found one of the nicest perks on Holland. A check point for all your carry on!! On the Lido deck they have a station to check your carry on luggage so you don't have to drag it around until your room is ready around 1 oclock! NICE! We began our cruise with lunch on the Lido. It was the average welcome aboard fare. Nothing to complain about or write home about. After lunch we explored the ship. We were disappointed in the actual state of the ship. It is 5 years old and in need of a through cleaning and repairs. Dirty/worn carpets in several places. Towels soaking up water and "wet floor" cones were on the floor continuously throughout the cruise by the lido buffet line. I must have tripped over those towels at least 3 times! Deck three is a teak deck with teak deck chairs. Those chairs are so nice! Be sure to sit and enjoy the view from them at least once during your cruise! This ship gives a couple different feelings. Sometimes I felt that I was on a modern ship, and other times I felt like I was on a ship from the titanic era. Very old school. ENTERTAINMENT: If you are into lectures, watching movies, demonstrations etc. then this is your ship!! If you want games and contests. hooting and hollering do not go on the Westerdam (holland probably). Pretty dull!! But I found the showroom shows to be pretty good. The dancers were the average cruiseship dancers, but the comedy was a riot!! Julie Barr was the comedian and a guy immiataing Elton John. were both outstanding!! The guy with the puppets could be passed on. Not very good if you ask me. We found that the guest entertainers were used all week at different events and even appeared in each others shows. I really liked this because I felt like we got to know them better. Johnny Quinn was the CD, and I think although he was pleasant, he was in need of his vacation. He looked tired and wasn't very entertaining. FOOD/DINING: I am not a foodie!! But I was traveling with my sister and BIL and he is a huge foodie. So here you will get opinions from both sides. I was fine with the food. I found the variety to be good on the lido deck and in the dining room. I always had to add salt and pepper to add some flavor, but it was OK. I didn't like the service of the food though. It was served on the lido in pretty small portions and I felt like asking for a little more was frowned on. But I didn't starve to death and so for me it was fine. I felt the food was being rationed to strickly. My BIL however was really disappointed in the food. He always said it was flavorless, and always cold (which it was). In the dining room, it was cookie cutter plates. In otherwords, if you wanted a baked potato instead of mashed, it couldn't be done. That steak had to come with mashed potatos because the plates were premade. The baked potato came later in a different bowl. The food was generally cold because of this process. Service in the dining room was slow at times and non existant others times. GLACIER BAY: This was the day we were waiting for! The entire reason for booking this ship! And we wer not disappointed. This day was worth the entire price of the cruise. Amazing. And to have the park rangers onboard narrating and teaching us was simply perfect!! What an amazing day. We strongly recommend you do not try to see this from your balcony. The glaciers are on both sides of the ship and you will only see part of them. Go up to the bow of the ship and experience the views, the cold air, the sounds, the glaciers and the wildlife! JUNEAU: We went into town and walked around a little. Then we went on an excursion of whale watching with orca enterprises. It was a private excursion. We were excited about this excursion. I was disappointed to say the least. The boats they have do not afford everyone a good view. Unless you sit inside the cabin and look through the windows. I did not go to alaska to whale watch so I could look at them through a window. I can do that at the local aquarium. We saw 4 humpback whales in 2 1/2 hours. All traveling together. We were told in Alaska the boats must stay 100 yards from the whales so unless the whale comes to you the views of them are pretty far away. I also thought we would see orcas, and they are not there. They are in the vancouver canada area. I was disappointed in this excursion and wouldn't do it again. I suggest you do a whale watching, salmon bake excursion instead. Our friends did the ships excursion for that and were totally thrilled with the days experiences. SITKA/KETCHICAN: My BIL took the 8 hour fishing trip in Sitka and was very happy. Had a great day of fishing and caught several kinds of fish. He recommended the ships tour for others. My sister and I walked around the town in Sitka looking at the residential areas mostly. Sitka is a really beautiful place. Small but very beautiful. In Ketchikan we took a private tour to saxman totem park, city tour. There are tons of vendors on the docks to book your tour with. They will save you money for sure. Ketchikan is a place that this cruise ship does not spend enough time in. You really need at least a full day in Ketchikan. VICTORIA: Well this is a place we arrived to at night. There is nothing around the docks to see or do. You will need to arrange transportation to town either from the ship or on the docks. We took a private limo tour of the city for free!! We got to talking to one of the limo drivers and he offered us a free city tour in his beautiful limo!! It was really nice and very comfy!! Again, this is a place you need at least a full day in. DISEMBARKING: Everyone was assigned a time to go to the gangway. We went at our time of 9:15 and walked off the ship. Got our luggage without any problems and headed to the pick up area with the herds of other people. This is where it got a little crazy. Two ships disembarking at the same time into the same pick up area. We were lucky. We called my nephew who was waiting in the cell phone area and we were waiting for him when he got there 5 minutes later. The crowds were the only problem. WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS SHIP, CRUISELINE, AND ITINERARY?: To some I would recommend Holland and to others I would not. Got kids?? Stay away from Holland I would say. Want ship sponsored partying? Stay away from Holland. Want a relaxing quiet cruise? Go on Holland. Want a cold, beautiful itinerary? Go to glacier bay! I did not find the service on Holland any better or worse than any carnival or royal cruise I have taken. Just because they wear white gloves at times, doesn't make the service any better, just prettier maybe. Personnally, I would travel on Holland again if there was not another cruiseline going to the same place at the same time as a Holland ship. I would not be loyal to Holland. Itinerary, price and who is going would determine which line I book with. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We took the inside passage cruise on the Zaandam from July 17-24, 2009.  We stopped in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria BC and spent a day cruising Glacier Bay.  My husband and I are middle-aged (44 & 57) with no children and we ... Read More
We took the inside passage cruise on the Zaandam from July 17-24, 2009.  We stopped in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria BC and spent a day cruising Glacier Bay.  My husband and I are middle-aged (44 & 57) with no children and we chose Holland America, in part, to avoid hordes of children.  Nevertheless, there were several screaming infants and toddlers aboard.  There were numerous shipboard activities for days at sea, some of which we enjoyed (e.g., wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, casino) and many that seemed to appeal to an older crowd (65+).  For the most part, we really enjoyed the musical entertainment in the various lounges and bars, although the singer for "Rachel and the HALcats" was so horrible we left the room when they performed.  I enjoyed curling up with a book in the Explorer's Lounge and Ocean bar during downtime.  Our cabin was very nice and fairly roomy.  Every crew member was extremely polite, helpful, and personable.  Our cabin steward greeted us by name and did an excellent job.  The port shopping advisor, Linda, was very helpful and the the dining room staff was exceptional.  The only major disappointment on board was the food. The taste ranged from poor to good, but nothing was exceptional.  Overall, I would rate the food as mediocre.  The best meal we had on the entire trip was at a local Mexican/Pizza/Fish & Chips place in one of the ports.  Frankly, I've had better food on a Carnival cruise.Overall, we had a good time and I'm really glad we took this cruise.    Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Cruised with my 16 year old daughter and 12 year old son.  I have cruised once before but several years ago.  My kids have never cruised.  We flew to Seattle a couple of days prior to our cruise.  The day of embarkation we arrived at ... Read More
Cruised with my 16 year old daughter and 12 year old son.  I have cruised once before but several years ago.  My kids have never cruised.  We flew to Seattle a couple of days prior to our cruise.  The day of embarkation we arrived at 10:30 a.m. by taxi to the peir. I highly recommend coming early. There were no lines and we handed our luggage over and breezed right through all the security checks. Then we relaxed for about 45 minutes to board.  Ebarkation was fine as well.  You chose your time, receive a number and just show up in line on the deck that you were told and walk right off.  I highly recommend paying the $14.00 per bag to have the ship take care of your luggage for you.  We set it outside the night before and didn't see it again until our aiplane landed in our final destination. This was great for us because we had a later flight and were able to sight see without our luggage.Dining: We had anytime dining which I enjoyed due to the flexibility.  My suggestion, however, is to make reservations when possible and choose the same server and table because the personalized attention does make a difference.  You can typically make reservations up to 2 days in advance. Three times we had the same server and he remembered our drinks, my kids names, and provided us excellent service. The other nights we just showed up and had different servers and the service was subpar as compared to having the same server.  The food in the dining room was good but not fantastic.  While the presentation of the deserts were lovely I was unimpressed with the taste.  The Lido was O.K.  We mainly ate breakfast there which I thought was the best of the meals offered.  With this being said...sadly..I just weighed myself and I gained 3.5 pounds since before the cruise. :).  We did not go to the specialty restaurant so I cannot comment.Activities:  My kids tried the teen facilities a couple of times and did not go back.  They found it corny and boring. I think the facilities would be better for younger children.  My kids did find things to do.  My son became a ping pong addict and he enjoyed the shows and contests.  My daughter liked the spa, workout area, jacuzi, and relaxing.  I liked just sitting back and watching the ocean. I did play bingo once, went to high tea, and attended a couple of presentations.  The activities were somewhat mundane and boring.  If you like bingo, trivia contests, and lecture presentations then you will be O.K.  They did have a few other things like a ship building contest, golf putting contests, and a kareoke competition.Evening Entertainment:  We typically went to dinner and a show.  The magician/comedian and the comedian were hysterical.  My kids and I enjoyed these 2 shows very much.  There was also a saxaphonist who was good.  The Zandaam dancers/singers are entertaining.  Other than the shows I found the night life to be lacking.  There is a club on the top deck but it reminded me of a wedding reception.  It wasn't very exciting.  The other public rooms had a piano player (Think music from the 50's and 60's)  and some other classical music.  Needless to say, the nightlife wsa somewhat non existent.Room:  We had an inside room. The room was a very good size and you can push your suitcase under your bed.  Lot's of closet and drawer space which we needed since we overpacked. I can't encourage you enough to take half of what you need and do washing once on cruise.  It will be a lot easier to move around in  your stateroom and you can have room for souveniers.  Washing and drying cost a total of $3.00 and please get your change in quarters before you wash because there is no way to change a dollar bill in the laundry room.  Our beds were comfortable. My daughter and I slept in beds and my son slept on the couch with a matress on top. He didn't have any complaints.  We did receive towel animals but only after we asked.  We always had ice and the rooms were always cleaned nicely.  We did not have a fridge but we had drinks in the room, however, there was a charge to drink them.   Bathroom was very nice with room to move around.  Shower was spacious as well for a ship.  I would bring your own body wash and shampoo. I didn't care for the products offered as they were very watery.  I was impressed with service we received due to a problem with a loud banging fire door that was slamming against our wall at the head of my bed.  I called to complain at about 2:00 a.m. and someone came up immediately to fix it. Unfortuntatly, it started banging again a couple of hours later and I had to call again.  They were very expedient and fixed the problem.  The next evening we arrived to find a bottle of wine, chocolates and an apology letter. I thought that was a nice gesture.  Three nights later we experienced rocky seas and that darn fire door started banging again. I had to call to report it again during the middle of the night.  The staff was very apologetic and sent someone right away to take care of the problem.  The next evening when I came back to my room there was an envelope that was waiting for me.  The staff provided me with a $100.00 on board credit due to the trouble I was experiencing. I found this to be very admirable. I really did not expect anything and this gesture was very unexpected.  This represents the service experience that Holland America strives to provide their guests.Ports:All ports were beautiful.  Alaska is breathtaking.  We were very fortunate to be cruising during a record breaking heatwave and had no rain at all.  It was all blue skies for us.  We took the excursions with the ship.  Junuea:  Whale watching, wildlife quest with Mendenhal Glacier - We loved this trip.  We saw Orca, humpbacks, eagles, bears, and the  most beautiful scenery you can imagine.  It does get chilly so dress in layers.  Sitka:  We went to see the Raptor center and Russian dancers - This trip is O.K.  I think I would opt for something more adventourous or scenic.Ketchican: We went on the Bering Sea Crab Fishermans tour on the Aleutian Ballad. This was an awesome tour. We all loved this tour.  Highly recommended.  We saw eagle, seals, and all kinds of sea creatures.  The fisherman's stories were so interesting and they were also very touching.  This was a hands on interactive experience and very cool.Victoria: Hmmmm...well...we never made it there. Supposedly there were high winds, however, we didn't feel anything more than a breeze and there were no whitecaps.  Later, I spoke to a guest on the Celebrity ship who had heard that there was someone sick on board our ship with some form of flu and they would not let us dock. Who knows..but it was disappointing.Overall HAL was a nice experience but the next time we cruise we are going to choos a different cruiseline. We are thinking about Royal.  Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click