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Sail Date: June 2013
First of all, thanks to all of you who answered questions and offered advice prior to our trip. In many instances it made all the difference! At any rate, here's my review and helpful hints of my own. EMBARKATION We left the hotel ... Read More
First of all, thanks to all of you who answered questions and offered advice prior to our trip. In many instances it made all the difference! At any rate, here's my review and helpful hints of my own. EMBARKATION We left the hotel at 11:00. Security was a breeze, but then there was some "hurry up and wait". If you can, arrive after 11:30. The wait is a little shorter at that time-we learned that after cruising Princess from the same pier last year. Regardless, we were still on the ship, carry-ons duly deposited in our cabin and at the Mariner lunch by 12:30. Lovely! CABIN We received a SWEET upsell/upgrade from a guaranteed VH to a VA and were in stateroom 8027. My DM and DF were in 8033. The cabins were roomy and our steward, Nyoman, introduced himself right away and never failed to call us by name and/or ask after my husband if we weren't together. The cabin was always maintained impeccably. Helpful hints-there are LOTS of hidden drawers! Not only the ones in the nightstands (which come with keys to lock them-a great touch allowing us to lock up our IPads) and under the foot of the bed, but also under the sofa! Helpful hint 2-our verandah was about 2 feet shorter than my parents' verandah a few doors down. Not a big deal, but it did end up with less of an overhang and was often wet while theirs was completely covered and stayed dry. This seemed to keep their cabin a smidge cooler too, since the sun didn't beat in quite as much. Helpful hint 3-bring in your chair cushions at night...they'll be soaked with dew/fog/rain, depending on the weather. FOOD I'm not a foodie, and generally love food that I don't have to cook or clean up after. The beef dishes in the MDR was almost always great and done to order. While there were always things I tried and didn't love, there were MANY, MANY great things to eat. We generally tried to stay out of the Lido for the first 48 hours as many people here mentioned the LONG lines there as you're being served by the staff. We gave up after trying lunch in the MDR...very slow service...and very different from the service at dinner-our waiter, AA, was phenomenal. I liked the food in the Lido just fine, but did find it interesting that there were periods of time that it was closed, particularly when returning from Victoria. They had some pizza and ice cream available prior to setting up the "evening snack" that night which was hamburgers, but other times it was closed at odd times. Fortunately I didn't need any more food! Tried room service too...food was often delivered a little early. ENTERTAINMENT/SPA The entertainment was ok...some of the shows a little hokey. The country/western one was pretty good and the magician was great. The comedian only did two shows, both at odd times, which was disappointing, as we usually enjoy the comedian and couldn't see him. Didn't do any spa treatments, but DH used the fitness center and felt it was crowded, but okay. He couldn't always get on all the machines that he wanted to so he compensated with a walk around the deck-3 times around the Promenade deck equals a mile. I did a few yoga classes. They were comparable in price to most classes in studios at home, although they were much shorter. The instructor did a nice job tempering the poses to the experience and flexibility of the group who attended. Interestingly, there isn't a "package" of yoga classes-you pay as you go, but if you sign up and come to the first class, you're given priority for future classes in case they're too full. Helpful hint 4-if you have a yoga mat that you can bring, do it. I brought a yoga towel to put over my mat. They ask you to wipe down your mat afterwards with antibacterial wipes, but using a mat that God-knows how many people have done a half-pigeon on? Just, well, ewwww.... The casino was fun...a woman hit the jackpot on video poker one night-wish it would have been me, but it was fun to watch the fuss. Bingo was fun too, but I didn't win that either. DH loved the culinary presentations and took a computer class too that he said was pretty good. If you partake in such, there is a priest on board and Mass is said daily with interdenominational services as well. He was pretty funny to listen to and did talks of his own throughout the week. They're not posted in the daily program, so we could never find them. They sounded like they'd be interesting though and he was an enjoyable speaker, so I'm kind of sorry I didn't get to see him. PORTS It rained hell-bent in Juneau. In fact, they said that they hadn't had rain like it in weeks. Made for a VERY wet gold-panning expedition. The guide clearly loved his job and catered to the kids on the trip, but got us back to the ship very, very late. So late, in fact, that DH, DM-I-L and DF-I-L had already finished dinner. Our waiter, the fabulous AA, brought us dinner in record time. Glacier Bay is gorgeous and defies description. Sitka and Ketchikan are sweet towns. We didn't do any excursions there and just walked around instead-nice quilt shops in each port too, if you're interested. Victoria was beautiful with amazing weather. We booked a tour through Victoria Classic Car tours. We were picked up by Dale in a 1954 Cadillac and got a private tour. I have the contact information, but don't know if I'm allowed to post it here. If I am, I'll be happy to share. FYI...the waits for leaving the ship are HOT....and long. Helpful hint 5-dress in layers. DISEMBARKATION We did the Luggage Direct option with the airport transfer. Worked like a dream. We were off the ship by 7:50 and at the airport by 9:00. Helpful hint 6-at about 7:25, open your cabin door if you're still in your stateroom. You won't hear the disembarkation announcement otherwise. By the way, we had NO days of the week mats in the elevators and NO disembarkation talk. If anyone has any specific questions, I'm happy to answer!   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
I went on this cruise with my mom. Embarkation was approximately 15 minutes. We were in stateroom 4092, which has a partial ocean view. We had a nice, ocean view out of half the window. We could hear the elevator ding when our tv ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my mom. Embarkation was approximately 15 minutes. We were in stateroom 4092, which has a partial ocean view. We had a nice, ocean view out of half the window. We could hear the elevator ding when our tv wasn't on, but that didn't bother me. Our room was always kept clean and the room stewards got us anything we requested. We had excursions at each port and not a lot time left over to explore the towns afterwards. We went whale watching, to the Raptor Center, on a sea otter excursion, and I went on a float plane ride. (I'll try to post a review about my excursions in the Alaska forum.) When we were on the ship, I went to a wine tasting, a mixology class, a photo class, and a towel animal class. I also went to see some shows. My mom even won a bracelet at one of the give-aways. My mom used the gym around 6:00 AM most days. She said there was sometimes a wait for the treadmills since they were allowed to be used for one hour at a time. My least favorite part about the Westerdam was the food. Some days a dish might taste really good and if you ordered it the next day, it would taste bad. Sometimes food would be over cooked and hard. I saw a few people send their food back during dinner. I also saw a lot of people piling food on their plates at the buffet, so I know everyone has a different idea about what they like. Overall, sailing on the Westerdam was a good time and I thought Alaska was beautiful. Of course, it probably helps that we had beautiful weather throughout our trip. We were told we could leave the ship at 8:00 AM and we walked out, grabbed our bags, presented our customs forms, and met our ride in about 15 minutes. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
So, my sister and I wanted to surprise our husbands with a first cruise and the destination was Alaska. We chose HAL because so many reviews stated that this was a top notch cruise line with attention to superb detail. First off, the ship ... Read More
So, my sister and I wanted to surprise our husbands with a first cruise and the destination was Alaska. We chose HAL because so many reviews stated that this was a top notch cruise line with attention to superb detail. First off, the ship is so run down that it wasn't very impressive. The red leather chairs in the Vista Lounge are so dirty that the chair arms are no longer red but gray with dirt!!! The carpeting thru out the ship is a disgrace; chairs in our room were all stained. The first 2 days on ship the staff served the food for hygenic reasons thereby making for extremely long lines in the Lido buffet. There were lines everywhere on the ship! We couldn't ever make reservations for any of the restaurants because they were already all reserved. My sister had the room next to me which was a Superior Suite; she was supposed to get all these upgrades and be treated extra special for the room category; well, nada zip zilch! she didn't get anything different than me. After watching so many different movies over the years, I had a vision of being treated like a queen in a large stateroom and wearing beautiful clothes and having great dinners. So if I didn't have that impression, the cruise probably would have been fine. However, service was truly mediocre, food was so so, room was small and not very clean. I know without a doubt we won't be on HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary ... Read More
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary we were very excited. There was so much to be disappointed about on this cruise. The service was very poor - especially the first week. We were almost in shock as the crew seemed untrained and unprepared to handle the mealtimes in the Lido and the dining rooms. It took several requests to get a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. There wasn't adequate staff serving and resulted in very long lines in the Lido and taking as much as 20 minutes to get a sandwich made at lunch or an omelet at breakfast. It took over an hour to get waffles in the dining room for breakfast. The maitre d personally apologized - but we noticed that the dining room attendees became fewer and fewer over the course of the cruise. The Lido served the same meals at dinner that were served in the dining room. This is very different from other cruises we've been on. The cabin stewards were very personable and professional. However, they appeared to be overworked. Our stewards were responsible for cleaning 30+ cabins. Our cabin was frequently not cleaned before 2:30 and in the evening we came back 9:30 from dinner/show to find them still working on cabins. Several nights when we were ready for bed - we asked that they skip us so we could turn in for the night. The library/computer area was a favorite location on this ship. The room is adjacent to the coffee bar and is equipped with lots of books, comfy chairs and a great view. The librarian has initiated an impromptu knitting group on days at sea. There was an opportunity to join with others who enjoyed the craft. She has information on great knitting shops we could visit on our port visits. I'd love to see this offered on other ships . The second week there was noticeable improvement. However, many were not happy or pleased with this cruise and indicated that it was very different from other Holland America cruises they had been on. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit - however, many of the ports had little to offer and the tours were very over-priced. I think if we had been much older, we may have enjoyed just the cruising and the views which were spectacular. Our favorite was the Hubbard Glacier. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We took fleece jackets and that was fine. In Sitka we were a little cold, probably dressing in layers is the best bet. We did not have any rain. It was cool (60's or 50's), but not really cold. Our first 24 hours we had ... Read More
We took fleece jackets and that was fine. In Sitka we were a little cold, probably dressing in layers is the best bet. We did not have any rain. It was cool (60's or 50's), but not really cold. Our first 24 hours we had high seas and everyone was a bit sea sick, some more than others. After that no problem. Sunday we got on the boat. Next day was Glacier Bay, you don't get off the boat, I recommend going to the bow of the boat for best views. On the boat, I paid for a massage, and also to use the jacuzzi hot tub that you have to pay extra for. If I was doing it again I would skip those expenses. We did use the hot tubs that are free and they are just as good. You have to pay for sodas, if you get a drink card for sodas you can get $50 of sodas for $25. We bought laniards to carry around the room key like a necklace, you might want to bring some along if you have them. The piano bar is good, the magician/comedian is really good, the entertainment is pretty good overall. For photos, you can get all your photos for $400 including negatives, or buy them by the sheet. We bought just a few by the sheet, but someone told me that they planned to buy all their pictures so they got as many taken as they could - there are 5 stations set up for photos on the last formal night, and they had pics taken at all the stations. There are many opportunites to get photos, and the formal posed ones are really well done, so it might be worth it to have that strategy. WiFi is very expensive, 75 cents per minute, or 55 if you buy 90 minutes. Way too expensive. We were also on 5th deck mid-ship with a balcony, it was nice. The rooms are adequate, the beds were comfortable. The service is very good. Overall we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was ... Read More
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was $11.75 plus tip.BOARDING: be aware that you will probably have to schlep your luggage into the terminal as Seattle apparently does not offer porters for the masses. We carted our bags to the security scanner and then proceeded upstairs to check in. We checked in about 11:30 and were placed in group 7; group 2 was boarding. Seating was plentiful and our number was called about 20 minutes later.We dropped off our luggage in the cabin (yes, they were ready) and headed to the dining room for lunch. By the time we returned to the cabin, our luggage had arrived.PORTS: The ports are the reason most people take this cruise. We fully enjoyed our time in the ports. Although the Amsterdam was a bit of a disappointment in several ways, the ports are what counted.In Ketchikan we rented a car from Alaskan Car Rental and had an enjoyable day visiting Totem Bight, Walmart, Bugge Beach, and generally cruising around the area. Weather was clear with a high of almost 70.Tracy Arm: Weather was clear, and not very cold. While this makes being on deck more pleasant, I actually missed the misty, very cold day we had previously experienced at Tracy Arm. The ice flow seemed less than when we were here about the same time 4 years ago. Once again, we got nowhere near Sawyer Glacier.Juneau: We took the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier and spent several hours there. Tide was out, so we did some beach walking. We also did a bit of hiking. Of course, we also made our way to Alaska Shirt Company to stock up on t-shirts. The weather was a bit overcast, but not raining. Don't forget the Juneau Public Library offers free Internet and is adjacent to where the ship docks.Icy Straight Point: I really enjoyed this port and the hiking opportunities. We walked the second generation forest trail and then decided to walk into Hoonah. (Shuttle available for $8 round trip or $5 one way.) The shuttle used old green Denali buses. Hoonah had some great eagle viewing opportunities and we enjoyed seeing the actual town rather than having a made-for-the tourists experience.Anchorage: free and frequent shuttles provided into center of town. From there we took a free shuttle to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This was really enjoyable, and we left knowing a lot more about the First Nation tribes of Alaska.Homer: Another port we enjoyed although that sentiment was not shared by everyone. We forked over $15 for the HOHO bus, and it really was a bit much for three stops. However, we enjoyed getting to the Alaska Islands and Oceans Center and having a cinnamon roll at Two Sisters Bakery. For shoppers, there is an interesting array of eclectic galleries. Lots of good beach walking here. We, of course, also made our way to the Homer Spit and now own Salty Dawg t-shirts.Kodiak: this was our only rainout - a really cold, yucky day. We walked into town, but we canceled our rental car due to weather conditions. No shuttle offered.Hubbard Glacier: fantastic! Good weather, fantastic scenery.Sitka: another gorgeous day! We booked a private tour with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours and spent three hours sailing Sitka Sound. Our day was filled with sea otters, tufted puffins, seals, whales, and more types of birds than I can remember. I think everyone saw whales in Sitka, and we felt our tour was well-worth the money. Jim was an excellent guide, and his boat was quite comfortable.Victoria: this is the only port where we booked a ship's tour - city highlights and Butchart Gardens. The tulips were gorgeous.Formal Nights: the three sea days and the evening of Kodiak. The last formal night also had a Black & White Ball. The Sitka evening was the Master Chef's Dinner. Quite frankly, the Lido was absolutely packed with people on these occasions as they avoided the dress up routine. On other nights, jeans were the normal dining room attire for those of us choosing our own dining time. As someone said to us: The Amsterdam is a small ship with big ship problems. Crowding and lines were constant; windows were filthy; the right hand often did not know what the left hand was doing. Lido: absolute pandemonium! We started eating breakfast & lunch in the dining room to have a place to sit after finally getting food in the Lido and circling and circling and circling, never to find even a partial table available. When we did eat in the Lido, the food was often not warm. We could not eat our Rustic lasagna or sweet & sour chicken as the food was not even lukewarm.Menus: food is subjective, and we were not impressed. We actually ordered from room service three evenings as there was nothing on the menu that appealed. The Caesar salad continues to shrink, and other economy measures were obvious. Desserts were less than inspiring. I'm sure others loved every meal, but this was the first time on HAL where we have been disappointed with food.Thermal Suite Pass: we wasted our money on this; however, the fault is ours as we should have known better. The hot tub jets were almost non-functioning, but the Lido hot tubs worked perfectly. There was no monitoring of the area, and I actually shared the room with a woman in a bathing suit top and white thong underwear as the bottom. It was a revealing experience! The Greenhouse Spa relaxation room was literally that - several people slept in there all day! Somehow the atmosphere of this spa area seemed more like a day cruise to Freeport. The cruise is so port extensive that we just didn't use the Thermal suite, and we should have known better than to fork over $299.Happy Hour: on this ship, happy hour is 4-5p.m. with the second drink being $1 The Ocean Bar guys kept us well watered, and overall, they were just great.Pinnacle Grill: we enjoyed our boneless ribeyes!Cabin: run, run run away from 3370. We survived this cabin for a week as we did not want to complain. Thankfully, when we did complain, Guest Services took us seriously, and we were offered a comparable cabin. Cabin 3370 is under the dishwasher that vibrates and groans loudly until about 11 p.m. We survived that, but then the engine casing started causing loud noise 24 hours a day; it was like trying to sleep in the engine room. The ports made this trip a success, but if this had been our first trip on HAL, it might have been our last.Beards from Seattle were on the ship in Juneau, and a small number of cruisers were invited to a focus group to discuss HAL. (They also met with crew focus groups.) The experienced cruisers gave them an earful about the lack of service, the cold coffee, the noise issues, confiscated curling irons, etc. I suspect they might have been a bit shocked at the service complaints. As a relative HAL newby, I was astonished at how unhappy some 3 & 4 star Mariners were with all of the service glitches.Luggage Direct: this turned out to be a pain for us. When we received the information in our cabin the night before sailing, we had one luggage tag rather than the 2 I had requested, and my husband's boarding pass was for someone with a similar name who was traveling to San Jose, CA. We live in Florida. We trekked to the Guest Services area to try to get things corrected. We were told correct boarding passes would be delivered to the cabin as Southwest was responsible for the error. After verifying that I had indicated in writing that we needed two luggage tags and a few minutes, they gave me the second one, and assured me they had been providing this service for 4 years. When we arrived in Tampa after 11 p.m., one of our bags was missing. Want to guess where it was? Yep, San Jose! The person at the front desk ran off another luggage tag, but the bar code was keyed to the erroneous San Jose boarding pass. That bag will hopefully be delivered to our home tomorrow.For us, Alaska was the attraction, and we were certainly not disappointed as the two week experience offered a far more expansive view than our 7 day cruise of several years ago. Parts of the cruise experience were enjoyable: we met many nice people with whom we enjoyed drinks and dining. Our second set of cabin stewards was alert, attentive, and efficient. Certainly, we ran into some glitches, but these did not ruin the experience for us. In any travel, stuff happens. Misery is optional. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
We took a 7 Day cruise to Alaska to get away from CA heat. Decided on Holland America's Westerdam, because of price and destinations...Sitka and Glacier Bay. We'd previously cruised on Princess (Sapphire) to Alaska. The ... Read More
We took a 7 Day cruise to Alaska to get away from CA heat. Decided on Holland America's Westerdam, because of price and destinations...Sitka and Glacier Bay. We'd previously cruised on Princess (Sapphire) to Alaska. The Westerdam offered super attentive service...the beverage people were funny and the waiter staff was thorough. One of the best places on this ship is the Eagle's Nest. We used it like a family room. People actually used the library, puzzles, magazines, computers. The bartenders were entertaining, sometimes musical entertainment, wonderful seating. Very nice and cozy. The trip was a travel bargain.... We enjoyed nearly everything but... Be warned the water can be rough...I loved it, husband was dizzy The Lido buffet was confusing. Selections on the buffet seemed limited, maybe I just didn't understand the system. At the end of the cruise I ordered a steak in the Lido Buffet and it was terrific. WE had many breakfasts and one lunch in the main dining room...I like to be waited on in the morning and didn't like the crowds and confusion in the Lido Buffet. The Lido didn't open until 6:30 AM...too late for some of us insomniacs. Room service was very good...surprising. Lido Deck Buffets and fast food were good. The dining room food was elegant, but bland. We felt the same about our Princess cruise, so it may be due to our CA tastes. The Steak and Lobster combo on formal night was fabulous, best ever! We often sat with other people (open seating option) who were always very nice and older. I thought bar charges were reasonable, w/o husband I would have drank way more. Here's the biggest surprise of this cruise: Most travelers were older (we really didn't want to see children) so we chose Holland. You would expect a stuffy crowd. These passengers were off the wall...very edgy humor. Risque. I laughed so hard I cried. We did the 5 Day Carnival to Mexico with our adult daughters and that was tame compared to this. Maybe this was a fluke...Like they said "what happens in Alaska stays in Alaska' If there were prudes on this cruise they stayed in their cabins...but the theater was full of screaming people. Very funny. The talent of the theater entertainers surprised me. Comedians were crazy! Incredible Bob Mackie costuming, excellent stage lighting and sets. We go to events in SF, Vegas, Reno etc...this was as enjoyable. Lounge entertainment in all bars was was lame... The nature lectures were weak, only the ranger seemed well informed. I took a computer class that was well presented, non threatening. Other classes were pretty basic...don't expect too much. On this trip we skipped excursions....explored on our own. Saw the Juneau State Museum and other museums in Sitka. We had a Golden Eagle National Park pass that was honored. Juneau is really rundown when you get away from the jewelry shops etc. Crumbling sidewalks, state buildings look worn out. There are good gift/art shops in the downtown area (skip the jewelry shops and see the real stuff) We went to Red Dog Saloon, crazy crowd in there..pricey beer and food, but worth the stop. We loved Sitka...had reindeer hotdogs on the street. Toured National Park Service museums, saw the "Russian" dancers and shopped in local stores for souvenirs. In Ketchikan we walked to Creek Street and toured a brothel. The salmon were traveling upstream..great to see. There are many good gift shops near the ship docks. Fur stores were wonderful, but I live in CA. We had gone to see Totem Poles last time...excursion was only so so. In Victoria we went to the old tobacco shop and got a Cuban...smoked on street. Love that place, on Government Street. Great street entertainment and outdoor markets. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Just got back off the HAL Zanndam Alaska.. Took my husband and 2 sons. 10 and 15.   HAL just emailed me same cruise for a lot less $. How tacky! Must say this cruise is a snoozer!! We had a cute elderly lady in a wheelchair tell us how ... Read More
Just got back off the HAL Zanndam Alaska.. Took my husband and 2 sons. 10 and 15.   HAL just emailed me same cruise for a lot less $. How tacky! Must say this cruise is a snoozer!! We had a cute elderly lady in a wheelchair tell us how board she was!      The day schedule never seemed to have much on it. I know it is a cruise usually for an older crowd. I don't think that was the problem cause they were a lot of fun!!  My son also loved the Hal kids club. He spent a lot of time there. The food in the Lido was awful!! I felt like they were trying to be creative with yesterdays leftovers.. And we had a hard time catching them open anyway..  The poor workers worked so hard to serve up the nasty crap! I spent a lot of our trip feeling sorry for them and how hard they tried!  My kids called it the "Pig troff slop"  Pinnical grill lunch was good but small servings. We also tried to order room service twice. Both times they never answered the phone. When I called the front desk they told me "they must be busy"    I spent a lot of time and money on this trip for my men.. I felt from the get go I was getting ripped off! I was a past cruiser with them which got me nothing! They dropped the price 50 bucks a person and upgraded to a window room after we booked  which I didn't get and no break on my kids staying in the same room.. Sorry HAL... cant say your corp made me very happy!   We also waited 4 hours to disembark. I guess a problem with luggage unloading.  Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The ... Read More
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The following review is fairly long, but I've tried to categorize it so that people can find particular sections that may interest them. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask: patricia_fessler@yahoo.com SHIP: m.s. Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, well designed and just the right size. Hardwood and brass abound, giving the ship an elegant, nautical feel. This is enhanced by excellent art and antiques, where there is an emphasis on Dutch and Asian pieces. Portraits of Holland America ships by Captain Stephen J. Card are a particular highlight. The library was good, well-stocked with books, stationery, and games. (There was one glaring omission in the book collection, though - "125 Years of Holland America Line" which is a great history of the company. I'm always surprised not to find it on their ships.) I'm a real stickler about upkeep, and I'm pleased to say that the Amsterdam was very well kept up: the flowers were always fresh, all the brass was polished, and the carpets were clean and unworn. I guess this may sound like an expected baseline, but believe me if you're obsessive like me, you see all kinds of flaws even at the nicest hotels, so it was a delight to see things just so. (One small gripe: during the cruise, it seemed like some kid scratched the brass button-plate in the elevator. HAL may wish to weigh the cost of replacing / sanding the brass periodically vs. installing cameras, like in many hotels.) With about 1500 people onboard (lots of families with 3+ a stateroom/suite), the ship was completely booked but never felt crowded. Lines were rare and short. I was reminded of the importance of a small(ish) ship when we docked next to the Radiance of the Seas, a mammoth ship that had enormous lines to get back on the ship. FOOD: This was by far the best food I've had on any cruise line. It totally eclipsed even Celebrity, which is supposedly known for its great cuisine. The presentation was lovely, the range and quality of ingredients was excellent, and the breadth of options was mind-boggling. Of particular note: - THE PINNACLE GRILL. I'd eaten at the Pinnacle on the Statendam in the Spring, and ever since had been dreaming about rare Sterling beef, seared at 1800 degrees. I was not disappointed. This place is a steak lover's dream, infinitely better than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. At $20 a person, it's a ridiculous bargain. One down side is the apparent removal of prime rib from the menu, which I'd had on Statendam. Nonetheless, the porterhouse was outstanding, as was the filet mignon. I read that on Oosterdam, HAL has introduced Hungarian waiters in the Pinnacle. I think this should be fine, but my Indonesian waiter (Tony) was knowledgeable, helpful, and never intrusive (something I found to be a problem with the over-chummy Hungarian waiters in specialty restaurant of Celebrity's Millennium). - DUTCH NIGHT. I never before associated the Dutch with fine cuisine, but I was wrong. Their version of Duck a l'Orange (I can't remember the Dutch name) was delectable, and a martini made with Dutch gin is really good (super-smooth and vaguely lemony). My mother said the Indonesian luncheon was also wonderful, but I was off exploring the port. - ROOM SERVICE. Frequently a weak point for many cruise lines, the room service was very good here, with attractive presentation, croissants wrapped in an insulating linen napkin (not plastic wrap), and bacon that made it to my mouth HOT. STAFF: HAL's staff has always been one of its great strengths, and the Amsterdam staff are no exception. They were cheerful and friendly, hard-working, remembered my name, and fulfilled assorted special requests (eggs done just so, sliced mangos at breakfast, etc). I'm also happy to report that the bar staff were right on the ball. HAL seems to have a policy of never wanting to intrude or hassle, which is good (especially compared to occasionally pushy tactics on other lines), but in the past I've sometimes had trouble getting a drink (!). Nowadays, I think the staff hit the balance just right - if I so much as raised a finger, someone came straight by, but if I was absorbed in a book, no one troubled me. I had the honor of meeting Captain van Zanne and Hotel Manager Henk Mensink; both were models of their professions. Apart from getting us from point A to B safely, Captain van Zanne was statesman-like and had a manner that made one feel confident that this was a well run ship. Mr. Mensink was charming, but also thoughtful, and the quality of the food and accommodations is a testament to his hard work and skill. The entertainment staff were a fun bunch, and kept the Crow's Nest rockin' until well after I had to go to bed. I did have one bad experience, with my dining steward. I asked him if some spring rolls contained shrimp, explaining that I am allergic to shellfish. He told me, with apparent confidence, that they were vegetarian. Fortunately, I cut open the roll and saw the shrimp before I could take a bite. I advised my dining steward and the supervisor, and got the impression my dining steward got a talking-to. The Port Shopping Ambassador, Ivan, seemed a little smarmy but I fear that's a function of his job. He seems like a paid shill because he is. (Ever see the Simpson's episode with the monorail salesman? He reminded me of that guy.) Maybe those recommended stores would be more relevant to me if I bought jewelry and other big-ticket items where a guarantee is important, but since I don't, I prefer to shop at small, independent places off the beaten path. Ivan's talks were easily avoided. More educational and interesting options that shopping abounded: The on-board naturalist was very good, and a great help to whale-watchers on deck. Her slide shows were also informative and entertaining. The native Alaskan artist, Moses, was a great story-teller, had lovely artwork, and was a truly charming guy. ENTERTAINMENT: In the evenings, the classical trio was absolutely amazing. They were called the Champagne Strings, but they were a different group than the guys of the same name on the Maasdam. I'd found those guys (led by "Papa Attila") to be fabulous, but these guys just blew me out of the water. Not only were they good enough to play without a lick of sheet music, they were good enough to really PLAY with the music. They would improvise and enliven classical music in a way I'd never seen before. Holland America, Hungarian musicians are definitely the way to go - as good as the Rosario Strings are (Filipino?), they can't hold a candle to the serious musicians from Hungary. (BTW, my family is Filipino and my aunt was a concert pianist, but by and large Filipinos are better at rock n' roll.) Incidentally, I thought it was very tasteful that the musicians didn't have a tip cup, but did sell CDs. Since they had them right there (no need to go to the shop), I happily bought a CD, and so did plenty of other people. I didn't catch a lot of the formal shows, because I preferred to listen to the classical music, dance, or just hang out with my family, but I did see the magician. I can't recall his name, but he was GREAT. He's one of the few magicians I've seen who blends magic and humor while still coming off as a great guy. (Copperfield, Sigfried and Roy, Lance Burton, etc. all seem to be real shmucks - to their assistants and their audiences.) His tricks were also excellent, especially one where he takes the wedding rings of three audience members, "magically" interlinks them, and has each man confirm that the ring is really his. Especially with projector screens showing the close-up detail, this trick brought the house down. SUITE: We were in 7058, a handicapped-accessible suite (for my mother). The suite was lovely, spacious, and had more storage space than you could shake a stick at. The bathroom had a flat-floor, handicapped-accessible shower, and ALSO a wonderful bathtub with whirlpool jets. The only mild downside with this cabin was that because we were high up and at the far end of the ship, we felt the motion of the sea more than other places on the ship. One suggestion for the shower: the emergency cord should be labeled as such. My mom pulled it, not sure what it did ... we found out when the front desk called to make sure everything was okay. The standard shampoo, soaps and moisturizer were good as usual, and I was pleased to see extra-nice "Institute Suisse" bath amenities in the medicine cabinet. Didn't use them, but a nice touch for the suites. As for the bed, the mattress was comfy, the pillows perfect, and the towels large and fluffy. In the past I always found HAL's regular staterooms very roomy and comfortable, but in addition to the extra space and whirlpool bath, a few special amenities made the suite really worth the splurge: - NEPTUNE LOUNGE. This charming, suites-only lounge always had delicious snacks prepared by the Pinnacle Grill chef; perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, a mid-day snack, another mid-day snack... you get the idea. Tony, our waiter in the Pinnacle Grill, worked here doing the day, and was again very charming. - CONCIERGE SERVICE. Snookie the concierge (I kid you not, that was her name), and her assistant Maria Rachel, were unfailingly helpful. We never had to wait in line at the front desk, the ladies handled all our shore excursion arrangements, and were a real delight. - COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY. This may sound silly to some people, but I loved the idea of going home with clean clothes! The laundry staff were amazing, in addition to impeccable work on my blouses, I believe they even ironed my underwear. Zounds! - SUITE RECEPTION / LUNCHEON. These were opportunities to meet the captain and the staff in a small, sociable setting. The food was, once again, delicious. Had caviar for the first time in my life ... apparently it was very good quality, but personally I like smoked salmon better. Champagne and wine flowed freely. I had a really chats with the Captain, the Hotel Manager, and the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager. EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION: Holland America has recently introduced new and very much improved embarkation and disembarkation procedures, they are now really rather pleasant. For some reason, lots of people always turn up well before the "official" embarkation window, in this case 3pm-5pm. In the past, they had to wait around a pretty barren room at the port (these ports are owned by the city, not the cruise line). Now, Holland America lets you get onboard much earlier, even as the staff are still cleaning up from the previous guests. You can't yet go to your stateroom, but you can hang out in the comparative luxury of the cruise line's lounges. Now, on our sailing extra cleaning needed to be done due to safety precautions around recent virus outbreaks (lots of people got sick on a Princess cruise, and a very few on the previous Amsterdam sailing). So while folks weren't allowed on the ship quite so early as usual, the company brought out refreshments to the waiting room, and people had a snack while they hung out. You could also book spa appointments, Pinnacle Grill reservations, and pre-order wines. PORTS: We went to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier (not really a port, but a destination), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. All were fascinating, and the shore excursions were well chosen to provide a range of activities for everyone. Also, we always had the BEST docking positions: right downtown. While other lines had further-out docks (eg, Princess) or even had to tender (eg, RCI), we got to walk ashore. (Everywhere except Sitka, which has no dock for cruise lines, and everyone had to tender.) My only small gripe was that I would have liked more time in Ketchikan ... but frankly that's just inspiration to go back! FELLOW PASSENGERS: A nice mix, with a surprising number of families. The kids seemed well entertained, and were never a bother. As usual on HAL, I met some really great people with amazing backgrounds. Read Less
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