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19 Holland America Spa Cruise Reviews

We fear that the days of feeling like Royalty while traveling as a verandah-balcony-class passenger are slipping away. The Cruise Industry may be following in the steps of the Airline industry in their effort to economize. Space is tighter ... Read More
We fear that the days of feeling like Royalty while traveling as a verandah-balcony-class passenger are slipping away. The Cruise Industry may be following in the steps of the Airline industry in their effort to economize. Space is tighter and services and amenities are being "redirected" to maintain profitability. As long-time balcony-cabin cruisers our first shock came when we saw the small 4 ft x 10ft balcony in cabin V5084 with just enough room for two of us and a couple of chairs, an ottoman, and tiny 18 inch high table. Balconies on older ships were significantly more spacious. Our Upper Verandah room was just above lifeboats #8 and #6 on Port side. The balcony was private and well protected from rain by a large overhang above, the only intrusion being maintenance crews greasing the lifeboat hoist mechanisms - which they did while docked on days 2 and 6 of our cruise. The cabin was small but adequate with very comfortable bed, and an additional couch and desk area. Bathroom with shower and small tub were fine (incl shampoo & conditioner & soap dispensers), though we wish there had been a night light; instead we kept the bathroom light on with door closed at night since light switches were hard to find in the dark. 2 cozy robes were provided. Closet space was ok but poorly illuminated. Three life-vests occupied the top shelves of the 3 closets --- these would be better stowed in the difficult to open cabinets above the couch. Volume on the small TV was poor while watching movies, even at max setting. Closed-captioning was definitively a help, but did not always work for some reason. Fortunately channel 44 announcements came through loud and clear. The morning sun was quite obvious since the curtains were not room-darkening enough. We faced away from land at Half Moon Cay and in Key West. The next shocker was the coffee - something that was always a treat on Holland in the past. It was downright mediocre and not becoming of the Dutch tradition of a "lekker kopje koffie" (delicious cup of coffee). The Half and Half was thin and milk-like. No doubt the motivation is to economize with cheaper beans and to drive coffee aficionado's to deck 11 Explorations Cafe, which features a Starbucks type coffee-shop that charges extra! Likewise, internet access is available but slow and expensive ($55 for 100 minutes). We had an excellent signal in our room, but just signing on and getting our backlog of messages consumed several minutes each time. Wi-fi calling was impossible on my t-mobile phone since the connection was too slow. The cabin stewards did their best, were pleasant, and were obviously being pushed to their limits: one afternoon my wife accidentally spilled some crackers in front of the couch, and while the room had been turned out nicely for bedtime, we found crumbs still all over the floor. When we asked about this the next day our cabin steward indicated they only had time to vacuum in the mornings. The ships' staff were excellent as always, and seemed to be even friendlier than we remembered in our past travels ... plenty of "good mornings", "how are you", "have a nice day", etc. The TAMARIND restaurant in particular was a truly exceptional experience! For the $20 extra cost you are treated to an extraordinary oriental meal, and my 1-1/2 inch thick wasabi-encrusted filet mignon put any other meat served in Lido or the Rembrandt restaurant to shame - especially the 3/4 inch drab filet they served on Steak & Lobster formal night (Note: we never ate at the Pinnacle Grill, so can't compare). Food quality and selection in general was very good and we never had stomach issues. We do suggest you plan on eating outside of "normal" hours since rush hour gets really busy. The elevators were TERRIFIC!!! Super fast and efficient with lovely waiting areas that were tastefully designed, and with roomy staircases. We loved the outside elevators with their awesome views. Other areas of the ship, in particular the main Lobby & Atrium on decks 1 & 2, seemed small and narrow, though most of the time they were not crowded. The Casino was ok but the older-type 25 cent slot machines we like to play were on the smoking side, and ventilation was inadequate to prevent drifting smoke from becoming unbearable at times. Neither of us felt compelled to attend evening performances in the Queen's lounge, and we missed the ol' days of magicians, comedians, and hypnotists. The shops are excellent, brightly lit with plenty of selection in a wide variety of prices. There was a sidewalk sale one day on Lido but due to maintenance on the the sliding roof mechanism the trapped heat and humidity from the pool and all the passengers present was stifling as we waited in long lines to pay the cashiers. The SPA was fantastic though expensive (as usual). We consider it a treat and don't mind the surcharge, though we did opt for shore days when rates were discounted. The facilities are lovely, and the very capable massage therapists had wonderful attitudes. The nearby Gym has plenty of room and equipment, with nice sea views. Exercisers have plenty of opportunity to walk on Promenade, the observation decks, and play tennis/soccer/basketball etc. on the very nice net-enclosed Sports deck. The Eurodam is equipped with the latest stabilizing equipment, but I doubt those were needed during our cruise since we had such perfect weather throughout our 7 day trip. Cabin V5084 is located exactly midships and therefore already extremely stable. We hardly felt the waves and it was only the soft vibrations of the engines that reminded us we were on a ship. In fact we didn't even experience the after cruise wave sensations that normally stay with us days after a cruise ends. So, while this new ship is technologically more advanced, for us the bottom line feeling was that of a cheapening of the cruising experience. New cruisers may have a completely different opinion, but we can't help make comparisons to our previous trips. The economic reasons are understandable, but nevertheless we will avoid the Eurodam, and its sister the Nieuwe Amsterdam, in our future travels. We hope that the older ships will maintain their stature and dignity long enough for us to enjoy a few more cruises before those too get redesigned to achieve financial efficiencies.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I just returned from 7 days aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Embarkation from Ft Lauderdale was a breeze. The Holland America crew really know how to keep a line moving. Our 1st port was Grand Turk. Had a pleasurable visit to Jacks Shack on the ... Read More
I just returned from 7 days aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Embarkation from Ft Lauderdale was a breeze. The Holland America crew really know how to keep a line moving. Our 1st port was Grand Turk. Had a pleasurable visit to Jacks Shack on the beach and enjoyed the local beer and jerk chicken. Next was San Juan, my fav ! Love that island, so many things to see and do. Visited El Jibarito restaurant for their pasteles (seasonal dish) usually Christmas and Mothers Day, along with their awesome mofongo. In port until 11pm which was very nice. On to St Thomas, we were docked in Crown Bay which is nice. Took the tram to Paradise Point for photos and drinks ! Great place ! The next stop was Half Moon Cay, rented a clamshell for the day and soaked up the warm temperature. Holland America has a magnificent BBQ on the beach and the food and drinks were delicious. I cannot say enough good things about the ship and her crew. They work together like a well oiled machine. We lacked for nothing on our voyage. No hassles, The entertainment was a pleasure, the musicians were easy on the ears and a lot of fun. There are many nooks inside the ship where one can go to enjoy quiet moments, I really enjoyed that. The gym was well equipped to work off all that fabulous food they prepared. It was all very fresh and tasty. I did not have a bad meal. The sushi was superb ! With all that said.....I had a wonderful cruise experience and cannot wait to sail on HAL again !!! I give the Nieuw Amsterdam 5 stars !!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I recently returned from a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We had cabin 8114 and our friends had wheelchair friendly cabin 8116. It was a wonderful cruise! Everything was topnotch...the food, the service, the ... Read More
I recently returned from a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We had cabin 8114 and our friends had wheelchair friendly cabin 8116. It was a wonderful cruise! Everything was topnotch...the food, the service, the itinerary and the shore excursions. If you are not heavy wine drinkers, they will keep your bottle for you for the next evening AND will transfer it to another restaurant if perhaps you're trying Pinnacle Grill or Tamarind... Holland America staff were waiting for us with cold bottles of water and cold, wet washcloths on the pier near the ship. What a nice touch after a warm day! One thing I did notice that I didn't like was a big vibration at certain points on the ship. It was particularly obvious in the Tamarind restaurant. We switched tables 3 times and couldn't get away from it there. We were traveling in cabins 8114 and 8116, an accessible cabin. 8114 had better close space, a nice baloney, and a bath tub (no jacuzzi). 8116 had less closet space and was geared for somebody in a wheelchair so a lot of your clothes need to hang in the lower half of the closet. The bathroom was very generous and there was a seat and bars in the shower, but no tub. The balcony on 8116 was at an angle facing the front of the ship which was especially nice when sailing. There is a ramp up/down through the balcony door for a wheelchair in 8116. I have been on other caribbean cruises, but the itinerary, ship and excursions on this one were the best yet!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Having sailed many of the Dam Ships previously, I was looking forward to the newest in the fleet, and she and her crew did not disappoint. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary, I like port intensive trips with ports that need some ... Read More
Having sailed many of the Dam Ships previously, I was looking forward to the newest in the fleet, and she and her crew did not disappoint. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary, I like port intensive trips with ports that need some research. I used HAL's transfers and hotel in Rome, and thank-goodness I did. My luggage didn't make it through my connection from Delta to Alitalia. The HAL hostess who greeted me took me to the Alitalia luggage desk to file a lost luggage report, which took many hand gestures and multiple copies of forms. I would have been lost without her help. My bag was in my room at the Visconti Palace, well located to St. Peter's, by the time I got back from dinner that evening. I am not certain whether Alitalia or HAl took care of that for me. Embarkation in Civitivecchia was a breeze. It was less than 15 minutes from stepping off the bus to stepping onto the ship. The ship had a noro outbreak on the previous sailing, and they were super cleaning the ship (even the walls were bleached), and anyone who arrived earlier than 1:30pm was not allowed to board. Having done the HAL transfers, we arrived at exactly the right time to board. I know it costs a little more to use their transfers, but the benefits far outweighed the costs, in my opinion. As the fare had been reduced over and over for this repositioning sailing around the Iberian peninsula, I was upgraded to a Spa Cabin, which seemed the same as other verandah cabins, I never used the tabletop fountain, and though the Bose iPod dock was great to listen to my own music, the best part was the location. One quick flight down to Lido deck, the spa, pool and buffet restaurant. One quick flight up to the Crow's Nest lounge and Explorations Cafe for internet and library. My cabin stewards, Hairul and ??? were friendly but non-intrusive. I am one who leaves the "service my room" sign out, and it is always ready when returning from a meal or activity. Because of the port intensive itinerary and my full day tours, I ordered room service breakfast each day using the door card at night. Each time I added extras that weren't listed, like a whole banana to take to shore with me, it was on the tray. They were on time each day and a delightful wake-up call, instead of relying on my cell phone alarm, that didn't change time zones automatically. The food in the Rembrandt Dining Room was always tasty and varied. We had open seating dining and at 7:00pm always walked right into a shared table. Each person we had contact with in the MDR was energetic and helpful. We especially loved Made, who added a bright spot to each evening, and remembered us at the dessert bar in the Lido after lunch. HAL is still not the best for desserts, but for me, it's perfect, a scoop of ice cream is all I need after a long meal. We ate one night in the Tamarind Restaurant. Best meal of the week. It is free at lunch and only $15 additional for dinner. The menu is varied and well prepared, and it's a visual masterpiece! We did have to change tables because of vibration near the window, but everything else went very well throughout the evening. The waitresses are wonderfully attentive. I had a brief problem with noise above my stateroom in the wee hours, the Front Desk staff handled it right away, offering to move me, but I was settled in with friends in cabins nearby. They provided ear plugs that worked like a charm, and left a bottle of wine for me in my cabin. They handled the situation professionally and immediately, calling often thereafter to make sure I was OK. The BB King Blues Club was my hangout after dinner for the entire cruise. The Memphis Sound is highlighted by 5 amazing musicians and CeCe (sp?), the singer, who was terrific! Each night was a different theme, from Elvis to Blues Brothers, to Aretha & Diana, to Otis Redding. This is a new concept for HAL, and I truly hope this is the direction they are going with entertainment, something for we younger cruisers (who grew up in the 70s) to enjoy. I'm not one for big show productions or comedians, so this was a special treat aboard the Eurodam. The Queen's Lounge, where it plays was full for the early set every night, and plenty of people danced when the mood hit them.Our ports were unique, not listed on many sites. In Spain: Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, & Vigo. Lisbon, Portugal, St. Peter Port, Guernsey and ZeeBrugge, Belgium, ending in Copenhagen. I used SpainDayTours.com for 3 excursions, one HAL trip to Cordoba, which was excellent, and booked a private taxi tour in Guernsey and taxi transfer to Brugges, which is amazing! More on the ports when they are listed by Cruise Critic. There were many, many Australians aboard. They added a liveliness to the atmosphere. Not a lot of children aboard, but a few and they were well behaved. The hot tubs were closed for the first several days due to the virus, as was the thalassotherapy pool and thermal suite. I had signed up for the entire cruise, but lost interest in waiting and the spa promptly refunded my payment after the 3rd day. Seas were heavy most days and nights, especially in the Atlantic. Often, then promenade deck was closed for walkers, which made the treadmills in the gym full most times I visited there. The ship listed and creaked on a couple of nights, and the Captain came on the PA to advise us that the weather forecasters were wrong, winds were higher than expected, but that the ship could handle the winds we encountered. Disembarkation in Copenhagen was a breeze. My bags were already on the transfer bus when I got off the ship, so went directly to the bus. The Palace Hotel in Copenhagen was a PERFECT location, just off the walking street. I give the itinerary very high marks, the ship and it's crew very high as well. I met a lot of wonderful people on this trip, and hope to sail the Eurodam another day. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. ... Read More
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. I liked the layout of the ship; smaller than most but not crowded even though it was Easter break week. We ( my son and I ) were upgraded to a partial blocked outside cabin, 3383. This was not an upgrade. The cabin was large but from the moment we entered I knew we would have a problem. The diesel fuel smell in the cabin was overwhelming and the A/C was hardly working. We immediately called downstairs; they said the smell would go away when we started sailing and sent someone up to look at the A/C. The repair man came up and said that the cabin was hot and that they would adjust it downstairs. We went off to sign up for the thermal suite package and I did not think about it again. When we came back to the cabin after dinner the smell was still bad and the A/C was still not working well. Our cabin steward apologized and got us a fan. He did what he could but he looked like this was not the first time this cabin had a problem. I tried to sleep with the fan blowing the fumes in my face. At 1 am I gave up; I had a terrible headache from the fumes and felt sick to my stomach. I went to the front office and asked if there was anywhere I could sleep. The lady said ; sorry we are completely booked. She was sorry I was sick from the cabin fumes but there was no room in the inn. I offered to sleep in the infirmary, I just needed some sleep and some clean air. No the infirmary was closed. So I told her I would sleep in the library. I went up and slept on the library couch for 2 hours, woke up without the headache and went back to my smelly cabin. The smell did get better the next day, the A/C never did and after 2 days of asking for help we gave up and kept the fan going. The toilet in the cabin worked most of the time; only had to have it fixed 2x. Avoid this cabin. The rest of the trip was fun. Went on the whale watching trip and saw a couple of whales ( the end of March is really too late in the season). We enjoyed the thermal suite and worked out everyday on the new equipment. We spent some time in the casino , contributing to the casino's retirement fund. The casino manager was great. The comedian , Dan Grueter was wonderful and we were sad that he only did one show. The singers and dancers were good and did their best with the small stage and the simple sets. We enjoyed the cooking demo, the computer classes and the DJ in the Crow's nest. We ate in the lido restaurant for all of our meals. We have done this before on 2 other cruises with HAL and normally we found the food there to be as good as the dining room . But not this time, HAL's food quality is slipping. Overall, we had a nice time. But for me the quality of service was seriously lacking. When you are paying so much for a room on a ship ; you should be able to sleep in your room and not the library couch. I was too tired and had too bad a headache to care. I wish someone on the HAL staff could have cared a little more. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We have enjoyed tours on board Princess line in Mexico and the Caribbean, so we decided to try Holland America for our Alaskan cruise. The Westerdam sailed out of Seattle towards Glacier Bay and back for a 7 day vacation. Though it is a ... Read More
We have enjoyed tours on board Princess line in Mexico and the Caribbean, so we decided to try Holland America for our Alaskan cruise. The Westerdam sailed out of Seattle towards Glacier Bay and back for a 7 day vacation. Though it is a smaller ship by 30% compared to Princess Line, it was just right for us. We didn't have to spend a long time walking from one part of the ship to the other. It actually is the right size for a voyage; you may have more venues on a bigger ship, but really, how many more bars or restaurants or swimming pools did you need? Traditionally, we use on board laundry facilities by paying with coins. But they only offered daily laundry for $49 total. We used it every day to our delight. (I've never had my underwear pressed !) We paid extra to dine in the Pinnacle Grill which offers good food and personal service. The Vista Dining room, either open or fixed dining, offers very good food too, but the service is more hurried and cookie cutter. My bride pondered why we spent extra money on the Pinnacle Grill and the Italian restaurant when the Vista offered equally good food. The difference is a smaller venue and more personal service. They offered some musical shows, funny comedians and a magician in the Vista Lounge. One show that is peculiar to Holland America but we enjoyed is a "crew Show". One week the Philippino crew performs songs and dances and the next week an Indonesian crew offers their version. The crew seemed to genuinely enjoy the opportunity to showcase their culture and their talents. An Alaskan cruise, even in August, found the weather to be overcast and chilly with rain each day. So bring a windbreaker, sweater and hat. Most of the guests were from parts of America in the 90 degrees so they enjoyed the weather. We also discovered that we could have breakfast room service at no added cost. On other vessels they might offer a limited breakfast, but this was most a big menu. All in all, I would take Holland America cruise over Princess any day. On the last afternoon good bye show, it was secreted that only 3 ships on the seas have escaped broad sickness and Westerdam is one. They keep it clean and to notch. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was the first time we drove instead of flying to a port of embarkation, and want to say it was the easiest way to go. We drove to the Toms River bus terminal Sunday morning and parked our car for $2/day, versus $35 day in NYC. The ... Read More
This was the first time we drove instead of flying to a port of embarkation, and want to say it was the easiest way to go. We drove to the Toms River bus terminal Sunday morning and parked our car for $2/day, versus $35 day in NYC. The senior bus fare to NY Port Authority was only $8 and two hrs later we arrived in the city. Grabbed a cab $10 to take us the short ride to the pier and when we got there, we were greeted immediately and given "S" tags which allowed us immediate entry to our cabins, because of our cabin category. We booked the deluxe verandah suite, and it was so worth every cent. The cabin was spacious, plenty of storage, closets, dressing rm, king sz bed, sitting area, and large verandah with two padded lounges and table with 4 chairs. The dressing rm had a separate sink and vanity with makeup mirror. Complimentary Champagne and fresh fruit bowl on the bar. Two robes with nice slippers were supplied. The rm also had a safe, flat screen tv, vcr, dvd for free movies. Personalized stationary and postcards. Rm was bright, roomy and tastefully decorated. King sz bed had nice white comfortor and many soft pillows. Cozy and comfy. Our two rm stewards were Indonesian. Polite and efficient, but hard to understand at times. Rooms were spotless. This category also had the benefit of a Concierge located a few doors away at The Neptune Lounge, which we frequented for cold and hot drinks, hor d'oeuvres, and meeting other guests. We met the captain and officers there for complimentary cocktails. We signed up for the wk at the spa's thermal suite which had hot tile lounges, a private whirlpool, and 2 steam rooms. I also had a massage and used the gym several times. The food in the dining rm was average. The best meals were the lamb chops and the surf and turf on formal nights. My husband's fish entree contained bones and was returned to the kitchen as it was inedible. Disappointed there was no music to accompany dining on formal nights. The shows were good and we enjoyed the comedian and the musicals. We docked right on Front St. in Hamilton and it was a great convenient location. Since it was a two day Bermudian holiday when we arrived, they closed off the st to traffic for the parade and local vendors put up tables. We took a cab to Horseshoe Bay beach and it was very crowded as 2 other cruise ships were in. Rented 2 beach chairs, $11 each and an umbrella for $11. Everything was cash, so bring money as they also require a deposit. You can buy a cold drink and a snack here, but try to stay away from the bathrooms, they are toxic. One last word of advice. Bring your own Kaopectate. The last day of the cruise my husband went down to sick bay to buy some and he was quarantined and unable to leave the cabin. Fortunately it was the last evening and we were escorted off the ship first thing Sunday morning for fear of contamination. He wasn't really sick, just ate too much fruit, but they were being very careful. Good for Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Trans-Atlantic cruise on HAL Eurodam, April 14 -- 27, 2012 Ft.Lauderdale, Madeira, Malaga, Alicante to Rome. Our first cruise with Eurodam and Holland American Line has been, in many ways, most pleasant. We love to cruise, and have ... Read More
Trans-Atlantic cruise on HAL Eurodam, April 14 -- 27, 2012 Ft.Lauderdale, Madeira, Malaga, Alicante to Rome. Our first cruise with Eurodam and Holland American Line has been, in many ways, most pleasant. We love to cruise, and have been on more than 60 different cruises, and this has been one of the very best. Holland American Line has got a new friend in us. For all of you who are "money wise" and looking for a good deal - This is it! Absolutely very good value at an affordable price. Compared to other cruiselines, there was champagne, vip treatment, gooseliver and caviar - at the price of hamburgers, spagetti and beer. Real value for money -- can't be better ! Eurodam is a happy ship, the way that the crew and staff are very nice and friendly (mostly Indonesians and Filipinos), well trained and always polite. Often they remember our names, and talk to us as friends. We appreciated the friendly atmosphere; a ship with a nice, smiling and caring crew ! The ship (from 2008) was immaculate; very clean and well maintained. No rustspots, and maintenance was on-going daily. The fresh orchids on all the tables at Lido Buffet, fresh flowers in the dining rooms and real plants everywhere impressed us very much. Internet connection, which is normally very slow and expensive on other cruiselines, has been relatively faster on Eurodam. Actually the most speedy internet of all ships we have sailed on so far. It is also very good that we get a summary of use after each time we log out. The fact that we got wifi in our stateroom was a big plus. Rembrandt Main Dining room - lunch and dinners were always good and elegantly presented. A step ahead as compared to most cruiseships. The select dining system which HAL call "As You Wish - seating plan" was functioned very well, as they had 2 hoststations, and waiters that showed you to your table all the time. We where never in line more than 1 minute. Most of the time, no line at all. Lido Buffet restaurant and the food "activities" by the pool side have been some of the best we have experienced on a cruise ship. There is a great variety and tasteful food, and always nice presentation. They also served freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast at no extra cost, and had maybe 10 different kind of juices. We always enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the Lido. The sous chef even went out of his way to please his Filipino guests by offering them a special sauce from the Philippines to accompany the roasted baby pork we had for lunch on the last sea day. Tamarind was a positive surprise. Both lunch and dinner were very tasteful, with wonderful dishes. Very friendly and knowledgeable servers, and an elegant Asian-inspired interior/ambience. Dimsum lunch is free of charge, and dinner had a charge of $15, which was well worth the price. Will absolutely recommend to try this modern Asian contemporary cuisine. The best Asian food we have had the pleasure of tasting on a cruiseship. The Pinnacle Grill restaurant feels upscale, with its sophisticated decor and the Bulgari china. To be the signature restaurant on Holland America, the food and service has potential to be even better. The waiter refused to give me a small taste of lobster instead of appetizer, soup and salad. He also saw that the beef was more done than the ordered medium, but did not offer to change it. When we ordered a plate of cheese to share, he asked if we wanted cheese instead og dessert. No - we wanted both, to his surprise. The sweets were delicious all over the ship. The Le Cirque menu at the Pinnacle Grill was better than the regular menu. Good, yes -- but it was missing something to make it fantastic. It would not take that much to heighten the experience. Easy and simple things like maybe a hot towel before the meal. We missed warm rolls/bread and maybe a sorbet before the main course, and a cheese trolley in The Pinnacle Grill. These small things will not cost much in money and effort. The Pinnacle dinner menu had a price of $25, which is a bit less than most specialty signature restaurants on cruiseships. The Le Cirque menu was a once a week event at a price of $39. As Tamarind and Pinnacle are popular, they will be fully booked early, therefore consider booking a night at the specialty restaurants online, before leaving for your cruise. We liked having had the chance to visit the galley twice (one tour and one galley buffet). Every evening we were able to listen and dance to ballroom music at the Ocean bar. Shows and entertainment were good. A lot of activities (they had a lounge devoted to cooking classes and demo) and resource persons were interesting. We joined the dance lessons (although they could have been longer than 30 minutes). Enjoyable crew shows as well. Cabin was nice. We had an outside view on deck 4 (Cabin 4130). We discovered before the cruise that this had catogary "total obstructed view" and we where a bit disappointed until we entered the cabin. We had a view of the lifeboat (as all outside cabin in the middle of the boat, on this deck has.) But it was not at all "totally obstructed," maybe 50% or less. That is what other cruiseline call "partly obstructed view". Our window was not just a port hole but was a whole glass wall. The cabin was roomy, very clean, had a bathtub, new flatscreen TV, high enough bed, so it is easy to put even the largest suitcase under, as stow away. We where offered a balcony cabin, on the sunny south side, at an additional price of $ 1.000. We had a look, but chose to stay in our assigned cabin. Small details like garbage bins in the cabins with possibility for paper recirculation are well thought off. Shampoo, soap and lotion of an exclusive brand. Lights in the large hanging cabinets, and a few drawers, would have been nice, but thats all we missed. We are looking forward to sail with HAL again -- most likely in the next trans-Atlantic or repositioning cruise. We have found another favorite cruiseline in Holland American Line. Thank you for a wonderful cruise, on a ship with a nice, smiling and caring crew ! See you again ! Best regards, Maria and Morten of Norway Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
First and foremost I will start off as - no question - I had fun since went with my friends. That was my objective - spend time with close friends, sun, read, and eat lots of good food. I have been on the Mexican Rivera cruise on ... Read More
First and foremost I will start off as - no question - I had fun since went with my friends. That was my objective - spend time with close friends, sun, read, and eat lots of good food. I have been on the Mexican Rivera cruise on Carnival before. Due to hurricane we were diverted to Catalina (Come on! Catalina? Seriously? Who pays for a 7 day cruise to stop in Catalina?!) The weather may not be the cruise line's fault - but for the "Holland America brand" you would think they could have picked something else - like say - stay in Cabo for 2 days? We stopped in La Paz on the other day. La Paz is the cleanest city in Mexico I have ever seen. I will probably go back there for a week on my own someday. Cabo is excellent as always! My biggest complaint about cruising to Cabo - why does it always have to be the shortest port stay??? There were 6 of us all together in our group - all age ranges. I was VERY disapointed in this cruise and Holland America. This brand isn't even remotely luxury as was expected. The food is horrible. I've sailed Carnival 3 times and their food was so much better in selections and options. And I believe people's first complaint about Carnival is the food - so that's how bad it is on this ship. While we had a few bright spots (Maha in dining room was lovely, our room steward was excellent, and another waiter in the bar where we met every night made our nightly before dinner meet for drinks very nice) the rest of the service was lacking. Especially the lido deck. My first thought was no incentive for them to even clear plates and refill drinks. And how do you have a Taco special on the deck but out of tacos? Room service is very prompt and on top of it. But that's all I can say for that - zip selection - and zip taste. My best friend (her first cruise) and I splurged and got a balcony on the Rotterdam deck. While the balcony was beautiful - you cannot help leaving with that bad taste in your mouth of such good money wasted for nothing. We could have just flown to Cabo for the week much cheaper and guaranteed good food. On our way off we talked to two guys on our floor who we never met before who were complaining about what a waste of money this cruise is, now that makes us 6 plus two more. How many more? Oh and most of all - the shower is mostly warm, lukewarm and lots of intermitant cold water in between. Had to keep turning the shower off and let it run through the bath - I did not pay for 7 days of cold/lukewarm showers. Obviously the hot water doesn't reach that high up - or it's seriously out with everyone else showering for dinner. This ship looks and acts old. It seems like a cookie cutter ship. Nothing special about it. Important for non-smokers - not a lot of spots for smokers to go - and I certainly didn't appreciate having to have that smoke in my face all day long at the adult pool. No ventilation in the casino. You can't get away from it. On your balcony or on the deck. Sorry smokers - but all cruise ships need to adopt a smoke free environment. Clean air is first and foremost when sailing in the open waters! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Cruise: Holland America Eurodam Oct 22nd - Oct 29th Stops: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and the Private Island in the Bahamas. Background: My wife and I are Dinks (double income, no kids) we live in South Florida around an ... Read More
Cruise: Holland America Eurodam Oct 22nd - Oct 29th Stops: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and the Private Island in the Bahamas. Background: My wife and I are Dinks (double income, no kids) we live in South Florida around an hour at the most to Port Everglade. We are in our early 30's and live a busy lifestyle and we wanted to try something different, the options were a 10 day on Princess which we couldn't the time away to do that cruise, Carnival (not really interested in going back on a Carnival cruise) the Huge Royal ship that right now is overpriced and seems way too big for our taste and Holland America. We picked Holland because we heard it was on par with Celebrity, which we love. We were apprehensive about was the smoking policy, honestly we hate cigarette smoke and I hate what it has done to certain family members but this isn't the place for that discussion. We both had heard it was the cruise line for old folks and there wasn't much to do. Honestly, we live such a busy life style that we don't go on vacation to party and drink and be drunk the entire cruise, it's about recharging our batteries until the next vacation and spending quality time with one another. So, older folks didn't bother us at all. EMBARKATION: This maybe the worst part of the cruise and honestly it wasn't that bad. So we get to the port and it was nuts, we later found out the ship was two hours coming into port and people were still coming off the ship. We left our house at 9:38am and got to the port at 10:31 am and we weren't in any kind of rush. I dropped my wife off with the bags after some confusion by everyone where to go and where not to go. I parked across the street (I believe it was Pier 26) it's in the back of the port and we got in line. We were one of the first 50 to 100 people in line, and there was some confusion at first as to where to go etc, but then you could tell the Holland people took control, moving us from one room to the next and things starting calming down. It did take us a while to get on the ship but everyone was so friendly (the theme of the cruise) that the hour and a half wait and moving from one room to another was not a big deal at all. I was impressed by the way Holland handled the entire situation. FOOD: I think food is extremely subjective, but here it goes, the buffet is the best buffet we have had on a cruise. Food was hot, and everything was almost prepared to order. I hated not being able to serve myself especially at all in the first 48 hours but I appreciate HAL looking out for us and trying to stop the spread of nor virus. We ate three nights in the dining room, two nights on our wonderful balcony, and one night in Tamarind and one night at the Pinnacle grill. We did the anytime dining and we have been spoiled our last two cruises on Celebrity because we had an Aqua Spa cabin and ate in the Blu Dining room every breakfast and Dinner. So it was really hard to compare. The dining room felt rushed at times and the food was just ok. Overall I would rate the dining room experience as a B, I feel Princess does a much better job with their anytime dining experience. I will say this it wasn't anything that would stop me from coming back to HAL. We later found out they were switching over to a new menu because they were in the Caribbean for the first time in months and you could tell the first night in the dining room the overall experience was rough. We still can't get anyone to explain why they put BBQ sauce on prime rib, that was something that I can honestly say we have never had before and hope to never have again. If you are going the dining room the first night and want the Prime Rib, be careful. I do think the dining room experience will get better as they get use to being in the Caribbean and use to different menus. We brought zero formal clothes, so we ordered food on our balcony those nights and it was awesome. We were in the back of the ship and to be able to hear the roar of the wake as we were eating Steak and Lobster was very cool to me. Surprisingly the food was delivered within 30minutes and it was hot and tasted excellent. I gave the young man that delivered our food the first time a $5 tip and it was funny after that they were at our cabin in no time when we would call for room service. Pinnacle Grill: Overall excellent. My Filet was cooked to perfection, and so was my wife's. The Waiter made us laugh, he told us it was nice to see a young couple on the ship, he was friendly but not familiar, which is what I prefer, the setting is very elegant and the overall experience I would rate it as an A. Tamarind: Overall excellent. The service was top notch, sushi was fresh, the green tea was amazing, and the beef dish was cooked once again to perfection. We have some very good thai/sushi places in south Florida, so while it was very good I just wasn't blown away by it to the point where some people want to eat there every night. It's a nice treat once a cruise. I would 100% go back on our next cruise and I would rate the overall experience as an A. Couple of more things, if you like lamb, you will love this cruise, a lot of lamb on the cruise and each time it was excellent, but there wasn't nearly enough fish options for me on the ship, the buffet each of the first three days has a lightly battered fish and each time they were different but excellent, then after that no more fish? You are in the Caribbean so I would expect a lot more seafood. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was good. We ended up at the Crows Nest each night after dinner, I have to say in our cruises I have never seen such an interesting area, it was like a huge living room. People playing cards, talking, on the computer, a bar, a coffee bar etc. The highlight of our cruise from an entertainment side was listening to Michael Liebler play the guitar. The young man is very talented and I wouldn't be shocked to one day hear him playing on the radio someday. If you are going on the Eurodam through December 3rd, do yourself a favor and listen to him play. After the Eurodam he is back on HAL in January, I believe on the Hawaii cruises. I can't say enough good things about the kid, not only is he very good he seems to be a great person. Service: Our cabin steward was very good, when we asked for a few things he said no problem with a smile on his face. We loved his towel animals and our cabin was clean and taken care of. I say this every cruise and I will say it again. Everywhere we went we made sure to say thank you and please, and after a while I think the crew members start to remember who you are, because they were very nice to us and went out of their way to help us with anything we needed. The service overall was amazing. Cabin: We received a nice upgrade to 8177. I was extremely worried about the chair noise, and while I doubt I would ever book a cabin on the 8th floor on the back of the ship again because it was a little noisy it wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. From what we can tell and were told they no longer fix the chairs at 5am, they do it at night around 6:30 pm, so we aren't hearing all that noise while you are sleeping. We did bring a sound machine and it drowned out a lot of noise. The balcony was nice and spacious, don't laugh but I actually had enough room out there to do my P90X. Since there was no pull up bar in the gym I used the ship's beam for my bands and worked out that way. Nothing like seeing the world go by as you are working out. SPA: This was maybe the most disappointing part from a service and overall. First of all the Thermal Suite is $249 for 7 days for a couple, after doing some research on here that seemed a little high but we were on an R and R cruise so I thought oh well. I was the first one to sign up for it. The first day you basically can't use it, maybe after 7 pm you can, but they have it open for the public to see it. So we get our explorer the next day and its $199 for a couple. We brought it to their attention and the spa manager and she said there was nothing they could do about it but the Explorer was printed wrong. Well, that was not what you wanted to hear especially when you heard two people say that they honored the new price. This also happened with our couples massage, we booked online and received the price of $269, but then we received a filer that said $239 at anytime during the cruise the second day of the cruise. We didn't let it bother us but I can tell you one thing, next time we will wait things out and see what pricing discounts they have in the Explorer. My wife did go down to the pursers desk and they were of little help, I honestly think cruise lines put people at the pursers desk that are challenged with the English language so you are just frustrated that you want to give up. When my wife tried to explain the situation to the young man at the pursers desk he basically couldn't understand what she was saying and he got frustrated and said to her I am not stupid, and then got nasty with her, which my wife is very caring and understanding and NEVER called him stupid or made him feel that way. She asked for his supervisor who came out and she made the young man apologize to my wife and she apologized and she let us know that the spa manager had to make that decision and that they couldn't really do anything for us. Finally after three days of going back and forth (and we didn't make it a big deal like some would have, it was one of those things we had 10 minutes here or there and we would call and push the subject) the spa manager calls us back and offers her apology which she really should have done to begin with and a free pedicure for both of us, my wife said thank you and we never took her up on her offer because 1) we honestly just wanted an apology for their mistake and 2) IMO I felt they just wanted to get us back in the spa in order to try to sell us something or make more money off of us and at that point we were done with our experience in the Spa. I will say this, it is the nicest Thermal suite we have been to on any ship, the hot tub is amazing. Cooking Class: When we boarded I ran downstairs to the purser's desk to book the cooking class. They had two, Caribbean food, at 1pm the day we are at San Juan and Italian at 1pm at the last sea day, which I picked the Italian one. We had Chef Adam, he taught us how to make pasta, dessert, and an eggplant dish from scratch. It was an awesome time that lasted almost two hours. Cost was $29.50 pp. We had about 10 people in the group. They gave us four bottles of wine and only 7 people had drinks. They gave us an apron that Chef signed. Overall awesome experience, we really enjoyed it. Ports: Grand Turk Honestly we overslept, which was no big deal we had been there three times, it's a nice beach port, if there isn't another ship in port sitting by the pool is a fun way to go. No DJ this time because of the HAL crowd. Very chilled crowd. The pool was nice and refreshing. We were going to rent a car but it was already 10 am and they wanted around $100 with taxes etc in order to rent a car and honestly it wasn't worth it. The tours of the island were $35 pp which is such a rip off, there really isn't anything to see, and it's a small island. IMO either walk or rent a golf cart if you are going to spend that kind of money. So we bought a couple of things and then got back on the ship. San Juan: We got off the ship and a tour is $10 pp. We helped the guy recruit some people and we got to see old san jaun, he told us stories that I am sure 50% truth and 50% legend but it was well worth the $20 bucks for two hours. We got off the tour and ran into a couple that were up at the crows nest with us the night before (hello Bob and Cindy), and we thought safety in numbers and we didn't have any plans so we walked around old san juan, stopped by Barrachina and got a Pina Coloda (birthplace of the Pina Coloda) sat in the courtyard and enjoyed our drinks. They had a good mojito also. Of course the ladies had to go shopping and went to all the purse stores and that is always interesting. We saw Oliver North there which was strange just to run into him, also some Italian model was posing for pictures on one of the picturesque streets with cobble stone and old Spanish buildings in the back ground. Tons of culture in old San Juan and I would go back anytime. St Thomas: We got off grabbed another tour bus and did a tour. We love the island, we saw Mountain Top, I heard it had burned to the ground and the new Mountain Top was nicer. Same good banana daiquiri. After the tour we did some shopping and then back to the ship for a well needed nap. Half Moon Cay: Loved it there, it is one of the nicer private islands. We enjoyed the island the water and the pirate ship, I am sure there was a lot more to do there but we were all about the R and R. Overall: It was an excellent cruise. We meet some of the nicest people on this cruise, the service and the overall experience of the cruise made us feel like we would 100% go back to Holland America. While I don't love their smoking policy it is what it is. I think Holland offers a great value for the money and we would consider them our #2 line we would cruise on and the only reason it's not #1 is because of the smoking policy. I believe Holland and Celebrity are both a notch above Princess for anyone that wants me to compare. Feel free to ask me any questions as I have all of my Explorers for the week. I will not throw them away for a couple more days in case anyone has a question. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This was our third cruise with Holland America. Previous cruises were Eastern Caribbean on the Zuiderdam (my favorite Holland America ship to date), and a Back2Back Alaska cruise on the Veendam (least favorite). We have sailed on RCI, ... Read More
This was our third cruise with Holland America. Previous cruises were Eastern Caribbean on the Zuiderdam (my favorite Holland America ship to date), and a Back2Back Alaska cruise on the Veendam (least favorite). We have sailed on RCI, NCL, Cunard, Carnival, and Princess.My wife and I are in in our late 50s, early 60s.We arrived at this itinerary as an introduction to Copenhagen, Oslo and Bergen Norway. We have toured Scotland before but didn't have the opportunity to tour the Highlands, and the same with Newcastle. These are my own opinions.Pre-cruise: We flew from Boston on Delta Airlines to Heathrow. We arrived a day early to recover from jet-lag. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near Victoria Station. We took National Express coach from Victoria Coach Station to Dover Ferry Port. During the drive to Dover, we approached the driver and asked about being dropped off at the ship. A call to dispatch (this was his story) gave approval to detour to the port. A tip of 5 British Pounds from us were accepted by the driver, as were other 'considerations' from our fellow cruise couples.Embarkation: Mass confusion reigned with this step. Colored tags were handed out I guess to indicate when to board the ship. The tags were abandoned after an announcement was made for Mariner members to board the ship immediately in order to attend a special luncheon. The only problem was, most of the people in the boarding lounge were Mariners! The bottleneck was security, X-ray machines and metal detectors. I guess it was a good hour from our arrival to boarding the ship.Ship: This is the newest and largest ship that we have sailed on with Holland America. The ship was well maintained. It appeared to sail full for this cruise but except for one morning at the Lido for breakfast you would not know it. I wish the designers did a better job with lounge placement. The main lounges were not isolated from high traffic areas and to me, lacked some character. Clientele median age appeared to be mid to late 60s.Cabin: Two weeks before our cruise we were offered an upsell from our ocean view cabin on main deck to a VQ spa veranda on Deck 10. Since this was an anniversary cruise for us, we took the offer. This was the first time we had a veranda cabin, and despite the itinerary, we were able to use the veranda on a few days, even at sea. We were glad to be offered the upsell since our original cabin pick was in a heavily used part of the ship. Cabin location was excellent with the Crows Nest lounge one deck up and the Spa - Lido deck one deck down. It was pretty quiet up there, and the ship's movement never bothered us.Service: Our two room stewards gave us outstanding service. We showed our appreciation with a tip over the automatic daily service charge. They were pleasant, always smiling, would say hello and most importantly, get their tasks finished in a timely fashion. Dining: We were given Open Seating and so had to put up with either reserving a table for dinner, or show up at the dining room early. We are still not fans of Holland America's concept of anytime dining. Passengers were able to book a table and time for a few days at a time, but if you are taking port excursions, you can not always depend on arriving back on ship in time for dinner. The food quality in the dining room was good to very good. We had two instances later into the cruise when a waiter had a rough time delivering the courses. We tried the Lido buffet for dinner once, and once was enough. It was the first day of a Code Red norovirus outbreak on the ship, and the menu was not all that special to begin with.We took our breakfasts and most lunches in the Lido buffet. We both thought the foods meant to be hot, like scrambled eggs, were sometimes not kept at the proper temperatures. We had two lunches in the main dining room, which took forever to complete. One lunch was at the pool grille for hamburgers and it was very ordinary. We have not tried the Pinnacle Grill now for 3 cruises. The menu does not interest us. We heard from others that it was very good with smaller portions. We looked at the Asian Fusion menu, and again, it was nothing special for the surcharge. We could never get a lunch booking in there. We did the Italian dinner in the Lido on the Veendam which didn't impress us. I purchased the $100 beverage card for $90. It was readily accepted by the bars, even for a happy hour promotion. (Those happy hour drink glasses do get small. I don't know how much a bargain they are compared to the regular sized cocktails. No draft beer was on this ship. I thought the wine by the glass prices were steep for the quality offered. Same observation with the wine by the bottle prices too) .Spa: Well they say one gets some consideration with the VQ spa cabin category at the Spa. We both used the services especially the first day at sea to work out the kinks from hauling our luggage around. It went very well. As for 'considerations', I guess if you really push the Spa they will honor them. After a massage on our second sea day, we both said it was enough pampering. Please note: they are going to try to sell you 'products' as an add-on. Learn to say "No thanks" and the sales pitch will end.Entertainment: Ian was probably the most laid-back cruise director we have ever experienced. Sea day activities were offered, but I didn't see a big push to advertise them beyond the daily program listings. We attended two main stage productions with the singers and dancers. I thought the quality was very good. A guest violinist and a comedian were entertaining. A duo piano act was attended by my wife, and she thought it was a good show. The last production show had the late performance cancelled due to 'technical difficulties'. I asked one of the musicians and he suggested that the main female singer was suffering from the virus outbreak.The Adagio string quartet played most evenings in the Explorers lounge. I thought they should have been given better exposure in a larger room. (Here is where a larger atrium would serve a purpose for this fine quartet to perform in.) I never saw the Halcats group or the piano player, but I caught the guitar player once in the Crows Nest. He sounded fine.Disembarkation: We decided to go with the Holland America's transfer to Heathrow. I originally thought that we would use National Express from the Ferry back to Victoria Coach station. In fact I had the tickets booked and paid for but the idea of hauling all our luggage for our one night post cruise stay in London changed our minds. We were off the ship by 7:40 am, found our luggage under the colored tag we were given, and directed to a coach. There we sat until 8:30 am, the last bus to leave for the airport. It took 2 hours to get to Heathrow where we dropped off our heavy luggage at a 24 hour 'left luggage' vendor. Summary: It was an excellent itinerary, an excellent cabin and room stewards, very good food, and excellent main show room entertainment. Holland America will continue to be a favored cruise line, but I don't think the Eurodam will see us as customers again. I never thought that I would say this about this class of ship but for its size. it is dressed too plain for me. Excursions: See below.Castles of North Zealand, Copenhagen. After seeing 2 castles (rebuilt over the years) and the outside of a third house owned by the Queen, I was ready for the return to the ship. We did a lot of walking.Best Of Oslo: If a 45 minute visit to a national sky jump venue is Oslo's idea of a highlight, then in my opinion, they have problems.The Oslo Fjord by Vintage Sailing ship: No sails were unfurled in what was to become a sightseeing trip of expensive summer houses along the fjord. A snack was supplied of cold boiled shrimp and a beverage of your choice.Kristensand: Past and Present. Coach tour of recreated 13th century village. It was a quaint tour but rushed.Bergen, Queen of the Fjords: A bit disappointed with this excursion, since we spent a lot of time on the coach. The expected fjord crossing consisted of a car ferry less than 15 minute ride on our return to Bergen. I wish it was longer ferry ride.Inverness: Highlands tour was a long day of riding around the highlands of Scotland. It was a rushed tour despite its length. This was an experiment with Holland America to see if larger 50 passenger coaches could handle the tour. Listening to the tour guide, she was not happy with the idea. Previous tours used 15 passenger vans which worked better.Newcastle UK: tour of nearby Brammish recreated Victorian and Edwardian village. Worthwhile trip.Edinburgh: Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle. Worthwhile. Stirling Castle was impressive with a lot of rebuilt rooms and a chapel. Note, this was a tender port and if fellow passengers miss their anticipated tender, it could (and did in our case) delay the tour leaving the port. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Our cruise on the Eurodam was excellent; a huge improvement over our last cruise on the Ryndam. From the elegant Art Nouveau interior through the reasonably priced excursions, this liner is first class all the way! Our satisfaction ... Read More
Our cruise on the Eurodam was excellent; a huge improvement over our last cruise on the Ryndam. From the elegant Art Nouveau interior through the reasonably priced excursions, this liner is first class all the way! Our satisfaction started with the organized embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale. We were onboard shortly after 11 am. What a wonderful surprise ourselves upgraded to a balcony suite. We can't say enough about our steward, Yuli, and our waiter, Dodi. Both were excellent ambassadors for HAL and we hope they are recognized as such by their employer. We chose the 8pm fixed seating option. The food was delicious. The companionship at our table was enjoyable, and we laughed our way through haute cuisine for the entire cruise. The only caveat is the number of times we had chipped water goblets. On the fifth day 4 out of 5 of us had damaged stems that could be hazardous in the wrong hands. On day 6 it was reduced to 1 out of 2, and on day 7, reduced again to 2 out of 5. Still a poor perentage. The Spa was superb. We enjoyed relaxing in the mineral bath & steam rooms before dinner. Highly recommended & a bargain at $250/couple for 7 days. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Began a 50th birthday cruise with family and friends (party of 10 with 5 balcony cabins on the Rotterdam Deck) on the Inaugural Caribbean voyage of the Nieuw Amsterdam during the week of November 7-14th 2010 with a delayed embarkation and ... Read More
Began a 50th birthday cruise with family and friends (party of 10 with 5 balcony cabins on the Rotterdam Deck) on the Inaugural Caribbean voyage of the Nieuw Amsterdam during the week of November 7-14th 2010 with a delayed embarkation and departure from Fort Lauderdale due to Holland America's need to perform a CDC sanctioned sanitation and deep cleaning of the ship following an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on the just completed transatlantic crossing. I chose this particular ship as it was christened last July and felt the freshness and "newness" of the ship along with HAL's Signature of Excellence Service would produce a very good cruise experience. In many ways my expectations were realized but it too many instances the experience was not up to expectations. The Rotterdam deck was the last deck of cabins to be opened to passengers. Upon entering our cabins I was a little surprised to see the stewards were still cleaning a couple of our rooms. The cabins did not compare quite as favorably as the Celebrity Solstice's Aqua Class Spa Cabins as the Nieuw Amsterdam's cabins appeared a little dingy, I believe due to the poor quality carpet and couch. There was also trash left between the wall and nightstand in our friend's cabin immediately adjacent to our cabin. While the bedding, closet space, mattress,deck furniture and bathroom were actually superior to Solstice the very poor quality cabin furniture and carpeting ruined the the initial impression of the space. I do not understand why HAL chose such poor quality furniture and carpeting for this level of stateroom. The two seater couch was a brown /green microfiber covered piece of junk that HAL should be ashamed of. The armrests, which wobbled back and forth, felt as though the were made of cardboard and the cushion was constantly sliding out of position. The carpet was of equally poor quality to the touch and sight. Speaking of carpet, it needs to be mentioned that the carpet used in the elevator lobbies on each deck was a hideous light brown that looked as if it had been stained with bleach and appeared to be years old instead of 4 months. Again, HAL should have been embarrassed to maintain the ships high traffic areas in this condition. The cabin stewards were very friendly and appeared to work hard but I was surprised to learn that these stewards were responsible for 30 cabins a day. With such demands put on them by HAL there is no way they can deliver the Signature of Excellence that HAL promotes. These excessive demands along with the long day the crew had in sanitizing the ship before our embarkation was a recipe for poor service. Although tipped extra during the first night and asked to keep ice buckets full both night and day the stewards were unable to perform. Cabins were typically not cleaned before 3:00 PM during the first half of the cruise, and on four different days I had to go up to the Crow's Nest for Ice. The first night of the cruise I had called room service and asked if we could have a bucket of ice as the steward had failed to provide. I was told to call another number and when I called they said it would take 45 minutes because there were only two crew available for such service. Does that sound like Signature of Excellence Service? Also, during one night our friends traveling with us could not open their safe as it had malfunctioned (apparent loss of battery power). When HAL was contacted our friends were asked if they could wait until the end of the cruise. When that question was met with an incredulous NO they were then asked if they could wait until after dinner. Finally, HAL agreed to come in 30 minutes. Just one more example of Signature of Excellence Service. Overall service on the ship ranged from the Spectacular to subpar. While the cabin stewards did not meet expectations (likely due to the fact that HAL gives them way to many cabins to clean for a so-called Premium Cruise Line)the stewards that saw to all of our needs in the Retreat Cabanas were fantastic. Jonathan and Anrel, along with the Retreat Cabana area itself, basically made this voyage for our group. In addition, the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager went out of his way to make sure that the four cabanas that our group of 10 had rented were assigned contiguously and he would check on us daily. If anyone is contemplating renting these cabanas (the retreat cabanas on the Observation Deck, not the Lido Cabanas on the Lido Pool Deck)DO It! You will not be sorry. Service in the Specialty restaurants of Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind was First Class, although Tamarind has to improve upon bringing everyone's meal simultaneously. The quality of food in these specialty restaurants was great. The quality of the food in the MDR (Manhattan) was poor as was the service. Meat was not cooked to order, one meal was brought out well after everyone else had been served and Alaskan King Crab legs tasted as though they had been boiled in salt water. The menu selections at the MDR were also subpar.On the first night our party of 10 was split in two even though there were several places they could have put us together including a table for 10 which remained empty all night. The MDR Maitre'd's seemed overwhelmed and generally incompetent. Stick to the fine dining in the Specialty Restaurants or eat at the Lido Buffet which I considered better than average and much better than the buffets on the Solstice class ships. For all of you tea lovers, this is not the ship to have tea. We went to the Dutch High Tea and a regular Tea, both in the MDR and both were complete disasters. During the first tea everyone was served after sitting down but the process for serving tables was a mess. Many tables, including ours, had to watch waiter after waiter walk by with trays of finger sandwiches and sweets without stopping to serve. For the Dutch High Tea everyone waited in a serving line in the MDR for items that were not that exciting. There was one hot dish served that looked like Chicken-ala-King and looked particularly nasty. Also hot water is brought in half -filled metal pots instead of fine china pots and the quality of teas used could not have been worse. The only Earl Grey Tea that was caffeinated was LIPTON. This was on the entire ship, not just at the Teas. For some reason HAL has decided to carry 80% of their tea selection as decaffeinated. This is no exaggeration. All of the good Bigelow Teas were decaffeinated. The only choice for regular black tea was one English Breakfast brand and the Lipton Earl Grey. The Caneletto Restaurant incorporated into the LIDO Buffet had good food but the reservation process for this was a disaster. When we called to make reservations for 10 we were told we had to go see the Maitre'D. When we went to see him he told us to call reservations. When we expressed our displeasure with this foolishness he got on a phone and secured us a table for 10 that consisted of several tables at the starboard forward end of the restaurant that could be grouped together. When we showed up at 8:30 the table was occupied. The Maitre' D said that tables could not be guaranteed and that we would have to be split up. He also said that the group at the tables we thought we had reserved at been there a while (since 7:00) and were just taking too long. This was an apparent lie as they were just being brought their salads as we sat down. In addition, one person in our party was a vegetarian. The vegetarian options were limited and we found that the Minestrone soup contained bacon! Service in the LIDO Buffet was always very good, even when the ship was still under Code Red from the previous cruise for the first 72 hours of our cruise. Bar service was equally as good. Now for the Spa. When we boarded we were told that the Thermal Suite area and the Hydrotherapy pool were to be closed until we got to Puerto Rico on Wednesday. We asked if this had to do with Code Red and were told it had nothing to do with sanitation issues, although this was apparently not the truth. HAL offered us a $100 per couple package for use of the pool and thermal suites beginning on Wednesday (cruise left Sunday)which we thought was a good deal so the 5 couples purchased the package. Come Wednesday night the pool and Thermal Suites were still closed. We were told they would open on Thursday which they did. We called the Spa to see if we could get a partial refund since it had not opened when promised. We were told that all 5 cabins would get a partial refund. The spa itself was very nice and was superior to the Spa on Solstice Class. When I checked on the 2nd to last night of the cruise only two of our 5 cabins had been given a credit. My cabin had not been credited. When I went down to the Front Office I was told that they had to check with the Spa Manager before we could get credit. I said I would check back tomorrow. The next night still no credit so I asked the crew person behind the Front Office Desk and was told again they had to check with the Spa Manager before giving the credit. Apparently HAL had no intentions of crediting me and three other cabins in our group unless we made an issue of it. After 10 minutes of pushing them to take care of the credit then and there they finally agreed to credit $25 after the Front Desk Manager made some calls. This is clearly not Signature of Excellence Service. If I had not gone back to check the next night they would not have made the credit even though they had verbally said they would previously. When I thanked the Front Desk person for addressing this issue she gave me nasty look. We only did one shore excursion (a Segway tour of Old San Juan)which was excellent. This tour was not affiliated with HAL as the tour company is not unionized and HAL (Carnival) will thus not use them. We found this company , (which is right on the San Juan Piers)through Celebrity as they are a Celebrity sponsored excursion. Other members of our group had excursions cancelled at Grand Turk (Scuba) and Half Moon Cay (snorkeling) due to sea conditions. We saw one song and dance show,and the Barnaby Experience show. Both were a waste of time, especially Barnaby. The guy cannot even juggle. We did see a comedian, who was excellent. The entertainment is generally subpar. Other than the nightclub, most of the music played in the lounges was dated (mostly pre-1970's). Although we spent little to no time at the pools, our cabanas overlooked the Lido pool which has a retractable roof. The crew seemed to open and close the roof frequently, sometimes due to rain, but other times for no apparent reason. When in the open position, the sections seemed to bang around as the ship moved indicating a possible design flaw. The ship also did not appear to handle that smoothly in rough seas. Either these were some of the roughest Bahamas seas in history or the ship's stabilizers were just not up to the challenge. Though most cruises play either recorded music or have a live band at the pool, we heard nothing. With a caribbean cruise one would expect to hear some nice island music, but the lack thereof left us less in the cruise mood. There was some music piped in at the aft Sea View Pool. One day everyone at the Sea View Pool was disrupted when a ship generator was started and black soot rained down on everyone and their drinks. At least the generator did not catch fire. In Summary the tale of two different ship experiences on the Nieuw Amsterdam is a function in part of the crew exhibiting exemplary service (Retreat Cabana area, specialty restaurants) while other areas (cabin stewards, room service front office personnel) did not exhibit even marginally acceptable service. HAL does not even come close to matching the consistent good service we experienced on Solstice Class and has a long way to go to meet their own Signature of Excellence standards. To start,. HAL needs to reduce the number of cabins their stewards must service, correct the nickel and dime culture that exists, and have enough staff on board to meet customer needs. I should never have to spend any significant time trying to get a partial credit for spa service I bought that was not delivered. Trying to get a measly $25 credit was like pulling teeth. I should not even have had to ask for a credit when the Spa was not opened on Wednesday as promised. In addition, telling paying customers to wait for 45 minutes for ice at midnight because there are only two crew members available on a 2100 passenger ship owned by a Premium cruise line is not acceptable. The ship itself is beautiful, particularly the public rooms, restaurants and bars as they are more nautical in design than say the Solstice class. The cabin, while providing an extremely comfortable mattress and balcony furniture and excellent bathroom facility, did not live up to what was expected for a brand new ship given the poor quality carpeting and furniture. The cabin deck corridors also seemed dingy when compared to Solstice Class, but public room deck areas were well lit and attractive, except for elevator lobby carpeting which looked completely worn out. Bottom line- if you want to cruise HAL- pick an Itinerary that you like with limited sea days where you will be off the ship each day or rent a Retreat Cabana (which really is First Class and an absolute Home Run for HAL both from a service and value standpoint) and eat in the Pinnacle Grill or Tamarind each night. Do not eat lunch at either specialty restaurant. Besides the balcony you do not want to spend much time in the dingy cabins. Spend your evenings in the beautiful public rooms, especially Explorer's Bar, Pinnacle Bar, Ocean Bar and Crow's Nest. The Explorations Cafe is also the only good coffee on board and it is still not up to Starbucks standards. It pales in comparison to the coffee/dessert bar on Solstice class. Skip the internet there. It is a rip off. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Embarkation: Embarkation was going smoothly until we got to the point where we were supposed to get our stateroom key and were told to go back to the beginning as we did not have all the required paperwork. It seems the customer service ... Read More
Embarkation: Embarkation was going smoothly until we got to the point where we were supposed to get our stateroom key and were told to go back to the beginning as we did not have all the required paperwork. It seems the customer service representative who directed us at the entry point was misinformed about procedures. As we were walking back to the check in area we heard several fellow passengers were grumbling because they too had received misdirection from Holland America staff. Public Rooms: Public rooms were adequate, not spectacular by any means but not totally unpleasing. Several areas showed obvious wear and tear and contained furniture which needed to be updated, renovated or replaced. Cabin: The suite was quite spacious with a couch, chairs and small table. There was a nice balcony and plenty of storage space. The bathroom contained a glassed shower stall along with a whirlpool bath which also had a shower - good thing as the first night while showering the shower stall overflowed due to a clogged drain. The hair dryer in the room also did not work however it was replaced when a call was placed to our room attendant. The furniture in the room had wear spots and is in need of replacement in the near future. A suggestion for improvement would be to get better lighting for reading near the bed and couch. A "perk" of the cabin is access to the Neptune Lounge where light breakfast is served in the mornings and canapEs throughout the day. A concierge is also in the lounge to assist with reservations or any issue with which you may need assistance. Fitness and Recreation: This is an important component of the trip for me and unfortunately it was disappointing. The first day of the cruise I bought a thermal suite package with hopes of a sauna, thermal bath, thermal chair relaxation or some time in the steam room after my daily workouts. Unfortunately daily, something did not work properly. Some days the sauna was out of order, the thermal chairs weren't all working; the thermal bath was not heated to the proper temperature, etc. Only one television on the treadmills was working by the end of the cruise, one of two elliptical never worked and one of two recumbent bikes was not operating properly. Dining: We didn't utilize the dining room but one night opting instead to eat at the Pinnacle Grill, on the Lido deck, in the Italian Specialty Restaurant and in the room. One of the advantages of a suite is being able to order anything being served in the main dining room. Entertainment: I was not impressed with the entertainment I viewed but it should be noted I did not attend but two of the evening events. Service: The service of the room stewards was wonderful. They were attentive, knew our names on day one and greeted us wherever they saw us around the ship. They were on top of anything we needed and had a positive, upbeat attitude. The same is true of the beverage servers and dealers and supervisors in the casino. Those staff members "rock"!!! Shore Excursions: I went on only one ship shore excursion and that was to kayak in the Panama Canal. Although it was a rainy day, it was an incredible experience and one I am glad I took. Value for the Money: The price paid was not bad for the accommodations due to the discounting received however if I had paid full price, I would have been upset. Overall: Overall, it was a ship with a majority of older, not so active, adults. While younger, more energetic folks could be found they were few and far between. The positive of there were lounge chairs available on the decks anytime one was wanted. This is not a ship I plan to cruise on again and unless I see or hear some major positives in relation to this cruise line, I most definitely try another line my next trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
This review is for the Nieuw Amsterdam 7 day Caribbean sailing leaving from Fort Lauderdale in the second week of November 2010. Other reviews have been given on the ship's appearance, dining, public rooms, cabins, ... Read More
This review is for the Nieuw Amsterdam 7 day Caribbean sailing leaving from Fort Lauderdale in the second week of November 2010. Other reviews have been given on the ship's appearance, dining, public rooms, cabins, entertainment and such. Overall, we found the ship to be beautiful, and the dining was good. This review will not detail these aspects, but rather focus on customer service given during and after our cruise with Holland America. Customer service was lacking on board the ship, and remained lacking afterwards. They were unable to provide the correct solutions to the numerous problems we encountered. Over 600$ worth of items went missing from our stateroom. In these items there were spa products, purses, crystal ware, camera equipment, tobacco, cigars, Belgian chocolates, etc. We reported the incident to the front office. Our cabin was searched briefly a first time by Guest Relations in order to exclude the possibility we might have misplaced the items ourselves. A second "official" search was deemed necessary by Security. This event was unpleasant, and serious business. Plastic gloves and flashlights came out. During this search, we felt as though we were the thieves. They went through everything - not an inch was spared. They searched through our already packed luggage, they even took the time to open my purse from the closet, and rummage through it with a flashlight. It was not pleasant either to have someone going through my dirty underwear. It was an extremely thorough search, enough to discover various items which did not belong to us: a paperback book from under the bed, hair accessories, a wonderfully used tea bag and two discarded and soiled tissues. So much for sanitization measures. Procedures which required paperwork to be signed were not followed after the theft was reported. We were never able to obtain official paperwork. As other reviewers have pointed out, cleaning services were poor onboard the ship. After these events, our stateroom was not cleaned for over 24 hours; there was no toilet paper or clean towels. We did not receive our guest survey forms although every other stateroom seemed to have received theirs. We had to ask for a copy at the front desk. It was mayhem. Many mistakes were made from the moment we reported the events until we were able to disembark; it has continued as we or our travel agent tried to deal with Guest Relations Headquarters in Seattle. Indeed, we eventually received a letter on their part (they did not give recognition that theft occurred, but they did give recognition of how poorly issues had been dealt with) and a small credit for a future cruise. The credit represented 10% of what the cruise cost us, and 90% of our cruise went awry. We had asked for a reimbursement of our cruise. We will not be traveling with Holland America again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Being our first cruise I must say we are already packed for our next! The golf guys decided that after all our selfish golf trips it was time to take the girls someplace nice! What will we do for seven days on a ship with no golf? ... Read More
Being our first cruise I must say we are already packed for our next! The golf guys decided that after all our selfish golf trips it was time to take the girls someplace nice! What will we do for seven days on a ship with no golf? Everything the answer? Yes we all had a ball! 8 of us flew to Fla and from airport to ship was a breeze. Boarding was quicker than walking down the yacht club dock to my own boat, it was that easy! These people are amazing with smiles and a helpful attitude! It was almost a Disney World place where everyone was happy and polite! Ship was wonderful and the crew beyond belief with assistance and could not have been friendlier ! We were lucky with four connecting rooms with balconies and the amazing steward opened the barriers and we had an ocean front night club of our own! I have a stressful job and this is really the first time I did nothing but relax! HAL helped with the tremendous Spa I highly suggest to all! Heaven on earth! Pools ok but who needs them when you can go to the spa! We are outgoing people and we made so many friends that People thought that we must be somebody! Everyone knew us and the crew always said hi using your first name! Hal treats you as a family member! Food outstanding at all venues but the Tamarind and Pinnacle were special! Rembrant was to FU FU for me and it took way to long for dinner! All lounges were outstanding and the Singing Samoan was the best ! He was wonderful just entertaining everybody! Joel needs help! and when Jason the cruise director helps him its a train wreck! These guys were wonderful!!!! All ports were fun and my goal was to relax!!! I did it! Joel had me so fired up after his first Elton John show that I being a muscian on a cruise without my guitar forced me to buy another 12 string in Puerto Rico! We played all night, every night somewhere on the ship! Thanks HAL for giving me the rest I needed! See you all soon! Hal has become my new favorite vacation home! Thanks all to Joel, Jason, Marcus and the rest for a trip of a life time! The captain was even nice enough to rescue a couple of guys lost at sea! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
About Us: Middle aged couple, well traveled. Second cruise together. First time to Alaska. The itinerary: Chose to go out of Vancouver to lessen the chances of seasickness, to which I am prone. Also liked the itinerary including long ... Read More
About Us: Middle aged couple, well traveled. Second cruise together. First time to Alaska. The itinerary: Chose to go out of Vancouver to lessen the chances of seasickness, to which I am prone. Also liked the itinerary including long port days that didn't start early in the morning. This was a vacation and we wanted to sleep in! Our ports were Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau, along with sailing through Glacier Bay. We were supposed to sail Tracey Arm, but because of either tides or ice (not sure which) we were unable to do that. Vancouver: Loved Vancouver as much as I had the last time I visited 18 years ago. We added three nights at the beginning which I highly recommend. Got Hyatt Regency on a Priceline bid for $80 per night and couldn't have been happier with the hotel or the location. (There are websites that help with Priceline bidding strategy -- takes the fear and guesswork out of using Priceline.) We spent one day biking Stanley Park, walking the seawall and wandering the city and the other day at Granville Island Market where we managed to eat both breakfast and lunch. It helped that the weather was PERFECT. Denman Street in the West End (walking distance from anywhere downtown) is a great street for finding reasonably-priced ethnic restaurants for dinner. We loved the Legendary Noodle for Chinese food that is similar to Islamic Chinese food one would find in China. Why the Volendam: It offered the itinerary we wanted and the Wednesday departure worked well for us. It was the only ship departing on Wednesday making embarkation a breeze. Also, because of its odd departure day, we were the only ship in one port and only had one or two other ships in the other ports. This allowed us to be more spontaneous about what we could do in port. If we had wanted to book last-minute excursions they would have been available to us. The size ship was appealing -- large enough to have many offerings and dining alternatives, but not one of the mega-ships. Also, we had been told that it was a good ship for Alaska because of all the outside viewing areas. This was true. There were plenty of places to be and no place was ever crowded outside. The Crow's Nest -- an indoor place on the highest deck with floor to ceiling windows -- was the only place that was ever crowded. I would have said that this was not a great ship to bring children, but a recent review indicated that school age kids had a blast with Club HAL. There were very few children on our sailing. Most passengers were middle aged or senor couples, or women traveling together, with a few young couples and multi-generational families. About half were Americans with most others from Canada, Australia or the UK. This was not a party ship. We also wanted a balcony cabin and were booking only two weeks in advance and got a decent deal. And we wanted an itinerary that included Glacier Bay. Embarkation: 20 minutes from arrival at the terminal to walking on to the ship. Arrived around 12:30 with plenty of time to eat lunch and wander the ship. The Ship: Some reviews have said the Volendam is "worn" and "dated." I did not find this to be the case. I did not see any sign of wear or carpet stains or anything of that nature. On the contrary, there was constant cleaning and painting and an emphasis on sanitation. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. The ship dEcor is very nice and there are many different public areas. Going to Alaska having a deck with a retractable roof is a must and the Lido deck is very nice. We were so lucky with weather, but the deck remained comfortable when it was cold outside and the roof was closed, and was delightful when it was partially or fully opened on sunny, warm days. The Library is amazing -- one of the nicest areas on the ship. There is a HUGE selection of books, including recent best sellers, along with games and puzzles and just a lovely environment. We chose not to sign up for internet use. Accommodations: We were in Verandah balcony "suite" 7073 on the Navigation Deck. It wasn't really a suite, but slightly larger than a regular stateroom with a tub in the bathroom. It was very comfortable, well-designed, plenty of storage, extremely comfortable bed and linens and with a lovely glass enclosed balcony. The location of our stateroom (which we had taken on a guarantee basis, didn't select the actual stateroom) meant the balcony was covered. The big question: Should one have a balcony in Alaska? I would say "maybe" and my husband would say "yes." The larger stateroom, being able to open the door for fresh air and the floor to ceiling view may have been more important to me than using the actual balcony itself. My husband did sit out on it and read, but I tended to be on deck more. We were lucky with the weather and could do our scenery-viewing from any deck. If there had been rain it would have been nice to have the covered area. My summation: If you can afford it, or get a deal on a balcony room that isn't much more than another room, go for it. If you can't, you can live without it. Some of the time it's too cold and windy to be on the balcony anyway. We would have been happy with the location of any of the balcony staterooms. In fact, we probably would have been happy with any outside cabin except the ones on the lower promenade deck with obstructed views that overlook where people are walking the deck. I visited an outside cabin on the dolphin deck (lowest) and that stateroom was just fine with a lovely view out of large windows. Smoking: I was very concerned after reading negative reviews about smoking on the ship since I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. I am glad to report that smokers were mostly relegated to the casino and one small area on one side of the deck outside the Lido buffet. When I made the mistake of going outside that direction it did bother me, and walking by the casino was pretty disgusting, but I did not smell the smoke anywhere else. Even though smoking is allowed in staterooms I could not smell any from my room or balcony. However, twice when walking the lower promenade circuit (3.5 laps to a mile) there was a man outside smoking a cigar. Yuck. I don't know if that was permitted or not, but other than the momentary stench as I passed it didn't bother me further. Room Steward: Ours was quiet, unobtrusive and just fine. We received the little card to indicate what kind of fruit basket we wanted and when we wanted more fruit we filled out another card. We didn't have too many requests. The room was always cleaned very nicely. No complaints. Cell phones and Blackberry: I did not have international service, so I only used my cell phone and Blackberry when we were in US ports. My AT&T service worked just fine. It was a pleasure to have these devices off while in Canada and at sea. My husband has Verizon service and did get international service so he could use phone and Blackberry in Canada as well. Food/Dining: The food was better than I expected, considering they were serving 2000 passengers and staff for each meal. We had Anytime dining which worked great for us. Since there are so many questions about this I will go into detail. We reserved the Pinnacle Grill in advance for the last night -- the night of the Master Chefs Dinner -- because I had read on Cruise Critic about how bad this dinner is. We reserved through the HAL 800 number in advance, but could have done it on board. The food in Pinnacle Grill was slightly better than the dining room and the service was very attentive. For us, it was nice to "mix it up" for dinners and we enjoyed eating there one night and didn't mind the $20 pp surcharge. We really enjoyed the cook-out on deck the first night, enhanced because we had ideal weather. We checked the dining room menu each day to help decide what to do that evening. Three nights we ate in the dining room (including one formal night) and the food was for the most part quite good. We either called before 4 p.m. and made a reservation or showed up and were told to return in 15 to 30 minutes for a table. This was because we only wanted tables for 2. If we had been willing to share, I think we would have been accommodated at any time. The portions are not large so we tended to order several courses. The chilled soups were particularly good. On one formal night we didn't want to dress up, so we ordered from the dining room menu for room service and that worked out fine. One night we ate dinner in Canaletto, which is the Italian restaurant that is part of the Lido buffet area, but requires reservation and has waiter service and tablecloths. They were having a "soft opening" on this ship, expecting to go into full service over the next few months. It was a very nice meal with good service at no extra charge. For Anytime dining the waiter service was nothing special. I'm sure those who have the same waiter each night get better service, but it was fine. The Lido Buffet at night has some of the selections from the dining room menu. A few nights I picked up a snack at the Lido to carry me over until eating in the dining room about 8 p.m. The Lido buffet dinners looked fine, but dinner there was not so appetizing to us, given all the other choices. We had lunch in the Lido or outside at the Terrace Grill every day. I had fresh-baked cookies and/or (usually and) ice cream every afternoon. Ice cream is set up from about 11 to 5 every day with cones, cups and toppings. Yum. They also have out a selection of cobbler or bread pudding all of which were really good -- especially the various types of bread pudding. The lunches were satisfactory -- nothing special, other than these great desserts. The day they had a salmon bake on deck was exceptional. I can only guess they had picked up salmon in Alaska as it was some of the best salmon I had ever tasted. We never ate at the late-night buffet. I did go to the Indonesian high tea and it was very nice. If we were up early enough (only happened twice) we ate breakfast in the dining room, which was excellent. The other mornings we ate from the buffet at Lido that was open until 10:30. The omelet station was the only place I ever had to wait. Really good omelets. The pancakes were really good, but better in the dining room where they were fresher. The daily special pancake, e.g., mango or banana, was particularly good each day. Lox readily available at the buffet or dining room. Alaska is not the place for tropical fruits. By the end of the cruise they had resorted to serving frozen blueberries. Apples, pears and bananas were readily available. Wine: I don't drink, but my husband did bring two bottles on board that we purchased in Vancouver. He had a sweet wine for late evening in our room and one bottle of white wine to have with an appetizer picked up from the Lido buffet before dinner. One night he did bring wine in a glass from the cabin to the dining room and no one cared. The house wines were not as expensive as we had expected (about $5 per glass) and wine is quite expensive in Vancouver (taxes, I think) so bringing some of our own wine did not save that much money anyway. Water: the ship's drinking water was just fine and iced tea, hot tea and coffee are also free. However, I purchased a 12-pack of bottled water at the 7-11 in Vancouver for $4.99 and liked having it on the ship for my personal use since I'm not a soda or wine drinker and prefer bottled water. I also brought the bottles to port visits. The 12-pack was just right for us for 7 days. Glacier Bay: The scenery throughout the Inside Passage was lovely. Glacier Bay was the only really cold and overcast day, so the glaciers didn't shine the way they would have on a sunny day. However, we bundled up and really enjoyed seeing them in their splendor. It was a really fun day sailing through Glacier Bay. They served hot pea soup on deck mid-morning that was a nice touch. We watched from a combination of places including our balcony, the bow of the ship, the crow's nest, aft deck and all over. The captain spun the ship around at each glacier so you could see them from anywhere. Shore Excursions and Alaska Toursaver Coupon book: We didn't want to be tied down, so we didn't book anything with HAL. Many of the excursions that sounded great would have been ruined if the weather had been bad. Also, we knew there were few ships in ports we were visiting on those days so we could make last minute choices if we wanted. I did some research and called around and took contact information with me in case we wanted to do any adventure trips. I did want to book the helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier, but didn't want to spend $279 each. From my research I knew Temsco was in the coupon book, but there are only so many seats at that price. In retrospect I should have realized that since they don't do HAL's flights and no other ships were docked in the late afternoon that it would be relatively easy to reserve. But I didn't want to order the book, wait for it to arrive, get the code and then make my reservation -- and maybe the toursaver seats were no longer available. So, I followed advice I had read on the internet and googled Alaska Toursaver and Craigslist and found three postings. I wrote to each and heard back from two. I bought through PayPal from someone who appeared reputable from our correspondence and was willing to give me the code as soon as I paid. I paid him $55 plus shipping, which was significantly less than the $99 plus shipping I would have paid to buy it new -- but the best part was that I got the code right away and was able to reserve the helicopter trip! The downside was that the flight plane to Misty Fjord, the other coupon we would have considered using, had been used -- but we knew that when we purchased it. Bottom Line: If you are really going to do one or more of the trips featured in the coupon book it is worth it -- IF you know you can get reservations. If it's early enough in the season you are probably safe. We booked our trip only two weeks before sailing, so it took a bit more research. And if you are going mid to late season with a bit of work you can probably find them for sale on the secondary market like I did. Juneau: We were in Juneau from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. which was ideal since we didn't have to get up early and could enjoy time on the ship that day. This was the day we couldn't sail Tracey Arm. The ship offers an excursion where 150 passengers can board a catamaran at about 9:30 a.m. for 5 hours through Tracey Arm. We talked to people who did it and raved about it -- they got really close to glaciers, heard calving, etc. It's $199 which was more than we wanted to spend and I didn't want to be cooped up on a catamaran for 5 hours. But it does sound like it's worthwhile to consider. Juneau was our splurge. We decided to do the TEMSCO helicopter to land on a glacier. We booked in advance using Alaska Toursaver coupon, so it was $279 for two of us. This is the cheapest of the glacier/helicopter flights -- no trek, just a walkabout. It was fantastic. Can't say enough about TEMSCO. They were wonderful. We were the last flight of the day and HAL doesn't use them and no other ships were in port at that time of day, so there wasn't a crowd. The van driver had plenty of time so took us the long way around so we could see the glacier from the car at the visitor center. My only criticism is that our flight was 5 p.m., but we were signed up for 3:45 p.m. pick up next to the cruise ship. That's a lot of extra time that wasn't needed when they aren't crowded. The pilot was wonderful and this was a really special adventure -- highly recommended. People we spoke to who did whale watching in Juneau also really enjoyed it. Again, the fact that we had blue skies in the 70's really made it a great day. But it was colder than we expected on the glacier. They had said to expect 15 degrees colder than in Juneau, so we didn't wear as many layers as we should. It felt colder than that and it was quite windy. Hint: Bring extra layers, hat and gloves if you do this, regardless of the weather in Juneau. Skagway: We had really thought about doing the train, but I had heard that if the weather's lousy you can't see much, so didn't want to book in advance. Again, with some research determined that we were the only ship in port and it would be no problem to buy last-minute tickets on the 1245 train. We reserved a car thru Avis in advance just in case (also didn't need to because only ship in port; with many ships they could run out of cars) and had downloaded Murray's guide as recommended on Cruise Critic. The day was very foggy so we went with the car ($90) instead of the train ($120 each). We made the right decision because we had fog the entire way that the highway parallels the train. It wasn't until we got over the pass, which is further than the 3.5 hour train ride goes, that we had beautiful clear weather. It was fun driving thru the Yukon and we stopped a few places mentioned in Murray's guide. We had taken rolls, cheese and fruit from breakfast (always bring zip lock bags!) and picnicked at Carcross overlooking the beach. We drove as far as Emerald Lake and then came back via the Skagway cemetery. I do recommend a stop at the cemetery, including the short walk to the waterfalls. The whole drive took just over 5 hours, we filled with gas for about $20 and returned the car and went back to the ship. A lovely day. If we had more energy we would have done horseback riding or a hike at Yukon Horses near Emerald Lake. You can google it and book on your own. Others have recommended it highly. BTW, had to pay $2 to use the rest room at one of the restaurants along the drive since I wasn't a customer. Worth every penny. Ketchikan: Beautiful day, really lovely town. Would have been a great day for kayaking, but we just felt like wandering the town. Went to Creek Street and then back to ship area and turned left and walked to the residential area and up and down some of the steep steps. Really nice views and very interesting to see how people live. I would have liked to walk in the rainforest, but from the map it appeared you have to walk all the way around to get to it. If there's a next time, I'll ask at the visitor center just how far to get to the rainforest walk. Shopping: Bought nothing in ports or on ship. Clothing: Since so many people ask about it, I'll give my two cents. I followed advice and brought many layers which worked out perfectly. Did wear my LL Bean rain jacket/windbreaker even though we had beautiful weather. I wore a sleeveless fleece a lot, over a long sleeved shirt, then a zip up fleece over it. Liked having the hood on my zip up fleece. I did wear my long johns and wool socks on the Glacier Bay sea day since we were outside a lot and it was quite cold and windy. Added layers. Also wore gloves that day. On the warm sea days (did I mention we were REALLY lucky with weather?) wore shorts/capris and t-shirt. Even laid by the pool in a bathing suit! Used shorts and t-shirts for fitness center. For formal night(s) I brought one black skirt (that doesn't wrinkle) with a black nylon top and a lightweight shawl/sweaters to dress it up. Worked just fine for the one formal night we ate in the dining room. Dressed casually the rest of the time. Seasickness: I am extremely prone, so I took ½ Meclezine (Bonine) 3 times a day whether I needed it or not, staring the day before sailing and even on port days. I also wore acupressure bands on my wrists and took ginger pills several times a day. We only had one evening of rocking when I felt a bit nauseated and I ate lots of dried ginger during that time. The rest of the time I hardly felt the ship move. If there had been severe movement I would have been sick even with those precautions -- that's the risk of a cruise, even to the relatively calm Inside Passage. Thermal Suite: I had read about the thermal suite in the fitness center and was intrigued enough to go to the open house on embarkation day. It is a separate, controlled area off the fitness center with a whirpool, two steam rooms and heated ceramic lounges. I am always cold, so this was a treat for me. It's $99 for one person or $150 for a couple. My husband wasn't interested, so I asked everyone at the open house if someone wanted to share the cost and someone did. So, I put it on my tab and she paid me $75 cash. It worked out great. I did use it every day and probably would have used it more if it had been really cold and I wanted to warm up. I was sometimes the only person there! The heated ceramic lounge was so relaxing. I would stretch or work out, then do steam and whirlpool, then read on the heated lounge almost every day before dinner. It is expensive, though -- even splitting the cost. Onboard activities: There were some quality activities, but we didn't do much. The Culinary Center is very nice and I attended one food demonstration with the Executive chef that was really worthwhile. There is a computer center with classes, but my husband said it was too elementary for him. Others seemed to really enjoy the computer classes. The Pilates class was good but $12 for 20-30 minute class was too expensive. I did do a free aerobics class one day. My husband went to one ranger talk and was disappointed, although the ranger commentary in Glacier Bay was good. I walked the promenade every day and read some books. On the last sea day there was a Susan G. Komen On Deck for the Cure 5k walk. This was great and attended by 90 walkers who paid $15 each as a donation to breast cancer research. They asked breast cancer survivors to "break the ribbon" to start the walk. I really enjoyed this and it included a free t-shirt. Walking 5k was a breeze and I wish I would have done that sooner! There was bingo and lots of talks about shopping in which we did not participate. And I really don't understand who buys the art at all the art auctions. Entertainment: Not a strong suit. Most of the lounge music was not very good, or at least not to our liking. Others seemed to enjoy the piano bar. The string quartet sounded like good amateurs. We didn't see any of the regular shows, but really enjoyed the juggler, Benjy Hill. He was fantastic. The magician, Joseph Tran, was worth watching. We ate at 8 p.m. so there wasn't a lot of time for evening entertainment anyway. We usually took a walk on deck at night. Leaving the ship: We didn't purchase transfers as it was more expensive than taking a cab. We also wanted to leave as late as possible since our flight was at 1:15 p.m. We signed up to disembark between 9-9:30 a.m., having left our luggage outside the night before. The train to the airport was so convenient and cheap that we walked 5 minutes from the terminal and were at the airport in 30 minutes. (Note: it's cheaper to take the train from downtown to the Airport; there is a surcharge from the airport.) Breakfast the final morning was the only unappetizing meal we had the whole week. Summary: I had no complaints. The ship was great, we saw beautiful scenery, ate good, plentiful and varied food and had an extremely relaxing vacation. I would not hesitate to recommend the ship or the itinerary. Keep in mind that different cruise lines have different strengths. Those looking for a party atmosphere, for example, would probably not have been happy. I'm very glad to have seen Alaska this way. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
The purpose of this cruise was to celebrate my husband's 50th. birthday. It was why we paid to upgrade to the Deluxe Verandah Suites, and it was wise that we did. That was the only place the service even remotely met the expectations ... Read More
The purpose of this cruise was to celebrate my husband's 50th. birthday. It was why we paid to upgrade to the Deluxe Verandah Suites, and it was wise that we did. That was the only place the service even remotely met the expectations we had been led to believe were the standard that HAL claims to set.Embarkation went very smoothly compared to the two other cruises we have done. Check in was a breeze! We were immediately directed to the LaFontaine dining room for a liesurely lunch awaiting our cabin to be ready. When we entered our cabin, we did find it to be lovely and roomy, beautiful verandah. Our bags were waiting on the bed. We quickly unpacked and set about to explore the ship. We visited the Sea View & Crow's Nest bars,the Spa & workout facilities as my husband wanted to keep exercising on the cruise. I wanted to check out the hands-on culinary opportunities. The party planner greeting people interested in learning more about that was cold and unfriendly. I opted NOT to sign up for any of those events, and I had really looked forward to them! We opted for room service for coffee and juice for the following morning.A grilled dinner was served on the Lido deck as we set sail. Food was fair, Lido area very crowded. (We never did try the Lido pool or hot tubs. Always full of noisy jumping splashing kids and babies) .We caught the end of the comic's show and off to bed.First day was ok. The only day my husband worked out as he was unimpressed with the workout facilities. Lines for the treadmills and elipticals was discouraging.The next night was the first formal night, and the only one we participated in. They were very accomodating in getting my husband fitted and delivered of a tuxedo the same day! We hoped for & expected great things,but it was not forthcoming. We had opted for open seating, & waited some time with a pager. Once seated, we  had to wait to place our order. One of the guests at our table had to ask for the wine steward twice, and I think he was the only one taking care of 500+ diners, and not very good at it. Once the food was served, it was disappointing, and we waited 20 to 30 minutes between courses, and that was once we had finished eating them. We witnessed a 10 minute tantrum by a mad & unhappy drunk  passenger who was unaware it was formal night and mad he did not meet dress code and could not eat. He never should have been allowed in the dining room. Most people at our table ordered the Alaskan King Crab, which took forever!!! Our server said they "ran out of crab". It arrived in and inch of lukewarm water, no drawn butter or lemon!! Three people sent their's back & got something else, which took forever as well.One of the perks was having personal concierge service on our floor, and we took advantage to book our Juneau & other excursions. Whale watching was fun. Not many whales, but lots of bald eagles and sea lions, and our naturalist was friendly and informative. Our next stop was the Mendenhall glacier, the perfect warmup for the Hubbard glacier. Juneau was beautiful. We picked the Lido buffet for dinner & were not impressed. For health reasons, you could not serve yourself most things, and the staff was slow slow slow!!! Soup had "skin" on top!The next day was my husband's birthday. We had a good roomservice breakfast. He played in the Casino and I relaxed. He again opted for the buffet for lunch, limited selection, bland & uninspired. We ran into the two couples we met at first day lunch, and invited them to join us for champagne on our verandah to witness the spectacular Hubbard glacier. They were all full of stories already of lackluster service & argumentative staff. One couple shared that their bags were not put in their room, but sitting in the hallway. They had just that morning met their steward for the first time!! This was day 3!! Our assistant steward was apparently their dining room waiter one evening, and while pleasant & trying, was obviously inexperienced and inept at serving. It became apparent that the staff are expected to wear too many hats, are not effectively trained. We heard of several people who when they needed something or had an issue, were argued with by staff!! But I digress!! I had arranged a celebration package a few weeks before, which included dinner at the Pinnacle Grill. Our server was congenial and tried, but was obviously inexperienced at what was supposed to be fine dining service. The food was good, but not superior. We then went to the Crow's Nest, where we had been very well taken care of by Gani and Leo. As we walked in the door, Gani immediately began to prepare our favorite cocktails. THIS was the service we heard was standard on HAL, but it was the only place we ever really got it! The next day my husband had booked fishing in Sitka, which he really enjoyed. I opted to pamper myself with a spa day.I chose a massage and facial. The massage was good, but expensive, and their opportunity to push expensive spa products. The facial was ok. Relaxing. But the facial product line was hugely expensive, and one I have never heard of. My esthetician was obviously disappointed that I did not want to spend her recommended $300.00 on my face, after the cost of the facial!! I had a coupon they had delivered to our cabin for 30% off any spa treatment. The manager seemed aloof and none too happy that I wanted to apply it to my most expensive service. We opted for room service for dinner, the salmon. Adequate but I expected better being in Alaska.Ketchikan was our best port day by far. We booked the Rainforest Canopy Zipline, and I highly recommend it. Stunning views, the adrenalin rush, fun people. We found it the best for souvenir shopping. We also had to do some drugstore shopping as the shipboard sundries store was tiny, cramped, and poorly stocked. Our dining experiences ranged from awful to good. Silverware was usually hard to come by, no matter where you ate. My husband waited 30 minutes for oil & vinegar for his salad at lunch, (yes the buffet again.) We would ask for simple things like toothpicks, or silverware, and the person we asked would just disappear.The Terrace Grill was horrible. Soupy & or dried out taco fillings, unfresh toppings, soggy shells & chips. Turkey burger looked like mystery meat, & was chewy & cold.  Breakfast room service was good, snacks not so much. Got our orders wrong twice in one night. No crackers with the cheese & cracker plate. Ordered 2 apple tarts, got 2 chocolate cakes instead.My husband and many others we talked to were not happy with the casino. He saw many people spend a lot of money early on, but no one won much at all. By the last half of the cruise, it was virtually empty. We had issues with our toilet for one day, but that "funky" smell lingered thru the rest of the cruise. We did not go into Victoria. It was a very short port call, and my husband was tired and not feeling well. I convinced him to eat in the dining room, and it was the best dining room experience we had. We realxed in our room, packed, and chilled on the verandah for our last night aboard ship.As Verandah Suite passengers, we were told we could disembark anytime between 8 and 9:30am. We ordered room service breakfast for 8am. At 8:30 we got the bum's rush from our steward saying we needed to get off the ship sooner! We hurried through breakfast, grabbed our carryons and got off the ship. We loved seeing Alaska & Seattle. And we chose cruising for the opportunity to see several places, and for the most popular reasons, service, pampering, and stellar food. Our HAL experience was sketchy at best. Inconsistent and haphazard. When it was good, it was very good, but when it was bad, it was awful!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
San Diego was incredibly convenient as an embarkation city. The proximity of the airport and the cruise terminal and the wide range of transportation options made it a breeze to get from airport to ship. We arrived the afternoon before ... Read More
San Diego was incredibly convenient as an embarkation city. The proximity of the airport and the cruise terminal and the wide range of transportation options made it a breeze to get from airport to ship. We arrived the afternoon before our cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn right across from the cruise terminal - highly recommended. We wished we would have arrived earlier in the day to enjoy all that the San Diego wharf front has to offer - the USS Midway, maritime museum, etc are all right there in easy walking distance. The elephant and castle bar at the hotel was worth the visit and had a nice assortment of beers on tap. Embarkation was reasonably efficient. We had pre-registered on line and it took approximately 40 minutes from our initial arrival at noon to when we boarded the ship. We chose the late dinner seating(8pm)in the Vista lounge and were seated with 4 new friends who we enjoyed getting to know for the rest of the cruise. The food was above average, as was the service. The soups were excellent - and we are not really big soup fans. We had 2 servers for our table that we shared with several other tables. Those guys worked hard every evening to get it right for their diners. By day 2 they had our names down which was nice to be called by name. Since we had the late seating, we'd slip by the Lido buffet around 6PM every evening for a sneak (snack) preview of the dinner entrees and soups. Entertainment - we don't cruise for the shows but we did enjoy Derrick the comic and Charlie at the Piano Bar. Both very talented and crowd friendly. Derrick had some very funny material and connected extremely well with the wide range of people in the audience. Charlie was a lot of fun also, great on the piano and had everyone involved. We also joined in for the last wine tasting event. The Master Somm, Randall was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed learning some new wines we would not have tried on our own. The gym and fitness center was well equipped. We attended the seminar on body detox and diet. It was worth the time and we learned a lot. Tyrone and Hevin are two of the trainers - both will work you just as hard a you want and were great additions to the gym - good job, HAL in hiring these guys - they make your gym! We also signed up for the Thermal Spa which had to be closed on day 3 after the break out of the N Virus. The thermal spa was ok, not sure it was worth the price unless you are really a spa person. We enjoyed the thermal pool for the 2 days it was open but would have preferred to have had a fully functioning steam room, hot tub and dry sauna. They seemed to struggle slightly here in keeping these rooms up and working at the right temperature. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
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