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22 Holland America USA Cruise Reviews

Right up front - the best part of this cruise was the crew members we met. Each was pleasant, accommodating and prepared to find a way to say yes. Several greeted us by name. One in particular, a young woman from whom I got coffee each ... Read More
Right up front - the best part of this cruise was the crew members we met. Each was pleasant, accommodating and prepared to find a way to say yes. Several greeted us by name. One in particular, a young woman from whom I got coffee each morning, delighted in guessing what I would order each day. The standard answer to our "How are you" seemed to be "Excellent," which may or may not have been true. We never ran into attitude over the six days we were aboard. Never. Embarkation was orderly, predictable and stretched for about two hours. We were dropped off by friends at Canada Place - chatter in the weeks preceding the cruise suggested a zoo-like atmosphere at the terminal. Our zookeepers had no problems finding a curbside zone where we could jump out, say good byes and get into the building. Signs were clear, a number of individuals posted to direct us in the right direction. We took a number and sat. When our time came security was a breeze - we know the drill, declared our two bottles of wine (which seemed based, in part, on the honor system). We sat some more to clear American Customs, which turned out to be about 40 minutes of sitting and standing, followed by thirty seconds exchanging pleasantries with a very nice ICE officer. Actual check in at the Holland America counter required a passport. Other lines could learn this lesson. Once aboard we went straight to our cabin. All of the doo dads we'd ordered were there (rum for rum and cokes, coffee cups and beverage cards). We were in a Signature Suite - liked the layout (having two separate desks for two working writers prevented conflict). The large bathroom with two sinks seemed initially appealing but we never really needed the space. A whirlpool tub with shower and a shower stall? The tiny stall was difficult to manage, the curtain imperfectly containing the spray within its confines. We preferred the hard sliders on other lines. As usual, the shampoos and conditioners were institutional in nature. And I don't know how many times I found myself in the dark bathroom only to remember that the light switch was on the wall outside. The bed and bedding were top notch. An array of pillows gave us options, and the mattress was very comfortable. Additional blankets were stored within easy reach, but were not necessary. Speaking of storage, we had no problems putting everything away for our five night cruise. The crew (here we are again) made the muster bearable. They were pleasant, efficient and joked with us, and each other. The captain demanded silence on deck.... Sorry, dude. We were having way too much fun. Oh, we paid attention and the crew made us feel like they were capable in the event of an emergency. We just couldn't keep the whistle patterns straight. The food...uneven. Buffet lines moved quickly, the selections typical and logically arranged. The kettle coffee was actually good, the iced tea not bad and the orange juice seemed to have lived at some point as oranges. One morning there was no bacon on our side - okay, how does that happen? We had breakfast delivered to our room twice, which was a treat. Except for the McDonald's style "hash brown" that was included everything was very tasty. The sliced grapefruit half had a blueberry tucked into the middle - cute! Dinner was disappointing. Our first meal was okay. My chicken breast was quite tender. Portions were on the "modest" side, which is okay for us. But.... On the second night I ordered a seafood "tower" appetizer that only had one story. Both bites were excellent, though. The lobster part of the "Surf and Turf" was good enough (we weren't in New England, after all) but the steak was marginal. None of the steaks our table mates ordered were seared, juicy or seasoned. My wife ordered dinner, only to be told minutes later that the menu she'd been given was from the night before. How does THAT happen? The next night, they were out of the dessert she wanted. How does.... As nice as the waiter was, there was nothing other than "sorry." On other lines that kind of sloppiness would have resulted in the offer of a glass of wine, after dinner drink,,,something. Inexcusable, and could only be the result of the assembly line atmosphere in the dining hall. We went to a couple of shows, which were excellent. Unfortunately, one of the nights played to a half empty hall. That day the swells really made the ship sway, and maybe people were laying low. Which brings me to the ship. It was comfortable and elegant. The crew kept it clean and fresh. But, if you have any tendency toward motion affect you'll sure feel it on this ship. The curtains swayed, I had to chase my rum and coke the length of the coffee table and that big ole monster creaked and groaned its way to San Francisco (honest - every time we tilted to port something in the structure over our window went "rrrrrrrrrrrrr"). The occasional Dramamine offset the "motion of the ocean" as the captain put it. Fair enough. We made the trip from Avalon to San Diego in short order, even at 5 knots. That was something unusual, to hear the waves lapping up against the hull when the ship was underway. Debarkation was totally simple - fifteen minutes after we left our cabin we were walking along San Diego's Harbor Drive on the way to our hotel. We've had a few days to digest, to distill. Our bottom line on five days aboard the Westerdam - she's a fine ship with a fabulous crew. She is as beautiful and elegant as the captain describes her. She is missing a few things that would change her from elegant to engaging. We'll probably try a different line next time, and see if what was missing is available elsewhere. Nevertheless - Thanks, HAL and the crew of the mighty Westerdam, for a dam good boat ride. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was our first time on a Holland America Ship. We have done many cruises with Princess, Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean and wanted to try Holland. The Westerdam is a nice ship. It is kept clean and neat except for perhaps the ... Read More
This was our first time on a Holland America Ship. We have done many cruises with Princess, Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean and wanted to try Holland. The Westerdam is a nice ship. It is kept clean and neat except for perhaps the windows. I never saw any being cleaned. Our mini-suite was clean and neat and kept that way. The Room steward was invisible. We really only saw him once. The room was very nice with plenty of space and very comfortable. The crew was one of the friendliest that I have experienced on a ship. They really seemed to want to be on board and never seemed like any request was a burden. Breakfast was always very good. The Lido buffet had everything I needed including a killer sticky bun. I had one everyday. Lunch was not as good in the buffet. They seemed to haver a problem with running out of food. For example, the salad bar had a great number of items the first day but by the third day the number of items had shrunk significantly. The Vista dining room was very mediocre. I saw someone say in a review a while ago that steaks were overcooked. They still are. Every time. I don't know who thought that you put gravy on a NY Strip steak but I think you only do if you are hiding something. Service was slow and so-so. There was nothing in the MDR that would make me book with Holland America again. They really need to step it up with the quality of food and service in that area. The Pinnacle grill was very good. The blueberry tart was amazing! The muster drill was very disorganized compared to other ships I've experienced. One of the problems with this particular ship is the age and mobility of many of the passengers. I had the feeling that if there was a real problem we were all going to die. Entertainment was professional and fun. There are two different Hal-cats on the ship. One group had been together longer and it showed. Embarcation was smooth. There seems like a lot of steps to get on board. We were from out of country though as we are form the US and leaving from Vancouver. Entering San Francisco was amazing. The captain made sure that they new were coming. The horn blasting as we passed under the Golden Gate bridge was fun.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was my first and last cruise with this line, The crew is 95% Philippians and spoke and radioed to each other in their native tongue which is fine with me but I would be very confused in an emergency situation, even the practice life ... Read More
This was my first and last cruise with this line, The crew is 95% Philippians and spoke and radioed to each other in their native tongue which is fine with me but I would be very confused in an emergency situation, even the practice life boat drill had a huge language gap. the available Internet was only available for a fee, as was virtually everything on the ship including coffee, pop and water. I ordered a glass of wine but was up sold to a bottle that would be available to me when ever I wanted a glass, they lost it and it took 5 days to receive a replacement. We were given Complimentary beverage cards and told to use them quickly as they had no cash value, we did so on a 3 bottle wine package over $ 100 and then we were embarrassed to be told the cards were not valid and that it would be charged to our credit card ( in all fairness they did give us a credit to cover this after several trips to the front desk ) The food in the Lido was not kept hot nor cold everything was at room temperature, this made for a less than enjoyable dining experience. The Lido had long lines every day , every meal and very, very limited selection as what was available ran out often ( on my last night aboard dinner was pasta and french fries ) No drinks were every offered and everything was get up and get it yourself. Coffee here was free but weak and served in tiny cups. Dinner at the Rotterdam was 5 star style but 2 star food food was bland and tasteless but presented very nicely Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We live near Vancouver, BC so enjoy the coastal repo cruises. After several on Princess, we tried HAL on a 3-night from Vancouver to San Francisco. Our timing was poor! A record-breaking early fall storm produced tropical-storm force winds ... Read More
We live near Vancouver, BC so enjoy the coastal repo cruises. After several on Princess, we tried HAL on a 3-night from Vancouver to San Francisco. Our timing was poor! A record-breaking early fall storm produced tropical-storm force winds and 25 foot seas. Here are grades and explanations for what we experienced on the m.s.Zuiderdam: SHIP: B+. This is a beautiful, elegant ship with fascinating art everywhere, including the stateroom hallways. The bold (by HAL standards) color scheme works brilliantly, with only a few "what were they thinking?" moments. There are lots of nooks and crannies for quiet reading. My biggest complaints: the outdoor deck space is uninspired, with the Observation Deck being a total waste (I would need X-ray vision to see through the wind shield.) But HAL does still have padded lounge chairs on the Promenade. Yes! Inside, I did not understand how the handsome Waterford crystal seahorse in the (less than thrilling) atrium could be so poorly presented. No lighting at all!!! Doesn't crystal shine in light?? CREW: A. We sailed right through a serious storm. The only port, Astoria, was cancelled. Outside decks were closed until the last day. Wild, raging seas caused the ship to rock back and forth. Yet, Zuiderdam and its bridge crew seemed to handle the angry seas well. The Captain kept us well-informed and hurried into calmer weather. Plus service in the restaurants and bars was mostly top-notch. (See the food section for a major failure.) Another negative: we never met our cabin steward even though we were in a Signature Suite. Bottom line: passengers should never underestimate the training, skill and dedication required by crews to provide us with safe, comfortable, and entertaining passage on the open seas. Especially in extreme weather conditions. STATEROOM: A. Our SY ("up" grade from SZ) was 6016 on the Upper Verandah deck. Outstanding. Huge balcony (our only access to the outside during the storm) and huge bathroom (2 showers! 2 sinks!). Lots of sitting room and storage. Good lighting. A treat. I am spoiled! ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES: B+. Lots of folks complain that HAL offers little entertainment. Now I have to say that this cruise was NOT lively and some of that is due to HAL's notoriously mature passengers. However, I think a lot of us (including me) were strung out on meclazine or other sea sickness remedies. That said, HAL offered an entertaining magician, cooking demonstrations, interesting lectures (about waves!) and music from standards to pop to classical. We especially enjoyed Adagio, a violin/piano duo who played everything from Cole Porter to Mozart and played them well. FOOD: B. Except for the specialty restaurants, the food was disappointing and not as good as our Princess cruises. Lido choices were plentiful and satisfying but not particularly interesting. I had a nice entree in the Main DIning Room (beautiful!) and service there for dinner was good. But 2 breakfasts in the MDR were a disaster. One did not arrive until 40 (yes, forty) minutes after we were seated. And when it arrived, it was practically nothing... a tired, miniscule frittata. The 2nd breakfast arrived more quickly, but it too was a sad, tiny affair. I understand portions are reduced for health reasons, and that you can order extra. But this was ridiculous. For the positive.... Canaletto's was just fine and remarkably atmospheric for being a partitioned area of the Lido. And Zuiderdam's Pinnacle Grill is a gorgeous room with strong food. (I especially liked the mustard-horseradish sauce on the filet mignon). OTOH, desserts were pretty and tasty but not memorable. EMBARKATION and DISEMBARKATION: A. Both were quick and painless. Well done! MISC: Love the Vista elevators. They are quick, scenic and often unused. Crew was slow to recover from the storm. Even when seas were calm, the pools were shut down and the forward deck below the Crows Nest closed. Cocktails were well made. Logistically, the cruise was painless- no small feat. While this review contains nit-picks (and that's what we do here on Cruise Critic), the whole experience was wonderful and I can't wait to get on one of those dam ships again! Thanks for reading this, Rick   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
The Prinsendam was billed by both the HA rep on the phone and the on board cruise consultant as a high end experience. We were told "It is good that you are travelling on the Noordam first, because you will be spoiled after travelling ... Read More
The Prinsendam was billed by both the HA rep on the phone and the on board cruise consultant as a high end experience. We were told "It is good that you are travelling on the Noordam first, because you will be spoiled after travelling on the Prinsendam." It was quite the reverse because of gaps in food/beverage service, some shortcomings in activities, and the level of ship maintenance (which did improve in the few days just before reaching port). Had we travelled first on the Princendam, I think we would not have been so thrilled with cruising. Our first cruise on the Noordam(our cruise to Italy) was far superior to the cruise back on the Princendam. The Prinsendam staff still provided the hallmark Holland America quality of service in our cabin, laundry, front desk, and table services with their smiling and playful presence and attention to detail. The line cooks went out of their way to provide whatever we wanted, once even though it wasn't on the menu. Loved the sail away parties which they did with flair. But there were missing elements that did not seem to be down to the staff but perhaps ship policy? By contrast, on the Noordam, if we sat on the Lido back pool deck we were immediately asked if we wanted anything and were consistently provided with tea, coffee, water, lemonade and hot chocolate despite no gratuity on these free items (we did provide a tip at the end of the trip. On the Prinsendam, on a virtually vacant deck, there was no offer of service after we declined alcohol. This was a very different experience from the high standard set by the outside Lido service on the Noordam. Our rating is low for this cruise because of this issue and the food hygiene concern noted below. While in deck chairs on the Noordam, a steward occasionally came by with the offer of blankets, it was more of a self serve on the Prinsendam...perhaps with fewer cruisers and staff, this service has been edited. Not a big deal but reflective of the high quality on the Noordam. Of particular concern on the Prinsendam was that for about the last 4-5 days of the cruise, the salads, cheese, appetizers, were left at room temperature when a part in the refrigeration table had apparently failed. Certainly that can happen, but the response should be to set buffet food on ice. Even though we raised the issue, the salads, cheese and appetizers were not kept at food safe temperatures, no checking on food temperature was conducted as we sat there for over an hour when the food was already warm. The cheese sat so long it was drying out and sweating out the fat while appetizers with meat and sea food were room temperature. For short periods, without ice, freshly prepared food would have been ok, but this was an extended time for the cheese to have gone beyond being soft to sweating the fat out (leave some cheese out and watch how long it takes for that to happen). It was a struggling ship already with a nasty cold running through it (no fault of HA and lots of sanitizer being dispensed) so measures to keep the food at the correct temperatures should have been a priority. Also, a bit of concern about keeping food appropriately hot and cold on the Lido deck for the sail away parties. Anything grilled was good but the taco area was iffy at best for both hot and cold as were some of the salads. HA cruising was unquestionably good but we found the Prinsendam over promised at twice the price for a lower level room than on the Noordam. It is essential to pay attention to ensuring a healthy food service on the Prinsendam. Room temperature mayonnaise based salads are neither appetizing nor safe. The pizza was usually dried out...not very fresh at all. Ice cream bar was great. Sorry, other elements of food were good but cannot compensate for a lack of food safety. Entertainment was good but the games offered on deck were not worthy of the HA standard. Love you guys but there are some tweaks needed and I wouldn't take the Prinsendam again, even at a lower price. I'd take the Noordam again in a second. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Hello Friends at Cruise Critic, We were passengers on board the Holland America Amsterdam Pacific Northwest cruise. The cruise departed from Vancouver Tuesday May 21, 2013. Ports of call Port Alberni May 22, 2013 and Seattle May 23, ... Read More
Hello Friends at Cruise Critic, We were passengers on board the Holland America Amsterdam Pacific Northwest cruise. The cruise departed from Vancouver Tuesday May 21, 2013. Ports of call Port Alberni May 22, 2013 and Seattle May 23, 2013.My husband and I are in our late 30's we do not drink alcohol. We have taken dancing lessons and enjoy dancing.Tuesday May 21, 2013 there were many activities to keep passengers busy until 11:00 pm, after 11:00 pm there was very little to occupy your time. It was nice that there were DVD's to watch in the cabin.Wednesday May 22, 2013 the town of Port Alberni really tried to entertain the passengers by having a farmers market and there were signs welcoming the cruise. The cruise was very rocky Wednesday night we decided to order room service for dinner. Beware there is no menu for room service, the person on the phone said they were between menus. Very poor service and makes it hard to order room service. Wednesday evening we did not take part in any evening activities again there were limited options after 11:00 pm.Thursday May 23, 2013 the Seattle was beautiful as usually, we decided to walk to the city centre from the port it took about 45 minutes.We took advantage of the shopping and enjoyed the day. We boarded the ship around 2:30 pm attended the afternoon tea at 3:00pm.The table we were seated at 4 other passengers who told us that the tea on May 22, 2013 had over 150 people who showed up, the staff were not prepared and were throwing scones at people and most passengers did not get tea. We did not experience any service issues at the tea there were only about 40 passengers whom attended.After tea there was a power outage that lasted about 5 hours we went to the disembarkment meeting and the cruise director advised that the power outage was due to mechanical issues and that he was committed to keeping us updated about when the power was restored. There were announcements every 1/2 - 45 minutes until 6:30 pm then there was no communication at all around 10:00 pm the cruise pulled out of port with no announcement.A lot of the passengers were quite upset an elderly man went to the buffet at closing 8:00 pm, the curtains had just come down and the staff just started clearing away the food the passenger moved back the curtain and advised he was late and wanted dinner the crew member told he was going to call security and the spectacle became very loud both the crew members and passenger became very loud. I personally thought this could have been handled very differently. I think the crew member should have either advised the passenger where he could go and get something to eat or offer to make him a plate of food with what was left over.A lot of the passengers were very upset about the power outage and little customer service failures became major issues. There were limited activities Thursday evening and the stores did not open at all.When we left port it would have been nice to have had the stores open for a few hours. When we left port it would have been nice to have had the sail off party. Instead of having all of the activities cancelled for Thursday evening it would have been nice to have them postponed.Friday May 24, 2013 disembarkment was smooth.We were home a few days and were talking about our cruise with friends and it came up that it would have been nice to have received an apology from Holland America about the power outage either on their website or on Facebook or by email.If the power outage would have been caused by weather or something else uncontrollable I would not expect an apology.I sent a message to Holland America on their Facebook page.Advising it would have been nice to have had an apology for the power outage 23May13.I received some negative feedback and a call from Walter who is in Holland America's guest relations department.Walter told me from a management stand point they do not believe a 5 hour power outage justifies an apology.There are many options in the cruise industry. I think that if a cruise ship has a 5 hour power outage due to mechanical issues or a controllable irregular operation there should be a public apology or an emailed apology. I do not recommend Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
There were four of us traveling on this 4 day trip from Vancouver BC to San Diego aboard the Zaandam. Not really a reposition cruise, but more a filler for a longer cruise to Hawaii. I had read the reviews prior regarding all the problems ... Read More
There were four of us traveling on this 4 day trip from Vancouver BC to San Diego aboard the Zaandam. Not really a reposition cruise, but more a filler for a longer cruise to Hawaii. I had read the reviews prior regarding all the problems coming from Mexico and hoped all was done by the time we set sail. For the most part it was. They replaced our curtains and bedding while we were out so no disruption there. Carpeting was completed and only saw minor work done on what appeared to be leaks. We did note some horrid smells in the public washrooms near the theatre and the Crows nest. The casino renamed of stale smoke so we mostly hurried through holding our breath. Embankment at Canada Place went very well in spite of some misleading info from the port staff who I found extremely rude and stressed out. Probably the fact they were heading the disembarking passengers off at the same time we were coming on. I had never seen so many walkers and wheelchairs in one place and I work in a nursing home!! Not a very welcome aboard experience as I had before at the Ballentyne pier for NCL the year before. Once aboard our cabins were ready, and our bags arrived shortly afterwards. The muster drill was done and we soon set sail to Victoria. The size of the cabin was huge in comparison to NCL for an inside but had no fridge. Thankfully our stewards kept the ice bucket full. They were great!!! We ate in the main dining for all our dinners and learned quickly to make reservations for each night. Never waited. I am not a fussy eater so I thought all the meals were wonderful and staff for the most part were polite though one had an odd sense of humor. We opted to stay on the ship in Victoria as it is our home, so we did some digital workshops that were very well run and worked out in the gym. Prior to the cruise I had requested use of the fitness centre for Zumba and were told it should be ok but once on the ship, the bored young lady said we could not use our own music. There were no aerobics classes offered so we were a little put off. She just shrugged and said she was tired listening to the same music herself and did nothing to help us or suggest any alternative. Entertainment was mixed. The comedienne was great as was the ventriloquist, though we made the mistake of returning to the second performance on the promise of something different..not enough that made it worth going but that was our error. The musical troupe seems amateur. Just ok. We then had 2 days at sea. Zzzzzzzzzz. Not a lot of activity here, this cruise is definitely geared for an older clientele. We attended a tour of the galley, self guided, a a few more digital and cooking workshops and a scavenger hunt. This being a smaller ship there was not a lot to do I guess. We did enjoy the pool and hot tub, make it warm tub. One thing we liked about HAL is that you can bring your own wine aboard without fear of confiscation. This and 2 happy hours on the sea days helped keep our bar tab reasonable. I would have bought photos too but they only took one photo when we boarded. When I asked they said passengers complained that too many were taken. Oh well, their loss as I was willing to pay for them. DJ Steve in the nightclub played great music and excellent music trivia but the dance selections were repetitive. Karaoke night was crazy busy for a Thursday night. Definitely popular and the club was hopping till 1am. Friday night however, country night was the opposite with last call and last song done by midnight. As this was our last night on board we were somewhat disappointed as the ship pretty well shut down at this point. Not at all like our previous experience on the Pearl. As this was one of our groups 30th birthday it was a big let down. Not that we wanted to party into the wee hours but 12??? All in all I may come back to this line but would find a larger ship, and maybe wait till I am older, it was hard to not compare as I had the time of my life on NCL. Even with new carpets, this ship shows her age. Older Kids or teens would be very bored Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Left Over cruising means you get a great deal because you are joining in on the last sector or more than one sector of a continuation of a cruise. 800 passengers left the Zuiderdam in San Diego on May 8th. Those that boarded there, I ... Read More
Left Over cruising means you get a great deal because you are joining in on the last sector or more than one sector of a continuation of a cruise. 800 passengers left the Zuiderdam in San Diego on May 8th. Those that boarded there, I felt like, we intruded on their last leg of their cruise. Many Canadians and British were on board and settled into their daily routine of onboard life when in comes 800 beginner cruisers, burly "so what" cruisers and those that like to get away to revisit their great times on board previous cruises. My biggest disappointment is that the cruise line did not emphasis the dress code on board. Fat guts hanging out, shorts, unkept beards, loud and unsophisticated unsavvy "deal finders. Well, we found the deal too, but knew what to do when we boarded! When we got to the dinner table on "formal" night, we were the only ones dressed in formal and white dinner jacket. Others in sleeveless shell shirts, t shirts and a puzzled look of "we didn't know it was formal night" duhhhh read the daily program! We take any chance we can to cruise, but to find the likes of Carnival cruise types instead of the usual savvy cruise types normally on Holland America ships did put us off. the Zuiderdam was a great ship in that the cabin stewards, dining stewards, lounge waiters were all attentive and cheerful. Beautiful views from the Crows Nest, cocktails in the evenings, piano, violins and guitar music wafting through the lounges in the evening all made our short get away worthwhile. Cabin was worthwhile with a lot of space. The shows were weak. Again last of the cruise, didn't allow for normal mariner status perks, but also meant the last of the entertainment before going on to Alaska with new performers. We love the spectacular dance shows and only had singers this sector San Diego to Vancouver. MY SUGGESTION: Steer clear of left over bargains and beginner cruisers by beginning the cruise where you get the full feel of the experience. And disembark when you see the refilling of the ship with last minute cruisers. It does change the complete dynamic of the full cruise experience. I'd sail Holland America again, but NOT when we would encounter left over cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We were part of a 70-person group who were celebrating a member's 80th Birthday, and came up by bus from Seattle to Vancouver to do the Westerdam quickie 1-nighter from Vancouver back to Seattle (on it's last leg of a ... Read More
We were part of a 70-person group who were celebrating a member's 80th Birthday, and came up by bus from Seattle to Vancouver to do the Westerdam quickie 1-nighter from Vancouver back to Seattle (on it's last leg of a re-positioning Panama Canal cruise), with the knowledge that this would be just a very brief experience. Unfortunately, the ship's arrival in Vancouver was delayed by about 11 hours, so instead of boarding the ship sometime in the early afternoon, we had to hang out in Vancouver for several hours (which is usually a pretty pleasant experience). But then, boarding the ship became kind of a nightmare, because everyone had to sit in the terminal for several hours. We did not get to board the ship until about 9:15 p.m. When we got to the Dining Room about 20 minutes later, they had already closed the doors, so we were unable to join the part of our group who did arrive a little earlier, and who were waiting for us to help celebrate the birthday. Those who did manage to eat dinner there were hurried out by 10:00, for the commencement of the Boat Drill. Meanwhile we were directed to the Lido Buffet, and had a partial dinner, before it was closed down as well. I understand the necessity of attending the Boat Drill, and the reasoning behind closing down the dining options so quickly. We also totally missed the Theatre Showtime from 9-10. Some of the other members of our group were so angry about this situation, that they just went straight to bed. Others did manage to have a pleasant hour or two doing cocktails in one of the lounges, listening to great piano music. However, the pianist shut down the piano after 45 minutes and left for the night. Having worked myself as a shipboard pianist for several years, I'm quite sure that Management had allocated the majority of his shift playing to placate the disembarking passengers from the previous cruise, and so we were left with the dregs of his schedule. The Cruise Director had the most annoying shrill voice and demeanor of any cruise director I have ever heard (maybe I'm just a bit touchy?). He also urged all of us to give all of the staff and crew 9's in every category on the review cards. A little over the top, in my opinion. Had this been a cruise of several days duration, we would have gotten over the trauma of this trip. But it was such a short trip to begin with. We had to endure an overly strenuous day just to get onboard, in order to rush through dinner and drinks, go to bed, and get up REALLY EARLY the very next day, and then get rushed off the ship before 9 a.m. I understand that Holland America could not control the weather conditions that slowed the ship up by half a day. I think probably EVERYBODY on this cruise felt like it was a total disaster. I heard about one woman who, while disembarking in the terminal in Seattle, was told by one of the staff that he really appreciated our business, and that he hoped we had a great time (he said this to everyone who passed by). The woman turned to the poor kid and just swore at him. I guess my point is this: Just don't do 1 night cruises, especially is you have to travel 150 miles to get to the ship! If anything goes wrong, your trip is going to be completely ruined, and you will have such a bitter taste in your mouth, that you'll never want to do another cruise again, and you'll really resent the attitude of the staff who really can't do much about it either, except to keep telling you that you really ARE having a great time! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This 4-day reposition down the Western US coast was the least satisfying HAL cruise we've ever taken. The atmosphere aboard was truly uninspired. In fact, it seemed as if this short sailing was a Blow Off. The entire crew seemed ... Read More
This 4-day reposition down the Western US coast was the least satisfying HAL cruise we've ever taken. The atmosphere aboard was truly uninspired. In fact, it seemed as if this short sailing was a Blow Off. The entire crew seemed distracted and disengaged, unlike most crews we've had on other HAL ships. Were they exhausted from the just-finished Alaska season? Were they focused on making the transition to the up-coming winter season? Was there some sort of on-going, behind-the-scenes crisis disturbing the crew? Who knows, but the passengers aboard between Vancouver and San Diego were clearly not their top priority. The food, in terms of both variety and quality, was sub-par. The entertainment offered was sub-par. The service was somewhat slow, and certainly lacked HAL's usual personal warmth. There were no special events for the Mariners aboard, no Officers' Reception for all passengers, no Good Morning Oosterdam sessions. This cruise seemed like a real strip-down operation. And the disembarkation process, which is the last chance HAL has to leave passengers with positive impressions, was terribly mishandled, then botched, by an inept Cruise Director who lacks the required skills for clear communication, organized process management, and successful crowd control. Even when we fairly grant that a 4-day transitional sailing has to be full of tough, unusual problems, this dis-spirited, disappointing cruise should cause HAL's management some real concern. On the positive side, the ship was clean and in good repair. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This repositioning cruise from Vancouver to San Diego was the first cruise after the Oosterdam was in drydock during the last week of September. We flew into Seattle the day before and took the Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver, rode the ... Read More
This repositioning cruise from Vancouver to San Diego was the first cruise after the Oosterdam was in drydock during the last week of September. We flew into Seattle the day before and took the Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver, rode the public transportation Skytrain from the train station to the pier, all of which worked great and I would highly recommend. We even walked a couple of blocks down from the pier to see the Olympic torch before embarking. Once on board, we discovered that we were upgraded from an inside cabin to a window cabin, much to our happy surprise. The ship looked great. It is obviously not new, but I thought it was in good shape and very clean. Most of the carpeting in the ship's public areas had just been replaced. I liked the decor and artwork. The crew was very friendly and helpful, and the food was excellent! I especially enjoyed the English tea and the cupcake tea during the afternoons. The ship was operating at full capacity - well over 1,900 passengers - but it never really felt crowded. Food lines weren't long even when the crew was serving in the Lido (instead of self-serve)and there was always a place to go on the ship for a quiet, scenic place to relax. We chose the flexible dinner time, and the longest we had to wait to be seated was 10 minutes. Usually, they seated us right away. After reading the last few reviews shortly before we left, I was concerned about how our trip would go, but they must have fixed all of the problems during the week-long remodel. We had a great time! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I have not sailed on Holland America before. It is a much larger ship than I am used to, but quite manageable in a short period of time. I will not discuss the port cities in this review, although they were wonderful. I will save ... Read More
I have not sailed on Holland America before. It is a much larger ship than I am used to, but quite manageable in a short period of time. I will not discuss the port cities in this review, although they were wonderful. I will save those comments for individual reviews. We had three nights in Quebec City at the Auberge St. Antoine which was a delight. We took the 2 and 1/2 hour carriage ride of the city and I highly recommend the tour. The hotel staff delivered us to the ship expertly avoiding the crowds and the traffic that congregated in the port area. We were in our cabin within 45 minutes, but only after I made several inquiries regarding our priority suite boarding status which, once recognized made the check in process much easier. Our "Deluxe Suite" was quite spacious, but did not measure up to Regent's suites in cleanliness and pristine appearance. We were offered an upgrade from the Veranda Suite three days before sailing, which we took and were happy with our decision. One of the reviewers was upset that the large leather sofa was sitting at a slant and the bedcovers were visible in rear cushion area--quite unsightly. Ours was the same. I will add that the room stewards did not seem to understand the problem and were unwilling to make any attempt to correct it. It bothered me so much (since it affected the seating comfort of the sofa)that I opened the sofa bed, flipped and re-positioned the mattress, and then replaced the cushions. That seemed to do the trick and was not a bother for the rest of our stay. The veranda was very large, with two chairs w/footrests and a table for four. It was never cleaned or wiped down during the entire trip. Was the extra charge for the suite worth it to us? Yes, I believe so. Having said that, if cost is of prime consideration, I believe a wonderful cruise could be accomplished without the added charge of a suite. The extras that are offered to suite guests that I found useful are: 1. The Neptune Lounge was a nice touch, but I certainly do not look forward to sitting in an inside space when the ocean views were so wonderful. It was nice to be able to have tea or coffee at a whim, and the availability of the concierge was worthwhile if you needed to change a reservation, etc. However, I did not use the service very often 2. The Pinnacle Grille for breakfast (the only fresh orange juice on the ship). In other reviews of this perk, passengers were not happy with the speed of service in the Pinnacle. I found that--hands down--the Pinnacle had the most pleasant wait staff, the most appealing decor, the best food and the most welcoming ambiance that we encountered on the ship. We booked three nights at the Pinnacle (one was LeCirque), and the steak matched meals that I've had in the finest restaurants. The Tamarind was also quite pleasant and on par with the Pinnacle, but they do not have breakfast service. 3. The priority suite status that allowed you to board the tenders at will (without a tender ticket), promised ease of embarkations and disembarkation (more of that later), complimentary laundry service, crew luncheons and cocktail parties, etc. The crew usually quickly recognized the priority status from the color of the room key and kept a very low profile, so that you did not feel that your were "pulling rank", which could potentially put you in an embarrassing situation. We only ate at the Lido once and I was not impressed. One complete side was closed for two hours to service the crew, causing quite a back up on the side open to passengers. The food and service (lunch and dinner)in the Rembrandt Dining Room was quite good with a varied selection. The room is lovely and the waiters want so much to please. We had open seating and never waited for a table. Of course, we were very open to sharing a table with other guests which was one of the highlights of the cruise. However, the tea,(regular, Dutch, and High)left much to be desired. The tables were crammed together in one small space of the dining room and the sweets did not match up on any level to a lovely English tea. Would that affect my decision to book Holland America in the future--certainly not! We enjoyed the Terrace Grill very much. The salmon burger (not a burger at all, but a nice piece of salmon) was outstanding as was the beef burger. It did take some time, as the food is prepared to order, but worth the wait. On the first night, we went to the Cannelato which we booked as soon as we boarded the ship.(Italian food--no charge) Although it gets bad reviews on this site, I thoroughly enjoyed it for dinner (no lunch) and recommend it as a "must do". Most of the passengers think that, because you must book a reservation, it is an extra charge. I spoke to many passengers who did not know it was an option for them. The Pizza area--Slice--was of the frozen variety. Not worth the calories. We purchased a soft drink beverage card before sailing ($25 for $50 worth of soft drinks). My travel agent also sent us a beverage card as a gift and, of course, we failed to use even half of the purchased cards. What a surprise when my final bill credited the remaining amount on my itemized statement! That was really above what I expected and well appreciated. The entertainment in the Main Stage area was very good and we enjoyed it thoroughly. One of our favorites side venues was the Queen's Lounge when Jenny and the Halcats were performing. It was not very well attended, but Jenny has a wonderful voice and the Halcats are a wonderfully versatile band. If the ship has any problem, it seems to be a communications barrier. Many of the events--Sailing Barbecue, Chocolate night, Taco stand, Canneletto Restaurant, Tamarind free lunch, etc. are not well attended simply because the passengers have not been properly informed. Disembarking in Fort Lauderdale was chaotic. Even though technically I could disembark at will, I complied when they asked us to wait until our color was called. I waited for at least one hour, and quickly saw that the color system was not being honored by anyone and finally just got off the ship to a nightmare scene in the port. After obtaining a porter and locating my bags (with great difficulty), I waited in a customs line for at least 15 minutes. If it wasn't for the porter's expertise, I'm not sure that I could have navigated through the sea of humanity in any reasonable amount of time. Those porters are worth their weight in gold and I tipped him accordingly! This was only my fifth cruise, but it was certainly the worst disembarking experience by far. The cruise was, overall, lovely and Holland America really tried very hard to make the experience special. Because of their capable crew and pre-planning, my experience and enjoyment of the port cities--both docking and tendering--was perfect. I would cruise on them again, but I really do prefer a smaller ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We recently booked a cruise aboard the Oosterdam traveling from Vancouver to San Diego - a 4 day re-positioning cruise. It was our first cruise celebrating our anniversary. From the moment we boarded the Oosterdam to the time we ... Read More
We recently booked a cruise aboard the Oosterdam traveling from Vancouver to San Diego - a 4 day re-positioning cruise. It was our first cruise celebrating our anniversary. From the moment we boarded the Oosterdam to the time we departed in San Diego we met with the friendliest, hospitable, dynamic and outgoing staff who gave 100% to making sure we were comfortable and well looked after. It was hard to believe that they were dealing with close to 2000 passengers, we rarely had to wait for service and given the mix of passengers they dealt with everyone with the same attentiveness and courtesy. The only issue we had was with some of the self-centered, self-important passengers -â€" yet the staff was non-plussed and went out of their way to please. The stateroom was impeccably made up, our luggage on our bed when we arrived, chocolates and towel animals nightly. The balcony unit where we stayed gave us a wonderful view of the sunsets at sea (make sure you book on the starboard side heading south). The food in the Vista was extraordinary - they had three chefs and the menu changed each night -â€" with gourmet 5 course meals. The service equally remarkable given the numbers, they were extremely well staffed. The entertainment was as good as any Vegas show we've seen, comedian, a dance troupe who did a retrospect of music from the 40's to contemporary with dance styles in keeping with each era and a magic show we missed. They had music in different clubs to address everyone's taste but in doing so they seem to water down repertoire (quazi jazz group -â€" more like pop trio, a string quartet playing standard repertoire and some trite classical standards, the pop group was quite good however as was Mark the pianist. I don't know how he played so well, the piano he was using was deplorable piece of equipment for a grand piano with a broken string -â€" he must have keyed all his pieces to avoid the note because I didn't hear it during his act. The Discotheque was hosted by Brett Rudolf - this guy has boundless energy, a fun-loving extremely personable human being who loves life and loves people. He befriends all his guests showing his new steps and tries to make everyone feel comfortable -â€" even those of us who have two left feet. Last day of our cruise my wife and I met him to thank him for making our stay so enjoyable, we told him of our anniversary in passing -â€" he disappeared and came back with bottle of champagne on his own tab. He would make wonderful cruise director if Holland America notices his gifts. The actual cruise director we had, Dave was excellent, his organizational skills kept things completely on track throughout the trip. The flawless disembarkation was largely due to Dave's thoughtful processing -â€" arranging customs and leaving by deck number so that there would be a minimum of waiting. All said it was a remarkable experience for us -â€" a true 5 star rating for this cruise ship, its staff and the wonderful attitude and genuine hospitality they provide. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I'd like to say something nice nicely, but if you care enough to read this, you should prefer the straight scoop. The repositioning cruise departing Vancouver on September 7th was a real disappointment. I was traveling with 16 ... Read More
I'd like to say something nice nicely, but if you care enough to read this, you should prefer the straight scoop. The repositioning cruise departing Vancouver on September 7th was a real disappointment. I was traveling with 16 family members including the agents who accomplished the booking. Although we all have unique perceptions of the cruise experience, we all agree that the service and the entertainment were poor. An exception was the recent addition of singer / performer Clint Holmes (maybe there is hope of a turnaround). The food? It was ample, as usual, but average (at best). It's hard to imagine that the passengers who are continuing have 27 days remaining as they journey towards Sydney, Australia. Mr. Holmes can only appear so many times. Maybe Holland America will take on some motivated new staff along the way, but this problem seems to be trickling down from the top. The captain was so poorly prepared to handle his simple public relations duties that he referred to San Francisco as the city that marks the border between Oregon and Washington. For our family, this cruise offered us a chance to 'enjoy' a quick celebration of a 50th anniversary. We made the best of it, but it was a grin and bear it situation. As individuals and as a group we've cruised many times. So let me finish by encouraging you to beware. This ship is an older ship, well maintained, but quaint and claustrophobic by modern standards. If you're looking for a first time experience, consider this ship for a short cruise of 3 to 7 nights. If you're at least a second timer, pass. Hopefully Holland America has some better ships and better crews in service, but maybe you should read reviews on the rest of their ships before you plunk down any money. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health ... Read More
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health services. This was our 28th cruise, since 1999, including one river cruise. Without providing a boring laundry list of destinations, we have sailed in Tahiti and the Galapagos, around and in South America; to Alaska; made the usual Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean cruises and several Transatlantic crossings.Why This Cruise?It is reaching the point in our cruising life that we are having a little difficulty in finding new areas to explore. We will probably never do a Caribbean or solely Mediterranean cruise again, although we have two more Transatlantic crossings set which start in the Med. We have not done any cruises in Asia, mainly because we do not enjoy super long air transits.But this cruise had appeal because of its itinerary; Amsterdam, Bruges, Dublin, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, and then a New York arrival. Edith was worried about cold weather, but after a hot Phoenix summer, I welcomed it. We had two prior short cruises with HAL and liked their professionalism, the ship-shape quality of their vessels; attributable to a line that has been sailing for more than 135 years; and the friendly attitude of their largely Indonesian staff. So we called our travel agent and made our plans.Pre-cruise PlanningEarly on in our cruising life, we learned the benefit of arranging as many of our own shore excursions as possible. We have found that you get a much better value most of the time. Alaska is an exception, since the excursions are limited, and the pricing is the same. On occasions we have found ships' tours that were unique and were reasonably priced. Somewhat surprisingly, Crystal Cruises offers some of the most reasonable excursions, which like everything else Crystal offers, were first class also. But we often have had privately booked experiences which, when compared with our fellow passengers tales of ship's excursions brought back on board, were evidently much better. It takes some effort, but through exhaustive web searches as well as information provided on the Cruise Critic Roll Call site, we have not only found excellent trips, but people to take them with. We spent a good deal of time lining up excursions for every stop except Amsterdam (we know the city and will use local transportation) and Nanortalik in Greenland, where the town itself arranges the sightseeing for everyone.Clothes planning involved some consideration. We are going to Arctic Circle climates, and we will be out of doors everywhere, so we needed to bring winter type clothing (or at least the Phoenix version of winter clothing). This included my Aran Island wool sweater that I bought on that marvelous island during an Ireland visit a number of years ago. I also brought a storm jacket acquired in Canada. I opted not to bring my tux for what we thought were four formal nights. This turned out to be a five formal night cruise. Edith uses some imagination to prepare for formal nights, and was more concerned about warm clothing for our outdoor excursions in chilly climes. We were a bit surprised when we got everything we thought we would need in one suitcase and one small duffel bag apiece as checked in luggage, along with back packs and small carry on bags with the travel necessities. ON OUR WAYBritish Air flies non-stop from Phoenix to London every day, so we booked them and splurged a little with Premium Economy. We use The Best Travel Store for our air purchases on overseas flights, and have been very satisfied. Our flight left at 8:00 P.M. and arrived on London at 1:00 P.M. We had booked a B&B in Dover called Maison Dieu, not because it was French, but because it was on Maison Dieu Drive in Dover. It is some distance from Heathrow to Dover, and while there are trains, it would have involved changing stations, hauling our luggage, in London. The B&B owners recommended Coastal Cars, and although we tried to find fellow cruisers making that trip around that time, we had to settle for a private car which cost £100.00. We were met promptly and, after buying UK pounds at the Barclay Bank ATM (which does not charge fees for Bank of America cardholders), drove down to our B&B for the overnight stay. Once there we got in touch with Bobi, our travel agent who was making the same cruise and staying at a Ramada near Dover, to join her and her cruising companion for dinner. The Maison Dieu is reasonably priced at £75.00, and the owners very friendly and helpful. Breakfast the next day was fine, and we did a little shopping in Dover before going down to the harbor to look at Eurodam docked there. Dover is a nice little town, easily traversed on foot. We loaded up a cab to go to the pier and boarded with minimal delay.EURODAMThis is a fairly new ship, having made its initial voyage in 2008. It is one of the two largest in HAL's fleet, carrying just over 2100 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 86,200 for a decent space ratio of 41.05. Holland America seems to favor a "mature" ambience, with dark wood walls and furniture, warm colors for their carpets, solid sofas and chairs, lots of reproductions of old Dutch art and artifacts. The lower exterior up to deck four is black and all above that white. The layout is normal. Deck 1 is mostly staterooms, with the front desk, the excursion and future cruise desks and a small atrium. Decks 2 and 3 are the main activity centers with access to the main dining room aft on both decks, and the theater forward. Deck 2 also has the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant open only for dinner with a $25.00 per person surcharge. The store area is a little unusual in that, except for one separate high end jewelry store, the display tables for all merchandise are in one open area. An open steel mesh curtain is lowered to create an aisle when the shops are closed. There is also a "Culinary Center" for cooking "shows"; a small motion picture theater, the casino and the usual array of bars and lounges. One room is dedicated to the computer "Learning Center". Decks 4 through 8 are virtually all staterooms as is Deck 10. Deck 9 has the typical "Lido" Buffet, swimming pool and spa-fitness center set-up. The pool can be covered, and was heated so that even in our cold climates, swimming was possible. There are three elevator banks, and the one midships has two outboard facing glass elevators on each side. For some reason these seemed to be the fastest and most convenient of all. One of the aft group of four elevators was out of commission the entire cruise.OUR STATEROOMOur stateroom, and it really deserved that designation, was one of the true "highlights" of the cruise. It was number 7079, and there are only 3 others like it on this ship. They are Nos. 7080, 6113 and 6118. Grab one if you can! This is the "Superior Verandah" class, but what makes these 4 cabins so neat is their special configuration. Eurodam widens out for the aft quarter of its length. These cabins are immediately in front of that "bulge", with the result that the verandah, in addition to its normal outward facing aspect, has an angled aspect looking forward down the whole length of the ship. This gave room for two comfortable arm chairs with ottomans, in addition to the normal side chairs and table. It also created a triangular area in the cabin for additional storage of stuff, if needed. Not that more space was really needed, we had plenty.There were three closets, with the center unit containing the safe, several shelves and one shirt hanger bar. Edith and I split the other two, and had plenty of room and hangers. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi tub/ shower, a separate shower and two sinks with Corian counters, plenty of room between the sinks, a shelf below and two corner toiletry shelves, providing more than enough space. The main cabin had two desks, one opposite the bed, really more of a dressing table with its lighted makeup/shaving mirror; the other to one side of the bed with its own window onto the verandah. One dressing table/desk had six drawers, the other two. The side desk also had the TV screen and the small refrigerator. There were two bedside tables, and each side of the bed had its own directed halogen reading lamp on a flexible arm for easy nighttime reading in bed. There was a full couch (which converted to a bed), an arm chair in addition to the two desk chairs and another cabinet which held two extra couch blankets, which Edith enjoyed.. There was also a decent sized coffee table in front of the couch. There was a large picture above the couch, two others on the wall next to the bed, a mirror above the bed and a full length mirror next to the bathroom door. There was room for all our items and enough space to get around comfortably. All in all this was one of the best staterooms we have ever had.PORTS OF CALLAmsterdamWe had spent several days on two occasions in this delightful, sophisticated city before this trip. Therefore we opted for the hop-on-hop-off canal trip, purchasing the all day tickets for 20 € apiece at the very modern cruise terminal. This building is within walking distance from the Central Station Plaza from which all the canal boats and most of the trams and buses originate. We actually boarded our canal boat closer to the cruise terminal and had a nice harbor view before we reached the central station area. The weather was nice; mixed clouds and sunshine and in the 70s and we had a fine time taking most of the canal routes (with some duplication) and enjoying the marvelous Amsterdam architecture. We stopped for a quick bite for lunch (having had a full breakfast on board to prepare ourselves for a full day), and at the Flea Market which was a disappointment. If you have never been to Amsterdam, we would recommend the Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijksmusems. The latter is huge, and probably cannot be properly seen in one day, but the first two are great on their own, and close to each other. Transportation by tram is fast, cheap and clean. If one does the canal thing, there are several companies, but only one hop-on-hop-off, and this is the recommended one for a thorough view of the city.BrugesZeebrugge is actually the present day port for Bruges, which was a major port and trading post itself up until the 17th century when its harbor silted in and caused an increasingly rapid decline which resulted in the city becoming almost "frozen" in time. The construction of the port in Zebrugge, about 12 miles away led to a gradual increase of tourist traffic, which by now has become the main focus of the city, showing off its late medieval and early renaissance architecture, easily accessible on foot or via its small canal system.Our plan had been to take a taxi arranged by Bobi, into town with instructions to return later. Unfortunately we waited in the rain for almost ½ an hour and no taxi. Edith and I were discouraged by the rain and returned to the ship. But since the daily schedule of events was pretty barren, we decided to take the shuttle bus provided by HAL to the train station in a nearby town called Blankenburg, and were on time to catch a cheap round trip fare to Bruges. We arrived shortly before noon, walked around this very quaint and attractive town, took the 30 minute canal tour, had a real Belgian waffle, very light, crisp and tasty with powdered sugar, and coffee for 6 € and wandered into the main square, always on the lookout for Belgian chocolate We noted that the restaurant prices for a regular lunch were very, very high; e.g. € 45 for bouillabaisse. I recall paying about 20 € in Cannes ( in the area where it was first made over 2000 years ago) in 2003. On the way back we explored Blankenburg, which had a nice shopping street and more reasonable prices. DublinHere we had two separate excursions, one routine, the other most unique and surprising. On this quiet Sunday morning we took a bus tour of the city provided by our travel agency. It was pleasant, and we saw some lovely Georgian neighborhoods with their vibrant, differently colored front doors. We then went to Trinity College, which is very striking. But since the line was very long for a glimpse of the Book of Kells, we all opted to return to the ship at about noon. There we, and another couple met John Kenny, who runs Hidden Wicklow. John loaded us into his Land Rover and off we were to Wicklow County, a very rolling, hilly and rural county south of Dublin. John is a young man who spends his weekdays as a barrister, drafting legislation for the Irish Parliament. He has lived in Wicklow since birth, less a few overseas trips, and knows absolutely everything about his home area. We carefully avoided all the normal tourist areas, stopping off first at a little known graveyard, still being used, but also holding stone tablets identical to those in Estonia, all carved by Vikings in about 850 A.D. We then traveled through the beautiful countryside, with lush valleys and raw, bog encrusted hillsides, where John cut us some turf, and told us how it was used in fires. We visited an ancient monastery with a marvelous tower where the only door was at least 12 feet off the ground to facilitate repelling invaders. We went to a graveyard for German airmen who accidentally, (or maybe not), overshot England in the bombing raids of WWII and were interned safely in neutral Ireland. At this spot he provided us with lunch; very nicely done sandwiches, and a fruit cobbler made of a local berry which had to be picked, one berry at a time, from the local woods. John had done both the picking and the cooking and it was delicious! We visited "Killruddery", the home of the ninth Earl of Meath (although no such titles are used in Ireland) This was not just a beautiful, stately home, but also a working farm with a wonderful vegetable garden. The home is still occupied by the family, who welcome locals and visitors, and also lent the grounds for concerts, one of which was to be held that day. We traveled through a quiet deep farming valley where John said the same few families had farmed the land for many hundreds of years. The sun was setting over a lovely view of Dublin as we returned to the ship after more than seven hours of marvelous insight into one of Ireland's most beautiful and historical counties. John is a superb guide, and this ranks with Patrick Watt's tour of the Falkland Island as one of the most memorable we have ever done.Faroe IslandsWhere? Well, the Faroe Islands are 600 miles north of Dublin (so we had a sea day, as we did between Bruges and Dublin) and 250 miles north and slightly west of the northwestern tip of Scotland. We docked in the capital, Torshavn, and joined a group again lined up by Bobi. This time the driver appeared in his Mercedes van and 10 of us took off to see this remote country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the countryside resembles both the Western Highlands of Scotland and Iceland, about 300 miles to the west. Torshavn [that's right - no "e"] holds about 17,000 people and the total population of all the islands is about 48,000. The three main islands are roughly parallel to each other. Torshavn is on Stremoy, Vafgar, where the airport is located is to the west and connected by a long tunnel. We drove up Stremoy, and crossed a short bridge to Eysturoy, to the east passing through several small towns. Few, if any people were around, and our guide, who spoke pretty good English, said most worked in Torshavn, or were out fishing, which still is an important part of the economy, despite some growth in information technology. The Faroese are Scandinavian. The islands have a large degree of political autonomy, some legal ties to Denmark, and the people speak both Faroese and Danish. The Danish Krone is the currency. The farms raise mostly sheep, and are attractive in the Scandinavian style. It purportedly is very windy, but was not bad when we got out of our van and wandered around some quiet towns. The Faroe Islands would not precisely fill one's concept of a dream vacation spot, but have a quiet charm and barren beauty.IcelandIn contrast, Iceland is a very interesting, starkly beautiful, surprising and vibrant country. We spent four days there in June 2005, and greatly enjoyed it. The offerings for excursions were many, but based on the fact that we had been to Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysirs (an original Icelandic word, spelled that way) and the Blue Lagoon, we opted to rent a car, persuaded another couple to join us and went to two small towns, Akranes and Borgarnes, and then the Thingvellier National Park. Akranes is a small fishing village a few miles north of Reykjavik and offered a nice view of the water as well as a lighthouse. Borgarnes has the Cultural Center, which provides a narrated guide through Icelandic Viking history. Their written records go back to about 850 A.D. and the entire show, costing about $15.00 per person, was fascinating. We then left for Thingvellier, and made a few false directional starts, but arrived there not too late to enjoy it. Basically it has two claims It is the site of the first true parliament in the western world. Everyone would meet on an annual basis and make community decisions. It also marks the division between the two major tectonic plates in the northern hemisphere. There is an attractive visitor center and marvelous views out over the plains and a nearby lake. All in all it is a striking place. While driving we noted the truly beautiful Icelandic farms, widely spaced over rolling hills, and populated with sheep and graceful Icelandic horses, whose bloodlines have been kept pure for over 1000 years, and whose special stride enables them to carry people over the rough volcanic ground in the smoothest possible style. This is indeed a country in which one could enjoyably spend a lot more time; although it is expensive.GreenlandIt could be said that we spent two days in this icy wilderness. The first day was spent cruising into Prince Christian Sound, and the second in the town of Nanortalik. We had not expected much when the cruise guide said we would be cruising the Sound, but it turned out to be very striking, sailing almost due West, up a fjord-like body of water, sometimes fairly close to steep, snow covered shores with frequent waterfalls, and a view of the actual ice cap that covers most of this huge, virtually empty island. The Sound gives way to other water bodies at its west end, and on one of these we stopped to view a small Inuit community called Aqappilattoq. The captain sent in a small boat from the ship, not one of the large tenders, but a Zodiac type of craft, delivering pizza, we were told. Several small boats from the village came out and circled us, with their crews and passengers - 3-5 at the most - cheerfully waving at us. We then exited south to the open sea and proceeded, on a full sea day, around the southern tip of Greenland and up its West coast to Nanortalik.This is a town of about 1500 people, mostly Inuit. They are visited by about 3 cruise ships a year, and set up a small event for these visits. For $20.00 US per person we were given entre into a small choir presentation at a local church and a coffee, cake and dance show at the local community center. The choir sang in a very pretty Lutheran church, and the group consisted of four women, five men and the choir director; who led the initial song with an organ chord, but conducted the balance a capella. The singing was in Greenlandic, but a Danish man gave short introductions for some of the songs. It was very beautiful and a most delightful experience. The coffee, cake and dance show was enthusiastic and pleasant, if not great dance; mostly by young people. We strolled around the town; looking at the small neat homes, mostly with flowers in their front windows, as we saw in the Faroes and Iceland. There was a gift shop, but it was so small and crowded (we were there only from 7:00 to 2:00 P.M. and had to tender back and forth) that it was extremely difficult to see, much less ponder the purchase of anything. The prices were quite high also. We reboarded in time for lunch at the buffet, which we shared with about 50-60 children from town, invited to see the ship. I am sure they had a marvelous time, especially the child who managed to smuggle his puppy aboard, to the great delight of the buffet staff. It was a mite chilly on shore, but not really too bad, and we considered this a delightful and very different port.St. John's NewfoundlandSt John's Newfoundland [not to be confused with St. John (no "s") New Brunswick], is much larger and more settled that we expected. We had envisioned Newfoundland as rather desolate, rainy and windswept, but were surprised by the very well kept, up to date ambience of this city, which has an urban area population of close to 200,000. The fishing economy collapsed in 1990, but new oil and gas operations have given the area a strong economic boost. We were transported to the airport Thrifty, a trip which took about 15 minutes, to my surprise. There our group, consisting of Edith and myself and a Winnipeg family , parents and 12 year old daughter, boarded our rental car and drove about 30 some mikes to Bay Bull. Why it is called this and not Bull Bay, I have no idea. But here we noarded the Gatherall's family catamaran to go out in search of whales and puffins. There were about 20 of us on board, which gave us all enough room and ability to walk about when we were able to in the Atlantic swells. We turned up whales just outside the bay in the Atlantic after a 20 minute ride and were able to get close and follow three fin backs for a half hour or so. The do not come as far out of the water as the Pacific humpbacks but are very large and impressive when seen from our close viewpoint. We then moved over to Witless Bay and circumnavigated one of the four puffin ecological preserve islands in this bay. Puffins are actually a lot smaller bird than we imagined, but their bright orange, parrot- like beaks make them very attractive. They came quite close to the boat, landed in the water, dove quickly for fish, and then flew to the island to dive back and disappear into the bright green ground cover plants where their chicks awaited dinner. We were told they mated for life, and lived about 16 years. This was a fascinating show. The crew was amusing and informative. Most inhabitants of Newfoundland are of Irish, Scots and/or English heritage, with the Irish being very apparent in Melinda, our guide. We had hoped to see the Salmonier Nature Reserve on our return but unfortunately it closed at 3:00 P.M., so we drove back to St.John's by a different route, and enjoyed seeing the area. The whale and puffin trip was well worth it, however.HalifaxHere we had another private tour arranged by Blue Diamond Tours, a small local company. We chose to stay away from Peggy's Cove because there were two other cruise ships in Halifax that day, so a total of more than 6000 people would be traveling around, many of them to Peggy's Cove. Our excursion company had offered a wide selection of options on their website, and we chose the Eastern Shore. There were six of us in a nicely sized van, one couple from Australia and the other from Las Vegas. Our driver had been born in Halifax and was extremely knowledgeable. We crossed on one of two bridges to the Dartmouth side and went south down the harbor and the east along the coast. Our first stop was at a long public beach, where there was a good ocean surf, and some surfers in the water with wet suits. I went out to the shore edge to test the temperature, and found it to be pretty reasonable, not too cold for swimming for someone like myself who is used to the cold California Pacific and even North Sea Danish coast. We then went to a small port town and out onto a pier to see the lobster boats and lobster traps piled up everywhere. We next visited a wonderful farm house of about 900 square feet, which at one point housed a couple with their 13 daughters! The youngest of these had died in her 90s a few years ago. From there we went to a Heritage site, where the local people had restored about 11 various farm buildings to their status in the early 20s and 30s. We also were fed in a "cookhouse"; a meal with excellent soup and marvelous baked beans. We spent a lot of time going through these structures to see how people lived, and be reminded of our own backgrounds, at least in my case, of the late 30s. We returned to the ship after an excellent and reasonable ($115.00 per couple) five hour excursion, with no other tourists anywhere.FoodThis subject is of great interest to all contemplating a cruise, but is rather subjective in outlook. There is not actually a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be, given the environment in which it must take place. There is one area in which cruise lines are beginning to try to separate themselves from competitive lines, and that is in the widening use of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have featured these alternative dining spaces in their designs.HAL is a little behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam; their latest, having only two. These are the Pinnacle Room, basically an upscale, dinner only, dining room with a $25.00 per person surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with free, but reservation only, lunch and a dinner with a $15.00 surcharge. We received a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Room for early booking of the cruise, and enjoyed it, but only had a disappointingly bland lunch at Tamarind. Others reported well about their dinner there, but it was not well designed for Edith's vegetarian requirements.The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had fixed seating for two times, 5:30 and 8:00 on its upper (Deck 3) level, while it offered open seating from 6:00 to 9:30 on its Deck 2 level. We chose our normal early fixed seating, believing it to be at 6:00 as on all other ships with this system (now becoming more rare since "open" dining is gaining popularity); and were discomfited with the 5:30 time. We like fixed seating, especially if there are six or eight regular attendees, but had we known, we would have elected open dining, and shown up at 6:00 to 6:30.We were also disappointed in that there was only one other couple at our table for six. We enjoyed their company, but there were several nights when only one couple was at the table.We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither selection or preparation. The full menus were pretty standard in both selectionand preparation. On a scale of 1-100 I would rate HAL at 82, Princess 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania 92 and Crystal 97. We have had only one Royal Caribbean and one Norwegian, and don't really have a good basis to rate them, but would probably say about 80 for both. The food service was good, although our waiter seemed a bit overloaded with three tables when all were full. The buffet also had some problems. The layout was confusing and the signs not always informative. Ostensibly for health purposes, food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards, including coffee; which made that item slow. However after two days the buffet service by ship's personnel was somewhat hit and miss, so the health goal was not well attained. Seating was overcrowded and difficult at times since the weather did not allow outside seating aft of the main Lido dining area. The breakfast selection was reasonable, although the potato offerings were inconsistent, and the ship ran out of apple juice on the third day. The coffee in the Lido was pretty bad, but the one time we had breakfast in the dining room it was pretty good. Once I figured out where the more exotic, Asian lunch items were located, I enjoyed these. The food in the buffet was served directly on large plates. The Food Service Manager told us that HAL had stopped using trays in the buffet and that this has resulted in substantially less waste. It worked out pretty well, although if you wanted to keep your utensils, you had to make sure your dining companion was on guard against the rapid removal of apparently used dishes and cutlery by the buffet staff. I should note that each night a portion of the buffet was set aside for Canelo, an Italian food setup with waiters, linen napery etc. at no extra charge.On Board Activities and EntertainmentHAL does not rate highly in this area. We had read that they realized the weakness of their activities on short cruises (and we experienced that on both Zaandam and Veendam on one week Caribbean cruises) and were going to remedy this on their longer cruises. We did not see much of this except for the lecturer for the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. This was Jon Sigurdson from Iceland. He did several lectures in the main theater, which were always well attended and enjoyed. His amusing and relaxed, but very informative talks added to our enjoyment of the Viking countries we visited.Aside from this there was an astronomy lecturer that we did not attend, and a "techspert"; a young lady named Kristin who ran a series of computer and camera classes, often twice a day or even more, in the "Kings Room" a small room on Deck 2 that was equipped with about 20 laptops. This was a nice concept, but there was obviously a limit to the number of people who could avail themselves of this, and the classes moved quite rapidly, so there was the danger of being left behind. Many of them were repeated during the cruise however. On most sea days there was a presentation or "show: in the Culinary Arts center, which has a small theater setup with a stove top on stage. Most of these had a comedy approach, and the one in which our very friendly Canadian Captain attempted to cook was amusing. Most of the balance of the offerings were typical cruise games, contests and sales pitches for stores and the spa.The evening entertainment in the theater had some variety and two pretty good singers, one male, one female as well as two typical "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a flutist, a pianist who had us worried if the instrument would survive her attack, a couple of comedians and a dance/quick change artist couple. All in all, we considered the evening entertainment to be of average quality; not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruises, and most others.A daily ship's version of the New York Times was available in many national editions. In addition, one could go on line, without charge, in the internet cafe and bring up the e-mail version of the Times. Internet communication otherwise was not free, of course. I paid $55.00 + tax for 90 minutes, and it was slow. The in-room TV was sporadic in its pickup of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. What was annoying was that the program listing for the in-house shows, including several movie channels was totally inadequate and uninformative. Nor did it enable you to see your on board account - pretty poor service for this day and age. The Crew and the ShipHAL runs a very high quality, ship-shape operation. The crew is constantly cleaning, and the results are apparent. The crew is also uniformly pleasant and attentive. Our cabin attendants were on the spot all the time, and always had a smile. The wait staff and buffet staff were equally nice. The Captain gave detailed, very understandable reports of progress, which was well appreciated because of two hurricanes, Irene and Katya, which posed possible threats. The officers made sure you knew that their families were on board, the Captain's three children obviously enjoying Dad's failures as a cook. As on all HAL ships, the stateroom attendants and wait staff in the dining venues were Indonesian, except for the wine and liquor servers who are non-muslim Filipinos. There was some upset over the store manager who would announce raffles and then cancel them with little notice, but he was not a HAL employee. There were a few days of high seas, but no reported motion sickness, merely some swaying as one walked about. The outer decks were closed a few times as the wind approached 70 knots, but the ship remained very steady. Often people on Cruise Critic wonder about the North Atlantic crossings. This is the third westbound crossing we have made, all in fall months, and all without disturbingly high seas. We have also done two eastbound cruises, from Rio to Barcelona and from Baltimore to Rome, both in the spring and equally smooth. The highest seas we have ever had have been going north up the Baja coast and west to Hawaii from California.DebarkationThis was the slowest we have ever experienced, and it was due entirely to the customs/immigration authorities, no doubt as frustrating for HAL as it was for us, since there were still passengers on board when we left at about 10:15. The new arrivals were to start boarding around 11:00. (We read one review which said that the early debarkees exited very promptly, but progress certainly slowed down later.) However, there were three ships arriving at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, Carnival Glory, which had joined us in Halifax and Norwegian Jewel, which might have accounted for the delay. There was a very long line for taxis, but, as a born New Yorker, I believed I could walk one block to 11th Avenue and catch one there, which we did, and were on our way to pick up our rental car and drive to Long Island to visit my sister. Overall EvaluationThis was a cruise with highs and, if not exactly lows, some weak spots. The high points were the ports of call, the overall itinerary, our delightful stateroom; the general high quality of Eurodam as a ship, and its very pleasant staff. The food would be rated as medium to quite good; and the on board entertainment and activities as fair to medium. It is probably not a cruise one would do twice (although our friend Bobi had done just that) but certainly well worth doing once. We should note that of the 2100 passengers, about 450 had done a back to back with the cruise through the Baltic preceding our trip. Since we chose this cruise largely for its itinerary, and not for on board shows and activities, we were certainly not disappointed, and considered this an excellent adventure.Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Let me start with stating that we love cruising and I am normally one of the most positive people on the planet. I really wanted more from HAL, especially since my wife and I had brought 16 friends on this trip with us! I know it was a one ... Read More
Let me start with stating that we love cruising and I am normally one of the most positive people on the planet. I really wanted more from HAL, especially since my wife and I had brought 16 friends on this trip with us! I know it was a one nighter and I am hoping that was why HAL did not deliver.Our trip started on an Amtrak trip from Mount Vernon, WA. If you have not traveled rail, you gotta try it. We had group rates and a train car all to ourselves to play cards and enjoy some munchies. After clearing Canada customs at the station it was super simple to jump off Amtrak onto the $2.50 sky-train for a 6 minute high speed transport to the dock. Once off train, followed signs to the boarding coral with ease.We cleared USA customs rather quickly in preparation to board only to come into a room FULL of chairs and rather disheartened one nighters. Computer crash led to an extreme backup on boarding. As a past cruiser, we have learned to roll with the punches and HAL did a great job of serving water and hot chocolate in an attempt to alleviate frustration. Even with having to do the entire check-in process manually... yep, hand written, it was still surprisingly quick. On board about 2 hours later than we wanted but 2pm still left us plenty of time to enjoy the Westerdam.Upon boarding, we dropped bags in a larger than expected outside cabin having been upgraded from a bargain bottom inside cabin. It even had a bathtub! First for us on a cruise... Even our Disney room was tub-less!Heading to the LIDO buffet our high expectations were shattered. (Let me preface to say that we are doing another 1 nighter to give HAL the benefit of the doubt in case the poor performance was a result of the crazy check in creating an overly crowded LIDO buffet)There were no plates or silverware to be found. Many of the stations had servers dishing up plates for the guests but there were several areas of self-serve that had no plates so the only option was to have something dished up for you after waiting 15-20 minutes for the express sandwiches, Asian food (which was almost totally gone by 2pm), Italian (pizza was gone as quickly as it was refilled), Mexican (taco shells or tortillas were non existent for the taco bar), and a quarter filled salad bar. Of all the cruises I have been on, this was the worst 1st day buffet I have ever experienced. I understand that this is somewhat typical on embarkation day but this was over the top. Our group of 18 had several veteran cruisers and not a single one was pleased.Seats were not anywhere in sight. We ended up heading outside to the outside pool. Vancouver rain made it a bit chilly but I loved how HAL provided blankets for warmth. Plates were not collected after we finished and were still on the table when we left even though 4 HAL servers were around.After lunch we did the typically cruise ship meander. The artwork is crazy cool. Noticed several funky benches with little mythical creatures all over the boat in various colors depending on location on ship. One big difference I noted between this ship and the Disney Wonder or Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Sea was how confined I felt in this ship. The halls are curvy and ceilings feel lower. I am not sure if it is just all the dark colors on the walls and the heavy draping but my wife even felt claustrophobic. The other ships I have been on just felt much more open. I am sure that some appreciate this style but I really did not.Stopped by the 5pm Culinary display. I was very impressed with the demo kitchen layout and use of cameras. The cook was the party planner on the ship and was entertaining but not super informative for a cooking demo. They served $4 wine during the show and it was definitely $4 wine. There was a poolside BBQ that smelled so amazing. Smoke even wafted through the inside pool. Past on actually eating but was impressed with the amount of showmanship in the waterman/butter sculptures. Dinner is always my favorite experience on cruises but this again left a lot to be desired. Seating was awkward for the main dining room as our waiter did not assist with chair or napkin. The waiter made no attempt at conversation. He did not make any suggestions or descriptions of the entrees. He simply walked up, handed menu, left for a bit and then returned and asked if we were ready to order. I am hoping that his performance was simply because we were only one nighters but come on... really?Dinner service was so slow that it took the full two hours and we had to rush out to make it to the 10pm show. The show quality was excellent. Performers were definitely top quality. Two big difference between our previous experience... the dancers/singers were all about 5-10 years older in appearance... I guess they are just living up to the HAL reputation of being a senior citizen cruise line. The other area we noticed was that this particular show was rather risque. Thongs were used with fully exposed cheeks... some would argue that they had leggings on but from the 4th row it sure seemed like I saw much more skin that I would have wanted. (Happily married, hoping to stay that way!)Our group ended the evening with drinks in the crows nest which was almost entirely empty by 11pm. (Shops all closed at 11pm so we missed out on that!) Headed down to hit Casino at 12:30 and it had just closed up. After laughing for a few minutes at those who had consumed way too much alcohol in the dance club, we retired.After getting to the room, I wanted to order a snack from Room Service but could not find the menu... My wife found it the next morning inside the seat for the vanity. Dang!Morning buffet was not crowded but was also lacking in quantity. Several picked over, empty serving trays. Had a great breakfast still and plenty of seats available. After eating, grabbed bags, straight off the ship and since we had already cleared customs in Canada, just walked right out of the building.Summary: One night cruises are worth the effort especially for the price. HAL was unimpressive. Servers and crew were simply flat. We will try again but I think Princess Cruise might be our next one night before we give HAL another shot. Only drinks ordered was a Tanqueray 0100 Martini (WOW, strong... I totally felt like a secret double agent!) and a Long Island Ice Tea which was one of the best I have ever had.Feel free to hit me with any questions if you are nice. If you want to tell me how wrong I was in this review, please don't bother. Thanks all and enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Arriving in a rainy Montreal on October 6th after two uneventful flights on Delta, I was ready for my trip to begin. Traffic from the airport to my hotel, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, was very slow, taking nearly an hour to reach the ... Read More
Arriving in a rainy Montreal on October 6th after two uneventful flights on Delta, I was ready for my trip to begin. Traffic from the airport to my hotel, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, was very slow, taking nearly an hour to reach the hotel. Check-in was swift and the details of my reservation were accurate. My 10th floor room had a wonderful city view, overlooking the Cathedral. Dinner that night was at The Keg, which was directly across the street from the hotel. October 7th was also rainy, so a half-day city tour was an appropriate activity along with exploring Montreal's underground mall. Dinner that night was at The Beaver Club within the hotel, a 5 star dining experience whose cuisine and service lived up to its reputation. October 8th dawned cold and windy with occasional showers that discouraged my plans for visiting Old Montreal and the Old Port area. I did more exploring of the underground mall, began reading my book, and looked for a restaurant for dinner. Settling on Les 3 Braissurers, a brew pub type of establishment, proved wise. I enjoyed very good food and freshly brewed beer along with good service. The hotel was being used by HAL as their pre-cruise hotel. Finding out what time the first bus of guests were being shuttled to the pier, I left for the pier 15 minutes before that time. Getting to the pier proved to be an adventure. Even though the doorman told the taxi driver in French where he was to go, the driver had no clue as to where the Maasdam was docked. He missed the first turn to the Old Port and when we did arrive at the port area, we were downriver from the pier. Having studied a map of Montreal, I knew where to go and directed him to the pier. Arriving at the pier at 11:15 A.M., the baggage was quickly taken by the porters and the few guests already there were directed to a waiting area until check in began. That started within 5 minutes of my arrival. Being a 4 Star Mariner, I was directed to the check-in area for the Deluxe Verandah Suites, was quickly processed, handed an invitation to the Mariner Embarkation Lunch, and directed to a seating area to await boarding. Boarding began at 11:30 A.M., so from taxi to ship, my embarkation took only 15 minutes! The Embarkation Lunch did not begin until Noon. Since this was my first time aboard the Maasdam, I walked through the public areas of the ship, becoming acquainted with the ship and waited in the Explorers Lounge until it was time to enter the dining room. Lunch was delicious with gracious, unhurried service. What a wonderful way to begin a cruise! I found the Maasdam to be in very good condition: clean, a pleasing decor, easy to navigate with really the only crowds being that first day when many were trying to use the elevators to get to their staterooms and in the Lido at prime meal times. The crew were, as one expects on HAL, happy, pleasant, efficient; in short, excellent! My cabin stewards, Dayat and Made, did a better job than one of my cabin stewards on the 2008 World Cruise. And, enough positive things cannot be said about Aji and Iwan in the Dining Room and my wine steward, Nelson! They had time to talk, joke around, and provide excellent service to my table mates and me. At the Ocean Bar, bartenders Benji and Nick as well as the stewards always made me feel welcome and were interesting men with whom to chat when they had a chance. (And, Nick and Benji made good drinks, too!) Saguenay, Baie Comeau, and Gaspe do not receive many cruise ship calls. Thus, they remain unspoiled, giving a very natural view of this area of Canada. The residents of Saguenay gave the Maasdam quite a warm welcome at their new pier facility. The Best of Saguenay by Land and Sea Tour took us down the fjord by boat, stopping at the statue of Notre Dame du Saguenay where the traditional "Ava Maria" was played with a return to the port by bus that allowed a view of the inland area of the region. The Best Of Baie-Comeau Tour was highlighted with a visit to the forest interpretation center Village Forestier d'Antan. At Gaspe, a nice drive along the coast to Perce for a trip out to Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island was most pleasant. But, windy and cold. There were several times during this cruise when I wished I had brought my parka along. A hat and winter jacket, even with layering, was not quite enough for me. In Quebec, I took a short tour of the old and new city with the intention in the afternoon of returning to the Chateau Frontenac for a tour of that building. The cold, windy conditions discouraged that plan and instead I visited the Naval Reserve Museum of Quebec which was located close to where we docked. In Charlottetown, I was interested in learning more about Canadian history and spent time at Confederation Hall and Provence House. Had to stop for lunch and enjoy some of those great P.E.I. mussels! In Sydney, I booked the Area Historical Drive which was OK, not great. In St. John, I opted for the city highlights tour over the Hop On/Hop Off bus. Bar Harbor saw me visiting Acadia National Park, enjoying the views from Cadillac Mountain. At Halifax, I spent the morning at the Pier 21 Museum, learning about Canadian Immigration history. The ship was docked right at that spot so it was easy to get there. It was a very interesting morning followed by an afternoon tour that covered Halifax's connection with the Titanic. Visiting Fairlawn Cemetery was a sobering experience. Those poor souls lost their lives so that today's cruise guests now travel more safely. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was a stop on the tour and deserves a repeat visit if I am again in Halifax. Cuisine aboard the ship was very good to excellent. A new breakfast menu has been introduced with several different breakfast options, i.e. Dutch Breakfast, Japanese Breakfast. It was nice to see many new items on the dinner menu, i.e. a fish entree of a Unicorn fish, and everything that I ordered was well prepared and presented. I enjoyed two dinners in the Pinnacle Grill and both food and service were excellent. I also decided to try Dinner with the Chef, a limited dinner for 10 guests that was scheduled to take place in the Culinary Arts Center. We were to be seated around the counter/cooking area of the Center with very nice formal place settings, including name cards. That night, however, the Maasdam experienced a Nor'easter and Executive Chef Joachim Barelmann decided it would be wise to move the dinner into the main dining room at a specially prepared table for us. While we did not get to see the Chef prepare some of the items on the menu, each menu item was described as it was presented to us by either the Chef or one of the Assistant Dining Room Managers. A different wine was served with each course and the Cellar Master would discuss that particular wine and why it was selected. This was an excellent dining experience and well worth the $79 cost. (But, because of the change of venue for the dinner, the Chef said we would not be billed for the dinner! And, we were not!) Showtime was at 7:00 or 9:00 P.M. Since I was a 2nd Seating guest, this interfered with my normal 7:00 Happy Hour. I learned to adjust. I started Happy Hour sometime after 6:00 and then took a second drink into the showroom. I found that I did not mind having an early show. It allowed me to try other entertainment venues after dinner rather than attending a show after dinner. It is my impression that this early show was better attended than it probably would have been if it had been at 10:00. The Cast shows were well done and what individual entertainers I saw were good to OK. (I think it is hard to beat the entertainment found on a Carnival ship.) I was satisfied. Particularly on the three sea days between Bar Harbor and Fort Lauderdale, there were many events from which to choose. The Cruise Director did a good job and was visible. There were many Mariners aboard this cruise, with the Explorers Lounge full for the reception before the Brunch for the 300 day and above guests. The Brunch was well done, with Captain Draper speaking for a short time and with J.T. Watters, the Cruise Director, also talking and thanking us for sailing with HAL again. The wine glasses were kept full; the tiles were distributed during the Brunch. My stateroom was a typical HAL outside double, comfortable and well maintained by the stewards. I did note that both in the stateroom as well as in a few of the public areas that some of the soft furnishings are "tired" and in need of refreshing. Linens appeared to be in good condition, although the bathrobes in my cabin were more off-white than white. The new Beverage Cards were being used on the ship and I found them to be easy to use and I liked receiving a discount. They cannot be used for Happy Hour drinks since those drinks, like the Beverage Card, are discounted. I did not think about trying to use the Card to buy an individual bottle of wine. I did buy a Wine Package and received the Mariner Status discount. At the usual Disembarkation Talk and Crew Farewell, J. T. made a funny: He thanked his children's club staff members for doing such a good job. "We never saw the kids." Reason: there were none. I chose to try Luggage Direct for my disembarkation. It is worth the $19!! Being able to disembark with one's carry on and plane boarding pass, pass by the luggage claim area, go through Customs/Immigration quickly, get on the transfer bus, and at the airport go directly through security to your gate was wonderful! The only downside was those of us using this service were among the first ones off the ship. The luggage arrived at my home airport when I did, as promised. This cruise was a treat for so many reasons: the warm, friendly crew, meeting some very pleasant and well traveled people, the autumn scenery, service and cuisine that was as good as, and at times exceeded, what I have experienced on my previous 16 HAL cruises, one stormy night with 18 foot waves, and three out-of-the-way ports that were a true delight to visit. Another real treat was being able to sail again with two friends with whom I first sailed in 2002 and finding a couple of crew members who remembered me from past cruises. It was a great trip! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We chose this cruise to have a short sampling of a different cruise line as we have only been on RCL before. We were very glad that is was short though because the waters were very rough and my dh was sick the entire time! Not that this is ... Read More
We chose this cruise to have a short sampling of a different cruise line as we have only been on RCL before. We were very glad that is was short though because the waters were very rough and my dh was sick the entire time! Not that this is the cruise line's fault in any way but it certainly affect our experience. Embarkation: We showed up at the pier to drop our luggage at around 10am. They told us they would not be ready until 11-11:30. When we came back we breezed through all the lines and into the holding area where we were squished like sardines with the other waiting passengers. We didn't have to wait more than 15minutes though when they announced the ship was ready to board. They were very organized and well managed. On board of course our first stop was the buffet. The first thing I noticed is that it is not a true buffet. Each food station was "roped off" in front of it and there would be people behind the rope or counter and they would serve you what you requested. I can see the purpose behind this in order to waste less food and create less mess from a mob of people just grabbing everything. The only annoying thing was when there were hot dishes they were covered up and you could not see them. There was always a good variety of things to eat and we were always able to find somewhere to sit. I was however never able to figure out how to get a coke in that restaurant. Entertainment: We went to the comedy show the first evening and really enjoyed it. The other 2 nights though we missed due to illness. Facilities: Bought the hydrotherapy pool/room package at $60 per person for the 3 days except you couldn't use it until after 4:30 the first day so it was really only 2 days. The price was a complete rip off but the pool was really relaxing and enjoyable when we did use it. We paid attention the first day and found that after dinner was the time the least people were there. We ended up having the place to ourselves for the entire evening. There were lots of cushy places to sit and lounge around the ship. We never were unable to find a nice place to sit and read or people watch. Dinning: Please keep in mind that I am not a food critic and I think that food is very subjective. I was never amazed by the food in the main dining room. It was not bad but it was not excellent like it was on RCL. The desert was not very good anytime. Also the last day I think their dryer was broken or they were just really behind because every meal I ate I was given a wet napkin and my lap would be wet by the time I was done eating. Cabins: Our cabin was a VA balcony. It had plenty of space for storage and had a full size tub instead of tiny shower. The only complaint we had was that the shower curtain was a thick dark material and blocked out all the light when closed. Try shaving in the dark on a ship that is rocking like crazy. It would be an easy fix for them to get clear shower curtains. Service: Service was excellent. We met our cabin steward which was a first for us. Everyone was very friendly and tried to get to know you. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Pacific Coastal - 5 days on the Oosterdam Embarkation: Took a taxi to Canada Place - delivered right to where we needed to check in! Arrived at 10:45 - process was painless and we were on the ship 45 minutes later. Made our way to the ... Read More
Pacific Coastal - 5 days on the Oosterdam Embarkation: Took a taxi to Canada Place - delivered right to where we needed to check in! Arrived at 10:45 - process was painless and we were on the ship 45 minutes later. Made our way to the Lido and found a table for 4 - all the tables for 2 were taken. Shared with two nice ladies from Canada. Cabin. We were able to go to the cabin at 1:30pm. We booked a VF guarantee - that was all that was available in the balcony class - and we were assigned a VF on Deck 4 - one with a steel railing. We actually liked the steel railing as it seemed more private and we had more space on the balcony itself. Cabin itself: when we arrived the safe wouldn't work, the connecting door to the cabin next to us wasn't locked (we were QUITE surprised when our next door neighbor poked his head in!), no bathrobes, no wire fruit basket. We called the front desk immediately about the safe and the unlocked connecting door - said they would send someone - but neither were fixed until 8pm and 4 phone calls later. Didn't see our room steward at all that first day. We ate dinner the first day in the Vista MDR - anytime seating. Asked for a table for two and got it - except it literally was 8 inches from a table for 4. A bit noisy and not very private. Dinner was fine, except the serving of ling cod that was about 2 inches by 2 inches square - not really enough for an entrEe, so ordered the coho salmon in addition. Let me digress for a moment to the attire of the passengers. Attire. One of the concerns I had was the "Smart Casual" requirement - as I prefer to live in jeans I realized that I would have to forego them. Black dress pants seemed to fit the "Smart Casual" rules. I needn't have bothered. Jeans, even the shredded knee ones, seemed to be acceptable. T-shirts were not out of the norm. My favorite was the woman wearing a hot pink halter top in the MDR, which was nicely co-ordinated with a matching bra and with straps the world could see, and gray jersey leggings. Second place went to the three girls wearing bathing suits and wrapped in wet towels in the Lido at lunch. Third place went to the overweight men who wore their bathrobes (and nothing else) to the Lido at lunch, too. I'm sorry I paid attention to the dress code and left my jeans at home. Breakfast in the MDR on Day 2. Table for 2. Slow service. Bacon was undercooked; chocolate croissant tasted rancid, the French toast was crisp on the outside was soggy and raw eggish on the inside - like it had soaked too long? We decided on the Lido for breakfast after that meal. Robes mysteriously arrived while we were at breakfast. Spent the day in Astoria. Cute little town. Interesting watching the docking process from our balcony. Made a dinner reservation in the MDR for 5:30pm that day. Received a confirming card in our mailbox. Left for dinner. Room still not made up; still no fruit basket. At the MDR gave the maitre'd our confirmation card. He told staff to take us to table XXX; when we got there we saw it was a table for 6! We told the staff we had a reservation for a table to 2. We went back to the maitre'd - he had kept our card but it was nowhere to be found. He said we did not have a reservation for a table for 2 and that there were no tables for 2 available. As we were leaving to go to the Lido he magically found one. Off in a corner behind a pillar. At least it was private! Dinner was OK - not overwhelming. Service was slow. The baked Alaska dessert was strange - it really didn't seem like meringue on the outside - more like that marshmallow goo that comes in a jar? I'm pretty sure meringue doesn't get that way even when soggy. Back to the cabin. Finally made up. Wire basket for fruit, but no fruit in it. We really enjoyed listening to the musician playing on the dock from our balcony, and the casting off process. Found 2 wine glasses and enjoyed some of the wine we brought on board. Decided to try room service since I was still hungry. Ordered a BLT, two bananas and cheese plate. One hour later it arrived - the cheese plate was amusing - 4 very small pieces of cheese, a few crackers and a berry in the middle of the plate. Seriously, each piece of cheese was 1 inch by 1 inch! My BLT had processed cheddar cheese on it - it tasted OK once I removed the cheese. Decided further room service was not in the cards! Ate at the Lido for breakfast and lunch the rest of the cruise. It was fine, but tough finding a table for two. Made a reservation at Canaletto for dinner the third night - highly recommend it! Food was excellent as was the service. Loved the lemoncello dessert. Tried to make reservations for the last two nights we would be on the ship but it was booked solid. Dinner was at the Lido the last two nights. Kept checking the MDR menu to see if lobster was on it; as that was the only reason I would even consider going back. No lobster the entire cruise. Oh, well. I had heard great things about HAL room stewards. Ours wasn't. Even though we were out of the cabin for chunks of time, it was only made up early in the day once. And the last two days it wasn't made up at all. No garbage emptied, no clean towels, no new toiletries. Our wine glasses disappeared on day 3 and never returned - but we made do with the water glasses for our wine on the balcony. Disembarkation was a breeze in San Diego. Had time for breakfast in the Lido, went back to our cabin - which was partially made up for the next passengers! Off the ship at 9am. And very unlikely to be back. While we have traveled extensively - on our own to rather remote parts of the world, and we're pretty friendly people, I didn't like the "forced socialization". At 6:30am - when I'm enjoying a cup of tea and watching the sea I'm not interested in the "I'm from......where are you from." And I found the level of chatter in the MDR and Lido to be very loud. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
DESTINATIONS GREAT BUT HAL SERVICE CONTINUES TO SINK ON RECENT EURODAM TRANSLATIC A recent Transatlantic Cruise on the Eurodam showed the dip in service continues on HAL ships while HAL keeps trying to hold prices down. For the ... Read More
DESTINATIONS GREAT BUT HAL SERVICE CONTINUES TO SINK ON RECENT EURODAM TRANSLATIC A recent Transatlantic Cruise on the Eurodam showed the dip in service continues on HAL ships while HAL keeps trying to hold prices down. For the second year in a row it was hard not to notice the reduction in service, but this time it was much worse. When you drop $20,000 on a vacation you notice both the big things and the small stuff. GETTING THERE: The HAL prices for air fare from a large Midwestern city to Amsterdam and then back from New York were hard to beat...but the crazy connections and long layovers killed us! Next time I will book air travel myself. Never again flying from US to Canada for a four hour layover then an Air Canada flight to Frankfort with a 5-hour layover for a 45-minute flight to Amsterdam on a packed Lufthansa flight! It was like HAL was punishing us for spending $20,000 with them. We were in transit for 26-hours. Getting home was almost as bad. HAL did do a nice job making the airport transfer and getting us to the downtown Amsterdam hotel. The van driver was very funny even if some of his prepared speech was far from accurate. However HAL planning left a lot to be desired. The Eurodam was not docking in Amsterdam. The every five-year "Sail In" had the Amsterdam harbor choked with sailboats and concert barges. There was no room for cruise ships. The Eurodam was docked at an industrial area 15 miles out of town. EMBARKATION: The embarkation started off poorly. Heavy traffic on clogged Amsterdam streets, with people trying to get downtown for the "Sail In", meant a two-hour wait for hundreds of Eurodam passengers at the hotel. The ship sailed at 8pm but we were stuck in the industrial district at 2pm. We passed a chocolate factory near where the ship was docked, causing my wife to ask if they had tours (and hopefully samples) since we were arriving six hours before departure with nothing to do. (They didn't.) Once at the ship I saw something I have never seen in 10 years of cruising with HAL...LONG LINES! In fact there were huge lines! There were singers doing four-part harmony entertaining the passengers. However it did not make up for the fact that HAL did not serve the complimentary ice tea, lemonade and water for the waiting passengers. If you wanted a beverage you had to buy it. STATEROOM AND CABIN SERVICE: We had a Deluxe Suite, mid-ship near the Neptune Lounge. When entering the room we noticed the comp bottle of Champaign was not iced. Directly below was the glass cabinet. On the face of one cabinet door was a nasty smudge and dirt that was about four inches long. It remained as part of a fixture to the suite for the next 17 days. We called and asked for ice for both the bottle of bubbly and the ice bucket. 45-minutes later I went to the Neptune Lounge and got it myself. For the next three days we got ice and laundry bags ourselves. When you are paying for a top level suite, you expect at least average service, we never received it. While almost all passengers got their complimentary NY Times synopsis newsletter in the morning, ours and six other suites were getting the "afternoon" paper. The truly amazing thing was it was three days before we met our room stewards! The only close attention we got from the head steward was on the next to last day when he appeared to be sticking close to us possibly for the handoff of the extra tip envelope. It wasn't coming. In fact my wife went to our concierge and filled out a form to have two days of tips for the room stewards deducted from our credit card. WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: Our room stewards were also marking us down for drinking bottled water on a regular basis. In fact we were moving the bottles to a shelf above the mini bar to get them out of the way. We had collected six large bottles when I went to the concierge and found out that we were getting charged for the water we not drinking. I then brought her to the room and showed her the bottled water collection we were amassing. She said she would take care of it. The next day the "water lady" arrived to give us our seventh and eighth bottle of water. SPINNING THE FACTS! During an "Ask the Captain" event in the main showroom, the last question had nothing to do seagoing. It was, "Is it true that the room stewards have had the number of rooms they are responsible for increase from 10 to 24?" The captain hemmed and hawed and finally said "Yes." But the Cruise Director immediately jumped in and said there were two room stewards now and this should make things more efficient. It was spinning at its worst, because long term customers know that there used to be a Room Steward and Ast. Room Steward serving 10 cabins. Perhaps a more honest answer would be that to keep prices from rising, HAL made a few non-safety cuts while trying to hold fares down. SPEAKING OF THE CONCIERGE SERVICE: The special Concierge Service for Penthouse and Deluxe Suite customers (HAL calls us guests, but we are in reality "paying customers.") was hit and miss at best and often involved apologies from the HAL staff. Several times we had the staff reserve tables for dinner. Twice they said they did it when we arrived for dinner there was no record of the reservation. Another good one was the next to last day at about 2pm when I went to exchange $60 Canadian to U.S. I was told money exchanging had closed at noon. I was stuck with extra money because HAL cancelled two of our four Canadian port-of-calls due to the approaching Hurricane Earl. I asked when the "guests" had been notified of the noon stoppage of money exchange. I was told it was in the daily program. I asked to be shown the notification. She could not find it in the program. She then said it was in the Daily Program four days earlier. I went to my room and got that program and there was no notice of a cut off for money exchange. I asked why it wasn't mentioned several times in different daily programs to remind guests. She then called the pursers office and later said the money could be exchanged the next morning. The next morning when I tried to exchange the currency, I was told it could not be done. NEPTUNE LOUNGE: The interior Neptune Lounge on Deck 7 is nice with a large screen television, sofas, a conference table, complimentary beverages and snacks, plus the two staff members running the concierge service from 7am to 8pm. There is also a waiter from the Pinnacle providing the food and beverages. What always amazes me is the number of people who pay top dollar for deluxe suites with large verandas but spend time hanging out in an interior area with no view. Me...I take a couple of plates of food back to my cabin to enjoy the view and the fresh air. FOOD: MAIN DINING ROOM: The food in the main dining room (The Rembrandt) for 18 days more often than not was very good, compared to past cruises. One exception was the Caesar salads. Nightly the lettuce didn't seem just "tired" but almost asleep. The service was another story! Doing "open dining" ourselves and another couple tried different areas of the dining room and found that the service was very bad or in the one case there was excellent service but the waiters had no personalities. We settled for most of our cruise with two waiters who often got orders mixed but were very entertaining. They actually both got envelopes from us on the last night. On our first night Chef Ruddy (all the way from Seattle) made two different "recommendations" on the printed menus for the same course. Five nights before the end of the cruise they handed out "farewell" menus, making us ask who was leaving and how, since we were at sea until the final day due to Hurricane Earl. The wait staff said the menus were a mistake. You had better odds hitting it big at the roulette table in the casino than getting a soup spoon during dinner. THE PINNACLE was the big disappointment. The dinner food was no better than the food quality in the main dining room and service was unbelievably poor. To start with the old signature starter at the Pinnacle, the Clam Chowder is now missing for a second year, replaced by a Lobster bisque that tastes like it is right out of a can, was served cold and is the same bisque that is served in the main dining room. (Why pay more?) The staff even admitted that customers continue to complain about the missing Chowder, but the folks in Seattle along with Chef Ruddy do not seem to care. My guess would be $$$$$. My steak was over seared making it hard to eat. However my wife's lamb was perfect. Perhaps the biggest disappoint at dinner was the Crème Brule. Over the years this has been my wife and mine favorite. I should have known something was up with the wait staff was pushing the Vanilla SoufflE. The sugar on the Crème Brule was over heated...you had to pound on it to break through. Once you did it was not worth the effort. THE EXCEPTION...was breakfast ...the food was excellent every day. The problem again was service. You never had a waiter. Instead you had four or five and they never knew what the other was doing. While the food was always great, on a daily basis your order was never right. Items you didn't ask for were included and some days your main dish was missing. It was not unusual to ask for a breakfast tea and to get the tea bag but never get the hot water. The last day of the cruise our breakfast in the Pinnacle never happened. We received water, juice even a muffin...but for over 20 minutes no one ever took our order despite our repeated requests. We finally had to walk out. Our best meal of the trip came during our day in St. John's Newfoundland at a local diner 10 miles south of town we stopped at while touring in a rental car. THE PROBLEM: It was easy to determine one of the main reasons for service problems. It is the continued drop in English Comprehension! Waiters did not know the meaning of "extra" or "hold." One waiter tried to tell us someone was a "Unich" when he meant "unique." It has gotten very hard to hold a conversation with many of the ship's service personnel. The other problem: Much of the day to day specials are clearly controlled by the "boys in Seattle" leaving the ship staff with little room for creativity. The day after Hurricane Earl passed the ship one might think a Hurricane would be the drink of the day. It wasn't even informally added as a waiter suggested drink. ENTERTAINMENT: The normal "kids doing the song and dance" was atypical. Some of the kids were better than others. The sets were pretty impressive. For the second time I have been on the HAL ship the house band did not have any brass. The leader did play a sax, clarinet and flute...but no one was on board with a trumpet, flugelhorn or trombone. The Neptunes trio playing in the Ocean Bar was actually better than your average Neptune group. They would get into some nice jazz rifts when no one was on the dance floor. The piano bar guy, Michael, was way over the top...his style was that of someone that Saturday Night Live used to lampoon. For the first time I have been on a transatlantic cruise where there were not any music contests in the piano bar. Michael was somewhat defiant when he said, "I don't do contests!" The piano bar contests do help draw people to the room and sells more beverages for the cruise ship. THE HEADLINERS: The entertainers brought on board were the typical magicians, comics producing a few laughs and musicians playing odd instruments. MOVIES: HAL no longer has a contract with Swank, the large movie distribution company and it shows. The Eurodam featured some movies that were over 20-years-old. There were only two movies that could were remotely close to being able to carry the "recent" label. I intentionally did not rent any movies for six weeks prior to this cruise thinking I would see several movies on the ship that were just reaching the video stores or NetFlix. I was wrong...another example of HAL squeezing a nickel. STAFF: Jason, the CD, is tops! This is the second time in two years I have enjoyed Jason's work on a cruise, he was most recently on the Westerdam (see 10-09 review "What a Difference a Year Makes" by Strode Wallace) before moving to the Eurodam. Jason also is perhaps the best I have seen in taming the type-A personalities involved in the killer trivia contests. With one exception, his staff was also top notch. Elizabeth and Paul were very passenger friendly, plus fun to talk with. The exception was DJ Matt. This guy acted as if he was being bothered every time he put on an event by himself. He also completely blew off passengers trying to ask him a question. FAILING TO PLAY TO THEIR AUDIENCE! I have seen this before on other cruise ships but it is really noticeable on HAL ships, when the staff fails to recognize and factor in the age of their customers. I have been on HAL ships where the AVERAGE age of passengers was 68. On this cruise it was 60-years-old according to a staff member...meaning there were plenty of people in their upper 70s and 80s. When they hold contests such as "name that tune" they need to include gimme stuff that older people will recognize. Two examples were TV theme songs and Broadway Musicals...each time out of 15 or 20 questions none were from the 60s or 50s. To a young entertainment staff something from 1980 is ancient...but to an 80-year-old passenger...it is something they have never heard of. The staff should throw in a "Perry Mason." "Bonanza" or "Jack Benny Program" theme on TV trivia and perhaps something older than Grease when doing Broadway tunes. I mention this only because when they hold these contests, older passengers pack the venue and leave disappointed. The same can be said for the shows. During a show featuring the dancers and singers, the audience burst into applause during a poor version of Rodgers and Hart's Bewitched, Bothers and Bewilder." Why? Because it was the first song they recognized and for a number of them it was a favorite from over 50-years ago! HAL needs to remember the older ages of their long time good paying customers while Carnival does not. LIBRARY: We found that the library on the Eurodam had a good selection of books and was well run, with self check out at night. This was a plus when we picked up extra sea days while avoiding Hurricane Earl. DESITINATIONS: The best part of this cruise and the main reason we booked it was for the destinations. EDINBURGH: The overnight stop in Edinburgh fell on a Saturday. During the month of August the City of Edinburgh is full of festivals including a book festival, the comedy festival and for one night two performances of the Military Tattoo, an event of marching bands. HAL was selling grossing overpriced packages for the Tattoo that included bus transportation from the dock in Queen's Ferry. Total package per person with HAL $100. We shared a cab into town with another couple for 5-pounds a person. Tickets for the Tattoo outside of Edinburgh Castle were going for as little of $27-pounds, more than half of the price with the HAL package. We went to 7:00 and 9:00 shows at the Comedy Festival being held at the Edinburgh University., skipping the Tattoo under the belief that over 20 minutes of bagpipes turns an event from entertainment into a punishment. KIRKWALL ORKNEY ISLANDS: We had arranged well in advance for a private tour by the small company, "Wild about Orkney." It was a great move. We got an archeologist who has lived in the Orkney's doing research for over 30 years. The five hour trip was fantastic. He also introduced us to Orkney ice cream, made in Kirkwall with milk from Orkney dairies. The ice cream was so good we made a second stop for more before returning to the ship. The van for three couples was very comfortable. THE FAROE ISLANDS: This stop was also a treat. We hired a cab with another couple and saw a lot at a reasonable price. Perhaps the best treat was the scenic cruising leaving the port featuring breathtaking seascapes and views. ICELAND: Iceland is bankrupt and you quickly find out that super inflation has hit Reykjavik. Rent-a-cars and taxi tours are all unbelievably expensive. Even McDonalds closed all of stores and pulled out of Iceland. Food costs were so high they could not maintain a menu with reasonable prices. We shared a cab for five hours with another couple we were able to tour per person cheaper than the HAL prearranged tours. Renting a car was a losing proposition. You broke even or maybe saved from a ship's tour but the very high price of gasoline made it too expensive, unless you share with another couple. GREENLAND: The day of cruising in and out of fog in southern sounds of Greenland was fantastic. The fog hid the whales, but made some interesting views of mountains and icebergs. The views we saw of the Faroe Islands and Greenland made the choice of an expensive deluxe veranda suite worth it. We stopped in the small town of Qaqortoq (pop 3,200) for six hours on a Sunday. No town in Greenland is connected to another town by a road. There were taxis in town, but on a Sunday they were busy taking people to and from church. The weather in late August was unseasonally mild with temperatures around 52-degrees instead of 38-degrees. Not much English was spoken in town with the exception of the two grocery stores where the clerks could say, "No liquor on Sunday" to passengers tired of the high price of a drinks on the Eurodam who wanted to sneak some spirits aboard. The highlight of the day was the ship inviting all the children in town along with one parent aboard for a free lunch of hamburgers, fries, hotdogs and pizza. The day before while cruising in fjords and sounds, the ship sent a rescue boat to a small village of 200 with 10 pizzas and some dry goods. NEWFOUNDLAND: Overall we found Newfoundland a treat. St. Anthony (3,200 pop) was a the first stop in northern Newfoundland. You need to arrange for a rent a car if you ever dock there. The local Chevrolet dealership is a 10 minute walk for the dock. The city does not have a center, but is stretched out along the main road. A drive to coves and bays and many small villages was fun. We saved the lighthouse, located near the dock for last and it gave us some of the best views of the day. St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland was a surprise. It was like being in a small San Francisco. The city has many hills and brightly painted Victorian row houses. It was beautiful. We shared a rent a car with some friends and hit all the spots that the HAL tour busses hit, plus much more. After going north of town in the morning, we headed south along the Irish ring road in the afternoon with our final destination being The Town of Ferryland. We had perhaps our best meal of the entire trip when we stopped at the Riverside Inn, just north of Ferryland in the Town of Cape Broyle. The chowder was better than anything we were served of the Eurodam. The diner's specialty was a plate of French fries hand cut that day, smothered in brown gravy, crispy ground beef and peas. The waitress said that the people at our table who ordered it would not want to share and she was right. Back at the wharf the arrival of the Eurodam was a big enough deal that passengers were interviewed by CBC radio on how they liked St. John's. A large crowd of on lookers lined the street when the ship departed at 9pm. Everybody liked St. John's. DODGING A HURRICANE! The ship's captain did such a good job hiding from Hurricane Earl and we missed any of the effects from a hurricane. We also missed two ports of call in Nova Scotia. While hiding along the US coast near Portland the captain announced that we should experience winds gusting up to 50mph and 9-15feet high seas beginning at 3am and lastly for three or four hours. The crew did an outstanding job tying things down in preparation of the storm. I stayed up and was disappointed when nothing happened, not even any rain. PLUSES: Ian who hosted travel Q&As before we arrived at different ports of call did something that you don't see very often on a cruise ship. Sure he pitched the ship's tours, but he also told passengers how to use public transit and even mentioned where the taxis and rent-a-car offices were. Perhaps the best part of the cruise was at the very beginning during embarkation when we unexpectedly ran into a couple who we cruised with two years ago on the Noordam during a transatlantic crossing from Rome to Florida. (see 10-8 review "The Good and the Dead" by John H) It was great fun spending time with them. Unfortunately we all agreed we would not be in a hurry to book another cruise on HAL. BAD SEND OFF: You would think the one thing HAL would want to do is make our last hours on the ship and getting home as pleasant as possible, hoping for some return business. This did not happen. We had a HAL arranged 1pm flight that was not home but instead to Philadelphia where there was another long layover before a final flight home, despite many direct flights out of New York. We received a letter in our stateroom the day before telling us we were in a debarkation group for 7am. YIKES! Six hours before for a flight out of an airport 45 minutes away. I was able to get that changed to 9am. Then the waiting began...3 hours at La Guardia. Then a twin prop commuter plane that bounced around for 45 minutes at 10,000 feet. Then there was another 2 ½ hour wait in Philly for a commuter jet home. Our last day with HAL did not leave a pleasant taste. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ... Read More
Our first cruise to Alaska was 27 years ago on the SS Universe (the ship used for the Semester at Sea program). We were in port with a HAL ship. Not meaning to offend anyone; but the HAL passengers we saw were primarily "little old ladies with blue hair". So we deduced that HAL was for old people. Fast forward 27 years and we have the opportunity to give HAL a try with a one night cruise from Vancouver to Seattle on the Amsterdam. I have read and heard good things about HAL so we booked an inside cabin. Embarkation--Was a breeze. Canada Place is a great location. It was raining in Vancouver, but the taxi drove to an underground entrance. We stayed dry. We literally walked up to the counter. We were given an upgrade to an outside cabin. Cabin--We have cruised many times on numerous lines; but this was the largest cabin we have been in. The bathroom had a bathtub! Lots of closet space, a leather love seat. It was wonderful. Ship--The ship was lovely. It holds 1300+ but there were only 700+ passengers on board. So it was not just spacious; it was empty. They had a large pool with 2 hot tubs that were covered with a retractable roof--excellent choice for Alaskan cruises. Food--We headed up to the buffet for lunch. Buffet was served to us. There was a nice variety offered and the food was delicious. The drinks were cheaper than some other cruise lines. For dinner we made a reservation and sat by the window with a family from Vancouver. It was difficult to make a choice, everything sounded good. I had ribs that were so tender they fell off the bone. Everyone enjoyed their dinner. Breakfast was at the buffet. once again an excellent variety of choices. I especially enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice. We heard that the Pinnacle speciality restaurant was amazing. It was a sell-out. Activities--There were activities: tour the ship, Sail-away party, karaoke, and a late night party. However, there was not a show. A show would have been nice for the first time cruisers to experience. But we did not mind since we were able to eat later and not rush through the meal. Disembarkation--We were able to change our time and literally walk off the ship. We loved our cruise on HAL Amsterdam. Now, we are 27 years older, but I do NOT have blue hair. And the ages of passengers we saw were from babies in strollers to senior citizens with every age represented. We will cruise HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at ... Read More
We took a repositioning cruise on HAL Zaandam from Vancouver BC to San Diego in early October. This was our fourth time on HAL and our 23rd cruise overall. We flew from Ohio to Seattle the day prior to the ship sailing and stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown and then took the Cascades train to Vancouver. We used the Seattle bus system to reach the King Street Amtrak station which worked pretty well but there were several mentally ill street people on the bus one of whom was partially dressed. and raving so we would take a cab in the future. Some passengers headed for our cruise ship had their luggage misplaced/swiped by someone on the train. When the train stops all bags are deposited on the platform with no security so be certain that you get off ASAP and be aggressive in claiming your property. After retrieving our luggage from the train we walked our rollers to the Sky Train platform and used that method to go to Canada Place where we boarded the ship. We could not locate an elevator from street level to the Sky Train platform so we had to carry our bags up a long stairway. It's surprising that there isn't an elevator or escalator, or at least one that we could locate. Also, the ticket issuing machine is not at all user friendly to those using US money or credit cards so I strongly suggest that you get $2.50 C for each passenger prior to using Sky Train. The doors on the cars of this EL close quickly and with some force so be very alert and fast when boarding. When we used this system in 2008 my wife was almost left at the platform and this time it was my turn. The route to Canada Place is on your right at the top of the stairs, the signage is a bit unclear on this. A short ride took us to the cruise ship terminal and we boarded in about fifteen minutes. The stevedores showed little enthusiasm for stevedoring however, so we tagged our bags, rolled them to the pile and departed without tipping anyone for services not performed. These are not HAL employees by the way. The cruising part of the cruise was quite pleasant. The buffet was open and not crowded when we boarded and the food throughout was very good there. A nice couple of features were the sushi at lunch time and not to be missed fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning. RCCL charges $2.00 per glass for this as we later discovered. The tables were quickly bussed and staff moved through the area offering drinks. The meals and service in the main dining room was also very good, superior to RCCL ship we took on back to back cruises when Zaandam landed. As we had noted on our previous HAL cruises, activities on board are insufficient. There just isn't enough to do so that days at sea can seem long. We used the as you wish dining option and had no delays in being seated and met some interesting table mates. We had an inside cabin and our hopes for an upgrade were not realized. The cabin was similar in size and design to those on other ships. We met the cabin steward for the first time the night prior to leaving the ship when he distributed the customer satisfaction survey but the room was well maintained so we can live with that. Disembarkation was a breeze and we walked off with our luggage and strolled to a nearby hotel to spend one night in San Diego (a wonderful town by the way) to rest before boarding the RCCL Radiance of the Seas for a five night cruise to Mexico departing the next day. Back to back trips on different cruise lines provided us with a very clear comparison of each company. I will post a review of Radiance when I post this one in case the reader would like to peruse it. To summarize however, HAL is superior in food, wait staff, overall service, customer focus and cleanliness of the buffet while RCCL is superior in on board activities and equal in entertainment. HAL passengers seemed more refined and frankly older but that is becoming a better fit for us with each cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
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