397 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

This is my second time in two years on the Amsterdam 14 day cruise to Alaska. (thanks to my brother and sister in law) I was going to wait another year to go back to Alaska but when I saw Holland America was dropping this cruise I had to ... Read More
This is my second time in two years on the Amsterdam 14 day cruise to Alaska. (thanks to my brother and sister in law) I was going to wait another year to go back to Alaska but when I saw Holland America was dropping this cruise I had to come back. The Amsterdam is a wonderful ship. I saw crew always cleaning and painting it. Going last year I knew just what beauty I was going to see. The only thing I did not like was we were not going up the inside passage. I travel as a solo passenger. Last year I had a friend coming but she got very ill two weeks before the cruise and could not go. (GET INSURANCE) I found out I loved sailing solo. Night before the cruise I had a wonderful dinner with other cc's going on this cruise. I got to the pier early and I was in my room Group 2 by 11:45. I dropped my carry ons and went to get my power surge plug. (Free if you return it)I went to Dining room for lunch only to find out it was closed for a private party. So I went up to Lido for lunch. Friday: Left Seattle on time. Went to crows nest for sail-a-way with New friends Saturday: had breakfast delivered to room. looked out window to clouds and rain Walked around ship. At lunch meet friends from Thursday night. I completely forgot the meet and greet. this was number one thing I wanted to do at the start of this cruise. My cabin was much smaller than the inside cabin I had last year #2604. Bathroom was tiny but it had a tub which I used and was wonderful since I was walking a lot. Food wow I looked forward every day for dinner. I ate every night in the MDR. I had late seating. I don't want to be rushed if I am on shore. I could take a little nap between happy hour and dinner. My Dinner's were excellent. the Lamb melted in my mouth, Chilled soups, every thing I order came in a reasonable time and hot. My table mates took there time and we enjoyed dinner every night. As last year my table was the last to leave as we talked and talked. the weather was crummy cloudy and cold. (I am from northeast) If we saw the sun it was not very long until the end of the cruise Wednesday before Victoria. The cruise was wonderful I did take a few excursions. Juneau I took ships tour Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter. Oh wonderful wonderful.I love Sitka. I wish they would stay longer here I took a bus I think 3.00 round trip to Fortress of the bear and Rapture center. ll I can say its wonderful at the bears. You can stay as long as you want. No need for taxi. Bus runs every hour.this was my 3rd time here and there is way too much to see and not enough time. One thing I have to say. I think we were in Juneau and we sail late. I saw something I will never forget. All along the shore people had bonfires and we shooting off fireworks (It was July 4th) I had my brother little camera that takes video. I hope the video came out. I am having problems trying to figure out how to download it. It will not download. I having my cousin come look at it. If I ever go back to Alaska I would probably go back when its July 4th just for that. The crew was wonderful. Mary Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We ... Read More
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We called an online American discount cruise company to book our passage. Our agent was able to get us a rate that was $400 less pp than the lowest rate I saw for the same type SA suite on the HAL website. We also received a $75 obc. Before the final payment our agent called to tell us HAL was offering free fares to third and fourth passengers in our suite. At that time we decided to take our two teenagers for the price of taxes ($112 pp) and the hotel gratuity charge ($12 pp/pd.) We had deluxe verandah suite room 7022 on the ms Amsterdam sailing May 25 through June 1, 2012. In the months leading up to the cruise I perused the Cruise Critic boards in anticipation of the trip. My time was well spent as I learned many tips that served us well on the cruise. The first, CC tip #1, which proved advantageous, was the advice to arrive in the port city a day or two before the cruise. We left our home at 4pm on May 23 and arrived in Seattle twelve hours later, with two delays, and an alternative arrangement hanging (KC to Minneapolis to NY to Seattle----arrgh!) I'm glad we allowed ample time as we needed it! We had prearranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at the airport and they were there, in the wee hours of the morning, and for $82 (this includes tip) they transported four passengers and six bags to the Seattle Center Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue (in the dead of night in a strange city I consider this a bargain!) We had a standard room with two queen beds, sofa bed, refrigerator/microwave. No breakfast was served, however the Holiday Inn Express is attached to the Holiday Inn Seattle Center and the express does include breakfast with their rates. We chose our hotel based upon the location and the brand as my husband travels with his work and earns hotel night points on each stay. The next morning we walked a few blocks to the Space Needle. We had made lunch reservations online for the revolving restaurant at the top. It cost $20 to go up to the observation deck for a look around OR you can go up for free and spend a minimum of $25 per person for lunch. We chose the latter and did not regret it. Every seat in the restaurant has a great view of the city. It was a clear day and we sat in the restaurant for well over an hour enjoying the sights---plus we had a great lunch (expensive but good and the view couldn't be beat.) After lunch we took the monorail to the Westlake Center. We walked to Pike Place Market and checked out the vendors, buying some pastries and peaches for the next morning's breakfast plus my husband bought me a huge bouquet of flowers (poppies, lupine, iris, daisies, etc...) for $10!---he said at home those would easily set him back $50. My daughter had to visit the original Starbucks, and my son enjoyed the oddities at the Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront. On the way back to the hotel we passed a chain drugstore and picked up milk for breakfast plus a few toiletries we had forgotten. We were all tired so we turned in early after ordering pizza delivery from Amante on East Olive Way. Try their Thai House pizza as it is fantastic. We had arranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at our hotel at 11:00 am for transportation to Pier 91. The cost was $48 (includes tip) which seems steep for a five mile ride but the local shuttle was charging $10 per person (and there were four of us). As it was we stepped off the elevator into a lobby crowded with cruise passengers waiting for the shuttle and were able to walk through it all and into our waiting car. The car dropped us off at the front door of the pier. Outside the front door our luggage was tagged for the Amsterdam before we proceeded inside with it. There are plenty of HAL representatives to direct the flow of traffic and answer questions. It probably took about thirty minutes total from arrival until we were standing in room 7022 where we put my flowers in water (in the extra champagne bucket found in the cabinet) and then carried the bottle of complimentary champagne down the hall to the Neptune Lounge. CC Tip #2 you can trade your champagne--we requested something non-alcoholic so our kids could enjoy it too and they graciously gave us a bottle of Fre Brut. At noon we slapped on our Transderm Scop patches for seasickness (CC Tip #3) and were prepared for the trip. We did encounter rough seas between Sitka and Ketchikan and I was so dizzy I skipped dinner that night but otherwise all was fine. CC Tip #4 bring your receipts for any pre cruise purchases. I had purchased some onboard gifts with points from our Visa card and they did not show up on our room statement but all I had to do was show the Neptune Lounge concierge my receipts and after checking with accounting she was able to make it all right. She also traded a $50 beverage card purchased with Visa points for two $25 soda cards for my children. The Lido was crazy crowded so we snacked in the Neptune Lounge before taking a mini tour of the ship and attending the mandatory life boat drill. By 4:00 all four of us were enjoying sail away on our spacious verandah (can you tell I'm spoiled by room 7022?) The next week was a whirlwind of activities, food, fun, and beautiful scenery. The kids enjoyed room service breakfast on most days, but my husband and I usually ate upstairs in the MDR. We liked the quiet, unhurried atmosphere. We rarely ate lunch instead opting for afternoon tea around 3:30 in our room. Our son liked eating lunch at the Lido where he met a variety of older folks who enjoyed engaging him in conversation. He hung out some at the Teen Loft playing X-box and old fashioned board games. My son was bothered a few times by some elderly people at the evening shows who kept encouraging him in a quasi-sign language to put his arm around his date (aka sister) or hold her hand. He was grossed out and wanted to hold up a sign that said "She is MY SISTER" but tried to ignore the people. One lady was quite persistent too. Another man came up to our son (who has no tattoos or piercings) and asked him if he was a Mormon. My son came back to the room wanting to know what a Mormon was because some older gentleman said he looked just like one. (I told him as soon as his braces come off he'd be a ringer for Donny Osmond.) Our daughter took off each day and enjoyed the salsa, cha-cha and foxtrot lessons, classical trio, classes, and snacking in the Neptune lounge (she took the $29 cooking class and thought it was worth it---they cooked and ate their own meal plus received an apron and the recipes.) She also managed to spend an entire $50 beverage card on coffees at the Explorations Cafe and mocktails at the Crow's Nest. We all met up for the 8:00pm dinner seating at table 20-- a four top by the window. We were adventurous and tried all of the proffered delicacies by sharing our plates (even the escargot), but I have to say the available daily broiled chicken breast with steamed broccoli and carrots and a baked potato were by far my favorites on the menu. Simple, yet delicious and satisfying. My son liked the spring rolls at the International Dinner, my husband liked the brownie baked Alaska with butterscotch sauce, and my daughter liked the lobster tail. (The former Master Chef Farewell dinner has been replaced on the Amsterdam by the International Dinner. At the end of the meal the staff sings "Love in any Language.") On the night we left Tracy Arm we ate in the Pinnacle Grill which was very tasty but an extremely long ordeal. I know good food takes time, and the food was excellent, but we barely made it to the 10pm show on time and our reservation was at 7:30pm. On the Juneau night we ate in the Canaletto and found it to be an enjoyable experience. The waiters were jovial and my teenagers were delighted with the two plates of piled high pink cotton candy. The taste of the Pinnacle Grill food was far superior, but the food served elsewhere on the ship is acceptable and even good for mass quantity cooking. (We saw on our kitchen tour that the Pinnacle Grill food is prepared in its own small kitchen with its own chef.) We did attend the dessert extravaganza on the second formal night, but we all agreed the presentation far exceeded the taste of the desserts. It would be better to view the desserts and then retire to your room to order a slice of chocolate cake from the 24 hour room service menu (that cake is delicious!) Our accommodations were lovely with plenty of room for four. Our room steward took all the back cushions off the sofa (which does fold out into a queen size bed) and made it up as a twin bed for our daughter and he brought in a roll-away twin bed for our son. Even with the twin bed folded out there was plenty of room to walk around with no one stubbing a toe. Scheduling four people through a bathroom on a formal night was another matter---CC tip #5 bring power strips. We brought two horizontal power strips, one for the dressing room, and one for near the master bed and it made it possible to plug in all our beauty appliances as well as our electronic devices. My daughter discovered a ladies' room near the MDR that had a separate room with lighted vanities so she took to applying her makeup there each day rather than wait her turn in our suite (plus she said the lighting was better in the ladies' room.) The bathroom in the suite is supplied with shampoo, conditioner, liquid body soap, bar soap, bath salts, body lotion, and a loofah, plus cotton balls and swabs at the vanity. There were four pairs of slippers to use and keep, plus four robes to use during the week. If you don't see the two extra life jackets check under the bed. On the first sea day we attended the CC Meet and Greet. I wore my "gamer name" on my badge but most others had on their real names---that made it difficult to match up people with online personalities. I'm glad we attended the party and our suite ended up being next door to a member of our CC roll call! We were invited to and attended two cocktail parties to meet the captain and crew members. At the first party, as guests entered they were introduced by name to the captain and the two crew members who stood with him. Then guests were dismissed to mingle with the other guests. At the second party the captain and crew mingled amongst the guests and we had a chance to speak with them. My husband especially enjoyed talking with the environmental officer and his wife (a delightful couple.) On a do-over I'd skip the first cocktail party and attend only the second party. At that party I met a 12 year old boy who was at the party as recognition for his helpfulness on the cruise. Apparently a couple had left their 3 year old daughter asleep in their room while they went about their fun on ship. The little girl awoke and opened the door and left the room. She somehow managed to get outside on deck and was found (by the young man) sitting on the deck steps crying for her parents. It would have been easy for this little girl to have stepped through the railing enclosure and fallen from the deck. I hope her parents were slapped silly for their stupidity. In Juneau we pre-arranged with Evergreen Taxi for taxi service to the glacier and then a tour around town---we wanted to see how the locals lived. Martha gave us a great tour and she has lived in the area 20 years and knows the ins and outs. In Sitka, Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound tours gave us a wildlife boat tour for our family of four. He provided snacks and binoculars and for about three hours took us around scouting out otters, seals, and whales (his boat has a bathroom.) In Ketchikan we took the incline railway up the hill and then looked at the small circle of totems before walking down the married man's trail into town. We shopped in a few stores and actually found a great deal on hooded, reversible rain jackets with fleece linings ($20) with Alaska embroidered across the left chest (found at the Tongrass store.) We had brought rain jackets but these were of better quality and a bit heavier for winter use back home so we bought one each for my husband and the two kids. I ended up getting a beautiful pendant of aquamarine in a silver setting from a locally owned jeweler, the Jewel Box, in Juneau. The color reminded me of the blue of the glaciers. We encountered fog on the way to Victoria and as a result were two hours late and were not able to make our Pedi-cab tour with Ryan John and Victoria Pedi-Cab tours. His tours sound great and his rates seemed reasonable so we are sorry we missed it! We selected disembarkation between 9 and 9:30. My husband and I went to a leisurely last breakfast at 7:45 am (CC tip #6.) I stopped by the Neptune to say goodbye to the concierge and eat one last peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate (so tasty.) We walked off the ship at 9:15, found our luggage, and were through customs and into our waiting car by 10. The airplane ride home was uneventful (thank goodness!) We had a great time on the Amsterdam. The Neptune Lounge concierge, our room stewards, and our dining room steward were all polite, professional and efficient. The only person that I found the slightest bit annoying was the beverage steward ---although he was polite he had the tendency to assume. If he saw a soda can in our room he assumed we had taken it from the mini-bar and added it to our bill (we did not use any mini-bar items on our trip.) One night in the MDR we ordered sparkling water in a carafe and were charged for it (as we should have been) but the next night we asked for plain water and it too arrived in a carafe and we were charged for plain water (as we should not have been.) He assumed things rather than asked about things and I had to keep a close eye on our bill (I asked for a print out of our bill every few days CC tip #7.) All I had to do was explain the situation to the Neptune concierge and she would remove the charge but it was annoying just the same. So that is my CC tip for future travelers---keep an eye on the drink charges. By the way, unused credit on beverage cards will be refunded to your account. (The exception is soda cards if you already have drank 10 sodas you have used the $25 cost although the card is worth up to $50 value in soda-- so on the last sea evening my son asked "his bartender" to cash out his card in soda and he carried off a few sodas to drink while waiting in the airport for our afternoon flight.) One last thing----unlimited laundry, pressing and dry cleaning came with our room. Believe me I took advantage of it! We were on a Friday to Friday cruise and our last bag of laundry went out Wednesday night at turndown and came back Thursday afternoon. If you don't book a room with laundry privileges you might consider purchasing the laundry package as it allows for half the clothing and you don't arrive home to a pile of dirty laundry! Oh one more thing--as I was packing to go home I couldn't find one of my undergarments so I pulled out the drawer all the way and there it was---it had fallen over the back of the drawer. My husband ended up pulling out all the drawers in the cabin to check and although we didn't find any more of our items we found plenty of other people's items. So my final CC tip is to check behind the drawers. (We returned the items to the concierge.) Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The ... Read More
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The food for the most part was very good. Service at our table was a bit slow, resulting in cool food. We switched tables to a quieter one, and the service and food temperature improved markedly. Cabin stewards were great, as were the rest of the staff. Met lots of interesting people, and lots to do every day. Biggest downer was once we got to the hot climates, the air conditioning was on full freeze mode in the Restaurant and show lounge and Ocean Bar... and my two travelling companions came down with severe colds... which they are still fighting several days after leaving the ship. Overall... a great trip and we would recommend to anyone. Details: Background Information Since we were travelling to the Cruise in Winter from Western Canada, we left 6 days before the cruise to get to Buenos Aires on Air Canada on a 20 hour series of 3 flights. This also allowed us to get over jet lag, and see some of Buenos Aires. Hotel Info There are many Apartments available on a Bed and Breakfast basis in B-A We chose one not right downtown, which worked out well, after we sorted out the lack of breakfast service, and bought our own to eat in the fully equipped apartment. We travelled in B-A on local busses, trains, and underground, and twice on a TAXI. The local transport is very good, and very inexpensive. Need to pick up a SUBE card at post office or other suppliers, for which you need your passport, and then travel is easy, as buses only take coins otherwise which are in short supply. The scheduling program on the internet is awesome... just click in your destinations, and it shows the whole route for five busses. Ship Info The Amsterdam was on a 112 day world cruise... still is, as I write this. In booking a segment, you cannot specify your room beforehand, and our request for two rooms near each other was not heeded. We would up with the one we wanted, but out friend had an "upgrade" from an inside what we thought would be across the hall, to a porthole cabin right at the front, down a deck, and half way across the ship from us. HAL did offer a closer room, but only for an additional charge, which was not accepted. We were not impressed. The world cruise attracts those who can get away for 112 days, thus an older crowd. We saw only one guest child on board! The ship was not quite full, and thus there was only minor waiting anywhere... elevators were quick, only a couple of people ahead of you at most in any lineup for food at the Lido, and choice of places to sit anywhere. The staff were generally very happy and helpful. Activities There were lots of activites on board, and the problem was to choose. Some entertainers were a bit amateurish, and the clientèle were very vocal in the hallways about this. Others were first class, and there was a good variety. The Mardi Gras evening was an all out effort, with special entertainers from New Orleans, awesome decorations, food, and drinks. Service Service was generally great in the Lido, but was slow in the La Fontaine Restaurant. We eventually moved tables to another area, due to the very high noise level at the back of the restaurant due to the low ceiling, and some very boisterous tables near us... and the service improved also. Port & Shore Excursions We chose to organize our own port excursions, and they all worked out. Most frustrating thing was that the independent travellers get the back of the line on the tender ports, waiting nearly 2 hours till the HAL tour guests, and the 4 and 5 star mariners (who comprise a considerable portion of the travellers on the world cruise, many who have made several world cruises on HAL) have got off. We feel that HAL should allow a small percentage... like 20 percent... of each tender to have independent travellers on a first come first serve basis, rather than holding them all. Both Falkland Islands and Easter Island were the highlight ports of call on this trip... and of course the awesome scenery in Antarctica. Stateroom We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck, just a short walk to be on the deck without the cost of a balcony. Facilities were good. We had a problem with the plumbing due to the rough weather, and it was repaired quickly. Note you need to bring a multi plug adapter if you have more than one thing to plug in. Dining We enjoyed having breakfast brought every morning to the cabin. For some reason, which we never found out, we only had 5 formal evenings rather than the 9 originally planned. I would have been annoyed if I had rented a Tux... There were probably 2/3 of the men with Tuxes, and the rest in business suits...we met some who didn't bring any formal wear and just ate in the Lido on formal nights. Food was quick and hot in the Lido. Lots of choice. Food was good in the La Fontaine, but we could see the repeats on the menu as the trip continued. There were many complaints we heard about the temperature of the food, and it seemed there was some effort to improve this. The general quality and appearance and choice was awesome, considering we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean many days away from "land". Disembarkation Since there were less than 300 leaving in Sydney, and the disembarkation was spread over two days, we just walked right off the ship, picked up the bags and walked through Customs... no hassles at all. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room ... Read More
The Ship was nice, well appointed, good shows, excellent library, balcony room had a slightly larger balcony which was nice. Te service was excellent and presentation good. Food quality was poor at at best, both in the main dining room and the buffet area. At dinner, I had steak 6 of 15 nights, and every time is was served well done, not medium rare as requested. I sent it back 3 nights, one night twice. Beef quality was poor. Food was sometimes not hot. Wine was outrageously expensive for quality and the wine pour was a "short pour" - much less than a typical restaurant. One of the higher quality wines (per the wine list) was Columbia Crest Merlot, which sells for $9-11 per bottle at Sam's or most grocery stores. The cost for 2 short pour glasses for dinner was $17.83. Drinks in the lounges were also short, many of the single malt scotch's on the drink list were not available Two of 5 port stops were cargo ports, isolated 10 miles from nowhere with no ability to walk around. You had to take one of their somewhat expensive tours, but then they had a captive audience so why not charge more. Everything on the ship was as expected for a 4 star line, why skimp so much on the meals and drinks. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We sailed on the Amsterdam for Christmas and felt very fortunate that HAL was offering a 7-night Caribbean Cruise for the Holidays on one of their flagships. For anyone who adores cruising as much as we do, please make every effort to ... Read More
We sailed on the Amsterdam for Christmas and felt very fortunate that HAL was offering a 7-night Caribbean Cruise for the Holidays on one of their flagships. For anyone who adores cruising as much as we do, please make every effort to sail on either The Amsterdam or The Rotterdam. These are the finest ships that HAL has to offer. On this particular sailing, the crew was referred to as "the Dream Team" as they seemed to be handed picked for their outstanding customer service. The ship just has a special glow and very personal touch. Captain Frank and Hotel Manager Fred were both very mature men, and the ship ran like a Swiss clock. The staff and the service really epitomized the Holland America Tradition of Excellence. I can't say enough about how very special we were treated. The Caribbean stops were pleasant, with Half Moon Cay being truly exceptional. The water was a little chilly in December, but I remember the sun being hot and enjoying the natural beauty of looking at the ocean and our ship in the foreground. Everything about The Amsterdam was 5-star. I think HAL invests more money and personnel in their flag ships because these ocean liners make the World Cruises and longer, exotic voyages -- and these passengers pay a premium for these cruises. Again, we were thrilled that The Amsterdam was sailing for 7 nights at Christmas. Normally, we could not afford the time off from work (nor the 30 or 60-day fares) to take longer cruises, so this was a very special opportunity for us. I'd like to compliment HAL on a very clean and well maintained ship. Housekeeping was outstanding, and the public areas were beautiful as well. We had great dance music every night, and the guests on board seemed to be experienced cruisers who were enjoying the elegance of this ship. Our service for dinner was a little slow, so some nights we ate at The Pinnacle Grill which was extraordinary and well worth the extra fee. This review brings back such warm memories of our Christmas cruise. Normally, the holidays are not my favorite time of year, but being on the Amsterdam at Christmas made my husband and me feel very good. We were surrounded by wonderful, caring fellow guests and a crew who were the very best at sea. There was a sense of good Holiday cheer, and the ship was beautifully decorated. I recommend a Holiday cruise to anyone who needs a lift at that time of year. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We chose the Amsterdam 15 day Panama Cruise from, Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, for two reasons -- we love the Amsterdam and always enjoy the Panama Canal -- this trip being our second full transit. We flew into LAX the day before ... Read More
We chose the Amsterdam 15 day Panama Cruise from, Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, for two reasons -- we love the Amsterdam and always enjoy the Panama Canal -- this trip being our second full transit. We flew into LAX the day before and settled in to the Long Beach Hilton. We met friends for dinner on the Queen Mary Hotel where the next day, the Amsterdam would be docked next door to her.. Embarkation at the Long Beach Terminal was far smoother than a previous time on a Carnival ship. We arrived shortly after 11AM and were in our cabin within half an hour, the only bottleneck being the photographer's area which we slunk around. At Long Beach there is quite a long walk to the ship. We had a Deluxe Suite on the port side. Our cabin stewards were the same two we had had on our Alaskan voyage the previous June, Our stateroom was perfect at all times. Our stewards knew us and our peculiarities. Our luggage arrived the earliest it has ever arrived so we were totally unpacked prior to the Safety drill. Unfortunately, there was no Mariner's Welcome Lunch due to a crew change of close to 50%; perfectly understandable as the voyage before was the Asia Pacific Grand Voyage. We had a very nice lunch in the Lido with a very lovely lady from England. The Amsterdam is the flagship of HAL and was immaculate throughout. The crew was constantly maintaining all areas in their usual outstanding fashion. We had early dining at 5:45PM and had the same table we had the previous June. Our dining stewards were excellent. It was a pleasant surprise that the Dining Managers opened the Dining Room earlier than the stated time which made the flow of incoming diners easier. The food was presented nicely and seemed to have some different tastes since our previous cruise. This is a good thing. The only negatives are the deceasing number of shrimp in the shrimp cocktails and the new recipe for escargots which is not the traditional butter and garlic with toast points. Daytime activities were more than plentiful. The Cruise Director Patti, who admits she is a substitute Cruise Director, was very pleasant and friendly. The travel guide was experienced and presented a number of very interesting talks, which were very well attended , about the ports of call and their history. Party planner April led a number of culinary and other presentations. I particularly enjoying hearing from the onboard florist about how he goes about procuring the materials and making such gorgeous arrangements throughout the ship. We were fortunately to have the florist who does the Grand Voyages. We seldom go to the evening shows so cannot comment on that. We always enjoy the Adagio Strings and wish they would play longer than the one half hour at dinner. We did a number of shore excursions and all were very good. Regarding the ports, the only negative for us, and we knew this ahead of time, is that the ship docks a at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and not Puntarenas where we have docked in the past. Puerto Caldera is an industrial port with nothing near by so if you are unable to get an excursion or are willing to try local transportation, there is nothing to do there except for a few crafts shops on the pier. At Puntarenas, there is a little town to visit. The Panama Canal was awesome as it has been before. All and all, a very nice relaxing trip, aboard a beautiful ship with excellent crew and service. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We booked our cruise direct with HAL; at that time we emphasized that we were first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the whole cruise experience and the ship's layout. We asked about cabin 3312 stating that we wanted a quiet cabin away ... Read More
We booked our cruise direct with HAL; at that time we emphasized that we were first-time cruisers unfamiliar with the whole cruise experience and the ship's layout. We asked about cabin 3312 stating that we wanted a quiet cabin away from elevators, kitchens, and any other noisy venues. The agent assured us #3312 would be quiet. We learned on the first night that we were below the Queen's Lounge and that the noise from the shows could be heard because of the excessive volume used for the sound system in the lounge. The HAL website shows that our cabin would have a bath-tub, shower, . . . etc. We never did find the tub HAL advertised; only a shower in cabin 3312! We have contacted HAL customer rep about this since our return, and they acted surprised when they read their own website's cabin description. Perhaps they need a better editor or more honesty in advertising???? Our itinerary was good and a major motivating factor in our choice of this cruise. Alaska is beautiful! The cleanliness, maintenance, and over-all appearance of the ship was superior! Our 2 cabin stewards did an excellent job of maintaining our stateroom. Staff aboard was always friendly and welcoming. Servers and waiters in the restaurants are polite and hard-working. The free technology sessions conducted onboard were informative and helpful. Techspert Tom was personable and knowledgeable, not to mention VERY patient. His presentations were organized and worthwhile for most people attending. Our dining experiences were variable: at LaFontaine we were in the open-seating group. Getting a table for 2 away from the servers' work area was a challenge. It was convenient for HAL personnel to seat people in large groups. The food was sometimes good, but vegetables nearly always were cold by the time they were served. Rolls had a hard crust and all bread was served cold. When we asked that the bread be warmed, it came back "crusty" and returned to the table after we had eaten most of our other food. After several tries at LaFontaine, we began to eat our meals at the Lido. The quality of the food was a step down in most cases due to the buffet serving style. It was more likely to be warm though. The Lido breakfast presented a wide variety of offerings. In LaFontaine, Lido, and the Pinnacle, all vegetables were prepared with excessive amounts of fatty seasonings (bacon for example). Of the 3 meals when rice was served, two of the rice dishes were dry and cold. We had lunch at the Pinnacle ($10/each extra charge) where we chose halibut sandwiches. A direct inquiry was made about preparation: fried or grilled? The server said the halibut would be grilled. If it was grilled, there was so much butter melted into the white-bread bun that a tasteless, greasy product was the prevalent result. The only trimming to the sandwich was a single piece of iceburg lettuce under the minimal fish offering (1" wide x 1/2" thick strip). Desserts were all show and no substance, especially the cake offerings during the cruise. The chiffon type cakes were all air and lacked flavor. We ate more ice-cream after several disappointing cake desserts. The apple and cherry pies were good but again served cold. HAL did have sugar-free desserts offered. A good selection of fresh fruits were available at most meals. As first time cruisers, we felt at times like a captive sales audience; we were always being "reminded" that items were available and all we had to do was show our room card. People who have issues with wise use of their purchase power would be very vulnerable. The photography sales---a camera at EVERY port, meal, etc. are another money-making agenda. We learned during the cruise that cruise lines own or support certain stores where they encourage passengers to shop in ports where the ship makes stops. Reviews for other ports:  Port 5:  HOMER, AKRating:  5Downtown visit the Pratt Museum.  Shop at the Fireweed shop and the shop next door for a good selection of locally made and regional artists' products.  Go to Norman Lowell's art gallery outside of town.On the spit walk around the harbor area.  Lots of shops.  Eat halibut at Captain Pattie's restaurant. Port 6:  Kodiak, AKRating = 4Go to the Baranov Museum where the docents are full of dialogue about the local history of Russian settlement, there are numerous historical photo albums, and interesting displays.  See the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church.  The Federal Wildlife Center has a short film and displays emphasizing the area's wildlife and fauna, along with a complete skeleton of a whale.  Observe the 2nd largest fishing fleet in the U.S. in the harbor. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was ... Read More
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was particularly concerned about sea sickness, so following advice we read, we got a cabin at mid-ship. Definitely a good thing, our cabin being calm when the Crow's Nest was swinging so much that you couldn't dance. We bought ginger chewing gum before the trip, and it did the trick in all but really bad water, where meclizine worked fine but caused drowsiness. We like coffee while we're getting dressed for the day, so we bought a couple of the HAL travel mugs at Explorations Cafe, and made a run to Lido each morning. Saved waiting for room service. We dined in the dining room whenever possible in preference to Lido. We found the food much better, and the service outstanding. The Canelleto was nice but make reservations early, it fills quickly. The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding. We work out at home, and were happy with the equipment in the gym. We took advantage of HAL's policy that allows you to take wine on board. The party started early each evening with a room service order of cheese plates and our wine. Alaska in September could have been the middle of winter elsewhere. The wind was 35 mph most of the time, and it rained a lot. We had to pass up Sitka because the ocean was too rough. Dress for winter and hope for better. Luggage Direct was great. We handed our bags off at our cabin, and picked them up at our home airport. Had the day free in Seattle. This was great fun, and I have no complaints about HAL. The Amsterdam staff was courteous and attentive. Will be cruising again on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Alaska was so beautiful, and we lucked out and had good weather on all but one day. Our choice of hotel the night before in Seattle was the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. It was just a few blocks from ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Alaska was so beautiful, and we lucked out and had good weather on all but one day. Our choice of hotel the night before in Seattle was the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. It was just a few blocks from the Pike Market, so we were able to walk over there after we arrived. They don't offer a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, so we took a cab which cost around $30. The next morning, we also took a cab to the ship. Embarking was very easy. HAL has a number of staff who direct you to the various stops along the way. Having sailed on the Carnival Conquest and Ecstasy before, we were initially very surprised at the smallness of the ship and the lack of entertainment. The stage and showroom were very small and the entertainment was definitely a notch below Carnival. The visiting entertainers literally brought their "bag of tricks" with them and performed on a bare stage. They were all entertaining, but were not provided with much back up. We found a home in the Crow's Nest and enjoyed their daily happy hour. The bartenders there were wonderful and a lot of fun. We really got tired of the Trivia contest going on during happy hour when we really just wanted to relax after a day of sightseeing and watch the ship depart. We heard the same Trivia questions over and over again during various activities on the cruise. The casino was also small, but we enjoyed playing blackjack there. The slots seemed to be very tight and we didn't hear of anyone hitting any kind of jackpot. The good thing about being on a smaller ship was that we could get closer to view the glaciers than the huge ships, which is of course a primary reason for taking the cruise. Everyone was cordial and did their jobs well except for in the dining room. We opted for open seating, which may have been the problem. The first day we ate in the dining room for breakfast and the service was just plain awful. The food came late, the juice server didn't come around until someone asked, and we could not get refills of coffee. So after that we relegated ourselves to the Lido Buffet for breakfast, which was very good. The only complaint about it is that they don't provide trays, so for instance, you have to get your hot food, take it to a table, then go back for fruit or toast or whatever else, and then make another trip for your juice, coffee, and/or water. Also there is no definite line, so everyone sort of runs around in circles. My companion was not as upset by all this as I was, until we walked into the dining room one night at 6:00 and were told it was a "special night" and we could not be seated until 8:00 because there was no open seating for that night. We had purchased a bottle of wine the night before and had not finished it, so they had kept it for us for the next night, but we did not want to wait 2 hours! So, back to the Lido. We ate at the Pinnacle one night and had incredibly great service and steaks, plus a wonderful chocolate souffle. Another word to the wise: If you are taking an excursion in a port that is tendered, give yourself at least an hour to get to shore. Our excursion tickets said allow 30 minutes for the tender and we would have been late had we not gone down early. Besides the dining room experiences, everything was great and the staff were very nice and helpful. Our robes were also worn and stained, but we don't use those anyway. I had asked for fruit and it was provided promptly as was ice. Debarking was very organized and easy. We had planned on taking a taxi to the airport, but the taxi line was really long so we took the shuttle for $28. I am using this extra space to review Homer and Kodiak. Homer was a really interesting place - sort of arty with lots of interesting people. They have a lot of coffee shops and galleries. I had been looking for some quality souvenirs that were moderately priced and found those there at the Art Shop Gallery. They feature local artists and you can buy things starting at around $12. One of the artists was there when we were and it was fun talking to her. It was incredible just to sit in the Crow's Nest and watch all the fishing boats come and go. There must be hundreds of boats and trailers there and we heard the fishing was great. Several of our fellow passengers went halibut fishing and althey all caught their limits and were really happy with the excursion. Kodiak did not have much to see, but to me was still very interesting. A shuttle dropped us off downtown, but we walked the 3/4 miles back to the ship. The walk is not very scenic since this is a big commercial fishing location and the walk takes you through a sort of industrial looking area. We found an arts and crafts show and a photographer who had some great shots of bears and other Kodiak area animals. Other than that, there was not much to see but a few souvenir shops and a church, which was having services when we were there so we could not enter. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We just returned from our 21st Holland America Cruise. It is our fourth time in Alaska and we picked the Amsterdam's 14 day itineray in order to visit the Aleutians and have a slightly different view of Alaska. We also had very ... Read More
We just returned from our 21st Holland America Cruise. It is our fourth time in Alaska and we picked the Amsterdam's 14 day itineray in order to visit the Aleutians and have a slightly different view of Alaska. We also had very minimal expectations because our main reason for cruising in August was to get away from Florida's heat and humidity. The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed each cool, dry day. Packing tip: layers. Don't bother with heavy coats, just a couple of layers and a down vest - which packs in little space - plus a hooded rain poncho will see you though most any summer day on this trip. If you need anything else the fleece items and parkas are bargains in many shops. The ports were predictable. The excursions offered by HAL are overpriced and overcrowded. Do some research and go off on your own. Whale watching can be as easy as watching out the window or off the deck with your own binoculars. I recommend the Anchorage zoo for close up encounters with moose, bears and dall sheep. It is a free shuttle ride from the Log Cabin Visitors Center and very inexpensive to visit. There is a wonderful micro brewery/restaurant in downtown Anchorage named Glacier Brewery. Try their flight of beers - fun. Don't expect much in Homer or Kodiak. Homer has a free shuttle to the Spit which is full of campers, tents, RVs and tourists. Kodiak is a long walk from the pier with little to see. In fact I question HAL even saying Kodiak was a port since they didn't offer transportation to town unless you could count a very small school bus for the mobility impaired. Taxis on Sunday morning are very limited and expensive. The locals told us that Holland America could have rented large school buses but opted not to. Ketchikan had free shuttles to WalMart for any of you who forget essentials. Great fun to ride with the crew and do your Sunday shopping. Meals on the Amsterdam were fine. Nothing spectacular but nothing really bad. Service was outstanding all over the ship but especially in the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle has raised their evening charge to $25 but the food and service are extra special so go for it at least once during your cruise. The lunch fee remains $10 and is the biggest bargain on board. Best small filet I have ever eaten. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido ususally but tried the Main Dining room a couple of times. We never eat the MDR on first night to avoid the Open Seating debacle. The Caneletto on Deck 8 is a good option. We were greeted on arrival with an overly warm cabin, an overflowing commode, no bathrobes, flowers or fruit. After being given the third degree by the front desk staff the commode(which we hadn't used) was repaired. We were told the A/C would be working after we left Seattle - of course - it was getting colder outside. We received two very worn and stained robes on Day Three. Never got flowers but bruised fruit arrived on Day Two. Our cabin was just as spacious as the Verandas on the higher decks with all the storage space needed for two weeks. We didn't use all the drawers. The TV is too small to be seen from the beds and if a larger wall mount was used they could add a mini bar setup. Our major complaint with this cruise was with the entertainment. We enjoy the evening shows, especially the production numbers. The lead male singer was so bad that it was hard to overlook and enjoy the rest of the show. The Piano Bar talent - yes, both of them - was terrible. The variety acts were fair to good. Take a good book or two with you. We wish the Crow's Nest could still be the place to have a quiet cocktail hour with dance music but it is now the center of Trivia and Name That Tune contests. The Happy Hour, misnamed because it is only an hour at random times in random places, has buy 1 get 1 more for a dollar IF you order what they tell you. Not too user friendly! We don't expect special treatment even though we are frequent HAL cruisers and that is a good thing. We have almost never been invited to dine with staff or officers. We found the ship's officers to be aloof and disengaged with the passengers on the Amsterdam. It would be so nice to have one of them say thanks for coming back and sailing with us. Will we sail with Holland America again? Of course, it is the best value in cruising today for a certain demographic. I am talking the older crowd with low expectations for excitement. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I found flying to Seattle the morning of our cruise VERY stressful and I recommend, if at all possible, that you arrive at least a day before your cruise if travel is involved... I was so worried about delays and cancellations, I even had ... Read More
I found flying to Seattle the morning of our cruise VERY stressful and I recommend, if at all possible, that you arrive at least a day before your cruise if travel is involved... I was so worried about delays and cancellations, I even had my cc buddies offering to send a life raft if the boat left without us! Fortunately, things went off wonderfully, and no life raft was needed. We booked our tickets independently and I was pleased to find HAL reps at the airport, welcoming cruisers and offering to transport us and our luggage by bus to the ship for a reasonable fee. Suite 7018 was ready when we arrived and our luggage arrived soon after. Sail away from Seattle was lovely. We explored the ship some, made new friends at trivia, received main seating dinner assignments (a note here: the four of us were at a table for six, and never received tablemates) and enjoyed the opening day welcomes, etc. The Neptune lounge is a suite oasis of comforts, concierge assist, snacks, & chatter. Sienna was always cheerfully able to assist with excursions, dining reservations, RSVP's and nearly anything else that might come up. Television allowed occasional reality checks with outside world, as well is calm lounging area for getting to know other passengers. However, I wish it had windows, and perhaps even more extended hours (7AM-8PM). Nevertheless, it is a perk, combined with the veranda, added cabin space, & comforts making a suite worthy of its additional expense. Please note however, you cannot bring non-suite guests to lounge, including kids sharing non suite cabins &/or other family members. Day 1- At sea, we had our Cruise Critic gathering. HAL sent reps and prepared a "gathering area" in Crow's Nest for a "private party" organized by one of our members from "roll call." If you have booked a cruise and have not signed up for your cc role call... what are you waiting for? We shared ideas, excitement, and bonded, making the gathering all that much more fun! After months of chatter, you are finally able to put a face to your travel buddies. This was also our first formal night, "The Captain's Gala Dinner". I loved seeing everybody jazzed up and we even took our first family portrait in many years! Those who hate dressing up had room service (or possibly the Lido?) as an option. Day 2: Our first port was Ketchikan. After wandering about town... we were off with the crew as "guests" on the Aleutian Ballad from Season 2 of "The Deadliest Catch". We listened to their Bering Sea tales and observed demos of prepping and using the crab cages and pots. Later they pulled up different cages and pots to show off their pre filled catches to teach us about them and to let us touch, & sometimes hold them. I loved this excursion and it actually left me with one of my favorite memories of the trip. They passed around a big crab for folks to hold and take photos with. After handing the crab off to my daughter, the handler was distracted and wandered off leaving, my daughter holding the crab! After a few minutes she was still standing there holding it while the rest of us laughed our heads off! Day 3- We cruised Tracy Arm. Beautiful. Many were disappointed we were not as close to the glaciers as we hoped, but sea & weather conditions left us without that option, and I was satisfied the captain's crew brought us as deep as they could. We dined this evening at The Pinnacle Grill. There is a $25pp surcharge, but it is worth it! We ate there twice, both times fantastic! Day 4- Juneau... we did not waste a moment! We wandered about some & then hopped aboard the Mt. Roberts tram for a quick lunch and views. We had booked a helicopter/airboat tour of Taku Glacier with Coastal Helicopters. Unfortunately, the boat pilot was unavailable due to weather troubles, and we were greeted dockside by their apologetic rep offering alternatives. My husband had his heart set on photographing Taku Glacier, and after some discussion, an itinerary was created to allow flying over, about, & landing on TAKU for a walk about. (It is one of the few glaciers still advancing.) If you have ever wondered what it feels like to stand on top of the world... stand on a glacier! Afterwards, we whale watched with Captain Larry from Orca Tours. This was our fourth outing with Captain Larry and as always, he knows how to "follow the pod". Day 5- Icy Straight Point: an old salmon cannery in Homer recreated as a cross between museum & shopping. Unfortunately it was a dreary day, so it was not long before we took the tender back to the ship. Tendering can be difficult for some & although the crew is always ready to assist, some stayed on board on tender days. For dinner we dined at Canaletto Restaurant, a small Italian venue off to the side of the Lido. I found it to be pleasant, & at no additional charge makes for a nice dinner alternative. (Be sure to toss the cotton candy into your after dinner coffee!) Day 6: At sea. There is no shortage of activities shipboard. Mass was offered daily. There were "Explorations" of "the world", "food & entertaining", "technology", & " well being"... and while I had fun in many options... for our gang- The SEA-P-R's- it was all about the trivia. They had 4 variations most days! We made friends at trivia we had fun with all cruise! The guest entertainment on the Amsterdam is fantastic & we always looked forward to a late dinner & show! Alas, the cast, while very talented, needs newer shows & several were repeats from cruises I journeyed on years earlier. This was also another formal night. Day 7: Anchorage: We rented a van and explored on our own. We drove out to the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood for the aerial tram allowing magnificent views & lunch. We drove about some more & ended up at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. A place to get close up to rescued native animals, it is a photographer's dream & many of the animal images you see in the Alaska brochures were taken here. Day 8: Homer: This is a port you either loved or hated for its small size and slightly eccentric character. We loved it! After walking past a frenzy of seagulls, we bought tickets to a jump on/jump off bus allowing 4 stops... My daughter and I chose to get off at the fourth stop and spend our time the beach, watching the hula hoops spin while the dogs chased Frisbees, while sipping lemonade sold by kids, and enjoying a snack at the most excellent Two Sisters' Bakery. My husband took a flight-seeing trip he enjoyed very much. Alas, rough seas lay ahead and The Master Chef's dinner was for many of us not meant to be... but rest of my family enjoyed the chefs parade, music & fun. Day 9: Kodiak: Some hated this sleepy town with its indifference to tourism. I LOVED IT! We wandered about & simply breathed in Alaskan life. It is a long walk to town from the dock & many chose tours and/or taxis. We took a one hour tour with a driver we found dock side, in which we managed to explore nearly all of Homer, including it's coastal studies center with a touch tank, while listening to our driver's stories of life in such an unconventional town. We explored a bit more on foot and walked back to the ship. Day 10 was a sea day with a very "rocky" start, which we spent experiencing the beauty of Hubbard Glacier. Although it was a rainy, nasty day, the skies opened to welcome us and the seas were calm while we floated by in awe. There was much calving & we were surrounded by satisfied explorers on the top deck! Day 11: Sitka: we have visited Sitka many times and love it here. A rainy day left many deciding to stay on board. It is a pedestrian-friendly port with historic sights, tourist shopping, local crafts & strolling along the piers. Day 12: Our final day at Sea... and reality of our vacation nearing its end permeates through all of us. There was plenty to do on board, or one could simply enjoy the sights and chat with new friends. The fourth & final formal night is also a black & white ball. The Crow's nest is decorated prom-like for this fancy party encouraging passenger/ crew interaction. Although on this particular voyage the population was older making many social gatherings a bit harder for the baby boomers & younger... it eventually got going & I think fun was had by all who chose to have fun. Day 13: Victoria ended up our family favorite. Partially because of the day's glorious weather... but mostly because of timing. We disembarked as a man showed up in his classic Ford 1954 Sunliner & set out on an open air touring adventure. We visited Victoria 's beautiful views, such as the castle, neighborhoods, and parks. As we passed deer grazing in folks' gardens and peacocks wandering parkside, we waved to locals admiring our ride. Day 14, or is it 15... Disembarkation in Seatle was simple and well organized. I had stressed over return home flight times, and after advice never to book before noon, we stayed on in Seattle overnight. While some were still waiting for their group to be called, as suite passengers, we could disembark whenever we were ready, so we did, and we were assisted by eager luggage valets, grabbed a taxi dockside and headed off to our hotel. If you are in a suite I do not think even an 11AM flight would be a problem... but of course, things happen. Day 15: I CANNOT BELIEVE SEATTLE HAS A HEMP FESTIVAL! Our hotel was shoreside, with the Beatles suite next door, (that famous room where they fished out the hotel window) and the massive hempfest down a block or two. We explored the sights, including the space needle and the EMP & Sci-Fi Museum. We left early next morning for a surprisingly non-eventful or delayed airport & flight. DAY 16: .... Are there really signs of life beyond the mounds of laundry??? OK... if you have survived this lengthy review and have further questions, feel free to ask away... Until next time... Happy sails to you Robyn Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, honestly, but this wasn't such a bad thing. The people I met on board were legitimately awesome. They were very kind, and had fascinating stories to tell. The downside of this was that I generally did feel like I didn't quite belong. The young kids all flock together in Club HAL, and the teenagers go to the Loft. I look younger than I am (everyone from the juggler/comedian to our room steward assumed I was about twelve), and when I met people I thought were my age, they were almost always Loft-aged. No offense to the high schoolers though, the people I met were neat. I spent the great majority of time either alone or with my family. Honestly, this was a family vacation, and I preferred actually being with my family to totally branching out and never seeing them, so I guess this was pretty ideal. The Neptune Lounge was pretty cool, and was the location of most of the in depth conversations I had with older strangers. I also spent a lot of the time in the Crow's Nest with my family and the friends we made, because we are hideously addicted to trivia games. Trivia games can actually fill a lot of time, just so you know, and we learned a lot of random fluff. Also, what wouldn't a sane person do for Holland America pins? :) The Amsterdam's cast and crew could probably benefit from some new shows? I went to most of their performances, and I don't regret it, but I spent a lot of the show feeling bad for the cast for having to wear so many sequins. The talent that HAL brought on was amazing. Ronn Lucas is this big time ventriloquist who I would actually go out of my way to see performing in the real world. We also got to see a performer called Jeff Trachta, who was amazingly talented. It's really neat to be on the ship, just wandering around, and run into people like juggler and talk to them. I liked that experience. As a practicing Catholic, I was grateful that HAL provides a priest onboard their ships. It made life a lot easier, and it made the trip much more meaningful. Alaska's beauty comes from God. It's somewhat nice to remember that while we're actually there. I loved seeing the Orthodox churches in Kodiak and Sitka. They were amazing, and I had some really enjoyable and informational conversations with the people who worked in the church in Sitka, and with the gift shop lady in Kodiak. The morning we spent in Kodiak was probably my favorite. I loved the little wildlife center/museum thing. Since we've been to Alaska many times, we skipped most of the nature-lectures, and this was about as informational about nature as anything got for me. The Baranhov Museum has some work going on around it, but if you follow the signs it is still accessible. It was a small, charming, and informative museum. It's this really old house that's been around for ages, and you can see the original wallpaper and woodwork in some parts. It deals with natural life in the area, as well as with the early Russian influence. Homer is covered in fireweed, and the beach was pretty charming. I didn't see much of the area, but it was probably really worth seeing. I liked our family outing in Anchorage the best (probably more detailed in my mom's post), because in renting a car and just driving out of town, it kind of felt like we were runaways, or at home and taking a daytrip. It didn't really fit in with the cruise, and it made you feel more like a normal person, or a legitimate explorer. There it is then, that's my briefish but honest review of the Amsterdam. Good times were had by mostly all, I met about 5 other people around my brother's and my age group (all within the last 3 days or so, of course), and whales are still awesome. Ciao, internet people. Deandra Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Like so many other couples in their late 60's, we had dreamed of an Alaska cruise for quite awhile before finally making a committment to really go there.After about 3 months of searching the internet, using many search sites, we ... Read More
Like so many other couples in their late 60's, we had dreamed of an Alaska cruise for quite awhile before finally making a committment to really go there.After about 3 months of searching the internet, using many search sites, we discovered cruise critic had both the reviews and the information we needed to make our choice of cruises. We chose HAL mainly for the itinerary and prices offered for their 14-day cruise round trip from Seattle (lower airfares and no passport required)that visited several ports not available through other cruise lines. We were particularly interested in seeing Kodiak and Sitka for their Russian heritage excursions, and Homer for halibut fishing for me. We could not hve selected a better cruise itinerary! Each port and every shore excursion(except fishing) turned out fantastic and much more than we had anticipated! We booked the Bering Sea Fisherman's Adventure in Ketchikan that was delightful and truly educational. The whale-watching trip in Juneau resulted in sighting 12 Orcas and 12 Humpbacks, including an awesome breach! Icey Straight Point offers a look at true Alaskan life in a fishing village and the visit to Tracey Arm was a beautiful encounter with an impressive glacier. All of the ports visited offered unique excursions and attractions that were exciting, interesting, and affordable. The onboard living experience far exceeded our expectations! All of the dining venues were exceptionally clean and offered outstanding menu choices, prepared and served with great care, and such a variety that we were sometimes overwhelmed by all of the delectable choices! The entire crew was always smiling, very accomodating, and eager to please. We could not have asked for better service, even when we had two minor incidents. Everything was resolved to our complete satisfaction. The entertainment was very good, and a nice variety of shows were offered. We especially enjoyed the two comedians, who gave wonderful performances. All-in-all, we would whole-heartedly recommend this particular cruise and certainly endorse Holland American as a top-notch cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Our 2011 Alaskan Adventure on the HAL Amsterdam August 5-19 with a pre-cruise stay at Mt. Rainier and Seattle In 2008 my husband Bob and I went on a 7 day Alaska cruise followed by a 9 day independent land trip. ... Read More
Our 2011 Alaskan Adventure on the HAL Amsterdam August 5-19 with a pre-cruise stay at Mt. Rainier and Seattle In 2008 my husband Bob and I went on a 7 day Alaska cruise followed by a 9 day independent land trip. Alaska has been calling me back ever since. I consider myself very blessed to have had another opportunity to visit this majestic place. I had several priorities on this trip: to observe bears eating salmon, to see Hubbard Glacier and to see Prince William Sound. All my wishes were fulfilled. How much luckier could I have gotten? My husband's priority for a return trip was to go when it wouldn't rain. Although we had a little drizzle, it was nothing to ruin our trip and he was very pleased with the weather as was I. The first part of the review is my comments on the Amsterdam. Following those comments you will find a day by day review of the ports. Feel free to ask questions if you need more detail. A bit about ourselves: Bob is 64 and I am 62. Neither of us is physically active. We love nature and scenery. Most of our lives we camped, including on our honeymoon. Cruising is not our vacation of choice, but we have used cruises to get us to places that otherwise would be difficult to see in a timely manner on a minimal budget. We see a cruise ship as a floating hotel. Ship Experience: This was our third cruise and second on HAL. We booked an HH obstructed view cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck. It turned out to be a good choice for the price. We had more of a view than I expected. We pre-ordered a refrigerator which was nice to have. The cabin was under the galley, so we did hear some noises above us, but it didn't bother us. The noise seemed to subside considerably after 10:30 p.m. We were never awakened by the noise. I had read about the Amsterdam being a noisy ship. The place we noticed a significant noise and vibration was as we walked down the hallway to our cabin from the forward part of the ship. You hear engine noise and feel significant vibration. One day as someone exited one of these cabins I asked if they heard this noise in their cabin and they said they sure did. I would not have been happy in one of those cabins. That is the only place we noticed noise. We found the ship to be very well maintained. Staff was cleaning, polishing, and painting throughout the two weeks. The ship never seemed crowded except the day we were disembarking in Victoria. There are many nice areas to just park yourself and enjoy the views out the windows. We like the size of the Amsterdam. You never have long hikes to get anywhere. We never had waits for the elevators, although we tried to take the steps as much as possible. The staff on the Amsterdam was outstanding. Our stewards, Heri and Yulien were top notch!!! All I had to do was leave a note and they handled whatever we asked for. They kept our room spotlessly clean and always had a smile and greeting for us whenever we saw them. They would wish us a great day when we left for the day and ask how we enjoyed your day when we returned. We found the dining staff to be very friendly. I noticed a significant difference in the Front Desk staff from my last HAL cruise. I found the Front Desk staff to be competent on this ship. They had a better command of the English Language than our previous HAL cruise. Last cruise I dreaded going to the Front Desk; this time not at all! One thing I missed on our Daily Explorer was information regarding where we would be cruising each day and what time we would be passing key areas like whale areas. On our 2008 Volendam cruise this information appeared daily and I have to say whenever we were told we would be in a whale area, we would see them. On our Volendam cruise a public announcement would be made from the bridge telling us that wildlife had been spotted and what side of the ship it was noticed. We never had an announcement about wildlife being spotted on this cruise. At least I never heard any such announcements. On the Amsterdam the captain would make an announcement telling us some information about where we would be cruising, but I would have preferred to have it written down. Sometimes you were in a place you couldn't hear the announcement, or you simply couldn't remember all that was being told to you. We did not have any trouble tendering in either Icy Strait or Sitka. Many complaints had previously been reported about the difficulties getting off the ship in Sitka. When I noticed on the TV that the ship was going to be in Sitka early, we headed to the Queen's Lounge. We were in Sitka at 9:30 a.m. and the Amsterdam was scheduled to dock at 10:00 a.m. Rather than listing the time the ship docks, I wish HAL would list the time they estimate to be cleared for disembarking. This causes a problem for those booking independent tours. I know on my previous cruises the time listed as docking time was the time we disembarked. However, on this cruise, that was not the case. We were always being told the ship had to be cleared for disembarking. We LOVED the unlimited laundry package. For $98 we had our clothes beautifully laundered and pressed. I was waiting for them to tell me I had sent too many bags and they would be charging me an additional fee. We sent out 14 bags !!!! The laundry usually came back the following day. If it did not come back the next day, then it was returned the following morning. We felt it was worth the splurge so we could pack lighter and not have to spend time trying to find an available washing machine. Often we ran into frustrated people trying to find a launderette with availability. I was told the second deck launderette was never open for use on our cruise. There were no major complaints about the food from us. We enjoyed the MDR for dinners, the LIDO for breakfasts and lunches, the Pinnacle for one complimentary dinner, and the Canaletto for several dinners. Like most banquet hall food, I do think they could reduce the sodium. I am a vegetarian and although the entrEes were excellent overall, some did not have a high protein level. However, I just learned to ask for a cheese plate along with it and that solved the problem for me. The area most lacking was the desserts. They served lots of variations of cakes and mousse/gelatin desserts. If that is your thing, you will be pleased. If I am going to eat something basically unhealthy, I want it to be worth the calories. They did offer a fruit crisp and a Baked Alaska every day. The fresh berry cups I could get back in 2008 on the Volendam were not available on the Amsterdam. The bread pudding in the Lido was excellent. I tried the ice cream once and although it was refreshing, it was not very rich. Others seemed to enjoy it though. We found service in all dining venues to be excellent. There was staff in the Lido to help you carry your food if necessary. I did not find it troublesome at all the first two days when the Lido staff did all the serving. I had read about long waits, but we did not find that to be the case at all. Neither were there long waits in the dining room those first two days. We had one meal where service was slower than on other days in the MDR, but it was still acceptable for a fine dining setting. We never had to wait to be seated in the MDR or the Canaletto, even if we did not have a reservation. To us, the advantage of making a reservation is you can request a table by the window. Since smoke is a trigger for my asthma it is always a concern when cruising. Our cabin had no hint of smoke. The only place I smelled it was the casino and we make a quick transition when we were passing through. Unlike our last HAL cruise they did not have non-smoking days in the casino on this cruise. I rarely saw anyone smoking on the Lower Promenade. Seemed like pretty much a non-smoking crowd from what I could tell. I was disappointed the Indonesian Tea was on the Hubbard Glacier Bay day. There is no way I was giving up being out on the bow for the tea. It should have been on a sea day. I had heard how lovely this event was and wished I could have participated. The Amsterdam was great for viewing the scenery. We were out on the bow for both Tracy Arm and Hubbard Glacier. Those who don't like to be outside can go to the Crow's Nest with its forward panoramic views. There are also many other places with window viewing like the Explorers Lounge. I prefer to be out on deck and that is exactly where we were on both of these scenic sailing days. We enjoyed the onboard entertainment. I don't have as much to compare to as others do. Our first cruise we never went to any of the shows. I did like the entertainment on the Amsterdam better than what we had on our NCL cruise last year. We thought the Amsterdam put together a nice variety with the singers/dancers, comedians, ventriloquist, magicians, juggler, etc. I wished they would have taped these shows and shown them on the TV In our rooms at a later time. We missed two shows because Bob was not feeling well and we would have liked to see them at our convenience. I had read many positive comments about the computer classes onboard. We did not have any at all the first week. I finally asked the librarian about it and was told that the previous tech person disembarked in Seattle and the new one was not boarding until Anchorage. We tried to attend one class, but the line was out the door so we left. I think they need a larger location for these classes. I appreciated the New York Times highlights that were made available at various locations throughout the ship. I was happy to get the baseball scores for my hometown team as well as to read what was going on in the world. In summary we had a wonderful, wonderful cruise to Alaska on the Amsterdam. I must say I was getting concerned as I read some of the reviews of those who were on this ship before we were. However, I didn't need to worry. It was a magnificent cruise on a great ship with an outstanding crew!!! Aug. 2 Flying to Seattle and driving to Mt. Rainier: Today we flew into Seattle. What a wonderful flight we had on a clear and sunny day. After picking up our luggage we boarded a shuttle to the Enterprise office. Simply stated this was the least competent car rental office we have ever rented from. It took about 45 minutes to get our paperwork processed at the price I had booked at. After way too long we were on our way to Mt. Rainier at 3:30 p.m. The anticipated 2 hour ride quickly turned into a 2 1/2 hour ride as traffic was heavy. On our drive we were able to see Mt. Rainier against the bright blue sky. It was quite a site. Once in the National Park we stopped at several scenic viewpoints, including Christine Falls which were flowing fiercely. As it was now nearing 7:00 p.m. we headed for the Paradise Inn. We immediately fell in love with the lodge and enjoyed a lovely and delicious dinner in the lodge dining room. National Parks are our favorite places to stay. The accommodations are very basic, but we like it that way. It didn't take us long to realize we wished we had booked two nights here instead of two nights in Seattle. For anyone wishing to stay here, be forewarned that there are no elevators. If you have problems carrying luggage, request a first floor room. Aug. 3 Visiting Mt. Rainier and driving to Seattle: How lovely it was to wake up in the morning looking out the large bedroom windows and seeing mountains. This was Paradise for sure!!!!! After a delicious breakfast we took a stroll around the property. This area had 900+ inches of snow this past winter instead of the usual 600+ inches which caused the hiking trails in the Paradise area to be snow covered. This was a disappointment, but it surely didn't ruin our day. After checking out of the lodge, we drove to Narada Falls. The trail was a bit steep, but we managed just fine taking it slowly. Our next stop was Reflections Lake. This is the spot where the post card photos are taken that show Mt. Rainier and her reflection in the water. Although it was a clear day there was no mountain being reflected into the water when we were there. We learned you needed to be there earlier in the morning to experience this phenomenon. Our next stop was Box Canyon which is about 100 ft. deep and only 15-30 feet wide. Next was the lovely stop at the Grove of the Patriarchs. The hike takes you through an old-growth forest. Some of the trees were over 1000 years old with circumferences up to 30 ft. As you take this hike you are walking along the Ohanapecosh River which makes for a very scenic stroll. To get to the Grove you must walk over a suspension bridge. Only one person is allowed on the bridge at a time. When you cross the bridge you are on an island. The Grove has a truly magical feeling to it. After visiting the Grove we headed to the Sunrise Visitor Center. The views of Mt. Rainier from the road to Sunrise were even more beautiful than the views from Paradise. The mountain appeared to be much closer to you from this vantage point. The visitor center was very well done with many interesting and informative displays. After a quick lunch at the Sunrise Day Lodge, we headed to the Silver Forest/Emmons Glacier Vista Overlook. This is a very scenic trail with magnificent views of the Cascade Mountains. Blue skies and pleasant temperatures made for a perfect hike. There were many beautiful wildflowers along the way. The scent of the trees was very striking and strong. We never experienced anything like it on any of the many hikes we have taken in National and State Parks. Crisp air, sunny skies and the scent of the trees was the perfect combination for a great hike. After this hike we started our drive to Seattle. Until we got into Seattle the drive was much more pleasant than what we had experienced yesterday. However, once in Seattle the trip became a bit nerve-wracking. The freeways are much more difficult to maneuver than what we are used to in Michigan. We arrived at the Quality Inn at 7:00 p.m. We were a bit apprehensive about booking this hotel because of mixed reviews. However, we were very satisfied. Our requirements were that it be clean and safe, and both of those were met. The staff was friendly and the room was very clean. Unlike the Paradise Inn they do have elevators here. Once we settled our things into the room, we headed out on the streets looking for someplace to eat. We came across the 5 Point Cafe and Bar which was a local hangout for the most part. It is a great place if comfort food is what you are looking for. We enjoyed our meal here. What a wonderful day!!! Aug. 4 Visiting Seattle: This morning we missed waking up to the view of the mountains. Instead we looked at the Travelodge. After a quick continental breakfast at the Quality Inn we drove to the Chittendon Locks in Ballard WA. This was a very interesting place to visit. We hoped to see lots of salmon on the ladders, but we only saw one salmon and it was in the observing tank. It was still well worth the stop to us. From the locks we drove to Kerry Park where you look down on Seattle, the water front and the Space Needle. Since it was another beautiful day we were able to get a great view!!! Definitely worth a stop on a clear day!!! I understand the sunsets are pretty special from this viewpoint. It is in a neighborhood with street parking only. Our next stop was the Freemont Troll. The head-and-shoulders sculpture is 18-ft. tall and provided us with some neat photos. Our next task was to drop off our car at the downtown Seattle Enterprise office. We were very happy to be rid of the car. As I mentioned above, we found the roads a bit challenging to navigate in Seattle, even with a GPS. The Downtown Seattle Enterprise Office was extremely professional and efficient. Although they offered to drive us to Pike's Market, we opted to walk. We found it to be a very pleasant stroll to the Market. Although we found the Market to be quite crowded, we were told the crowds were light compared to the weekends. We strolled through the shops and admired the flowers. Needing a break from the crowds we went to a Starbucks for a cool drink to reinvigorate ourselves. Feeling refreshed we headed back to the Market. We stopped to see the Gum Wall, which made for some more interesting photos. Next we stopped at the Fish Market to see the fish being tossed. We were unable to catch a photo here. After deciding we had enough of the Market, we had a late lunch at Pear Delicatessen. This was a great choice and both Bob and I enjoyed our meals. After lunch we walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park. It was an easy walk and we enjoyed it. The park is on the beautiful waterfront with several interesting and fascinating sculptures. After strolling through the park we picked up the last Seattle Duck Tour of the day. We had an excellent guide who was both very knowledgeable and quite humorous. After this tour we stopped at Zeek Pizza for dinner where we had a yummy meal. That evening, when I was checking the weather on the hotel computer in the lobby, we met Laurie from our roll call. Soon we were introduced to the rest of her lovely family. How great it was to meet some friendly faces before we boarded our cruise ship. After having a nice chat with them, we called it a night. Aug. 5 Pikes Market and boarding the Amsterdam: Today I brought breakfast up to our room. After we ate we walked to the monorail and headed downtown to Pike's Market to look through a few shops and to pick up a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for our cabin. We took the monorail back to Seattle Center and walked back to our hotel. At 1:00 p.m. we took the hotel shuttle to Pier 91. The cost was $6 per person. When we got off the shuttle, there were workers who offered to take our luggage. This made it so easy. I did tip them and we felt it was well worth it. We did put luggage tags on some soda and they did take it. Forty minutes after leaving the Quality Inn we were in our cabin. We were very pleased with how easy and quick the check-in process was. As we were walking into the check-in area one of the workers commented on my bouquet. She said to make sure to use bottled water in the vase and not cruise ship water. She said the flowers would last much longer that way. We were pleased to be able to go straight to our cabin. We booked an HH cabin and from what I had read, I was not expecting much of a view. We were pleasantly surprised with how much we could see across the promenade deck, especially if we were on the right side of the cabin. Everything that was supposed to be in our cabin was: refrigerator, excursions tickets, HAL coupon books, and Pinnacle Vouchers. We met, Heri, one of our room stewards. First impression was very positive and he did not disappoint throughout the cruise. He and Yulien, the only female steward on the cruise ship, were outstanding the entire cruise. We could not have had a better team!!! Since our luggage had not yet arrived we went to the front desk. I checked to see if our Onboard Credit was on our account and it was. So far we are batting 100% here!!! Great start!!!We requested a power strip cord and were given one to use. There is a $25 deposit which is returned when you bring it back. We also signed up for the unlimited laundry package which was $98 for unlimited washing and ironing. I was quickly spoiled!!! They did a great job with the laundry and ironing!!! In your closet you will find a blue laundry bag and a form to fill out. If you turn in your bag by 9:00 a.m. it will be returned to you the next day. Once it was returned the same day. After our stop at the Front Desk we proceeded to the Lido on Deck 8 for lunch. We also made dinner reservations. There is a stand in the Lido as you get off the elevators with a dining staff member who will make your reservations for up to three days out. The Lido was not crowded and we were quickly eating a delicious meal. After lunch we went to our cabin. Our luggage and soda arrived and we worked on organizing our clothes into the closets and drawers until it was time to go to the Muster Drill. After the drill we continued to work on organizing our cabin. At 5:00 p.m. we went on deck for sail-away. This evening we had a lovely dinner in the MDR. We really enjoyed eating in the MDR. We had open dining. Some nights we made reservations, other nights we did not. If you would like a table by the window it is best to make a reservation. We enjoyed all the people we met as we dined each night. Some nights we did have a table for two, but most nights we enjoyed the company of others. After dinner we took in the show and then called it a night. Aug. 6 Inside Passage: After breakfast in the Lido we walked around the Promenade deck. It was oh so beautiful, but oh so windy!!! Cruising the inside passage provides a very peaceful and soothing experience. It is a shame it will not be included in the 2012 itinerary. To have scenery on both sides of the ship which is so close to the ship is an experience that is never forgotten. We were very fortunate on this itinerary to be cruising through the very scenic Seymour Narrows in daylight. Many times the ships are traveling through here at night. This morning at 11:00 a.m. was our scheduled time for the Meet and Greet of all who were on the HAL Roll Call for this cruise. Many of us had chatted on line for some time before the cruise and were looking forward to meeting each other. Terry contacted HAL and arranged for a lovely gathering in the Crow's Nest with some of the ship's officers. Refreshments and snacks were provided by HAL. It was a lovely gathering. Unfortunately our meet and greet time was exactly when we were traveling through the scenic Seymour Narrows. From what I could tell, most if not all on the roll call did drop by. However, many of us did not stay long since we wanted to be outside viewing the magnificent scenery. Bob and I spent a good amount of time out on deck 6, but eventually the wind got to be too much. We retreated back to the Crow's Nest which has a phenomenal panoramic view. About one o'clock we had lunch in the Lido and once again returned to the Crow's Nest to take in the breathtaking scenery. At 5:00 p.m. we attended Mass in the Queen's Lounge. Unfortunately the movement at the front of the ship made Bob feel ill. We had reservations for dinner at the Canaletto tonight. Bob couldn't make it through the meal. He headed back to the cabin where he put a patch on, had some ginger root and called it an early night. I finished my dinner and then joined him in the cabin. We ate dinner several nights at the Canaletto and enjoyed it every time. For those who don't want to dress up for formal nights, it is a great option. August 7 Ketchikan: Docking time for Ketchikan had been scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Unfortunately we did not dock until closer to 8:30 a.m. The first passengers were not getting off until about 8:45 p.m. I am sure some who booked early independent tours were disappointed. We were given an extra hour in Ketchikan to make up for the later arrival. I had initially hoped this would give us enough time to head out to Totem Bight after our Misty Fjords tour. However, the staff at the Visitor Center told us they would not chance it. Our ship's tour to Misty Fjord was a very well-run tour and we enjoyed it. We were told we were experiencing one of 35 days in the year when Ketchikan has a full day of sunshine. (Would have been a great day for the kayaking we had considered!!!) The Misty Fjords Tour was run by Allen Marine. The granite cliffs in the fjords were simply magnificent. I didn't run into anyone who did not enjoy this beautiful tour. I must say the sunshine helped make it a great day to be out on the water. On our way to the fjords Allen Marine provided everyone with a small pastry. On our way back you had your choice of clam chowder or veggie chili. Bob and I both had the chili and enjoyed it very much. After we finished lunch a very interesting and informative film about fishing in Ketchikan was shown. We also had our first introduction to the five main kinds of salmon and how to use your fingers to help remember their names. After the tour was over we walked into Ketchikan where we stopped in a few stores. Our next stop was the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. If you have a National Park Pass you do not have to pay the entrance fee. The displays are outstanding and I highly recommend a stop here. At the Discovery Center we were told the salmon were three weeks late and just beginning to arrive in Ketchikan. They did not know why the salmon had been delayed. We still chose to head to the salmon ladder to check it out. On the way we did see some salmon in the river. At the ladder we saw a few more salmon. The whole time we were on the observation platform, there was one salmon trying to make its way in. However for the roughly 45 minutes we were there, it did not succeed. It was one persistent salmon!!! From here we walked to the Fish Hatchery where we watched some salmon making their way over a grate. As we were heading back to the ship we realized we were very short on time. Fortunately for us a bus was coming by and we were able to board. It dropped us off very close to the ship at about 5:10 p.m. As we were dining tonight we observed some porpoises and whales. After dinner we went to the Crow's Nest where they were having Karaoke. We were impressed with the quality of singing we heard. At ten o'clock we headed to the Queen's Lounge to see Ronn Lucas, the ventriloquist. He was outstanding and put on a great show!!! Aug. 8 Tracy Arm Cruising: In June 2008 we saw Tracy Arm from a small boat excursion we booked from Juneau. It was our favorite excursion. This year we were cruising Tracy Arm on a cruise ship. Although the experience is definitely different, it is still an outstanding way to experience the fjord. Today there was some sun, some clouds, but no rain. We stayed out on the bow from 11:45 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. We just didn't want to go inside and leave this majestic setting. Although not all cruise ships get all the way to the glaciers in Tracy Arm Fjord, we were able to get in sight of South Sawyer Glacier. I was satisfied with how far in we got, but others were disappointed we didn't make our way closer to see some calving. To me Tracy Arm Fjord is more about the fjord and less about the glaciers. In 2008 we got up close and personal with North Sawyer Glacier. At that time we saw a lot more wildlife than we did this year. However the cliffs, mountains, glaciers and numerous waterfalls made for a spectacular day. We just couldn't get enough of this glorious beauty. Tonight we tried the Lido for dinner. The food was very good, but we prefer the dining room. The show tonight was the singers and dancers. They put on some good shows throughout the cruise. I marvel at their stamina and energy level. Tonight the cruise ship was supposed to anchor in the evening. However, we had a medical emergency on board and the ship was given permission to go straight to Juneau. Aug. 9 Juneau: Today we had our tour booked to Pack Creek with Butch Laughlin of Alaska Fly n Fish Charters in hopes of seeing bear eating salmon. Pack Creek is on Admiralty Island and is run by the US Forest Service. The Forest Service only allows 24 visitors per day in this area.Pack Creek is a wilderness area with no facilities of any kind. There is a ranger on site during peak season who provides a scope and who carries a rifle. The bears on Admirality Island are Brown Bears. We learned that both Grizzly and Brown Bears are the same species. If they live near water they are called Brown Bears, and if they live in the interior they are called Grizzly Bears. The Grizzly Bears are lighter brown and the Brown Bears are much darker, some looking almost black. Their coloring has adapted over the years to the environment they live in. I had prepared myself the best I could for the possibility of just having a lovely float plane ride. I knew there are no guarantees when it comes to seeing wildlife even if you are going in peak season. We took a taxi ($24) from the pier to the Juneau airport where we met Butch at Gate 1. There was one other couple on our tour. They were locals who knew Butch. Since they were also pilots, I was put a bit more at ease knowing I was now with three people who could fly this plane if needed. Butch drove us in his van to the pier/dock where he keeps his plane. We were fitted with waterproof boots, given binoculars and then assigned to our seats. Bob got the co-pilot seat and I was put in the back. The other couple, Jeannie and Wendell, was in the middle.. This was the first time Bob and I flew in a float plane. It was quite an exhilarating experience to be flying in scenic Alaska on a gorgeous summer day. The views were simply breathtaking. I could have flown all day. However, I did book this tour to see bears, and soon we were on our way to Pack Creek. It took a half hour to get to Pack Creek. Butch and Wendell took care of securing the plane. The tide would be far out when we returned, so Butch had to be careful where the plane was left. We were walking for just a short time when we saw our first bear. Butch and the rangers knew all the bears and had given most of them names. It was truly exciting for me when I saw that first bear. I describe this day to anyone who will listen, as "The Day in the Life of a Bear." When I originally imagined what this trip would be like, I expected to see lots of different bears coming and going. However, we had three bears that we saw virtually the entire time and another 3-4 that visited during the 4+ hours we were at Pack Creek. The three bears that we watched the whole time were a sow and her cub and another cub that had been abandoned by its mother a year before normal. Butch said it was unusual for a bear to allow her cub to hang out with another cub. However, this sow did permit it. It was so fascinating to watch the cubs. They would stand up and play with each other, roll around, fish for salmon, go to the field and eat berries off the bushes, etc. They had never-ending energy. At one point the sow and her cub went into the woods. We thought they were going to take their afternoon nap. However, within minutes they were back out again doing what they had been doing all day. The sow did a lot of fishing, yet she was very attentive of her cub. If she couldn't see him she would stand up. At one point she followed the cubs into the field. When the bears went to the field they came VERY CLOSE to us. In fact when the sow was looking for her cubs in the field she walked a bit too close for comfort. Butch told us to grab our packs and be ready to move. Fortunately that was not necessary. The sow just walked right past us looking for her cub. PHEW!!! This tour was definitely a highlight of our trip to Alaska. Observing bears in the wild who were just going about their day was a truly fascinating and exhilarating experience. The return float plane trip to Juneau was just as awe-inspiring on the way back. Flying over the mountains and waterways of Alaska in a floatplane is an experience I will never forget. This day will forever be etched in my memory. Upon arrival at the airport we called Konnie of Rent A Wreck. Within minutes she picked us up, drove us to the office and literally within minutes we were on our way, paying the price we had earlier agreed on. Our first stop was the Shrine of St. Therese. The small church is in a beautiful and very tranquil setting along the water. There were several trails you could take around the church grounds. I would not call this a must do, but if you are in the area and have the time, it is surely worth a stop. Next we drove to Mendenhall Glacier. I have to say I was more impressed than I thought I would be from what I had read about this place beforehand. I am definitely glad we went and highly recommend going. Mendenhall Glacier was quite impressive. There was something special about it being so visible from the road. You didn't have to take a trail if you didn't want to. In my research I had read that there was a fee to get into the Visitor Center. I thought that was odd as we have never paid to use a park visitor center. However, there was no fee to get into the park. The road system along the park is very limited. I assume they did want to clog things up with a pay station, so instead decided to charge for the visitor center. We were very impressed with the Visitor Center and highly recommend stopping here. There were many well done and educational displays and videos. If you have a National Park Pass you do not have to pay to get in. While at Mendenhall we walked the Photo Trail and the Nugget Falls Trail. Both were well worth it. Although I was up to doing another trail, Bob was beginning to tire. We returned our car to the Rent a Wreck location in Juneau on Mill Street. We used the drop box and walked back to the ship. It was a bit of a hike, but we have really been enjoying all the walking. After a long day, we had dinner in the MDR and called it a night as we had to wake up at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. Aug. 10 Icy Strait: Our room service breakfast arrived 5 minutes before our scheduled time of 6:00 a.m. - 6:30 a.m. We thought HAL did a very nice job with the room service breakfast. Everything arrived hot/warm and was tasty. To make sure we got on an early tender, we arrived at the Queen's Lounge at 6:30 a.m. We received our tender ticket at 7:00 a.m. and made the 7:15 a.m. Tender. There was no need to get there that early. However, I did not want to take my chances. We arrived in Icy Strait at 7:30 a.m. and met Floyd of F.I.S.H.E.S at his van parked just off the dock area. We were quickly on our way to Hoonah where his boat was docked. Honestly, I was not thinking this tour was going to be a highlight. I had read about so many people going on whale watches and looking at backs, tails and fins. This did not appeal to me particularly. Our one whale watch on the East Coast turned out to be a bust. However, Icy Strait was a port that didn't have a lot to do that Bob and I were interested in, so upon the recommendations of many CCers we booked with Floyd. This trip ended up being a real highlight for us. Not only did we see whales and their fins, backs and tails, but we also saw some bubblenet feeding which was so intriguing. Bob and I were thrilled with this excursion. I love to see and do things I have never seen and done before and this fit the bill perfectly!!! Floyd had a hydrophone on his boat. This underwater microphone would pick up the chatter of the whales when they were preparing to catch their fish. Otherwise it was very quiet. As the sounds increased, Floyd would be scouring the water. When he would notice the ring of bubbles he would call out and point. Sure enough, within seconds the whales would come up in unison to grab their catch. This was, oh, so fascinating!!!!! No matter what boat you were on this morning you got quite a show!!! This cruise we have been blessed with everything going so right!! Although we had did have a misty rain today, the bubblenet feeding more than made up for that. I soon lost count of how many times the whales came up to bubblenet feed. What I thought was going to be a boring tour, ended up being an exciting and memorable experience. After Floyd dropped us off his wife offered to drive us back to Icy Strait. We chose to stroll around Hoonah. There was a light drizzle, but we were dressed for the weather. Hoonah is an authentic Alaskan town, not one overrun by tourist shops. We found it interesting to walk around the docks. Later we found a small city park that had some porta johns. For the most part the homes in Hoonah do not have landscaping. It is obviously not easy to get rid of your trash here. Many of the yards had large items stacked up in them. Some were more creative with their no longer needed items. Someone took an old kitchen range and placed it on their front lawn. They turned the area that once had the burners on it into a flower bed. It was a creative way to recycle a product that no longer worked. Touring Hoonah makes you realize how differently people live in our own country. After checking out some of the neighborhoods and the local cemetery, we walked back to Icy Strait. The area where your tender docks in Icy Strait has a few shops, a museum and at least one restaurant. We met several people who were disappointed in the Icy Strait port. They just couldn't find anything to do that interested them. I suggest you book an excursion in this port. There was another trail we had wanted to take along the shore, but we were getting tired. We tendered back to the ship, had lunch at the Lido and actually took a nap today. This is rare for me, but I think the pace of the trip and our early wake-up this morning caused us to be a little tired. This evening we went to the illusionist show by J. Neal and Liane. It was quite good. After the show we went to the Crow's Nest where they were having another round of the onboard Karaoke contest. The top four singers were chosen to move on to the Amsterdam Superstar Competition later in the cruise. Another great day on shore and on the ship!! Aug. 11 At Sea: Todaywe slept in until 8:00 a.m. and woke up refreshed!!! After breakfast we took care of the disembarking paperwork. I am not sure what day we received the two sheets. One paper was HAL asking what our disembarking plans were. The other paper was the request for luggage direct. Although we had wanted to sign up for Luggage Direct the paper indicated we would have to disembark at 7:30-7:45 a.m. I checked two different times at the front desk and was told both times that this was correct. They said it had to do with customs. Since we had a later flight, we did not want to disembark that early and decided to deal with our own luggage which was just one piece per person plus our backpacks. We signed up for the latest disembarkation listed which was 9:00-9:15 a.m. Although I was told on CC that I would not be allowed to carry off my own bags at that time, I asked at the front desk and was told that indeed I could take off my own bags. I would like to comment on Luggage Direct. If you want to take advantage of this service and have a stopover flight, be aware that if you have a tight connection, the airlines will likely refuse your request. There were some upset people on our cruise regarding this. Another woman had a flight 10 minutes before the time mentioned on the form for Luggage Direct. She just could not understand why the airlines might refuse her request. The front desk staff politely informed her that they would process the form, but it was up to the airlines. She also was upset that they would not book her for a HAL transfer since she had the earlier flight. They explained the transfer buses do not leave for the airport until they are full. They recommended she take a taxi. This really upset her. Most of the people in these situations had a handicapped spouse and were looking to make life easier. I felt so bad they did not understand beforehand how it all worked. Today we actually did a little relaxing. We found a quiet spot on deck 5 by a window. Bob did crosswords and I wrote post cards and worked on my journal. After lunch in the Lido we went to the Queen's Lounge for a presentation by Jeanette, our onboard Travel Guide. Her lecture was titled: Extreme Elements: Alaska's Fire and Ice. She is an interesting presenter. I wish she offered more programs than she did. She did tell us we were having an unusually smooth sailing for this sea day. After Jeanette's presentation they were having a Variety Showcase in the Queen's Lounge. J. Neal (the ventriloquist) and Ronn Lucas (ventriloquist) put on another show. It was very entertaining. After dinner in the MDR we went to the Crow's Nest and listened to the HAL Cats and then went to the Queen's Lounge for the singing and dancing show. It was another high energy production. Aug. 12 Anchorage: We booked the PWS tour through the cruise ship. The drive on the Seward Highway was very scenic. The driver commented he would have to think back about two months to come up with a day as nice as today. He promised to take us to a viewpoint to see Mt. McKinley if the weather held up. Unfortunately it was cloudy upon our return to Anchorage. I did hear of others on our cruise who were able to see Mt. McKinley from deck 9 of the cruise ship. To get to Whittier you have to go through a 2+ mile tunnel. It is a one way tunnel with access to Whittier on the half hour and access back to Anchorage on the hour. I have to say I felt a bit uncomfortable in this tunnel. The driver prepared us for the weather to be cloudy on the other side of the tunnel. We had a pleasant surprise when the sky was even bluer in Whittier. Once again we realize how blessed we have been on this trip!!! After a short drive in Whittier we were at the docks of Prince William Sound Cruises. Within minutes the ship left the docks and we were on our way to another day of beautiful scenic cruising. You will see many smaller glaciers on this tour. The "star" glacier of this tour is "Surprise Glacier." It was a good sized glacier and it cooperated with a little bit of calving. Along the route we saw some stellar sea lions, many sea otters and lots of birds. When you combine the blue skies with the wildlife and glaciers, you could not help but have a fantastic day!!! We returned to the ship about 7:00 p.m. We had another lovely dinner in the MDR with a couple and their daughter from the LA area. At 10:30 we attended the Marriage Game Show in the Queen's Lounge, which was followed by the Filipino Crew Show. The Filipino Crew were so proud to share their dances and songs of their beloved country. We enjoyed the evening very much. Aug. 13 Homer: I had a hard time deciding what to do in Homer. I would read the reviews and find those who said Homer was their favorite port and then I would read those who were very disappointed and couldn't find anything to do. After going over all the options, we decided to take a hiking tour with Alaska Coastal Studies. We tend to enjoy nature and scenery more than cities and shopping, so this ended up being a great choice for us. Once off the ship we took the free shuttle to the Spit. There we found the Yurt where ACS was set up. It was a bit drizzly this morning, but nothing to ruin our day. We were soon on a water taxi headed across Kachemak Bay to the PetersonBay Field Station. Ryan and Joanna were our excellent guides. Ryan grew up in the Homer area so he knew a lot about the region. Joanna was a biology major who was very knowledgeable about both the sea life and the vegetation in this area. I would like to comment on the trail system. The ACS website states that the trail system was "developed." I would not agree. They simply cleared out a path among the vegetation. It makes for a very enjoyable hike in the wilderness. However, this trail is not for anyone with any kind of mobility issues. You are going up and down and walking over tree roots. You need to be pretty steady on your feet as some of the walking is on rocks. We saw many berries that were ready to eat, and quite a few different wildflowers. The fireweed was in full bloom. We did some tide pooling, saw a compound where some natives had made camp, walked out to a bog, and just simply enjoyed walking in the wilderness of AK..This was a very fascinating hike in a remote area which I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature. The water taxi got us back to Homer at 4:10 p.m. We shopped on the Spit until just before 5:00 p.m. looking for a t-shirt with a jellyfish on it for my grandson. That was his request and I was having a hard time finding one. No luck in Homer either!!! We took the shuttle back to the ship and headed straight for Mass in the Wajang Theatre. Tonight was the first time we were assigned to a table for eight in the dining room. It was just too difficult to try to converse with so many at the table. We much preferred tables for 4-6. I have to say we enjoyed meeting so many different people at our dinners in the MDR. On our last two cruises we were with family so we always ate at our own table. We found the people on HAL to be so well travelled and we learned of a few new places we might like to cruise to someday. This was the only day on the whole cruise that our service in the MDR was a bit slow. It was still acceptable, but just slower than usual. I had read so many complaints about service in the MDR being slow on the earlier reviews. Fine dining room service is not meant to be rushed. We liked having a leisurely meal after our long and exhausting days. Tonight Adam Kario was the advertised entertainment. It said it would be comedy and variety. Well, Adam is a juggler and he juggled. It was not a comedy/variety show. He was excellent and we enjoyed his performance very much. However, it was advertised incorrectly. I wonder if they get smaller crowds if they list an entertainer as a juggler? Another fabulous day in Alaska!!! Aug. 14 Kodiak: Today we got up at 6:00 a.m., had breakfast in the Lido and then headed to the gangplank to meet Dake of Memory Makers Tours for our 7:30 a.m. tour. We took this tour with three people from our roll call. It was great getting to spend some time with them and getting to know them better. Dake has lived in Alaska for about ten years and was very knowledgeable about the area and its history. I especially liked that he was a great speaker who was both interesting and easy to understand. (no noticeable ums or likes) We started the tour heading off to a stream to try to find bears. We had no luck. Next stop was the view from the hill with the wind turbines on top. Dake told us most visitors do not get to see the beautiful view as clouds/fog are usually in the way. Next stop was Fort Abercrombie. This was my favorite stop and I wished we could have spent more time here. Fort Abercrombie is a lovely state park with more great views, as well as artifacts from World War II. We walked the wildflower trail and then headed out looking for bears again. Still no luck. Dake gave us some suggestions for shopping and then dropped us off in the main shopping district of town where we shopped a bit and then visited the Alutiiq Museum and the Russian Orthodox Church. The museum was exceptionally well done explaining the history of the Alutiiq people. There were excellent displays and some interesting videos you could watch. We decided to walk back to the ship rather than take the shuttle and I was so glad!!! On the way back to the ship was a little store with a sign saying "Going out of business." It was here that I finally found the t-shirt with a jellyfish on it. With only one more Alaska port on the itinerary, we were finally successful. Many people did not realize Alaska has jellyfish, but indeed they do. We say them on our Pack Creek Tour out of Juneau and on our Alaska Coastal Studies tour out of Homer. After arriving at the ship at 2:15 p.m. we headed to the Lido for lunch and then went up to the Crow's Nest. We enjoyed a happy hour drink and for the one and only time played Trivia. Very surprisingly we won and received those well sought after Amsterdam pins. Bob was tired and wanted to nap. He slept until 8:15. It was formal night and 8:15 was too late to eat in the Lido. We went to the Canaletto to eat and enjoyed another lovely meal there. A couple from the UK/South Africa sat next to us and we had another enjoyable dinner. On our way to the evening show we ran into a couple we had met earlier on our cruise who are from Georgia. They were always so much fun to be around, that we ended up spending the rest of the evening with them. At 10:30 p.m. the Dessert Extravaganza began. The culinary staff did an outstanding job of preparing a beautiful presentation of desserts, crepes, ice cream, breads, chocolate sculptures and ice sculptures. Unfortunately, many people did not enjoy the desserts. Many were left over and we were very sad to see that they just tossed all that was leftover into the trash. Overall, the desserts on HAL were not as good as I remembered back in 2008. That is okay as I ate less which prevented me from coming home with a massive weight gain. Another couple we had met earlier joined our table and we stayed in the Lido until 12:15 sharing fun and laughter. What a great day!!! Aug. 15 Hubbard Glacier: Today we slept in and skipped breakfast. We tried to go to the Digital Camera lecture but it was packed with people out the doors. We headed for the Queen's Lounge instead for the Virtual Bridge Tour. We were a bit late, but what we were able to catch was very well done. We went up to the Crow's Nest and stayed until it was time for lunch. Bob needed to rest after lunch as the movement on the ship was significant and in spite of him wearing the patch, he was not feeling well. Bob slept while I took care of journaling and then did some reading. Around 2:30 p.m. we headed out on deck 3. When they opened the bow just before 3:00 p.m., we claimed our spot to view the trip into Hubbard Glacier. It was a cloudy day with on and off light rain. About 3:15 p.m. Hubbard Glacier came into view. We were told the distance was eight miles. Slowly we made our way up to this magnificent glacier. It is about 7 miles long, 300+ feet high and goes back about 75 miles. Hubbard is definitely the most impressive and massive glacier I have ever seen. That said, Bob and I both enjoyed our Glacier Day experience far more than our time in Hubbard Glacier. They are both great cruising experiences, but we prefer Glacier Bay. We are not sure how much weather played into our impressions. We saw Glacier Bay on a blue sky and sunshiny day. Hubbard was a gray and dreary day. Nonetheless, we were so happy we did not get iced out like many of the cruises earlier in the season. We also felt blessed that the glacier was in clear view with no fog. The ranger said we got as close as cruise ships get. He said the only thing that would make for a better experience would be if we could have seen the mountain tops. They were all enshrouded in clouds. However, I was really happy we got so close and the glacier was very crisp and clear. As far as calving, we did see some, but not as much or massive as I had expected. Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations. We stayed outside on the bow until the ship turned around. When it turned around we went to the aft of deck 3 to catch more views of Hubbard as we were leaving. We finally gave in and dressed for our dinner at the Pinnacle. It was part of our booking package from the online TA we had booked with. It turned out to be a lovely and delicious dinner. Bob said his filet was the best he had ever eaten. I had read so much on this board about the Chocolate Volcano dessert in the Pinnacle. I have to say this was a disappointment. I wonder if I was served one that was not quite what it was supposed to be. I was expecting it to have some kind of soft center representing lava. However, it was simply a very moist chocolate cake. I didn't think it was worth the calories. After dinner we took in the Jeff Nease Comedy show which we enjoyed. I think we are just easy to please. We loved it all!!! Aug. 16 Sitka: Sitka was the port that had been reported to be a nightmare to get off on the tenders. When I saw on the TV that the ship was arriving early, we headed to the Queen's Lounge. We got on a tender at 9:00 a.m., and arrived in Sitka at 9:30 a.m. Our 10:00 a.m. tour with Davey of Esther G Taxi had been rescheduled to 10:30 p.m. because of the difficulties the earlier cruisers had getting off the ship. No problem today. I used the extra time to visit the shops in the Visitor Center and a few other stores that were already open in town. Davey's tour had come so highly recommended to us, but I had thought of cancelling because I was beginning to realize we would get to see very little of Sitka itself. However, because of the raving reviews, I stuck with my plan and went out with Davey. As soon as we met up with him he said it was a rough day out there and we would not be able to go to the bird rookery on Lazaria Island. What disappointed me was that he still kept it a four hour tour rather than making it into the three hour tour which does not include Lazaria Island. Davey was a great tour guide and just a wonderful person. However the combination of a rainy day, seeing little wildlife and keeping the tour as a four hour tour without the ability to visit Lazaria Island just soured me a bit on my day. I still enjoyed some of my time out on the water. I spent as much time as I could out on the bow. Most of the time I was the only one who was outside. The others chose to stay in the cabin out of the elements. We did see one whale, some sea lions and sea otters, a few puffins and lots of birds. As we were finishing up our tour the sun began to shine and Sitka looked beautiful from the water. Even though I didn't get to visit much of the town, I have to say that it is the one town I would love to return to and explore. I could easily spend several days here. Once we got back to shore we did a quick tour of St. Michael's Orthodox Church which we found lovely. We learned the congregation does not sit for services which can go on for hours. We went into a few shops to look for a Matryoshka doll for my granddaughter and then caught a 4:15 p.m. tender back to the cruise ship. Dinner tonight was at the Lido. Unfortunately the ship was rocking again and Bob was not feeling well after dinner. He went to bed and I did some journaling and read. This day was just so-so from beginning to end. I guess they all can't be perfect. Aug. 17 At Sea: Today we skipped breakfast since we were going to the Mariner's Brunch at 11:00 a.m.. I suggest you not line up too early for this event. At least for today, those that were in line first, were seated in the middle section of the dining room that is not by the windows. Those of us who were further back in line, were able to get the tables by the windows. We ran into Laurie and family again and enjoyed the lovely brunch with them. We invited them to see our cabin after we were done eating and had a nice visit with them. At 2:00 p.m. we went to the Queen's Lounge to see Jeff Trachta. We had heard he had a great show the evening before. However, this afternoon was not another comedy show, but rather a look into his life. He described his struggle with depression and encouraged others to not give up if they suffer from this ailment. After Jeff's show was the Amsterdam Superstar Competition. The four finalists from the karaoke contests each performed two songs. Everyone did great. A passenger named Ray, who sang Frank Sinatra songs, was the overall winner. He really had an outstanding voice!! On another cruise I am sure any of the others would have had a chance at winning. We just had a very talented group. After dinner tonight we went to the Las Vega Nights show by the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers. Once again it was a high energy program that we enjoyed very much. Aug. 18 Victoria: There has been sadness in the air lately. The passengers are expressing angst about the cruise coming to an end. It has been so easy to get used to having your meals prepared, your room cleaned, and your laundry done. All this on top of traveling in a very beautiful part of the world with those never ending majestic mountain ranges. Do we really have to get off the cruise ship tomorrow? Today was the only day we had trouble disembarking. We were supposed to meet our ship's tour at 12:20 on the dock. We got in line about 12:15 p.m. and didn't get off the ship until 1:00 p.m. There were quite a few grumbling passengers. Lesson to be learned: On days with later disembarking time, you will find that everyone is up and ready to go at the same time. Once we got off, we quickly found our tour bus. In a few minutes we were on our way to the Butterfly Gardens where we were given 45 minutes to tour. It was a lovely butterfly garden and I wished we had a little more time here. After the Butterfly Gardens we drove to Butchart Gardens which was just a few minutes away. We were given two hours here, but that was not enough either. Bob and I felt we needed a good three hours to do justice to the gardens. We had any excellent bus driver/tour guide. He provided a wealth of interesting information on both the trips out and back. Unfortunately he would not drop us off downtown, saying it was against policy. We found out later that other drivers did allow their passengers off downtown if they wanted. We took the CV shuttle back downtown and visited Miniature World. This was a fascinating museum which we enjoyed very much. We walked around downtown Victoria searching for gifts for the dog sitter and the flower sitter. With our gifts in tow, we headed back to the ship on the shuttle. Our evening tonight included our last dinner in the MDR, filling out the HAL cruise survey, packing, filling out those last post cards and journaling. It was sad to know this was our last day. What a great cruise it has been!!! Aug. 19 Seattle and heading home: First thing this morning I called Seattle Express as I had been instructed to do on my confirmation from them. Soon after I received a call from our airlines that our flight had been delayed an hour and a half. Now we had even more time before our flight...no stressing for us!!!! After giving our final good byes and hugs to our cabin stewards, we had a great last breakfast in the Lido. The Lido stayed open for a full breakfast later than they had posted. After breakfast we went back to the cabin and waited for our luggage tag color to be called. The gangway was on deck 3 which is the deck our cabin was located. This was nice so we didn't have to be concerned about using the elevators. We chose to roll our own luggage off the ship. We only had one suitcase each and our backpacks. Most people getting off were pulling a rollaway bag. We quickly found the Seattle Express Shuttle. They were in row R which is a bit far back, but not a big deal. We were soon on our way to the airport and we were the first passengers to be dropped off. I highly recommend Seattle Express. The online reservation was handled promptly. Payment is made the day of service and the staff and service were excellent. I learned about this service from some fellow cruisers who had used them last year and we were not disappointed. The Seattle airport is a large airport. For someone not used to traveling it could be overwhelming. We found the selection of shops and restaurants to be excellent, although we never found a comprehensive list of all restaurants. We would just find lists for each gate letter area. So, we did a lot of walking to find out what all the offerings were. We had lunch about 1:30 p.m. and then took the tram to our gate. Our flight left on time and we ended up being only an hour late instead of an hour and half. This vacation was everything I had hoped for and more!!! From the weather, to the scenery, to the outstanding cruise experience, we were just so pleased!!! As much as I would love to go back again soon, I think we will be looking to visit some of the places we have not yet been. Alaska is beautiful but there are many other beautiful places on this earth too and we would like to see some of those. If it works out, I would like to bring our children and grandchildren to Alaska someday, but that will not likely be for a few years when they are older and can truly appreciate the experience. Till next time.............. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I found flying to Seattle the morning of our cruise VERY stressful and I recommend, if at all possible, that you arrive at least a day before your cruise if travel is involved... I was so worried about delays and cancellations, I even had ... Read More
I found flying to Seattle the morning of our cruise VERY stressful and I recommend, if at all possible, that you arrive at least a day before your cruise if travel is involved... I was so worried about delays and cancellations, I even had my cc buddies offering to send a life raft if the boat left without us! Fortunately, things went off wonderfully, and no life raft was needed. We booked our tickets independently and I was pleased to find HAL reps at the airport, welcoming cruisers and offering to transport us and our luggage by bus to the ship for a reasonable fee. Suite 7018 was ready when we arrived and our luggage arrived soon after. Sail away from Seattle was lovely. We explored the ship some, made new friends at trivia, received main seating dinner assignments (a note here: the four of us were at a table for six, and never received tablemates) and enjoyed the opening day welcomes, etc. The Neptune lounge is a suite oasis of comforts, concierge assist, snacks, & chatter. Sienna was always cheerfully able to assist with excursions, dining reservations, RSVP's and nearly anything else that might come up. Television allowed occasional reality checks with outside world, as well is calm lounging area for getting to know other passengers. However, I wish it had windows, and perhaps even more extended hours (7AM-8PM). Nevertheless, it is a perk, combined with the veranda, added cabin space, & comforts making a suite worthy of its additional expense. Please note however, you cannot bring non-suite guests to lounge, including kids sharing non suite cabins &/or other family members. Day 1- At sea, we had our Cruise Critic gathering. HAL sent reps and prepared a "gathering area" in Crow's Nest for a "private party" organized by one of our members from "roll call." If you have booked a cruise and have not signed up for your cc role call... what are you waiting for? We shared ideas, excitement, and bonded, making the gathering all that much more fun! After months of chatter, you are finally able to put a face to your travel buddies. This was also our first formal night, "The Captain's Gala Dinner". I loved seeing everybody jazzed up and we even took our first family portrait in many years! Those who hate dressing up had room service (or possibly the Lido?) as an option. Day 2: Our first port was Ketchikan. After wandering about town... we were off with the crew as "guests" on the Aleutian Ballad from Season 2 of "The Deadliest Catch". We listened to their Bering Sea tales and observed demos of prepping and using the crab cages and pots. Later they pulled up different cages and pots to show off their pre filled catches to teach us about them and to let us touch, & sometimes hold them. I loved this excursion and it actually left me with one of my favorite memories of the trip. They passed around a big crab for folks to hold and take photos with. After handing the crab off to my daughter, the handler was distracted and wandered off leaving, my daughter holding the crab! After a few minutes she was still standing there holding it while the rest of us laughed our heads off! Day 3- We cruised Tracy Arm. Beautiful. Many were disappointed we were not as close to the glaciers as we hoped, but sea & weather conditions left us without that option, and I was satisfied the captain's crew brought us as deep as they could. We dined this evening at The Pinnacle Grill. There is a $25pp surcharge, but it is worth it! We ate there twice, both times fantastic! Day 4- Juneau... we did not waste a moment! We wandered about some & then hopped aboard the Mt. Roberts tram for a quick lunch and views. We had booked a helicopter/airboat tour of Taku Glacier with Coastal Helicopters. Unfortunately, the boat pilot was unavailable due to weather troubles, and we were greeted dockside by their apologetic rep offering alternatives. My husband had his heart set on photographing Taku Glacier, and after some discussion, an itinerary was created to allow flying over, about, & landing on TAKU for a walk about. (It is one of the few glaciers still advancing.) If you have ever wondered what it feels like to stand on top of the world... stand on a glacier! Afterwards, we whale watched with Captain Larry from Orca Tours. This was our fourth outing with Captain Larry and as always, he knows how to "follow the pod". Day 5- Icy Straight Point: an old salmon cannery in Homer recreated as a cross between museum & shopping. Unfortunately it was a dreary day, so it was not long before we took the tender back to the ship. Tendering can be difficult for some & although the crew is always ready to assist, some stayed on board on tender days. For dinner we dined at Canaletto Restaurant, a small Italian venue off to the side of the Lido. I found it to be pleasant, & at no additional charge makes for a nice dinner alternative. (Be sure to toss the cotton candy into your after dinner coffee!) Day 6: At sea. There is no shortage of activities shipboard. Mass was offered daily. There were "Explorations" of "the world", "food & entertaining", "technology", & " well being"... and while I had fun in many options... for our gang- The SEA-P-R's- it was all about the trivia. They had 4 variations most days! We made friends at trivia we had fun with all cruise! The guest entertainment on the Amsterdam is fantastic & we always looked forward to a late dinner & show! Alas, the cast, while very talented, needs newer shows & several were repeats from cruises I journeyed on years earlier. This was also another formal night. Day 7: Anchorage: We rented a van and explored on our own. We drove out to the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood for the aerial tram allowing magnificent views & lunch. We drove about some more & ended up at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. A place to get close up to rescued native animals, it is a photographer's dream & many of the animal images you see in the Alaska brochures were taken here. Day 8: Homer: This is a port you either loved or hated for its small size and slightly eccentric character. We loved it! After walking past a frenzy of seagulls, we bought tickets to a jump on/jump off bus allowing 4 stops... My daughter and I chose to get off at the fourth stop and spend our time the beach, watching the hula hoops spin while the dogs chased Frisbees, while sipping lemonade sold by kids, and enjoying a snack at the most excellent Two Sisters' Bakery. My husband took a flight-seeing trip he enjoyed very much. Alas, rough seas lay ahead and The Master Chef's dinner was for many of us not meant to be... but rest of my family enjoyed the chefs parade, music & fun. Day 9: Kodiak: Some hated this sleepy town with its indifference to tourism. I LOVED IT! We wandered about & simply breathed in Alaskan life. It is a long walk to town from the dock & many chose tours and/or taxis. We took a one hour tour with a driver we found dock side, in which we managed to explore nearly all of Homer, including it's coastal studies center with a touch tank, while listening to our driver's stories of life in such an unconventional town. We explored a bit more on foot and walked back to the ship. Day 10 was a sea day with a very "rocky" start, which we spent experiencing the beauty of Hubbard Glacier. Although it was a rainy, nasty day, the skies opened to welcome us and the seas were calm while we floated by in awe. There was much calving & we were surrounded by satisfied explorers on the top deck! Day 11: Sitka: we have visited Sitka many times and love it here. A rainy day left many deciding to stay on board. It is a pedestrian-friendly port with historic sights, tourist shopping, local crafts & strolling along the piers. Day 12: Our final day at Sea... and reality of our vacation nearing its end permeates through all of us. There was plenty to do on board, or one could simply enjoy the sights and chat with new friends. The fourth & final formal night is also a black & white ball. The Crow's nest is decorated prom-like for this fancy party encouraging passenger/ crew interaction. Although on this particular voyage the population was older making many social gatherings a bit harder for the baby boomers & younger... it eventually got going & I think fun was had by all who chose to have fun. Day 13: Victoria ended up our family favorite. Partially because of the day's glorious weather... but mostly because of timing. We disembarked as a man showed up in his classic Ford 1954 Sunliner & set out on an open air touring adventure. We visited Victoria 's beautiful views, such as the castle, neighborhoods, and parks. As we passed deer grazing in folks' gardens and peacocks wandering parkside, we waved to locals admiring our ride. Day 14, or is it 15... Disembarkation in Seatle was simple and well organized. I had stressed over return home flight times, and after advice never to book before noon, we stayed on in Seattle overnight. While some were still waiting for their group to be called, as suite passengers, we could disembark whenever we were ready, so we did, and we were assisted by eager luggage valets, grabbed a taxi dockside and headed off to our hotel. If you are in a suite I do not think even an 11AM flight would be a problem... but of course, things happen. Day 15: I CANNOT BELIEVE SEATTLE HAS A HEMP FESTIVAL! Our hotel was shoreside, with the Beatles suite next door, (that famous room where they fished out the hotel window) and the massive hempfest down a block or two. We explored the sights, including the space needle and the EMP & Sci-Fi Museum. We left early next morning for a surprisingly non-eventful or delayed airport & flight. DAY 16: .... Are there really signs of life beyond the mounds of laundry??? OK... if you have survived this lengthy review and have further questions, feel free to ask away... Until next time... Happy sails to you Robyn Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, honestly, but this wasn't such a bad thing. The people I met on board were legitimately awesome. They were very kind, and had fascinating stories to tell. The downside of this was that I generally did feel like I didn't quite belong. The young kids all flock together in Club HAL, and the teenagers go to the Loft. I look younger than I am (everyone from the juggler/comedian to our room steward assumed I was about twelve), and when I met people I thought were my age, they were almost always Loft-aged. No offense to the high schoolers though, the people I met were neat. I spent the great majority of time either alone or with my family. Honestly, this was a family vacation, and I preferred actually being with my family to totally branching out and never seeing them, so I guess this was pretty ideal. The Neptune Lounge was pretty cool, and was the location of most of the in depth conversations I had with older strangers. I also spent a lot of the time in the Crow's Nest with my family and the friends we made, because we are hideously addicted to trivia games. Trivia games can actually fill a lot of time, just so you know, and we learned a lot of random fluff. Also, what wouldn't a sane person do for Holland America pins? The Amsterdam's cast and crew could probably benefit from some new shows? I went to most of their performances, and I don't regret it, but I spent a lot of the show feeling bad for the cast for having to wear so many sequins. The talent that HAL brought on was amazing. Ronn Lucas is this big time ventriloquist who I would actually go out of my way to see performing in the real world. We also got to see a performer called Jeff Trachta, who was amazingly talented. It's really neat to be on the ship, just wandering around, and run into people like juggler and talk to them. I liked that experience. As a practicing Catholic, I was grateful that HAL provides a priest onboard their ships. It made life a lot easier, and it made the trip much more meaningful. Alaska's beauty comes from God. It's somewhat nice to remember that while we're actually there. I loved seeing the Orthodox churches in Kodiak and Sitka. They were amazing, and I had some really enjoyable and informational conversations with the people who worked in the church in Sitka, and with the gift shop lady in Kodiak. The morning we spent in Kodiak was probably my favorite. I loved the little wildlife center/museum thing. Since we've been to Alaska many times, we skipped most of the nature-lectures, and this was about as informational about nature as anything got for me. The Baranhov Museum has some work going on around it, but if you follow the signs it is still accessible. It was a small, charming, and informative museum. It's this really old house that's been around for ages, and you can see the original wallpaper and woodwork in some parts. It deals with natural life in the area, as well as with the early Russian influence. Homer is covered in fireweed, and the beach was pretty charming. I didn't see much of the area, but it was probably really worth seeing. I liked our family outing in Anchorage the best (probably more detailed in my mom's post), because in renting a car and just driving out of town, it kind of felt like we were runaways, or at home and taking a daytrip. It didn't really fit in with the cruise, and it made you feel more like a normal person, or a legitimate explorer. There it is then, that's my briefish but honest review of the Amsterdam. Good times were had by mostly all, I met about 5 other people around my brother's and my age group (all within the last 3 days or so, of course), and whales are still awesome. Ciao, internet people. Deandra Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, ... Read More
Hello, Cruise Critic Citizens, this is Deandra. I'm Robyn's twenty-year-old daughter, and I'm offering my ever-so-youthful perspective on the cruise. I had a great time. The average age of this cruise was pretty old, honestly, but this wasn't such a bad thing. The people I met on board were legitimately awesome. They were very kind, and had fascinating stories to tell. The downside of this was that I generally did feel like I didn't quite belong. The young kids all flock together in Club HAL, and the teenagers go to the Loft. I look younger than I am (everyone from the juggler/comedian to our room steward assumed I was about twelve), and when I met people I thought were my age, they were almost always Loft-aged. No offense to the high schoolers though, the people I met were neat. But I am a college Junior... too old for Club Hal and too young to party with the "old folks". I spent the great majority of time either alone or with my family. Honestly, this was a family vacation, and I preferred actually being with my family to totally branching out and never seeing them, so I guess this was pretty ideal. But, If my goal was hanging out with other young adults... it really was not available :( The Neptune Lounge was pretty cool, and was the location of most of the in depth conversations I had with older strangers. I also spent a lot of the time in the Crow's Nest with my family and the friends we made, because we are hideously addicted to trivia games. Trivia games can actually fill a lot of time, just so you know, and we learned a lot of random fluff. Also, what wouldn't a sane person do for Holland America pins? Games are ageless, so I was a part of things. The Amsterdam's cast and crew could probably benefit from some new shows? I went to most of their performances, and I don't regret it, but I spent a lot of the show feeling bad for the cast for having to wear so many sequins. The talent that HAL brought on was amazing. Ronn Lucas is this big time ventriloquist who I would actually go out of my way to see performing in the real world. We also got to see a performer called Jeff Trachta, who was amazingly talented. It's really neat to be on the ship, just wandering around, and run into people like juggler and talk to them. I liked that experience. As a practicing Catholic, I was grateful that HAL provides a priest onboard their ships. It made life a lot easier, and it made the trip much more meaningful. Alaska's beauty comes from God. It's somewhat nice to remember that while we're actually there. I loved seeing the Orthodox churches in Kodiak and Sitka. They were amazing, and I had some really enjoyable and informational conversations with the people who worked in the church in Sitka, and with the gift shop lady in Kodiak. The morning we spent in Kodiak was probably my favorite. I loved the little wildlife center/museum thing. Since we've been to Alaska many times, we skipped most of the nature-lectures, and this was about as informational about nature as anything got for me. The Baranhov Museum has some work going on around it, but if you follow the signs it is still accessible. It was a small, charming, and informative museum. It's this really old house that's been around for ages, and you can see the original wallpaper and woodwork in some parts. It deals with natural life in the area, as well as with the early Russian influence. Homer is covered in fireweed, and the beach was pretty charming. I didn't see much of the area, but it was probably really worth seeing, I suppose... I liked our family outing in Anchorage the best (probably more detailed in my mom's post), because in renting a car and just driving out of town, it kind of felt like we were runaways, or at home and taking a daytrip. It didn't really fit in with the cruise, and it made you feel more like a normal person, or a legitimate explorer. There it is then, that's my briefish but honest review of the Amsterdam in Alaska. Good times were had by mostly all, I met about 5 other people around my brother's and my age group (all within the last 3 days or so, of course), and whales are still awesome. My brother was pretty frustrated and says he never wants to go on another HAL cruise... but I am sure he will. We both just wish HAL had stuff especially for people our age... Ciao, internet people. Deandra Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We had a wonderful time on our cruise and believe much of our great attitude about everything was thanks to Cruise Critic. We discovered that a great way to really appreciate all aspects of the trip was to take the time before hand to set ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on our cruise and believe much of our great attitude about everything was thanks to Cruise Critic. We discovered that a great way to really appreciate all aspects of the trip was to take the time before hand to set our expectations in-line with reality. Our expectations were met (and even exceeded sometimes) during our cruise thanks to the fact that we knew exactly what kind of service, food, excursions, ambiance and fellow passengers we were buying in to. Thank you to everyone who participates on this message board. My husband and I are in our late 40's and were celebrating our tenth anniversary. This was sort of our first cruise, proper. My husband's only other ship board experience was a six-day crossing aboard the QE2 for our honeymoon. Our captain aboard that vessel made it quite clear that it was a "crossing" not a "cruise." I had been on a couple of short Carnival Cruises years ago, but that was for work (sales conferences) so it wasn't the same thing. We recommend the 14-day cruise. It was worth the extra dough to really get immersed in the experience. Plus weather becomes less of a factor since a few days of rain isn't that big of a deal when you're travelling for two weeks. We booked pretty early with a guarantee and got upgraded at the last minute. After talking to fellow passengers I understand there is pretty much no rhyme or reason to how upgrades happen. I think we just got lucky. (Not that there was any huge difference the class of cabin we were upgraded to - mostly location.) We had stateroom 2586. It was more generous than we expected, especially when it came to storage. We brought EVERYTHING and weren't even close to filling all the storage space. Actually we didn't even find all the storage space until the second half of the trip. (There are drawers under the bed - who knew?) Loved the CC advice about bringing a digital clock, power strip and extension cord and the over-the-door clear plastic shoe holder was such a great organizer for all our junk that would have otherwise been all over the dresser top. (Loved that trick so much I'm going to use it at home.) Our cabin location was pretty good - nearly mid-ship. The only noise we ever heard was some deck chairs scraping on the promenade, but it wasn't very loud nor a regular occurrence. 2586 offers a great view of the tenders being lowered. Number 10 goes right past the window. It was fun to watch that procedure. We stored our binoculars and a few other things in the window. We discovered that that made it possible to identify our window from the outside of the ship which was kind of fun. Our cabin was very close to the laundry room, but it was out-of-order. We hadn't picked our room, so we didn't really care, but someone who had chosen specifically to be near the washing machines might have been disappointed. Our solution was to just skip doing laundry...hope no one noticed. ? Our room had a tub and shower. We saw the "shower only" configuration in other rooms and decided those were probably superior. I only used the tub once and it is too small to really luxuriate. Just go to the hot tub if you need a soak. Food We had the fixed late seating at a table for two (Table 26). We had chosen it because of our experience on the QE2 where we really liked getting to know our servers. Our table was near the windows which we appreciated. A word about a table for two: it is great! If you want to be social there are plenty of other opportunities to do so. We loved getting to know people, but also loved the fact that each night at dinner it was just about the two of us. Also, if you do want to have dinner with new friends, you can always skip your table for two and eat downstairs, at the Canaletto, the Lido or Pinnacle together. The dining room food was solid, consistent and beautifully presented. We appreciated the reasonable portions. I thought they did a particularly good job at the soups. There were several cold soups offered, which added nice variety. Real stand outs were the veal chop and the nut encrusted salmon. At the Pinnacle the steaks were outstanding and at Le Cirque the lamb chops were the best of my life. We had a great staff that worked our table. The first day was stopped by the dining room at breakfast, but realized they don't seat you at your regular table with your regular server for breakfast (on the QE2 you get your regular spot, so we just assumed.) No big deal, we discovered it was fun to "do" the buffet and ended up never getting to the dining room breakfast. By in large the Lido food was really good, especially for a buffet. I could hardly pass up the poached eggs, fresh squeezed OJ and smoked salmon every morning. For serving on such a massive scale we were surprise at how good the coffee was. Nothing gourmet, but we thought it would be more like gas station coffee when they're making it for 1400. We took advantage of the in-room coffee service in the mornings before breakfast. You request it to arrive in a 30 minute window. Almost always they came at the top of the window. Sitting on the bed in our cozy robes looking out the window, sipping coffee that was delivered to our room...perfect. Actually our first morning we spotted whales outside our window as well. Talk about being on vacation. A few times we ordered the Triple Decker Sandwich off of the 24-hour menu and the green apple off of the "sea sick" menu to arrive with our coffee in the morning. We packed them all up in our zip locks (thanks again CC) and took them ashore for our picnic lunch. The sandwich traveled surprisingly well and it comes with chips. It was certainly enough to tide us over until we got back on the ship in the late afternoon. Since we'd already paid for the food on the ship, we tried hard not to spend much on food ashore unless it was something really spectacular. Social/Drinking/Activities Note to new cruisers: The ship sails so smoothly that we missed our sail-away out of Seattle. We were well on our way before we realized the ship was moving. Watch the clock if want to see it. Everyone was so friendly on the Amsterdam. I guess everybody already has something in common - they chose to be on this cruise - so that is enough of an ice-breaker to strike up conversations with strangers. We got to know people in the elevators, on the tender trips, at afternoon tea, in the hot tub and even over a puzzle in the library. Another great meet-up was the Cruise Critic Meet n' Greet. That was a fun way to make some connections early on. We LOVED going to the trivia games. Since it is team trivia we got to meet a lot of fellow passengers early on as no one had set teams yet. This is how we ended up really making friends, too. If we'd bumped into someone twice and gotten chatty we'd invite them to play trivia with us. With trivia everyone has something to offer. The questions were broad so everyone had a time to shine. Regular teams got a little more established as the cruise went on and that made it extra fun as rivalries developed. The prizes are pretty silly, but that's never the point for us (although we did appreciate the nights when the prize was a free round of drinks.) In trivia, as with all the activities we went to, the staff was very respectful of our time and generally nothing lasts much more than 30 minutes. Happy hour generally coincided with trivia which was an added bonus. We found all of the cocktails to be solid and well made. Not overly expensive - especially at happy hour. In the evenings it's always happy hour somewhere. Just go to that bar, get the happy hour price and then take your drink to another part of the ship if you want. Entertainment We went to most of the musical revue shows. Like expected, they were pretty corny, but certainly well executed. The dancers were very talented and performed well. I don't blame them for the high cheese-factor. The special guests were ok, but continued with the "cheese" theme. HAL could consider upping the ante a little. Everyone I met onboard was smart, interesting and well-traveled. I think HAL should ask more of their audience and offer some slightly more cerebral entertainment. Maybe some improv, sketch comedy, a one-act play or murder mystery show could spice things up a bit. Those kids are talented and I'm sure they can do more than dance. Or maybe HAL knows that in Alaska everyone is so pooped by show time, they don't need to put a lot of emphasis on engaging entertainment. Lord knows there were a few nights that I could barely keep my head up after dinner. The only other entertainment we went to regularly was Diane Fast in the piano lounge. She was great fun and knows every song ever and will play it just for the asking. We really enjoyed her and she was a work horse. Played every night and never took a break that we know of. Bravo Diane. Excursions We knew before we left that at a couple of stops we'd be tendered to the shore. What we didn't think about was that many people might want to be on the first tender to get to shore in time for their excursions. If you book a private excursion, you have no priority for getting on. It all worked out fine for us, but it was something we hadn't considered. Plan ahead and get to the tender-ticket area early. Seattle We arrived a day early and rented a car so we could tour the Boeing factory near Everett. It was awesome. So glad we did it. If you're a tech, manufacturing or aviation geek, don't miss it. Ketchikan Being our first stop we wanted to find some "real" Alaska, so we wondered up into the neighborhoods and took a back thoroughfare all the way behind the town and ended up at the Deer Mountain trail. The trail is spectacular and beautifully maintained. If you want to have the energy to get to the top, you may want to take a cab to the trail head, it's a bit of a walk to just the start. It poured rain and we were glad we had invested in some decent rain jackets. For rain pants we just sprayed a couple pair of wind pants with several coats of Kamp Dry before we left. They were quite antiquate and way more affordable than real rain pants. Juneau We took the public bus out to Mendenhal Glacier. It's a bit of a hoof from the bus stop, but it's a nice trail. We really enjoyed the local color on the bus. Got to meet an interesting gent who work for a while in our hometown and also got to hear the Juneau teenagers complain to each other about the fact that there's nothing to do in town. (City life is city life, I guess.) We saw a tour group of bicycles on the way up. It would have been a great ride (nice, paved trail, easy slopes) if it hadn't been pouring rain again. I'd go for bikes if it's nice weather when you're in Juneau. The trails around the glacier are interesting and well-marked. When we got back into town we saw a sign at the Alaskan Brewery store that they had brewery tours. We signed up. When we came back to get on the van we found out it was $12! We've taken many brewery tours in the past and they've all been free, so we just assumed. We opted out. Found out later that you can take a public bus or even walk to the brewery and get the tour for free. Tracy Arm We found a good viewing point on the upper bow. I don't know what the area is called officially, but it is a balcony just below the bridge and above the bow. You can access it from deck 6, forward. It has a nice wind break, so only your upper half is exposed. It was cold and wet, so the crowds were light. But outside was really the only place to truly experience the scenery because the rain was obscuring the view from most windows inside. Just bundle up and get out there. Hoona/ISP We loved our "guy." Floyd with FISHES whale watching was awesome. Such a dear. We felt like we were visiting an uncle. He has a great little six-seater boat that he designed himself (the hot chocolate and cookies didn't hurt either.) And boy did he find us some whales. We eventually discovered three humpbacks bubble feeding and lingered there for a long time. It was so up-close and personal. We were the only boat there. It was like a private show. One of my favorite parts of the day was when we got back to the dock Floyd's wife, Margie, was standing there and she passed him is lunch bag through the window. Something so sweet about that. She offered us a ride back to the cruise dock, but we opted for a walk. So glad we did. On the way back we met the local bald eagle couple that lives in the village and stopped at the Office Bar for lunch. You HAVE to go to the Office Bar. One of the most memorable meals of the trip. They don't really have a kitchen (they are truly a bar) but on cruise ship days they fire up a few pots outside and boil the freshest crab you've ever had. There were even a couple of local fisherman still wet from the days catch pumping quarters in the juke box - a real joint. Anchorage Finally some real sunshine! We rented bikes at Convenience K store in the Captain Cook hotel (as recommended by a local.) They were very affordable. We rode 28 miles and nearly all of it was on paved off-street bike path. It was a great way to really get an over view of the city. We took the coastal trail south and hooked up with the creek trail that runs northeast out toward the university and hooked up with another creek trail that goes right back downtown. We finished the day with a beer at Glacier Brewery (nice variety, good craft beer.) The dock at Anchorage is secure and we noticed the guards were packing heat. We wondered how far we'd have to wonder away from the boat before they'd draw their weapons. We didn't test them. Homer We had no plans here, but ran into some shipboard friends at breakfast and decided to explore together. We found out the bus in to town was $15, but renting bikes was also $15. We opted for the bikes. The bus to the spit was free then we walked a bit to the very end. A hotel there called Lands' End rents nice touring bikes. They were well maintained and a breeze to ride. We took a leisurely ride into Homer. Stopped to watch a bald eagle for a while and then stumbled onto the Farmers Market, tooled around there for a while. Once we got in to old town we met fifth grader, Mackenzie, who I am sure is a future mayor of Homer. She ran a kick-butt lemonade stand and chatted it up with us for several minutes. After returning the bikes in the afternoon we watched some folks filet halibut for a while and then had a drink at the Salty Dog. Great day. Kodiak Once again we had no plan here. We wondered into town which was pretty sleepy on a Sunday morning. Chatted for a bit with a local family off for a Sunday boat ride. After some meandering we found ourselves at the visitor center. We bumped into another couple that was looking for a cab to Abercrombie State Park. We decided to go too and share the cab. It was about $20 split among several people. Abercrombie was beautiful. Great hiking, specular vistas and an interesting WWII museum housed in the old munitions bunker. Meeting the young guy who runs the museum is worth the $5 to get in. He's quite passionate about his hobby. He has recreated a WWII office and you can call from one rotary-dial phone to another in the building. We played with that for a while. My husband commented that it could easily be the last rotary-dial call he ever makes. It was fun. Hubbard Glacier We took up residency in our same spot on the upper bow. They weather was exceptional, so the throngs were out. The bow got pretty crowded, but our upper area never got more than a couple of people deep. I imagine viewing on the inside was better than at Tracy Arm for the lack of rain, but I never went inside to look - couldn't take my eyes off the glacier. It was majestic. Sitka We booked a kayak trip with Sitka Sound Outdoor Adventures. What a boon. They really personalize the trip and made us at least feel like we were in charge of the day. Our guide Dana was a perfect match for us and was full of information about local lore as well as flora and fauna. The eagles and whale put on quite a show for us that day and we even saw a seal. We booked with SSOA because they offer a one-way trip (downwind) on the kayak and then they pick you up a little skiff to get you back to town. It was the perfect way to go. None of the boredom of an out-and-back trip. We stopped on a secluded beach and had a gourmet cold lunch. There were whales nearby so when the skiff picked us up he offered to run us by the whales. It was a serendipitous close encounter. The whale came right toward us. We absolutely loved our trip and our guide. We had a bit of time after so we popped in to the fairly new Kodiak Island Brewing Company located in an industrial park outside of town. They were super friendly and came to pick us up at the dock. It's just a tiny tasting room, but they have the enthusiasm of a big brewery. I recommend seeking them out. Victoria After wondering around the inner harbor a bit, we rented a two-person motor scooter. The folks at Vintage Rent-a-Car (right behind the visitor's center and public restrooms) are super laid-back and their prices were so affordable. It only costs us $54 for two hours (which turned out to be the perfect amount of time.) We could rent the slightly beefier shooter since my husband has a motorcycle endorsement on his license. It was nice to have that extra power on the hills. We drove the coast for most of the two hours and then cut back through town on the return. It was a great way to see Victoria. I would actually consider it for a nice over-view of any city I'm visiting. Seattle We planned a few days in Seattle after our cruise. They highlights were dinner at Alki Crab & Fish across the bay. (Take the Pier 50 water taxi and the "chippy" is right there on the dock.) We went in the evening and the light on the city was picture perfect. We sat at their outside bar and raised a glass as we watched the Amsterdam set off on its next 14-day adventure. A little bittersweet. But the food at Alki soon had us forgetting being abandoned by our ship. You must have the Steamer Bowl. Holy cow, I'm still thinking about it. We also went to a movie that the Cinerama. It's the only movie theatre still able to show three-reel Cinerama movies. It's been refurbished and is a glorious tribute to mid-modern architecture and movie-going life. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We are an Australian couple in our early 60's and fans of Southern Gospel music, so when we saw that this years Gaither Homecoming Cruise was once again to Alaska, we quickly signed up for the 7 day Seattle to Seattle cruise on the Ms ... Read More
We are an Australian couple in our early 60's and fans of Southern Gospel music, so when we saw that this years Gaither Homecoming Cruise was once again to Alaska, we quickly signed up for the 7 day Seattle to Seattle cruise on the Ms Amsterdam. Our home town of Tamworth NSW is a long, long way from Seattle so after a 6 hour train trip to Sydney, over-night at our daughter's and a 14 hour flight to Vancouver that was extended to 17 hours due to having to turn back to Sydney because of a faulty oven switch and then a 40 minute connecting flight to Seattle, we finally arrived the day prior to sailing. We had a very comfortable overnight stay at the Warwick in downtown Seattle and was able to ride the monorail and ascend the Space Needle before heading to Pier 91. Embarkation was busy, but orderly and after arriving dockside at 12:30, we were eating in the Lido(chaotic) by 1:30. Our cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck was ready on boarding and our luggage arrived between lunch and Emergency drill. Sail away was in beautiful fine weather, but this was to change to fog and overcast rainy conditions for the next day at sea. Due to the limited seating arrangements in the "Queen's Lounge", the ship's passenger compliment was divided into the "Blue Group" and the "Red Group". This is all pre-arranged around your dining preference. We had nominated the 8:00pm sitting, so we were in the "Blue Group". Others didn't get their preference as the numbers had to balance. The first "Blue Group" concert was almost straight after deck drill and what a concert it was. Additional artists to those advertised,like The Hoppers, were on board, so we were doubly blessed. The singing was magnificent, throughout the cruise, with heaps of comedy and laughter. On the mornings of the "at sea" days we enjoyed additional mini concerts featuring 5 or 6 of the artist and special events like Reggie & Lady Love Smith,s cabaret and the "Key note speaker" Andy Andrews, were also interspersed during the cruise. Each colour group was further subdivided into "priority" groups who enjoyed front row seats for two of the many concerts. There was a bookstore open at various times that enabled us to meet and mingle with the artist as we bought their CD's and DVD's. A special "Meet the Gaither Vocal Band" was held for both the Reds and the Blues where autographs and photos could be obtained. I took this opportunity to get some "Station ID's" for our local Christian radio station, Rhema FM. Occasionally we bumped into one of the "stars" in the run of the ship, but generally they kept to themselves. One highlight of the cruise for me was a "Gospel Sing-a-long" one evening when we sang some of the great old christian hymns and songs. Each morning at 7:45, one of the Homecoming group led a time of devotions, which where well attended, but on shore days they where a bit hard to fit in. However we could always catch them on the continuous loop TV screening, throughout the day. The food over all was excellent, with breakfast and lunch in the Lido plentiful, although we did try the Main Dinning Room on a couple of occasions for these meals and enjoyed the extra service. Our evening meals in the MDR were very good and although the serves were fairly small, we certainly had sufficient. We were at a table of 8 and really enjoyed the company and interaction, although we didn't all attend each night. Some were sea sick the second night out. My DW and I dined at "The Pinnacle" one night and this was superb. Our shore excursions were; Juneau: Town & Mendenhall Glacier tour. (Self organised on the pier). This was very good and allowed us to explore the town afterwards although it was drizzling rain which aborted our proposed ride on the Roberts Street Tramway. Sitka:HAL booked "Sea Otter and Wildlife Tour". Very relaxing on a lovely fine morning where we saw a small humpback whale, many sea otters and a black bear on a distant shore. We also experienced a full breech of another humpback.Ketchikan: As we only had a short stay here, we opted to just walk the town on another perfect summers day. However one couple somehow didn't make it back to the ship in time and were left stranded. Victoria: Again a pre-booked tour, this time to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. This we loved and would have liked to have spent more daylight time there, but the evening arrival of the Amsterdam prohibits this.Seattle: We booked a post "Seattle by land and sea" tour which enabled us to have our luggage with us and taken to the airport. This tour was fine, but only drove past "Pike's Market", without us going in. The Ms Amsterdam was excellent, the service great and our cabin well located and comfortable. The casino was closed down and very little bar trade, but drinks could be ordered with our meals. Disembarkation was swift once our allocation was called, although this was later than the time slot stated. All in all a very enjoyable cruise with the Homecoming concerts being the highlight for me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
To introduce ourselves: we are an active couple from Virginia in our early sixties celebrating our anniversary. This was our first HAL cruise and our second trip to Alaska. We like to walk, are pretty low maintenance and chose this cruise ... Read More
To introduce ourselves: we are an active couple from Virginia in our early sixties celebrating our anniversary. This was our first HAL cruise and our second trip to Alaska. We like to walk, are pretty low maintenance and chose this cruise mostly for the itinerary. It did not disappoint us! CC did not steer us wrong either with the tips from fellow cruisers! Thank you. Pre-cruise we stayed at the Seattle Pioneer Square Courtyard Marriot—small room, but nicely decorated, clean and convenient location. We were able to walk to Pike's Market and to the harbor for dinner as well as through the shopping and University District. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. We used Seattle Shuttle for transportation. Embarkation was as quick and pleasant as could be imagined once we got our bags inside. There were no porters or carts available to assist. Thank heavens we could manage by ourselves. The Port of Seattle could take lessons from Baltimore where porters take your luggage right out of your trunk and get it packed as you drive through! Our room was ready when we arrived onboard about 12:15. Luggage was delivered when we returned from lunch on the Lido deck. How do they do that so quickly! We had lots of storage space and a small tub in our bath. I liked our location on the Lower Promenade deck. Our Meet and Greet was held in the Crow's Nest on the first sea day with about 40 people attending. Wendy, the organizer, had door prizes and a scavenger hunt. She also had purchased lanyards to hold key cards for everyone who wanted one. Nice touches, Wendy! I was surprised that no one from management attended since they had attended previous M & G on Royal Caribbean. The ship's layout is easy to navigate. Some things we loved besides the itinerary: the library! , the warm pool, seldom waiting for an elevator, orchids in the Lido and other flower arrangements, computer classes with lots of photography tips, glacier viewing from the bow, aft decks on the sixth and seventh floors, and the filet at the Pinnacle. The entertainment was okay—daily movies, activities seemed to be geared to the older crowd and we aren't that young! We weren't impressed with the Amsterdam singers and dancers or the piano bar, but the HAL Cats are terrific. Several very good shows: gymnast Lance Reingold, puppeteer Michael Ziegfeld, and impersonator/singer Jeff Tracta. Be sure to check out the Crows Nest for the view, the Black and White Ball and happy hour specials. The food and service were good to very good. We ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck or by the pool. You are served the first few days to avoid the spreading of disease. Portions in the dining room were on rather small, but beautifully presented. And we never left hungry! Salmon was always good and prepared a variety of ways. There was a salmon bake on the Lido deck one afternoon during a sea day. Pea soup and hot toddies were available during glacier viewing. Crab cakes were delicious. Baked Alaska was available every night. Desserts, generally, were okay, but not the highlight of the meal. The Pinnacle is quite special from the menu to the service. Interestingly, our table at the 8pm sitting with one other couple was hosted by a ship's officers three of the four formal nights. We have never had an officer join us before on any of our previous cruises. We found their company to be delightful, and we learned about life at sea from different perspectives. The first formal night the ship's doctor and her husband joined us. The second formal night the head of HR joined us and on the fourth formal night the First Officer (third in command) joined our table. Each officer had fascinating stories to tell. The ship provided bottles of wine for the table each of the three nights. Ironically, neither our tablemates nor we drink wine, but we did sip at it to be polite. I kept thinking of all the people who would have loved the complimentary wine—we liked the company better! Our weather was wonderful. We saw whales and dolphin along the entire trip. In Ketchikan we went fishing and caught several kinds of salmon, then explored town. Don't miss Creek Street. Tracy Arm cruising was spectacular! The bow of the ship is definitely the place to be—it cuts down on the breeze and maximizes the view. But layer and dress warmly-you are floating in ice water! In Juneau we had a 75 degree day and took the tram to Mt. Roberts ($27 pp), hiked, then took the "blue bus" ($8 each) to Mendenhall Glacier where we hiked. The local children were swimming in the lake by the icebergs on the beautiful summer day. The water was COLD—in the forties, but they didn't care. Great day! Icy Straight Point was about 55 degrees with clouds. This is the one port where we purchased an excursion through the ship. Local vendors' prices were the same as the ship. We went on the Wildlife and Bear Hunt (with an armed guard). The taller participants did see one massive male bear at a distance. Being of short stature, I saw an incredible picture of him. Loved the narrated tour by Donna, a member of the Raven Clan, saw the Bulldog from the Deadliest Catch, had delicious halibut and chips and viewed a humpback bubble feeding from the shore. People who went whale watching had an incredible day with their excursions. I liked the quaint, non-commercialized town. The weather gods were on our side again in Anchorage. We rented a car and headed for Seward, stopping along the way for the spectacular scenery. With an 11 pm departure, we had plenty of time for a leisurely day of sightseeing, exploring Seward, and the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. The melting water was rushing over the road near the entrance to the park, creating a spectacle of its own. Note: our GPS did not work in Alaska, after dragging it all the way from Virginia! No problem, the maps and the signs were enough. Not many cabs are available at the port and the one returning us had never been there before since it is a secure port. Complimentary shuttle service is available to and from the Egan Center downtown. We used the cab because we needed to get to the airport for the rental car. Cars rented from downtown had to be returned by 5 pm. Unbelievable—a sunny day in Homer! The temperatures were in the mid fifties and it was very windy. We enjoyed walking the spit, the beach and watching the fishermen. We caught the free bus back to the ship and soaked the tired muscles in the hot tub. I would love to return with more time to spend here—on another sunny day. Even in Kodiak the sun greeted us for a while. It was chilly and a long walk into town. There are cabs available and a bus for mobility impaired people. We choose to walk by the fish processing plants, to the Russian Orthodox Church, across to Near Island to the North End Park for a nice nature hike. Had to hit the hot tubs again! This evening was a formal night with the Dessert Extravaganza at 10:30—chocolate fountains, ice carvings, and the works. Couldn't resist the chocolate and the peach cobbler with vanilla sauce was delicious. Hubbard Glacier was spectacular. We were able to get quite close to the glacier unlike earlier in the season. Two park rangers and three locals joined the ship to narrate and answer questions. We viewed the glacier from the bow of the ship again. Seals were floating on the icebergs and the glacier put on a show with frequent calving. There is nothing quite like that sound! We tendered in Sitka in a cloudy, intermittent light mist. We were able to walk the town, visit St. Michael's Church where two bald eagles were perched on the steeple and walk to the Raptor Rehabilitation Center ($12 pp entry, and worth it!). We enjoyed the Totem Park and the National Historical Park. And more eagles than any other port. Would like to return! In Victoria the sun was shining and about 60 degrees. What a nice walking city with beautiful landscaping everywhere we looked. We walked to Fisherman's Wharf where lots of activities are available -whale watching, kayaking, restaurants and lovely houseboats. This is another port where I would like to spend more time. Disembarkation was well organized, and on schedule. Our statement was correct and delivered by the time we went for breakfast. We remained in our room and relaxed until they called our group. All in all, it was a great vacation. Heading back home to triple digit temperatures! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This holiday was taken as part of celebrations for my wife's 50th birthday. We flew to Seattle from Sydney and stayed at the Double-tree Arctic Club Hotel for 3 nights. The weather was just fantastic in a place known for rain. Seattle ... Read More
This holiday was taken as part of celebrations for my wife's 50th birthday. We flew to Seattle from Sydney and stayed at the Double-tree Arctic Club Hotel for 3 nights. The weather was just fantastic in a place known for rain. Seattle was a great place to explore for a few days and we can hardly wait to go back. The highlights were the Pike Public Markets, the waterfront, the CBD, and the list goes on. The pier used for boarding was modern and efficient. It's location just outside the city gave us a good view of the city and the space needle. Sail away was smooth although there was no hint of a sail away party that are seen on other cruise lines. Sailing through the inside passage was spectacular, and that was only barely the beginning of the trip. The scenery was stunning with the beautiful water way, the high mountains and snow-capped peaks. It was all the more enjoyable because there were a lot of smaller watercraft enjoying the water. Our ports of call included (in no particular order) Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage, Kodiak, Icy Strait Point, Homer, Hubbard Glacier, Sawyer Glacier and Victoria BC. We can not say anything other than wow! Every place visited has its own character and charm. We loved the float plane flight over the misty fjords national park near Ketchikan (a must do), Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau was beautiful, Hubbard and Sawyer Glaciers were spectacular. the whales in Icy Strait Point were very active and continuously breaching.Homer was quiet and charming. The spit had a couple of great crab places. Kodiak had a small but interesting museum and a picturesque marina. Finally Sitka, was small but beautiful and the trip to see sea otters and other wildlife was fascinating. With the exception of one, the excursions were purchased from the cruise line. No complaints at all. We were well taken care off in every respect. The ship was well-sized with only about 1200-1300 people aboard. The food in the dining was very good quality. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and dream of the day when we can go back. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We were celebrating my parent's 50th wedding anniversary on the Amsterdam. We have previously taken cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and HAL. The overall cruise was quite enjoyable. The itinerary was fabulous and we had excellent ... Read More
We were celebrating my parent's 50th wedding anniversary on the Amsterdam. We have previously taken cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and HAL. The overall cruise was quite enjoyable. The itinerary was fabulous and we had excellent weather. But the Amsterdam had its ups and downs. The Ship We had an outside cabin on Deck 2 (Main Deck). The cabin had tons of closet space. The bathroom was good size and we had a couch and sitting table. I have a bad back, so by the end of the cruise I was getting rather sore from the bed. We were below the walking track on deck 3. Each morning, at 5:30 AM, someone was above us dragging the deck chairs. This was quite annoying. The TV was very limited. Fox News, CNN, ESPN, Cartoon Network and a few movie channels. The cabin steward (Putu) was very good. The dining on the Amsterdam was very spotty. We thought the main dining room was pretty good. Some nights it was very good, others just OK. We would rate it on par with other cruises that we have sailed before. There was nothing really exceptional, but then again, it was pretty consistently good. The portion sizes were normally OK, but there were a few nights where they were a little small. The last formal night had an awesome Filet Mignon and Lobster. VERY good. The "Grand Master Chef Dinner" was very lacking. This typified the Amsterdam. Really good and then below par. The special lunches by the pool were great. There was Dutch Day, Indonesian Day, and the Salmon Bake. All were excellent. The Lido was a big disappointment for us. The food was very bland and there was not much variety. We had dinner one night in the Lido and it was not all that great. Lunch was also very busy and boring so we ended up eating at the grill by the pool most of the trip. We discovered that there is no place to "casual dine" on the Amsterdam from 8PM to 11PM. We discovered this when returning on the ship after 8PM. There was no place to eat. The Lido closes at 8 PM and the terrace grill, with burgers and pizza, closes at 6PM. This is unacceptable. You shouldn't have to rush back to the ship with reservations to grab a quick bite to eat. This signaled to us that HAL is not geared toward the independent cruiser. Our favorite place to hang out was the Crow's Nest bar every day for happy hour. Almost every day there was a buy one get the second drink for $1 at 4PM. This was a great place to have a drink before dinner. Many of the days they also had team trivia games at 4PM and that was also fun. The wait staffs in the Crow's nest were all excellent. Very friendly and efficient. They were even bringing us appetizers each night, which was a really classy touch. So a big kudos for the Crow's Nest! Overall the entertainment was not as good as previous sailings. Our last HAL cruise had excellent entertainment. This time it was pretty poor. (Except for Jeff Trachta and Michael Ziefield. They were top notch performers.) The HAL singers were so amateurish that we just stopped going. It wasn't even worth our time. The Ports Ketchikan - We spent the day in town. Nice little place. Lots of shopping available. We had great weather and the ship was docked to it was easy getting on and off the ship. Tracy Arm - This was a day at Sea where the ship travels up an "arm" to see a glacier. We had great weather and little ice so we were able to get very close to the glacier. This was a nice addition that most cruise ships cannot do because of their size. (I guess size does matter) Juneau - We were also docked here so getting on and off the ship was a breeze. We spent the day in town. Had some Halibut and Chips by the pier and watched the float planes. Lots of shopping here but very similar to Ketchikan. Icy Straight - We took the Whale cruise which was pretty good. After that we walked to Hoonah which was a bust. Very small town with nothing to do. This is not one of our favorite ports. It is a manufactured cruise ship port. We should have gone to Skagway instead! Anchorage - Anchorage was our favorite port because we rented a car and did our own thing. We drove down to Portage Glacier and then did the Wildlife Conservation Center. After that we went to the top of Mt. Alyeska on the tram. Was a super day. But getting off the ship was a real pain. Our schedule said that we were in Anchorage from 7 AM to 11 PM. But we didn't dock until 8 AM. Then we were told that we were in a "secure" port and that we had to be shuttled to town and that didn't start until 9 AM. It turned out that they started letting people off at 8:30. We were then told that the last shuttle back to the ship was at 9PM. And that you couldn't walk back through the port. So why do they advertise this as a 7AM to 11PM port when you have to take their shuttles and they run from 9AM to 9PM? This made for getting on and off the ship a pain and it was similar to tendering, only on land. Homer - On Homer we decided to purchase the $15 "hop on and hop off" tour. This was to take you into Homer and allow you to see town at your leisure. This was a joke. The bus was a school bus. The stops were laughable. "Our first stop is the True Value Hardware Store, our second stop is Radio Shack"... And I am not kidding. Homer Spit was also a shuttle ride off of the ship. So again, it was a pain getting to and from the ship. The Homer Spit consisted of mainly fishing charters and a few restaurants. This was our second least favorite port. (Icy Straight wins that award) Kodiak - Kodiak was a day where the ship was docked just outside of town. We decided to go on our own, so we rented a taxi and went out to Fort Abercrombie. It was very scenic but smaller than expected. The taxi fare was about $20 each way. After the fort we walked around town. Not much to Kodiak. On the way back to the ship we stopped at the Kodiak Brewing Company for some homemade beer. That was fun! Try the Sarah Pale Ale! Would have been nice if it wasn't a Sunday when everything was closed. Hubbard Glacier - This was a day at sea with the afternoon at the glacier. The weather was cloudy but there was little or no ice in the bay so we were able to get real close. A crewmember said that this was only the second time this season that the ship was able to get real close. So we felt very lucky. Sitka - We did the Sea Otter and Wildlife cruise and it was great. Probably the best "tour" we have ever taken on a cruise ship. We saw lots of animals and the captain and crew were great. This is a "don't miss" tour. After the tour we walked around town and used the free town Wi-Fi to pull down emails and post to Facebook. Victoria - Our last day was spent at Victoria. We docked about 1.5 miles from town. We did the Butchart Gardens tour. It was good and we were let off downtown to do further exploring. Loved Victoria and we want to go back! Overall Impressions of HAL We like HAL but don't think it is that much "different" than the other cruise lines. The clientele is much older than other lines. I think the average age on this cruise was probably 65 or 70. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. The dining room and entertainment are on par with the other cruise lines. (Although the entertainment on this ship was not near as good as our first HAL cruise) We felt the Lido was below par in comparison to the other lines. The "you can bring your own wine on board" policy is great and this does separate them from the pack. The service was very good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Would we sail HAL again? Maybe.... It would depend on the price, itinerary, and ship. I'm not sure that it pays to be brand specific when cruising. I think the difference between the lines is getting smaller and smaller. Debarkation We purchased the transfer to the airport. We left the ship at 8:15 and we were at the airport by 9:15. (Which isn't too bad since we had to claim our luggage and go through customs.) We had our boarding passes, on Southwest, and were at the gate at around 10:00 AM. (Our flight was at 11:30) So getting off the ship was pretty painless. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Background. Family has taken five previous cruises (twice to Alaska on NCL and Carnival, Panama Canal on Disney, Mexican Riviera on Princess, and Caribbean on Disney), and this Holland America cruise was the best. Considering everything, ... Read More
Background. Family has taken five previous cruises (twice to Alaska on NCL and Carnival, Panama Canal on Disney, Mexican Riviera on Princess, and Caribbean on Disney), and this Holland America cruise was the best. Considering everything, would rate Carnival as o.k., NCL and Princess as good, Disney as better, and HAL as best. Pro's - excellent service, every staff person made it their goal to make you happy - great itinerary (Seattle, Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Victoria) - nearly a full day (8hrs plus) at every port - food was very good to excellent throughout the cruise - real ice cream (Ben & Jerry quality) and fresh cookies available most hours - the ship never "felt" crowded, very different from other cruise lines - never hounded to purchase anything, but staff were always there if you wanted something (drinks, photos, etc.) - fitness center was very nice, up to date, and never crowded - the staff didn't "expect" tips, and were very gracious when received Con's - entertainment was adequate (very good 4 nights, o.k. the other nights) - tender service (two ports) was a little slower than experience on other cruise lines Ship. The Amsterdam was a very nice ship, a little older, but well cared for, and had no problems at all. Plenty of open areas, and numerous places with beautiful views (including the bow of the ship). Two pools, one in a large window enclosed area where the roof opened when appropriate; along with all the other normal cruise stuff (basket ball court, smash ball tennis court, deck chess, shuffle board, etc.). The crew is what made the ship though; in every location they went out of their way to do whatever they could to make you happy and satisfied. Activities. Plenty of activities, presented every day in the "Explorer" with a tear off schedule that you could easily take with you. My wife loved all the cooking related educational type activities and the kitchen tours. Many of the activities were educational in nature, but there were plenty of others just for fun (like the beer tasting that I thoroughly enjoyed). Service. It was GREAT, I can't say enough about the consistent excellent service provided. The room stewards were excellent, wait staff (early dining, assigned table, same waiters every night) were excellent, and like I said before everyone went out of their way to take good care of you. Port & Shore Excursions. Very good itinerary, we took the following excursions, most booked outside of Holland America directly with the tour operator. Ketchikan - Misty Fjords Floatplane (SeaWind Aviation), was good, very well organized, and did everything as expected. Juneau - Glacier Dog Sled Adventure (ERA Helicopters), excellent, helicopter to glacier, intro to musher and dogs, quick lesson, then out mushing. Everyone got a turn to control the sled, small groups (normally four to a group), our family had one sled and musher to ourselves with 11 dogs doing the work. Surprising how much power they have. Highly recommended. Icy Strait Point - whale watching and ZipRider (booked through Holland America). Both excursions were good. ZipRider was fast, but up the hill, a mile long zip ride down (~1 minute), very fast and exciting. Whale watching was very good, boat was about half capacity, extremely close to whales. Crew is smart; they can't power to within 100 yards of the whales, but they anticipate where the whales are going, move the boat their, and the whales come up right beside you (in our case less than 10 yards on multiple occasions). They are so close that the blow is very loud and startles you at times (even when you are expecting it). A very good location where the humpback whales feed, and just hang around this one location; we powered there, and stayed there the whole time, saw 30-40 whales up close and personal. Recommended. Anchorage - Redoubt Bay Bear Viewing (Rust's Flying Service). Excellent, highly recommended. Float plan to Redoubt Bay, lunch, then on to pontoon boats for bear viewing. Again, they know what you are there for, took us to a salmon staging area (getting ready to swim upstream), and we just watched the wild bears (black and brown) come down to the little bay, wade in the water for salmon, get the salmon in their mouth, get out of the water, eat the fish, and go back for more until they were full. It was amazing, watching the bears. At first I was nervous being so close (less than 10 yards from the wild bears) even though we were in the boat, but the bears just ignored us and went about getting their food. Victoria - Grand City Drive & Empress High Tea. My wife and daughter enjoyed and recommend this excursion; fun to do at least one time. Stateroom. Our staterooms, one for the boys and one for the girls (ocean view on deck 2) were fine and met our needs. Plenty of room and storage space, bathroom was nice, good water pressure and no problems with the toilet, showers, sinks, etc. Showers have three dispensers (soap, shampoo, and conditioner) and the products were all of good quality (per my wife), along with the bar soaps and lotion on the sink. The room stewards made the staterooms magical though. They (two) would visit our cabins three times a day, always noticing when we were and weren't there (only once in 14 days did they knock when anyone was in the room). They would make up the room when we went to breakfast, check it just after lunch, and then turn down the sheets at night. Each visit they would replenish everything, and straighten up (my son tends to be a slob, and they even kept his things looking nice and neat). They truly went above and beyond the call of duty. Dining. The food was very good to excellent, and the wait staff were truly excellent. We had a fixed dining time and table, the waiters quickly learned what we liked and anticipated our requests. We had early dining, and we never had to wait long for anything (well, almost never, one time we waited ~15 minutes for our dinner entree, never did know what happened, but the waiters were apologetic and the food was good when it finally came). We ate a sit down breakfast most every morning in the main dining room, buffet lunch by the pool, and assigned dinner. Overall very happy and satisfied with the quality of food and excellent service. Portions seemed to be smaller than on other cruises, but that is a good thing, as you could always get more (which we did a few times with dessert). Kids and I really enjoyed the ice cream and cookie bar (again, real ice cream), and my wife enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice every morning, and thought the soups throughout the cruise were the best she ever had. We all had pea soup on the glacier viewing days, it was really good (my kids typically dislike soup, but the even enjoyed it). Kid's Clubs. My daughter (age=10) really enjoyed herself at Club HAL, staff were excellent, comparable to the Disney cruise, and they always had something going on. My son on the other hand (age=12, a couple of weeks shy of age=13) did not like it. Problem was the age grouping, age 10-12, so he was in the same age group as my daughter; thought he was "too old" to be with the kids. I felt for him, but nothing to be done. However, we ended up doing more things together (ping pong, chess, board games, etc.), so that was a plus as far as that goes. Entertainment. Not quite up to other cruises, but not a big deal to me, still enjoyed the performances most evenings. Four nights were very good, the others were o.k., and one was not very good at all. They had a new movie showing every day throughout the day, and showed it on TV the next day. Also had performances in the various lounges (Crow's Nest had the best). Embarkation/Disembarkation. Holland America has embarkation/disembarkation down to a science, very fast getting on and off the ship. We were on the ship and our stateroom was ready around noon when boarding (luggage wasn't there until ~1pm); and when leaving, waited for last call to disembark (had a little time to kill before our flight home, and would rather spend it on the ship than at the airport). Walked straight off with our luggage, no waiting at all. Bottom Line. Excellent cruise, very happy with Holland America and out visit to Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Between my wife and I we have done 19 cruises on 5 different cruise lines, we are both full time travel agents so we have, through our training, developed a set of standards we look for. This was the second time on Holland American for us, ... Read More
Between my wife and I we have done 19 cruises on 5 different cruise lines, we are both full time travel agents so we have, through our training, developed a set of standards we look for. This was the second time on Holland American for us, with our first being on the Oosterdam last year. In many ways I like what Holland does but The Amsterdam has a few glitches. Before we get into the cruise a few pre cruise and post cruise comments as a traveler. We opted to go to Seattle a day early and made our own air reservations with Alaska Air, interestingly enough overall their fare was over $250.00 less than Southwest even after figuring the cost of baggage. We arrived at SEA-TAC and had made reservations with the Quality In Downtown Seattle for the overnight and transportation, for a fee, from the airport. The driver from Quality WAS NOT helpful in directing us to the proper pick up location and we spent what was probably two frustrating hours trying to find the pick up location. SEA-TAC, in my opinion is not well marked. When we FINALLY got to the hotel, I filed a complaint with the duty manager and she did discount the transfer fee. The hotel was in general pretty nice, but the desk clerk marked the wrong room number on our key holder and that caused additional frustration and delay in getting settled. We had thoughts of possibly doing some sightseeing, BUT that was now long gone. The next morning transportation was available to the pier and no problems. Now to the cruise: Check in went smoothly and I was informed about an alternate door to avoid the embarkation picture, mainly because I do have some mobility issues and the alternate route was shorter. Our stateroom, ocean view, was neat, of course as usual we had to ask to have the bed separated even though we had specified separate in the reservation. After dropping off our bags it was on to the dining room for lunch, a Mariner feature on embarkation. This was the best service we had in the dining room, more on that later. After walking around the ship and the safety drill, we had a few minutes to relax before having dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. The food and service there was excellent! The first morning we had breakfast with some friends in the dining room, the service was OK, as I ordered Eggs Benedict and they arrived in a timely manner. This was the LAST good service in the Dining room. Day 2, I ordered an omelet it took over 1 hour to arrive, day 3 I ordered pancakes and they arrived cold after 45 minutes. The dining room was NOT busy so I could not find a valid excuse. By lunch time I was ready to go to the Lido Buffet, I found that the hot service line was understaffed, and I vented my frustrations to the supervisor Phillipe. After lunch I went to the internet cafe and sent of a e mail to Holland American detailing the poor quality of service in the dining room and lack of servers. I guess that must have raised a few eyebrows in Seattle as during the remainder of the cruise I met many of the managers, chefs, and the Hotel Manager. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the most grease, from then on we ate mainly in the Lido buffet and staff was calling us by name. There were several outstanding servers there including Wede, and Harrisman, the servers behind the counter were always smiling and I must rate the food in the Lido as VERY GOOD. On formal nights, (I call it dinosaur picture night) we ate in the Canaletto three times and the food and service was excellent. This is a well kept secret on Holland no extra cost and a good, but somewhat limited, menu. I HATE PACKING FORMAL CLOTHES and hate wearing them even more! We had one other experience in the main dining room, that was the Chefs Dinner, in my estimation a HUGE disappointment, with my wife and I going up to the Lido afterwords for some real food. I had a 5 minute steak in the Lido that was FAR BETTER than the beef offered in the chefs dinner. The ship in general was in excellent condition I saw lots of cleaning painting, etc going on during the 14 day cruise and for the most part I felt the crew was very good and even friendly. Cruise Director Jimmy was very nice and not over the top like many I have seen, he did actually seem to enjoy what he was doing and was NOT overbearing. The production shows were good, it is a challenge on a smaller ship without all the extra capabilities that the bigger ship stages offer. I felt that the singers and dancers were talented and their shows were good. I do like the layout of the theater and the seating much better on Holland than on most other cruise lines. I had the opportunity to talk with the audio teck one evening and told him I felt he did a great job and the sounds was clear and not over driven. One person from the crew that seemed to have an attitude was the DJ, who hosted trivia several times, it was more of a feeling than anything seen. I found the naturalist/shore expert, Jeanette, to be just plain annoying! She is a former teacher and anytime she hosted trivia, she never used a mic and her voice quality worsened with her increased volume. She also did not have accurate information on transportation which cost us the opportunity to get off the ship in Kodiak. We did not opt for any shore excursion through Holland America as is the case with "rain forests" Alaska's weather can be fickle and so we chose to do a few things on our own. Since both Holland American and Princess cover a lot of the same ports I was surprised at how poor the gangways were in several of the ports. Many were extremely steep, in the case of Homer there was a very long pier with no shuttle and no benches, this needs improvement. One of the highlights of the trip was stopping at Sitka, we took a tour to the Fortress Of The Bear and this was a great experience. This facility is a rescue center and they currently have 2 adults and 3 large cubs, they were quite active when we were there and the founder, who gave a talk about the bears and the center was quite informative. I had been looking forward to going to Victoria, but the information we received was that transportation had to be paid for in Canadian money so we did not get off the ship there either. Disembarkation was a breeze as we took advantage of the baggage check through, I really like this and it is well worth the $20 per bag fee not to have to lug your checked luggage around post cruise. On a whole the cruise was good, I gave it a 7 and my wife gave it an 8 out of a possible 10. The Amsterdam needs to improve their dining room operation, pressure Alaska for better gangway facilities and get some more activities on board on sea days and especially on port days. They also need to have much better information about transportation at the ports to eliminate disappointments. Will I take Holland American again, most certainly, however I am pretty sure it won't be the Amsterdam. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We are not new to cruising. This was our fourth cruise to Alaska. We chose HAL because we wanted to got to Kodiak Island. We knew before leaving that we would probably be some of the youngest cruisers on board at 64 and 66, and we were. We ... Read More
We are not new to cruising. This was our fourth cruise to Alaska. We chose HAL because we wanted to got to Kodiak Island. We knew before leaving that we would probably be some of the youngest cruisers on board at 64 and 66, and we were. We found the staff, except for 4 or 5 young men to be stiff. There appeared to be a definite caste system between the Phillipine and Indonesian personnel. The formal service was nice, but lacked warmth. The food left a lot to be desired. If you wanted beef, you got it well done, regardless of how you ordered it. Even the large rounds were well done and dry to the bone. There was not a lot of variety in desserts. Same dessert, different flavor each night in the dining room. Coffee was very strong to some. We enjoyed the company of the ship's Navigator at our table on one formal night. He was very nice,served very good wine, and was a gentleman in every way. That was the highlight of our dining experiences. The ship was very clean. Our stateroom was very comfortable. I guess I missed the more relaxed interaction with the staff. The ships route left a lot to be desired. We ended up sailing in the Gulf of Alaska instead of the Inside Passage for most of the trip and it was extremely rough seas even for the experienced cruisers. We have never experienced rough water like this on any of our previous Alaskan cruises. The ports were less than enjoyable. Homer is a fishing port, and the population makes it well known to visitors. The shuttles provided by HAL were school buses, which were okay, however, the shuttle stops were very far apart, not marked well,driver lacked basic knowledge about the area, and the map that we were given was less than ideal. I would have preferred skipping Homer to arrive in Kodiak on Saturday instead of Sunday. When we arrived in Kodiak we were told that it was a short walk to the town. Maybe in length, but it was straight up hill and was further than we were led to believe. When our excursion was over, and it was a wonderful surprise because not enough information was given in the description by HAL, we went shopping. The only transportation was a handicapped bus with only about 12 seats. When we arrived in town almost everything was closed because it was Sunday. We found a grocery store with a little of everything and finally two small shops well hidden on a side street. There was never enough information. We were used to having a Naturalist on board that kept us informed of marine life from beginning to end of cruise. She also informed us of other important facts about what we were seeing as we were cruising all during the daytime hours. This did not happen on this ship. On the other cruises the Cruise Director notified us of things going on all around the ship during the daytime. This Cruise Director made very few announcements. Using the tenders was terribly unorganized and took almost an hour after we arrived in the Queens Lounge to wait for transportation. Announcements about where the gang plank was located for disembarkation at all ports, including Seattle, were not made. People were wandering around on three decks looking for the exit. The weather was wonderfully cool, and some rain which is the Alaska that we love. My husband and I are very independent and we make our own fun. We wanted to go to Kodiak, and we did. The port would have been better on another day of the week, but we loved the island. What we have learned, we will not sail on the Holland American Line again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary ... Read More
Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. We had heard so much about it's beauty and had heard great things about Holland America as well. We've taken 15 cruises and had never been on Holland America. When we saw the 14/day itinerary we were very excited. There was so much to be disappointed about on this cruise. The service was very poor - especially the first week. We were almost in shock as the crew seemed untrained and unprepared to handle the mealtimes in the Lido and the dining rooms. It took several requests to get a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. There wasn't adequate staff serving and resulted in very long lines in the Lido and taking as much as 20 minutes to get a sandwich made at lunch or an omelet at breakfast. It took over an hour to get waffles in the dining room for breakfast. The maitre d personally apologized - but we noticed that the dining room attendees became fewer and fewer over the course of the cruise. The Lido served the same meals at dinner that were served in the dining room. This is very different from other cruises we've been on. The cabin stewards were very personable and professional. However, they appeared to be overworked. Our stewards were responsible for cleaning 30+ cabins. Our cabin was frequently not cleaned before 2:30 and in the evening we came back 9:30 from dinner/show to find them still working on cabins. Several nights when we were ready for bed - we asked that they skip us so we could turn in for the night. The library/computer area was a favorite location on this ship. The room is adjacent to the coffee bar and is equipped with lots of books, comfy chairs and a great view. The librarian has initiated an impromptu knitting group on days at sea. There was an opportunity to join with others who enjoyed the craft. She has information on great knitting shops we could visit on our port visits. I'd love to see this offered on other ships . The second week there was noticeable improvement. However, many were not happy or pleased with this cruise and indicated that it was very different from other Holland America cruises they had been on. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit - however, many of the ports had little to offer and the tours were very over-priced. I think if we had been much older, we may have enjoyed just the cruising and the views which were spectacular. Our favorite was the Hubbard Glacier. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Amsterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 3.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.2

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