397 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

On June 10 I was off to cruise Alaska. I cruise Alaska on the World explorer cruise line back in the 90's. I was on deck sailing out of Seattle with tears in my eyes. It had taken me years to get back to Alaska. I breezed through ... Read More
On June 10 I was off to cruise Alaska. I cruise Alaska on the World explorer cruise line back in the 90's. I was on deck sailing out of Seattle with tears in my eyes. It had taken me years to get back to Alaska. I breezed through check-in. I was on board and in my cabin in less than a hour and the only reason it took that long was because they took a large crowd before the regular passengers. My room a inside was large I was surprised how big. I had more room than I need. I was to travel with a friend but she got very ill two weeks before the cruise. I meat my two cabin stewards. the ship is beautiful. I could not believe this wonderful ship was moving at times. I spent most of my time outdoors. the scenery was unbelievable and breathtaking. I went to lunch wow I am going be eating here for 14 nights. I really do not have any complaints about this cruise one small complaint was in digital workshop. The teacher had no print outs. His excuse was he could not get to printer. I would have thought if he knew he would be teaching a class he would have had the print outs all ready before the cruise. I will be booking this cruise next year. I did not do much of programs they offered because I wanted to be out doors. Also after a few days I knew I would be back the following year so I did not do any tours. Yes I missed a lot of important and great stuff the ship was running inside but I was drawn out side. I could continue to write and write about this cruise but I be writing forever. Take this cruise you will not be sorry. The only thing bad about this cruise was after 14 days I had to leave and return home with no one to pamper me. Mary Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
BACKGROUND: I am an experienced cruiser (not counting that I am retired Navy). I have been on 15 cruises (on six different cruise lines). I have been to Alaska six times (a different itinerary every time). And I have sailed on HAL twice ... Read More
BACKGROUND: I am an experienced cruiser (not counting that I am retired Navy). I have been on 15 cruises (on six different cruise lines). I have been to Alaska six times (a different itinerary every time). And I have sailed on HAL twice before (Maasdam and Volendam). My basic philosophy is it's not the ship that makes the cruise but the itinerary and that's why we chose MS Amsterdam - it went to three ports we've never cruised to before (Anchorage, Homer & Kodiak), three "ports" we've only been to once (Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm, and Icy Strait Point) and two of our favorite ports (Sitka and Juneau). SUMMARY: The itinerary is a winner. The ship was a disappointment. Thus, the overall cruise experience was excellent. BOARDING: Friends met us at Sea-Tac airport and we went to the revolving restaurant at the Space Needle for lunch. I was surprised to find that the food was excellent. After rubber-necking at the view, we arrived rather late at the Pier 91 Terminal. Man, this is the way to board! There were no lines anywhere and my wife and I literally walked straight through to the ship. PORTS OF CALL: Ketchikan. I'm not a big fan of Ketchikan and nothing we saw or did there this time changed that opinion. The main positive about this town is the ability to easily walk back and forth to Creek Street. Tracy Arm. Glorious weather! We got to the mouth of the North Sawyer Glacier before turning back, so never saw the face of South Sawyer Glacier. That was a big disappointment since we got to within half a mile of it last August and it has some of the most beautiful blues of any glacier in Alaska. Given the weather, my opinion is that the Amsterdam's captain is a wuss. Juneau. Beautiful weather in the high 70s. We've done the helicopter dog sled on the glacier, we've done the sea/land photo safari, we've done the whale watching. Each of these was fabulous. This time we did the raft trip down the Mendenhall River. Overall, a good trip, BUT, there were too many people on the raft making it exceedingly cramped and uncomfortable and it was way too long gently floating on the river. The "rapids" are child's play. Consequently, I doubt we'll ever do it again, but seeing mama bear and her cub on the bank was cool. Icy Strait Point. After seeing the zip line our first time there we knew we HAD to do it this time around. It did not disappoint. A totally awesome ride and will do it again. 45 minute drive up the mountain to the launch point (1,300 ft high "hill") and a 90 second ride at 60 mph to sea level. Woo-hoo! And, yes, you really do need that zip shot at the bar when you land! Many mumblings among fellow passengers about going to a dinky town with nothing to do and I think they are all wet. This is one of the few chances to see a "real" native town - without the jewelry stores and souvenir shops. It's also a chance to see some wildlife, BUT, be forewarned that the wildlife does not emerge until mid-June. Any wildlife excursion before then is just stealing your money. Anchorage. We have been there before on the train, but I am not interested in going to Alaska to see a big city. So, we took the 10 hour train ride down the Kenai peninsula. Excellent ride, but a bit long. Breathtaking scenery, some glaciers (but no stopping) and the occasional bear. Homer. Wanted to see wildlife, so we took the boat excursion to Gull Island. Saw more gulls than I ever care to see again. Good tour, but not worth the price. Plus, the boat was VERY cramped. Our naturalist was Janet Klein who has written at least three books on Homer and Kachemak Bay (still don't know why she didn't bring some aboard to sell), so we had to scramble through the gift shops on the spit to finally find one). Look for her books, they are interesting. Also saw the Time Bandit of Deadliest catch fame. Homer is its home port. And the Time Bandit has its own t-shirt and souvenir shop on the spit. Kodiak. Biggest disappointment was that there are no bears in the area. They are all the way south in the preserve. So, settled for a sea life boat ride. Saw otters, sea lions, eagles, puffins and even caught a rock fish just to show off the local fishing grounds. It was a "nice" excfursion, but overpriced. There is no shuttle service in Kodiak and for a boat full of old people that was a problem. There were almost shootouts for the few cabs that came by. Another Deadliest Catch ship was here, but I forget the name. Hubbard Glacier. Another gloriously beautiful day and the captain would not come any closer than four miles to the glacier, confirming that he's a wuss. We managed to get some ok shots with our humongous rent-a-lens but the average passenger could neither hear the glacier nor see any activity. Sitka. Again beautiful sunny weather in the high 60s. Quite a contrast to last August when it rained all day. We did the Tongass rain forest hike. It was a much more difficult trail than the literature indicated and although we persevered (and survived) anyone with any health issues should not go on this tour. We actually went to the Mosquito Cove loop (nowhere near town) for the hike. The forest was gorgeous and our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna (and the Russians). The hidden secret about Sitka is that you can take the local city bus for two dollars per person on a one hour loop around Sitka and see the whole city. You can even hop-on hop-off. Victoria. We belong to the Whale Museum on Friday Harbor, so, of course, we went whale watching. Unfortunately, J pod was not in, but we did see two transients, T-20 and T-21. We've been to Victoria numerous times and for the first time learned that there is a quaint "floating village" at Fisherman's Wharf. Lots of fish'n'chips joints there. DEBARKATION. Overall, it went smoothly once it finally started. For whatever reason, the ship seemed reluctant to announce what was going on and what the status of things was - not the first time that happened during the cruise. We did the "luggage direct" option and it went perfectly. I would do it again in a heartbeat. SHIP'S STAFF. The wait staff was totally perfunctory. No interaction with the guests and no "flair" in their duties. The room stewards were friendly but inefficient. They were tardy in making up our room, they did not replace used items in a timely fashion and I'm sorry, but I'm past the "towels animals are cutesy" stage. For "big events" (bingo, happy hour, etc.) the bar staff was undermanned, leading to long waits to first get their attention and then get served. Cruise Director Jimmy was a hoot. Travel Guide Jeanette was very informative. FOOD. A giant disappointment. Dining Room. We had second sitting in La Fontaine Dining room. I'm really tired of executive chefs trying to jazz up a perfectly good meal into some kind of nightly dining extravaganza. To me, it results in overdoing a perfectly good meal. What's wrong with meat loaf or chicken fried steak? We never got a steak served the way we ordered it (medium rare). They always came medium well. We sent them back at first and finally gave in and just ate what we could. Crab night was disappointing as the portions were those of an appetizer. Overall the portions were smaller than I recalled, but since we can all use a bit of dieting discretion, I used that as my excuse to pass on seconds. Our Table Captain did promise to make crème brulee for "our table" one night and he did. For the six of us, he brought three dishes. Huh? To make up for it, he grabbed two more pre-made dishes from the Pinnacle Grill. How does 5 = 6? Frankly, my wife makes better crème brulee. They should pay her to use her recipe. Lido Buffet. Our late dining sitting was not full, but the Lido buffet was heavily used - I think a testament to the fact that even the old folks are getting tired of the dining room cuisine. The Lido "system" (if I can call it that) was one of organized chaos. The few servers behind the counter (there were never enough) could not keep up with the demand. I love sandwiches for lunch. The one guy who makes them is swamped. On average it probably took 10-15 minutes to get a sandwich (which also led to people trying to butt in line from the other end). There does not seem to be any rationale for the way the buffet line is organized - it's just a bunch of random stations with the result that people line up all over the place without really knowing where the line actually is. And then, just try to find a seat to eat your meal! By the time you finish your third or fourth circle of the seating area, your food is cold. Finally, in the category of "weird/puzzling" is the buffet's operating hours. Due to our rafting trip being so long in Juneau, we got back to the ship about 8:45 and found that the buffet was closed. There was no where on the ship to eat at that hour. Since the ship wasn't leaving until 10:30 p.m. we were quite amazed at this. As it so happened, the Canaletto "restaurant" (a designated segregated-off portion of the buffet area) was open until 9:00, so we ate there. Canaletto. I read some earlier reviews complaining about the Canaletto. It seemed perfectly fine to us. I had the chicken marsala and it was as good as Olive Garden's. With all the Italian items at the buffet, I'm not sure why they have this type of restaurant where it is, but it worked for us that one night. Room Service. We used this several times when we had early shore excursions and did not want to do the table dance at the Lido. It was on time and what we ordered. Hamburger Grill. Ate there once and it was a good burger. Pinnacle Grill. We made the mistake of falling for HAL's ravings about the Le Circe "concept' dinner. What a waste of money and food. It was all overly fancified. We sent a couple of things back, didn't eat most of the rest of it. The pate was inedible. The lobster "salad" was a joke. The corn soup was another joke. The "prime rib" - actually a rib eye steak -- was very good. The potatoes were puffed and tasteless and the veggies we merely ok. HAL either needs a new concept or they need a new restauranteer. This one is a loser. ENTERTAINMENT. I was embarrassed for the cruise director that he was required to shill for the ship's entertainers. They were totally off key and could not hold a tune. Amateur night at its worst. We walked out. We also walked out on the comedian and after that chose to ignore the entertainment until the Phantom of the Opera lady. She was good. The Adagio Strings were nice and some of the Ocean bar stuff was ok, but I thought the piano guy and the guitar guy were below average. FACILITIES. The Crow's Nest is an awesome spot for an Alaska cruise because you can see so much from there. Most times it seemed under utilized, which was fine by me as is meant more elbow room. The "great room" of the library, coffee shop, Internet cafe, reading room and puzzle palace is a fabulous room. It's one of HAL's ship design highlights in my opinion. We never used the pool, the Jacuzzi, or the spa. BOTTOM LINE. Not even a disappointing ship can ruin an Alaska cruise. Overall we loved the cruise and I would recommend it to others. Just don't let the alligators (or the little things) get to you. You do get fed, you do get to go to bed, and you do get to the next port. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this is my 4th cruise to Alaska - first on HAL. I think that the average age on this cruise was 75 - There were about 40 kids(teens and below) on this cruise. I don't know if it was because it was early June or the demographics of HAL, but sometimes it felt like it took hours to move down the hall or board a tender, etc. Embarkation - Due to a SNAFU, I ended up parking our car at the port and had to get there early. Lines were short and were probably on the ship within 15 minutes of parking. Granted, I dropped off the luggage with a porter first. And some of that time was spent going up the gangway behind someone in a walker. Cabin was a decent size and was ready when we boarded. HAL seems to have a policy of serving food for the first two days. Needless to say, getting some snacks took a while and it also took a while for the other folks to figure out the lines. Dining - The food was pretty good overall. The Pinnacle grill was not to be missed. My parents stated that the Italian restaurant tasted like Chef-boyarde(sp?). There seemed to be something for everyone and with the specialty lunches served on the Lido, no one went hungry. Ports - We had been to Ketchikan before. The biggest disappointment for us was that the duty free liquor shop had closed down. It rained all day in Juneau. Did a little shopping and used the free internet in the library that was next to the ship. Icy Straight - went whale watching with Misty Bay lodge. Saw a ton of whales. Anchorage - We took the kids the the museum and they had a great time with the interactive exhibits. Then took a bike ride along the water. Homer - Rented a minivan and the seven of us did our own tour. Found the Bear Creek winery. The kids had fun on their swings. Kodiak - It was a sunday and we walked into town. The six year old stayed in the kids club. The brewery was a hit. Sitka- Great weather and a beautiful town. Easy to walk around. Kids club- My six year old really enjoyed it. My eight year old mostly did. Pools - The pool on the aft of the ship seemed warmer than the spas. My kids preferred that pool and it was hardly used. Disembarkation - We were in the third group off and were off of the ship by 8:20. The only issue we had was finding a porter - they were mostly on the RCCL side and were not allowed to come to our side of the terminal due to union rules. That was not HAL's part, but the Port of Seattle. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Alaska is our favorite destination. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary...I have visited Alaska 6 times on my own on land tours, and we went back for our sixth cruise to Alaska this time on Holland America's MS Amsterdam. ... Read More
Alaska is our favorite destination. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary...I have visited Alaska 6 times on my own on land tours, and we went back for our sixth cruise to Alaska this time on Holland America's MS Amsterdam. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. It visited several ports that none of our cruises have ever visited - but I have been to most of them on my own at some time in the past - i.e. Anchorage, Homer, and Kodiak.We did not check-in to the ship in Seattle until after 3:00 p.m. as friends met us at the airport and we enjoyed a glorious day in Seattle with lunch at the Space Needle. We could see all the way out to the Olympics. MS Amsterdam was in port at Pier 91 along with Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas and Celebrity Infinity was closer near downtown and Pike's Place Market. Check-in was seemless as we were the only people in the terminal at that time. We boarded the ship and found our Deluxe Verandah cabin #6208 - on the port side (left) aft. Our cabin had more than adequate storage space but limited closet space. The verandah was nice with a chaise lounge and a chair with a small round table. There was a fold-out couch and coffee table adjacent to the dressing table. The queen size bed took up the majority of space in the room and there was only about 18" between the end of the bed and the wall. The bathroom was nice with tub. But personally - I would have preferred to have a shower in that space. The tub is set up about 4", so there is a definite rise to step in and out of it. If you aren't careful and forget about the extra height, you can take a good fall right into the counter and sink.The nicest area on the ship in my opinion is the Crow's Nest - a forward lounge on the 9th deck that offers plate glass windows 180 degrees and nice chairs to enjoy the scenery without having to be on deck. There is a bar there, and music is played in the evenings. If you are up there and you happen to see something you want to photograph, it is easy access to the outside deck. Because this was a 14-night cruise, there were four "formal" nights. I did not see any women wearing formal evening gowns and most gentlemen wore suits and ties and not tuxes. On the "formal" nights, the dining room seemed half full. All other nights were "smart casual" attire - with some people even wearing jeans - which until this cruise, I have never seen in the dining rooms at dinner.Food was a huge disappointment throughout the ship. Our servers in the dining room were not interactive and once our food was served, they seemed to disappear. We sent several things back as they were either cooked wrong or not hot. This happened on more than one occasion. Many things lacked flavor and taste and the portions seem to have shrunk considerably. For example, on the night they offered crab legs, we were served a plate with only 4 small legs on it - hardly a full serving. It was a good thing we also asked for a side serving of the fillet mignon that night - as that helped fill the void even though it was overcooked. Desserts were common, tasteless and unexciting. It seemed that Holland America focused much more on ice cream and sorbet than on their desserts. The one night we were offered creme brulee, it was sad. I make better creme brulee! The pear in pastry was all pastry and no pear. Several nights, the "special" desserts were some sort of ice cream sundae - nothing special to me! Very disappointing.I guess because I did not want coffee with dessert one night, the waiter assumed that I never wanted coffee. I had to ask on several occasions if I could have a cup after dinner - they never asked - they just brought coffee cups to three people at the table and did not ask if anyone else wanted anything.Our biggest disappointment came at Pinnacle Grill where I had signed us up for an Evening at Le Cirque - a gourmet restaurant in New York. It cost an additional $39 per person and did not include soda or wine. The meal was a huge disappointment. Our first course was an extremely tart and sour pate of some sort. We each took one bite and sent it back. Oh was it bad! Our second course was a corn chowder soup. I have never had a soup served in a bowl like this. First the bowl came to the table with a few kernals of corn, some mashed mushrooms and five potato croquettes. Then the server brought a crock to the table and poured pure corn puree into the bowl. When I asked for fresh ground pepper, I was frowned at. It was "corn" alright! - but almost like creamed corn. Nothing special. Our lobster salad was served on a triangular shaped white plate with a small lobster tail in the middle with three slices of avocado, three slices of tomato, three slices of pink grapefruit and three thin round pieces of potato drizzled with a pesto vinagrette. That combined with the grapefruit was definitely tangy and odd. The best part of dinner was our "prime rib" which was actually a huge rib eye that was filleted at our table and served. The side dish of vegetables was undercooked and the Daughne Potatoes were tasteless, dry and barely warm. The meat was tender and delicious and made up for the other part of the meal that was not so good. For dessert, I chose the creme brulee and Jim had the sorbet. Again - I make better creme brulee. The schtick for the creme brulee at Le Cirque is that the carmelization is a two part process here with two layers of brown sugar that is supposed to be flamed and carmelized. Mine was not carmelized enough and therefore I bit into pure brown sugar that was gritty and sugary. I definitely DO NOT recommend spending the money for the Le Cirque experience. I talked with several people that did say the regular Pinnacle Grill meals were good - so that would be my recommendation.The hours of the Lido Buffet have been shortened and the lines for service at the individual stations were extremely long. There was not enough staff behind the counter to serve the food to you to make it efficient. It took over 20-25 minutes to get a sandwich from the sandwich bar! For dinner - If you do not have your plate between 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. you have very little choice of alternative options. On our return in Juneau after our shore excursion - we did not get up to the Lido until around 9:00. Our only option was the Canaletto Italian restaurant. We were not happy that the buffet line had already closed on a day we were in port until 10:00 p.m.I think one of the nicest places on the ship is the Crow's Nest where you have a 180 degree unobstructed view of the scenery before you. We spent a lot of time here. It is a great gathering place with easy access to the outside deck if you want to photograph something.The other location that we thoroughly enjoyed was the Exploration's Cafe/Library and Lounge. Holland America exceeds in this area that is warm and friendly. You have easy access to computers here as well as a wide choice of books and DVD's to check out. You can purchase a good cup of coffee (similar to Starbucks) and enjoy a good read - or you can enjoy putting together a jigsaw puzzle or just sit and relax in one of the comfortable recliner chairs that faces the ocean.The entertainment onboard lacked professionalism and unfortunately the few production shows that we went to many people walked out during the performance. The singers and dancers were off key and sad. We enjoyed the daily trivia that was offered up in the Crow's Nest and that is where we met several nice people and enjoyed sunset and happy hour. Happy Hour is between 5-6 p.m. in the Crow's Nest where they offer the second drink for $1. On several occasions there was a server that offered some delicious chicken bites as a complimentary appetizer.There were several days that our room stewards did not make up our room until after 4:00 p.m. - which was not real pleasant. I was in the cabin several times when they finally came in and they quickly made up the bed and picked up the towels in the bath but did not even vacuum the floor. Other than the first day of embarkation when they came in and introduced ourselves, we barely saw them.Having said all of that - as I said before, we took this cruise because of the itinerary - and it did not disappoint one bit. You have to work hard to not enjoy yourself on a cruise. Even though we were not happy with certain things - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will go back to Alaska again and again. Holland America is the only cruise line offering the longer 14-day cruise. To us - 7-days is just not long enough! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid 70s. The last time we cruised we got a wheelchair for use on the ship. So this time I rented a scooter to be delivered to the dock because I have difficulty walking the distances required on a cruise ship. Neither of us has ever been to Alaska before Pre-Cruise: one night at the Mayflower Park Hotel. I had been to Seattle in 1994 and wanted my husband to see Pike Street Market and eat dinner at the Space Needle. The concierge at the Mayflower said I could borrow a wheelchair to go to Pike Street Market (which we did). She also made arrangements for us to be picked up at the airport in a Town Car ($45) and gave us the Cruise Special which included breakfast the next morning and a shuttle to the port. Internet in the room was free. Embarkation: fast and easy. We were delivered to the dock about 12:10, the porters took our bags and showed us where the scooter kiosk was on the dock. I got on the scooter and we went through, right onto the ship with no waiting. Food: Since this cruise was booked only one day before the final payment, we had non-fixed dining. We went up to eat every day at 5:15 and never had to wait for a table. We had room service for breakfast whenever we had an early tour and it was delivered at the time we asked and had the items on it that we wanted. On the first few days in the Lido, you could not serve yourself because they said they were trying to avoid people who came on board spreading sickness. But this made the lines very long. There was no way I could do the Lido on either a scooter or with a cane even if I was allowed to serve myself. If I was lucky enough to get food, I would have no place to put it on the scooter. I had to find a table and my husband had to guess what I would want and bring food. On previous HAL ships, the staff has been helpful when people are handicapped and having trouble, but that was not the case here. No one offered to help, and we only were offered tea or water at the table once. So we never ate in the Lido if there was any other option. Dining Room service was excruciatingly slow and sometimes we did not get what we ordered. I ordered two soups once and only got one of them. A lady and I ordered two different omelets and she got mine but didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle. I understand this was because of mostly new crew. The food was usually good. I love the cold soups. The breakfast menu in the dining room was changed from when we were on HAL before and I liked it. We were able to get cranberry juice and tea if we wanted. We never ate at the specialty restaurants. Activities: We did Trivia once. We usually do all the Trivias but we didn't have any fun at the first one so we didn't go again. I went swimming once. The pool was nice and warm, and the bathrobe in the room was good because the air wasn't that warm. We did not use the spa. Bob went to a couple of the shows, but he does not like the flat floor in the HAL theaters first floor. We had good internet access in the room, but the computer lady (who was excellent) couldn't get my computer to stay logged on so she lent me one of the ship computers. That worked for me. There are several places we visited where you don't have a port listed. After we left Seattle we went up the Inside Passage and this was beautiful. Between Ketchikan and Juneau we did Tracy Arm. It was nice weather - not too cold and there was a very interesting naturalist on board giving a narrative. We didn't get to see the glacier, but it was peaceful and beautiful. Bob forgot to get some split pea soup on deck as it is his favorite. I was sorry that we didn't get to go to Glacier Bay which is the prime location for glaciers although I did like Tracy Arm. We also did Hubbard Glacier. They had a talk in the theater before hand. The naturalist at Tracy Arm was better, although the Glacier itself was amazing and we got to see it having a lot of calves. Disembarkation - Black Mark for Amsterdam here. They failed to tell us was the breakfast hours or what would be open so we got room service. I had intended just to get a taxi to the airport and that would have worked excellently. We would go off the ship (me on the scooter) and Bob would get the luggage and then we would turn the scooter in and get a taxi. But when Bob turned in the form they persuaded him that he should buy the $19 each bus tickets to the airport. Not only did we have to wait while all the luggage was stowed but the bus dropped us off a LONG way from where we had to go to check our luggage and for me to get a wheelchair. The only airlines who were checking luggage at that location were AAA and Delta. We had to go across the loading area, and up the escalators with four suitcases (2 each) to Southwest and it was very difficult. (There were too many people with strollers and luggage carts to use the elevator.) Very much more hassle than it needed to be Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Our cruise was a great experience. Seattle was a breeze embarking. Took 20 minutes from arrival at terminal until being in our room The ship is a good one. Up to Holland standards in every respect. Our suite was spacious and ... Read More
Our cruise was a great experience. Seattle was a breeze embarking. Took 20 minutes from arrival at terminal until being in our room The ship is a good one. Up to Holland standards in every respect. Our suite was spacious and comfortable, and our concierge was professional in every respect. The passengers were a mix of ages, but generally skewed older. 65 plus. There were a few families with children but were never an issue as far as noise or behaviour was concerned, as well as some younger couples. The venue is terrific. Cruising the inside passage is a sight to behold as was most of the trip. Amazing scenery and natural wonders. The only negative for me was the first couple of stops,Ketchikan and Juneau were also stops for several other cruise lines on 7 day passages,so the ports were clogged with 4 or five other ships docked at the same time,making walking through town a battle of will to get anywhere. As the ship went further north, there were fewer other ships at port. The Amsterdam is the ONLY cruise ship that docks in Anchorage. The Captain and officers were efficient and professional, but NOT a chatty gregarious bunch, but the did their job and they're not paid to be entertainers. Regarding shore excursions, be aware Alaska is NOT cheap when it comes to most anything and excursions reflect that fact. We booked excursions the day before or not at all depending on weather conditions and costs. The weather was changeable throughout the trip. We had several glorious sunny days,and some cloudy cool days,but little or no sustained rainy days. Dress in layers. You can always take things off, but if you under dress and the wind or rain comes up, your out of luck. Trying to describe the scenery and wildlife via words or pictures is beyond my abilities as a writer. Sufficient to say you will be constantly in awe of what you see every day. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was ... Read More
AMSTERDAM, 14 day Alaska, May 13-27,2011Pre-Cruise: two nights at the Seattle Sheraton, a convenient location. Nice room, pleasant staff, free Internet in the lobby. Booked via Priceline two weeks before departure. Cab to Pier 91 was $11.75 plus tip.BOARDING: be aware that you will probably have to schlep your luggage into the terminal as Seattle apparently does not offer porters for the masses. We carted our bags to the security scanner and then proceeded upstairs to check in. We checked in about 11:30 and were placed in group 7; group 2 was boarding. Seating was plentiful and our number was called about 20 minutes later.We dropped off our luggage in the cabin (yes, they were ready) and headed to the dining room for lunch. By the time we returned to the cabin, our luggage had arrived.PORTS: The ports are the reason most people take this cruise. We fully enjoyed our time in the ports. Although the Amsterdam was a bit of a disappointment in several ways, the ports are what counted.In Ketchikan we rented a car from Alaskan Car Rental and had an enjoyable day visiting Totem Bight, Walmart, Bugge Beach, and generally cruising around the area. Weather was clear with a high of almost 70.Tracy Arm: Weather was clear, and not very cold. While this makes being on deck more pleasant, I actually missed the misty, very cold day we had previously experienced at Tracy Arm. The ice flow seemed less than when we were here about the same time 4 years ago. Once again, we got nowhere near Sawyer Glacier.Juneau: We took the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier and spent several hours there. Tide was out, so we did some beach walking. We also did a bit of hiking. Of course, we also made our way to Alaska Shirt Company to stock up on t-shirts. The weather was a bit overcast, but not raining. Don't forget the Juneau Public Library offers free Internet and is adjacent to where the ship docks.Icy Straight Point: I really enjoyed this port and the hiking opportunities. We walked the second generation forest trail and then decided to walk into Hoonah. (Shuttle available for $8 round trip or $5 one way.) The shuttle used old green Denali buses. Hoonah had some great eagle viewing opportunities and we enjoyed seeing the actual town rather than having a made-for-the tourists experience.Anchorage: free and frequent shuttles provided into center of town. From there we took a free shuttle to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This was really enjoyable, and we left knowing a lot more about the First Nation tribes of Alaska.Homer: Another port we enjoyed although that sentiment was not shared by everyone. We forked over $15 for the HOHO bus, and it really was a bit much for three stops. However, we enjoyed getting to the Alaska Islands and Oceans Center and having a cinnamon roll at Two Sisters Bakery. For shoppers, there is an interesting array of eclectic galleries. Lots of good beach walking here. We, of course, also made our way to the Homer Spit and now own Salty Dawg t-shirts.Kodiak: this was our only rainout - a really cold, yucky day. We walked into town, but we canceled our rental car due to weather conditions. No shuttle offered.Hubbard Glacier: fantastic! Good weather, fantastic scenery.Sitka: another gorgeous day! We booked a private tour with Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound Tours and spent three hours sailing Sitka Sound. Our day was filled with sea otters, tufted puffins, seals, whales, and more types of birds than I can remember. I think everyone saw whales in Sitka, and we felt our tour was well-worth the money. Jim was an excellent guide, and his boat was quite comfortable.Victoria: this is the only port where we booked a ship's tour - city highlights and Butchart Gardens. The tulips were gorgeous.Formal Nights: the three sea days and the evening of Kodiak. The last formal night also had a Black & White Ball. The Sitka evening was the Master Chef's Dinner. Quite frankly, the Lido was absolutely packed with people on these occasions as they avoided the dress up routine. On other nights, jeans were the normal dining room attire for those of us choosing our own dining time. As someone said to us: The Amsterdam is a small ship with big ship problems. Crowding and lines were constant; windows were filthy; the right hand often did not know what the left hand was doing. Lido: absolute pandemonium! We started eating breakfast & lunch in the dining room to have a place to sit after finally getting food in the Lido and circling and circling and circling, never to find even a partial table available. When we did eat in the Lido, the food was often not warm. We could not eat our Rustic lasagna or sweet & sour chicken as the food was not even lukewarm.Menus: food is subjective, and we were not impressed. We actually ordered from room service three evenings as there was nothing on the menu that appealed. The Caesar salad continues to shrink, and other economy measures were obvious. Desserts were less than inspiring. I'm sure others loved every meal, but this was the first time on HAL where we have been disappointed with food.Thermal Suite Pass: we wasted our money on this; however, the fault is ours as we should have known better. The hot tub jets were almost non-functioning, but the Lido hot tubs worked perfectly. There was no monitoring of the area, and I actually shared the room with a woman in a bathing suit top and white thong underwear as the bottom. It was a revealing experience! The Greenhouse Spa relaxation room was literally that - several people slept in there all day! Somehow the atmosphere of this spa area seemed more like a day cruise to Freeport. The cruise is so port extensive that we just didn't use the Thermal suite, and we should have known better than to fork over $299.Happy Hour: on this ship, happy hour is 4-5p.m. with the second drink being $1 The Ocean Bar guys kept us well watered, and overall, they were just great.Pinnacle Grill: we enjoyed our boneless ribeyes!Cabin: run, run run away from 3370. We survived this cabin for a week as we did not want to complain. Thankfully, when we did complain, Guest Services took us seriously, and we were offered a comparable cabin. Cabin 3370 is under the dishwasher that vibrates and groans loudly until about 11 p.m. We survived that, but then the engine casing started causing loud noise 24 hours a day; it was like trying to sleep in the engine room. The ports made this trip a success, but if this had been our first trip on HAL, it might have been our last.Beards from Seattle were on the ship in Juneau, and a small number of cruisers were invited to a focus group to discuss HAL. (They also met with crew focus groups.) The experienced cruisers gave them an earful about the lack of service, the cold coffee, the noise issues, confiscated curling irons, etc. I suspect they might have been a bit shocked at the service complaints. As a relative HAL newby, I was astonished at how unhappy some 3 & 4 star Mariners were with all of the service glitches.Luggage Direct: this turned out to be a pain for us. When we received the information in our cabin the night before sailing, we had one luggage tag rather than the 2 I had requested, and my husband's boarding pass was for someone with a similar name who was traveling to San Jose, CA. We live in Florida. We trekked to the Guest Services area to try to get things corrected. We were told correct boarding passes would be delivered to the cabin as Southwest was responsible for the error. After verifying that I had indicated in writing that we needed two luggage tags and a few minutes, they gave me the second one, and assured me they had been providing this service for 4 years. When we arrived in Tampa after 11 p.m., one of our bags was missing. Want to guess where it was? Yep, San Jose! The person at the front desk ran off another luggage tag, but the bar code was keyed to the erroneous San Jose boarding pass. That bag will hopefully be delivered to our home tomorrow.For us, Alaska was the attraction, and we were certainly not disappointed as the two week experience offered a far more expansive view than our 7 day cruise of several years ago. Parts of the cruise experience were enjoyable: we met many nice people with whom we enjoyed drinks and dining. Our second set of cabin stewards was alert, attentive, and efficient. Certainly, we ran into some glitches, but these did not ruin the experience for us. In any travel, stuff happens. Misery is optional. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was our first cruise on HAL, and first to Alaska. We went with a group of 11 friends,ages 20 to 82, most of us 55 -65. all of us new to HAL and Alaska but nearly all of us had cruised several other times. Some of us had suites & ... Read More
This was our first cruise on HAL, and first to Alaska. We went with a group of 11 friends,ages 20 to 82, most of us 55 -65. all of us new to HAL and Alaska but nearly all of us had cruised several other times. Some of us had suites & some of us had inside cabins, all of us were happy with our accommodations. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship built in 2000. It is very clean, and the staff always looked very clean too. If you look for it, you will be able to find a scratch or dent here and there. We stayed at the Sheraton pre-cruise and used the Holland transfers. The Sheraton is lovely and in a great location, we walked almost everywhere. If I were to do this again, I would book the hotel myself and take cabs from the airport and to the pier and save about $150 - 200. The only free wi-fi at the Sheraton is in the lobby, which I consider archaic. Our rooms were ready for early check-in. The Holland transfer from the airport was slow and awkward to get to. They mismarked two of our party as having already taken the shuttle, so that 80+ year old couple had to schlep their own luggage and pay for a taxi. Others sat on the shuttle bus for 45 minutes waiting to fill the last TWO seats before the driver would leave the airport. That said, we fell in love with Seattle (see port review). The weather for this cruise was darn near perfect. Sunny and mid-40's to mid-60's all but 3 days. One day at sea it rained steadily, oh well. Kodiak and Victoria had intermittent showers, nothing an occasional umbrella use couldn't handle. The two sea days had some rolling, especially at night. The rest of the time very calm & smooth sailing. Embarkation was easy, took about 30 minutes from arrival at the pier to arrival in our cabin. Disembarkation was also easy, you can choose what time you get off the ship. We choose the last time, 9:00-9:15, waited with friends in their cabin and walked off with our luggage and were on the pier. Taxis are plentiful and quick to get,but using the shuttle took us nearly an hour to get off the pier. Taxi to the airport was $55. Shuttle was $9 pp. Service: Apparently about 20% of the staff were new this voyage, and there were minor slips and glitches especially the first few days. The experienced staff were outstanding. Our dining room stewards were stellar. Everyone was very friendly and eager to be of help. I heard laughing and singing behind the kitchen doors and I liked it that the staff were enjoying their work. The staff seem to know when you want them and when you don't, and always wear a smile. The only really bad service was from the photo staff. Their printer went out after the first formal night, only a couple of days into the voyage, and they continued to take pictures anyway. I had a gift certificate for a photo from my travel agent and used it for the only picture of us in the gallery, and the photo staff charged us for it anyway after accepting my certificate. We were not the only ones double-charged. They were actually rude to one of my friends who tried to buy a DVD of the trip. Dining: The MDR took forever for breakfast and lunch, we just went to the Lido, and usually sat by the pool to eat. The Lido was always crowded, and there were lines for omelettes and sandwiches. Food itself was fine, not gourmet but it is a buffet. Coffee varied from good to so-so, if you are a coffee freak then buy it from the Explorations Cafe. We had fixed seating early dinner,and ate in the MDR every night. Food was very good. Portions were smallish, and my husband ordered two entrees a couple of times. Salads were too small, soup bowls were half filled. If you order all three courses and a dessert though, you will leave satisfied. I had no complaints. Steaks at our table were not always done the way they were ordered, just ask for another one. There were always 3 or 4 fish choices, and that's what I usually ate. Lobster was offered twice, king crab once, ling cod, rockfish, halibut a couple of times and salmon every day. I had lamb a couple of times and it was excellent. Dining is meant to be a leisurely experience, plan on enjoying your dinner companions and the ambiance for an hour and a half. What's your rush? We had lunch in the Pinnacle Grill one sea day. Worth the extra money? If you like being fawned over, then yes. I thought our regular dining room servers were equal or better than the Pinnacle Grill servers. The food was about the same quality as the main dining room at their best. I ate well, often, and all I wanted & lost two pounds, probably because of all the stairs and all the walking on shore. The cabin: 7055, a DD partial ocean-view. The window looked directly astern over a small public deck. I thought it had an awkward layout, half the sofa was in a narrow alcove that made it unusable. It was only a few steps away from the door (marked emergency exit but we used it anyway) to a deck overlooking the wake, large enough for 6 or 8 deck chairs. The outside stairs to the pool/lido deck minimally blocked our window. The window was large and had one-way glass so we had perfect privacy. We didn't use the deck much, it was too cool on sea days for deck sitting, but it was lovely to stand there out of the wind and watch the wake. Not many people seemed to use it, but a couple of smokers found it and they were out there much of the time, so I tended to not go out there. The cabin is under the outdoor pool, and the noise from the pool pumps was constant and loud. It was very steady, and soon became a background white noise. Once or twice we had noise at night when the furniture around the pool was being moved. The cabin was very clean and comfortable, more storage than we needed and a roomier shower than I've had on other lines. Shower gel, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, and lotion all supplied, also two hairdryers. There was only ONE electrical outlet in the cabin, at the desk. A 4 space power strip was supplied. No outlets in the bathroom. Ship highpoints: The library! A great space, very quiet and well appointed. Lots of books available for loan. The piano bar! We ended up here most nights, Roy from South Africa is very talented. The Crows Nest! Too noisy for me at night, but a great place for daytime relaxation. The art! Scattered around the ship, every once in a while I would come across something new. Very good pieces. The entertainment: The ship's company of singers and dancers were very talented, but their costumes and staging was dated. After the first couple of performances, we missed the others. There were some very good performers brought in for one night only, they were all excellent. Especially enjoyed the comedian Lee Baylis. The crew shows were the best, but they didn't start until 11 at night. Many people did not stay up for them, which is too bad. Well worth waiting for. The itinerary: This was our first trip to Alaska, so I have nothing to compare it to. But I thought the mix of Sea days/short port days/long port days was very good. Plenty of time to relax, not so much that you got bored, the time in most ports was just about right. I will do port reviews, but there were a couple that are not in the port list so will review them here. Homer: Weather was 50 F and partly cloudy, no wind to speak of. DH went fishing for halibut, caught his 2 halibut limit and a ling cod. Used the ship's excursion and was very pleased with the guide. The 65-70 lbs of hanging weight came to 22 lbs of fillets shipped home, cost $168 for processing & shipping frozen. Arrived in fine shape, we had some for dinner last night. Yum! I went with the rest of our group on a private excursion with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. They picked us up at the dock, sent us across the bay on a water taxi to their field station where we went tide pooling, walking on nature trails around the peninsula, and visited the station itself. They supplied waterproof boots and a light snack. Our naturalist guide, Howard, was wonderful, very knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastic. We saw and touched all kinds of sea stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, crabs, mussels,butter clams, so much more. This is a strenuous clamber-about, and a couple of the older people had a difficult time with some of the slippery rocks and steep gangways. We were their first cruise ship tour group - guinea pigs! Two thumbs up for this excursion, it's tied for my favorite excursion with whale watching in Juneau. Highly recommend. http://akcoastalstdies.org They got us back to the spit with time for a little shopping if you wanted. I thought the spit looked very tourist-trappy, we just went back to the ship. Kodiak: Weather @ 42 F high, drizzly and foggy. We went on a private expedition with Dake of Memory Makers. Dake is cheerful, knowledgeable, down to earth and friendly. Going on a tour with him felt like being shown around by an old friend you haven't seen in years. Very comfortable older GMC van, only room for 6 people at a time so his tours are all very personal. He's a photographer and will customize tours for photogs. Highly recommend. Kodiak Island is gorgeous, rugged, feels like the end of the earth. There are TONS of bald eagles, we do not see any bears. The fog limits us some. There is only one kind of tree on Kodiak Island, the Sitka Spruce. The forests are all spruce and moss, and have an eerie feel like a fairy tale. Not the kind with happy endings, the scary kind. This is a real fishing town, not very tourist friendly. You have to walk about 15-20 minutes to town from the dock, it's mostly level but I don't think a wheelchair could do it. Have a beer in Henry's Restaurant, shop at the craft sale at the Native Center. Scenic cruising: Inside passage beautiful, hard to find a place next to a window. People tended to camp out for the day in a favorite spot. Tracey Arm was breathtaking, we did not get to the Sawyer Glaciers because of ice, but were very satisfied with the time spent there. We viewed from a friend's suite balcony, starboard and very forward, and had perfect views of one side going in and the other going out. Hubbard Glacier was another highpoint of the trip, we viewed from the same friend's balcony. Saw calving 10 or 12 times, nothing huge but impressive to us. Heard the crash of ice into the water, and did you know glaciers have a smell to them? Like ice too long in the freezer. Sipped cocoa and marveled, took lots of photos and got giddy with the gorgeousness. Wonderful day. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a ... Read More
Summary: Glad I went. Had a good time. Like HAL This was a two week cruise out of Seattle, which I booked one day before the final payment. When they finally gave me my cabin it was an ocean view on the Lower Promenade Deck in a good location - except it was under the kitchen. Having been in that location before, I was aware of that and the people who were originally next door (from Cruise Critics) confirmed that they were awakened each morning at 4 am with metal wheeled carts rolling around overhead. Therefore when I was given an opportunity to upgrade to a Veranda by paying extra, I decided that if I was ever going to do a Veranda, Alaska was the place to do it. We were on the port side just a few cabins behind the wing bridge. I would rather have been on the starboard side, but this cabin was very good. I have no complaints about the cabin. I rented a scooter for this trip. I rented it before I made the cruise booking. It was quite reasonable to rent, and it really helped because we were pretty far forward and the dining areas are all aft. Also I rarely had a problem getting an elevator with the scooter which I think is somewhat astonishing. The only problem I had was that there was some kind of sculpture cum chair thing opposite the elevators on our deck and I could not back the scooter out of the aft elevators without running into it. I tried backing into the elevator, but I can't turn my head to look behind me without a lot of pain, so backing in was not a good option. Even my husband agreed after I tried it once. Once was enough. Bob would tell me when I could back out and which way to turn. We flew into Seattle on Thursday - got a non-stop Southwest flight from BWI to SEATAC. Arranged for a limo transfer for us and our luggage to the Mayflower Park hotel. Walked over to the monorail and went to the Space Needle for dinner. Then the next morning borrowed a wheelchair from the hotel and Bob pushed me down to Pike Street Market and back. The hotel gave us an embarkation package which included breakfast and a shuttle to the port. At noon took a shuttle from the hotel to the terminal. Embarkation was a breeze. Gave our luggage to the luggage people and picked up the scooter at the dock kiosk so I could use it for the embarkation process and we were waved right through and even missed the photographers (a good thing). Our rooms were ready immediately when we boarded - that's the first time that ever happened. So we went to the room first. See the room comments for how we did it with a scooter - it was not a handicapped room. We had to eat in the Lido on embarkation, and it is not possible to eat in the Lido when you are using a scooter. There are no longer trays and the scooter basket is not equipped for food. This was exacerbated by the fact that they were having people serve you everything instead of allowing you to take it. They told us the reason for that was for two days in case people got on with colds or other illness to keep them from passing it around. That seemed to be a good idea, but it did make things slow with long lines to be served as people did not understand that they could go to the next station. Bob went and got us something - he came back with spaghetti which was the only place that had no line. I never found a good way to eat in the Lido with either my cane or the scooter. There were no helpful people to carry your food. The service was really slow which made it was painful for me stand and wait for other people to be served. We only ate in the Lido if forced. We never ate in the Italian restaurant - I wasn't sure if it was extra price or not and you had to make a reservation. The food was reasonably good in the main dining room, but due to the fact that almost all the crew were new, the service was VERY VERY slow at first and we did not always get what we ordered. Bob ordered sugar free ice cream for dessert and got a sundae (which is what he really wanted anyway). Once he did not get a second soup (he will have three soups and no entree sometimes), and once a lady and I got each other's omelets and didn't realize it until she got to the goat cheese in the middle of mine. After the first couple of days, many people defaulted to the Lido and ironically the service also improved. We talked to some people who were on the previous cruise which was from Ft. Lauderdale through the canal and around the Pacific (a long cruise) and they told us that the ship's people were hand picked for that cruise and most of them got off in Vancouver where the cruise ended. Then 70 absolutely new staff, and some that were returning from leave and others that were transferred from other ships got on along with 1000 people who took the one day cruise from Victoria to Seattle. So the servers were finding their way around for those first days. Some people complained that they did not like the coffee, but we don't drink coffee so don't care about the coffee. The same person said her hot soups were not hot enough, but I found them perfectly fine. They no longer have breakfast specials, but the menu is expanded (they now have Eggs Florentine and not just Eggs Benedict), and I could always get cranberry juice. The choices were particularly good on the four formal nights. When they gave you lobster there was a container of melted butter to go with it instead of the steward drizzling some over it. They also no longer take your lobster tail out of the shell for you. I had trouble deciding on formal nights, but even on regular nights, I always had something I liked to eat. Bob lost some weight - he said when he got back that he was down to his target weight. I didn't lose, but I didn't gain either. The ship was noisy and had some vibration and creaking all the time even though I did not consider that there was particularly bad or rough weather. Sometimes some loud starling banging. Most of the time if there was rain it was at night. We did have rain one day in Kodiak for part of the day, but all the other days were at worst overcast. Spectacularly good weather for Alaska with blue skies. The people were nice - some of them had been on as many as 14 Alaska cruises and had a lot of information and anecdotes. We had a Cruise Critics meeting on the second morning. The tides are pretty steep in that area of the world so the ramps were also steep and some of them had steps, so I could not take the scooter off the ship. Some of the tours were on regular buses where wheelchairs could be stowed, but some were in school buses with no luggage capability. The tour tickets were not always informatory about this. The port maps were EXCELLENT and had a lot of information about the ports - more than just shopping things. I do not see why cruisers need to have tanzanite and Diamonds International in all the ports anyway. It is stupid. And my opinion of people who shop in those places in Alaska is not complimentary. Bob went to some of the shows and enjoyed them, but of course the theatre is the usual HAL theatre where you can't see on the ground floor unless you are in the front row. The theatre was right under us so he usually went down one flight of stairs and sat in the balcony where he could see. I was too busy editing photos to go. We went to trivia once but for some reason it was just not fun the way they did it. I don't know why - we've always really enjoyed trivia. I went to a HAL ports trivia on the last day, not realizing that they meant just Alaskan ports, and sat with a man who knew all the answers and we won some coasters. I was completely unable to use my own computer to do emails because it would not allow me to use a shifting IP address or something like that. The computer lady and I tried everything and nothing worked. I got emails sent once, but other than that I had no success. So she lent me a laptop. That worked fine and I could use the internet while sitting in my own cabin. Bob walked out to the business center in Ketchikan and bought a thumb drive for me (and he also got some fudge for himself at the candy store) and I just transferred my Favorites and photos to the other laptop and did the internet that way. One thing I could not do on either computer though was Facebook. The page would load and then I would get a message that the page couldn't be loaded and it would vanish. I only managed it at the end for a little bit. Dis-embarkation was semi-bad. I had thought we would take a taxi to the airport, but when Bob turned the form in he paid for bus tickets. DO NOT take the bus unless you are flying Delta or American. Those are the only airlines where you can check the bags at the location where the bus delivers you. Also you stand in a long line to get on the bus after you get through immigration. They did not give us any information at all about what places were open for breakfast or the hours, so we got room service. They gave us Black 1 as our disembarkation color and said it would be 8-8:15, but there was no information about what the sequence would be. When we got to the airport, I could not get a wheelchair as Southwest had no presence at the bus dock, so we had to drag ourselves and our luggage all the way through the airport and up an escalator (there was a LONG line for the elevator) to get to the Southwest counter. Once we got there we got our luggage checked and a wheelchair and the only problem was flight delays because of weather. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Our trip to Alaska can only be described as fantastic. We were initially aware that the Amsterdam was an older ship but after a couple of days we were oblivious to its age. The conscientiousness of all crewmembers was the greatest ... Read More
Our trip to Alaska can only be described as fantastic. We were initially aware that the Amsterdam was an older ship but after a couple of days we were oblivious to its age. The conscientiousness of all crewmembers was the greatest asset of our trip. Most meals were good to great. The only complaint we had was that the coffee was not hot and sometimes the food was warm.Let get off the ship and on to land! The beauty of Tracy Arm is hard to describe. The Captain's ability to maneuver the ship into small spaces was truly amazing. In Juneau we negotiated with a young man (for a reasonable price) to take us on a floatplane to get an overview of the area including the glaciers. Breathtaking! We then went on a relatively small boat that can hold 40 people to look for whales. There happened to be only 7 of us on board and Captain Tim and his naturalist were wonderful. We saw humpbacks and Orcas and the crew seemed as incited as us at these sightings. They offered us a special treat of Smoked Salmon and it was delicious. This was a perfect day and we said if the rest of the trip turned out to be uneventful after a day like today we would not feel cheated.But when we got to Sitka our best day got even better! Sitka is absolutely beautiful. Once again we decided to take a chance and see if we could book our own excursion. And once again we hit gold! We signed up with Paul David of Gallant Adventures (907-738-2855 www.gallantadventures.com) to take us out to hopefully see the wildlife. Paul has a small boat, which holds 5 to 7 people and was perfect for maneuvering into small places that bigger boats could not enter. We saw sea otters, otters with their babies, sea lions, tufted puffins, eagles, and humpback whales and much more....and all up close and personal. Previously Paul worked as a geologists and his knowledge about the geology of the area in addition to his knowledge of the wildlife made this trip and this port the perfect ending to our Alaskan trip. If you looking to go fishing or sight seeing we can't recommend him highly enough! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
May 27, 2011 Holland America AmsterdamPre-cruise and Embarkation: We had purchased our own airfare to Seattle but had provided our flight info to Holland during the online check in process and had purchased the transfer to the pre-cruise ... Read More
May 27, 2011 Holland America AmsterdamPre-cruise and Embarkation: We had purchased our own airfare to Seattle but had provided our flight info to Holland during the online check in process and had purchased the transfer to the pre-cruise hotel, the Fairmont Olympic. Our flight arrived at 9:45 pm and in the itinerary it states that there will be Holland America representatives there to help you until 10pm. There is also a number they provide but not for after 10pm. We thought since they knew we were arriving the Holland representative would still be there. By the time we arrived at baggage claim, there was no one there. We had all our bags but did not have clue where to go. A Continental representative helped us to get to where the shuttle was for our transfer. Transfer and arrangements at Fairmont Olympic went smoothly. Please note that if you are a triple or quad make sure you know what the bed arrangements are at check in at the Fairmont. My party consisted of my husband, myself, and our 12 year old daughter. They originally had us in a room with 2 twin beds. I do not see how this would have worked at all, but they quickly moved us to a room with 2 twins and a sofa bed. Transportation on May 27 to the Amsterdam was very smooth as was embarkation. That was the shortest time it has ever taken me to check in and be on board a vessel in all the cruises we have been on (18+). They handed out the Alaska coupon books to each member of our party on our way to the ship. Make sure and get one as they had great values for Juneau and Ketchikan. On board we proceeded to our cat B stateroom (6211). We were amazed the cabin was ready this early, approximately 11:30 AM. A very nice stateroom with lots of storage space. Cabin stewards were excellent throughout whole trip. Safety drill was held. We were not required to put on life vests just report to our station.Ketchikan: I had booked the Deadliest Catch tour on my own for the 730am departure, and we barely made that. The Deadliest Catch boat was docked right next to Amsterdam and this was an excellent tour. After this we went on the Alaska Rainforest tour through Holland and enjoyed this. Afterwards did the Mount Roberts Tramway.Juneau: We did the gold panning tour through Holland. We greatly enjoyed thisIcy Strait Point: We took the tender and just walked around the area. I believe there were shuttles into town. A few shops and museum around tender area. Anchorage: We just took the shuttle into town and walked around. Someone from Holland was at the area they dropped you off in town, to point you in what direction to go in. We took bus to Ulu Factory and walked around town. I heard good things about IMAX films and museum from other passengers.Homer: There were free shuttles over to the shops on the spit area. There was a shuttle available at a small cost into downtown Homer.Kodiak: Walked into town (about a mile). There is a museum there and of course some shops open.Sitka: Walked through town on the way to meet our boat for half day of salmon fishing. I had booked this on our own with Sitka Secrets. They were right on time and we really enjoyed the time spent fishing. We caught one king salmon and two rockfish. The water was very rough. On the way back in I filled out the form for the processing of the fish. When we docked they took the fish and we received it the day after we returned home. Processing was only $2.25/lb of outgoing weight but the Fedex to ship was $95.Victoria: There were no free shuttles to town here so a taxi was required. The cost was only $2 a person (one way)but some people still walked into town. A beautiful city. Make sure your credit card company knows you will be in Canada as mine was denied because I had not informed them of this. Also have a variety of bills available. My husband bought something that came out to $17.01 American dollars. They would not take his penny, required him to give them $18 and then gave him change in Canadian money.Dining Onboard: We ate all our breakfasts in the Lido, where they had a great variety of food. We ate all our lunches there also. At lunch there was Italian, Asian, and other food. The Terrace Grill also has burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and a taco bar. We ate one lunch in the main dining room and the service was terrible. It took a long time to get the food and when it arrived the orders were not correct. We very much enjoyed tea every day. We had fixed early seating (5:45) for dinner. The food was excellent, and service was wonderful. We did eat one night at the Pinnacle at that was a step above the dining room and I would highly recommend it.Entertainment: All the shows onboard were excellent. We also participated in trivia, Name that Tune, and my daughter participated in the Olympics on board. Several shows involved the singers and dancers, there were two comedians, and a harmonica player.Disembarkation and Post Cruise: We had a post-cruise hotel package purchased through Holland with the Sheraton Seattle. Once we disembarked the ship, the bus to take people to the Sheraton did not show up to 1 ½ hours after disembarkation. After losing about half a day we proceeded on our hop on hop off shuttle around Seattle. Very good tour but would have liked not to have lost so much time in the morning. We ate lunch at Jimmy John's Sandwiches across from hotel and dinner at Rock Bottom Restaurant about two blocks from hotel. Hotel is in an excellent location within walking distance to a variety of shops and restaurants. The next day we had scheduled the Mt. Rainier Explorer through Holland. We informed in the lobby that morning that the bus that was there was not big enough, so a larger one was on the way. It seemed like they should have known how many people were going on the tour and have the appropriate bus ready. The bus arrived about 50 minutes later and we proceeded on our tour. This was an excellent tour. The second night we ate at the Elephant Irish pub also within two blocks of hotel. The next morning we came down to get our airport shuttle. We arrived outside at 6:10Am to take the 6:30 shuttle. Some people with single bags came out around 6:20 to also get the shuttle. The driver arrived and refused to take us and our luggage saying he did not have enough room. It did not matter that we were there first and he had the same type of vehicle that we had come to the hotel in. A bigger vehicle arrived 20 minutes later and we proceeded to the hotel and flew back to Florida without further incident.Overall, we loved this itinerary and the Amsterdam is a wonderful ship. 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Sail Date May 2011
My husband and I are infrequent cruisers. The Canal was on his bucket list, and we needed to make our own holiday plans this year. The dates of this cruise really filled the bill, and the price was most attractive. We own a second ... Read More
My husband and I are infrequent cruisers. The Canal was on his bucket list, and we needed to make our own holiday plans this year. The dates of this cruise really filled the bill, and the price was most attractive. We own a second home in Los Angeles, so cannot speak to air travel or hotel accommodations getting to the Long Beach Port. The embarkation was the worst in my limited experience. The Amsterdam had been in drydock for a short week in San Francisco. Somehow, it was late in arriving in Long Beach; all the attendant staff trainings, etc. scheduled for the early AM of the departure day were set back, playing havoc with the schedule. Those of us checking in were forced to a LONG wait in a cold room with inadequate seating - port staff finally brought in folding chairs. I am aware that stuff happens; however, no announcement was ever made, either in the port or on the ship, explaining the significant delay. I heard many stories and scuttlebutt, from a small hole (leak) in the ship to awaiting connecting flights to dealing with union loading issues at the port. We were all left in the dark. There was no "sailaway" as scheduled; the emergency drill was held in the port. We finally disembarked without fanfare around 9 or 10 PM. It was announced the next day that the shore excursions for the first port (Cabo San Lucas on day 3) were cancelled. This was to accommodate our late arrival in Cabo (afternoon rather than the scheduled 7 AM) and to allow the ship to make up the lost time and get back on the schedule. It all seemed a little furtive - clear and frequent communication would have been nice. We actually boarded the ship on a covered catwalk during a blinding sideways rainstorm. The staff member on the port side would not allow us to wait a few minutes until the rain let up. We were SOAKED from the knees down and had to visit the laundry room to use the clothes dryers immediately. Not the most auspicious beginning to our cruise. SHIP: The Amsterdam is a lovely older ship with beautiful dark woods and an impressive art collection. It had obviously been recarpeted in public areas during the drydock (carpet was still "pilling") and was in tiptop shape (except for rooms cited below). There always seemed to be ample spaciousness, even in the buffets and during the canal passage. I am not a fan of the new,huge ships and thought it was lovely and classy. There did seem to be some issues with public restrooms and the percentage of stalls being out of order - this may have to do with the age of the ship. The OofO signs would be up for days. Ditto the washing machines. I think 20% were defunct before we sailed and that it is just not a priority to HAL. But on a 2-week cruise, this can become an issue. Other than that, no complaints about the physical ship. STATEROOM: We booked with an out of town agent and had (unbeknownst to me) a guaranteed cabin that landed us on deck 1. Initially, I was unhappy. However, we experienced a good deal of roughness during our sea days, and the lower level was actually a blessing. There was more than adequate storage, and a generous window open to views all the time (wouldn't have been the case on Deck 3). The bed was quite comfortable. I was glad I had brought my own magnifying mirror for the bathroom. While there is one in the cabin, it is on the desk and the lighting there is inadequate. Lighting in bath is great. We had no issues with shower water temperature (many others did) or with room temperature. We were always comfortable. Our toilet did back up twice due to mis-use by some neighbors - an inconvenience that was handled well once and clumsily once. We appreciated the in-room robes and the bath products. DINING: Let me just preface this by saying that my husband and I are avid cooks and foodies. I did realize that I should not compare the food on this cruise to the one I took on Azamara - a little like comparing apples and oranges. However, in addition to the embarkation, this would be my one complaint about this cruise. Specifically, the Dining Room (La Fontaine), its service and food. We heard so many complaints about this that it got to be a litany. Apparently, there were a lot of staff changes prior to this cruise. I do not fault the staff - they were incredibly ill-trained. Example: our first breakfast was in the dining room. It was about one-quarter full - there were many, many waitstaff all around (in santa hats, I might add.) I ordered eggs, toast, coffee and a fruit plate. My husband had bacon, eggs, hash browns, OJ and coffee. We never got the fruit plate. My scrambled eggs were from a carton and had a very funky texture (this was the case in the Lido Buffet as well. I saw them being defrosted and cooked. I never ordered scrambled eggs again). The food took forever to come. The coffee had been in the metal serving pots a long time and was not hot. We could NOT get the attention of any of the servers. They were always "looking away." We finally got up, went over and asked whether they could start over with some hot coffee. They did, but we had to stand on our heads to get it. On Christmas Eve, a tablemate's prime rib arrived looking like shoe leather - he had ordered rare, and coudn't get anyone's attention, either. He finally SHOUTED and got their (and everyone else') attention. These were not isolated incidents, indicative of the food and service issues throughout. There seemed to be kitchen issues, as well. One night, the appetizer was a smoked salmon on fingerling potatoes with a couple other components. Four of our tablemates ordered it - it arrived with a piece of smoked salmon and a sprig of parsely. Period. They brought it to the server's attention and they expressed surprise and returned to have them re-plated. We were very late (8:30) diners on New Year's Eve; the entree was steak and lobster newburg. They must have run out of lobster at that point. I had the beef, a lobster shell full of newburg sauce with mushrooms but no lobster. They served baked alaska on the last evening and just let it sit in the dining room between services. I suppose it was frozen and firm for the 5 PM diners. SO, major quality control and training and supervision issues. I will say that it seemed to improve some over the course of the two-week cruise. HAL maintains an early seating, a late seating and anytime-dining. They don't seem to have it organized to combine these, yet. It just seems to be more than they can handle. We did the anytime-dining. It was possible to make a reservation, but they always kept some tables open, too. The sommelier service was very good. We brought our own wine (corkage is $18) and it was always well-handled. Table servers don't know how to do anything but a "bar pour", but we kept an eye on them and requested smaller "pours". The food in the Lido Buffet was excellent, as good and varied as any I have had. There seemed to be adequate seating, even at breakfast. We had dinner in there one evening. They had servers (rather than self service) the first two days of the cruise for sanitation reasons. I really appreciated this, even though it slows things down. We went once to afternoon tea (delightful) and had lunch one time out on the deck (burgers, pizza, taco bar, etc.). There are two specialty restaurants on the Amsterdam. One is Canaletto, Italian style dining for which there is no exta charge. It is adjacent to the Lido Buffet. It was good, but not great. There didn't seem to be much garlic or seasoning in the dishes. The meals were hot (an improvement over the dining room) and the service was prompt. We brought a bottle of our own wine. They neither charged us corkage nor poured it. Whatever. I would have been unhappy with the food had I paid a surcharge for it. As it was, it was a change of pace. The second specialty place is the Pinnacle Grill. I believe the surcharge was $20 each. It was very good, many steak and meat choices and a tremendous variety of salad, side, and desserts. I had a perfectly done veal chop and creamed spinach. Nice wine list, with a Northwest emphasis. The excellent service staff could teach the Dining Room folks a lesson. We attempted to return a second night but they were full up. IMHO, worth the surcharge for a special occasion night. ACTIVITIES: This cruise was heavy on sea days, so we participated in some of the activities (as well as doing nothing at all on a deck chair). There are the standard trivia and other contests, in addition to interesting "classes" (I participated in an art tour and cooking demos,) workout activities, tech classes, bridge, etc. I listened to the Port info lectures on TV in the stateroom. All of the above is pretty standard cruise fare, with the cooking demos being a nice addition; I only attended the freebies, however. HAL did a marvelous job with special holiday activities. From a carol sing-a-long to special treats to holiday entertainments in the Queen's Lounge to decorations to interdenominational services to a visit from Santa Himself, it was all superb. The New Year's Eve party and celebrations were spectacular and we enjoyed them immensely. KIDS: There were about 60 kids onboard, mostly with extended families having a holiday together. I cannot speak to the activities provided for them, though I was aware that there were some of those. I didn't appreciate having middle-school-age kids in the Crow's Nest Bar at 10:30 PM caterwauling in a karaoke contest. We went up there for a nightcap more than once and left due to this. Seems like it should be adults only after some time or other or maybe restrict them to a couple of Family Nights. That is, if they want the rest of us to buy alcohol. SERVICE: Besides the aforementioned dining room service, we found the rest of the service to be quite good to excellent. Our cabin steward was thorough but unobtrusive. The buffet staff was excellent, also the bar staff. They did not get in your face for drink orders as we experienced on Royal Caribbean. The drinks guy in the nightclub seemed a little overwhelmed and could have used an assistant. In general, we were happy with the service. ENTERTAINMENT: Pretty standard fare, but most enjoyable. There was the requisite in-house singer-dancer group who performed 4 or 5 times. The staging and costumes were magnificent. The singers were OK, and seemed to be lip-synching. We attended the early shows before late dinner. The room (Queen's Lounge) is a beautiful space. I thought the sightlines and audio and seating availability were very fine. I cannot speak to the late show. We heard only 3 of the guest performers. The sailaway/Crow's Nest band was OK, pretty much par for the course. The band in the Ocean Bar nightly, the Station Band, were superb. They had an endless repertoire and were quite skilled in figuring out what was appealing to the crowd at any given moment. We also enjoyed the piano bar player, (Debby Bacon) and the string quartet, who played during dining from the balcony and after dinner - rumor had it that they were USC music students. Fight on. They were a really nice touch. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS: Our ports were Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala), Puerto Caldera (Costa Rica) and Cartagena (Colombia, and of course the Panama Canal passage. Adequate info was dispensed via lecture (and TV) about the ports. We only scheduled one ship's excursion, and that was "Antigua on Your Own" - a bus trip of an hour from the port into the old city and back. It was reasonably priced. I would not have set this up alone, for security reasons. Cabo was pretty boring as it was cut short (see above). All excursions were cancelled, it was Christmas Eve, it was too early in the year for whale watching, and we only had a 2-3 hours there. We just walked around. IMHO, there is not much there anyway except Americans, golf and tacky tourist shops. Scuba Diving would be great but was not an option due to cancellations. In Acapulco, we set up our own tour with Rudy's (found online) with another couple He did an excellent job for a very fair price. We enjoyed Costa Rica and Guatelmala very much. However, the ship docks at a very isolated port in each case. In order to go anywhere or do anything, one needs to have a private or ship's excursion set up. Old town Antigua is interesting but its street merchants and general populace regard tourists as walking dollar signs and are very "in your face" at a level I had only experienced in Tunisia previously. Be prepared. Costa Rica is beautiful and has much to offer. We did a private tour with 9 other people with Okey Dokey Tours that did not provide all that was promised for the price. We did some fun things, but "Charlie" was quite the fast talking con man. Be advised. Cartagena was a surprise, and my favorite of the lot. Cabbies congregate at the port and negotiate to guide you for the day. This is a great deal and a safe deal as well. The city has much to see and guides save you much time, wandering, and backtracking. Really an amazing place. The passage through the Panama canal was handled beautifully by HAL. We did not get off the ship here. The port provides an all-day "Narrator-Guide" who provides a steady commentary from the bridge that is most welcome and helpful. The Ship provided on-deck coffee and rolls in the early AM, and iced tea during the humidity of the day. It was beyond interesting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. DISEMBARKATION: Unlike our embarkation, this was a breeze, and handled efficiently and in record time. Plenty of instruction was given, everything went as planned, we were off the ship with no shoving or waiting, found our bags, and went through customs just like that! We had scheduled a tour of the Everglades with our Travel Agent's group, who got us to the For Lauderdale airport afterwards without a hitch. SUMMARY: This was a wonderful way to spend the holidays. There were enough sea days to relax and rest up between ports, the ship was beautiful and of a nice size, we met such nice, interesting people, and the weather was fine. The food was not as good as Azamara's, but I realized the difference in price and that this was a good value for the price. If they can get their dining room staff trained and their quality control issues in the dining room kitchen addressed, they will have a quality product. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Arrived at San Diego airport from Phoenix, no problems. We used the public transportation ( bus ) to go from the airport to the cruise terminal. It runs ever 20 minutes and costs $1.10 per senior, exact change is required. The bus was ... Read More
Arrived at San Diego airport from Phoenix, no problems. We used the public transportation ( bus ) to go from the airport to the cruise terminal. It runs ever 20 minutes and costs $1.10 per senior, exact change is required. The bus was clean, fast and let us off on Harbor near the terminal. The bus number is 992 in either direction. Embarkation was a breeze. Cabins were ready and luggage arrived in good time. We had excellent cabin stewards, Bambang and Atman. We had very slow and not very good service in the La Fontaine dining room the first night, Open Seating. We switched tables for the next night and were rewarded with excellent and friendly service at table 128. The waiter and asst. were Antong and Sugi. We found that the best wine steward was Digz. We continued to call every morning to reserve that table to insure great service. There were some complaints from other cruisers about poor and slow service this cruise, which is unusual from Holland America. The Lido dining was very good, clean and well run. The food was just as good as the main dining room. I found some waiters there were above the average. They were Alex, Sugi, Iful and a couple of others whom I can not remember their name. Overall experience in the Lido was great. The Culinary Arts center/Movie theatre was very good. Crows Nest was very good. Shops were small. The Pinnacle Dining room was excellent. The gym was small but very well equiped and run by Jenna and Oscar. Service from the Front Desk was excellent. The Shore Excursions desk wasn't as good. Our travelling companion can not walk as well and has some problems with long distances and uneven walking. Our friend asked at the man at the shore excursions desk about going on the "Rhythms of the Night" excursion in Puerto Vallarta, as to how easy the walking would be for him and explained his problems. The man told him that there would be no problems for him to do this excursion. WRONG!!!! Our friend cancelled due to doubts about if he could do it after talking to some of the other passengers. We went on the excursion and we could tell that there was no way that the shore excursions man should have recommended this excursion for our friend. The Queen's Room, main theatre, was small and on the bottom floor, the floor is flat so that one is blocked by others sitting in front of you. The shows were very good. Holland was very good with insuring that all was well at all the ports. Tenders were clean and the crew members were very helpful. Disembarkation went very well also. As on most cruises there are those passengers that block the stairways and hallways even after being asked repeatedly not to by the crew. Such a safety hazard, all due to people who can not or will not wait their turn. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
When I read negative reviews I usually consider that some people are never pleased so take them with a grain of salt. I have been on several Holland American cruises and this is the first time I have been driven to write a review. I am ... Read More
When I read negative reviews I usually consider that some people are never pleased so take them with a grain of salt. I have been on several Holland American cruises and this is the first time I have been driven to write a review. I am hoping this was a one time event for us but after reading another Cruise Critic member's review of the same cruise felt I needed to share my experiences so people wouldn't think that "some folks are never happy".Probably the biggest problem was the temperature of the ship. Almost everywhere but our cabin was too cold for comfort. This was supposed to be a warm weather cruise but felt more like outdoors in Alaska. The pianist in the Piano Bar said he had complained immediately on the first day of the cruise and every other day after that to no avail. Even with a hooded sweatshirt the piano bar was frigid. The dining room was always too cold and some folks were thinking maybe if they all showed up on Formal Night in bathrobes the staff would get the message. The Wajang Theater required heavy jackets with hoods, which we didn't have. Most everywhere on the ship was too cold to be comfortable without some sort of sweatshirt. We made several complaints but nothing seemed to help, even when I managed to speak to the Customer Service Manager we saw minimal improvement.The second problem was the Lido deck food and service, it was well below the standards of other ships. The first few days it was obvious there had been a total crew change and they didn't have a clue. The food for most of the 12 days was usually cold or tasted reheated and not fresh. We tried to only eat there when the dining room wasn't open.The dining room food was excellent but the service was slow, sometimes taking two full hours to eat dinner. Having flexible dining, we finally found a server that provided more efficient service and requested his table whenever possible. One shouldn't have to seek out good service.The problems with this cruise really became obvious after cruising on the ms Oosterdam in mid February and also to the Mexican Riviera. The standard of service throughout the ship and food in the Lido deck was so much higher that you would think it was a different cruise line. On the plus side, the Station Dance Band was hands down the best dance band I have heard on a cruise ship. The pianist, Stryker, was amazing and always had a full house most nights in spite of the cold temperatures in the Piano Bar. Brad Cummings, the ventriloquist and Dale Kristien provided top-notch entertainment. The advantage of the longer cruise is the diversity of entertainment they provide besides the usual ships singers and dancers. Some of the Broadway style shows are great and some of them are over burdened by music that drowns out the singers. That was the case on this cruise. The back stage tour on the last day was very enlightening and fun.Our excellent cabin stewards always kept our room spotless. We did have some plumbing issues that took a few days to finally get resolved, but they did get resolved. Room service for breakfast was always on-time and hot.Maybe the problem was the ship was going into dry dock for two weeks after our cruise and had just come off of a 69 day world cruise, whatever the reason, we are hesitant to cruise on the ms Amsterdam again or on any ship coming off of a World Cruise. We were considering taking the ms Amsterdam in Alaska for a 14 day cruise but have very strong reservations. We booked most of our excursions ourselves and truly enjoyed having two days in Puerto Vallarta, which enabled us to go on a personal bird watching tour with Birding Mexico early on the 2nd morning. I highly recommend the ships consider doing over nights like this to enable one to really experience a port with lots to offer. Bob's Day Sail in Cabo is highly recommended. And Mazatlan Frank's photo oriented personal tour was great fun and enabled us to capture the city photographically. We never felt unsafe in Mazatlan, it's a shame it has been dropped from port stops in Mexico. Those people rely on tourist and cruise ship dollars. The Digital Workshops were a great surprise and while I am technology savvy, I learned some things that were very useful. Embarkation and debarkation went smoothly in San Diego and our cabin was actually ready when we boarded. I was willing to put up with the problems on the ms Amsterdam until I experience top notch service on the ms Oosterdam. The comparison was just too much to not write this review. I will post another review on the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
If we have just experienced Holland America's Signature of Excellence, then I am unable to understand their Banner Statement as they did not live up to this reputation. This was our first cruise with this line after being repeat ... Read More
If we have just experienced Holland America's Signature of Excellence, then I am unable to understand their Banner Statement as they did not live up to this reputation. This was our first cruise with this line after being repeat customers of NCL and Celebrity. The boarding process was very easy, the cabin and the early arrival of our luggage was very good. We were very glad to see the unobtrusive measures the crew went to in keeping the dreaded food born virus at bay, including not letting anybody serve themselves at the buffet for the first 48 hours, that was forward thinking. From that point on, however, everything else was a disappointment. We learned that this was the final leg of a "Round The World Cruise" and the ship was going into dry dock immediately following this leg of the journey. We also learned from the people who had remained on the ship that many of the crew including the galley chefs had left in San Diego and it showed. For the first few days, the chefs in the kitchen and servers in the restaurant appeared to be learning their craft and food always arrived cold at the table and with extremely long wait times. The servers would come and apologize for the slow service, and report that they had gone again to the galley to collect our food. The food left a lot to be desired, quality and quantity were not acceptable. The main problem was that the Menu did not exactly explain what you were going to get. For instance, one main evening meal for me, a small portion of appetizer, less than a quarter cup on a decorated plate, a green salad, followed by the main entrEe, which was a quarter cup of couscous, two large shrimp and some julienne carrots. This would have been acceptable but after watching the show, at nine o'clock, there was nowhere else on the ship to get a small snack or ice cream because everything was being cleaned and closed down. The quality and quantity of the meals were suspect, several at our table complained that their steak never arrived as requested and had to be returned, a couple stated that they asked for steak well done and it was almost raw when it arrived. For example I have never had Pacific Cod before that was so tough, my first thought was that it was uncooked, as the fish didn't flake. Also food was called something on the menu which it wasn't, one example of the misnaming of food was the Black Forrest Gateaux, it didn't have any chocolate cake layers, the only resemblance was the chocolate chips on the top. In fact, the descriptions were so bad, it was part of the evening's entertainment at our table to guess what we were going to eat. The ship was excessively cold the first few days and one day while waiting in line at the front desk I was approached by a lady who asked that I complain about the temperature as she hadn't been able to get anybody to do anything. In fact, it was so cold, the evening we went to watch a movie in the Wajang theater, the Canadians on board all sat there in their cold weather jackets. Whilst talking to her, I saw a crew man walking by who appeared to be an engineer and approached him direct. He stated that he was the one in charge of the air conditioning and had not be informed about any complaints. He immediately took care of the problem. We also had a problem with our air conditioning, every time we arrived or left port, our cabin was filled with an exhaust smell, hope they are going to clean the air ducts or fix the leak during their dry dock. I think that we could overlook the above problems as we all turned it into joke and used it part of our cruise conversations. This was not to be so, one final problem was in store on the last sea day when we went to check our bill. There were a half a dozen items charged for that we didn't recognize including one for $32 that turned out to be a carton of cigarettes. We were assured that we purchased this item as it couldn't have been on our account if our Cabin Card had not been swiped and we had signed the receipt. I had purchased items in the shop previously and you did have to use your card and also give your room number to make the purchase. We were then informed that we had to go to the shop and get the receipt, of course, nobody could do anything as the right person was never around. After supper, we went back to the shop and was told that there had been a mistake and it had been taken care of. Well, I wanted proof and was told to go to see Ileana in the jewelery store. There was never any apology from the Staff about the error and in fact, when the final bill arrived at our cabin on disembarkation day, there were four more charges in addition to the ones that were still on the bill. We had been charged again in error for a bottle of wine, and drinks in a couple of the bars. So we had to line up at the front desk and explain that their system had malfunctioned again. Thankfully, we had taken care of the cigarette problem the day before as by then, all the shops were closed and there would have been no way we could have gotten the receipt and credit taken care of that overcharge. The Cruise Director, apart from his morning review over the loudspeaker system, was absent, this was probably part of the "Round the World" aspect to the cruise where people had already set their daily routine and didn't need the personal contact that usually comes from a Cruise Director. I would like to add that our cabin staff and dining servers, once up to speed, were very personable and gave us great service. The gym was pretty small and weight machines were limited and there never was enough space to stretch after working out. The library and other areas were good, but there is a problem in the Queens lounge. There are two types of chairs to watch a show, some low couches and some high chairs on a pretty flat surface. Unfortunately, the high chairs were placed in front of the couches and it made for poor viewing of the shows. Hopefully, during their dry dock this problem and the theater's poor dEcor will be changed. After all, they did start pulling down the curtains in the Lido on the last day while we were still eating breakfast. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a ... Read More
The route for this cruise is excellent, the support staff (cabin attendants, restaurant staff, etc) first class, but several events were seriously disappointing and HAL should do something about it: The embarcation at Los Angeles was a total mess - people having to line outside for hours in the pouring rain, no chairs inside - had to stand for over an hour in a cold barn before being "processed" Sommelier's dinner at the Pinnacle - extra charge of $69 per person - rushed pace, uninteresting wines, ignorant sommelier, so so food Too many extra charges with no logical explanation: attend a cookery demonstration and pay $29 for the privilege Captain Everson has no social skills - even boorish and while he invited selected travelers to his reception he and his crew stuck together and did not socialise - even refused to shake hands. The excursions are reviewed below. Pauline, the advisor on shore excursions gave the impression of being clueless To find a sun chair on one of the decks requires people to get up at dawn and grab a place - it was almost like on a package holiday in a cheap spanish resort. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in ... Read More
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in Hong Kong, a volcano in Indonesia, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we, as passengers, never gave a thought to our safety or to the bad weather we could have encountered. Dinner, dancing, shows were provided nightly. There were many formal nights - reminders of what 'crossings' were to the wealthy of foregone years. Champagne flowed, music drifted from different areas, stellar service in a professional manner was a constant. Yet, there was this feeling of family, of caring. Nothing was too much to ask for - and there was never a tone of any type used, no attitudes possessed this crew. They were there to help and please us in whatever why they possibly could and that is what they did. Oh, and did I mention the smiles -- so many wonderful broad sincere smiles to greet us every place on this ship. The crew were from Indonesia - what a honor they are to their country! Asia and Australia were educational for those of us not visiting these countries before. The Ports of Call worthwhile. So grateful to be able to see these great wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China. Overland in China was fantastic with lovely top-drawer hotel and dining accommodations. At the end of the day, I always go back to thoughts and longings for the ship and its crew who truly provided us with the main ingredients for a beyond belief experience in travel. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an ... Read More
Pacific Northwest ms Amsterdam September 20-24, 2010 Background Information: Last year I won $3,000 on a state lottery scratch off ticket, and immediately began searching for a cruise to spend it on. Normally I cruise by myself in an interior cabin, but this time I thought I'd treat my sister to a much deserved vacation and splurge a bit on the accommodations. Imagine my surprise when I realized that for just a few hundred dollars more than I'm used to paying for a solo inside or outside cabin, I was able to book an SB Deluxe Suite for the two of us on a 4-day Pacific Northwest itinerary on the Amsterdam out of Seattle. Seattle Pre- and Post-Cruise: Neither of us had ever been to Seattle, so we got to play tourist. I was able to gather a lot of useful information from the West Coast Departures board here at Cruise Critic. Using Hilton Honors points, I booked a room for one night before and one night after the cruise at the Hilton Hotel at 6th and University. The Hilton was within walking distance of most of the downtown attractions and transit stations. The morning of the cruise, we strolled through Pike Place Market and bought postcards for family and friends back home. On the way back to the hotel, we spotted the IGA Kress grocery store and each of us purchased a bottle of wine to take onboard with us. The IGA is less expensive than the specialty wine stores you find in the downtown area. The day we returned from the cruise, we checked back into the Hilton and got rid of our suitcases, then walked down to Westlake Center to catch the Monorail to the Space Needle. After coming back to Westlake, we walked to the Transit Tunnel on Pine and caught a bus to Pioneer Square. Taxi rides to and from Pier 91 ran us about $15 each way. If you're flying into Sea-Tac and staying at one of the downtown hotels, I recommend using the Grey Line Downtown Airporter. The shuttle costs about $25 round trip compared to $32 each way for a taxi. Embarkation: Embarkation at Pier 91 was easy and organized. This is where we experienced our first Deluxe Suite perk - priority embarkation. Deluxe Suite passengers had their own check-in window, and we were able to bypass the lines waiting to board the ship. Ship: This was my first time on the Amsterdam, but having previously sailed on some of HAL's R and S class ships, I was familiar with the overall layout and deck plan. Everything appeared to be spotless and in good working order. Cabin: The first words out of my sister's mouth when we opened the door of the suite were "I can't believe how big it is"! Our SB suite was probably twice the size of our hotel room in Seattle. The bathroom was huge by cruise ship standards, with a spacious shower. We made full use of the veranda, as well as the desk, sofa, coffee table, and bar area. There was more than enough drawer and closet space for even a 7 or 10 day cruise. Having the separate dressing room was helpful when we were getting ready to go out in the morning or before dinner. One of us could be in the bathroom while the other one was getting dressed or putting on make-up. Our cabin stewards were Dudi and Harris, and both of them were friendly, helpful, and efficient. Deluxe Suite Amenities: The concierges in the Neptune Lounge (Daphnae and Sienna) helped us with a shorex change, as well as ordering pre-dinner appetizers one night. It was nice walking down there for an early morning coffee and croissant or a quick mid-afternoon snack. Because of the short length of our cruise, we didn't take advantage of the free laundry service. The binoculars in the room were handy when we spotted a pod of whales one day within viewing distance of the ship. Deluxe Suite passengers are supposed to get breakfast served to them in the Pinnacle Grille. I knew from a another regular poster on the Cruise Critic HAL board that on the Amsterdam, breakfast for suite passengers is in the King's Room. I called the concierge to confirm this, and she said we had our own section in the main dining room. I was confused. So, the first morning, we went to the main dining room (Deck 5) where we could see passengers being seated. The waiter told us to go down to the lower level (Deck 4). The waiter on the lower level asked us our cabin #. He said since we were in a deluxe suite, we needed to go to the upper level! So back up the stairs we went. I think the original waiter was a bit chagrined at having banished us to the lower level. Anyway, it was very odd that our private dining area turned out to be the upper level of the main dining room. I really don't know why they even bothered. The Pinnacle Grille (or even the King's Room) would have been a bit special, but on our sailing that particular suite perk turned out to be very ordinary. Ports and Shore Excursions: Our itinerary consisted of a day at sea, Astoria, OR, Victoria, BC, and then back to Seattle. In both Astoria and Victoria, we took HAL shore excursions. The Historic Astoria & Fort Clatsop tour included stops at the Astoria Column, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and Lewis & Clark's winter camp. I was very surprised at how interesting the Maritime Museum was. I had no idea how dangerous the area is where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. In Victoria we took the Short City Drive and Butchart Gardens tour. The Gardens were spectacular. Originally I had booked the Victoria Walking Tour because HAL wasn't offering any excursions to Butchart Gardens, and neither was Grey Line. When we boarded the ship, I happened to glance at the shorex order form in our cabin and noticed that tours had been added, so I had the concierge exchange the tickets for me. I highly recommend both tours. They were interesting and informative, and it was a lot easier having someone else drive us around rather than trying to figure out on our own how to get to the various points of interest. Activities and Entertainment: It was a good thing I brought my sister with me and we had the veranda, because there was a real lack of onboard activities and entertainment on this cruise. We spent 3 afternoons sitting on the veranda drinking wine and watching the go by. The sea day was the only day there was a good mix of onboard activities to choose from. In Astoria and Victoria, it would have been nice to have something to do on the ship when we got back from our shore excursions. There was a lot of time to kill before getting ready for dinner at 8 pm. The first night's entertainment in the Queen's Lounge featured a ventriloquist. We didn't attend because it started before we were done with dinner. The second night was a Broadway production show with the HAL singers and dancers wearing Bob Mackie designed costumes. The costumes were gorgeous and definitely a cut above what you normally see in this type of show. Third night was another production show with the same group of singers and dancers that showcased songs from different rock eras. The last night's entertainment was a movie, which I thought was rather poor on HAL's part. With Seattle and Vancouver so close, I would have thought they could have brought in a comedian, or a piano player, or a singer to fill the bill. Rather than watch the movie, we went up to the Crow's Nest where a young woman playing a guitar was attempting to sing, but was not being very successful at it. Service: This ship had some service issues, which I attribute to the staff not being fully engaged in what they were doing. The cruise after ours was a 69-day Asia and Australia cruise, followed by the World Voyage. It seemed as though their mental energy was directed towards preparing for what was ahead of them rather than focusing on the task at hand, which was us. As an example, on the next to the last night, our wine steward announced that someone else would be filling in for him on the last night. The reason he gave was that he had to start working on the alcoholic beverage order for the World Cruise. His replacement on the last night told my sister he could no longer honor her wine card. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. My sister insisted that since she had purchased the wine card for this specific cruise and the cruise didn't end until the next day, he needed to bring her a glass a wine. In fairness to the wine steward, he said he would check with his supervisor and ended back up at our table with a glass of merlot in hand. An incident like the one I just related has never happened to me on any my previous HAL cruises. It can be very off putting to someone new to HAL and can leave a bad first impression. There were other instances where service just wasn't up to the usual HAL standards. Taken individually they may seem insignificant, but they add up and detract from the overall cruise experience. Food and Dining: We had late fixed seating in the upper level of the dining room and were seated at a 6-top with two married couples. They were a lot of fun and made dinnertime enjoyable and something to look forward to. I found the food to be average to good. The biggest drawback was a lack of appealing entrees on the dinner menu. With the exception of one night, when there were four entrees I was interested in, there just wasn't anything that jumped out at me. Our waiter was Aziz, who was unobtrusive with a dry sense of humor. We ate one lunch in the Lido, which I find to be madness and mayhem since HAL did away with the trays and organized everything into individual stations. I don't like having to forage for my food. Disembarkation: Since we weren't flying home the same day we disembarked, there was no rush to get off the ship. We hung around our cabin until a little after 9:00 am, and then walked off and picked up our luggage. My sister commented on how nice it was not to have to sit in one of the public areas for hours waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. Just like embarkation, the process was smooth and organized. Things we didn't have/didn't get on this cruise - Master Chef's Dinner (thank God for small favors!), formal night, commemorative tiles, postcards of ship, Baked Alaska, and lobster (not even a prawn in lieu of a lobster tail). I didn't realize until I returned home that I didn't get a postcard. I keep a cruise book where I put a picture postcard of each ship along with my room key. I'm sure one of the cabin stewards or the concierge could have found one for me if I had asked. Summary: Overall a nice, short, relaxing cruise with an interesting itinerary. You can't beat a Deluxe Suite, which, along with the ports, was the highlight of this cruise for me. Food, activities and entertainment, and the staff's full engagement were somewhat lacking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise ... Read More
Our first Holland America cruise has us yearning for more wonderful experiences like this one. By way of background, previously we have cruised on Costa (twice) and Norwegian (once). While we very much liked our earlier NCL Jade cruise (12-day Norway) and our first Costa Atlantica (Norway), out second Costa Atlantica cruise was a nightmare due to the rudeness of the passengers and the hopelessness of the staff. But I have digressed... AMBIANCE The Amsterdam impressed as a very relaxing venue for a vacation. As opposed to the frenetic pace seen on larger liners with a younger crowd, this ship's smaller size and the advanced age bracket of the passengers combined to make this a very mellow experience. No fighting crowds, no conga lines, and no loud bands around every corner. Just some real peace and quiet. While we were one of the younger couples aboard (late 50s), we really enjoyed it. However, if you like a lot of wild action, this ship may not be for you. FOOD and BEVERAGE We don't have very high expectations for cruise line food, however, we were very pleased with the Amsterdam's menu, variety, and taste. For those who are salt-sensitive, you can rest assured that salt is NOT the main ingredient in the Amsterdam's kitchen. The wait staff were very pleasant and the dining room captain arranged for us to have a special Indonesian menu on one night (most of the wait staff are either Indonesian or Filipino, so we just asked for the special meal). Holland America allows you to bring aboard your own wine (and champagne) and water, which saved us a ton of money. A wonderful policy. The Pinnacle Restaurant charges $25pp for dinner. We did this one night, and it was well worth it. ROOM We had a veranda suite, which was comfortable and well-maintained. It was about the same size as our mini-suite on the NCL Jade, although the balcony was larger. The decor was not flashy, again a plus. Having a DVD player in the room was a nice touch, and the Amsterdam has a large library for DVD checkouts. The Amsterdam has coin-operated laundry rooms throughout the ship. This was another great feature. FITNESS The fitness facility was not as large as on other ships we have been on, but it was large enough given the use by the (older) passengers. Again, it was very relaxing, without the blaring music typically had in some fitness venues. We worked out daily. SMOKING Holland America really has to move beyond catering to the 10% of the population that smokes. Ban it! We never stepped foot in the casino or the shopping plaza nearby the casino because of all the smoke. Holland America would earn more money from the 90% of the population that does not smoke if they banned it. That being said, we did not smell smoke in our cabin. We could smell it in the stairwell. PORTS of CALL & EXCURSIONS Our itinerary was fantastic, with the highlights being Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. On both of these "cruise-only" destinations, we had naturalists aboard that helped us understand the vistas we were seeing. We very much enjoyed the Mendenhall Glacier excursion as well. Alaska fjords are quite different that the Norway variety, and we enjoyed seeing the tidewater glaciers that are not present in Norway. EMBARK/DISEMBARK Very orderly. Very quick. High Marks! TRANSPORT We took our own cab from disembarkation to Seattle Airport. Tons of cabs lining up. Price was about the same as the bus that HAL would have supplied, but we got dropped off right at the airline door. SECRET TIPS 1. When in Anchorage, go to the top of the Hilton Hotel for a great view! 2. The on-board Microsoft training was free and a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Friday August 19 (Seattle) We are staying at the La Quinta Inn at 8th Avenue and Denny Way in Seattle, out near the Space Needle. It's just ok, no decent restaurants nearby, we dine at the Hurricane Cafe, a dive. We share fish ... Read More
Friday August 19 (Seattle) We are staying at the La Quinta Inn at 8th Avenue and Denny Way in Seattle, out near the Space Needle. It's just ok, no decent restaurants nearby, we dine at the Hurricane Cafe, a dive. We share fish and chips. In the morning it starts out cloudy and cold. Breakfast is free at the hotel. I make waffles. The breakfast room is full of kids and ESPN is blaring. Nancy needs cosmetics, so we hike west to a Walgreen's ON Denny Way. Now we can see the Monorail and the Space Needle, so we head thataway and get coffee and a rest stop at McDonald's. The weather turns better, and I see a sign for "Ride the Duck" with the phone number on the side of the vehicle. I call from the cell phone, it is only $28 (they don't mention the tax) they leave in twenty minutes, and pass by 130 sights (an exageration.) Nancy says: go for it, so we cross the street and soon we are aboard the duck. Our Captain is a wild man; we are entertained. There are only a dozen tourists aboard, so we can take pictures easily. I only have the cell phone for photos, but it will have to do. It is soon very breezy. We head south along Alaska Way and get a good tour of the waterfront. When he's not talking, the Captain plays rock and roll on the loudspeaker. Tourists gawk at us: we become the show. We turn north through downtown; this part is not so great. We end up going over the Ballard Bridge, then entering Lake Union at its north end for a half hour boat ride. It is now sunny and very pleasant. Lots of houseboats and kayaks, real fun. When it's over, we walk a few blocks to ride the Monorail (it only goes a mile) for a dollar, and have lunch at the downtown Westlake Center. After a mediocre Chinese lunch (although in an interesting urban setting), we duck through an adjacent hotel and get a taxi to the Amsterdam. Downtown Seattle traffic is very crowded, but we get to the ship easily. We manage to get a wheelchair for my wife. Boarding is slow, so we go up a ramp alongside the ship without the wheelchair. Holland American is known as a senior-friendly cruise line. Nevertheless, we are surprised at something new: rental motorized wheelchairs, similar to the Hoveround advertised on TV. They are numerous aboard the Amsterdam. Our bags come soon. We unpack, it is easy because the room layout is the same as on the Rijndam from our Panama cruise. We did not get an upgrade, so there is no window and no bathtub. Soon it is time for the lifeboat drill, a pain because they make us stand on the deck for twenty minutes. Dinner is excellent, prime rib, with a view of Puget Sound. After dinner my wife crashes, while I go to the free round of Bingo. Our table mate, George, wins the $200 prize! I buy a book: The Alaska Cruise Handbook, it has lots of maps and photos. Saturday August 20 (Inside Passage) We sleep in, and when we are up and ready we go to the Crow's Nest bar, it has a 270-degree view, enclosed, and a panorama of Canadian channels and islands is before us. The weather is clear but cloudy. Then we go to the formal dining room aft (La Fontaine) for breakfast. We are a half hour late and don't get a window table, and service is slow. Nancy likes to be served, nevertheless! Then we go to the presentation about the shore excursions- lots to do! Next we go back to the Crow's Nest, and relax as the scenery goes by. We are passing through a narrow channel: Johnstone Strait. In no time at all, it is lunch. We get a window table, and try not to order too much. Our table mates are from Florida and South Carolina. After, we sign up for the Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Straight Point (Hoonah) tours. No ports today, we are taking things easy and adjusting to Pacific Time. In the afternoon, there is a veterans' meeting, with free drinks, and the old codgers get to tell war stories. Some of the guys are in their nineties, and tell of their World War II adventures. Others are Vietnam veterans and talk of exposure to agent orange. Since it is Saturday night, dinner is grand. I have the beef Wellington. My wife has rack of lamb. After dinner we go to the Broadway show, where eight energetic youngsters sing and dance to tunes ranging from Oklahoma through Cats to Chicago. So much energy! A dozen changes of costume. Meanwhile, the ship itself is doing rock and roll, we are in the open water of Hecate Strait. We retire to a long night's sleep (there is a one hour time gain.) Sunday August 21 (Ketchikan) I am up at 4:00 after eight hours sleep. I go topside: it has rained heavily, everything is wet, no stars, pitch black except for the many lights of the ship, we are in the open water of Dixon Entrance, near the Canada-Alaska border. The sea is calm, one other cruise ship in the distance. No one is about except some of the cafeteria staff. There is coffee, always (but not decaf.) We don't go ashore until 10:00, when we are scheduled for a tour. It is cloudy and cold, but not raining. The tour bus takes us through the town. We head south to the Tlingit village of Saxman, which used to be the end of the road. I take pictures of the totem poles, but the only other building open to us is a tourist shop. We buy some postcards. Back in town we take a funicular that goes up Deer Mountain to a tourist lodge. We explore town a little, looking for lunch, but I have left my wallet in the safe on the ship. We decide to return to the ship for a quick lunch in the Lido Cafe, and catch our 2:00 P.M. tour on the Duck, which departs from the ship. The Duck tour duplicates the town part of the previous tour, but now it is raining. The Duck is covered, but the side curtains fog up and the view is diminished. The town is jammed with tourists from the four large cruise ships that are present. There is room for four cruise ships to dock. The Duck finally enters the channel from a boat ramp in the new harbor, and although it is raining, we poke the camera through the plexiglass window and get some good photos. The town has become a cruise ship port, almost devoid of the former support of the lumber and fishing trades. We are told that most of the shops are just boarded up for the winter. .After the tour ends, My wifey goes to our cabin, and I return to town to explore. It starts to pour, so I cut short my tour and take the shuttle bus back to the Amsterdam. I am thinking that, although it has become a profitable cruise ship port, it has lost whatever charm it had. Actually, Ketchikan is still a charmless place, with really gloomy weather. Monday August 22 (Tracy Arm) We wake up to a cloudy and misty day. The elaborate breakfast and lunch meals in the La Fontaine are becoming routine, and we start to think about eating less, rather than gain a lot of weight. The food is very good, though, I think better than last year's voyage on the Rijndam. We meet new people at every meal (and soon forget their names). A lot of them are from the middle west and south. We are having lunch when the Captain announces that we are deep into Tracy Arm: it is time to go out on deck and look about. I find my wife a good chair near a window in the room where they play bridge. I go forward, dressed warmly with a sweater and raincoat with a hood, wearing my watch cap from skiing days. We see lots of waterfalls and small icebergs. The icebergs are very blue. One iceberg had a group of birds on it. At around three, as promised, we arrive at the end of the arm, and view Sawyer Glacier in all its glory. The return trip out is an anticlimax. We go to the Crow's nest for Happy Hour: you get two cocktails for the price of one, plus a dollar. All bar tabs have 15% service charge added. This is in addition to the daily charge for cabin and dining room service. Out table mates for the 5:15 dinner in the La Fontaine are from Austria. We are at a table for four, and the wife doesn't understand or speak much English, so the conversation is strained. The evening's entertainment at 8:00 in The Queen's Lounge showroom is a second show by the resident song and dance troupe, the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers. They do popular songs, and they are excellent: good voices, well-chosen hit songs, and excellent costumes and choreography. We are pleased. As we retire, My wife says she is cold, and resolves to dress warmly for Juneau. Tuesday August 23 (Juneau) I get up early to supervise the Captain's job, bringing this monstrous ship into the narrow Gastineau Channel, which is the entrance to Juneau Harbor. It is drizzling, as one might expect in southeast Alaska at any time of the year. The ship docks right downtown. I can see the building where the Coast Guard has an office, on the Government Wharf. Another cruise ship is already docked. A third will dock soon, and one more will anchor out. The town will be jammed with tourists, a far cry for the 1950's. We go ashore for our tour, which starts out with a bus ride north to the Mendenhall Glacier. In 1956, I visited the glacier, when it was just a short walk from the highway that leads to Juneau Airport. Now, a two-mile road leads to the glacier. The parking lot is jammed with tour buses. A thousand people are milling around the Visitor Center building. We go to the movie, which gives a good rundown of what to see. (We buy a copy of the movie.) We have a front row seat, and I am able to easily photograph scenes from the movie. Afterwards, I hike the nearby trails and take a lot of photos, while my wife visits the shop. It is raining all the time. Afterward, the bus takes us to the Glacier Garden. We don't know what to expect, it's just part of the combo tour we bought, but it turns out to be better than the glacier. We tour the rain forest in a covered tram, roof overhead, while the rain pours down. The forest is on the side of a steep mountain. The owner of the attraction invented an upside down fern planter, like an upturned hapu trunk, with the top buried in the ground, with the former root ball is made into a planter filled with annual flowers. The tram goes up the hill through the rain, giving a view through the trees of the water below. Very pleasant and interesting. We return to the Amsterdam in time for lunch in the Lido cafeteria. After lunch, we go ashore again and take the funicular to the top of Mount Roberts. The cable car and the amenities at the top are run by the Tlingit tribe. We get a god view of the city and the channel and take a lot of photos. Then we go shopping, wending our way through the masses of tourists, through the drizzle. We buy some gifts. We try to get into the Red Dog Saloon, but it is jammed. The decor is Alaska wild, with a lot of hokey Alaska stuff on the walls. I take my wife back to the Amsterdam (just yards away), and walk through the drizzle to the Baranof Hotel. It looks run down. I return to the ship for dinner in the La Fontaine. We are achy and tired, so we retire early. Wednesday August 24 Icy Strait Point (Hoonah) I am up early again, anxious to see the Amsterdam come into port. Actually, we are just going to pull of to the side of the channel, out of the way of other shipping, and send the passengers ashore by tender. We go ashore at an old cannery, which is now a set of tourist shops and restaurants. Our tour is a tram ride along a shingle foreshore, with a Tligit woman as our guide. We see some eagles, fishing boats and waterfalls, all under a cold, cloudy sky. Afterwards, we enjoy a native show, with a narrator who explains the Tlingit cosmology: it all started with the raven opening a box. I, and the other tourists, get to do a native dance to the Tlingit drumming and chanting. At two o'clock, we are hungry, and order fish chowder and beer. We return to the ship, cold and tired. We have good steaks for dinner. During the meal, we pass the lighthouse at Cape Spencer, And head out into the Gulf of Alaska. Thursday August 25 (At Sea) When will the sun shine? I am up at six as usual for coffee and a check of the weather. No land is in sight, cloudy skies, but at least no rain, and not too rough. We go to the theater at 1000 for a presentation about the shore excursions that are coming up at Anchorage, in the morning. We also hear about the excursions for Homer, Kodiak, Hubbard Glacier (Yakutat), Sitka and Victoria B. C. We are looking forward to tonight's special: King Crab Legs! After that we will go to the showroom for the third session by the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers. We have already attended two of their shows, and they are great. It is amazing that such talent is on a cruise ship. Friday August 26 (Anchorage) Again I am up on deck early, watching to ship come into the dock. Anchorage has a tremendous tide range, a large ship like the Amsterdam can enter only at high tide. The inner harbor has been dredged, so the ship does not go aground, but it cannot depart until the next high tide, thirteen hours later. The port is a secure zone, south of downtown, we have to use a tour bus or shuttle but to reach downtown. We have signed up for a bus tour of Anchorage, followed by a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, north of town. The city is small, about 280,000 population, with many modern hotels and office buildings. Although Juneau is the state capital, Anchorage is by far the economic center. The buildings are new, because most of the old buildings were destroye3d in the 1964 earthquake. We don't tour the downtown by foot; it doesn't look interesting. The cultural center has a presentation which describes the various tribes who were the original population of the state. We are treated to a native dance presentation by a group of Haida, one of the original people of southeast Alaska. Actually, they are all from the town of Metlakatla, which is on Annette Island, which used to be the airport for Ketchikan. Saturday August 27 (Homer) In the morning I go on deck early to watch the ship being docked at the "spit," a harbor area about six miles south of the town center. It has a small boat harbor, filled with boats owned by the residents of the Anchorage area, who come down to Homer to fish for halibut. It is about a five-hour drive from Anchorage to Homer. There are hundreds of trailer boats, and some people are camping on the shoreline in tents. There is a shopping area with restaurants, tour offices, and vacation condos. I wonder what these people will do in the event of an earthquake and tsunami, which devastated this area in 1964. The weather continues to be cold and cloudy. We have signed up for a "hop-on-off" bus tour, with four stops. We get off at stop three, which is primarily an art shop. It is very nice, and low priced, I wonder how the owners can make a living. There is an artist present showing his work. I buy some attractive earrings for the relatives. Across the street is the Pratt Museum; we visit it for a while, nothing special. We hop back on the bus, and make a quick stop at #4. There is one small art shop open; we have done downtown Homer, that's it. We get on the bus and go back to the pier. Then there is another bus that goes to the Salty Dawg, in the boat harbor at the end of the spit. There is a hardware and fishing supplies store, which has some tourist items. There are numerous restaurants and some condos at the end of the spit. We are done with Homer, and return to the ship. Sunday August 28 (Kodiak) We dock at a large pier, about a mile from downtown. Shuttle bus service is provided, using school buses, which have cramped seats, but it is better than walking. We do not take a tour, but head for the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church. At first we can't visit the church because of the Sunday service. We head for the downtown mall, which has a few shops open on this Sunday morning. We look for T-shirts for gifts, but can't find any we like. My wife hangs out in a sunny square, while I go to the church to take photos of the interior. It is crowded, but I get my photos, and also buy some slides and church music. The weather is beautiful, but cool, in the 50's. We return to the ship for lunch. . In the afternoon we read until dinner, after which we go to the theater for another show called Avalon, and this time it includes the string quartet and the house band in addition to the eight singers and dancers that have performed before. It is again a hit show; we enjoy it a lot. Monday July 29 Hubbard Glacier (Yakutat) We go to our usual 8:00 breakfast in the dining room, and then go to the sale: the store is having its usual end-of-cruise sale of logo clothing around the swimming pool. . We don't buy anything, but we notice some close-out winter hats and boots in the main store that will make good Christmas presents, and buy some. Then we go to the "bridge" presentation by one of the watch officers. For security reasons, they don't actually have tours of the bridge anymore, so instead they have a Powerpoint presentation of the equipment on the bridge. The officer explains the bridge controls, including the new power pods and bow thrusters, very interesting. The Amsterdam steers into Yakutat Bay, an isolated body of water about forty miles long, with the famous Hubbard Glacier at the end. A ranger from the Tongass National Forest tells us all about it in the showroom. The Captain brings the ship within half a mile of the glacier, considered very close. The glacier, we are told, is 350 feet high at the water's edge. All the passengers are on deck, taking photos. The sky is clear; it is a sunny afternoon, temperature in the fifties. I take a lot of pictures. We hoped to se "calving," where chunks of the glacier break off and crash into the ware, but we didn't see any. A magnificent day. Tuesday July30 (Sitka) Awake around six as usual. I go up to the Lido cafeteria for my morning coffee. I see Mount Edgecumbe, an extinct (some say dormant, the last eruption was 2,000 years ago) volcano, visible from downtown Sitka. The weather is cloudy, temperature in the fifties, but no sign of rain. We are scheduled for a noon tour, but we can go ashore (by ship's boat, the Amsterdam is anchored) early. We tour Lincoln Street, the main drag of the town. There are some strictly tourist shops, but also shops which carry clothes for the local population. We buy T-shirts for the relatives. We tour as far as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, but don't go in, because it is included on our tour, we will see it later. We have lunch at the Larkspur Cafe, which offers clam chowder, and which appeals to us on this cold, cloudy day. It comes with very tasty homemade bread, but the chowder itself is more chopped celery and herbs, not much clam flavor, and lukewarm at that. We are thankful for a warm place (with a toilet) to hang out while waiting for our tour. The bus, driven by a Tlingit, heads for the Russian Church. We are given its history, and have a chance to take photos. Next we go to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, which has a lot of Tlingit artifacts. The best part of the tour is the Russian dance group, the New Archangel Dancers. This group, organized forty years ago, is all women, because, in the beginning, no men wanted to join the group. So, women play the men's part. They do a great job, and I take lots of pictures. The dancers are talented, and their costumes are very colorful. The tour concludes with a drive around the town, which has a lot of nice homes out on some private islands. The guide says that Sitka has the best halibut and salmon fishing in Alaska, but Ketchikan makes the same claim. It must be very depressing here in the long, cold, dark winter. Wednesday August 31 (At Sea in the Gulf of Alaska) We sleep in. The time changed from Alaska time to Pacific time. The weather is sunny and the sea is smooth, but the air temperature is a cool 55 degrees. We are joined at breakfast by a couple who are ninety-two years old (and still cruising- very encouraging!) At eleven, we eat again: the Mariners' Club champagne brunch, a freebie for those who have cruised on Holland American before. I enjoy the free champagne, but the menu is limited. In the evening, we attend our favorite show, the Amsterdam Singers and Dancers, who put on a splendid "Las Vegas"show, the last of five. Thursday September 1 (Victoria, B.C.) We don't dock until noon. In addition, the weather is cold and foggy, so there's not much to see as we come into port. We did a home exchange to Sydney, a suburb of Victoria, in 2007, so we are complacent about this port. We have lunch in the dining room, so we don't get ashore until after 1:00. The cruise ship port is about a mile from town. We take the shuttlebus to downtown; it's $7.50 each round trip. We had some sun during lunch, but now it is cloudy and cold. The guard says it's 52 degrees. The bus lets us off at the Empress Hotel. We were here four years ago on a home exchange, so we are not interested in roaming around in the cold. We head for the Royal B.C. Museum; there will be things to do there. We settle on the Imax, which is showing a movie, Whales. We see the 3:00 performance. It's very nice. The museum and the movie are very crowded, because it's a holiday weekend (for Americans.) After, it's still cloudy and cold, we return to the Amsterdam. We enjoy our last formal dinner in the La Fontaine. Friday September 2 (Seattle ) I am up at six, anxious to see the ship navigate in Puget Sound. We are loitering off Pier 91, about to dock. We go to the La Fontaine for a last served breakfast. We are relaxed, because we chose to spend the day in Seattle, rather than rushing off the ship to catch the 1150 Alaska Airlines direct flight to Kona. We sit around, waiting for the Green 3 group to be called. We find our bags in the terminal, and get a porter to take them outside. We don't have to have the bags with us as we go through U. S. Customs. There is a long line, but a new post opens up and we rush to it. Almost out! But then, the officer said: "Please follow me to secondary screening!" He holds our passports. There he produced a device which measures radiation. He asked me if I had a prostate problem, and I replied that I had radioactive seeds implanted in March. He repeated the radioactive measurement procedure three more times. He then went to another room and made phone calls. I could hear my name spelled out several times. After about half an hour, he let me proceed. Our porter was found, he thought he had lost us. He leads us to the head of the taxi queue, and we are on our way to the La Quinta Inn. It is 1000, it would have been too late to catch our flight if we had chosen to fly out on Friday. The La Quinta Inn is an ok hotel, within walking distance of the Space Needle at the park called Seattle Center. We walk to the park, but can't get a reservation at the restaurant. To just visit the top of the Needle, the senior rate is $16.00 each. Since we had been there before, we passed. We take the monorail (unimproved since 1962, still only a one mile ride) downtown and have lunch at the Westlake Mall. We hike about a mile back to the hotel. Dinner is takeout pizza from the nearby Whole Foods Market. Saturday September 3 The long airplane ride home. The flight is uneventful, but also uncomfortable. The plane is a stretched Boeing 737 (Alaska Airlines is, of course, all Boeing!) with a narrow aisle and cramped seats, the backrest reclines only about an inch. There is no meal service, only snacks, no movie (just DVD players for rent) and no coffee. However, it is a direct flight of five and three quarter hours, less time than going through Los Angeles or Honolulu. All things considered, an Alaska cruise on Holland American Lines is a wonderful trip! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Two years ago we took a one-week Alaskan cruise on the Amsterdam. When we saw this two week cruise advertised, we jumped at the opportunity. We are 65 and 61 respectively, and this is our third cruise. We flew into Seattle two days early ... Read More
Two years ago we took a one-week Alaskan cruise on the Amsterdam. When we saw this two week cruise advertised, we jumped at the opportunity. We are 65 and 61 respectively, and this is our third cruise. We flew into Seattle two days early so that we could visit with a wonderful couple who live in Seattle; we had met them on the cruise two years ago. We stayed at the Seattle Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was comfortable and convenient, but must have one of the slowest elevators in North America - especially during times when guests are leaving the hotel. We used the hotel concierge to book our transportation from the hotel to the ship on Monday, August 9th. It worked fine. We stayed in a Deluxe Veranda Suite on the port side of the Navigation Deck. It was conveniently near to the Neptune Lounge, though if I had to do it all over again, for this cruise I would have picked a starboard side stateroom. In most of the ports, the view from the starboard side balconies was more interesting. Our ports included Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Juneau, and Victoria and scenic cruising at Glacier Bay (on the first Saturday) and the Hubbard Glacier (on the second Thursday). Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier were the two highlights of the trip. When we approached Glacier Bay on the morning of August 14th, the fog was so thick you could see almost nothing, and the ship's fog horn was blowing pretty continuously. But sometime during breakfast the fog magically lifted and the rest of the day was spectacular. A U.S. Park Service guide came onboard the Amsterdam, and the commentary was excellent. We also received a map of Glacier Bay, and that proved to be quite helpful. We approached Hubbard Glacier on Thursday, August 19th. The weather was perfect! Most of the passengers spent the time on one of the many outside decks. (The Amsterdam crew opened a deck in the bow of the ship that provided outstanding views of the Glacier as we were cruising towards it. The temperature was in the 50's, and with some layered clothing you could be quite comfortable viewing the glaciers out on deck.) Again, the U.S. Park Service did a superb job. This time they also brought onboard two Tlingit natives who provided some of the narration as we cruised towards the Glacier and then did a PowerPoint presentation on Tlingit culture afterwards in the Queens Lounge that was quite good. Both Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier are jaw-droppingly beautiful. If you go on this cruise, prepare to be spellbound. We took a ton of photos. (When we sailed on the Amsterdam two years ago, we saw the Sawyer Glacier. That, too, was a spectacular experience.) As for the ship, here are the pluses: 1. The ship is beautiful. Our favorite spot on it was the Explorers Lounge on Deck 5, which has a magnificent painting of sailing ships in the harbor at Amsterdam during the 17th century. Every night the Adagio String Quarter performed there. They are four very talented young musicians who played a great selection of everything from early Beethoven quartets to string quartet transcriptions of opera arias. As you order a brandy or a liqueur you can enjoy some delicious chocolates. 2. The public areas (with the exception of the garish Queens Lounge) are very tastefully designed. 3. It has a good mix of places onboard that range from the lively and noisy (such as the Crow's Nest) to places that are peaceful and relaxing and quiet (such as the Explorations Cafe/Library) and the Explorers Lounge. 4. While we are not fans of the piano lounge, many on board were and loved going to it each night. The shows in the Queens Lounge were good, but not outstanding (at least that was our take on them). My wife loved the two late-night shows put on one night by the Filipino crew members and another night by the Indonesian crew members. 5. My wife also went to several of the Digital Tech classes and learned how to take and stitch together a panoramic shot from Billy, the knowledgeable tech expert on board. We both enjoyed massages, and my wife had several acupuncture treatments. 6. Announcements over the public address system were kept brief and infrequent. This is not the kind of ship for people who like lots of frenetic activity with an intrusive cruise director. 7. The cruise itself had a nice mix of days in port and days at sea. In other words, it was a great cruise for people who want to see some spectacular Alaskan scenery but who also want time to relax and unwind. 8. The food at the La Fontaine (the main dining room) was always at least "good," and sometimes it was very good. And on a few occasions they managed to pull off a course that was exceptional. This was especially true of their soups. There were always 8-9 entrees to select from, and they ranged from beef, to lamb, to pork, to fish, to pasta. There was always a vegetarian choice at each dinner. If you want, by the way, you can probably eat salmon every single night of the cruise and have it prepared differently each night. We did the "As You Like" dining, which gave us the flexibility to dine when we wanted. It helps to make a reservation early in the day, but lots of people were seated promptly even without a reservation. We found that there was very little waiting between courses. In fact, I would say that the service in La Fontaine was even better and more efficient than it was when we sailed two years ago. 9. We are not fans of buffets, so we cannot comment on the Lido except to say that it looked very attractive those times we walked through it, and the one time we had lunch at the Lido, there were no lines and a withering variety of foods to choose from. 10. We dined twice at the Pinnacle Grill, which is a specialty restaurant on the Amsterdam (and other HAL ships). It costs an additional $20 per person. It is a very, very good steak house, but does have a lot of interesting alternatives that are not steak. On the second Thursday of the cruise they had a special "Wine Cellar Dinner" with a fixed menu and wine pairing. It was about $60 more per person, but if you love great food - the mustard soup was surprisingly tasty - and interesting wine, then it is worth doing. We found it to be worth the extra cost. (And, yes, I know that "mustard soup" sounds weird, but, trust me, it was great.) 11. We didn't try the Canaletto restaurant this cruise. We did try it last year when we sailed on the Eurodam and found it OK, but nothing special. It is an Italian restaurant. 12. The service throughout our cruise was excellent and is one of the main reasons why we sail Holland America. That was true of our room stewards, Wayan and Oki, who outdid themselves in constructing those ingenious towel animals that we found waiting for us each night. (If you have sailed Holland, you know what we are talking about!) We appreciated the warm welcomes we received each night in La Fontaine, especially from Herry at the reservation desk and from Joel the wine steward, and from Ben both in the Pinnacle and at breakfast in La Fontaine. 13. Our Deluxe Veranda Suite was always spotlessly clean and very comfortable. Admittedly, these are expensive accommodations, but we found them to be worth the extra cost. The use of the Neptune Lounge is one major reason why. It is staffed by some of the most helpful people you will ever find on this planet. Sienna, Jhanuary, Melissa, and Nia are simply wonderful in every way. They were unfailingly cheerful and eager to help. They will book excursions, pin a carnation onto your tux for a formal night, make dinner reservations, answer virtually any question you might have, etc., etc. The lounge itself is kept nicely stocked with food appropriate to the time of day (cereals, juices, sweet rolls and fish and cheeses at breakfast time, mini sandwiches at lunch time and dinner, and fresh fruit and coffee and teas all day long. Tea time (3 - 5) is also appropriately laid out. There are very few minuses. The ship is beginning to show its age (it was built in 2000). It is disconcerting to see varnish chipping off of some of the chairs in the La Fontaine Dining Room. On the other hand, the crew does seems to be constantly polishing and cleaning whatever needed to be polished or cleaned. Another minus is that the ship is not smoke free. Many locations are smoke free (such as the dining areas and the lounge areas), but people can smoke in the Casino and in their staterooms and balconies and outside on the promenade deck. However, when in the glacial areas, Alaska protects the environment by forbidding all smoking - a rule which was hard to enforce. Finally, one of the "at sea" days was spent crossing the Gulf of Alaska on the way to Anchorage. It was a very bumpy ride, to say the least - not that Holland has any control over the waves. But it was like spending the entire day riding the New York subways. Getting food from a buffet proved to be a particular challenge. I wisely avoided anything with liquidy sauces. Luckily, we managed to avoid seasickness, but not everyone onboard was so lucky. Obviously, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. I got a sense that the folks who work onboard the Amsterdam take a genuine pride in working for Holland America. We were always greeted by name and with a smile, and we were always made to feel welcome. I don't think that you can fake these things: my sense is that there must be a fairly high level of morale onboard and that their staff training must be superb. This was a wonderful cruise, and I hope that HAL will continue to offer it so that many others can enjoy it as much as we did. P.S. In the port review section are reviews of Skagway, Juneau, and Victoria. The Cruise Critic drop down menu does not include Anchorage, Homer, or Kodiak, but here is our assessment: In Anchorage, we chose the l-o-n-g (10 hours!) train trip from Anchorage to Grandview. Interestingly, in the excursion materials that you receive in your stateroom, Holland does warn you that some people find it a very long day. Our trip did include someone on the train's public address system who provided narration, but apparently this is not true on all trains, and Holland's materials also warned about that. Despite some fog and a fair amount of rain, we did see some beautiful glaciers and mountains - the trip takes you along the Turnagain Arm, which is part of the Cook Inlet. I learned a lot and am generally glad that I took the tour. But I think that I could have been just as content if it had been, say, 3-4 hours shorter. In Homer we took the tour that included the Pratt Museum and the Norman Lowell Studio and Museum. Both are definitely worth seeing! Kodiak was very, very windy -- windy to the point of being unpleasant. We hadn't scheduled a tour. We walked into town, turned around, and walked back to the ship. We figured that it was good exercise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
My Dad, my daughter and myself sailed aboard the Amsterdam from Seattle. We boarded the vessel on Monday, July 12th with high expectations. We weren't disappointed. Our check-in at the pier was fast and flawless. We were on board by ... Read More
My Dad, my daughter and myself sailed aboard the Amsterdam from Seattle. We boarded the vessel on Monday, July 12th with high expectations. We weren't disappointed. Our check-in at the pier was fast and flawless. We were on board by 12:30, and our cabin was already prepared for our arrival. We had a large ocean view cabin on Main deck. There were five roomy closets and several drawers, so storage was not an issue, even for us chronic over-packers. The bathroom was small, with a combo tub/shower. The corner mirrored cabinet had three shelves so we could stash our essentials and save counter space. The two twin beds were placed under the window, with a sofa bed on the wall next to the bathroom. It was a flip-type sofa bed. Very narrow and very firm. My daughter wasn't very fond of it, especially after two weeks. The two twins beds were lovely. Lots of good pillows and really nice sheets. Bring along a few clothespins to secure the drape edges if you want it to be at all dark at night. Our first lunch aboard was up in the Lido restaurant, with a beautiful view of the Seattle skyline. We tried and became fans of the Asian bar. The afternoon was spent at the lifeboat drill and unpacking. We had early assigned seating for dinner at 5:45 p.m. Our stewards, Agoung and Didik were very friendly and professional. The Main dining room menus varied considerably from night to night. The food was very good, although the salads needed a bit of zip. The soups, cold and hot, were exceptional. Our first sea day was very lazy. We read in the lovely library for a time, went to the gym and sat idly by one of the great windows in the Explorer's lounge for most of the day. After dinner, we went up to the Crow's nest and played music trivia. It was really fun and the emcee, Matt, was very funny. Day three of our cruise found us in Ketchikan. We did the Duck tour in the morning and bought tickets for the Lumberjack Show in the afternoon. The Duck tour was wonderful. Very entertaining and informative. The Lumberjack show was a bit tedious and predictable. In our opinion, go for the Duck and skip the Lumberjacks. My Dad left my daughter and I to shop for the rest of the day. There is a lot of shopping in Ketchikan. Our favorite store was the Gold Rush store, a small and Alaskan owned jewelry store. The owner was delightful and the staff wasn't at all pushy. I was happy to give them my money rather than the infamous Diamonds International down the block. Day four was spent cruising Tracy Arm. We staked out choice seating in the Crow's nest and enjoyed the spectacular views. The floating pieces of glacier ice were the most splendid shades of blue imaginable. It was a serene, relaxing day. One of our favorites on the voyage. On Friday, we anchored in Skagway. My daughter and I were looking forward to the Paddle and Saddle tour, while my Dad was headed into town for the Goodtime Girls and Ghosts tour. He enjoyed his tour and we had a fantastic time on ours. After boarding a mini-bus, we went over the pass, through Carcross and eneded up at a pretty lodge. We spent the early morning paddling around in a glacial lake. The late morning had us on horseback, meandering through the mountains to a scenic overlook. The horses were well-fed and well-mannered. The guides had us laughing from the canoe launch to the dismount. What a super day. Saturday was Sitka, my favorite port. Just a lovely island community with lots of boats, dogs and friendly people. I lucked into a store called Brennan's. They carried a huge variety of unique clothing, jewelry and paper goods. I spent an hour and a small fortune there. Afterward, we went to the Pioneer house, a retirement home for some of the Island's elderly residents. The house features a gift shop where you can find goods handmade by the residents. Pottery, jewelry, and textiles were dominant. Prices were amazing and all the proceeds support the home's people and pets. Sunday we spent at sea, headed toward Anchorage. Monday we arrived in Anchorage and were shuttled to the Railway Station for the Grandview Train trip. It was an good trip. Lots of scenery, but maybe a tad bit too long. The engineer was a hoot and he and my Dad talked trains for a bit. We met some really fun people during the tour so it was all worthwhile. On the bus trip back to the ship, we talked the driver into stopping at Uncle Joe's pizza. We had great pizza and local brews. A fun end to a fun day. We reached Homer on Tuesday and my Dad and I went on the Taste of Homer tour. Our guide was fantastic and had lived in Homer for years. We even saw a bull moose on the way to the mead shop, so the bus decided to rename the tour "Homer wine and wildlife". Afterward, we met my daughter on the "Spit" and toured the Deadliest Catch store and the Salty Dog. We really liked Homer. The Pratt museum is not to be missed. Our Wednesday in Kodiak was a bit disappointing. We didn't plan well and there isn't much to do or see right off the ship. If you go to Kodiak, make sure you do some sort of excursion there. Thursday in Hubbard Glacier was beautiful. The glacier was calving almost constantly. The park ranger, Justin, was very informative. I spent most of the afternoon up on the bow. Great spot. Great day! Friday found us in Juneau. It was very rainy throughout the day. Coming from Arizona, rain is a welcome novelty, but a lot of people were unhappy with the weather. We were scheduled to go on the Taku Lodge float plane and salmon bake tour, which was canceled. The helicopter tours were also canceled due to the weather. We went up Mt. Roberts on the tram and even though it was overcast, the trip up was amazing. We had lunch at the restaurant on top and spent some time looking at the artifacts and such. We did a bit of shopping and sloshed back to the ship. Saturday was a sea day. Reading, wandering and napping. An ideal vacation day! Sunday was our last day and we docked in Victoria, B>C> early due to a medical emergency. (not ours!) We rented a pedi-cab and were taken on a great tour of the city by our guide, Kevin, He moonlighted as a pedi-cab driver but spent the majority of his time studying Volcano-Physics and pursuing his Phd. We learned a lot about the town and a lot about volcanoes! We ended up at Bard and Bankers, a very lively Scottish pub off of Government Street. My daughter turned 19 during the cruise, so she was able to climb up on a bar stool and order a beer. (The drinking age in Canada is nineteen) She was very excited and a bit tipsy afterward. Monday sadly had us back in Seattle. We absolutely loved the Ship, the crew and our fellow passengers. It was an amazing trip. After 16 cruises, we voted it our favorite. We already have plans to go again next summer.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time ... Read More
Three of us on this cruise; my husband, my mother and myself. All of us have cruised before, my husband and I were on another cruise line last year to Alaska and loved it so much, we jumped at the chance to return for 2 weeks. First time cruising on Holland America. Embarkation was easy. Disembarkation was delayed, which was not good for those waiting to catch flights. Stateroom was adequate, lots of storage. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Lido restaurant and dinner in the main dining room. Food generally good. Restaurant stewards Aziz, Miduk and Benyamin were exceptional; Benyamin always had a smile on his face. We enjoyed the ports of call, especially the ones we hadn't visited before. The Hubbard Glacier was awesome. Diane in the piano bar was absolutely a joy, and the Neptunes were great. Bruce the cruise director was professional and obviously knew his job. Loved the Explorations cafe and the library. Now for the downside: the ship needs an overhaul. The grout was falling off the tiles in our shower stall the entire trip. We got locked out of our room and had to wait several hours for a locksmith. The railings fell off the walls in 2 of the elevators, and one elevator malfunctioned repeatedly. Carpet is worn in some public areas. 2 public bathroom stalls and 2 washing machines were out of service when the cruise began, and a worker told me the toilets had been out since the last cruise; "the plumber couldn't get a part". In Seattle?! There was also a lingering sewage smell on our deck. We had 2 nights of extremely slow service in the dining room; one caused a medical problem, as one of us takes medication that requires food, and waiting for over an hour for the entree to arrive wasn't acceptable. The singer, Ashley, for the Halcats, was not good. She can't sing, which is bad enough, but she didn't know most of the music or how to interact with the guests. The band leader had to constantly cue her, and he left the ship at the end of the cruise. I don't blame him. The presence of cigarette smoke was pervasive; it came from the staterooms, the casino,(which isn't enclosed) and the bars. Not only is it a health hazard, it's a fire hazard, and so irritating that it would be enough to keep us from this line again. The children on the ship need to be better supervised; one of them broke a glass in the Lido pool, necessitating its draining and preventing its use for almost 2 days. An adults-only pool would be nice, as the kids tended to take over the pool, and their parents were AWOL. One other thing, which has nothing to do with Holland America's service; the clientele is mostly elderly, so be prepared for lots of walkers, scooters, and delays. We had an older person with us, and she could have given lessons to some of the seniors on how to act; they were sometimes rude and very inclined to think of the ship as "theirs". Overall a good experience, we would consider sailing on Holland America again. But there do need to be some improvements, most notably in the area of smoking policies. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Alaska 14-Day cruise - Holland America's Amsterdam Departure Port: Seattle, Washington Cabin: 6209 (Verandah - starboard side) Weather: Sunny and blue skies most days. Some cloudy days, a little fog at sea, very little rain - just ... Read More
Alaska 14-Day cruise - Holland America's Amsterdam Departure Port: Seattle, Washington Cabin: 6209 (Verandah - starboard side) Weather: Sunny and blue skies most days. Some cloudy days, a little fog at sea, very little rain - just at Juneau- in other words - wonderful! Seas: Mostly calm, some gentle rolling but nothing that necessitated getting out the bags. DH used Sea Bands and he was fine the whole trip and we never used the patches or anything else. Background: Two adults - wife (57) and hubby (70). DH has mobility issues and needs oxygen. We rent a scooter for the ship and have his oxygen delivered. Monday morning we arrived by car at the dock at 10:15 and by 11:00 we were checked in and waiting to be wheel-chaired on. We were on-board and wheeled to the Lido (our request as we didn't want the Mariner lunch in the dining room) by 11:30. Rooms were ready by 1:40. Our cabin was great and our stewards were Anton and Poezi (Sp). We were waitlisted for early seating for dinner and got it so dinner was in the LaFontaine Dining Room on deck 5. We were at a table for 8 with 6 of us attending each evening. We all got along and had a good time together. Ship: The ship is older but it is constantly being cleaned and is in good shape. She creaks a bit but it adds to the charm. The staff are superb and the service beyond wonderful. There is no hounding for drinks, purchasing, etc. You are asked and if you say no they just go on. How refreshing! Everyone is helpful and very easy to get along with. Itinerary: This itinerary is wonderful! You get such a long time in port everywhere except Kodiak. First stop was Ketchikan and it was nice to have all day there. We took the scooter off and wandered Creek Street and downtown. Went back on board for lunch and then I got off and shopped. Sitka - you are tendered in to this lovely city. We had the scooter and they were very accommodating at getting us off-ship. Castle Hill is a great viewpoint! Skagway - we did our first HAL excursion here - The Yukon Discovery and White Pass Railroad Tour. We were on a bus to Caribou Crossing (with photo ops. along the way). At Caribou Crossing we were fed a BBQ chicken lunch and we were very impressed. The staff there was smiling and very courteous. Lunch consisted of a leg/thigh combo, _ baked potato, coleslaw, tea and coffee; water was on the table, rolls, and all the doughnuts you could handle. It wasn't a fancy meal but it tasted very good and the area was clean. There was also a gift shop and taxidermy museum that we visited and there were other things you could do. We went back to Carcross to look (not much there) then on to Fraser, BC, to meet the train. The train ride was spectacular. It was sunny and perfect weather for pictures and standing on the train platform. Glacier Bay - we were here most of the day and the views were marvelous. There were National Park Rangers on-board and they gave a nice commentary. We spent quite a bit of time on our verandah at Margerie Glacier and it was definitely worth getting a balcony cabin! Anchorage: We did the Glacier Discovery Train and loved the scenery but it was a very long day! We were off the ship at 9:00 AM and back at 6:45 PM. We did some backtracking on the train ride and the train isn't exclusively ours, but it was worth doing. Next time, though, I'd rent a car and explore on our own. Homer: What a cute and fun area to explore. The only downside was there was no transportation for scooters, wheelchairs, etc. so we stayed at the spit. There is a free shuttle bus for the spit but the shuttle to town is $15.00. However, just beyond the school buses (which are the shuttle buses) there is a white van that offers free trips to town. We "scootered" all around the marina and down the spit. It's touristy but fun. We saw the Salty Dawg Saloon, got a milkshake and a few postcards at some other stores and then wandered back. We did about 5 miles that day and the scooter was great. One of the couples we have dinner with did the Homer Highlights tour and were raving about how good it was. Kodiak: We were here the shortest amount of time so you had to be quick. We did the Kodiak highlights and Russian Tea tour and had a great time. The best part was the Balalaika players at the tea. Our driver was Dee and she drove a 25-passenger "bus". We saw the replica Russian Orthodox Church at the seminary and then went to another Russian Orthodox church. We had several photo ops, stopped at a local art gallery and saw an eagle's nest at the fairgrounds. The tea was held in the hall at a local church and that was the best! We were served borscht, a meat turnover, a special cookie and some sweet tea. The balalaika players entertained us for over an hour and it was wonderful! Hubbard Glacier: Even though it was foggy going into Disenchantment Bay the glacier was pretty incredible. We didn't have the clear viewing we might have liked but the glacier was calving and a lot was going on as we watched. Juneau - We arrived to rain - the misty kind - and it pretty much rained all day. About mid-morning it stopped but the town was still "socked in" and rather dreary. The rain started again mid-afternoon but, again, it was a misty type. HAL supplied umbrellas as we left the ship, if you wanted them, and it didn't seem to stop anyone from getting off the ship. We were docked at the tram and right at the start of town. I got off and did some shopping, then came back on. Later we both got off, with the scooter, and wandered around. Victoria - The weather was beautiful and it was a perfect evening for a walk to town, so that's what I did! Disembarkation: Holland has disembarking down to an art. You get a letter the day before telling you what 15-minute window you have for disembarking (after filling out a questionnaire early in the cruise). There is an announcement that disembarking is commencing and that's it. You can stay in your cabin until it's time to get off the ship. The Lido is open for breakfast, but did close at 8:30. DH was wheelchaired off at 9:30 and we were on the shuttle to the parking lot quickly. By 9:45 we were at our car. Summary - This cruise was a wonderful two-week vacation. The Amsterdam is showing a bit of wear but she's a beautiful, stately ship and the itinerary is wonderful! It has a nice mix of sea days and port days and Anchorage, Homer, and Kodiak were new places to explore. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We live in a small town in Northwest Montana, and had always wanted to see Alaska. We chose Holland America Line's 14 day Alaska itinerary from Seattle and back because it provided an opportunity to visit a variety of ports. We ... Read More
We live in a small town in Northwest Montana, and had always wanted to see Alaska. We chose Holland America Line's 14 day Alaska itinerary from Seattle and back because it provided an opportunity to visit a variety of ports. We thought this would give us a chance to sample a number of towns, and enable us to decide which places we might like to visit again. Our experience on the Amsterdam was extremely pleasant. We chose the late dining time, and thoroughly enjoyed our dining mates. We were fortunate enough to have a table for six by a port side window, and were treated to a "whale" show more than once while dining. In general we found the food, service, entertainment, and accommodations to be exceptional, and completely enjoyable. We enjoyed our Italian meal at the Canaletto, and some very relaxed times doing jigsaw puzzles in the Explorations Cafe. The informational narrations provided by the naturalist while passing the glaciers in Glacier Bay were most interesting. Our experiences in Skagway, Anchorage, Juneau, and Victoria Island will long be remembered. We also enjoyed Homer, Kodiak, and Sitka. Note: some of the names of places that I mention may not be correct because I am writing this a year after our cruise, and I am relying on my failing memory. We enjoyed our cruise so much that we are looking forward to sailing on HAL to visit more interesting places. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
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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