396 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

When boarded the Amsterdam on Jan. 6, 2006 in San Diago at about 12:30pm. The boarding process was fluid and well organized. As the cabins were not ready we went up to the Lido Restaurant for lunch. At about 3:00pm we were able to access ... Read More
When boarded the Amsterdam on Jan. 6, 2006 in San Diago at about 12:30pm. The boarding process was fluid and well organized. As the cabins were not ready we went up to the Lido Restaurant for lunch. At about 3:00pm we were able to access our cabin #1804 on the Dolphin deck. As this is a handicapped cabin it was very roomy and well laid out. The first thing we noticed was the deodorant smell. The next thing was that the whole cabin stank of cigarette smoke. As I suffer from congestive heart failure, breathing in such stinky air was a burden. The pillows smelled like ashtrays. I spend a terrible night and the next morning made a written complaint about the condition to the front desk. They placed an ozone generator in the cabin for eight (8) hours. We were advised to stay out of the cabin The also replaced the pillows and yhe shower curtain as I had requested. The second night conditions were better. On the third day, we noticed an acrid smell in the cabin - somewhat like burned wiring insulation. My spouse saw the maintenance staff having a panel off just outside of our cabin and inquired what the problem was. She was told that there was a problem with rats. When we returned to our cabin at about 10:30pm the acrid smell was still very much present. We kept our cabin door open for about an hour and as there was a very strong exhaust fan in the bathroom, we kept the door to the bathroom open. Next day we registered again a complained with the front office as our complains to our cabin steward regarding the lack of fresh and breathable air in our cabin received no corrective response. On day five the shampooed the carpet in our cabin and after the medicine like small subsided we were finally able to have reasonable fresh air in the cabin by keeping the door to the bathroom open day and night. We took this cruise together with my in-laws. However while we booked through an internet travel agency, they had booked directly with HAL. We asked for and were assigned early dining at 6:15pm. They had been assigned main dining at 8:30pm. We went to see the Maitre D' on our first day on board and requested to have an assigned diner seating together. I stressed that it needs to be early. The next day we were assigned dining at 8:00pm - I guess as far as my in-laws were concerned it was "early". We tried it for three nights and when I found out that it was too late for me to eat, we took our dinner at the Lido restaurant for the rest of the cruise. On January 17 at noon I went to the Lido Restaurant for lunch. I stood in line and when I came to the Italian serving station, I told the server that I wanted some spaghetti with meat sauce. The server picked up a plate, picked up the tongs and started to grab some spaghetti. He suddenly dropped the tongs in the spaghetti tray, placed the plate back on the counter and walked to the serving station Oriental behind me, when I turned around I found a ship's officer with three gold bars on his shirt standing behind me and the server was serving him some Chinese food. For the first times in my life I was speechless. While I realize that with three gold bars the ships officer is high up on the totem pole, never the less, I was in front of him and I should have been served first. We took our breakfast, consisting of orange juice, coffee and a Danish pastry, in our cabin every morning. On the third day of our voyage my spouse asked the cabin steward to put a fresh banana in our fruit basket every day. He told her that he could not get any bananas. We retrieved a banana every day at the lunch or breakfast buffet so that we could have it in the morning. When I realized that I could order some sliced bananas with our morning breakfast order I included bananas in our standing order. Although they were not entirely fresh they did provide a satisfactory substitute One day we found some sticky substance and two black hairs on the plate with our breakfast. The next day we were given a cracked coffee cup and had to place tissue under the cup to absorb the coffee leakage. Obviously a result of lack of attention to detail. I put in a written complaint with the customer service desk and such events did not happen again. One evening we (my spouse and my in-laws) as usual were at dinner at the Lido restaurant. My spouse and I usually arrived first and my in-laws joined us subsequently. I had ordered and been served a bottle of Grolsch beer. My brother-in-law wanted one also. We told one steward. About twenty minutes later, as there had been no response to his request, he told another steward. When the alcoholic beverage server finally arrived at our table about 30 minutes after the first request, my brother-in-law had finished his meal and did not need any service. We live on the outskirts of Las Vegas and are frequent visitors to various restaurants and buffets in Las Vegas. When we visit these establishments, we are served a glass of water when we get to the table and whenever the glass is ¼ or less full, it is promptly refilled. At the Lido restaurant, we got a glass of water at the begin of our dinner, however, to get a refill was almost impossible and it was more then once that we had to get up to get a water refill ourselves. I observed that service staff was just standing around, engaged in conversation with other service staff. Maybe HAL service policy is to ensure that customers get some exercise by getting there own water refills? HAL claims that it provides exceptional service. Based on our most recent experience on the HAL Amsterdam, I suggest that this is a misnomer and it should be exceptionable service. This was our fifth cruise within a year. Our first cruise was on the Oosterdam along the mexican coast. We were so impressed by the service we received that we promptly booked another trip with the Oosterdam from Seattle to Alaska in May. Again, the service was excellent and it was a very pleasurable cruise. In June we went on a 10 day cruise on the NCL Norwegian Wind around Hawaii. The accommodations and service were excellent but the quality of food was not as good as we found on the Oosterdam. In November we took a 14 day cruise through the Panama Canal with Celebrity on the Summit. Accommodations, food and service were excellent. In fact they were even better then what we had received on the Oosterdam, which is a hard act to trump. Of all five cruises the one on the Amsterdam was the worst. Unfortunately it also was the longest in duration - 30 days. We assume that the lack of service we experienced on the Amsterdam is the exception rather then the rule as to what HAL has to offer. We booked another cruise with HAL - Zaandam in May to Alaska and hope that our assumption is correct. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
Since this was such a long sailing, I will not attempt to give a day-by-day account of everything I did. Rather, I will hit on the high and low points of the cruise and try to provide the information most requested on the CC boards. I will ... Read More
Since this was such a long sailing, I will not attempt to give a day-by-day account of everything I did. Rather, I will hit on the high and low points of the cruise and try to provide the information most requested on the CC boards. I will also note the various ports we visited and how I spent my time there. This particular cruise is only done by Holland America once per year, usually in the month of January. While many of their cruises visit the Islands of Hawaii, this one takes the voyage a step further and goes onto the South Pacific Islands as well, including a stop at Christmas Island in Kirbiti and also a visit to Nuku Hiva in Tahiti. Our itinerary was as follows: January 6  Embarkation, San Diego January 7-10  At sea January 11  Kona, Hawaii January 12  Hilo, Hawaii January 13-14  Honolulu, Oahu January 15  Nawiliwili, Kauai January 16  Lahaina, Maui January 17-21  At sea (crossing the equator on the 20th) January 22  Raiatea, Tahiti January 23-24  Bora Bora, Tahiti January 25  Papeete, Society Islands January 26  Moorea, Society Islands January 27-28  At Sea January 29  Nuku Hiva, Tahiti January 30-February 4  At Sea February 5  Return to San Diego, California We had five formal nights, seven informal nights, one Hawaiian night, and 17 casual nights on this cruise. Embarkation: This was an absolute snap. But maybe thats because unlike most people, I prefer to board after the crowds have cleared out. I waited at my hotel across the street until about 1:00 before even making my way to the Pier of San Diego and the beautiful m.s. Amsterdam that awaited me. It took me less than 15 minutes to dump my bags with the porters, enter the building, make my way to each check-in station, through the security screeners and onto the ship. Even the normal backlog caused by the ships photographers was not evident and I waited but a minute for the obligatory boarding photo. I was directed to the Lido deck since the cabins were not quite ready. There I found a lavish buffet and plenty of tables at which to enjoy it. Bypassing the food, though, I made my way to a seat in the Lido Bar area where I could make some last minute telephone calls while I still had cell service. I didnt even get through the first call when the announcement came that we could proceed to our cabins. I stayed on the Lido deck for an additional half hour or so, completed my business, and then made my way to the Main Deck and cabin 2531. Stewards were in plentiful supply in the hallway to assist anyone needing help in finding their way. I quickly located my cabin, a standard inside, and found not only everything in readiness, but also that my two pieces of luggage had already arrived and were sitting on the bed. Shortly after, my cabin steward, Mohammad, appeared to see if everything was satisfactory. I asked for a couple of ashtrays, which he promptly delivered, and set about unpacking. That unpleasant chore was out of the way well before lifeboat drill & always a great way to get a cruise started. The Usual List of Suspects: The major players of the ships staff and officers included  Commander  Captain Edward G. van Zaane Chief Officer  Robert-Jan Kan Hotel Manager  Willem Cruijsberg Food and Beverage Manager  Bert Van Mackelbergh Maitre d Hotel  Kiki Basuki Cruise Director  John F. Challenger, III Executive Chef  Pedro Lontoc The Amsterdam: What can one say about a beautiful ship such as this? Ive been on other HAL ships, including the Rotterdam which is designated as the Atlantic Flagship of the Fleet, but at least for me nothing beats the Amsterdam. She is the co-flagship, designated for the Pacific, and is filled with beautiful works of art, including a stunning astrolobe tower clock that spans the three decks of the atrium. One could busy themselves for days just trying to view all the treasures that this ship holds. In fact, Apollonia, the social hostess, actually gave a couple of tours in order to familiarize passengers with a sampling of these pieces and a bit about their history. The ship seems to be in great shape, and I really didnt notice any major signs of wear anywhere. The Signature of Excellence enhancements probably updated any areas of this ship that may have been suffering from wear, and the new Explorations Cafe very quickly became my absolute favorite area on the ship. With a very extensive inventory of books, not to mention a wide variety of magazines and other periodicals, one could stay busy in this room throughout the day. If reading materials are not enough, there are 13 internet terminals, as well as several music listening stations. When I first saw these funny looking mini computer terminals, I had no idea what they were. Another CCer had to educate me to the fact that these were actually sort of like iPods & you could program a playlist of your favorite music and then put the headphones on and listen away. Browsing the playlists, I found music to suit almost any conceivable taste. Usually I would never expect to find my preferred praise and worship music in a venue such as this, but there was actually a pretty good selection of it & certainly enough to keep me happily engaged for several hours. In addition, the Explorations Cafe has a bar that is open for most of the day and into the evening. Items for sale included specialty coffees, lattes, hot chocolate, etc. A selection of cold drinks is also offered, such as Smoothies. The staff there got to know me and whenever they would see me coming, with a smile on my face, they knew I wanted my white hot chocolate with loads of whipped cream. Dont ask me why I can consume white chocolate with no problems, while regular chocolate brings on terrible migraine headaches. It is clear that the Amsterdams crew takes great pride in her. Every day as I would walk through the various areas of the ship, I would always see crew members polishing, shining, cleaning, repairing, and doing whatever else necessary to keep her in impeccable condition. Activities: This voyage, billed as a South Pacific Explorer Cruise, covered a total of 9,367 nautical miles. Over half of this 30-day voyage was spent at sea. In fact, we had a total of 17 sea days. As a result, having enough to do during all that time could become a problem. Luckily, the potential for boredom was kept to a minimum by the efforts of a proactive cruise director and his staff who kept our plates as full as possible with a host of activities. We had a full Explorations Speakers Series program, with lectures ranging from star gazing with Donna Giesler to topics such as navigation with David Levesque. Jim Butler enlightened us about the life under the sea, while his wife, Elaine Butler, spoke on subjects covering the arts. On just about every sea day there was at least one lecture, usually two, presented for those who wanted to expand their horizons while on this voyage. Donna Giesler also hosted daily Meet the Star Lady sessions in the Explorers Lounge, as well as actual star gazing in the late evening hours up on the sports deck. Also on sea days, Social Hostess Apollonia (Captain Edward G. van Zanes wife) hosted a coffee chat in the Explorers Lounge with a variety of the ships staff and onboard entertainers. These venues gave passengers a chance to ask questions and get to know the many people who were making this voyage so special. Additionally, special events were hosted throughout the cruise for the many single and solo passengers aboard. These included special meals, afternoon tea socials, games, sports events, and the like & all designed to help single and solo passengers to get to know one another and make new friends while onboard. Of course, there were the staples of cruising, such as daily trivia, Bingo, deck games and jewelry seminars. The Greenhouse Spa also hosted daily lectures and events, many of them focusing on fitness and health topics, and most of them free. We also had four gentleman hosts on this cruise whose sole purpose was to keep the single ladies company and provide them with dance partners each evening. Before dinner each night, the Ocean Bar was packed and the dance hosts busy getting everyone out on the dance floor. In fact, even if you didnt want to dance, they tried to encourage you. It took about four days before the hosts got it through their heads that I didnt like to dance. I had to turn them down several times before they finally stopped asking me. John Challenger also hosted a special get-together for the Cruise Critics onboard, and this took place on the second day out at sea. It was nice getting the chance to put faces to the many names of people we had been communicating with on a weekly basis online over the eight or so months preceding this cruise. A nice touch that I really appreciate on Holland America is that we had a Catholic priest, a protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi onboard, and services were conducted just about daily. A variety of special events were also held. These included a gala Welcome Aboard party, deck barbecues, the famous Holland America Dessert Extravaganza, and of course, the obligatory ceremony that takes place whenever a voyage crosses the equator. This ceremony made one glad to be a passenger (rather than crew) and thus avoid having to kiss a stinking fish that had been roasting out in the sun for several hours, as well as being slimed by all manner of leftover kitchen garbage before being tossed into the pool to clean off. While many found all these days at sea relaxing, others found them tedious, especially towards the end of the cruise when the novelty of sailing had worn off for some. Unfortunately, with a voyage such as this, there is no way to avoid clusters of sea days and the best way to deal with them is to simply sit back and relax. Staying busy is not always necessary. Relaxing and enjoying the moment is sometimes fun too, and I cant even count the number of times I would sit and watch the sea go by, saying to myself it doesnt get much better than this. I found that I slipped into a very comfortable routine on sea days, and thus enjoyed them tremendously. I would generally get up at around 8:30, and attend services at 9:00. After services, I would run up to the Lido and grab a bite to eat before the breakfast buffet closed. Then I would often attend a lecture, and then just relax for a couple of hours, reading up on the Lido deck, or perhaps in the Explorations Cafe, since I rarely ate lunch. Usually there would be an afternoon activity I would want to do, maybe attend another lecture or whatever. On some days, I would go to afternoon tea, and then indulge in afternoon nap. Around 7:30 or so, it would be time to get up and get ready for dinner, followed by a show. The day would usually pass by so quickly in this manner that I was always at a loss to figure out where it went. Some of us participated in the Amsterdam Survivor competition, which was loads of fun. Of course, anyone who knows me can see that I am not very gifted in sporting-type activities, so needless to say, I did not survive Survivor. But we all got a nice certificate for our efforts, as well as Dam Dollars for each event we participated in. Several of us also participated in the Great Pretenders Show, a lip synching show that Holland America offers on most of its sailings. While Ive watched this show several times in the past, both on Holland America and other lines, it was the first time I let myself be talked into participating. While I was leery at first, I have to admit it was great fun. The Queens Lounge was packed the night of our performance, and afterwards we had a sock hop & bringing most audience members up on stage to dance and sing to the tunes from the '50s and '60s. The party then moved up to the Crows Nest for dancing late into the night. The cruise staff provided liberal drinks for us cast members before the show (I guess to get us loosened up for getting on stage), and then provided a small buffet afterwards. All in all, it was a great time & far more fun than I would have expected & and I dont think I finally crawled into bed until about 2:00 a.m. that morning. Needless to say, I missed services the next day. Other Cruise Critics enjoyed daily trivia challenges, as well as visits to the spa. The sun worshipers among us also had plenty of opportunity for their passion, especially as we got closer to the Islands, and then crossed the equator. Ports: Of course, no voyage is all sea days, and ours included some absolutely spectacular ports. Of course, there were the Islands of Hawaii, and we spent six days exploring them. A full menu of shore excursions was offered, and of course, passengers also had the option of designing their own custom tours. As a solo traveler, I opted for Holland Americas tours on most days, simply for the convenience and safety of being in a group. At our first port, Kona, I took a half-day Kona Highlights tour. This tour was by air conditioned vehicle, and took us to such places as the Painted Church and Konas Place of Refuge, the National Historic Park. A stop was also made at the Royal Kona Coffee Store where we could partake of samples. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy any of the varieties of Kona coffee, and thus was glad to have sampled it before parting with good money to buy some. In Hilo I tried a tour which is relatively new to Holland America. It is called Secrets of Puna, and it is a family-run tour which takes participants to the natural areas of the island, and thus the ones least likely to be crowded with tourists. We headed out in luxury SUVs with large springy tires to explore the lava fields. These fields are comprised of miles of jagged rock that most vehicles cant traverse. Thus, we had the whole region to ourselves. We saw the dormant volcano, and the many places in the rocks where native Hawaiians place offerings to the Goddess Pele, to appease her and keep their island home safe from her ire. We stopped at a park area and were given a natural lunch & fruit, sandwich wraps, and bottled water. Unfortunately, since a greasy cheeseburger is more to my liking, I did not find this lunch very appetizing, but the others on the tour sure did. Finally, we ended the half-day tour by visiting a volcanic lake where we could spend an hour or so snorkeling or swimming. This lake was as warm as bath water, and was in use by very, very few people. Obviously, it is a little known treasure, and since it also requires the traversing of some fields of jagged volcanic rock, it is inaccessible to most people in standard vehicles. In Honolulu, we had two full days and I made the most of them. Of course, the standard Holland America tour I chose was one that would let me see as much of Oahu as possible, and this was a full-day circle island tour. Encompassing 120 miles around the entire island, we traveled on all three of Oahus main interstates and visited such sites as the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, the Dole Pineapple Pavilion, the Polynesian Cultural Center (for a catered barbecue lunch), the Halona Blow Hole and the Byodo-In Temple, among others. We also rode past the various surfing beaches and drove the windward coastline to view the beaches nestled there. An eight-hour tour, it was kept interesting by our guide, a retired policeman who was now spending his days showing the jewels of his island home to visitors. While a tour of this length can often become boring, I have to admit that I hated to see it end. I could hardly believe we had been on the road for so many hours. While the Grand Circle Island tour was a joy, it was nothing compared to how I spent my first day in Oahu. On this day, I decided to do a self-arranged excursion & self-arranged because there is no way in hell Holland America would touch this one with a ten-foot pole. I opted to go skydiving over the North Shore. Skydive Hawaii, one of three skydiving outfits on Oahu, picked us up right at Pier 19 where the Amsterdam was docked. While I thought I would be the only idiot spending my day in such a manner, it turned out that I was gonna have plenty of company. Several members of the Amsterdam cast, the sound engineer, the chef at the Pinnacle Grill, and Reme, the Amsterdams DJ, all were apparently as nuts as I was. We filled Skydive Hawaiis van & some people even sitting on the floor, and made the journey of an hour or so to Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore. We were all going to do what are called tandem skydives. Securely attached to an experienced skydiving instructor, each of us would take a flying leap from Skydive Hawaiis Cessna Caravan 15,000 feet above the beautiful North Shore. Three tandem pairs were generally on each flight, and it took three flights to get us all up. Some of us also opted to get video and photo stills of our jumps. I was the only one in our group who had been a skydiver in a past life & having had to give up the sport after a landing accident in 1999. It was wonderful to get back into the air again, even if I had to have an instructor along for the ride. The view from freefall was breathtaking & clouds mixed with the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, which we exit the plane directly over. In freefall, many of us had a professional videoflyer & also called a vidiot, who wears a special helmet affixed with both still and video cameras. A special flying suit, equipped with large wings, enabled him to orbit around his subject, zooming in and out at will. This provided often humorous footage of the facial expressions that are a natural part of ones first experience with skydiving. After a freefall of approximately one minute, we waved goodbye to the videoflyer (we would meet up with him again on the ground) and opened a huge multi-colored parachute, gently floating under it back to the skydiving facilitys huge landing area. Once back on terra firma, our videoflyer would be there to greet us and conduct a short interview for the camera. The material made great viewing and a wonderful memento of a truly amazing experience. After our jumps, we spent an hour or so waiting for our DVDs to be edited, complete with special effects and a music track, and then we all crowded around the huge TV set in their lounge to watch the results and laugh at each others facial expressions. This was, without a doubt, the highlight of the entire cruise for me, and something I definitely plan to do again when I get back to Hawaii. In fact, many of the folks from the Amsterdams staff were already planning another excursion to Skydive Hawaii on the ships next call at that port, which would take place on the cruise after ours. I was only sorry that I wouldnt be with them on that return trip. Kauai was a short port of call, and it was the only one where I did not have a formal excursion planned. I had originally made plans to take an aerobatics airplane ride with a former jump buddys nephew who runs such a service out there, but due to work constraints he had to cancel out on me at the last minute. This gentleman, Jim Reed, is also Kauais fire captain and due to my short time window, he had warned me that just such a thing could happen. So, instead of trying to run around and set something else up, I spent the few hours we had on this island with Kakalina and her husband, visiting Hilo Hatties & a place I had not had a chance to visit on any of my prior visits to Hawaii. Of course, I dropped too much money, but the day was well spent as I acquired several new Aloha shirts to add to my already growing collection. We also visited the Wal-Mart since we all needed things that we didnt want to pay top dollar for on the ship. Also, Wal-Mart had a McDonalds inside, and we were all suffering BigMac attacks after all that good food that was being shoved down our throats on the Amsterdam. Maui was our last port of call in the Hawaiian islands, and this day was special for me. It was my 50th birthday and I wanted to spend it doing something fun, yet relaxing. I opted for the Wild Dolphin Snorkel excursion offered by the Pacific Whale Foundation. While the title of the tour sounds like you will be snorkeling with dolphins, that description is not entirely accurate. The snorkeling takes place in their general area of habitat, but not necessarily with the dolphins. Unfortunately, we actually saw very few dolphins on this excursion, but we did have several whale sightings, with one of them breaching not 40-feet from the boat! The experience was absolutely breathtaking as the beauty of these huge creatures is truly a sight to behold. The staff on the boat are all naturalists and they took great pleasure in educating us about the whales and how important it was for us to protect their environment. After the whale watch tour was over, we had an opportunity to spend an hour or so snorkeling and all equipment was provided for us by the staff of the boat. They also entered the water with us, helping us to spot green sea turtles and other sea life resident to the area. After our snorkeling, a barbecued lunch was served on the boat, complete with open bar. I made the mistake of mentioning to another passenger over lunch that it was my birthday. She must have told the Pacific Whale Foundation people, because before I knew it, the captain was making an announcement to that effect and everyone then sang Happy Birthday to me. An absolutely memorable touch to a perfect day. I cant imagine a better way to spend any birthday and this is certainly one I will never forget as long as I live. After we had docked back at the pier, most of us took a walk over to the Pacific Whale Foundations store, which was only about a block away. Everything they sell in the store goes to support their work and the various projects they run to protect the sea life in Hawaiis waters. Of course, most of us were all too willing to drop a few bucks in support of their efforts, and I picked up a beautiful tee-shirt with an embroidered logo of the Foundation on the breast pocket. After our six days spent in the Hawaiian Islands, most of us were exhausted and were actually thrilled with the prospect of the five sea days looming ahead. We were originally only supposed to have two & with a stop at Christmas Island before heading to the South Pacific, but due to shifting sandbars we were informed at embarkation that Christmas Island had been cancelled. Apparently this happens quite often, so no one was overly surprised at the news. Since theres not much to do there anyway, it wasnt any great loss. After our five days at sea had passed, we arrived in Tahiti. Most people were chomping at the bit by this point to get the hell off the ship, but I for one was almost sorry to find myself once again on dry land. Days at sea are so peaceful, so relaxing. In some respects, I think I would actually enjoy taking a cruise one day that contained nothing but days at sea. Our first port in the South Pacific was beautiful Raiatea. We could readily see when approaching this port that it was unlike any of the others we had thus far visited in the Hawaiian Island chain. This port was clearly not developed. They hadnt had much experience with the tourist trade. In fact, we later found out that they dont get too many cruise ships there, and thus when one did dock, it was a big event for the entire community. Stepping off the ship was like stepping into a different time. Dogs lazily sleeping in the sun, while their owners sold handmade wares under canopies shielding them from the worst of a blazing sun. The tour I took in this port was Raiatea: The Sacred Island. I figured this would give me a good overview of the islands religious underpinnings. Our primary destination was to the Marae Taputapuatea, which is the islands most famous landmark. But, to get there, we had to traverse miles of narrow roads, all bordering the Bay of Faaroa. Along the way, we saw all manner of tropical plants growing freely along the road, though we didnt get much chance to stop to admire it more closely. The ride would have been pleasant except for the fact that we were crammed into an open air bus, with hard wooden bench seats. The buses were actually the communities school buses, and since this was a Sunday they could be used for the purpose of this tour. We rode to the Marae in a caravan, with three of these such buses. For the trip to the Marae, the regular tour guide couldnt make it, so she sent her young son to escort the group on our bus. The boy spoke very little English and thus could not answer questions very well nor provide much narrative as to what we were seeing. The bus was hot, crowded and very uncomfortable, and the murmurings heard repeatedly ran along the lines of I paid $79 for this? Once at the Marae, though, things improved somewhat. Momma took over and gave us a very thorough tour of the site, along with explanations as to the customs and traditions surrounding the Marae. We were provided with bottled water and some sliced fruit at the Marae, and some of us couldnt help but remark that this was all we would be getting for $79 bucks? To make up for her young sons inexperience, momma accompanied our tour group on the journey back to the ship, and she freely shared information about her island, the Marae and the customs of her people. She also led us in some of the traditional songs and her presence clearly made the ride back far more pleasant than the one out. All in all, it was a good tour, though certainly not worth the price Holland America charged us for it. Back on the ship, we noticed quite a line at the Shore Excursions Desk & people complaining about the value they got for their money on this particular tour. As we pulled out of our dock space at Raiatea that evening, we noticed that many of the townspeople had made the journey specifically to see us off on our travels. Cars and pick-up trucks were pulling into the dirt parking lot of the pier and entire families were coming to wave to us. It seemed almost as if our presence was the high point of their week, and parents wanted their children to see what a big cruise ship full of rich tourists looked like. Of all the islands we visited in the South Pacific, Raiatea will hold a special place (along with Moorea) as my favorite. Our next stop was Bora Bora, and we had the pleasure of an overnight stay on this island, and with it the opportunity to do far more than just a one-day stop would allow. As I did in Oahu, I decided to set up an independent excursion on one day, and a more traditional Holland America tour on the second. Since I got certified for SCUBA the January prior to this, but had not yet made a dive with that new certification, I decided before leaving home to set up a day of diving. Based on recommendations on some SCUBA message boards, I contacted TopDive and explained my sorry state of experience to them. They assured me that they were used to inexperienced divers and could accommodate me, so I booked a two-tank dive with them. I was to meet them on the pier at 8:00 a.m., which was gonna be tight since we didnt anchor until 7:00, and tendering would take time. Since this was not a Holland America excursion, I would also not be guaranteed to be on one of the first tenders since HAL tours got priority. Thankfully, the shore excursion folks got me a priority tender ticket before the HAL tours had to leave, and John Challengers staff at the tender station made sure I was on the first tender off & one of only three people aboard! I was at the pier, introducing myself to the TopDive representative long before 8:00 a.m. The TopDive people took me back to their dive shop where all the necessary paperwork was completed, and then it was directly onto their boat. Unlike many operators, TopDives boat was not packed with divers. There were only about six of us, plus the two divemasters. One divemaster took me and another relatively inexperienced diver, and the other took the four more experienced folks who would not require as much supervision. We dived two spots, each selected for the variety of sea life we could view there. As we explored the underwater terrain, we saw sea turtles and all manner of brightly colored fish. On our first dive, we were even greeted by an array of black-tipped sharks which made for some great photos. The coral formations at the second location were breathtaking, and I only wish I had a better camera than my puny underwater disposable. Under 65 feet of water you really do need a flash in order to get decent pictures. I had such a great time on these two dives that I was almost tempted to cancel my Holland America tour for the next day, which was a shark and ray feeding excursion, and just do another dive with the TopDive People. Alas, though, my practical side won out. I had already paid for the HAL excursion, and it was too late to cancel it and still get my money back. On day two, we boarded a motorized outrigger canoe to transfer across the lagoon to an expansive coral reef teeming with a wide variety of marine life. We actually snorkeled two separate locations. After snorkeling at the reef, we then got back on the boat and made the short trip to what they called a coral garden, where we got to snorkel amongst some of the most beautiful coral formations I had ever seen. The people running the excursion, Shark Boy, got into the water with us and attracted the reef sharks and stingrays with bait. Since we were in reasonably shallow water, the photos obtained even with a cheap underwater camera were stunning. Schools of brightly colored rainbow fish & yellows, oranges, black & swarmed around us & until you could barely see the humans for the fish. At the coral gardens we were told to be careful about stepping on the coral, as it was protected and any careless moves could jeopardize it. Luckily the water here was generally a bit deeper and thus there was no danger of a wayward foot trampling the delicate balance of the sea life in this area. My only regret on this excursion was that I didnt buy an additional underwater camera. One was hardly enough for all these amazing photo opportunities. Papeete was our next step, and this was probably my least favorite of the South Pacific islands. Basically, its a big city. Nothing more than you would find anywhere else in the world. By large bus we traversed the isthmus of Taravao, the strip of land that connects Tahiti Nui (big) with Tahiti Iti (small). We made a stop at the Arahoho Blowhole and got to spend some time there, watching the sea compress itself into an old lava tube that extended under the rocks across the street. We would then hear the roaring coming from under these rock formations, as the sea was forced back out into the sea in an exploding noisy spray. We also visited the Paul Gauguin Museum and got to spend some time there viewing exhibits about his life. We also had lunch at the Gauguin Restaurant before continuing on our tour of the natural treasures of this island. Finally, we made a stop at the Museum of Tahiti and her Islands, where we were treated to a guided tour of the many archeological finds, including the large pots and utensils the cannibals inhibiting the island once used. This museum forbade visitors from taking photos or video recordings of the exhibits inside, though there was an area outside set up with many noteworthy treasures, such as the early outrigger canoes used by the natives, and many of their artifacts, that visitors could photograph freely. There was also a wide variety of flowering plants and trees that always make for wonderful photographs. Our final stop in the South Pacific was at Moorea, right across the bay from Papeete. On this island several of us Cruise Critics decided to take the Motu Beach Picnic and Ray Feeding excursion, and this proved to be a wise choice. A motu is basically a small island set off from the main one. It is underdeveloped; i.e., generally no electricity or water service, and it is a great place to spend a day imaging oneself marooned on a lush deserted island. We were ferried over to the motu by a group of motorized catamarans. Along the way, we were treated to songs by the crew, as we proceeded from Cooks Bay to Opunohu Bay, cruising along the colorful lagoons of water of the most amazing shades of blue and green imaginable. The crew told us about the history and the legends of their island and what life there was like. Once we arrived at the motu, we found a virtual island paradise, with ample trees provided natural shade. Dozens of tables and chairs provided ample seating for everyone. Trish (Kakalina) and her husband, Virgil, had gotten there before us and had already staked out a table for the four of us (JudyAl and myself). A barbecue was already in the making and the tasty aromas wafted throughout the atoll, making us hungry and impatient to partake. Since it would be awhile before the food was ready, though, most of us took to the water. Snorkeling gear was provided and exploring the reef was almost like a drift dive in SCUBA parlance. As you snorkel, you will drift in a certain direction. So, you just start out at the far end of the island, enter the water there, and then let the water take you back to the area where the tables and the food is located. As we snorkeled, we could see loads of stingrays as well as the most amazingly colored tropical fish. Again, I was only sorry that I was down to one disposable underwater camera. I could have easily used five. After snorkeling, we were treated to lunch consisting of delectable slices of fresh fruit, rice dishes, salads, barbecued sausage and fish. A cash bar was available and island jewelry at reasonable prices was available for purchase. Roosters were running around freely, and a small group was singing and playing for our entertainment. The environment was so peaceful and the water so inviting that it was obvious no one wanted to leave. So the staff came around asking if anyone had another excursion on their schedule for that afternoon. The few who did were transported back to the ship, while the rest of us were told that we would get to spend an extra hour or so enjoying the motu. Most people immediately took off for another dip in the water, while others sat back to relax and enjoy all this island paradise had to offer. This motu experience was a great way to cap off our South Pacific experience. Most of us probably wished we could never leave. After our visit on Moorea, we had two days at sea before arrived at Nuku Hiva. This island is basically an undeveloped retreat where there are really no formal activities to participate in. The Shore Excursions desk doesnt even run excursions in this port, and from what I understand, there are few people available there to give tours or take cruise ship passengers on excursions. A small vendors stand was set up at the tender port where people could buy wood carvings and other items, and a few people were on hand to give tours in their private vehicles. But, all in all, there wasnt much there, and most people were returning to the ship within an hour or so of tendering over. This was the one port where I did not get off the ship as I was not feeling too well this day. But that didnt stop me from sitting out on the back deck of the Lido, admiring the rugged mountain vistas presented by this slice of pacific paradise. Since this is the only island we visited that is not of volcanic origin, the mountains were full of lush vegetation and one could see where roads were carved into the sides to accommodate the limited vehicular traffic. Apparently, many people still used horses to traverse the island, and for this reason the roadways did not extend through all areas of it. The beach area was also not of the caliber we had become accustomed in our previous island travels, and folks said that it was mostly rocky, with little or none of the soft powdery sand we had enjoyed at our other island stops. Most people were back onboard before noontime and I couldnt understand why such a long stop was planned at a place with very little to see or do. Wouldnt it have made more sense to spend more time at Moorea or one of the other islands, and then have only a half-day stay at this one? There were a lot of sorry-eyed passengers onboard the Amsterdam as we lifted anchor and sailed away from Nuku Hiva, for we knew now that our voyage was almost over. We had a mere six days at sea before we would be arriving back in San Diego, and disembarking this beautiful ship. Food: Food is such a subjective item that I really even hate to write about it. I personally found all the food delicious. Whether I took a meal in the dining room or the Lido (I dont generally order room service), I always found something tasty to eat. The Pinnacle Grill & thats in a class by itself & and the folks at our dining table (JudyAl, myself, and Betsy (not a CC member) ate there four times. One of those times was as part of a special singles and solos dinner that the cruise directors staff arranged. Service in the dining room was always excellent, and it didnt take my waiters very long to learn my preferences. A glass of iced tea was always waiting for me when I sat down, and there was always plenty of butter for the couple of slices of bread I always enjoyed having. They also quickly became accustomed to my ordering two desserts on those nights when there was something else on the menu (besides sorbet) that appealed to me. Unfortunately, I cant eat chocolate and therefore most of the dessert items were off-limits to me. But there were some nights where there was a non-chocolate item on the menu that appealed to me. But I still had to have my sorbet. Our waiter would just put a helping of sorbet on the same plate with my dessert of choice on those occasions. The dining room staff put on several special events during the cruise. These were often just silly goings on, but they were truly fun. One evening, several of the head waiters and the maitre d set up a funny little event at the top of the staircase leading from the upper to the lower dining rooms. They put on a sound track of the Love Boat theme song and led all of us diners in a rousing sing along. It was great fun and most diners really got into it, including myself. Another night was the Master Chefs dinner, and we arrived in the dining room to be greeted with chefs hats at all of the place settings. Most passengers gladly donned the hats and wore them throughout dinner. Another event, of course, was the Parade of the Baked Alaska, which is always fun. King Neptune and his mermaids also paid us a visit at dinnertime on the day we crossed the equator, gladly offering to pose for pictures with diners. In addition, throughout the cruise, we received the dining room newsletter, which was replete with tales of the various goings on that made our evening mealtimes special. Of course, not necessarily everyone was happy with the food. Some folks said it had slipped quite a bit. But the one fact about which no one at our table disagreed was the excellent service our two waiters provided all month long. If someone at the table wasnt happy with their dining selection on any given night, an offer was always made to bring them something else. Our waiters couldnt do enough to please. They were also flexible on certain nights when we dined at another table, or brought others to dine at ours & as we did for dessert on the night of my birthday. JudyAl had so thoughtfully arranged for a cake, and for several other CC folks (Kakalina and Bert & Tigger) to join our table for dessert. Our waiters organized a group to sing to me and a special (non-chocolate) cake was provided so that I too could partake. We had a couple of deck barbecues during the cruise, but these were so packed with people and the serving lines moved so slow, that it was hardly worth the wait. I decided to pass. A barbecue, after all, is a barbecue. Nothing special. Nothing worth investing the better part of an hour to get through, especially when there are so many other good food choices to pick from. Food in the Lido was available almost 24/7. I took breakfast there most everyday, though I rarely bothered with lunch. I like how the serving stations were laid out & separate areas for waffles, an omelet station, pastry and rolls section, etc. This way, you didnt have to wait in one long line if all you maybe wanted was some cold cereal. You just went over to that section of the serving line and picked it up. No waiting. I like that. Every night they had a late night buffet with a different theme; Oriental, Italian, Mexican, etc. I cant much address those because I never attended these feasts since I would barely be done with dinner by 10:00. I couldnt imagine eating again at 11:30. The ice cream bar had liberal hours, and it was always nice to head up there in the afternoon for a dish of sherbet or a scoop in a sugar cone. Tea and coffee was always available, and just about every night I would stop up at the Lido for a cup of java and a cigarette before retiring to my cabin for the night. And of course what would any Holland America cruise be without the traditional Dessert Extravaganza? We had ours on one of the nights heading back to San Diego toward the end of the cruise. Perhaps because this was such a long cruise, or maybe it was just because this was the Amsterdam & the Pacific flagship of the Holland America fleet & but for whatever reason it was, the chefs went all out for this one, including building a towering cake out of Styrofoam that was incredible. The chocolate and dessert items were set up on multiple tables, with a couple of the tables designated strictly for picture-taking during the early hours of the event. While I generally am unable to partake of this fantastic HAL tradition due to my food allergy to chocolate, I had a blast shooting off several rolls of film filled with the stunning creations of the Amsterdams master chefs. Pet Peeves: No cruise is perfect, though this one came pretty close for me. However, there are a couple of minor nuisances that I feel compelled to mention. First of all, why on earth did we have a second lifeboat drill mid-way through the cruise? Several folks who had been on other longer sailings said this was a first for them. The only explanation provided was that the First Officer had ordered it and apparently the second drill was a Coast Guard requirement. The folks who had been on longer cruises said this was bunk. While I personally didnt care one way or the other, the second drill caused all of the stores and the casinos to have to be closed down on a sea day, and also resulted in the cancellation of certain activities that people were looking forward to & such as afternoon trivia. A more honest explanation as to the reason for this drill would have smoothed some unnecessarily ruffled feathers. Why doesnt the shore excursion desk have more information about the ports and what activities are available (outside of Holland America shore excursions)? The shore excursion staff seemed to be proactive in managing HALs shore excursion program. Someone generally went along on one of the shore excursions in each port to ensure a quality product was being offered. But when I asked for some information about Nuku Hiva, our last port of call, no one at the shore excursion desk seemed to have any information. Since Holland America was not offering any excursions in the port, I just wanted to know what there was available there to do. Surely there is something? The shore excursion girls just shrugged their heads in response to my question. I think a little bit of internet research, on their nickel, could have produced at least some general information about the stop. John Challenger had invited me to make a SCUBA dive there with a group he was organizing, so obviously that was one option. If John knew about the availability of a dive operator on the island, surely the shore excursion staff could have unearthed some options. I was only sorry I couldnt take John up on his offer, but I was having some problems at that point in the cruise with headaches and didnt want to take the chance of aggravated the situation. Conclusion: I heard quite a lot of folks saying they would never do this itinerary again because of all the sea days. While the sea days were not a problem for me, I could readily see the validity of their complaints. They claimed that there was just not enough to keep them busy for such a length of time, and would have preferred an itinerary with more ports to explore. The only suggestion I can give to HAL to resolve this complaint would be to not only offer the Explorations Speakers Series on sea days, but also to offer various classes on itineraries with such large clusters of time at sea. For example, I would have liked to learn how to play bridge or this cruise, but after talking with the bridge instructor I was informed that it would be impossible to teach someone the game of bridge in a mere 30 days. The lectures he was doing were directed to people who already knew the game, and just were looking for ways to improve. Well, after having sailed this itinerary, I have to say I disagree with him. There is no reason some introductory classes couldnt have been provided on sea days to teach total novices the game. There were plenty of days at sea to accommodate this & four heading out to Hawaii, five more between Hawaii and the South Pacific, two between Moorea and Nuku Hiva, and finally a whopping six days between Nuku Hiva and arrival back in San Diego. Thats a total of a whopping 17 days at sea! Clearly more than enough to give someone at least a very good introduction to the game of bridge. When people have so much time at sea, they often want to learn a new skill or explore a new area of interest. A series of classes could have been offered, even if some of them had a nominal fee associated, in areas such as computer software, photography workshops, and health related topics. HAL missed a great opportunity here that they should explore for future cruises. Would I sail this itinerary again? You betcha. But, it wont be for quite a while as there are loads of other places I want to see first. But the South Pacific is a place I will return to someday for sure, and the Hawaiian Islands I will definitely return to again and again & probably next in a couple of years. Was this cruise on the Amsterdam perfect? No. Is any cruise perfect? Sure there were little things that maybe didnt go right, or werent exactly to my liking. But the important thing was that when I had a problem, and politely brought it to the attention of the appropriate people, it was resolved. Thats all one can ask. In fact, my cabin steward put a flyer on my bed one night from the Hotel Manager. It basically asked is there anything that is not to your liking? If so, let us know now so that we can make it right. There was a card provided for the guest to indicate any problems and apparently the hotel manager would read those cards and take appropriate action. I will say this, though, doing this itinerary taught me that there is a difference between a cruise and a voyage. A voyage is when the ship becomes your home away from home for an extended length of time. I love voyages and only wish I could take more of them. This trip almost makes me anxious to grow older and closer to retirement age so that I too can get used to the seafaring life. For I learned that on HAL, and most specifically on the Amsterdam, that life could be truly grand. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
This was our first cruise. We drove to Seattle, stayed overnight on a "park & sail" pkg at Red Lion. They took us to the port & picked us up after the cruise. Traffic was bad, glad we got to Seattle a day early. We got ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We drove to Seattle, stayed overnight on a "park & sail" pkg at Red Lion. They took us to the port & picked us up after the cruise. Traffic was bad, glad we got to Seattle a day early. We got to the port at 12:30pm, were on the ship by 12:45 just in time to hear the cabins were ready. I had filled out immigration form online, this saved quite a bit of time, and had all our other documents in hand when we got to the counter. Our outside cabin was on deck 1 (Dolphin) between midship and the stern. Had a bath/shower combo, lots of closet space. Our steward was perfect, helpful but not intrusive. He brought wine glasses & on our anniversary brought an ice bucket & glasses for our champagne. We had early upper seating for dinner (5:30pm). DH ordered 2 entrees just about every dinner so as to try new things. The food was good, soups were especially tasty. On our anniversary they sang to us and gave us a cake. The Lido buffet was surprisingly good, both food and service. We had most breakfasts & lunches there, and 2 dinners. Oh, and the Dutch chocolate midnight buffet was a real treat. We had one room service breakfast which was also good and on time. We went to 3 of the nightly shows and enjoyed them: a comedian,a magic show and a musical performance. We also liked the live music elsewhere on the ship, especially the piano & violins. This cruise goes in open sea north to Glacier Bay. The seas were rough the first couple of days, we used both sea bands & Bonine and spent most of the first sea day napping in our room. We were very glad to be on a low deck away from the bow. Our morning flightseeing excursion was canceled in Juneau due to rain & low clouds. DH did gold panning which he enjoyed & actually found some gold flakes. We did a Clover Pass kayak trip in Ketchikan which was disappointing - of the 3 hrs, 2 of them were getting there & back only about an hour of actual kayaking. However the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest from Sitka was fantastic! We had the first morning trip, they picked us up at the ship and we spent 3 hrs seeing more bald eagles than we could count, including a nest with young eagles. Sea otters, more birds, jellyfish swimming by and then the whales - wow! Mostly humpbacks but one minke which they said is rare. In Sitka we also walked to the national park & on the totem pole trail. On Glacier Bay day, we didn't get to the glaciers until about 3pm, not much to see until then. We were on the bow when we got there, it was the best place to get up close. HAL had some extras we appreciated, such as hot chocolate at the dock in Sitka, and free espresso/cappuccino drinks at the Java Bar & Lido. We didn't order many drinks onboard, we did fall prey to the hot chocolate + brandy in a logo mug on Glacier Bay day. It was nearly $30 for 2. We brought our own wine & champagne on board, and drank it in our room. We bought 4 liters of liquor onboard to bring home, we had to declare it for customs but they waived duty (US citizens allowed 1 liter each). We didn't participate in many of the onboard activities, wish we had read our daily planner more carefully and done some of those. Debarkation was smooth and quick. We were off the ship by 8am. It was nice to have time for breakfast before, and we were allowed to stay in our cabin until our number was called. There were long lines for customs & immigration since we got to Seattle same time as the Sapphire Princess but it went really fast. Some areas we felt could use some improvement: we didn't get our final bill on debarkation day - we went to the front desk to find out why, oh they said it's because you have money coming back (we didn't spend all the credit for the canceled shore excursion). It would have been nice to know that beforehand, maybe a note on our preliminary statement. At the pre-debarkation talk they said only had to see the customs agent onboard if spent over $800, well we had to see him about our 4 liters of liquor too, and we didn't find that out until about 5 min before we needed to be there - fortunately DH had the customs form in his pocket. The port & shopping talk was 99% a commercial for Diamonds International. We had a good time, HAL was the best choice for us - smaller ship, fewer people, with plenty of public areas and things to do. We had the best "parking place" at each port so not far to walk to stuff (except Victoria). The crew did a great job in all areas. Lots of stores were having end of season big sales, including the shops onboard. Read Less
Sail Date August 2005
Holland America's Amsterdam Introduction I have traveled fairly extensively, having cruised on many occasions. This cruise would be my 7th cruise. I have cruised mostly on Princess Cruises; have experienced premium cruise lines ... Read More
Holland America's Amsterdam Introduction I have traveled fairly extensively, having cruised on many occasions. This cruise would be my 7th cruise. I have cruised mostly on Princess Cruises; have experienced premium cruise lines like Cunard's Queen Mary (Queen's Grill Class) and Silversea's Silver Cloud. However, this is my first cruise on Holland America and since ms Amsterdam is Holland America's flagship, I should be expecting the best that Holland America has to offer. This cruise was selected because it was the only cruise ship offering South American cruises during this period. In fact, it is the last ship to ply these waters for the season. The 33-day cruise embarks from Rio, Brazil and ends in San Diego USA. This cruise have a fair number of days at sea, a hence with plenty of free time on my hands, I decided to write this account. The following is focused mainly be on the ship itself and less about the destinations visited; otherwise this would be rather lengthy. The following account is based on my experience and observations on the cruise. The opinions are personal. Hopefully, this account would reach the good people in Holland America as constructive criticism and other potential passengers considering cruises with Holland America. The Ship I will not go into the statistical details about the ship; this information is readily available on many websites. Generally, the ship is mid-sized, small enough for embarkation to be a breeze. Queues are generally never too long for services. Large enough to have a decent sized theatre and productions. Opinions about the interior design of the ship are subjective. There is a fine line between elegance and tackiness. Amsterdam's interior design is treading dangerously towards tackiness. Let me illustrate my point with the Queen's Lounge. The color scheme is as follows: purple, red, gold and silver. There are semi-naked statues finished in silver-leaf, holding up backlit platters lining the walls. Class or crass? You decide. The heart of the ship is a three-storied atrium where the front offices, lounges and shops surround. The atrium itself is not large. In the middle of the lobby is an 'Astrolabe'. It's a rather impressive contraption, with the ability to tell time, constellations, moon phases, etc. This "Astrolabe" completely dominates the already small atrium, rendering it generally useless, negating any opportunities for functions to be held in the atrium. I do however appreciate the fresh flowers arrangements throughout the public areas of the ship. The variety of potted orchids on the Lido buffet adds a pleasant touch to the dining experience. Cabins I stayed in a Balcony suite. It is divided into three sections. First, the entry with closets on one side and the bath in the other. This is typical of most hotel rooms. There is a bathtub with a Jacuzzi. Second, the sleeping area, there are two beds that can be combined to become a double. There are curtains that separate this area from the other. Third, the sitting area, the sofa converts into a single bed for the third passenger in some rooms. There is a large desk with the television on one side. The Balcony has a lounger and a chair. The cabin is comfortable with plenty of storage. There is nothing much to complain about here. Food There are several dining options available on the ship. The main dining room is called the La Fontaine, the only 'Fontaine' noted were the two automatic hand sanitizers on two sides of the entrance. It's a double-decked dining room with a central atrium complete with fake palms. There are two sittings for dinner. A typical dinner consists of 4 choices of appetizers, 3 choices for soups, 2 choices for salads, 7 choices for main course, many choices for deserts. There is always a fruit based item for the appetizers. There is always a cold soup, fruit based as well. The main courses are divided into two parts, items from the entree or grill. There is always ice cream and a flambE item in the desert section. Food quality is generally good, through not up to be standards of premium cruise lines like Silversea but hey, it cost a lot less. The quality and variety of deserts is somewhat lacking. (Princess offers better deserts, for those sweet-toothed cruisers out there). The western dishes prepared are good enough. The problem arises when the chefs attempt to interpret cuisines that they are not familiar with. I take particular offence to the appetizer named "Grilled Chicken Sate Singapore Style". We're from Singapore and imagine the delight when we saw the item on the menu. All of us ordered it only to be gravely disappointed. It neither looks nor tastes like the satay (we spell 'sate' as 'satay') we know. Even the accompanying condiments are wrong. We would have no issue if the dish were called 'Grilled Chicken Sate Amsterdam Style'. Please do not associate Singapore with the culinary imposter. When and if the Amsterdam gets to Singapore, please try the real Singapore Satay and see how wrong it is. My family has registered our comments (and displeasure) over the item in the comment cards midway through the cruise, only to find the item repeated again on the menu. Either the chefs had ignored our comments or thought that those pesky (and occasional) Singaporean have disembarked and that it is safe to bring out the dish again. Chances are, the dish would be repeated again. So, a word of caution to all diners on the Amsterdam, do not believe that you are getting 'Grilled Chicken Sate Singapore Style' when you order the dish. This is not the only Asian dish bastardized by the chefs, the "Thai Prawn Curry" is another story, but I'll let the Thais take the issue up with the chefs... The Lido Buffet is located on the top for the ship. It offers breakfast from 7.30am to 10.00am, lunch from 11.30am to 2:00pm and dinner from 5.45pm to 7.30pm. My biggest issue with the buffet is that it does not offer continuous service. For example, there is no food from 10.00am to 11.30am. (Gasp! No food on a cruise ship! Its sacrilegious!) There are days where I had to make myself wake up in time for breakfast (OK, I'm a pig) especially during those long sea days. Holland America could easily have extended breakfast service on one of the two buffet lines while preparing the other for lunch, so the two could overlap. It's simple enough and have been frequently done on other cruise ships and I don't see why Holland America can't do it. It gives passengers peace of mind that food is always available. The Lido also has an ice-cream bar as part of the buffet. While the quality of the ice cream is not quite Haagen Daaz, it is very well appreciated and exploited, much to the detriment of the waistline. There is premium restaurant is called the Pinnacle Grill at the Odyssey. There is a cover charge of $20 per person. Holland America says that the cover charge goes towards the premium ingredients. Personally, I have not eaten there. The feedback I received from fellow passengers that have dined there was that the food is indeed better than that served in the main dining room, but it was not worth the $20 charged. On the occasions where I have walked pass the restaurant; it is semi-deserted most of the time. It seems that the popularity of the restaurant could be improved either by improving the quality of the food or by reducing the cover charge. Entertainment There is always a two identical shows on every night of the cruise, one for the early seating diners and the other for the main seating diners. Throughout the cruise, there are four production shows with a cast of 4 lead singers and 6 dancers. Because for the length of the cruise (33 days), the production shows were repeated for the benefit of guests that has joined us midway. On the other nights, there are other guest performers. There are a wide variety of genres offered. We had performances by pianist, flutists, comedians, singers, dancers, magicians etc. Most of the performances were well executed and a joy to watch. All the performances are backed up by the wonderfully and professionally by the Amsterdam Orchestra. One suggestion to Holland America: The ship was docked overnight in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One of the optional tours offered was to watch Tango in one of the bars in the city. We were disappointed when we were directed into the venue. It was a small and dingy hall with a tiny stage. The stage lighting was rudimentary. The dancers and the musicians were good though, but the stage could hardly accommodate all of them. Holland America could easily have invited the performers to perform on board at the Queen's Lounge. The stage, sound and lighting system are far superior to what the bar had to offer. It would also save us the hassle of transfers from the ship to the bar. More passengers instead of only those who signed up for the tour would be able to enjoy the performance. That would also mean that Holland America could not charge us $79 a person for the show without dinner. Those who opted for dinner were charged even more. It boils down to whether the ship could absorb the cost of the bringing the Tango performance onboard, to be open to all guests. Having said that, I would rather pay a nominal amount to watch the show in a 'state of the art' stage onboard the ship where the full potential of the entertainers could be better expressed. Overland Tours My family and I have signed up for a 4-day, 3-night overland tour to visit Machu Pichu. The tour was booked through the Internet based on the itinerary from Holland America. The tour was to begin at 1030am in the morning of the first day, arriving in Lima in the afternoon for an overnight stay. That would give us sufficient rest before the next morning's flight into Cuzco. One day before the departure, we received the itinerary in a briefing. It came as a shock to most of us. The tour only departs at 4pm in the afternoon. We will only arrive into Lima at 10pm, arrive at the hotel at 11.30pm. Breakfast the next morning would be at 3am! That leaves us with 2 and half hours sleep at most for the night. Understandably, a lot of us were unhappy with the arrangement. The tour office offered us the option of canceling the trip with a full refund. But for many of us, that wasn't much of a choice, because we would not be returning to this region for a long time. (South America is a 30-hour flight away for us). The reason given for the change was the flight schedule. Underlying the dissent was that this tour was exorbitant to begin with. We were each charged $1699 for double occupancy for the 'standard' package. The luxury package costs $2199. What Holland America should have done was to verify the flight schedules before publishing them on their brochures and not promise what they cannot deliver. They could also have informed us, days, if not weeks in advance of the change in the itinerary, giving us time to make alternative arrangements. Note of advise to other passengers, don't bet on all the information on the brochures. On a positive note, the tour guide assigned to us, Kika was efficient, friendly and informative. (We had one more hour of sleep in Lima, arranged through skipping breakfast in the hotel, it was much appreciated). Technology Holland America claims the ship to be 'State of the Art'. But there are little things that make me wonder. We all remember the key cards that we are issued at embarkation. This is the first ship that I have been on that does not record an image of the passenger in the ship's database. As result, we are all required to display a 'government issued photo ID' whenever we board the ship. The security at the gangway would then match our faces with the photo ID and the names on key cards. On all the other ships that I have been on, whenever the key cards are swiped, the passenger's face would appear on the monitor behind the security desk, immediately verifying the identity of the keycard holder. No photo ID required. Yes, it's a minor inconvenience, but the technology isn't rocket science either. However, its implications on the ship's security would be of greater concern. The security personnel would also accept a photocopy of our passport as verification (since the ship is holding our passports). If a passenger were to lose his keycard with a photocopy of his passport, any criminal with access to photocopying machine could easily superimpose his photo onto the original. All the security features inherent in the original passport are voided in the photocopy. The criminal would hence have free access onboard the ship. The ship's photographers still use film. Considering the number of photos, some wanted, mostly unwanted, taken on and off board, the amount film wasted must be phenomenal. While cost of the digital camera equipment is high, its running cost is minimal. Given the volume of photos taken on board, I'm sure the cost would be covered in no time. Think of all the rolls of film and chemicals needed to develop them. Digital is the environmentally friendly way to go. The above may be viewed as minor, but viewed on the whole, it's indicative of a company's willingness to embrace technology for the convenience and security of its customers. Let's not forget that the Amsterdam is the flagship, I wonder what's on the other sister ships... Conclusion Would I travel on another Holland America Cruise in the Future? The overall experience is pleasant enough and I did enjoy the trip. However, I find Princess Cruises to be marginally superior to what Holland America. I would have opted for Princess Cruises if given a choice. (The two cruise lines are in the same price category.) However, my criteria for selecting cruises is based more on the destinations rather than the cruise line, so if Holland America can come up with interesting itineraries, I might yet return... Hopefully, the above account is construed as constructive criticism by the management in Holland America, including suggestions to improve their product. I hope that the above would be helpful other potential passengers considering cruises with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
After a fast and early check in, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Rio de Janeiro for a voyage rounding Cape Horn to San Diego, California. We were ushered to the Lido buffet, as our cabins were still being prepared. Beautiful live orchids ... Read More
After a fast and early check in, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Rio de Janeiro for a voyage rounding Cape Horn to San Diego, California. We were ushered to the Lido buffet, as our cabins were still being prepared. Beautiful live orchids in full bloom adorning each table welcomed incoming passengers. Holland America spends at least two million dollars providing their ships with live plants and fresh flower arrangements to keep up with Dutch tradition. The Lido holds 386 guests for casual dining. The Lido offered a varied selection of hot and cold food. There were sandwich bars, stir-fry/omelet stations and an all day ice cream counter. A cappuccino/espresso machine sits along coffee dispensers together with packets of herb/regular tea and cocoa powder. Freshly squeezed orange juice was also available. Bejay an amiable maitre d' from India mentioned that ice cream, hot chocolate and cappuccino/espresso were on the house. Rey, a chef from the Philippines reminded us not to miss the outdoor barbecue and Mongolian cookout held during the trip. The La Fontaine dining room seats 838 diners on two decks. Impeccable silver settings and china grace linen covered tables. High glass windows and a flower-adorned ceiling evoke a bright and cheery ambiance. The wait staff was friendly, courteous and polite reflecting the hospitality of Indonesia where most of them come from. Filipino chefs prepared the food, pastries and baked goods. They worked magic with the cuisine turning them into five star gourmet meals. The Odyssey is an alternative restaurant that provides grilled cuisine and personalized service that is worthy of mention. A clock tower located at deck 3 dominates the ship's atrium. It is connected to the ship's time system and a built in carillon chimes every hour. It serves as a centerpiece and a focal point for guests trying to find their way. The 157 seat Wajang Theatre showed first run movies (free popcorn included). It also served as a chapel for religious services. The Java Bar was a favorite traveler hangout. Its cappuccino/espresso machines were quite busy from 7:30am to 10pm. An Internet cafe (75cents/minute) had a waiting list specially during sea days. The personnel mostly from the Philippines at the purser's office were helpful and very efficient. They filled up landing cards and immigration forms and delivered the documents to guest's cabins for signatures. A highly energetic cast performed Las Vegas type shows canned in Los Angeles at the 557 seat two level Queen's Lounge. Experts also held talks there on Inca, Mayan history, aerospace and diverse topics. Our 192-sq. ft. cabin had a large window and a good view of the ocean. It had a shower over a tub, ample closet space, a safe, a small TV and 115 volts ac. It lacked an icebox and audio/video inputs for a VCR. Moelyadi our cabin steward from Indonesia kept the stateroom very neat and well stocked with towels and fruit. The ship returned to port as soon as we left Rio de Janeiro to leave a critically ill passenger. An outbreak of Norovirus occurred that week we left Brazil and flared-up again the week before we reached San Diego. The Captain ordered that food be handled by employees only. Long lines formed at the Lido due to the need of more servers. It took the ship at least two weeks to alleviate the Norovirus situation. We missed Iguazu Falls and the Falklands on an earlier trip and made it this time. We got rained out in Iguazu Falls but it was a worthy sight to behold. We encountered rough seas approaching the Falklands. Stanley their only town was cold and windy. A city tour took about two hours. They showed us uncleared mine fields from the 1982 British/Argentine conflict that are now a tourist attraction. The Amsterdam is a friendly, comfortable ship and very easy to know. Most of the passengers were much-traveled repeaters, who graciously shared their cruise experiences with us. Some had at least 100 cruises to their name and visited equally the same number or more countries. We met several people that were on previous voyages with us and we were equally elated to have sailed with them again. philreamon@aol.com 5/17/05 . Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
We were on the cruise 9/26-9/30 and enjoyed the cruise. We booked the cruise online with cruiseshopping.com and worked with an efficient representative named Michelle. She is prompt and to the point in replying all the emails. Embarkation: ... Read More
We were on the cruise 9/26-9/30 and enjoyed the cruise. We booked the cruise online with cruiseshopping.com and worked with an efficient representative named Michelle. She is prompt and to the point in replying all the emails. Embarkation: We arrived at Seattle about 10:30 a.m. from Toronto and took a limo and arrived at the terminal around 11:00 a.m. There was no line up and it took 10-15 minutes to check in. It was smooth and fast. Ship: It is a beautiful ship with rosewood panels everywhere and brass railing. It looks very elegant with many sculptures. Cabin: We've booked an "I" class inside cabin but was "upgraded" to HH forward outside cabin with fully obstructed view. Although all outside cabins were supposed to have bathtub and shower, this one doesn't. Compare the bathroom with NCL Sun, it's a bigger bathroom. However, the cabin is narrow and smaller than a NCL inside cabin. It has a safe for your valuables and ID but no fridge or kettle like any standard NCL cabin. Food: The food in the dining room was really good and fast. I've had lamb shank, duck and steak and they are all good. However, the desserts are only so so. The first night I had the cheesecake which is by far the best dessert I have had on the ship. The desserts in the following nights include cheesecake samplers, banana foster & crepe suzette were not so good. Only one of the dining waiters took the time to introduce himself, the other two didn't bother though they are quite friendly. We have breakfasts and lunches in the Lido deck. It was supposed to buffet setting. However, I called that cafeteria rather than buffet since most food is served instead of self serve. The line is usually long since it takes time for them to serve you after you stand there to figure what you want. I really like the freshly squeezed orange juice in the continental breakfast station. However I found the dessert selection at lunch and dinner to be very limited and if you get there late they'll be all gone. It's really odd that there is a person at the coffee / tea station to push the buttons for you when you are perfectly capable of doing that yourself. I don't think this service is necessary and sometimes even hold up the line. Ports of Call: We got off at three different ports--Astoria, Oregon, Victoria & Vancouver, B. C. Astoria is an interesting small town for shopping and strolling. A very long day at Victoria for those who aren't doing excursions. I would prefer a longer stay in Vancouver since there's more to see in the city than Victoria. Overall it's all very nice since we have sunny weather of 15-20C. Entertainment: The shows were superb. The dancers are very professional and they are able to do so many numbers in the one-hour show. I am so amazed how they get ready so quick. Other than the old movies there aren't other on ship activities (crafts, talks, etc.) during the cruise. I went to the gym once during the day but was closed at 10 p.m. so I can't go late at night. The library however is opened 24 hours but the shelves are locked with no librarian in sight. I ended up only reading the magazines laying on the table. Getting off the ship was a breeze and we headed straight to the airport. Overall speaking, the cruise was below my expectation. After cruising with NCL Sun for Alaska in Aug. I found that the service of HAL has not lived up to the 4-5 stars standard as expected. It's probably because this is a short cruise. Anyway, it's a pleasant trip. For those who like to take short cruise, this itinerary is great. Read Less
Sail Date September 2004
Embarkation/Debarkation-Arrived at the port at 12n, on board by 12:30, in the Lido for lunch at 1, baggage in room when we got back. I have been on 10+ cruises, and this may have been the best. Everything about the Amsterdam is top notch, ... Read More
Embarkation/Debarkation-Arrived at the port at 12n, on board by 12:30, in the Lido for lunch at 1, baggage in room when we got back. I have been on 10+ cruises, and this may have been the best. Everything about the Amsterdam is top notch, no,wonder she is the flagship of the fleet(we have been on some not so good HAL ships). This is a smooth running vessel from the Captain down the entire line of employees. Immaculate throughout, and obvious that the crew cares about the ship and it's passengers. Well laid out and easy to get around. Sized right at 1300+ passengers. Average age 50's+ very few children. Cabin: Have learned that aft and low is the best ride for me. Ample room with plenty of space all around, all the special things one would look for. Reasonable sized bath with linens that were replaced frequently throughout the day. Cabin steward outstanding, room made up while we were at breakfast. Very comfortable all around. Food:With all of the alternatives available, you can't go wrong, as far as quality, service. presentation etc. 5 stars here!! Entertainment, tours, and all the rest of the the things to do. Top notch! Run with precision and professionalism all around. Summary: I will be back on the Amsterdam some day. I will try her competitors, but on this occasion she will be hard to beat. Oh, yes, debarkation,off at 8am in the airport by 9:30. Fantastic!!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2004
Over the years a friend and I have organized many cruise groups for a hospital based group from Indiana. We are nurses not travel agents. We always end up with some additional participants made up of friends and family or others who have ... Read More
Over the years a friend and I have organized many cruise groups for a hospital based group from Indiana. We are nurses not travel agents. We always end up with some additional participants made up of friends and family or others who have heard about our group. I look for specific criteria for each trip based on ports of call, size of the ship and cruiseline. Many of our participants are Mariners so Holland America was on the top of the list. When making the ship selection I focus heavily on keeping the bottom line price affordable for our participants on a budget yet the Holland America Line offers the luxury and amenities we all enjoy. Sailing out of Seattle also allowed for more competitive flight prices and allowed those with sky miles the opportunity to use them. I will also add that a few years ago several of us had already sailed the inside passage with HAL so I was looking for some variation. The Amsterdam met all of our needs. Our group of 28 was made up of 18 people traveling as couples and 10 solo travelers. There were 10 nurses in this group. Most of us flew in from Chicago Midway with group rates on ATA. We met up with some others coming in on other flights from Atlanta, California, Iowa and South Dakota. Our Grayline charter bus took us to The Paramount Hotel on Pine Street in downtown Seattle for a one day visit of the city prior to embarkation. All were pleased with the hotel location and accommodations. Sunday morning our Grayline charter was there at 8:45AM for boarding and a city tour. Our guide did an excellent job providing highlights and history of the city. She had us at the pier promptly at 12 noon where we walked right in and found no lines. The embarkation process was a breeze! We all gathered in the Lido for a wonderful lunch and at 1PM there was an announcement that the cabins were ready. Members in our group had booked Suites, Verandah Cabins, many in MMs and everything in between. I chose an outside aft cabin (G) with easy access to observation area outside and a staircase to the lower promenade deck. ALL were perfectly pleased with their choices! The ship is decorated in very tasteful colors and my favorite lounges included the Crow's Nest and the Explorers lounge. The Queens Lounge was also elegant and had comfortable seating. Another favorite gathering spot we enjoyed was the Java Bar where you could stop by for a cappuccino. We found that deck viewing areas were plentiful and it was easy to find a place to watch scenery and observe glaciers. The onboard naturalist enhanced this experience. She also made herself available for questions on the decks and lounges. I had the opportunity to tour several cabin categories. We had group members very comfortable in their inside category MM and L. My husband and I were pleased with our aft category G. Some others in the group had standard outside cabins and they were also very satisfied. All cabins had hair dryers, safes, bathrobes and plentiful storage areas. A few chose the verandah cabins and we had one couple that chose a suite. Our cabin steward Santos was attentive and pleasant. He did a wonderful job taking care of our cabin. Once again the attentive service provided by HAL did not let us down! Excursions: In Juneau the ship was docked a mile from town. There was a $2 shuttle fee. While in Juneau a small group of us decided to take one of the $5 shuttles to the Mendenhall Glacier. What a wonderful low cost excursion it turned out to be. Others went on the ship's whale watching and reported the sightings were plentiful and the boat was quite comfortable. Several of us signed up for the Sitka Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. This turned out to be a fantastic excursion. It focused more on the narrow island passages and the scenery was spectacular! Wildlife sightings included humpback whales, seals, otters, eagles and more. There were many close up sightings in remote tranquil areas. In Ketchikan my husband enjoyed his Knudson Cove Salmon fishing excursion booked through HAL. All six adult participants came back with 5 pink salmon each. He was on a boat called Killing Time and had made arrangements to ship back his catch! He gave a thumbs up for this trip! I will add that I am writing this review one week after the trip and the vacuum packed frozen fish have arrived safely. He had some of the catch smoked. Our cabin steward left us 2 red plaid blankets to take on the Victoria Butchart Garden tour. On Saturday nights in July and August the gardens feature spectacular fireworks display. Be sure and stake out a place in the fireworks viewing area early. Much of this artistic display is ground based so good seating is essential. The display is set to music and is truly one of the best I have ever seen! By the way, the gardens are lovely too! This trip far exceeded my expectations. Dining: All I can say is Gusti our waiter and Andy his capable assistant did a wonderful job taking care of the 16 of us that chose the lower early seating. We had gracious, cheerful and personal service. The food selections offered a wide variety of well prepared dishes. The formal evening we had lobster and filet that pleased us all with it's exceptional quality. Serving sizes were perfect and presented in an attractive manner. We did try the Pinnacle Grill one night to mixed reviews. I agree that the steaks were the best choice. I can honestly say we had better service in the main dining room but I was glad we tried it! Many of us ordered the house wines prior to departure and Sam served them nightly for our table. We were very pleased with the selections. The breakfasts and luncheons in the Lido offered a great variety and the quality always rated an A+! Made to order omelets, stir-frys and for goodness sake don't forget the bread pudding were favorites! Service staff in the Lido was excellent! Tables were promptly cleaned, lines were minimal and passengers that required assistance were well cared for! Entertainment: Here I must admit I usually do not attend the shows. I will add the the members in my group raved about the performances! Several musicians played in the various lounges throughout the sailing. I did manage to make it to a classical performance in the Explorers Lounge. Activities: Many of our members enjoyed participating in the planned activities. We had representatives in the trivia contests, ship building and even our group comprised the entire Marvin Gaye and the Raisins act in the lip sync show! All of this added to our fun but we also had some who enjoyed checking out a book from the library for some quiet time. Some treated themselves to spa treatments or found their way to the gym for some exercise. Our solo travelers were never short of companions to join them in the above activities. Passengers: We found that fellow cruise passengers were friendly, courteous and pleasant. All age groups were represented. I noted a few passengers navigating around on their scooters. Everything seemed quite accessible for them. Several families with children were found onboard but most were well mannered. I enjoyed meeting several senior cruisers who were cruising for the first time and their children paid for the trips! (you must have done a great job of raising them! I'll be sure and tell my kids about them as a future hint) Tipping Policy: We were all more than pleased with the automatic $10 a day added to our ship board account for pooled tipping but to be honest almost everyone I knew gave additional funds for "service above and beyond" for our dining staff and cabin stewards. Disembarking: This was the first time that I can remember a group of mine being assigned our own color coded bags and disembarking letter. We had a 12 noon flight out of Seattle and I would say we were called in plenty of time. When we entered the great hall of luggage it was a pleasure to find all of our groups luggage together. All bags were quickly accounted for. As we proceeded to the shuttle area I checked with a HAL representative there and she checked her clip board and told me our private shuttle bus number and pointed it out! Wow! I was so impressed. The conclusion of this trip went as smooth as the beginning. By 9:30AM we were at the Seattle airport. Participants left with fond memories of this delightful cruise. Many were already asking me when the next cruise was planned?? I guess I better get busy! Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
The MS Amsterdam is an elegant ship with a nautical theme. This was my fifth cruise and the longest one to date . Traveling solo I found that it was easy to socialize with other passengers since this ship only carries 1380 pax . I felt ... Read More
The MS Amsterdam is an elegant ship with a nautical theme. This was my fifth cruise and the longest one to date . Traveling solo I found that it was easy to socialize with other passengers since this ship only carries 1380 pax . I felt that the fare that I paid for this cruise represented a good value for what was offered on the Amsterdam. PRE-CRUISE ARRANGEMENTS I used the Holland America one night pre-cruise package which was at the Rio Sheraton Copacabana. I was met at the airport by a shuttle service and alnog with some other pax who arrived early was driven to the hotel. The check-in at the hotel included some pre-cruise paperwork and was expedient. We checked in to our rooms and had the day to do whatever we wished. The smooth way this was handled was a sign of good things to come for Holland America! The Sheraton is in Leblon and is very clean and well maintained , but it is too far away from the beach area to walk or to do any sightseeing . Some fellow cc'rs and I went to the Grayline desk and booked a dinner and show at the famous Plataforma. The dinner at the Churascarria was good and the show was GREAT. This show is a must see in Rio !!! EMBARKATION The next morning a shuttle bus picked us up at around 10:00 a.m. and did a city tour on the way to the ship. We arrived at the pier in a timely manner and embarkation was quick , smooth and painless. Onboard the vessel we were directed to the Lido where we had lunch cafeteria style.A NOTE :( When traveling solo and dining at the Lido one should carry a bag and place it on the table otherwise when going away for a refill the table will be cleared off before you return with your drink .) Exploring the "DAM" ship The Amsterdam is one of two flagships for Holland America. She has a pretty three tiered atrium with an astrolab clock and a planetarium. There are a lot of artworks in niches and it is tastefully done . My first stop was at the front desk to sign up for the unlimited laundry package for $140.00. This was worth it for me as I never wore the same thing twice without being cleaned and I can travel lighter this way . I did not come on vacation to do laundry !! This was on deck 4 and I then went over to the small but adequate computer center. Special internet packages are available which can keep one in touch with business associates and loved ones at home . The Java Bar is right next to the computer center on the way to the Pinnacle Grill. The Java Bar is a cozy area that serves Cappucino and lattes with an ever changing assortment of cookies. This area is at NO extra charge.It is a quiet space to relax or to meet newfound friends. Our small CC group met there on our first day at sea . The Pinnacle Grill is right behind this space. This reservations only restaurant is a $20.00 charge per person and was worth every penny and more !!!! The service was flawless and the food simply exquisite. I dined there twice on this ship and had the petite filet mignon , the clam chowder , and the volcano cake Yummy !!!!! I went down to deck three and found a lovely teak promenade with teak deck chairs. This made for a great place to view the Antarctic on this itinerary . Wondering back up to deck five I found the Queen's Lounge which was an ample place for the two sitting shows and to gather the groups for Bingo and for shore excursions. There are several other venues for socializing on this ship. Decide what mood you are in and you can go dancing at the Ocean Bar on deck five , listen to an entertainer at the Rembrandt Lounge on five or relax in the more quiet explorer's lounge on five. You can take a break from gambling at the well laid out casino in the casino bar on five or go to the Lido pool area and see Danny Boy for a card trick and a drink. The ship is easy to explore and very well laid out as I found all of these venues easily . I came across two pool areas on this ship. The aft pool was a fresh water open air pool where the Antarctic Penguin Swim was held --boy was that COLD BRRRRRR !!!! The Lido pool area is also fresh water and has two hot tubs. This pool area is enclosed by a retractible magrodome which was nice in both warm and cooler weather which we experienced on this South America / Antarctica voyage.The spa area and fitness center are beyond the pool . I never used the spa , but had a great view of the ocean from my treadmill on the bow of the ship. My only criticism here is the lack of any instructior . Several of the older pax had trouble setting the equipment and no one there to attend to this . the other great venue for socializing and viewing was the Crow's Nest Lounge which was above the gym area on deck nine . this is where we had the Black and White Ball and the Ice Ball !!!! DINING There are four different venues for dining on the Amsterdam. The La Fontaine dining room is a two sitting affair with two levels and a double tiered brass staircase. This is a beautiful public space which served a good average to above average menu of meals . the service was not flawless , but was met with a smile and special requests were handled with a YES SIR !!! The Lido cafeteria served above average victuals for this type of dining . They had everything one would want . For example there was a deli sandwich bar , great salad bar and ice cream bar which was open all day long on this ship !!!! The Lido pool area also had a small buffet which had a taco bar and condiments to go along with hamburgers , hot dogs , cheeseburgers , and garden burgers . They also put out fresh pizzas and french fries from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Yummy !!! :-) The Lido also had a late night snack at 11:00p.m. The pinnacl was wonderful as I have already mentioned while exploring the ship earlier. CABIN My outside view cabin was on the lower deck , the Dolphin Deck #1919. It had a nice King sized bed, a sofa , a dressing table and a small coffee table . The cozy accomodations had ample closet space and a nice bath with a separate tub and hand held shower. Holland America provided bath amenities , but I onle used the combo shampoo for my thinning hair !! There was a tv for catching up on the latest news but no refrigerator and no robe. ACTIVITIES and SPECIAL EVENTS What can I say !!!! I stayed so busy for twenty one days that I need a vacation !!!! HA !! This ship was a destination in itself . During twenty one days they held a Black and White Ball, an Ice Ball, a Penguin Swim and sooooo many other things . there was always something going without being too noisy or tacky ! PORTS OF CALL The places that we went to on the South America / Antarctica itinerary were FABULOUS !!!!We went to Rio de Janeiro , Montevideo Uruguay , Buenos Aires Argentina, Port Stanley The Falkland Islands , The Antarctic Peninsula , The Antarctic Circle , Cape Horn , Ushuaia Argentina , Punta Arenas Chile , Puerto Chacabuco Chile , Puerto Montt Chile , and ended in Valparaiso Chile Whew !!!! It would be too lengthy to go into detail here . Suffice it to say that we had greta weather all the way around . Pack some gloves , a jacket and layer your clothing and you will be fine . I used all of the Holland America shore excursions when I went and found them to be well organized. Many of them they had bottled water for us and I feel that they were worth not having the hassle to book one at the pier. I fell that oce again Holland America took care of us !! I booked these online before I left home and the tickets were in my cabin upon arrival . FABULOUS !!! FABULOUS !!! FABULOUS !!!! ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was good most of the time . There were the standard cruise ship reviews etc. There were a couple of duds but it was good by cruise ship standards . DISEMBARKATION This went smooth as silk ! We went to various public spaces and disembarked as our numbers were called. I had purchased the Air-Sea transfer with Holland America and they did a city tour of Santiago while on our way to a hospitality room at the Sheraton. Most of our flights were late at night and this was an unexpected surprise !!! Usually when the cruise is over they kick you off the ship but not Holland America . I think that it shows that Holland America appreciates my business and treats me well !! I will definitely be looking their way in the future for other opportunities !! Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as ... Read More
We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as well. Overall, I would give the Amsterdam an A for the entire trip! Despite the fact many received greatly reduced fares, I did not notice anything that would suggest that the staff was doing anything to cut costs on the trip. The ship had been booked for this cruise since the middle of the summer, and a group of us through Cruise Critic had been exchanging posts and information in anticipation for the cruise. We arrived the day of embarkation into Rio to find a pervasive warm rain falling. The views were obscured by the rain and generally foggy conditions it caused. Embarkation was clearly the worst part of the entire trip. For this, HAL gets an F! We arrived at a dark reception building that contained only a few working fluorescent bulbs and were told that prior to embarkation we had to fill out immigration questionnaires for Argentina or Chile. We all tried to fill the forms out, but due to the non-existent lighting in the terminal and the color of the print on the paper it made it impossible! People were angry and upset, and I worried that the process might be indicative of our time to come. This was a Honeymoon cruise for my husband and I and we were fortunate to be able to book a Suite. This was a first for us, and the extra room and perks were wonderful!!! Our room steward Pete was the best we have had too. He always had a smile and immediately introduced himself having already memorized our names upon embarkation. As soon as he met us he went down for our bags, and we were unpacked fully into our new Suite well before dinner. The Suite itself is so spacious as well as the drawer space on the Amsterdam. The bath in the suite was a full length albeit narrow jacuzzi bathtub. I found that with the cooler weather we experienced with this itinerary I used it faithfully! The balcony was my favorite part as is often the case with me. Up until now, I have always stayed in a veranda mini-suite and this balcony was 2X+ anything we'd ever experienced! We ate breakfast out there many mornings, and one afternoon enjoyed a full afternoon tea, silver tea service out on the Veranda! We choose the early seating and were put as requested at a table of 8. Our table mates were 3 couples, one from California, one from Long Island, NY and one in Maryland. One thing was apparent throughout the cruise, most of our fellow cruisers were very well traveled. We found that we enjoyed hearing of their experiences and recommendations and each and every dinner was a lovely experience. On a longer itinerary, I think your tablemates can really enhance the experience. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room many times during sea days and in the Queen's Dining Room once (where Suite Passengers were invited to eat). All of our meals were warm and as requested, and we enjoyed meeting other cruisers during meals. That is except for the couple we were to be seated with at breakfast in the Main Dining Room by a window at a table for 6. She started screaming that they didn't want to sit with anyone at the meal!! I assured her, we had no desire to sit there either and shook it off as there is always one in a crowd. I could go on and on about the itinerary on this cruise. I will keep my comments succinct though, as most are reading this to hear about the ship. Our favorites I think were Colonia (a UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Montevideo), Buenos Aires (so European!), Falklands (the penguins at Bluff cove were the best) and Ushuaia (the Tierra del Fuego is surreal in it's beauty!). It was all spectacular, but those places in retrospect stick out in my mind! This was a 17 day cruise, yet I didn't see one menu that repeated throughout the cruise! The nice thing about a longer cruise is that you get to meet more passengers, especially with the amount of sea days we had. We didn't attend many of the evening performances, but the ones we did attend were quite good as they were local troupes that came aboard to entertain with their traditional dances. We also enjoyed the various lecturers on board. We did expect to see more sea life than we did. We saw one whale next to the ship one lunch and some wonderful seabirds, but Alaska seems to have much more sea life than we experienced in SA. Harry, the bar manager, and Veronica, the concierge, assisted me in putting together a Cruise website get together on board. They even printed and delivered invitations to the Cabins of the 34+ cruisers who had been sharing posts in preparation for the cruise. We had a lunchtime reception in the Crows Nest where HAL served hot appetizers and then we ate in the bottom part of the main dining room that was reserved for just our group. All of this was done willingly and gratis by the HAL staff. The friendships we made out of that group will not be forgotten! I would highly recommend the Amsterdam and her crew. She is, bar none, the nicest Ship I have had the privilege in cruising on. Thanks to them, my husband and I have wonderful and treasured memories of a very special honeymoon adventure! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
It has taken me nearly a month after our cruise to write this, but the holidays took precedence. We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janiero to Valpariso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 ... Read More
It has taken me nearly a month after our cruise to write this, but the holidays took precedence. We sailed the Amsterdam on Dec. 1-17 from Rio de Janiero to Valpariso. One of the things that made the trip special was it's length, 17 days gives you many opportunities to make onboard friendships with other pax and the staff as well. Overall, I would give the Amsterdam an A for the entire trip! Despite the fact many received greatly reduced fares, I did not notice anything that would suggest that the staff was doing anything to cut costs on the trip. The ship had been booked for this cruise since the middle of the summer, and a group of us through Cruise Critic had been exchanging posts and information in anticipation for the cruise. We arrived the day of embarkation into Rio to find a pervasive warm rain falling. The views were obscured by the rain and generally foggy conditions it caused. Embarkation was clearly the worst part of the entire trip. For this, HAL gets an F! We arrived at a dark reception building that contained only a few working fluorescent bulbs and were told that prior to embarkation we had to fill out immigration questionnaires for Argentina or Chile. We all tried to fill the forms out, but due to the non-existent lighting in the terminal and the color of the print on the paper it made it impossible! People were angry and upset, and I worried that the process might be indicative of our time to come. This was a Honeymoon cruise for my husband and I and were fortunate to be able to book a Suite (7006). This was a first for us, and the extra room and perks were wonderful!!! Our room steward Pete was the best we have had too. He always had a smile and immediately introduced himself having already memorized our names upon embarkation. As soon as he met us he went down for our bags, and we were unpacked fully into our new Suite well before dinner. The Suite itself is so spacious and the drawer space on the Amsterdam. The bath in the suite was a full length albeit narrow jacuzzi bathtub. I found that with the cooler weather we experienced with this itinerary I used it faithfully! The balcony was my favorite part as is often the case with me. Up until now, I have always stayed in a veranda mini-suite and this balcony was 2X+ anything we'd ever experienced! We ate breakfast out there many mornings, and one afternoon enjoyed a full afternoon tea, silver tea service out on the Veranda! We choose the early seating and were put as requested at a table of 8. Our table mates were 3 couples, one from California, one from Long Island, NY and one in Maryland. One thing was apparent through out the cruise, most of our fellow cruisers were very well traveled. We found that we enjoyed hearing of their experiences and recommendations and each and every dinner was a lovely experience. On a longer itinerary, I think your table mates can really enhance the experience. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room many times during sea days and in the Queen's Dining Room once (where Suite Passengers were invited to eat). All of our meals were warm and as requested, and we enjoyed meeting other cruisers during meals. That is except for the couple we were to be seated with at breakfast in the Main Dining Room by a window at a table for 6. She started screaming that they didn't want to sit with anyone at the meal!! I assured her, we had no desire to sit there either and shook it off as there is always one in a crowd. I could go on and on about the itinerary on this cruise. I will keep my comments succinct though, as most are reading this to hear about the ship. Our favorites I think were Colonia (a UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Montevideo), Buenos Aires (so European!), Falklands (the penguins at Bluff cove were the best) and Ushuaia (the Tierra del Fuego is surreal in it's beauty!). It was all spectacular, but those places in retrospect stick out in my mind! This was a 17 day cruise, yet I didn't see one menu that repeated throughout the cruise! The nice thing about a longer cruise is that you get to meet more passengers, especially with the amount of sea days we had. We didn't attend many of the evening performances, but the ones we did attend were quite good as they were local troupes that came aboard to entertain with their traditional dances. We also enjoyed the various lecturers on board. We did expect to see more sea life than we saw. We saw one whale next to the ship one lunch and some wonderful seabirds, but Alaska seems to have much more sea life than we experienced in SA. Harry, the bar manager, and Veronica, the Concierge, assisted me in putting together a Cruise Critic get together on board. They even printed and delivered invitations to the Cabins of the 34+ cruisers who had been sharing posts in preparation for the cruise. We had a lunchtime reception in the Crows Nest where HAL served hot appetizers and the ate in the bottom part of the main dining room that was reserved for just our group. All of this was done willingly and gratis by the HAL staff. The friendships we made out of that group will not be forgotten! I would highly recommend the Amsterdam and her crew. She is, bar none, the nicest Ship I have had the privilege in cruising on. Thanks to them, my husband and I have wonderful and treasured memories of a very special honeymoon adventure! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The ... Read More
TOPLINE: The cruise was amazing. Alaska, Holland America Line, and the m.s. Amsterdam are all highly, highly recommended. The ship was gorgeous, the service outstanding, and the ports were both fascinating and easy to explore. The following review is fairly long, but I've tried to categorize it so that people can find particular sections that may interest them. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask: patricia_fessler@yahoo.com SHIP: m.s. Amsterdam is a beautiful ship, well designed and just the right size. Hardwood and brass abound, giving the ship an elegant, nautical feel. This is enhanced by excellent art and antiques, where there is an emphasis on Dutch and Asian pieces. Portraits of Holland America ships by Captain Stephen J. Card are a particular highlight. The library was good, well-stocked with books, stationery, and games. (There was one glaring omission in the book collection, though - "125 Years of Holland America Line" which is a great history of the company. I'm always surprised not to find it on their ships.) I'm a real stickler about upkeep, and I'm pleased to say that the Amsterdam was very well kept up: the flowers were always fresh, all the brass was polished, and the carpets were clean and unworn. I guess this may sound like an expected baseline, but believe me if you're obsessive like me, you see all kinds of flaws even at the nicest hotels, so it was a delight to see things just so. (One small gripe: during the cruise, it seemed like some kid scratched the brass button-plate in the elevator. HAL may wish to weigh the cost of replacing / sanding the brass periodically vs. installing cameras, like in many hotels.) With about 1500 people onboard (lots of families with 3+ a stateroom/suite), the ship was completely booked but never felt crowded. Lines were rare and short. I was reminded of the importance of a small(ish) ship when we docked next to the Radiance of the Seas, a mammoth ship that had enormous lines to get back on the ship. FOOD: This was by far the best food I've had on any cruise line. It totally eclipsed even Celebrity, which is supposedly known for its great cuisine. The presentation was lovely, the range and quality of ingredients was excellent, and the breadth of options was mind-boggling. Of particular note: - THE PINNACLE GRILL. I'd eaten at the Pinnacle on the Statendam in the Spring, and ever since had been dreaming about rare Sterling beef, seared at 1800 degrees. I was not disappointed. This place is a steak lover's dream, infinitely better than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. At $20 a person, it's a ridiculous bargain. One down side is the apparent removal of prime rib from the menu, which I'd had on Statendam. Nonetheless, the porterhouse was outstanding, as was the filet mignon. I read that on Oosterdam, HAL has introduced Hungarian waiters in the Pinnacle. I think this should be fine, but my Indonesian waiter (Tony) was knowledgeable, helpful, and never intrusive (something I found to be a problem with the over-chummy Hungarian waiters in specialty restaurant of Celebrity's Millennium). - DUTCH NIGHT. I never before associated the Dutch with fine cuisine, but I was wrong. Their version of Duck a l'Orange (I can't remember the Dutch name) was delectable, and a martini made with Dutch gin is really good (super-smooth and vaguely lemony). My mother said the Indonesian luncheon was also wonderful, but I was off exploring the port. - ROOM SERVICE. Frequently a weak point for many cruise lines, the room service was very good here, with attractive presentation, croissants wrapped in an insulating linen napkin (not plastic wrap), and bacon that made it to my mouth HOT. STAFF: HAL's staff has always been one of its great strengths, and the Amsterdam staff are no exception. They were cheerful and friendly, hard-working, remembered my name, and fulfilled assorted special requests (eggs done just so, sliced mangos at breakfast, etc). I'm also happy to report that the bar staff were right on the ball. HAL seems to have a policy of never wanting to intrude or hassle, which is good (especially compared to occasionally pushy tactics on other lines), but in the past I've sometimes had trouble getting a drink (!). Nowadays, I think the staff hit the balance just right - if I so much as raised a finger, someone came straight by, but if I was absorbed in a book, no one troubled me. I had the honor of meeting Captain van Zanne and Hotel Manager Henk Mensink; both were models of their professions. Apart from getting us from point A to B safely, Captain van Zanne was statesman-like and had a manner that made one feel confident that this was a well run ship. Mr. Mensink was charming, but also thoughtful, and the quality of the food and accommodations is a testament to his hard work and skill. The entertainment staff were a fun bunch, and kept the Crow's Nest rockin' until well after I had to go to bed. I did have one bad experience, with my dining steward. I asked him if some spring rolls contained shrimp, explaining that I am allergic to shellfish. He told me, with apparent confidence, that they were vegetarian. Fortunately, I cut open the roll and saw the shrimp before I could take a bite. I advised my dining steward and the supervisor, and got the impression my dining steward got a talking-to. The Port Shopping Ambassador, Ivan, seemed a little smarmy but I fear that's a function of his job. He seems like a paid shill because he is. (Ever see the Simpson's episode with the monorail salesman? He reminded me of that guy.) Maybe those recommended stores would be more relevant to me if I bought jewelry and other big-ticket items where a guarantee is important, but since I don't, I prefer to shop at small, independent places off the beaten path. Ivan's talks were easily avoided. More educational and interesting options that shopping abounded: The on-board naturalist was very good, and a great help to whale-watchers on deck. Her slide shows were also informative and entertaining. The native Alaskan artist, Moses, was a great story-teller, had lovely artwork, and was a truly charming guy. ENTERTAINMENT: In the evenings, the classical trio was absolutely amazing. They were called the Champagne Strings, but they were a different group than the guys of the same name on the Maasdam. I'd found those guys (led by "Papa Attila") to be fabulous, but these guys just blew me out of the water. Not only were they good enough to play without a lick of sheet music, they were good enough to really PLAY with the music. They would improvise and enliven classical music in a way I'd never seen before. Holland America, Hungarian musicians are definitely the way to go - as good as the Rosario Strings are (Filipino?), they can't hold a candle to the serious musicians from Hungary. (BTW, my family is Filipino and my aunt was a concert pianist, but by and large Filipinos are better at rock n' roll.) Incidentally, I thought it was very tasteful that the musicians didn't have a tip cup, but did sell CDs. Since they had them right there (no need to go to the shop), I happily bought a CD, and so did plenty of other people. I didn't catch a lot of the formal shows, because I preferred to listen to the classical music, dance, or just hang out with my family, but I did see the magician. I can't recall his name, but he was GREAT. He's one of the few magicians I've seen who blends magic and humor while still coming off as a great guy. (Copperfield, Sigfried and Roy, Lance Burton, etc. all seem to be real shmucks - to their assistants and their audiences.) His tricks were also excellent, especially one where he takes the wedding rings of three audience members, "magically" interlinks them, and has each man confirm that the ring is really his. Especially with projector screens showing the close-up detail, this trick brought the house down. SUITE: We were in 7058, a handicapped-accessible suite (for my mother). The suite was lovely, spacious, and had more storage space than you could shake a stick at. The bathroom had a flat-floor, handicapped-accessible shower, and ALSO a wonderful bathtub with whirlpool jets. The only mild downside with this cabin was that because we were high up and at the far end of the ship, we felt the motion of the sea more than other places on the ship. One suggestion for the shower: the emergency cord should be labeled as such. My mom pulled it, not sure what it did ... we found out when the front desk called to make sure everything was okay. The standard shampoo, soaps and moisturizer were good as usual, and I was pleased to see extra-nice "Institute Suisse" bath amenities in the medicine cabinet. Didn't use them, but a nice touch for the suites. As for the bed, the mattress was comfy, the pillows perfect, and the towels large and fluffy. In the past I always found HAL's regular staterooms very roomy and comfortable, but in addition to the extra space and whirlpool bath, a few special amenities made the suite really worth the splurge: - NEPTUNE LOUNGE. This charming, suites-only lounge always had delicious snacks prepared by the Pinnacle Grill chef; perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, a mid-day snack, another mid-day snack... you get the idea. Tony, our waiter in the Pinnacle Grill, worked here doing the day, and was again very charming. - CONCIERGE SERVICE. Snookie the concierge (I kid you not, that was her name), and her assistant Maria Rachel, were unfailingly helpful. We never had to wait in line at the front desk, the ladies handled all our shore excursion arrangements, and were a real delight. - COMPLIMENTARY LAUNDRY. This may sound silly to some people, but I loved the idea of going home with clean clothes! The laundry staff were amazing, in addition to impeccable work on my blouses, I believe they even ironed my underwear. Zounds! - SUITE RECEPTION / LUNCHEON. These were opportunities to meet the captain and the staff in a small, sociable setting. The food was, once again, delicious. Had caviar for the first time in my life ... apparently it was very good quality, but personally I like smoked salmon better. Champagne and wine flowed freely. I had a really chats with the Captain, the Hotel Manager, and the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager. EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION: Holland America has recently introduced new and very much improved embarkation and disembarkation procedures, they are now really rather pleasant. For some reason, lots of people always turn up well before the "official" embarkation window, in this case 3pm-5pm. In the past, they had to wait around a pretty barren room at the port (these ports are owned by the city, not the cruise line). Now, Holland America lets you get onboard much earlier, even as the staff are still cleaning up from the previous guests. You can't yet go to your stateroom, but you can hang out in the comparative luxury of the cruise line's lounges. Now, on our sailing extra cleaning needed to be done due to safety precautions around recent virus outbreaks (lots of people got sick on a Princess cruise, and a very few on the previous Amsterdam sailing). So while folks weren't allowed on the ship quite so early as usual, the company brought out refreshments to the waiting room, and people had a snack while they hung out. You could also book spa appointments, Pinnacle Grill reservations, and pre-order wines. PORTS: We went to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier (not really a port, but a destination), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria. All were fascinating, and the shore excursions were well chosen to provide a range of activities for everyone. Also, we always had the BEST docking positions: right downtown. While other lines had further-out docks (eg, Princess) or even had to tender (eg, RCI), we got to walk ashore. (Everywhere except Sitka, which has no dock for cruise lines, and everyone had to tender.) My only small gripe was that I would have liked more time in Ketchikan ... but frankly that's just inspiration to go back! FELLOW PASSENGERS: A nice mix, with a surprising number of families. The kids seemed well entertained, and were never a bother. As usual on HAL, I met some really great people with amazing backgrounds. Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
As a first time cruiser, I really didn't know what to expect. We had always wanted to go to Alaska and this seemed the perfect way to do it. Our ship was the Amsterdam from Holland America and here are my impressions: We live in ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I really didn't know what to expect. We had always wanted to go to Alaska and this seemed the perfect way to do it. Our ship was the Amsterdam from Holland America and here are my impressions: We live in Seattle and so the getting there and boarding was very easy and practical for us. We were shown to our stateroom (an outside stateroom on the Main Deck - Deck 2), having been upgraded by HAL from the Dolphin Deck. I was very pleasantly surprised by the size of the stateroom. It was very spacious and well appointed. The Cabin Steward, named Dwi, was exceptional and took real pride in making everybody comfortable. In fact, the attitude of all the staff was incredible. They went out of their way to make sure everybody had all their needs met. One thing I wasn't ready for was the age of most of the cruisers. I didn't realize but Holland America has quite a following among the older folks. We met people from 70 right on up to age 92. Most of the music they play is big band stuff and I am convinced the cruise director would like to be Bob Barker when he grows up. ("Johnny, tell her what she won!") Read into that, cheesy. As you can tell, the cruise director did get on my nerves a little bit. The food. Well, what can you say. The food was very good, very rich, and there was a whole lot of it. The staff did everything they could to please even the most difficult customers. There were no low points, but some pretty awesome high points. The chocolate buffet was pretty incredible just to look at. The Odyssey Restaurant was spectacular, and even the tuna sandwich was pretty dang good. They had no problem giving you more or less, depending on what you wanted. The steaks were always cooked to perfection, the seafood was always just the right temperature, and the salads were always crisp and fresh. I'm not much of a dessert person but my wife said the bread pudding was to die for. The ice cream bar was ok. The cheese cake was very good. The coffee was lousy but then again, I am from Seattle and am kind of a coffee snob. Other stuff: My wife had a manicure and facial from the Steiner Spa on board and said it was fabulous. The ports of call were excellent. It rained in Juneau and Sitka and at Hubbard Glacier, but Ketchikan was bathed in sunshine and just gorgeous. My wife kayaked to Whiskey Cove and said it was wonderful. I took the deep sea fishing and wilderness trek, where you catch your fish and then go to a spot in the rain forest where they cook it for you while you take a walk through the old growth. The meal was very well done and I would do this excursion again. Julie, the lady who is the excursion manager, was helpful and very efficient. The entertainment seemed pretty good. We never actually got to see a show. Each time we went, everybody was saving seats (even though they tell you not to do that) and those that did dare to sit down usually got cussed out by some 75 year old lady from Michigan or Ohio or New York or Pennsylvania who talked like Edith Bunker and who's life quest was to save those seats. Eventually we decided to forget it and go read. (If you're seventy and from New York and talk through your nose, you should feel lucky we let you breathe, never mind have any clout.) I would do this cruise again. The scenery was that spectacular. The staff really hustled and even the Bob Barker wannabe got the job done. dave@bellevuechurchofchrist.orgNovember 2002 Read Less
WOW ... that's the best short description for our feeling about our cruise on the lovely Amsterdam on the Alaska Explorer Cruise. We knew this was not the Inside Passage but felt the trade off to be able to round trip from Seattle ... Read More
WOW ... that's the best short description for our feeling about our cruise on the lovely Amsterdam on the Alaska Explorer Cruise. We knew this was not the Inside Passage but felt the trade off to be able to round trip from Seattle was well worth it. And we loved the sea days. This was a family Anniversary and Birthday trip, hopefully the first of many, ages from 54 to 4 1/2. Not one of us was disappointed, our expectations were more than met. The Ship - Beautiful, elegant, spotless... We took a galley tour and it was amazing how they can do so much for so many people and keep everything so clean. The Cabins - We had a suite, the rest had cabins on the Dolphin Deck. Ours of course was fantastic, spacious, luxurious, many perks, we felt extremely spoiled. The Dolphin decks were also spacious and had plenty of closet space and well as a generous bathroom including tub. The Service - SUPERB. Everyone made a special effort to make you feel as you were the only person they waited on. After we all got back we commented how it will be hard to go to any hotel or restaurant as we will never experience service like we received on the ms Amsterdam. The Food - Wonderful and very plentiful. A great selection for all the age groups. Two of our group ordered "surf and turf" every night along with all the other courses, they loved it. In fact on lobster night our wonderful waiter brought extra lobster tails for them, wow!! The "running of the moose", Dutch Night, and Baked Alaska was also really fun. The hamburgers and pizza on the Lido deck were also good and thank goodness for the hot dogs for my niece. Club HAL - the children's program was so enjoyable that the kids did not want to be with us after their first outing. Job well done. Speaking of kids, the way the entire staff treats children is the best, they all go out their way to greet the children each time they see them and make sure they feel special. Embarkation/Debarkation - smooth as silk. We were very lucky as our weather was mild so no problems with seasickness, etc.. We were able to get 3/10 mile from Hubbard glacier, an awesome experience. Thank you Holland America and the staff and crew of the lovely ms Amsterdam for making this much anticipated trip everything we hoped for. And a huge thanks to all the people on the Cruise Critic boards who assisted me in being totally prepared for our adventure. All your helpful hints and packing instructions helped so much. I am addicted to the boards even though our trip is over. Of course now I am anxiously figuring out when and where to go next!!! mconner@charterinternet.com December 2002 Read Less
I booked this cruise with high expectations. First, it was a holiday cruise and would be festive and second the HAL line had a great reputation. Well, I've learned once again, go with no expectations and you won't be ... Read More
I booked this cruise with high expectations. First, it was a holiday cruise and would be festive and second the HAL line had a great reputation. Well, I've learned once again, go with no expectations and you won't be disappointed. This cruise was filled with many frustrating and unpleasant experiences, all unnecessary and avoidable in my opinion. I will tell you the good and the bad Embarkation and Debarkation were both nightmares and handled as poorly as anything I've read about, but never experienced. I overnighted in Miami and was informed my bags must be picked up from my room by 6:15 and I must be ready to board the bus by 7AM. The bust didn't leave until 9AM! The organizer was obviously overwhelmed with irritated people and when I asked about the delay, she stated that eveyone had to claim their bag before they could board and it was holding them up. No one had informed us of this and they hadn't built the schedule to accommodate this reasonable security process. She just said it had been like this since 9/11! Are they too stupid to revise their process? I won't go into the rest of the journey to the ship, but suffice it to say even if the cruise were wonderful, I'd never travel on HAL again for their insensitivity to the burden of getting on their ships. In my 20+ cruises I've never experienced the difficulty and hassle of this trip. The ship itself is new, spotless and filled with interesting art, spots to sit and roomy well thought out accommodations. While the sleeping/dressing area was standard size and roomy enough to move around without bumping into furniture or walls, the bath was a joy. Because I had only a shower stall there was no awkward bath to step over and the floor space was large enough so you could actually dress in the room if needed. I regretted the lack of a nightlight, a simple but wonderful touch when getting up in the night. The only option is a bright light, annoying and unnecessary. The cabin steward was professional, around when you needed and not intrusive. Room service was slow (45 minute wait) and there was no phone directory or direct dial service for anything but information. Which, when busy, made any service or inquiry frustrating to get. The ship had been ¾ full over the past few weeks (9/11?) and I believe they may have been understaffed for the full ship for this cruise. If you don't smoke, you may not like the smoking policies. They stick smokers in the front of the dining room so we had to run a gauntlet of pipe, cigar and cigarette smoke to get to our table each night. And the layout of the common areas assures you will smell like smoke if you go out in public for long. While the crew was generally friendly, service in the dining area was spotty and they appear understaffed and overworked. There were several signs of stress during the cruise. I cruise for relaxation and high-quality food, prepared impeccably. I don't care about the itinerary when cruising the Caribbean as I have all the T-shirts and watches I need. This cruise line is relentless in their pursuit of your shopping dollar. The most obnoxious, loud announcements seemed to incessantly flow from the intercom system. It hurt your ears! So if you're enjoying a book or a quiet conversation, or even a nap on deck, forget about it. It will be interrupted at some point by "Mr. Bingo or the Gold Chain sale" announcement. Please, if we want to shop, it's not that hard to find your shops and we read your schedule everyday and know when bingo is. As for the food, it was mediocre at best. While the variety was good, the preparation was uneven. Most of the red meat was overcooked, the fish varied from raw to tough. Meals arrived at my table generally lukewarm. And asking for coffee prior to dessert was not honored. They did throw out a pile of large shrimp and king crab legs (partially frozen) the last two days of a 12-day cruise but otherwise there wasn't anything I'd go to a local restaurant and pay for if it was offered. The lido breakfast had your normal buffet items and special order eggs but pancakes, waffles and breads were insipid. I ordered toast and English muffins on two occasions only to receive warm bread and muffin. Another irritating item was, although they provided pepper mills, the grind was too large and made food inedible. I brought both these small items up to management and received a promise the toast would be toasted in the future. It wasn't on the 7 days I remained on ship. The peppermill was attributed to "corporate decision" and nothing could be done! I use the exercise facilities, which have an adequate variety of aerobic and weight training items. The stationary bikes and treadmills do not face a tv. A simple, but nice feature in most health clubs. But, even if you could see a TV, you couldn't change channels to what you wanted to watch, even if no one else was in the club! I challenged this, but was told the hotel director had made the decision and it was not to be changed. This attitude seemed to be prevalent throughout the ship. Anything that would make the cruise a bit nicer and not cost them any extra, seemed to be a hassle or against "policy". I appreciate the fact that its their cruise line and they can set the rules anyway they want. In fact I won't bother them again. I know there were many people who loved the cruise and I wish them many happy returns to HAL. It may be more suited for those who are happy to vacation at Holiday Inns and eat at Country Kitchen. And that's not to denigrate Holiday Inns or Country Buffet. But they charge a lot less than this HAL cruise cost and are just as good. If anyone is interested in more info or a recommendation for a truly fine cruise line for similar costs I'd be happy to do so.thouts@mn.rr.com January 2002 Read Less
Amsterdam Russian Rhapsody Review Here's a review of our Russian Rhapsody Cruise on the Amsterdam. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and I'm sure those of you scheduled for the Aug trip will have a wonderful time. Our ... Read More
Amsterdam Russian Rhapsody Review Here's a review of our Russian Rhapsody Cruise on the Amsterdam. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and I'm sure those of you scheduled for the Aug trip will have a wonderful time. Our Background Just a brief overview of who we are. This trip was to celebrate our 25th anniversary. My husband is 50 and I am 48 and we do not have any kids. This was our 11th cruise overall and our 3rd on HAL. It was our first one of over 7 days and our first trip to Europe (other than a business trip I took to Germany in 1983). My parents joined us on the trip and it was wonderful to be able to spend some time with them since we do not see them very often. It was the first trip we've taken together. They live on the Oregon coast and just celebrated their 49th anniversary. It was their 10th cruise and 3rd on HAL. They had taken a Mediterranean cruise for their 40th (on Princess) and had been to Ireland last year. We are not the types to go out wandering on our own especially in foreign places so we took the ships tours and were very happy with them. Getting There We made our own air arrangements to avoid having to fly overnight and to allow ourselves at least a few hours sleep Friday night before boarding the ship on Saturday. However, we did buy the HAL transfers from the hotel to the ship and the ship to the airport. Because our flight got in at night they would not provide transportation from the airport to the hotel. We took a short early (6:00 a.m.) flight from Cincinnati to Chicago before boarding the longer flight for London Heathrow. The flights left on time and we were very pleased with the service on American. We arrived just after 10:00 p.m. and after making our way through immigration and customs tried to find out where to get a taxi to the Hilton on Park Lane. Our TA had told us it would be about 25 pounds for the trip. We finally found a hotel arrangements desk and he told us to exchange some money and then take the Heathrow Express to Paddington and get a cab from there to the hotel. It was a bit confusing but we did find our way to the train. As we were taking the elevator down to the train, some people trying to catch it said it was the last one for the night so we were lucky to have made it. We arrived at the station and had some problems finding the area for the cabs because of construction in the station but finally did find it and arrived at the hotel just about midnight. Between the train and the cab it cost us about $50 to get from the airport to the hotel. My parents purchased the flight and hotel package from HAL. They left Wed afternoon and got to London mid-day Thursday. They were not very pleased with the British Airways service on the flight. We all stayed at the Hilton on Park Lane and from the little we got to see of it, it was a very nice hotel. It was very well located for seeing London. My parents were able to see quite a bit in the short 1-½ days they were there just by walking around. Day 1 (Sat 6/23) I called my parents room about 7 a.m. to find out what the plans were for the day. They said they had left a message for us but the person checking us in the night before said there were no messages. He also had no information on the HAL transfers. My parents said we were supposed to have our bags outside our doors by 8:15 and then meet in the lobby by 9:15 since the bus would leave about 9:30. We got ready and put our bags out then met my parents for breakfast. The buses arrived just after 9:30 and we boarded for a short tour of London on our way to the ship. The tour was very interesting for us since it was our only chance to see London. We drove by most of the major sights in London (Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Wheel, etc) and made a stop at the Tower of London before heading out to Harwich. We arrived at the ship just before 2 and were quickly checked in and boarded the ship. We were escorted to our cabin on the Main Deck. We had booked an inside guarantee (deciding to use the difference from an outside cabin towards the tours we wanted to take). My parents booked an outside guarantee. We both ended up on the Main Deck forward. It was a good location, very quiet and close to the forward stairs. We were all hungry so quickly headed up to the Lido for wonderful lunch. The ship is very beautiful and we didn't have any problems finding our way around. We found our pre-booked Tour tickets in our cabin when we boarded. We got everything we ordered except for the Imperial St. Petersburg tour, which we were waitlisted on (and so were my parents). Two of our bags were in our cabin when we got back from lunch and the other arrived shortly after so we started to unpack. I like the way HAL's cabins are arranged providing a sitting area (couch and chair) so that the beds do not provide the only sitting areas. We've been on other ships where the beds are normally in an L Shape and when they put them together it looks that way. On HAL it looks like they were meant to be a queen size bed including the bedspread. On our RCI trip they put the beds together but then did not have a bedspread on it for the entire trip making the room look like it was never made up. (small thing but one of many that is why I prefer HAL). There was plenty of storage area with 5 closets (two with full hanging storage, 1 with ½ hanging, and the others with shelves), 3 drawers in the main dresser, and 2 drawers each in the nightstands. We had Late Seating as requested and ended up with a wonderful table (#111) for 4 right by a window on the Starboard side on the lower level. With the late setting of the sun on this trip it was wonderful to be able to watch the scenery etc while dining. The Dining Room is absolutely beautiful and much quieter than some other ships we've been on. Every night they had a string quartet playing music for the first 20 or 30 minutes of dinner which was very nice. After dinner we headed to the Queens Lounge for the Welcome Aboard Show. It was a very brief show with one song from the Amsterdam Cast and a few introductions from the Cruise Director (Karla Glaser). I thought it was a bit too brief but everyone was tired from the long trips to the ship so there were not a lot of people there. Day 2 (Sun 6/24 At Sea) After breakfast in the Lido we took the tour of the Kitchen, which was very interesting. It was a self-guided tour with a handout explaining what you were seeing. The chef was at the end with the photographer taking pictures. We then decided to go to the Slot Clinic in the Casino and though we'd all been to casinos many times we found this to be very interesting. The manager of the Casino was very friendly and showed us how the machines work and explained many of the newer games. We purchased alternates tours for the 2nd day in St. Petersburg since they did not give out much hope of getting more space on the Imperial St. Petersburg tour we were waitlisted on. We spent the rest of the day just getting to know our way around the ship and relaxing in preparation for the busy tour schedule ahead. We then prepared for the Captains Welcome Reception. The Captain was Nico Corbijn and he is extremely friendly (and very good looking by the way!). We then headed down to another wonderful dinner in the Dining Room. After that we headed to the Queens Lounge for the first of the Amsterdam Cast's Production shows (they did 4) called Personality, Too! They have several very talented people in the cast and the show was good but typical. Day 3 (Mon 6/25 Oslo) We had a quick breakfast and then headed to the Queens Lounge for our tour of Oslo. We had all selected the Historic Tour of Oslo. They are very organized in getting the tours off. You need to show up in the Queen's lounge about 15 minutes before the time with your entire group. They give you a sticker color-coded for the specific tour with the bus number you will be on. There were a few confused people the first day but it seemed to work pretty well. It was actually easier to know you always went to the same place for a tour rather than remember that some tours met in one lounge, others on the pier etc as we've seen on other cruises. We ended up on Bus #1 and headed out to see Oslo. We headed thru the City and up to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump site, which was very scenic. We then headed to the Norsk Folke Museum and it was very interesting to see the old buildings and the women who explained them were all very good. Our last stop was at the Resistance Museum, which was in the old Fort just across from where the ship was docked. We decided to walk from there back to the ship. After a late lunch we spent the rest of the day relaxing. The show for this night was a comedian/juggler named Barnaby and he was extremely funny. This was one of the best shows of the cruise so if he is on your ship, be sure to go. Day 4 (Tue 6/26 Helsingborg, Sweden) We arrived for our first stop in Sweden with another beautiful day. We were originally supposed to anchor at this port but ended up docking there. We had signed up for the Hoganas & Kullaberg Tour so made our way to the lounge and then to the waiting buses. We had a nice drive through the town and out to the Countryside. We had a brief stop at the Kullen Peninsula. We next stopped at a lovely outdoor cafe where we had coffee and "cakes" in a beautiful garden setting. We then stopped at a 12th century Medieval Church that had beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings. Our tour guide was very good and we had a wonderful tour of this part of Sweden. Then it was back to the ship to relax and another fabulous dinner in the Dining Room. Since the next day was going to be an early call for the Berlin tour we decided to skip that night's show, which featured a pianist named Jeannette Owens. I never heard anyone mention the show so can't give you any idea of if it was good or not. Day 5 (Wed 6/27 Warnemunde, Germany) My father came down with a bad cold so decided to stay on the ship for the day so my mother, husband and I set out for Berlin. We met in the Queen's Lounge at 6:30 and then for the Train. It was a short walk from the ship to the Train. Everyone one had sticker indicating what Bus they would be on in Berlin (based on the tour selected) and a ticket for the Train Carriage they would be in. The train was interesting and consisted of compartments of 6 seats. The Shore Excursion talk on the TV on the ship had indicated the train ride had been shortened, because of work on the tracks, to less than 2 hrs but it turned out to be a 3 hr trip. It was a pleasant trip and we enjoyed visiting with the others in our compartment. Soon after we left they brought by our "snacks" in large brown bags. We all had a laugh at what was provided since it included a sandwich (this was at about 7:30 in the morning), a banana, orange juice, cheese, small muffin, and a Twix candy bar. We arrived in Berlin about 10:30 and loaded the buses for our Highlights Tour. We saw quite a bit of the city, which has had a lot of things rebuilt in the past 10 years and there is still a lot of construction going on. We had a very nice lunch at a hotel and an hour or so of free-time to do some shopping. However, the shopping near the hotel was more of a mall with clothing stores and that sort of thing. There were no craft type stores but we wandered around for a bit before getting back on the bus and the rest of our tour. The train ride back brought yet another brown bag snack. I heard later throughout the cruise from some people that were disappointed in the City itself but I'm still glad we went. We didn't arrive back to the ship until about 8:30 so headed up to the Lido for dinner. The captain was outside welcoming us back when we arrived. He had also been there in the morning to see us off. They had scheduled a German Bierfest and Oom-Pah band on the deck for the evening (there was no show) since most people would be getting back so late. There was a huge crowd of local people there to see us off and it was fun to wave to them as we pulled out. Day 6 (Thu 6/28 Ronne, Denmark) We had decided not to take a tour at this stop since it was about ½ way thru the cruise and would be a good time to relax before the rest of the trip. We did wander into town for some shopping (there was a free shuttle to/from the ship and the center of town). It was a very pretty little town but the one place where there were a lot of people that didn't speak English. I found something I wanted to buy in one shop but they didn't take credit cards or English money and we did not have a lot of Danish money with us. We did buy a few things in the other shops then headed back to the ship. There was a craft area close to the ship that had some very nice pieces of handmade glassware and we did buy some things there. We then decided to do some laundry using the Self Service laundry rooms. It is $2 a load for the washer, which includes detergent, and the dryer is free. We did 4 loads and it took us less than 2 hrs. It was starting to get crowded when we left though since everyone had the same idea. This was the 2nd formal night of the cruise so we dressed up for dinner and another one of the Cast's production shows called Jazzmatazz. Nothing spectacular but pleasant overall. July 2001 Read Less
Alaska Explorer Cruise Alaska was to be the fourth of our cruise destinations on our cruise check list. We had originally booked an Inside Passage Cruise but Holland American changed the cruise to an Alaskan Explorer Cruise sometime ... Read More
Alaska Explorer Cruise Alaska was to be the fourth of our cruise destinations on our cruise check list. We had originally booked an Inside Passage Cruise but Holland American changed the cruise to an Alaskan Explorer Cruise sometime after we booked in November 2001. The itinerary was basically the same except for more time spent out in the Pacific Ocean rather that the Inside Passage. Regardless, we were ready for an Alaskan adventure when August finally arrived. Another reason we wanted this cruise was for the port of departure, Seattle, Washington, which is roughly a 4-½ hour drive from our home. We arrived in Seattle on Saturday, August 10th, by 11 am and had some time to explore the piers on the waterfront. At 12:30 pm we parked our vehicle in the parking facility directly across from the HAL cruise ship terminal. They even supply a walkway over the roadway. Our luggage was carted away, we went up to the embarkation area, checked in, were given a number an told to wait until our number was called at which time we would be allowed onboard the Amsterdam. We waited approximately 1 hour and boarded the ship at 2 pm. We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade Deck (located nearer the bow of the ship), which was clean and nicely decorated in tan, gold, orange and brown with dark blue carpeting. Not the colors I would decorate a new ship with but they didn't ask me J. Exploring the ship was interesting as it was not too glitzy, not too drab, not too elegant, but just about right for all tastes. It felt like it could be home for a week. The main areas we tend to use are the dining room (very pretty with 2 floors), the showroom (you can see well from all seats), the casino (just enough different slot machines and tables), and the buffet restaurant (basically the same on all ships). All of these areas and the others we visited occasionally suited us just fine. Our travel agent had booked us with the Virtuoso Voyager Club so we were treated to some extras, which turned out to be a great deal. We had a wonderful cocktail party in the Crow's Nest Lounge and enjoyed appetizers and drinks while waiting for departure. During the rest of the week we also were treated to another cocktail party, a 5 hour excursion in Ketchikan which included a jet boat trip and visit to Salmon Falls Resort, a replica of the MS Amsterdam enclosed in an acrylic case, a Blue Delft plate, made in Holland, with the dates and ports painted on (Amsterdam painted in the center), a $100 shipboard credit and a free 8x10 photo. Be sure to ask your travel agent if they are affiliated with Virtuoso so you can get some of these perks in future cruising. I am not one to write much about all of the ship amenities or comment too much on the cuisine. Holland America does a nice job in all areas and I would recommend cruising with them any time. The ship was wonderful and had all of the same things the other lines I have traveled with. They did have an Ice Cream Bar, which we visited several times. They use ice milk not real ice cream but it was cold and sweet so I won't complain too much. Also, the Coffee Bar was nice too. Cappuccinos and Lattes were good. The food in the dining room was average. My only real complaint would be that some things were not served hot enough. The selections in each course seemed limited compared to my recollection of Princess and RCCL. The food was fine and tasty. The desserts were mediocre. The dining room experience should make your mouth water weeks after the cruise is over. Sorry HAL. I can usually gain a few pounds on a cruise but I actually lost 2 pounds this time. Now on to the cruise itself: Day One - At Sea Our first day was spent making our way from Seattle's Puget Sound to Chatham Strait. We did catch a glimpse of two Orca whales late in the day on Sunday. Other than that it was ocean with a few views of mountains and islands in the far distance. Later in the evening the winds came up and the waves got bigger (5 feet plus) and I retired early with a queasy stomach. Day Two - Juneau, Alaska We docked in Juneau at 9:30 am and were off the ship at 10 am for our excursion. We had booked the Mendenhall Glacier, Wildlife and Whale Watching Quest. They loaded us on the bus and took us on a brief city tour (15 minutes) and off to Auk Bay where our tour boats waited for us. Our tour took us up Lynn Canal. We saw bald eagles, sea lions and lots of whales. About 2 hours into the 3-hour trip the rain started but we were all so thrilled at the humpback whales all over the place we didn't mind. When the winds picked up and the waters got choppy we headed back in. They loaded us on the bus again and we headed to a foggy, wet peek at Mendenhall Glacier. The US Ranger Station was without power as the winds had knocked down a tree and took out the power all around the island. On the way back to the ship we found out that the 2 ships parked in Auk Bay when we came by on the way to the glacier were unable to go up to Skagway due to the high winds. Those folks had spent the day sitting on their ships in Auk Bay. Back in Juneau we met with friends for several hours. They have lived in Juneau for the past 20 years. It was good to hear all about the area from the locals. The ship left port at 10 pm heading north to Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier. Day Three - Hubbard Glacier The storm had really set in by late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. The swells were up to 10 feet and both of us were seasick big time L all night. Remember we were at the bow. The Pacific Ocean can be a real beast. My husband, who has pretty good sea legs, was down for the count too. We finally were able to get some rest when the ship entered Yakutat Bay about 10 am. The ship reached Hubbard Glacier about 1 pm. The fog was still thick and the face of the glacier was just visible. The captain was able to get the ship within four tenths of a mile from the glacial face. This is closer than any reviews I have read. I think that since it was so rainy and foggy he felt sorry for us and pulled in as close as he dare get. We watched and listened to the glacier for about 2 hours. There was no calving but the moans and groans and cracking was awesome sounding. We headed out of Disenchantment Bay at 3 pm on our way to Sitka. Husband and I made our way to the infirmary for Sea-Calm, which worked perfect the rest of the cruise. Here is a bit of another story pertaining to Hubbard Glacier I thought review readers might like to hear about. Hubbard Glacier had advanced in the past few months closing Russell Fiord to a trickle of a stream into Disenchantment Bay. It was now called Russell Lake. The waters had risen to over 60 feet above sea level causing concern amongst the geologists and scientist watching the area. In the early morning hours of August 14th the rain waters and lake waters burst the sediment dam pushed by the glacier into Gilbert Point. On August 15th photos taken of the area showed a 300-foot wide opening between the glacier and Gilbert Point. The waters of Russell Lake had gone from 61 feet above sea level to 16 feet above sea level and Russell Lake was now Russell Fiord again. Our ship had been right at the face of the glacier very close to the sediment dam at Gilbert Point in the early afternoon of August 13th. I, for one, am very thankful the dam did not burst while we were parked at the glacier. I shudder to think of what could have happened. The Good Lord was watching over the MS Amsterdam and her passengers on August 13th, 2002. If this has peeked your interest there is a wonderful web site regarding the whole incident at www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass. The pictures are worth the look. Day Four - Sitka, Alaska A beautiful, sunny day greeted us in Sitka. After a day and a half of rain we were ready for sunshine. The ship anchored in Sitka Sound and we were tendered in. Sitka is a beautiful, little city on Baranof Island. We walked about the city enjoying the shops and sights. Totem Square, Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, St. Michael's Cathedral, Sitka Lutheran Church, and Isabel Miller Museum at Harrigan Centennial Hall were amongst our day in Sitka. We also had the chance to watch the New Archangel Russian Dancers perform. We tendered back to the ship at 4pm and the ship set sail at 6 pm. Making our way out of Sitka Sound was spectacular with the mountains rising out of the waters on a glorious, warm, sunny evening. We intend to make Sitka a point of return some day. Day Five - Ketchikan As if the weather could get better, well it did for our day in Ketchikan. We sailed through Clarence Strait to arrive at Ketchikan at 7 am. Our Salmon Falls Jet Boat Excursion, compliments of Virtuoso Voyagers Club was set for 11 am so we went shopping for a couple of hours in the morning. After buying canned sockeye salmon, Ulu knives, a couple of pieces of tanzanite jewelry and the souvenir mugs (I was told no more tee shirts J). We loaded on a bus for Salmon Falls Resort, which is 20 miles north of Ketchikan on Behm Canal. We loaded onto jet boats for a 3-hour trip up the canal up to the north end of Revillagigedo Island and back to the lodge for drinks and snacks. Since the ship was sailing at 3 pm they had us back at 2:30 just in time for last boarding. Leaving Ketchikan through Revillagigedo Channel was breath taking in the afternoon sunshine. The blue of the waters and the green of the mountains were awesome. A roll of pictures later we were into Dixson Entrance and sailed to Hecate Strait. Day Six - At Sea and Victoria, British Columbia From Hecate Strait we sailed the Inside Passage through Queen Charlotte Sound then proceeded into the Pacific Ocean to Victoria BC. The marine fog was thick as we traveled along the western side of Vancouver Island. We arrived in Victoria at 7 pm where the fog had dissipated and the evening sun was still shining. We were bussed from the cruise ship docks into downtown Victoria. Our 3 hours stop was far too short but since I had just been there in April for 5 days I was not nearly as disappointed as many of my fellow passengers. Victoria is a lovely port and a full day still would not have been enough time to see the sights this city has to offer. We walked through the Empress Hotel, shopped downtown as the shops near the harbor stay open late for the cruise ships. It was a lovely evening in Victoria. The ship sailed at 11 pm for disembarkation in Seattle at 7 am the next day. Day Seven - Seattle, Washington Arriving in Seattle at 7 am we ate our last breakfast in the Lido Restaurant and then waited for our number to be called to disembark. Since we did not have a plane to catch we were near the tail end of the passengers to get off the ship at 9:30 am. Customs was a breeze. Our luggage was waiting for us. I waited on the curb while my husband got the vehicle and we were on the road heading home at 10:30 am. I was impressed with disembarkation. It was just like clock work. So this completes my review of the Holland America Alaska Explorer Cruise. If I were to give the overall experience a rating it would have to be an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest). I can't fault HAL for the weather, which did take away from the glacier experiences. Both glaciers were fogged in. And of course 10-foot waves are a bit more than my tummy can handle but then again the Pacific Ocean is not known for it's calm waters J. I really did want an Inside Passage Cruise so I will have to try it again just to make sure I get to do just that. The food has come to play a less important part since this is my 4th cruise but HAL could make the dining experience just a bit more creative and extravagant. Alaska is a sight to see and every cruiser should experience it at least once. Please email me at diamondeb1954@yahoo.com if there are questions or more information I can supply for you. Thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to share my Alaskan Cruise with you. September 2002 Read Less
We just returned from a HAL Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam. We were very disappointed in the cruise route; out at sea in the Pacific, NOT on the Inside Passage except when entering or leaving a port-of-call. This borders on material ... Read More
We just returned from a HAL Alaska cruise on the Amsterdam. We were very disappointed in the cruise route; out at sea in the Pacific, NOT on the Inside Passage except when entering or leaving a port-of-call. This borders on material misrepresentation by the line (false advertising.) Compared to a true Resort Hotel, the ship was not even comfortable. More like a Ramada with tiny rooms. The food was OK (not even '4 Star' though) but sitting in the dining room for over 2 hours in order to be served a '5 course' meal was unreasonable. There was little choice, as seating was unavailable on the Lido deck or in its dining area during buffet meals, except at port stops. The common areas on board were typically very overcrowded, on-board entertainment was lame (except for 2 of the club acts) and the info regarding port stops was all & only about local shopping. That info was senselessly biased, and the skimpy destination info was generally inaccurate. The only procedure that worked was to buy the packaged excursions & be treated like cattle. Otherwise, just walk around in the overcrowded port towns - cabs often weren't even available due to cross-booking by under-equipped tour companies. I've worked in Alaska previously but my wife had never been. It was a pathetic shell of an 'Alaskan Experience' and more closely resembled a Disneyland 'North to Alaska' ride. And at each port there were from 4 to 6 large cruise ships, meaning an extra 6,000 to 10,000 tourists crammed into teeny towns that can barely serve their own needs. The Mendenhall Glacier visitor area was MORE crowded last week than Yosemite was last month. Unbelievable. Disgusting. Sad. I'm ashamed to have been a part of it. We will go to Alaska again, but will fly into a destination town (probably Kodiak) and arrange our own excursions in advance from there. Maybe take the train to Denali Park. But the current Alaska Cruise fervor is going to help destroy a beautiful place without even giving the participants the true experience of being there. Here's a quote from the AOL cruise boards: "I do agree, it's not for everyone. One more word--you have not "seen" Alaska if all you do is cruise the Inside Passage. That is a very true statement. Cruise Critic seems to have much better info, too bad we didn't find you before cruising! This negative experience may not prevent us from ever cruising again, but we will certainly be skeptical and check with you first.jnelson@open.orgOctober 2002 Read Less
Christmas Panama Canal Cruise December 19 - 29, 2000 Route: Ten-day cruise starting in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica - Nicaragua - Panama Canal - Aruba - St Thomas - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - Ft Lauderdale. 1. General Comments: A ... Read More
Christmas Panama Canal Cruise December 19 - 29, 2000 Route: Ten-day cruise starting in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica - Nicaragua - Panama Canal - Aruba - St Thomas - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - Ft Lauderdale. 1. General Comments: A great cruise, and my wife and I will gladly cruise again with Holland-America (HAL). This was our second cruise, and we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. The main reason for choosing this trip was for seeing the canal (I last saw it from a troop ship in 1965) and to enjoy the warm weather. We booked the cruise (C category cabin) early in the year, and this got us upgraded to a B-1 mini-suite with private verandah. This was most welcome for watching the canal. Early reservations also got us a table for two at the second seating. We chose the cruise-fly package offered, and it certainly saved grief in trying to make airline reservations over the Christmas-New Years holidays. We further chose the one day stopover in San Jose, Costa Rica before the day of the ship's departure. Traveling on December 18 turned into a godsend as our routing was through Atlanta. Atlanta had serious weather problems on the 19th. Passengers arrived at the ship literally ten minutes before departure time at Puerto Caldera. We delayed departures in Nicaragua and the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica as we were picking up further groups of passengers. Luggage was still being delivered as late as when the ship had cleared the canal and was preparing to sail to Aruba. 2. Travel to Costa Rica and Embarking: The flights to San Jose were uneventful and on time. We were met at the airport by the HAL contract company and bused to a pleasant hotel halfway between the airport and San Jose. What was left of the day was free. Bags were collected in the morning and the trip to the pier at Puerto Caldera was basically a scenic drive/tour. We drove around San Jose and stopped in two villages (one church and one ox-cart handicraft center) enroute. We arrived at the pier around 2PM, and check-in was a breeze. 3. The Amsterdam: The ship was very attractive, and the Christmas decorations were nice. Our cabin was comfortable for the two of us. There was plenty room for putting away clothes and suitcases. There was even good shelf space in the bathroom. An indication of the modern world is that the ship receives CNN International broadcasting -- in this case English language targeted at Brazil. Only in the Bahamas did we start receiving the US version of CNN. We also received a daily 8-page NY Times Fax newspaper. The ship has an Internet "cafe" arrangement where you can log on to your favorite ISP and check your e-mail or whatever. Cost was 75 cents a minute with a five minute minimum. Our friends and family got a kick out of receiving an e-mail while we were cruising from the canal to Aruba. The crew and staff were tops. Officers were Dutch, cabin and dining room stewards were Indonesian, and bar personnel were Filipino. Deck crew was also Indonesian. I think at least one of the kiosk salesmen was Russian. On our cruise we were around 1,400 passengers and 630 crew. While HAL appears to have a reputation for older folks, this was not the case for this Christmas cruise: there were around 160 children on board, and there was a good number of young adults as well. It was interesting to see the extended family groups (of at least three generations) on this cruise. As for mobility, there were as many baby strollers on board as there were wheel chairs and walkers. 4. Meals: We join other travelers who say that HAL food is excellent. We gained little weight on this cruise, not because of any food problem, but just plain old will power. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the dining room or cafeteria style in the Lido restaurant. The Lido was quite popular for these two meals, probably because one could pick and choose more easily. We did not try the "alternative" Italian restaurant, but it was quite popular and early reservations were needed. Dinner is the only meal with specified sittings in the dining room. The wine list is respectable. One has to marvel at the ability of the kitchen to prepare such a variety of meals offered at each dinner. Each seating is around 600 people sitting down at the same time for a full meal. No restaurant on land has such a capability. Portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The kitchen is quite prepared to handle special dietary requests. On one morning there is a quick walkthrough tour of the kitchen; we highly recommend it. The Lido Deck at poolside also runs a hamburger/pizza line for those who can't survive from lunch to dinner. 5. Dressing for Meals: For this ten-day trip it was three formal, three informal, and four casual. The ladies on board were all dressed well for the formal evening meals. While 90 percent of the men were in tuxedos or suits, I fail to see why ten percent could not at least bring a suit on board. If you can afford to take a cruise, you can afford to bring a suit, or rent a tux (this can be arranged through your travel agent). I heard one woman berating her husband because he had only brought "one white shirt" along. 6. Shore Excursions: HAL sent a booklet listing all their shore tours with details and prices, so you have a good idea what you want to do before ever arriving at the ship. You need to know what tours you want to take because the first evening on board there is a crowd booking tours, and some of the tours fill up rapidly. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. HAL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. There were no more spaces on the bus for our tour in St. Thomas, apparently because the tour company did not send enough minibuses. Along with profuse apologies from the ship's staff, we received a full refund on our tickets and a fifty percent refund on a tour we had ordered at the next stop, Half Moon Cay. This cruise first visited San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. This sleepy fishing village has no redeeming values other than being the starting point for tours to other parts of Nicaragua. Most people were still recovering from their travel to the ship and just wandered a bit around the village. For stamp collectors, the local post office does have a pretty good collection of current stamps for sale. The highlight of the tour was, of course, the passage through the Panama Canal. No matter what you've read in school books, this is worth seeing. The ship had a gentleman on board who gave three lectures detailing the canal. During the day-long passage a member of the canal administration announced noteworthy sights on the ship's speaker system. The stop at Aruba was a disappointment; it was Sunday and Christmas Eve. All the stores either closed at 2PM or were closed for the entire Christmas holiday. Also, Aruba is not Hawaii; it is flat and desert. Aruba has the second largest water desalinization plant in the world. An interesting place, but been there, done that. St. Thomas was a good contrast to Aruba. It was hilly, reminding of Hong Kong harbor. The shopping was interesting, and apparently there are plenty of sights to see, too. We were four ships in on that day, and the crowds showed in the downtown area. One person mentioned he was from the Carnival Triumph, carrying 3,400 passengers and a crew of 1,000. That was just too much ship. Taxi drivers said the next day there would be eight ships in port for the day. Young people especially enjoyed the stop at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Plenty of time to go swimming, fishing, snorkeling, etc. We were only two ships at this HAL-owned islet, but that made for some crowds at the food line. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, cards, bridge, bingo (for serious players)! etc, etc. The evening shows were pleasant and worth seeing, even if all of them were not of Las Vegas caliber. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was more expensive than in stores in St. Thomas, so you have to know your prices and not jump at the "cheap" prices on board. The liquor on board will be there long enough to do comparison shopping first on shore. You'll have plenty of pictures taken of yourselves by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. The library is well-stocked; there are plenty of nooks around for quiet reading. Those into the disco scene will enjoy the Crow's Nest on the 9th deck which runs into the "wee hours." 8. Tipping: Tipping is truly not required on HAL ships, but after reading the various views on the subject on the Net we made our own decisions: We tipped the cabin steward and the dining room steward. The "area" maitre'd and the assistant dining room steward received about half of what we gave the dining room steward. The wine steward received a rounded off 10-15% of the total wine bill. The bar waiters and waitresses received ca 10-15% of the bar bill. As we had four different bar waiters serving us during the cruise, this made for some "over payments," but it was nothing to worry about. We handed out tips the last night on board as you really don't see these people when disembarking. We would also say that the tips were received with a true "thank you." There was no hanging around looking for something. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. The day before the end of the cruise you receive a preliminary statement of your account. This gives you time to clear up any problems. At the beginning of the cruise you give the ship's front office an imprint of your credit card. In the morning before disembarking you receive a final statement and a copy of your credit card slip. Very painless. The only cash you need on board is for the casino and for some of their "gambling games" like bingo. Serious gamblers can authorize up to $500 a day charge on their account at the casino. You will also need cash for any tips you want to disburse. 10. Disembarking: One reviewer described this procedure as hurry-up and wait. Very true. Your bags have to be out by 2AM, breakfast is from 6 to 8, and you should be out of your cabins by 9. Your bags are color coded by the type and time of your onward transportation. However, waiting around in the comfort of one of the lounges on board is much preferable to sitting on the floor in the Delta terminal at Ft Lauderdale because we were three ships disembarking that morning. We were called to disembark, found our bags in the color coded area pierside, handed our bags in to the Delta counter at pierside, and were on the airport bus. This again is one of the benefits of using HAL's fly-cruise package. Airline personnel from Delta and USAir came on board to give out boarding passes and baggage tags. Once through this system, you don't see your luggage again until you arrive at your home airport. 11. Conclusion: The cruise was nearly flawless. HAL's experience shows and it was a pleasure to celebrate on board with them. HAL has a "frequent flier" program and two people on board must be among their star travelers: they each had over 700 days sailing with HAL. HAL must be doing something right, and we'll be back. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@aol.com.01/08/01 Read Less
CHRISTMAS, 2000 PANAMA CANAL CRUISE ABOARD THE MS AMSTERDAM. We booked this cruise in January of 2000. At that time the HAL brochure said all we needed was a certified copy of the birth certificate and a photo ID, the same that we ... Read More
CHRISTMAS, 2000 PANAMA CANAL CRUISE ABOARD THE MS AMSTERDAM. We booked this cruise in January of 2000. At that time the HAL brochure said all we needed was a certified copy of the birth certificate and a photo ID, the same that we had used on our other 7 cruises. When the tickets came, there was a note saying we would not get on the ship without proper documentation. I called our travel agent and, sure enough, we needed passports for this cruise. There was a great rush, but we got our passports in time. We left Tucson on Monday, December 18, the day before the cruise. We flew to Miami where we spent the night at the Miami Airport Hilton. Before we left the airport we checked in our luggage with the airline we were to use the next day. The airline was Miami Air but the plane was one from Planet Air. The next morning we got up and went to the airport and boarded the Planet Air plane. They served breakfast during the two and one half hour flight. We arrived in Liberia, Costa Rica, and got on a bus for the two and one half hour trip to the ship. The bus was not very comfortable. The seats were too close together so there was no room for my knees. It was a very long and tiring two days of travel for us. We were lucky we were not delayed by weather as many of the other passengers were. We spent a lot of time in the "hurry up and wait" mode. I do not know how HAL could have done better as they had so many passengers to deal with. We were glad we did the difficult portion of the traveling before the cruise as we had the cruise to look forward to. We knew we could recover on board. The ship was a welcome sight. She is beautiful and classy. The port, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, is nothing but a dock and a warehouse. It reminded me of the port in Seward, Alaska. When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we noticed that two of the padlocks were missing. When we opened up the suitcases we knew someone had gone through them. They had opened up a carton of cigarettes and taken two packs. They put a big greasy hand print on one of my white tops. I haven't been able to get it out yet. We had brought eight little boxes of chocolate for Christmas gifts. They unwrapped one of them and left it. Although this was an annoyance I was glad we heeded the warning to carry your medicine and your jewelry with you. At least one lady was not as lucky. She was filling out a claim form at the front office for jewelry that was stolen. We left about two hours later than scheduled as we had to wait for some passengers who were late. We picked up more passengers over the next two days. Many passengers had been delayed by winter storms. On day two, while we were cruising Golfo Dulce, a tender went to shore to pick up 19 passengers. We were wondering how they got out to where the ship could pick them up. Costa Rica does not have a lot of highways or public transportation that would get them to us. The first day of the cruise we were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Several tours were offered but each one required a one and one half hour bus ride to get to the place that is featured. After the long bus ride the day before, I was glad I did not take one of these tours. We were in Cabin 6173 on the Verandah Deck. The cabin was the same as on the Ryndam except the panel under the railing on the verandah is made of Plexiglas. You can see out while sitting in your chair. There is more space between the rail and the divider so you can more easily talk to the people next to you when you are both hanging over the rail. You can take out the back half of the barrier that is between the cabins. This would be great if you have a friend in the next cabin and want to talk or go between cabins without going out into the hall. The elevators on the ship have lots of mirrors. The first few days I would step back so the person in the elevator could get out. Then I realized that I was just seeing a reflection of myself in the mirrors. Once I got confident and walked right in I would run into someone coming out. Thank goodness they were not crowded very often. Others have written reviews about the look of the ship so I will not go into that. If you do not take a tour of the ship you want to stop by each of the pieces of art and read the plaque. That will give you some idea of its importance. Also, be sure to look for the little bear playing with the stick in the area of the Lido pool. We got up early to see the Panama Canal. They were serving "Panama rolls," coffee, and juice on the outside decks. They opened up the "crew only" area on the Promenade Deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to see the Canal. The Canal was as impressive as I thought it would be. There were lots of families on board. The children dominated the pools and the Jacuzzis. There were 168 children during this Christmas cruise and only 8 children the week before. Overall the children were well behaved. Santa came Christmas morning. He did not seem to like children, but the children liked the presents he brought for them. The Christmas dinner was good. I had the biggest lobster tail I have seen on any ship. My husband had the turkey dinner. He was disappointed as it did not taste like the traditional turkey, dressing, and gravy we get at home. We had dinner at the Odyssey Restaurant one night. We thought the food was better in the dining room. I had seen pictures of intimate tables for two nestled into a nook in the restaurant. The nook ended up being windows onto the inside hall. If you get one of those tables you also get everyone going by the restaurant stopping and checking out what you are eating. There were very few lines. If there was a line, as in the Lido during meals, they moved fast. They have the food arranged so you can enter the line at several places depending on what you want to eat. Our last stop was the private island, Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful. The water was too cold for us wimps from Tucson, but many people were swimming. We went on the Glass Bottom Boat tour and enjoyed it. They have some permanent buildings on the island such as a church, a bar, stores for souvenirs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, and a few others. The only problem was that the Volendam was there the same time we were. The island is perfect for one ship but was very crowded with two. We went to get some lunch and the line was so long, we didn't even try to get anything. All the chairs on the beach were occupied. I feel that HAL should re-think having two ships there at the same time. Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. I would highly recommend the itinerary and the ship. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Shipcruise@AOL.com.01/08/01 Read Less
We're home now, doing laundry and catching up on emails. I thought I'd post a review of my impressions of HAL, the ship and my very first cruise experience. HAL -- A well-oiled machine. Boarding was smooth and on time. We ... Read More
We're home now, doing laundry and catching up on emails. I thought I'd post a review of my impressions of HAL, the ship and my very first cruise experience. HAL -- A well-oiled machine. Boarding was smooth and on time. We cleared security and found our cabin. Our bags were already there. I called Information with a few questions. The nice young lady had my answers ready and was calm, polite and efficient. In fact, I had to ask very few questions due to the comprehensive information made readily available at every turn. The staff were wonderful. Harry in the Lido, Sinta and Teddy in La Fontaine and Ady of the bell staff really stood out. Our room steward Tutag seemed to have psychic abilities -- he anticipated our needs and we had to ask for very little. My knowledge of a few Indonesian phrases was greeted with surprise and delight. I could get very used to being "Madam Aanya". The food was very good. I had read a few reviews that lowered my expectations but I was surprised. The Lido is casual dining served cafeteria style, sure, but the food was better than "standard cafeteria fare". If Carpaccio Rolls with Celeriac Salad is your idea of standard cafeteria fare, I wanna know where you dine! I liked La Fontaine, too. An imaginative menu with lots of variation. I noted the clever vegetarian options. The ShipWe unpacked quickly and I was very impressed at the amount of storage we had in such a small space. Yes, I overpacked like a madwoman but you never know what the weather is going to do and I never know what I'm going to want to wear. I never felt crowded and packed in (except on the tender) despite knowing there were 1400 pax on board. There was a lot to do and I really appreciated that no one enforced any participation on me. I logged a fair number of sea miles asleep in the Crow's Nest in a comfy leather recliner and no one hassled me at all. I had read about the smoky nature of this ship and I was pleasantly surprised to find almost no smoking at all, except in the bars, casino and a small area poolside. Lovely! There were a great number of senior citizens on board. I thought the activities and options available to them were terrific. I would not hesitate to suggest that my parents, aged 83 and 72, head north with HAL. I had a small amount of seasickness. The Sea-Calm tabs they provide are very effective -- I took two the first time and ended up pretty sedated. We had 27-foot seas and a force 6 gale on Sunday night and overall more motion than I had expected. A completely Inside Passage cruise would have much less. What I didn't like -- Registering our credit cards at the Front Office was irritating -- we registered mine and had the Devil's own time getting my hub's card registered as well. The lady seemed determined to ignore us. Good thing I am not easily deterred. We had some creepy little kids on our cruise that vandalized the elevators. The little [darlings] were dumb enough to carve their own names into the brass plates. I heard their parents had to pay for the repairs. My husband wanted larger popcorn bags in the Wajang Theatre and I wanted larger coffee cups (to go cups) for the espresso drinks. I know -- small potatoes but I am from Seattle. We DID NOT like that there were a few common areas reserved for private parties over the course of the cruise. I'd wished that those events has been listed on the daily schedule so we'd know what to expect. My husband was turned away from the Crow's Nest one afternoon to accommodate one such party. A little notice ahead would have solved that. Will we cruise again? You bet! With HAL? Sure! Next cruise? Somewhere warm, so the hub can scuba dive. Thanks to all from [Cruise Critic] who provided me with terrific info and pointers before the trip -- they paid off well in knowing what to generally expect. Thanks and take care—AanyaOctober 2002 Read Less
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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