211 Holland America Amsterdam Cruise Reviews

This cruise was a "bucket list" cruise for my mother. I pushed my family into booking this cruise and I am so glad I did. I did lots of research before choosing Holland America for our Alaskan cruise (lots of research here on ... Read More
This cruise was a "bucket list" cruise for my mother. I pushed my family into booking this cruise and I am so glad I did. I did lots of research before choosing Holland America for our Alaskan cruise (lots of research here on Cruise Critic--thank you everyone!). It was my parents (ages 81 and 82) and my sister (55) and myself (50). From the first to the last the Amsterdam and her crew exceeded my expectations. The food, the ship, the rooms and room stewards--all fantastic. We had fantastic weather the entire cruise--in Juneau we even sunbathed on the Lido deck. The staff really made the cruise--from the dining room staff to the Lido buffet staff (who knew that at this buffet they actually carry your plate and find you a table?) to the room stewards (who I swear are lurking in the hallways just waiting to service your room) this cruiseline is fantastic. I was not expecting this level of service ( I have become accustomed to less than stellar customer service anywhere except Disney) and I was so amazed. To be fair, the evening entertainment was not as good as DCL or Princess but on an Alaskan cruise, you aren't there for the entertainment and most nights we were either turning in early or watching the late night sunset.This was an excellent cruise and I would cruise with Holland again. Thanks again to all the Cruise Critics who answered my questions and help me plan for each port. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Embarkation in Vancouver was a disaster with 6,000 passengers in the terminal being herded like cattle from one area to the next. Due to the time factor of separating passengers onto the 6 ships in port we unfortunately missed the ... Read More
Embarkation in Vancouver was a disaster with 6,000 passengers in the terminal being herded like cattle from one area to the next. Due to the time factor of separating passengers onto the 6 ships in port we unfortunately missed the welcoming Mariners' Lunch on board. Apart from this, we thoroughly enjoyed our 7 day cruise this year and could not fault the service on the smaller ship Amsterdam, even though it was a little older than the Noordam which we were on in 2012. A little on the downside was the cabin on deck 1 with only smallish windows, which we knew we would be getting as apparently every other outside cabin was booked, We tried before we left for an upgrade but there were none available. It was still very comfortable, although next time we would be booking a cabin with a balcony earlier in the year. The 2 stewards were super efficient and looked after us really well. Our meals were first class and the staff aimed to please again. We always had our table booked in the Vista Room for the same time each morning and evening. The entertainment on board was excellent. Unfortunately I fell down the stairs at one of the shows, tore my ligaments and the hospital doctor was so caring and attentive to my very swollen ankle. The treatment was excellent and also follow up care. Another amazing memorable cruise which we thoroughly enjoyed and will be booking again for a third one in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We arrived at Canada Place at 11:00am, went through security, and checked in with no issues. This took approx. 20 mins. We were hoping to get right on the ship as we have done in the past. We had to wait till about 11:40 before they ... Read More
We arrived at Canada Place at 11:00am, went through security, and checked in with no issues. This took approx. 20 mins. We were hoping to get right on the ship as we have done in the past. We had to wait till about 11:40 before they started to board. During check in, she told us that the repeaters lunch would be in the Fontaine dining room starting at 11:30am and would go until 1:30pm. We much prefer a nice sit down lunch to the chaos in the Lido. When boarding started we were one of the first ones on as we had booked a Deluxe Verandah Suite. The pursers were directing us to the Lido (8th floor) We told him we were going to the repeaters lunch. He responded by saying there in fact was no repeaters lunch and again told us to go to the Lido. Not quite believing him, we found our way to the dining room to see for ourselves and indeed, they were serving lunch. Sat down and had a wonderful lunch of shrimp cocktail, cream of broccoli soup and grilled salmon.After lunch we headed to our suite. Stateroom 7052. It was wonderful. Sitting area, large balcony, king sized bed and pull out couch. Nice sized dressing room w/sink, closets and separate bathroom with a shower. We had fresh flowers in the room and a bottle of champagne from the captain. We headed to the Neptune Lounge where they were serving champagne for disembarkation. We really liked the lounge as they had a concierge, all day snacks, mini sandwiches, cookies, wonderful coffee machine, hot tea, water, ice tea, and cranberry juice always available for those on the Suite/Penthouse level.3:15pm rolled around and everyone headed to the lifeboat drill. Having been through these a few times I was surprised to see they were actually taking roll call to make sure everyone was present and accounted for at their correct stations. If you were not there, you had to leave the ship. It took a bit longer with this process but I understand why they do it this way now considering what happened to the Costa Concordia.5pm exactly we pulled away from Vancouver headed to Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Even though it was a rainy day we still used the aft pool as the water temp was at least 100F. It felt like a huge hot tub. Despite the pictures posted here on Cruise Critic for the Amsterdam, there are no hot tubs at the aft pool. The only 2 hot tubs aboard are at the Lido pool.We arrived in Port Alberni and tendered into town. We walked around for about an hour and headed back to the ship. Not much to see there, a fish market, donut shop, some little touristy shops, a few places to eat. But they had a band playing in the square and the town did a really nice job making us feel welcome. We did not do any shore excursions here.We got a letter in our stateroom about going through customs in Seattle. Even though we were not getting off the ship in Seattle, everyone had to go through customs. This was a little irritating (but not the ships fault). We were hoping to sleep in and enjoy a nice relaxing day at the spa. They started calling people by the first letters of their last names at 8am. Since we had a suite we could leave the ship at anytime in the morning, but they would not let anyone back on the ship until everyone was off. We got off at 9:30am (when they were on the "Z"s), went into the building, waited in a bit of aline, got through customs fast, and we were directed to the waiting area to get back onboard. There were about 100 of us there. It would have been nice to have a huge urn of coffee, maybe someone walking around playing a guitar or violin. Something to think about since we were all kind of stuck there. We felt sorry for the people who actually got off at 8am and had to wait till 10:30am to get back on.Had a nice day in Seattle on the ship using the water treatment part of the spa. $20 charge for this. We enjoyed the steam room, rain showers, and mineral whirlpool. The heated loungers are always a nice treat!4pm rolled around and the ship switched from power at the pier to ship power. Well the ship totally lost power. The captain came on and said they were trying to solve the problem and would keep us updated. While waiting we took a walk around the ship to see what everyone was up to. Only 1 elevator was working. We walked up to the Crows Nest and people seemed to be in good spirits, still drinking and chatting. By this time they ship was out of power for about 2 hours. We walked past the front desk and there was a line of people complaining. 2 woman actually wanted off the ship. We heard rumors that sewage was seeping down the walls of some the 5th floor rooms. We had no problems. After about 2 1/2 hours we were plugged back into the pier and power came back on with the Captains apologies. We did not end up leaving Seattle till 10pm as they had to fix the breaker that blew. The power outage really did not effect us. It was not like we were in the middle of nowhere, we just could not flush our toilet, so we curbed our wine consumption for a couple hours. :) Some are so quick to panic.Entertainment on board was awesome. We had a magic show one night that was amazing! There was a movie theater but we didn't partake. We did however enjoy the "guess that tune" at the piano bar for 2 nights. The woman who was playing piano was awesome. She played sax as well! Very talented. And of course we always ended up in the Crows Next for dancing.Dining was wonderful. We did not have a bad meal while on board. We ate dinner in the Fontaine Dining room for 2 nights and on our last night at the Pinnacle Grill. The nice thing about the Fontaine Dining Room is that the portions are not huge, so you can easily enjoy a 5 course dinner. My sister asked for a grilled chicken breast on top of her pasta one night and they did it for her no problem. The waiters are really nice and make a point of getting to know your name. We did not hit the lido buffet once during the trip. We enjoyed room service breakfast in our stateroom every morning and tea sandwiches in the Neptune Lounge for lunch. We did, however, stop by the Lido pool one afternoon to grab some nachos. They have a window at the back of the Lido deck where you can order burgers, hot dogs, turkey burgers etc. Make your own nachos and cheese are an old time HAL fave. for us we couldn't pass up!The food at the Pinnacle Grill was fantastic and WELL worth the $25 charge. We noticed the portions were much larger here. Massive Jumbo Shrimp cocktail, and wonderful Thai coconut soup to die for. They do a ceasar salad tableside. My fillet was cooked perfectly as were the sides. (mushrooms and potatoes) a wonderful chocolate Grand Marnier dessert that was served warm...almost like a bread pudding. A nice touch that we were given a glass of free champagne that night after dinner as an apology from the Captain for the power outage earlier. **Note, plan on a long dinner here. Ours took about 3 hours, but we really liked the fact they were not rushing us and we could relax between courses. Service here was really great too.Drinks were great! On Holland America, you are allowed as much wine and champagne to bring on board as you like. So we did! We also bought a few mixed drinks. I enjoyed the "drink of the day" a few times. It was a dollar cheaper than the regular cocktails. I recommend trying a "Wang Wang" its not on the menu but just ask for one, and they will make it. Wow what a drink! In the main dining room, we just walked in with a full glass of wine from our stateroom and no one said anything to us about it.Disembarkation in Vancouver was well organized. We ordered our last room service breakfast and left the ship at 9:30am. There was no line to get off. Canada Place was especially busy as it was the first day of Alaska season and there were 3 ships in that day including ours.All in all a great little getaway. I wish HAL did this little 3 day cruise more that once a year! We are already planning to make this a yearly girls trip.Thank you Holland America! Hope to be on board again before next year!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the ... Read More
The ports on the Pacific were fine but the main event for this trip was the fantastic experience of transiting the Panama Canal. Reading about the canal in advance will really help one enjoy the trip more and seeing it from early in the morning, when we turned out at 4:30 am so as not to miss anything, is the way to start the day. With a ship in front of us and one behind us, the day's journey through the locks and across the long lake and river were fascinating, a trip back one hundred years and crossing from one great ocean to another with time for lunch and a nap in between! The dreaded bug was present on the ship and the staff exercised extreme diligence in serving at the Lido, which is all the better, given the sanitary habits of some folks, I far prefer to have the staff give the extra service, which they did with enthusiasm and courtesy. The food was wonderful at Lido and especially in the main dining room. The elegance of the ship is fitting for another era and a relief from some of the more glitzy venues on the high seas today. The specialty dining room was worth the upgrade fee and we enjoyed it immensely. The computer lessons were well-attended as the geezers have finally figured out that its time to learn how to use those infernal devices. The speaker on the ship was entertaining and we really enjoyed the various shows and bar lounge entertainers. Aruba and Curasau were wonderful to visit and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Both security and check in were accomplished quickly and efficiently. We were able to board at 11:30 and our rooms were ready by then. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. Unfortunately the Mariners' lunch was over in the ... Read More
Both security and check in were accomplished quickly and efficiently. We were able to board at 11:30 and our rooms were ready by then. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. Unfortunately the Mariners' lunch was over in the dining room and it was being used for some visiting travel agents but the Lido was open and not crowded. The first 48 hours our food was served to us in the Lido. This was managed quite well and we never encountered any lines or any problems, neither then nor once we were able to serve ourselves. The mandatory safety drill went off without a hitch. We waited until about 5:20 pm before we left because some people were delayed boarding. They must have had HAL flights. Our sail away was smooth and the sun was shining in Seattle. The sun then went away and did not reappear until we were leaving Tracy Arm. The fog followed us every morning, however. We had mostly cool, cloudy weather for the whole trip, luckily no rain except for a brief shower in Homer. The crew is as friendly as HAL crews always are. Our stateroom attendants (1841, Dolphin Deck) are Aris and Tedi and they are doing a great job, although I do believe they have more staterooms than normal. Just one of the cutbacks. The Cruise Critic meet and greet was well attended and we have seen each other around the ship and in port. It was great fun meeting the people that have been conversing on the roll call. The Cruise Director, Michael Harvey, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, was there for most of the time. The Hotel Manager, Henk Mensink, came by briefly, as well as another officer. The question posed to the Hotel Manager was why HAL was dropping the 14 day cruises and the honest answer from him was that it was financial -- the 7 day cruises earn them more money. I hope they arrange the 7 day cruises so that some of the ports visited on the 14 day cruise continue to be on the itinerary. This was my first time arranging a meet and greet and I was very satisfied with what Holland America did to accommodate us. I hope to be able to arrange more meet and greets on other cruises with HAL. Entertainment: Amsterdam Singers and Dancers -- Day 2, Dancing Under the Stars was well done. The Neptunes -- Jazz trio, not bad. Piano Bar -- Roy Kassel Kat and the HALcats -- not bad Jeff Tracta -- comedy, singing and impressions, OK Guitarist -- Inbar We did not go to most shows, just a matter of choice, but we did listen to all the performers at one time or another. Filipino crew show was well done as was the Indonesian crew show. Food : always subjective. We were very happy with the choices -- good variety. The presentation is also excellent. The wine steward has appeared every night and even though we didn't order wine, he was quite friendly and kept appearing (Erwin). The new vegetarian menu which HAL emailed about has not started yet but there were enough choices on the current vegetarian menu and the daily menu to satisfy my BIL. We had ordered a bottle of whisky as an indulgance and it was in our stateroom when we arrived. And yes, the bottles are one liter sizes and actually an excellent value for Canadians considering our booze prices at home. Formal nights were Day 1 Sea Day, Day 5 Icy Strait Point, Day 9 Kodiak, Day 12 Sea Day. The rest were smart casual. Day 11, Sitka, was the International Dinner. The menu was interesting but we ate in the Pinnacle Grill that night to celebrate DH's birthday. Our waiters in the dining room were very attentive and remembered our desires after the first night. They had olive oil for dipping waiting for my BIL and water,no ice, for my SIL. We bought no ship excursions so I cannot comment on any of them. In Juneau we took the Blue Bus out to the Mendenhall and that worked well for us. It is $16 round trip per person and we boarded and disembarked right at the ship. All the rest of the ports we simply walked around and visited various sites in town. Wifi -- Free wifi with purchase at Ketchikan Charter boats right out front of the ship. Fairly fast and the coffee wasn't bad. Free at the Juneau Public Library, after 11 am. It was slow once more people showed up to use it but it served my purposes well. I wrote my blog page every night and only posted when I was able to access free or reasonably priced wifi. Wifi at the Starbucks near the Egan Center was very fast for the price of a coffee. Wifi at McDonalds in Kodiak would have been good if they had not been down. McDonalds is easy to find, about 1.5 miles from the ship on level ground. Sitka had free wifi all over town, courtesy of Radio Shack but the best place for access was in the library since it was also warm. Next time I will purchase an internet package. I did all my blog pages offline and would not have needed too many minutes just to post them even at the slow speed on the ship. General -- We enjoyed Icy Strait Point immensely. The display in the old cannery was well done, the shops had some unique Made in Alaska gifts and the people were very friendly. If you come here in the next couple of weeks, make sure you check out the native carving project. It is taking place in the grey metal building across the street from the Presbyterian church and the town shuttle drop and pick up area. It is not well marked but very worthwhile looking for. The carvers are working on a screen, house poles and totem poles for the tribal house to be placed at the entrance to Glacier Bay. The screen is pretty much finished and the house poles are being worked on. You can check out the website, too, on Facebook. Search for Glacier Bay National Park Tribal House project. The presentation was well thought out and very informative and when it was finished, the two carvers and a tour guide did the dance that will be used when the house screen is dedicated at Glacier Bay. My least favorite port was Kodiak -- this would be a port for a tour. The ship is in on a Sunday and not much is doing. We did visit the Russian Orthodox church. Kodiak did have a free shuttle into town, on a school bus, but I am not sure were the drop and pick up points were. The Mariners' Lunch was done in stages. My SIL and BIL who are two star mariners went for 11 am on the 22nd and we, who are one star, were invited for 1 pm on the same day, (last sea day). We enjoyed ourselves and met 3 other couples who were also having a great cruise. The Yum Yum man has been available every night after dinner. In fact, if you dine on Deck 4 and Victor is the Yum Yum man, say hi to him from Madame Eva!! He will love it. He has taken us under his wing at breakfast and knows, not only our names, but also what we eat and drink. As another cost cutting measure, the port pages that have been traditionally passed out at the gangway or left in the room each evening have been consolidated into an Explorer book that is in each cabin. The front page lists the ports and the dress for each evening and then each port has at least one page devoted to it. I actually like this much better since you can plan ahead a port or two. I am sure this saves them a lot of paper and ink. We did get a page for Icy Strait, but I think they must have had some stock left for that since it was the only port where we got a separate page. This is a win for all, as far as I am concerned. On the second last day, one section of the ship had problems with the toilets -- some pipes in the bowels (pardon the pun) of the ship started leaking. Captain Mercer acknowledge the issue in his noon message, explained what was going on and approximately when the staff expected the issue to be resolved. This was a bold move and from what I could tell, well received. Always better to know than to guess. Those cabins that were affected for several hours were sent a bottle of wine for their troubles. I nice gesture, I thought. In general, though, there were no issues with toilets or with air conditioning or heat, which we actually needed more than air!! Alaska after all!! We had an excellent cruise as did my SIL and BIL and those of our meet and greet that I met around the ship. I am already looking forward to the next time I can be on a Holland America ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was our 8th cruise but our first on Holland America, and for the most part, it was fabulous. The Amsterdam is a smaller ship than we are accustomed to, but it was not crowded at all, and the level of service was much higher than ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise but our first on Holland America, and for the most part, it was fabulous. The Amsterdam is a smaller ship than we are accustomed to, but it was not crowded at all, and the level of service was much higher than expected. We flew into Seattle the day before, stayed at a hotel near the airport and took the light rail for $2.75 each into the city (Westlake station)where we found a cab which for $10 took us to Pier 91. Boarding was painless. We were in our stateroom by 11:30. Lunch was served on Lido deck and was very good. When we got back to our room, our luggage was there. The ship is very clean and well maintained with the exception of the plumbing. Our toilet did not function intermittently for the better part of two days, and we had to plan to use public facilities on Decks 3, 5, or Lido, even early morning or late at night. We complained to guest relations and got a cold brush off. Captain Mercer offered an apology on August 22 in an intercom announcement, and some guests, including friends of ours, received a letter of apology and a bottle of wine in recompense. We did not receive anything, and frankly, this exacerbated the "bad smell" associated with the issue. We have since sent a letter to Holland Guest Relations. Please keep in mind that this is a relatively tiny issue, and we love the ship, the staff and the cruise. Overall, food was excellent. We did late seating diner in the Dining Room every evening. Food and service were wonderful. I am on a gluten free diet, and all my meals were given special attention to assure my needs were met. I thought the soups were unusually imaginative and delicious. And by chance, we were assigned really great table mates who became our friends. Lobster was on the menu twice, and these folks know how to do lobster. Also, I ordered wine by the glass a few times, and it was always very good. We did some lunches in the dining room and some on the Lido with good results. We tried breakfast in our room once, and it was fine with eggs over easy, bacon, juice, etc. The omelet station on Lido was super with custom omelets to suit any taste. And the dining room breakfast was extra special but took longer. I loved the German made fine china and real silver plate flatware used in the dining room. We did not use the Pinnacle Restaurant but heard very positive reviews from other guests. Since we ate late for diner, we sometimes stopped by the fast food grill for an excellent hamburger with the trimmings and fries that were extra good. There is an Italian restaurant on board at no extra charge, but we ran out of time before we could try it. One night, there was a dessert extravaganza. We looked at this feast for the eyes but did not eat. Entertainment was very good and there was a wide variety. Main evening shows included typical musical reviews, a magician, voice imitator, ventriloquist, and passenger talent. We enjoyed them all. There was live music in many areas. A Hungarian trio performed classical, and there was a folk singer I particularly liked, as well a the piano man, and a band. The swimming pools were warm and deep. We tried shuffle board too. The Cruise: Ketchikan is touristy, but we like it. We took a city bus to Totem Bight State Park many miles north of the town. There were displays of totem poles and a reconstructed lodge and a rocky beach. After an hour or so, we caught the return bus. The bus was full of fellow cruisers from other ships and some locals. We learned a lot. In town, we walked the streets and visited shops, saw a log rolling , salmon streams, and took advantage of coupons for bargain hoodies and caps at Tongass Trading Co. Tracy Arm is one of the most beautiful places I have been. We saw two bears on the shore and enjoyed the fantastic scenery on the way to the Sawyer Glacier. In front of the glacier on the floating ice were hundreds of seals. The glacier was beautiful and blue and cold. The captain opened the front deck for viewing, and the staff dished out bowls of Dutch pea soup to help keep us warm. Juneau is the state capital and survives on the business of Government. We caught a tour bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. Wonderful trip and beautiful glacier, you should be sure to stop at the Forestry Visitor Center and take a walk to the waterfall. Also, it is a good place to observe bears, although we just missed them. Back in town, we walked to the Russian Orthodox Church and bought a Christmas ornament icon of St Nicholas at the gift shop staffed by the priest and his small children. The state Capitol building is an old office building left over from the territorial administration, but we took the official tour and gained an understanding of Alaskans' view of government. You can get free WIFI at the library or even from the ship if it is tied up near the library. Hoonah was fascinating. It is real Alaska. A village of 800 people, we walked into town, stopped in the store and marveled at the high prices for food items, talked with the locals, walked the Orthodox Cemetery, and sat at the pier where we watched a humpback whale play in the harbor. I got terrific photos of the whale showing us bubble net fishing techniques. There was another whale giving a show at the cannery pier (or maybe it was the same whale). We saw dozens of whales in Icy Straight, mostly in the form of "There she blows." Anchorage is a big city. On the advice of friends who live there, we rented a car and drove north for three hours through Wasilla, Willow and to Talkeetna, which is a prime view point for Mt. McKinley. Talkeetna is a cute little town, and the river there is a good place to walk, but the mountain itself was covered by clouds. We took pictures of where it would have been and took off south. We ate lunch at Cubbies Grocery store to get a local taste. Then we stopped at a farmers market in Willow meeting locals, including a woman who told us she had seen a Bigfoot in the area. (In Alaska this was perfectly believable). The Salvation Army store in Wasilla was worth the stop. The people there knew Sarah Palin and her family and had some good deals on Alaskan souvenirs. On the drive back we saw a serious traffic accident and Alaska State Troopers in action. We got back to Anchorage in time to stroll around downtown before returning to the ship. On the cruise to Homer, I got up for sunrise and had the good fortune to see a couple of the active volcanoes in the area, the symmetrical cone of Redoubt and the tower of Iliamna. Homer itself is a drinking town with a fishing problem as they say. We spent $15 each for the bus pass to see the sights. We had fun at Ulmer's store, stopped at a rummage sale and a garage sale to talk to the folks there. We went to the museum, which is fine, and walked a nature trail to the beach. On the spit, I found a charter boat that promised four hours of Halibut fishing for $95. This is a fraction of the price of the ship excursion, but we had run out of time. So, next time, I will call ahead. Kodiak is a very special place and not at all what we expected. It is an emerald island. We shared a rental car with friends and drove south on the limited roads. We hoped to see bears, but none appeared. On the way, we passed some scattered buildings and a few cattle ranches with pastures dotted with cottonwood trees that reminded us of Kansas. Near the end there is a coal black beach called Surfers Beach where we saw cars with surf boards but no one in the water. Most strange was the Kodiak Launch Site, an abandoned ballistic missile base that made for some eerie photos. Back in town, we went to the Russian Church. Following a day a sea, we saw Hubbard glacier. It is like a living thing, advancing, big and noisy. The ice is unbelievably blue and cold. There seemed to be constant calving activity, and we spent many hours mesmerized watching it. You have to see it to understand. Sitka is a fishing town. It is the site of the Baranof Castle where Alaska was transferred to America. We recommend a trip to the Fortress of the Bear, a worthwhile organization that saves orphaned bear cubs, and you will see bears. After hearing bad reviews on the seafood restaurants, we tried Agave Mexican where were served by authentic Alaskan Natives with decent food. St Michael's Orthodox Church gift shop is the place to buy a St. Michael's Christmas ornament. Also, the Lutheran Church is great for use of the restroom and a sale on homemade salmonberry jelly. We picked up some last minute gifts for relatives at the Ben Franklin Store and tendered back to the ship. Victoria is a place we love having visited it twice before. Most of our time was spent at Buchart Gardens and the harbor area. Nice place. Overall,it was a terrific cruise, and despite the plumbing issues, we would not hesitate to sail on Holland again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was wife and my second cruise and longest cruise. We came with the idea we would not take explorations, but would spend our time getting to know the port towns we visited.The msAmderstam from Holland America was a perfect ship for ... Read More
This was wife and my second cruise and longest cruise. We came with the idea we would not take explorations, but would spend our time getting to know the port towns we visited.The msAmderstam from Holland America was a perfect ship for this cruise. Not too big or too small. At 1300-1400 guests, a comfortable size for our first long cruise. We departed and returned to Seattle with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait, Tracy Arm glacier, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak Island and Victoria before returning to Seattle. Here's what we liked: food and especially the Canaletto (Italian) evening dinners. The La Fontaine also was nice (we went whenever we were ready). The Ledo buffet was convenient but not up to the quality of the others. The deserts were OK, nothing to write home about (that didn't stop us from eating them though). The ship board entertainment in the lounges was excellent. We saw several excellent movies. The stage shows were entertaining. We especially enjoyed the Karaoke nights and the Talent show (Bob is a singer and participated in both). Cabin service was excellent and overall general friendliness of staff was excellent. We really enjoyed Park West art auctions-we did by several art pieces. We were initially worried about bed/pillow comfort but both were excellent. The cabin was nicely outfitted and dark with plenty of storage space. Only one outlet but power strips were available. Self-service laundry on each level provided detergent as part of fee, no need to have brought our own soap. Enjoyed meeting other CruiseCritic sailors during Roll Call-than you Karen. Nice gym. Enjoyed Juneau as we had friends in port who could give us the Juneau points of interest tour. Kodiak Island very interesting due to Russian Orthodox church and chapel conversations with seminary student. Anchorage is a beautiful city. Was able to find free Internet in each port as well as Sprint cell service. At Homer, we got off and then immediately back on the ship as the weather was horrible and town not much to see. Here's what could have been improved: the weather was ghastly (except Anchorage and Victoria (think rain and cold-we realize that is out of the control of Holland America). Regarding ports, both Icy Strait and Homer was a waste of time, would have like more time in Anchorage or cruising Glacier bay. A 15% service charge was added to beverage services even if you bought an empty coffee logo mug, and in addition to the daily suggested gratuity automatically added to the bill. Internet service on board was expensive and I heard complaints about slowness of speed and connectivity. We're glad we did Alaska as this was really an experiment on our part to see if we like cruising. WE DO and enjoy Holland America and look forward to future cruises with them. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
The Ship We were on the Rotterdam in 2010, so the Amsterdam felt very familiar to us. It was a quick walk from end to end, and felt small having just been on the Eurodam in September. I was impressed with how stable she felt even on the ... Read More
The Ship We were on the Rotterdam in 2010, so the Amsterdam felt very familiar to us. It was a quick walk from end to end, and felt small having just been on the Eurodam in September. I was impressed with how stable she felt even on the days when we had slightly rougher sea conditions. Overall we found the Amsterdam to be in pretty good shape and kept clean. Every day the crew were out painting, washing and maintaining the ship. I did like that they still had an aft pool as opposed to the retreat pool that was on the Rotterdam. The Cabin For this trip we decided to try an HH fully obstructed ocean view on the Lower Promenade deck. We chose HH3384 (instead of taking a chance on a guarantee) because we liked its location, close to both the aft and mid ship elevators/stairs and with quick access to the walking deck (the largest balcony on the ship). The cabin was small, but well laid out, though I think we lost a small amount of space due to this being a connecting cabin with HH3382. It was just fine for 2 people, with lots of storage space under the bed for our large suitcases (with carry-on packed inside) and plenty of space for all of our clothing, we even had bedside drawers (big enough for laptops) with keyed locks. There was a small love seat, which we never did sit on, but instead used to store our large camera backpacks. My only real complaint about this cabin was that we only had one awkwardly placed wall plug-in above the desk, that when used with a camera charger would turn on and off the lights, due to the charger hitting the adjacent switch. I think it would have been nice to have another plug-in somewhere, near the bed perhaps (we did look but didn't find one). **A word of warning for those considering this cabin (or adjacent cabins), we did experience noise from the main galley overhead, which usually stopped by midnight and started again around 5am, overall it really didn't bother us, but it could be a problem for some.** The Entertainment We didn't go to any of the HAL shows, we only saw performances by the guest entertainers. Our favourite was Jeff Tracta and his singing/impressions. We found the ventriloquist to be just OK. We really enjoyed Benji Hill's 'dangerous' stuff comedy show. George Kanter the comedian was good also. We were really impressed by Chris Michaels' show, playing all of the different 'instruments'. The Food We had breakfast in the lido everyday and lunch there most days. We found the variety of food great, with taste ranging from good to very good. The selection of fruit was good, but unfortunately they ran out of pineapple on day 4, so that was a bit of a disappointment as it is one fruit I rarely have at home and it is always so tasty!! We enjoy open dining so we are free to vary the time we want to eat based on our plans for the day, some nights we ate at 5:15pm and some nights at 8:30pm. We had a table for 2 each night without making reservations and our longest wait time was no more than 5min. We ate dinner most nights at the MDR, but had three in the Canaletto (still no charge) and a couple in the lido (when we just felt too tired to dress up). We found the food in the Canaletto very good and the service was great. A few times throughout the cruise we found ourselves coming back on board between the lido's lunch and dinner hours, so we had a snack at the Terrace Grill, the tacos, burgers, and hot-dogs were good, we did not try the pizza. The desserts as always were to die for!! We are from Vancouver BC, so we took the 6:40am Amtrak Train southbound to Seattle the morning of our cruise instead of spending a night in a hotel. We have done this in the past and found it to be very convenient, arriving at the Seattle station about 11:15am, with a short cab ride to Pier 91. The embarkation process was very quick and we were checked in and in our cabin by 12:15pm. We had a cloudy evening for sail away, followed by quite a nice sea day on our way up the west side of Vancouver Island. We spent most of the day out on deck enjoying the fresh air and the abundance of wildlife (birds, whales, dolphins, etc). Ketchikan Having been to Ketchikan a few times, we planned to walk around town for a few hours (unless the weather was nice, then we would take the Deadliest Catch tour again as we really enjoyed it in 2010). Well, not surprisingly, the weather was quite wet in Ketchikan, so after a few hours of strolling around town we returned to the ship and had a relaxing afternoon. That evening, at the entrance to the MDR, there was a Canada Flag and a cake to celebrate Canada Day, a nice touch by HAL. Tracy Arm We woke up to a somewhat mixed bag of weather for our scenic cruising in Tracy Arm. We saw many humpback whales and even some Orcas fairly close to the ship in the few hours before we entered Tracy Arm. It was a very cool day on deck, but other than a few very quick showers, the weather held off long enough for us to enjoy a wonderful day in Tracy Arm. We were lucky with the ice conditions and made it all the way to the end, where we got very close to Sawyer Glacier. I was impressed by Tracy arm, it was our first time there and I loved it. After leaving Tracy Arm, we made our way up towards Juneau where we anchored for the night in Stephens Passage. Juneau Juneau continued with the trend of overcast conditions, and once again, we had no big plans other than to take the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier for a hike. We enjoyed a nice hike out to the waterfall and then hiked one of the shorter loop trails, just missed a close encounter with a bear, but did see a porcupine in a tree. After a couple hours we made our way back to walk around town and do some quick souvenir shopping. Before we boarded the ship, we headed over to Tracy's Crab Shack for an ice cold Alaskan beer and some very tasty crab cakes! As we sailed out of Juneau (10pm), some of the locals who live along the waterfront put on a display of fireworks as each shipped passed in front of their houses, which was neat to watch. Icy Strait Point We headed off the ship around 9am on the tender. At the tender dock, we made our way up the very steep ramp where we had a look through the interesting cannery building. There is a shuttle to town ($8pp round trip), but in case anyone is wondering for future cruises, one-way tickets are only available for purchase in town ($5pp) for the return bus back to the tender pier. We found this a bit strange, no one way ticket to town available for those who already had a ride back to the pier pre-arranged. It was a nice enough day so we chose to walk along the seawall path to town. This is where our fun really begins! We pre-booked a whale watch tour with Misty Bay lodge for 11:30am, so after a walk around town to check out the eagle's nest we checked in at the lodge. We then headed down to meet our Captain (Dan) at the dock, turns out some fellow CC'ers were on the first tour and had a great time! We happened to be the only ones booked on the later tour, so we got a total private tour with Hope and Dan. I can't say enough about how great they were. We saw plenty of whales and their boat was very comfortable. I would highly recommend Misty Bay! We made sure we were on deck to watch for whales after the sail away (until we entered the Gulf of Alaska) and we were rewarded for this with many humpbacks and even a few Orcas coming very close to the ship. The ship and its crew were decorated in Red, White and Blue for the 4th of July BBQ which was also a nice touch. Anchorage After a full day at sea crossing the Gulf of Alaska, overcast weather greeted us as we arrived in Anchorage, however it quickly brightened up and turned into a nice day. We took the HAL shuttle bus to Egan Center (about a 10min ride), as you cannot walk in and out of the port at Anchorage. From Egan center we walked a couple blocks over to Hertz, where we had pre-arranged a rental car for the day. We decided to drive out to Point Woronzof for an overview of the city, where we happened to see a moose. From here we headed to Kincaid Park for an hour walk in hopes of seeing more moose, unfortunately no luck. We took the Seward highway to Portage, then drove through the Conservation center before making our way back toward Anchorage. After dropping off the car, we spent a little time on the wifi at Starbucks beside Egan center, then caught the shuttle back to the ship. Free wifi is also available at the visitor center during operating hours. Anchorage is a place I would really like to return to, as I feel like even with a long day in port we barely scratched the surface of what we could do here. After our 11pm departure we decide to stay up and take a 'midnight photo' to show our friends at home just how light out it is at this time of year, amazing! Homer With no real plan in place for our time in Homer, we headed off the ship and onto the free 'Spit Shuttle' for a look around. After a short walk, we returned to the pier and took the $15pp hop-on hop-off bus to town so we could check out some shops and go to the Time Bandit store. IMO, it was a waste of $30. I think it was poorly organized and the stops were very poorly placed. There was really not much to see and most people seemed to want to stop at the Time Bandit store which was quite a walk from stop #4. It was OK for us, but for anyone with a mobility issue it was very a long walk. The school buses were in rough shape and the drivers didn't seem to have any local knowledge. A couple times we asked for information on how to get to places and these 'locals' didn't have any idea. Needless to say we were very disappointed and those on this itinerary in the future need to be aware of this. Anyways, enough ranting about that! When we returned on the ho-ho bus, we headed back out to the end of the spit on the free bus. From here we decided we'd had enough of buses for the day and would walk back to the ship. We walked along the beach a ways, grabbed a lunch of Halibut and chips (which was excellent) and then had a leisurely walk by the fishing boat docks back to the ship. This would be a great walk for anyone looking for close-up eagle photos, they were everywhere! Especially near the cleaning station, where the fishermen clean their catch, beside the boat ramp. Kodiak Well, we finally woke up to a spectacular sunrise, but unfortunately it was short lived and the cloud cover rolled in. Kodiak is where we had planned our one BIG excursion of the trip, so we were very excited for the day ahead, bear viewing with Sea Hawk Air. We were off the ship at 7:25am to meet our van pickup at 7:30, they were right on time. After a slight delay trying to clear up some confusion with other cruisers (who 'tentatively booked' with Sea Hawk, but then actually booked with another company), we were off to meet our seaplane. Fortunately for us, because of this confusion, it ended up being just the two of us on this tour, so we boarded the plane with our pilot Willie and off we went to the Katmai Coast. What a spectacular day it was, the stunning scenery on the flight alone was worth it! We saw plenty of bears up close, and as a bonus, elk, humpback and fin whales, from the air. The bears were so cooperative we didn't even have to get off the pontoon of the plane, except to explore the beach!! We spent most of our time sitting on the pontoons or standing in knee deep water photographing the bears while they foraged and dug for clams on the beach. After a successful day, we had the best homemade box lunch ever to enjoy on the flight home. I can truly say this was the highlight of our trip and Sea Hawk Air did a fantastic job, I would fly again with them in a heartbeat! Hubbard Glacier After crossing back across the Gulf of Alaska, we made our way into Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier. It was partly cloudy and due to favourable ice conditions we were able to make it very, very close to the face of the glacier. We were treated to some calving and even though I have seen it before I am still amazed by the impressive size and blue color of Hubbard Glacier! Sitka It was a gloomy looking day ahead of us in Sitka, with no excursion plan. We headed to shore on an early tender and walked to the Sitka Sound Science Center for a brief walk through. From here we continued on to the totem park and then to the Raptor Center, which was really neat. On the way back we walked through the park again and then along the beach to explore the tide pools. After some shopping in town we made it back to the tender area under the O'Connell Bridge just in time to take shelter from an absolute downpour! Dessert extravaganza night was fantastic as always, with some amazing displays of culinary talent from the crew. I am glad to see it has been gradually scaled down from what it was 5 years ago when we first cruised, I hate to see waste. Finally, a sunny day, at sea as we make our way back along the West side of the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island. A great day on deck watching whales, where at some points we were able to see 4-5 surface at once. Looks like favourable weather for our day in Victoria. Another beautiful sunset! Victoria Welcome to 70+ degree weather, a beautiful 'shorts' day in Victoria! We decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk from the ship to town. Victoria is close to home for us, we visit often, so planned a low key day, a visit to the museum and Imax theatre. We walked back to the ship for dinner and then decided to walk the breakwater at Ogden Point to catch the sunset. For sail away at 11pm we headed to the crows nest for one last happy hour and were treated to a spectacular lightning storm! We had requested a later disembarkation time as we were getting picked up by family at the pier, so we headed off the ship at 9:15am. It was a breeze getting of the ship, going through immigration and getting our bags. We certainly met many interesting people from all over the world on this trip and hope everyone had safe travels back home. It is a shame they are discontinuing this itinerary, we had a wonderful time and it was the best trip we have had to Alaska yet! I don't think the 7nighters will cut it any more :) Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Excellent cruise experiences on this 14 day Alaskan Explorer adventure. With my disabilities there had been some physical and logistic concerns prior to the cruise that were totally alleviated throughout this experience. My husband ... Read More
Excellent cruise experiences on this 14 day Alaskan Explorer adventure. With my disabilities there had been some physical and logistic concerns prior to the cruise that were totally alleviated throughout this experience. My husband is a photographer, and even though it rained 12 of the 14 days he managed to take almost 3, 000 pictures. I have some disabilities and was really fortunate to find very attentive and helpful staff when departing and returning to the ship as well as during the dining experiences in Lido or La Fontaine Dining Room. The cruise critic group on this cruise gathered in the Crow's Nest at the beginning of the cruise and had a group picture near the conclusion of the cruise, arranged by luvteaching. Special thanks to her for making these arrangements. The cruise captain, cruise director, and manager came to both gatherings and willingly answered our many questions. As expected the travel was a little rough with high wind and waves in the Pacific between Icy Strait Point and Anchorage, Kodiak and Hubbard Glacier, and between Sitka and Victoria. Fortunately I had learned from cruise critic prior to the trip that Ginger Root 550 mg beginning a few days before the cruise and continuing throughout the cruise would help with gastrointestinal symptoms with lasting potential physical problems from other commonly used over the counter or prescribed medications. From the Indonesian Crew, Elie, Dwi, and Victor were exceptionally helpful in the dining rooms. All crew staff members that I encountered were friendly, courteous, and accommodating. Our dining experiences were mostly limited to the Lido for breakfast and lunch and the La Fontaine Dining Room for dinner. We enjoyed the breakfast egg choices, and lunchtime individualized sandwich combinations. The appetizer, soup and salad, entrees and dessert choices in were always interesting. I especially enjoyed the chilled mixed berry and strawberry soups, lobster, salmon and baked Alaska choices. Since food could not be taken off the ship, we had brought a supply of packaged peanut M & Ms that were a big help from my husband's frequent snack habits. During the Captain's Welcome and the Mariner's Champagne Brunch we met some very interesting travelers, and had good food. The afternoon teas in the La Fontaine Dining Room provided an opportunity to try a variety of teas and foods. When possible to attend sessions on the ship with the captain, April, Patti, Jeanette or the cruise director they were found to be interesting as well as informative. I really enjoyed learning to make a box, carve veggies into decorative shapes, use Windows 7, the Introduction to the Cloud and Camera Basics. Two of my favorite experiences were learning about Alaska Natives Culture and history, and playing trivia. The talented and energetic cast of 8 who sang and danced in the Queen's Longue after dinner were very entertaining. Jeff Tracta's impersonations and inspirational life story were amazing and greatly enjoyed. Libraries in most of the sites visited had computers with free internet access when time allowed visiting. Even though it rained 11 or our 14 days, we were prepared by using Camp Dry to prepare hats, coats, slacks, shoes, etc. before the trip. With much of our time in the "rain forest" of Alaska, we expected some rain, but not quite as much as occurred. We were not quite prepared for the very cool temperatures but were able to purchase warm clothing. Shore excursions are the opportunities that really help one experience and remember their time in Alaska. Prior to this cruise we spent a lot of time carefully considering various options for each port and the following are those we selected for this 14 day trip. In Ketchikan we selected the Ketchikan Taxi Cab Tour with Kat and Dave and found it very interesting and geared toward whatever the passenger (in this case my photographer husband) was most interested in seeing. We saw many eagles and their nests, visited Potlash Park, Rainbow Falls, as well as a popular fishing camp in the area. We saw many interesting totem poles and had an explanation about totem poles. Price of this tour was $74 per hour for the vehicle which could have held up to 6 people who could have then divided that $74 per hour. We could not locate other travelers who were interested, so had the tour to ourselves and all our questions. The tour was well worth its cost. In Juneau we took the AAA recommended Mendenhall Glacier Transport LTD for $30. We saw much of the Juneau city and local favorite photographic sites. Then were taken to the Mendenhall Glacier and permitted to stay as long as we wanted and return on any of the Blue Glacier Express buses that depart every ½ hour. Later that afternoon my husband went on the HAL sponsored Photo Safari by Land and Sea which cost $199.95. He had many photographic opportunities on this tour including the glacier, a brown bear with 2 cubs, whales and eagles and thought that experience worthwhile. In Icy Strait Point (Hoonah) the tender to shore was no problem with my walker, and help from the crew. We took the Town Shuttle into Hoonah and enjoyed talking to the native driver. Whales were swimming near Hoonah near the road, and an eagle next was in a tree across the street from the school with 2 young eagles that were exercising their wings and a parent that came to feed them while we were watching. We had no prior plan but met a local bear hunter who was parked near the town stop for the shuttle. He was talking to another couple and offered to take us to see bears in his 4-wheel drive vehicle for $40 for 2 hours. He seemed to know and respect almost every bear in the area, knew what foods they preferred and where they usually were found. We saw several bears in their natural setting. This was an excellent experience. In Anchorage we took the AAA recommended Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and Alaska Native Heritage Museum tour for $28.95 each, and later took a taxi to Potter Marsh (reported to be an excellent birding location). This was the first sunny day of our trip. The Museums were well worth the cost especially the Native Heritage Museum. On the other hand Potter's Marsh had very few birds during the time or our visit, was near a highway, and skeet shooting range. The mountains were lovely from Potters Marsh, but I would not repeat that long taxi ride for the experience. In Homer we took the HAL Homer Highlights tour for $79.95 a person. The pier was long and steep , but this was an interesting 4 hour tour with a local guide. The 3 level Pratt museum was very interesting and the staff were accommodating to an individual who could not navigate the stairs between levels. Here we saw a live video from a nearby waterfall where a brown bear was fishing. In real-time we watched as the bear caught and consumed a salmon. We also visited the studio of the accomplished artist, Norman Lowell. His work included water color, acrylic, oil, poetry and other art forms. Many of the scenes he had painted of Alaska were breath taking. While we were in his studio, Normal Lowell circulated among us in his electric wheel chair answering questions about his art. In Kodiak we took the cruise critic recommend MemoryMakers Tour with Dake and Kadie. Both Kadie and Dake have many talents but especially knowledgeable about photography. My husband loved talking with them about various methods of canvas printing and retail opportunities they use. Dake knows secret places were puffins and eagles nest and frequent. We did not stop at the Baranov Museum but drove by it and other landmarks on the island. We visited Abercrombie State Historical Park and the World War II Military Museum. Here an employee was dressed in a uniform typical of our servicemen in WW II. The young man and his assistants posed for pictures and were willing to demonstrate equipment that may have been used at this primarily munitions location during WW II. Hubbard Glacier calving as seen from the ship was really interesting. There was no room in the Crow's Nest but I easily watched from a window seat in the Lido. In Sitka we took the HAL Birds, Bears & Barnacles tour for $59.95 each. We visited the Raptor Rehab Center were eagles and other birds of prey were cared for until about to be returned to their native environment. We saw orphan bears at a special farm that cares for them and other animals, and a marine hatchery and sea animal place. These were all animals in artificial settings, but up close and easy to photograph. This was a very nice though not realistic tour. From the port in Victoria we took the CVS Shuttle from the Cruise Terminal to the Empress Hotel using an all day pass for $8 a person. We had ordered online the AAA recommended CVS Shuttle tour from the empress Hotel to the Butterfly Gardens and Butchart Gardens for $50 a person. The butterflies were lovely but the hot and humid environment was good to visit for only a brief time. On this beautiful, sunny day and the flowers in Butchart Gardens were a photographers dream to behold and we stayed more than 3 hours. In this tour you can spend as much time as you like and then take the next shuttle from either the butterfly garden or Butchart Gardens back to the Empress Hotel. I would love to repeat this trip when no longer needing a wheelchair or walker and oxygen at night. Much time has been spent since the cruise completing claim forms for my camera which disappeared from our US Airways checked baggage with TSA locks directly from Seattle to the Charlotte Airport. The camera battery died and I decided that it was not worth carrying the extra almost 1 lb. load in my backpack. We have had up to 6 pages of froms from each of the following: US Airways, TSA, and the travel insurance. In addition we have had to contact and receive information from our home owners insurance. So far no help. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We did the ms Amsterdam July 27- Aug. 10th out of Seattle. We had a great time and this itinerary is second to none. It's a shame that it isn't being offered in 2013. Background: My husband and I did this trip. He has oxygen ... Read More
We did the ms Amsterdam July 27- Aug. 10th out of Seattle. We had a great time and this itinerary is second to none. It's a shame that it isn't being offered in 2013. Background: My husband and I did this trip. He has oxygen and mobility issues so we rented a scooter and got his oxygen through Care Vacations. He is wheelchaired on and off the ship in Seattle. Embarkation: We live north of Seattle so we drive to the port. We got there at 10:00 AM, I dropped off my husband and the luggage, parked the car in the long-term lot and got the shuttle back. We were cleared security, checked in, and seated by 10:45 AM. By 11:45 AM we were being escorted on the ship with my husband being wheeled on. Cabin: We had cabin 3360 and this was our first time in an ocean view as we usually get balconies. We had done a "C Guarantee" and this cabin was perfect for us! It was between two doors to the promenade deck on the port side. There was one cabin on the stern side and that was it for neighbors. The hallway to the stern side was where they had us park the scooter at night. The room was quiet and a good size. I had everything put away by early afternoon. Ship and Staff: The ship, in my opinion, is in great shape. Everything is neat and clean and in good working order. The staff are wonderful. They accommodate disabilities so well. We learned that you can fit a scooter (the size we rent) under the Greyline buses! That opened up so many avenues for us. Dining: We had As You Wish dining and I made reservations in the morning if we were thinking of the dining room. We had tables for 2, 4 and 6 at various times during the cruise. We're not foodies and always found the food to be very good, the service impeccable, and the desserts lovely. My husband particularly enjoyed having the Baked Alaska each night. We ate in the Canaletto one night (no charge, no cotton candy) and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. We also did the Lido a couple of evenings when we were just too tired to change and go to the dining room. Breakfast and lunch were in the Lido and we enjoyed the chocolate croissants, the bread pudding, the wonderful salad bar, the custom made omelets, and the ice cream! Meet & Greet: We had our meet and greet on Saturday, July 28th at 11:00 AM in the Crow's Nest. We had a great turnout and the Holland America staff outdid themselves. We had in attendance the Beverage Manager, the Hotel Manager, Cruise Director Michael, and the Captain, Jonathon Mercer even came! We were all excited about that! Meet and Greet Photo: We didn't get a photo at the Meet and Greet - a lot of people, the officers there and everyone was having a good time - so I arranged with Michael, the Cruise Director, to stage a photo on the last sea day at 4:45 PM. About half the group came but we were all tickled to see the officers join us again as well. The Captain, Hotel Manager, and Cruise Director were all smiling away, posing for photos, etc. and Michael arranged for a ship's photographer to take the photo for us. Ports: In Ketchikan I did some shopping and then we explored to the west as we hadn't done that before. The visitor's center has a great walking map tour if you want to do something different. It was raining - off and on - but that's Ketchikan. Tracy Arm: We got all the way to Sawyer Glacier! Captain Mercer and his crew did a marvelous job! Juneau: It was raining (off and on) again. We did the Juneau Highlights tour which gave us time at Mendenhall Glacier, McCauley Salmon Hatchery and a nice city tour. Icy Strait Point/Hoonah: This is a tender port and the weather was nice. We needed to take the scooter off ship and I was impressed. The crew members manning the tenders carried the scooter down a flight of stairs to board the tender, and up again when we came back. This port is not nearly as commercialized as the other ports and it was peaceful to explore. We did a Hoonah "City Tour" and both our guide and driver were native Tlinket women who had marvelous stories to share and lots of information to give us. Anchorage: It was a beautiful sunny day in Anchorage and close to shirt sleeve weather. We did the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Portage Glacier tour. It was a full day (1:00 PM - 7:00 PM) but definitely worth it! The views of Portage Glacier we fantastic. We were on the Ptarmigan and it got quite close to the glacier. There was also a National Forest Service ranger on board to provide commentary. Homer: Homer is an unspoiled town and your transportation is by school bus for all the tours. This trip we did the Homer Highlights tour that went to the Ocean and Wilderness Conservation Center, Pratt Museum and the Lowell Gallery. This also included a city tour - which didn't take long but was still informative. All three stops were nice and we could have used a lot longer at the Lowell Gallery and the Ocean and Wildlife Conservation Center It was overcast and just a bit of rain. Kodiak: Rain, rain, everywhere rain! We stayed on ship until 11:00. When we got off the Memory Makers vans were just letting off the first group so they loaded us up right away so we could get out of the rain - but we were still soaked. If you can do a trip with them when in Kodiak they are great! There were only 4 of us in the van - another couple and us. We went all over the place including Abercrombie State Park and the Military Museum, past the Coast Guard Station, to the fairgrounds for the eagle nest, and to Belle Flats for some great views of the Russian River. We looked for bears and puffins (saw the latter but not the former) as well as seeing people fishing. We were back on the ship at 2:15, wet but having had a great time. This was formal night and the entertainment was the Amsterdam singers doing Broadway tunes which was very good. Hubbard Glacier: During the night between Kodiak and Hubbard the waves were high and the wind was blowing. We were to stay off the promenade deck which didn't take a lot of convincing! In the morning things were calmer and we were allowed access once again. The day was an at-sea morning. The rangers and the native people got on board at 2:00 and the ranger did a talk that was ok. From there it was out on deck to look at Hubbard Glacier. Even though it was overcast and there were low-lying clouds the glacier shone and the views were stunning. Sitka: The day was cloudy and we tendered in. Sitka has free wi-fi pretty much all over town which is nice. We went to a few of our favorite spots then checked in with the email and internet before heading back to the ship. Victoria: We did the self-guided walk on Dallas Road. We turned left when we left the dock and wandered all along the waterfront to the Empress Hotel then back to the ship. It was about 6 miles total and a beautiful day to walk. Now we're home and looking back over the trip and we still are reveling in it. This is a great itinerary and I'm sad that Holland America won't be running it next year. The trip was 2 weeks of fun and relaxation, a chance to meet and connect with some really nice people, and a highlight of our summer. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My husband and I had been talking about going to Alaska for quite a while, but always found ourselves going somewhere warmer instead. When I found out this was the last year the Amsterdam would be doing its two-week Alaska itinerary, we ... Read More
My husband and I had been talking about going to Alaska for quite a while, but always found ourselves going somewhere warmer instead. When I found out this was the last year the Amsterdam would be doing its two-week Alaska itinerary, we decided it was time to go. We used the Holland America (HAL) website, deciding to book an inside cabin low and in the center. Our decision was based on two issues: 1. My husband tends toward seasickness, so we wanted a cabin which would be more stable. 2. We were going to be in Alaska during summer solstice, so we wanted a place which would be dark at night. AIRPORT CHECK IN: We signed up for HAL's transportation from the airport to the pier. We wanted to meet our son for lunch (he lives in Seattle), but we didn't want to worry about our luggage. The scene at the Seattle airport was confusing and crowded. We were at the luggage carousel furthest from our gate, no fault of the Holland America representatives. There were two reps at our carousel and it was a mob scene, making it difficult to retrieve our luggage and consolidate it. We finally pulled everything together so the rep could take it. I think it was more than 45 minutes from landing to getting the luggage on the Holland America cart. Then we had to walk to the opposite side of the airport for the HAL transportation to the pier, where our son was going to meet us. Again, this was no fault of Holland America, but anticipate the worst in Seattle, meaning more than an hour to an hour and a half from landing to transport. When we got to the transportation area, we had to wait in a short line. The people in front of us had an issue, so we were delayed once again. Finally, we were given our transportation tickets/numbers and told it would be a half hour, at most. Happily, there was plenty of seating available. When our number was called we walked, once again, to the farthest bus point from the waiting area. After a 20 minute ride, we were dropped at the pier and our son picked us up. Since a lot of time had been eaten up by the mess at the airport, rather than going to a restaurant, we ate at a nearby Whole Foods for expedience. Afterward, he dropped us off at the pier and we went into the building for embarkation. EMBARKATION: This was a sharp contrast to our experience at the airport. It was about 1:30 p.m. And the crowds had mostly been processed. From entering the building to boarding the ship it was only about fifteen to twenty minutes. Then we were aboard the ms Amsterdam. Our room was ready, so we stopped down to drop off our carry on luggage and went to do a bit of exploring before the "Emergency Drill". We were due to sail at 5 p.m. I believe they began the Emergency Drill (Muster) about 45 minutes earlier. As other people reported, they now take attendance and don't begin the drill until everyone is accounted for. You don't need to bring your life jackets and you report directly to your lifeboat station, where the crew runs through emergency procedures. If everyone is there on time, the drill is short and sweet. We spent more time waiting for people who were late than we did on the actual instructions. Sailaway for us was wonderful, with sunny weather, a clear view of Mt. Ranier, and anticipations for an incredible trip on this beautiful ship. CABINS: We purposely took a central, inside room on the Dolphin Deck (lowest). Specifically, 1841. It was a bit smaller than I expected. But it was well-appointed with three closets, night stands with two drawers each, two large drawers under the bed, and a desk with a flat screen television and dvd player. We didn't have a tub, but the shower was large and roomy, which would have been our preference anyway. The nightstands' top drawers were lockable and there was a keypad safe in one of the closets. Our room stewards were incredible. Our room was made up twice a day, ship newsletters and notifications were left over our room number promptly, and there was always ice in the ice bucket. One day we were walking in the hall, one of our stewards saw us and greeted us by name. They worked long hours and always had a smile on their faces, greeting passengers each and every time they saw someone in the halls. Our bed was a little bit hard for my husband's taste. But we both slept well every night, in spite of his trepidations. We each had two pillows. One was a soft (feather?) pillow and the other was a bit firmer and thicker. PUBLIC ROOMS: The Amsterdam is an elegant ship, without the glitz of some other ships we've seen. It has lots of wonderful nooks and crannies, including hidden outside areas. Advice about exploring the ship well would be advice well-heeded. You never know where you might find your perfect spot! We particularly enjoyed sitting in the Explorations Cafe area, which doubled as the library. The large windows allowed for a clear view outside the ship. It offered a variety of seating, and was where we would pick up our abbreviated version of the news, provided by the NY Times. Other abbreviated newspapers are available daily by the front desk. Take some time to check out the clock which spans two or three levels, with all sorts of settings. Other things worth perusing: the live bonsai in different parts of the ship, art (not the Park West items, but things like sculptures, photographs, etc.), and the different qualities of furnishings in the different seating areas. At no point did we find the ship either dirty or unattractive. Staff was always cleaning, painting, polishing, and sanding -- a never-ending job for a ship which spends the majority of its time out at sea. DINING: We tried four of the many dining options available on board the Amsterdam. La Fontaine (the main dining room): We mostly ate dinner here at the 8 pm fixed seating. We requested a table for six and lucked out, sitting with two couples who were absolutely delightful. We also ate there for breakfast and lunch on days when our schedule allowed. Our dinner waiter, Eko, was attentive and efficient, something which seemed to be across the board with the wait staff. For the most part we found the food to be of the highest quality. My only complaint would be they cooked the salmon a little more than I do at home. And, if you're a dessert person, we enjoyed the fruit crisps almost every night. One evening my husband ordered the ever-present Baked Alaska and was disappointed in it. The outer meringue was not browned nicely, making it a bit mushier than it should have been. The Lido (buffet) was not to our taste for meals. We don't particularly like waiting in lines and serving ourselves when we can have excellent table service instead. However, wee often came in between for hot tea and a small snack, which was always available. My husband liked the made-to-order omelets in the morning. Even though it was a buffet, when you were carrying the food to a table the staff was always there to grab your plates and help you find a seat. They also had a person walking around the room to refill coffee and/or tea. The one meal we DID enjoy in the Lido was the Indonesian lunch, with great cold dishes. I believe there were other international days -- we just weren't there to enjoy them. Perhaps someone else will comment on these. We had room service several times during the cruise. I was a bit seasick on the first full day out at sea (as were many other people). They have a special "high seas" menu for days like these. We ordered the beef consomme and the green apples. The third item is broiled chicken with rice and vegetables. We also used room service for breakfast on the three days we were leaving the ship at seven or eight a.m. The trays always came with fresh flowers, real china, silverware, and cloth napkins. They were always on time, though there was often a slight error in the order, either something missing or something we didn't order added. Whenever we reported it the staff rectified the error immediately. The food was always well-prepared and beautifully presented. We ate once in the Terrace Grill, a fast-order burger joint by the Lido pool. I had the turkey burger (I highly recommend it) and my husband had the chicken burger, really a grilled piece of chicken. They came with fries and there was a fixings bar. I wouldn't eat there every day, but it's perfect for that off-hours daytime fare. As an aside, we also ordered capuccinos a few times from the Explorations Cafe. They weren't the best we've ever had. But they were "good enough". We didn't eat in the Canaletto or the Pinnacle. EXCURSIONS: We only went on three excursions affiliated with Holland America. Icy Strait Point -- Whales, Wildlife & Bears. Honestly, they weren't kidding when they named this. This was the best whale watch of the trip. It was probably just luck, but we saw a large pod of Humpback Whales who put on a show, blowing, diving, and breaching. Then we took a ride to the Spaaski River, where we were accompanied by a guide who was friendly, well-spoken, and extremely informative about the Tlingit culture, her tribe, and her life. We hiked a bit along some muskegs. A bear dashed by chasing a Sitka Deer. Some people saw it -- I didn't. On the walk we were preceded and accompanied by a young man with a high-powered rifle. It made the fact we were looking for Brown Bears all the more real. There were three stops along the river. We saw a bear and its cub as well as another bear. All were quite distant. We had good binoculars with us, so we were able to get decent looks. Homer -- Seldovia Cruise with Gull Island Let me preface this by saying my husband and I are birdwatchers and this was what we were interested in when we booked this excursion. The cruise to Gull Island was wonderful for us. There are thousands of birds nesting on the island and feeding around it. The sight of thousands of Common Murres in an enormous group sitting on the water is breathtaking. If you're looking for Puffins, you'll most likely see both Tufted and Horned. I think my complaint, and it seemed to be a general complaint, is we didn't have enough time in Seldovia. We were given two hours. The restaurants were limited in number and another tour boat was in town, making it very difficult to eat within the time frame given -- something I know many people were hoping to do in town. My husband and I went birding. We strolled along Seldovia Slough, a lovely walk by many of the homes in that town. Even just taking a walk within the time frame of less than two full hours made us feel as though we were too tight on time. Kodiak -- Kodiak Sightseeing and Wildlife Cruise It was Sunday in Kodiak (called Cruise Ship Sunday by the residents there, since the Amersterdam is the only ship which stops there). At first we thought we were a group of 12. However, when we reached the docks we were split up among three different small boats, making the trip very personal and special. We spent time looking at the different birds in the area, visited hauled out Steller's Sea Lions, and saw some more birds. The captain knew we were birders, so I have a feeling he tailored a lot of the tour for us. If you book this, I'd recommend you let your captain know if you're specifically interested in anything special since, with so few people, they've built in the flexibility to accommodate their passengers. OTHER AREAS: We did not go to any shows, use the children's services, or visit the spa, so I can't speak to those areas. DISEMBARKATION: We were spending a couple of days with my son before flying home, so we opted for later disembarkation. We left our bags outside our cabin before we went to bed. In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room. We then returned to our room and, just before nine, we disembarked. Two ships (ours and a Royal Caribbean ship) shared the terminal, so there was a bit of confusion. But we found our bags, sorted by color and number, and passed through immigration/customs almost as an afterthought. Outside the terminal was a bit of a mess. But our son was able to pull around and pick us up in spite of the crowds. There were a good number of people there to keep traffic orderly and moving. CONCLUSIONS: Holland America is an impressive cruise line offering exceptional service and atmosphere for your dollar. This itinerary is comprehensive and unusual. If you're thinking of going to Alaska, go for it, before it passes you by. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Embarkation - We arrived around 11am. Check-in went very well. We had to wait until 11:30 to board the ship. In our cabin by 11:40. Cruise - We were concerned about taking our granddaughters (11 & 14) on a Holland cruise. We were ... Read More
Embarkation - We arrived around 11am. Check-in went very well. We had to wait until 11:30 to board the ship. In our cabin by 11:40. Cruise - We were concerned about taking our granddaughters (11 & 14) on a Holland cruise. We were pleasantly surprised. The cruise went out of their way to assure the girls had everything they needed or wanted. The girls enjoyed theirselves so well, they want to know when the next cruise with us is! Cabin - We normally stay in a balcony, but upgraded to a suite to accomondate the girls. Service was excellent. The Neptune Lounge added to the fun/food for all of us. The free laundry was a great feature. Food - We ate breakfast in the Lido every morning, since we are early risers. No other location open. One recommendation that Holland could address, since a majority of their guests get up early, is to have an alternative to the Lido. We ate most of the dinners in the main dining room. Food was good, service was excellent. Specialty Dining - We tried the Italian and Steak specialty dining. The Italian was okay, nothing special. Main dining was better. The highly acclaimed steak dining was a disappointment. Service was slow, the waiter was abrubt, sent the steak back twice because they were not cooked correctly. The third time was still incorrect, but decided to eat it. Talked to the manager who said he will let the chief know, then he disappeared. Never went back.As one wise person once told me, you can always find something wrong with a cruise. Don't let it bother you - move on! We did. We put the steak experience behind us and we had a great cruise. Icy Point - this is where we did different tours the zipline and the whale watching cruise. Both exceeded our expectations Disembarkation - We selected the VIP luggage service. For a fee, our luggage was taken from our stateroom and was delivered to our house. A great service if you can get it. Leaving the ship was too easy and too quick. In closing we are disappointed that this is the last year that Holland is doing the 14 day Alaska cruise. As far as we know there are no others - how sad! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Route: 15 day voyage: Seattle -- Ketchikan -- Cruising Tracy Arm -- Juneau -- Icy Strait Point -- Anchorage -- Homer -- Kodiak -- Cruising Hubbard Glacier -- Sitka -- Victoria, BC -- Seattle 1. General Comments: A fascinating trip. ... Read More
Route: 15 day voyage: Seattle -- Ketchikan -- Cruising Tracy Arm -- Juneau -- Icy Strait Point -- Anchorage -- Homer -- Kodiak -- Cruising Hubbard Glacier -- Sitka -- Victoria, BC -- Seattle 1. General Comments: A fascinating trip. We had done the one-week land and one-week cruise with HAL some years ago. This was a less strenuous trip. Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative. Temperatures were usually in the upper 40s/low 50s, along with rain, clouds, fog, and occasional sunshine. Our "best" day was in Anchorage with 72 degrees and sunshine. We were a full ship with ca 1,400 passengers. Ages tended toward the grey/white hair set, but there were a number of children along. One infant was "adopted" by nearly everyone on the 7th deck as his or her grandchild. While we had booked a cabin with verandah, about a week before the cruise our travel agent e-mailed that a couple "superior verandah cabins" were suddenly available at much reduced fares. We grabbed one, and it was super! These cabins are on the 7th deck; you get access to the Neptune Lounge and all its services along with the extra perks for 7th deck passengers. This made for a very pleasant two weeks. 2. Travel to Seattle and Embarking: While we made our own plane arrangements, we did use the HAL hotel (Hilton Airport) and shuttle to the pier. The hotel is a comfortable business hotel, and the HAL service, from greeting at the airport to delivery the next day at the pier, worked perfectly. Having checked in on-line, we got on the ship quickly. Our cabin was ready, and luggage appeared in the afternoon. 3. The Amsterdam: A very attractive ship, enhanced by its smallness. Our upgraded cabin was a delight with all the space and storage drawers/closets. Details can be seen in the cabin descriptions on the HAL website. The bathroom had a tub shower. There was a small safe and a small refrigerator. The flat screen TV (set up for DVD movies) received the usual news, movies, music, etc. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are practically no announcements on the PA system. The Captain does a daily report from the bridge, and the Cruise Director may make a daily announcement on activities. You also get a daily newspaper based on the New York Times. 4. Meals: We were pleased to see that HAL's "As You Wish Dining" worked. The entire 4th deck of the dining room was set for this dining; fixed time dining was on the 5th deck. We reserved a table for two at 7PM and got it every night. Our table was generally in the same area so the wait staff did get used to our tastes. Dinners were uniformly excellent, as was the service. The wine list was also good, whether you wanted a bottle or a glass. We should note that no matter what ship or line you are on, including the Amsterdam, the first night's dinner is disorganized as diners and staff sort out who sits where and when. Lido Buffet: We only had a couple lunches here, and there was quite a variety of good food, whether you wanted a meal, sandwich, or salad. The dessert area was equally varied. Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant: My wife and I have mixed feelings on this. The food and wine were great. The service was, however, indifferent. The Pinnacle promotes itself as the fancier establishment on board, and on most of the HAL ships we have sailed, it is. However, the wait staff of this grill just did not show the attentiveness or interest that we expected. Was the food and wine worth the extra charge? Yes. The service? No. There are plenty of bars and food outlets on board. You cannot go hungry or thirsty. We settled into the Ocean Bar for after dinner drinks. The music there was pleasant for listening or dancing. 5. HAL dress code: There were four formal nights; the rest were all "smart casual." "Formal" for men meant mainly suits; tuxedos were a minority. Casual was just that; most men did wear shirts instead of t-shirts. One could make the case that "formal" on an Alaska cruise is a bit of an oxymoron. You are on the cruise to take in the natural beauty of the state; formality on board in this part of the world may be considered a bit out of date or unnecessary. 6. Shore Excursions: Make your shore excursion reservations on-line! This saves you standing in line at the ship's tour desk. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. 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. 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. Travellers with any form of physical difficulty should do their homework in studying shore excursions. Tour buses at Homer and Kodiak were just regular "Bluebird" school buses. The pathways in the Anchorage Zoo were loose gravel, and the zoo grounds were hilly. Travellers, and their agents, need to research -- beyond the cruise line shore excursion descriptions -- to learn if they will be able to participate in, and enjoy, the excursion. There was a park ranger on board who provided a briefing before, and commentary during, the ship's cruising at the Hubbard Glacier. This was very helpful in understanding this massive structure. 7. Shipboard entertainment: We did not see the evening shows. We did not, though, hear any unhappy comments about the shows. The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: lectures, bridge, bingo, etc, etc. The library is well stocked. Art is for sale, and there are auctions, but this is done more quietly and without as much noise as in earlier years. While there is advertising for the art for sale, there is also plenty for the ship's spa. The casino was small and the machine payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Various table games were also available. The selection of duty-free liquor on board was not great, but adequate; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. Photography in the dining room was limited to the fixed time seatings. There were various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts. The amounts are charged to each person's shipboard account. You have nothing more to do. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service. Your bar and wine bill automatically adds 15 percent. If you want to tip anyone for exemplary service, you can give him cash in an envelope. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your voyage, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, etc) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You only receive a copy of your total bill the morning you leave the ship. If you think you may have a problem with your bill, you should check with the Front Office before the last day. Disembarkation morning is usually a bit chaotic and not the time to deal with bill issues. 10. Disembarking in Seattle: Your bags have to be out before 12PM. It appeared that bags were not removed before midnight, so if you had any last minute changes, you could still make them. We used a new service offered by HAL, VIP Luggage Service. With this service, we used specially issued luggage tags, put our bags out as usual, and they were delivered to our residence. We arrived at San Antonio Airport at 10:15PM, and the suitcases were delivered at our residence at 2:00AM. The service will deliver your bags to your residence within six hours of your landing at your final airport, and you have to live within 100 miles of the airport. It is not cheap: $40 per bag plus whatever your airline charges. If, at the end of your cruise, you do not want to fool with your luggage, you may want to consider this service. 11. Conclusion: This was a most enjoyable trip. The hiccups were minor and did not detract from the Amsterdam or the beauty of Alaska. We'll visit this area again. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Having been bumped off the July 13th sailing by Holland America when they decided to charter the ship out to a Christian group, we were compensated with $300 of on board credit after we chose this cruise instead. It seems HA does this ... Read More
Having been bumped off the July 13th sailing by Holland America when they decided to charter the ship out to a Christian group, we were compensated with $300 of on board credit after we chose this cruise instead. It seems HA does this quite often according to some of the passengers. Fortunately, my husband and I could switch dates this time but I would be leery about the next time with a Holland America cruise. This was our 18th cruise, although only our second on Holland America but our third trip to Alaska. We flew from Baltimore to Seattle the day before the cruise. Shuttle Express picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel for a very reasonable price. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which was very elegant. We chose this location because it was near the restaurant where a small group of us from Cruise Critic were going to meet for a pre cruise dinner. It was so nice to have one of the Ccers take the time to organize this. We all enjoyed the meeting. We took a taxi to the ship the next day around noon. My husband had checked out prices on line and this was the cheapest way to go the short distance to the terminal. Embarkation went smoothly. Our cabin was ready so we could get rid of our carryons and eat lunch and explore the ship. Although we are not yet "Mariners," friends of ours who are, complained that there was no Mariner lunch in the main dining room as they had been promised. The dining room was only open to some other group. The Amsterdam is a beautiful ship and well maintained. It was easy to find our way around and the Crow's Nest on the top deck was a great place to meet other Cruise Critic passengers at night for a drink. The ship was just the right size for us. Our cabin (2617) which was an ocean view cabin was the usual size but it had more storage space than most of the other cabins we have been in. Our room steward always had our bucket of ice each night as we had requested and, like most room stewards on other cruise lines, left us towels wrapped as an animal each night. Having a real bathtub wasn't "a big plus" for us but many people were thrilled. The food was superb with many choices although on some nights, service in the main dining room was slow and the food wasn't always hot enough. One night we ate at the free Canaletto restaurant for Italian food. Although the menu was simple, we liked the food. Neither my husband nor I eat in any of the specialty restaurants since we enjoy the food we already paid for in the main dining room. Our breakfast/lunch was usually in the Lido where the buffet gave you too many delicious choices. Dwi, a young Indonesian girl was always on one side of the Lido with a big smile every day and so willing to get us whatever we needed. On the 4th of July, a barbecue was held around the pool. How nice! As for activities on the ship, we are Trivia players. Trivia was played every sea day and on other days. Several nights Name That Tune Trivia was played in the Piano Bar. There was also a karaoke competition, the Marriage Game, a Talent show, and great informative and interesting talks given in the theater about Alaska and its natives. There were other usual cruise activies for people with other iterests from ours. The entertainment was wonderful. Usually, on a long cruise such as this one, we expected one or two nights to be not as entertaining as other nights but each night, I enjoyed whoever performed. My husband wasn't as sold on all of the entertainment. In addition to the nightly shows, the Filipino crew performed a cultural show one night during the first week of the cruise and the Indonesian crew performed the second week. Everyone enjoyed both shows. How hard they work! My only disappointment with Holland America is that they never sent anyone to the Meet and Greet. The platters of cookies along with coffee, tea, and juice were set up but Holland America was a no show. Shame on you, Holland America. Couldn't you find the time to send someone? Other cruise lines do. Our weather was less than perfect. It was cloudy in all of the ports except Victoria. Occasionally we would see the sun but not for long. As expected, it rained in Ketchikan and we had drizzle some of the time in other ports. It was cold in Tracy Arm and viewing the Hubbard Glacier. For great viewing, go to the bow of the ship, right off the fitness center and up one flight of stairs to a public deck. Bundle up because it will be cold but the view is spectacular! All in all, it was a great cruise. We met some wonderful, friendly people through Cruise Critic, saw Mother Nature at her best in Alaska, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. What a shame that none of the cruise lines will be offering this 14 day Alaskan itinerary next summer. It was fabulous even with less than perfect weather. After the cruise, my husband and I rented a car and drove to Mount St. Helens. What a great day that was! And it was sunny! That night we stayed at the Peppermill Empress Motel that was halfway between Mount St. Helens and Seattle. It was immaculate and even offered a complimenary breakfast the next morning. We flew back to Baltimore that afternoon. HOMER, Alaska As we got off the ship, we were greeted by seagulls and their babies perched along the seawall. What a wonderful free attraction! Then we took the free shuttle to Homer's Spit. The Spit is a piece of land that juts out 4 1/2 miles into the bay. It's the tourist part of Homer with lots of boats, campers, shops, places to eat, etc. One place we were told we had to visit was the Salty Dawg Saloon. It had 30,000 one dollar bills taped all over the ceiling and walls. We had tried to take a Creatures of the Dock tour but were disappointed when no one showed up for the $5 one hour tour. So we walked up and down the Spit talking to the shop owners and other customers. It was a friendly place. KODIAK, Alaska We had read great reviews on the Cruise Critic website about Memory Makers so we booked a three hour tour with Dake. We were not disappointed. There were 2 vans with only 6 passengers each, mostly CCers. He took us through Abercombie State Park where we saw dismantled World War 2 artillery and a munitions bunker along with some eagles. We went atop Pillar Mountain but the fog kept us at a disadvantage. We passed the Coast Guard's largest base and stopped for the most delicious cookies we have ever tasted. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
There are 6 of us in our group, my friends from Canada came the night before departure, and my brother and his wife that live in Seattle. My husband and I live on the Olympic Peninsula across the sound from Seattle. We met at the pier ... Read More
There are 6 of us in our group, my friends from Canada came the night before departure, and my brother and his wife that live in Seattle. My husband and I live on the Olympic Peninsula across the sound from Seattle. We met at the pier around 11:30, left our luggage with the porters and went up the escalator to check in... check is was quick and easy and we boarded the Amsterdam around 11:45,our cabins were ready for us, and we went to our cabin and left our carry ons, then we went to the MDR for the welcome back lunch that is served instead of waiting in the lines at the lido. My brother and his wife came with us, although this is their first cruise, ever. After lunch we explored the ship a bit, we had cruised on Amsterdam before but the others had not. We had our lifeboat drill, but didn't have to have our lifejacket on. We sailed from Seattle at 5pm. We went to dinner around 7pm - open seating, we went as a group of 6 for dinner and asked for a table by the window, we got a window.and enjoyed the view as we sailed , our waiters were Iman, and Gede, (g - day) June 2, was a cruising day, on our way to Ketchikan, the waters were a little rough, and my Sister-in-law was not feeling well, went to the front desk and got some pills, she then took to her cabin. We went to dinner around 7:30 and asked for the same table, which we were "blessed" with for the entire cruise. during dinner that evening there were only 5 of us,we saw whales while dining. June 3,Sunday in Ketchikan. The waters were calm, my SIL was feeling better, and we had room service for coffee and muffins, then went to Lido for some breakfast. I had eggs benedict almost every day, my DH had omelette. We ate out on the lido deck by the pool, the roof was open many times, because the weather was so beautiful.We saw whales in the am, and again in the pm, when we were leaving Ketchikan, many eagles were seen and one flew very close to the ship's windows where we were sitting, and at the same time a whale blew!! The weather report stated that it was 54 degrees, our home temperature was 53 degrees!! In ketchikan there was a free shuttle to take you into the downtown section, and we got off and went looking around creek street at the old houses and the shops. Everywhere we went there were jackets on sale for $19.95! The creek street shops were interestin. One of the men has a beer glass collection, and wanted to find the brewery, but we never found it!! no one seemed to know anything about the brewery! June 4,We cruised Tracy Arm , the weather again was beautiful, clear and not cold. we saw many icebergs floating on the water, as we entered Tracy Arm. The views and the manuevering of the ship in Tracy arm were magnificent. the sides of the mountains were almost close enough to touch!!! We were able to get all the way into Tracy Arm ti see tge glaciers. We ate at Cannaletto that night, It was good, but the menu is limited. We only ate there once. June 5th We arrived in Juneau around 10:30, we had a 7 passenger Van reserved with Alamo car rental, whose ad was that they were on the cruise dock pier. We couldn't find them anywhere, and no one seemed to know where they were, I called the # I had for them, with no answer. we walked down the pier a bit, there were 5 ships in port. after about the 4th ship, down my the Mt Roberts Tramway, we found a free bus to the last ship, where someone said the Alamo Office was. I finally found the office, no signs, and in a small wooden garden shed. I found out that the phone # given was to the Alamo at the Airport, where no one answered!! We got the Van and drove out to Mendenhall Glacier. I had quite a few items on my list for Juneau, but after the fiasco of trying to find the car rental, we came back into town, and there is a strange thing about parking a car in Juneau, you need to get it registered and then can park for 2 hours free. We found a nice metermaid that helped us find a parking spot, and did the registering for us. We went to the famous Red Dog Saloon. it was loud and crowded. I was delivering a license plate to the Viking Saloon ,for one of my other brothers, it was just up the street. we decided to go there, and then everyone except DH and I went back to the ship. DH and I drove to Fred Meyer, I had left my makeup at home, and needed to buy some more. we filled the car up with gas @ $4,65 per gal, regular. We took the van back to the rental agency and they drove us back to the ship. It was later discovered that my brother had left my blue notebook with all our information , in the Van, I called them on their cell # that they had given me, and they offered to bring the notebook to me, how Nice they were to do that! I got my notebook, and went on board the ship. We had dinner, and sailed at 10pm, it was still light out, we left 4 ships still in port. june6 Icy Strait Point. this was a tender port, no one except my brother planned to go ashore, and myself. My brother went in the early am, I decided to go around 11ama. It was so small, it was easy to find my brother, he was sitting watching the Zip Line . There was a few things to look at in way of the way they used to can salmon. There was a Shuttle go Hoonah, which was just a little ways from Icy Strait Point. the shuttle was $8, round trip. I went into Hoonah and found a couple of shops in Hoonah, but nothing else except there was a totem carver I took the bus back to Icy Strait, but the bus driver said she heard there was a bear that we could see, and she drove us to where we could get a picture of the bear. The people were very friendly, We were warned of the rough waters in the gulf, but the water was pretty calm, and my SIL didn't get sick this time. June 7th. This was a sea day, we had beautiful weather, played trivia in the crow's nest, saw whales and porpois, eagles, and beautiful snow covered mts. sunset was at 11:30 , but it was light enough all night to be able to see the treeline. (kind of strange) June 8 Anchorage - There were HAL sponsored large tour busses to take us into town for free. once in town there were many different shuttles to take us to many places. We got on one that went to the zoo, but when we got there, it was not handicapped accessable, and one in our group of 4 couldn't walk very far. they said the steep hills made it difficult for any wheelchairs. we got on the net bus back to town. My brother and SIL had gone to the ULU factory tour(free) and learned how the ULU knife is made and used., the tour ended with a free icecream cone! There was a shuttle to the Native Heritage Center, and free shuttles to various other places. There didn't seem to be any entrance fees to any of the attractions the shuttles were taking you to, except the zoo.There is a rather large shopping mall in town across the street and down the block from where the HAL bus lets you off. There are lots of Souvenier shops, the people were very helpful and friendly, and the weather was sunny and warm enough for just a light jacket. June 9th Homer, AK. There was a free shuttle provided to take you to the spit at Homer. there was also a bus marked hop on hop off for $15.00 pp from Hal, both were yellow school busses. We got on the hop on hop off, the sign said there were 4 stops where you could get on or off, we found that one of the stops was for the Pratt Museum, and possibly the library, but we did not get off, I feel that particular bus was a rip off. there was nothing to do or see on the route, other than the museum or the library. we passed a Farmer's Market that looked interesting, but no stop for that!! We went back to our starting point, and got on the free bus that took us to the spit, where all the little shops and the action was. The Salty Dog Saloon was on the spit, as was the Boat from "the deadliest catch" moored there. they also had espresso there. We saw another green and red trolly, a HO HO trolly, but never found where to catch it.DON'T TAKE HAL'S bus, it is not worth the money. you can get a cab to that part of the town for around $8.00. Everyone went back to the ship, but myself and friend went to the HOMER brewery , by cab... It was back by the 2nd stop of the HO HO Hal bus. out in the woods kind of, my friend bought his 2 glasses and a tshirt. the cab waited and took us back to the pier. June 10 Kodiak there was no transportation to the downtown area, It was rumored that a cab cost 7.95 pp, but when we found a 7 person van, we were told the fare was $8.00 for all of us. We went into town, walked around a bit, went to a museum admission was $5.00 pp. not much to do, we looked for the Kodiak brewery and found that the address given is where they plan to move to! We called the same cab driver, and went back to the ship, when we were quite close to the ship, we found the Kodiak Brewery, so got out of the cab and we went to the brewery where we purchased a "growler" a large pitcher-like vessel. we walked the half mile to the ship. We were in Kodak on a Sunday, many of the shops were closed. June 11th Cruising Hubbard Glacier. We were warned that we may not get into Hubbard Glacier very far, it depended on the weather conditions. it was lightly raining, there was lots of ice on the water, and many many icebergs, some with seals, and some with eagles sitting on them. A Naturalist from the Parks department was on board and gave talks on Glaciers, He had a talk in the Queen's lounge before we got to the glacier, very interesting. don't miss that! We got quite close to the glacier, and could hear it "rumbling" it calved a few times for us. beautiful going in and going out!! June 12th Sitka, beautiful Sitka, it has small islands all around it, many many eagles in the trees, many whales, but you must be watching for them. Our Canadian friends went on a HAL tour to the Raptor Centeor and to the Bears, they loved it!! (we have been to the raptor center before) We mostly walked around the city, bought my lladro polar bear at the jewelry store, where I had bought my last one. looked in some of the shops and went back to the ship to watch from the crows nest the whales and eagles. June 13 cruising, watching for whales, enjoying the scenery.. A formal night to observe that the formals on this cruise seem to be a little more like black slacks and shiny tops for women, some of the men wore tuxs but many just in dress shirts, maybe a jacket. June 14th Victoria.... My brother and I decided to walk into Victoriam none of the others were going ashore. We walked straight from the ship and ended up at a marina with interesting food shops, and a small ferry took us across the water to the Empress Hotel, we walked around there for a while, and then headed back to the boat, we walked back, it was about a mile of so, we didnot go the way most of the walkers went. Looking at some of the old houses was interesting. June 15th Home again! We arrived in Seattle at 7am, were off the ship by 10:30 we got our final bill that am, (the casino has a way to charge gambling... don't do it!!) We ate in the lido the last morning and departed the ship, our bags had been picked up sometime after midnight, and we just had our carry ons with us. We got off the ship, there were no porters to help us with luggage, so we had to deal with it ourselves. (we had been told that there would be no porters) Our neighbor was at the terminal to pick us up, All in All it was a great cruise, we enjoyed ourselves, and as usual am still getting used to having to take care of myself and DH again.! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
This is my second time in two years on the Amsterdam 14 day cruise to Alaska. (thanks to my brother and sister in law) I was going to wait another year to go back to Alaska but when I saw Holland America was dropping this cruise I had to ... Read More
This is my second time in two years on the Amsterdam 14 day cruise to Alaska. (thanks to my brother and sister in law) I was going to wait another year to go back to Alaska but when I saw Holland America was dropping this cruise I had to come back. The Amsterdam is a wonderful ship. I saw crew always cleaning and painting it. Going last year I knew just what beauty I was going to see. The only thing I did not like was we were not going up the inside passage. I travel as a solo passenger. Last year I had a friend coming but she got very ill two weeks before the cruise and could not go. (GET INSURANCE) I found out I loved sailing solo. Night before the cruise I had a wonderful dinner with other cc's going on this cruise. I got to the pier early and I was in my room Group 2 by 11:45. I dropped my carry ons and went to get my power surge plug. (Free if you return it)I went to Dining room for lunch only to find out it was closed for a private party. So I went up to Lido for lunch. Friday: Left Seattle on time. Went to crows nest for sail-a-way with New friends Saturday: had breakfast delivered to room. looked out window to clouds and rain Walked around ship. At lunch meet friends from Thursday night. I completely forgot the meet and greet. this was number one thing I wanted to do at the start of this cruise. My cabin was much smaller than the inside cabin I had last year #2604. Bathroom was tiny but it had a tub which I used and was wonderful since I was walking a lot. Food wow I looked forward every day for dinner. I ate every night in the MDR. I had late seating. I don't want to be rushed if I am on shore. I could take a little nap between happy hour and dinner. My Dinner's were excellent. the Lamb melted in my mouth, Chilled soups, every thing I order came in a reasonable time and hot. My table mates took there time and we enjoyed dinner every night. As last year my table was the last to leave as we talked and talked. the weather was crummy cloudy and cold. (I am from northeast) If we saw the sun it was not very long until the end of the cruise Wednesday before Victoria. The cruise was wonderful I did take a few excursions. Juneau I took ships tour Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter. Oh wonderful wonderful.I love Sitka. I wish they would stay longer here I took a bus I think 3.00 round trip to Fortress of the bear and Rapture center. ll I can say its wonderful at the bears. You can stay as long as you want. No need for taxi. Bus runs every hour.this was my 3rd time here and there is way too much to see and not enough time. One thing I have to say. I think we were in Juneau and we sail late. I saw something I will never forget. All along the shore people had bonfires and we shooting off fireworks (It was July 4th) I had my brother little camera that takes video. I hope the video came out. I am having problems trying to figure out how to download it. It will not download. I having my cousin come look at it. If I ever go back to Alaska I would probably go back when its July 4th just for that. The crew was wonderful. Mary Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We ... Read More
To celebrate my graduating with a Masters degree in counseling (mental health) my husband and I booked a Holland America Line one week Alaskan cruise. I am 49, my husband is 58 and this was the first time either one of us has cruised. We called an online American discount cruise company to book our passage. Our agent was able to get us a rate that was $400 less pp than the lowest rate I saw for the same type SA suite on the HAL website. We also received a $75 obc. Before the final payment our agent called to tell us HAL was offering free fares to third and fourth passengers in our suite. At that time we decided to take our two teenagers for the price of taxes ($112 pp) and the hotel gratuity charge ($12 pp/pd.) We had deluxe verandah suite room 7022 on the ms Amsterdam sailing May 25 through June 1, 2012. In the months leading up to the cruise I perused the Cruise Critic boards in anticipation of the trip. My time was well spent as I learned many tips that served us well on the cruise. The first, CC tip #1, which proved advantageous, was the advice to arrive in the port city a day or two before the cruise. We left our home at 4pm on May 23 and arrived in Seattle twelve hours later, with two delays, and an alternative arrangement hanging (KC to Minneapolis to NY to Seattle----arrgh!) I'm glad we allowed ample time as we needed it! We had prearranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at the airport and they were there, in the wee hours of the morning, and for $82 (this includes tip) they transported four passengers and six bags to the Seattle Center Holiday Inn on Dexter Avenue (in the dead of night in a strange city I consider this a bargain!) We had a standard room with two queen beds, sofa bed, refrigerator/microwave. No breakfast was served, however the Holiday Inn Express is attached to the Holiday Inn Seattle Center and the express does include breakfast with their rates. We chose our hotel based upon the location and the brand as my husband travels with his work and earns hotel night points on each stay. The next morning we walked a few blocks to the Space Needle. We had made lunch reservations online for the revolving restaurant at the top. It cost $20 to go up to the observation deck for a look around OR you can go up for free and spend a minimum of $25 per person for lunch. We chose the latter and did not regret it. Every seat in the restaurant has a great view of the city. It was a clear day and we sat in the restaurant for well over an hour enjoying the sights---plus we had a great lunch (expensive but good and the view couldn't be beat.) After lunch we took the monorail to the Westlake Center. We walked to Pike Place Market and checked out the vendors, buying some pastries and peaches for the next morning's breakfast plus my husband bought me a huge bouquet of flowers (poppies, lupine, iris, daisies, etc...) for $10!---he said at home those would easily set him back $50. My daughter had to visit the original Starbucks, and my son enjoyed the oddities at the Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront. On the way back to the hotel we passed a chain drugstore and picked up milk for breakfast plus a few toiletries we had forgotten. We were all tired so we turned in early after ordering pizza delivery from Amante on East Olive Way. Try their Thai House pizza as it is fantastic. We had arranged with Seattle Airport Express to meet us at our hotel at 11:00 am for transportation to Pier 91. The cost was $48 (includes tip) which seems steep for a five mile ride but the local shuttle was charging $10 per person (and there were four of us). As it was we stepped off the elevator into a lobby crowded with cruise passengers waiting for the shuttle and were able to walk through it all and into our waiting car. The car dropped us off at the front door of the pier. Outside the front door our luggage was tagged for the Amsterdam before we proceeded inside with it. There are plenty of HAL representatives to direct the flow of traffic and answer questions. It probably took about thirty minutes total from arrival until we were standing in room 7022 where we put my flowers in water (in the extra champagne bucket found in the cabinet) and then carried the bottle of complimentary champagne down the hall to the Neptune Lounge. CC Tip #2 you can trade your champagne--we requested something non-alcoholic so our kids could enjoy it too and they graciously gave us a bottle of Fre Brut. At noon we slapped on our Transderm Scop patches for seasickness (CC Tip #3) and were prepared for the trip. We did encounter rough seas between Sitka and Ketchikan and I was so dizzy I skipped dinner that night but otherwise all was fine. CC Tip #4 bring your receipts for any pre cruise purchases. I had purchased some onboard gifts with points from our Visa card and they did not show up on our room statement but all I had to do was show the Neptune Lounge concierge my receipts and after checking with accounting she was able to make it all right. She also traded a $50 beverage card purchased with Visa points for two $25 soda cards for my children. The Lido was crazy crowded so we snacked in the Neptune Lounge before taking a mini tour of the ship and attending the mandatory life boat drill. By 4:00 all four of us were enjoying sail away on our spacious verandah (can you tell I'm spoiled by room 7022?) The next week was a whirlwind of activities, food, fun, and beautiful scenery. The kids enjoyed room service breakfast on most days, but my husband and I usually ate upstairs in the MDR. We liked the quiet, unhurried atmosphere. We rarely ate lunch instead opting for afternoon tea around 3:30 in our room. Our son liked eating lunch at the Lido where he met a variety of older folks who enjoyed engaging him in conversation. He hung out some at the Teen Loft playing X-box and old fashioned board games. My son was bothered a few times by some elderly people at the evening shows who kept encouraging him in a quasi-sign language to put his arm around his date (aka sister) or hold her hand. He was grossed out and wanted to hold up a sign that said "She is MY SISTER" but tried to ignore the people. One lady was quite persistent too. Another man came up to our son (who has no tattoos or piercings) and asked him if he was a Mormon. My son came back to the room wanting to know what a Mormon was because some older gentleman said he looked just like one. (I told him as soon as his braces come off he'd be a ringer for Donny Osmond.) Our daughter took off each day and enjoyed the salsa, cha-cha and foxtrot lessons, classical trio, classes, and snacking in the Neptune lounge (she took the $29 cooking class and thought it was worth it---they cooked and ate their own meal plus received an apron and the recipes.) She also managed to spend an entire $50 beverage card on coffees at the Explorations Cafe and mocktails at the Crow's Nest. We all met up for the 8:00pm dinner seating at table 20-- a four top by the window. We were adventurous and tried all of the proffered delicacies by sharing our plates (even the escargot), but I have to say the available daily broiled chicken breast with steamed broccoli and carrots and a baked potato were by far my favorites on the menu. Simple, yet delicious and satisfying. My son liked the spring rolls at the International Dinner, my husband liked the brownie baked Alaska with butterscotch sauce, and my daughter liked the lobster tail. (The former Master Chef Farewell dinner has been replaced on the Amsterdam by the International Dinner. At the end of the meal the staff sings "Love in any Language.") On the night we left Tracy Arm we ate in the Pinnacle Grill which was very tasty but an extremely long ordeal. I know good food takes time, and the food was excellent, but we barely made it to the 10pm show on time and our reservation was at 7:30pm. On the Juneau night we ate in the Canaletto and found it to be an enjoyable experience. The waiters were jovial and my teenagers were delighted with the two plates of piled high pink cotton candy. The taste of the Pinnacle Grill food was far superior, but the food served elsewhere on the ship is acceptable and even good for mass quantity cooking. (We saw on our kitchen tour that the Pinnacle Grill food is prepared in its own small kitchen with its own chef.) We did attend the dessert extravaganza on the second formal night, but we all agreed the presentation far exceeded the taste of the desserts. It would be better to view the desserts and then retire to your room to order a slice of chocolate cake from the 24 hour room service menu (that cake is delicious!) Our accommodations were lovely with plenty of room for four. Our room steward took all the back cushions off the sofa (which does fold out into a queen size bed) and made it up as a twin bed for our daughter and he brought in a roll-away twin bed for our son. Even with the twin bed folded out there was plenty of room to walk around with no one stubbing a toe. Scheduling four people through a bathroom on a formal night was another matter---CC tip #5 bring power strips. We brought two horizontal power strips, one for the dressing room, and one for near the master bed and it made it possible to plug in all our beauty appliances as well as our electronic devices. My daughter discovered a ladies' room near the MDR that had a separate room with lighted vanities so she took to applying her makeup there each day rather than wait her turn in our suite (plus she said the lighting was better in the ladies' room.) The bathroom in the suite is supplied with shampoo, conditioner, liquid body soap, bar soap, bath salts, body lotion, and a loofah, plus cotton balls and swabs at the vanity. There were four pairs of slippers to use and keep, plus four robes to use during the week. If you don't see the two extra life jackets check under the bed. On the first sea day we attended the CC Meet and Greet. I wore my "gamer name" on my badge but most others had on their real names---that made it difficult to match up people with online personalities. I'm glad we attended the party and our suite ended up being next door to a member of our CC roll call! We were invited to and attended two cocktail parties to meet the captain and crew members. At the first party, as guests entered they were introduced by name to the captain and the two crew members who stood with him. Then guests were dismissed to mingle with the other guests. At the second party the captain and crew mingled amongst the guests and we had a chance to speak with them. My husband especially enjoyed talking with the environmental officer and his wife (a delightful couple.) On a do-over I'd skip the first cocktail party and attend only the second party. At that party I met a 12 year old boy who was at the party as recognition for his helpfulness on the cruise. Apparently a couple had left their 3 year old daughter asleep in their room while they went about their fun on ship. The little girl awoke and opened the door and left the room. She somehow managed to get outside on deck and was found (by the young man) sitting on the deck steps crying for her parents. It would have been easy for this little girl to have stepped through the railing enclosure and fallen from the deck. I hope her parents were slapped silly for their stupidity. In Juneau we pre-arranged with Evergreen Taxi for taxi service to the glacier and then a tour around town---we wanted to see how the locals lived. Martha gave us a great tour and she has lived in the area 20 years and knows the ins and outs. In Sitka, Jim Seeland of Sitka Sound tours gave us a wildlife boat tour for our family of four. He provided snacks and binoculars and for about three hours took us around scouting out otters, seals, and whales (his boat has a bathroom.) In Ketchikan we took the incline railway up the hill and then looked at the small circle of totems before walking down the married man's trail into town. We shopped in a few stores and actually found a great deal on hooded, reversible rain jackets with fleece linings ($20) with Alaska embroidered across the left chest (found at the Tongrass store.) We had brought rain jackets but these were of better quality and a bit heavier for winter use back home so we bought one each for my husband and the two kids. I ended up getting a beautiful pendant of aquamarine in a silver setting from a locally owned jeweler, the Jewel Box, in Juneau. The color reminded me of the blue of the glaciers. We encountered fog on the way to Victoria and as a result were two hours late and were not able to make our Pedi-cab tour with Ryan John and Victoria Pedi-Cab tours. His tours sound great and his rates seemed reasonable so we are sorry we missed it! We selected disembarkation between 9 and 9:30. My husband and I went to a leisurely last breakfast at 7:45 am (CC tip #6.) I stopped by the Neptune to say goodbye to the concierge and eat one last peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate (so tasty.) We walked off the ship at 9:15, found our luggage, and were through customs and into our waiting car by 10. The airplane ride home was uneventful (thank goodness!) We had a great time on the Amsterdam. The Neptune Lounge concierge, our room stewards, and our dining room steward were all polite, professional and efficient. The only person that I found the slightest bit annoying was the beverage steward ---although he was polite he had the tendency to assume. If he saw a soda can in our room he assumed we had taken it from the mini-bar and added it to our bill (we did not use any mini-bar items on our trip.) One night in the MDR we ordered sparkling water in a carafe and were charged for it (as we should have been) but the next night we asked for plain water and it too arrived in a carafe and we were charged for plain water (as we should not have been.) He assumed things rather than asked about things and I had to keep a close eye on our bill (I asked for a print out of our bill every few days CC tip #7.) All I had to do was explain the situation to the Neptune concierge and she would remove the charge but it was annoying just the same. So that is my CC tip for future travelers---keep an eye on the drink charges. By the way, unused credit on beverage cards will be refunded to your account. (The exception is soda cards if you already have drank 10 sodas you have used the $25 cost although the card is worth up to $50 value in soda-- so on the last sea evening my son asked "his bartender" to cash out his card in soda and he carried off a few sodas to drink while waiting in the airport for our afternoon flight.) One last thing----unlimited laundry, pressing and dry cleaning came with our room. Believe me I took advantage of it! We were on a Friday to Friday cruise and our last bag of laundry went out Wednesday night at turndown and came back Thursday afternoon. If you don't book a room with laundry privileges you might consider purchasing the laundry package as it allows for half the clothing and you don't arrive home to a pile of dirty laundry! Oh one more thing--as I was packing to go home I couldn't find one of my undergarments so I pulled out the drawer all the way and there it was---it had fallen over the back of the drawer. My husband ended up pulling out all the drawers in the cabin to check and although we didn't find any more of our items we found plenty of other people's items. So my final CC tip is to check behind the drawers. (We returned the items to the concierge.) Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The ... Read More
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The food for the most part was very good. Service at our table was a bit slow, resulting in cool food. We switched tables to a quieter one, and the service and food temperature improved markedly. Cabin stewards were great, as were the rest of the staff. Met lots of interesting people, and lots to do every day. Biggest downer was once we got to the hot climates, the air conditioning was on full freeze mode in the Restaurant and show lounge and Ocean Bar... and my two travelling companions came down with severe colds... which they are still fighting several days after leaving the ship. Overall... a great trip and we would recommend to anyone. Details: Background Information Since we were travelling to the Cruise in Winter from Western Canada, we left 6 days before the cruise to get to Buenos Aires on Air Canada on a 20 hour series of 3 flights. This also allowed us to get over jet lag, and see some of Buenos Aires. Hotel Info There are many Apartments available on a Bed and Breakfast basis in B-A We chose one not right downtown, which worked out well, after we sorted out the lack of breakfast service, and bought our own to eat in the fully equipped apartment. We travelled in B-A on local busses, trains, and underground, and twice on a TAXI. The local transport is very good, and very inexpensive. Need to pick up a SUBE card at post office or other suppliers, for which you need your passport, and then travel is easy, as buses only take coins otherwise which are in short supply. The scheduling program on the internet is awesome... just click in your destinations, and it shows the whole route for five busses. Ship Info The Amsterdam was on a 112 day world cruise... still is, as I write this. In booking a segment, you cannot specify your room beforehand, and our request for two rooms near each other was not heeded. We would up with the one we wanted, but out friend had an "upgrade" from an inside what we thought would be across the hall, to a porthole cabin right at the front, down a deck, and half way across the ship from us. HAL did offer a closer room, but only for an additional charge, which was not accepted. We were not impressed. The world cruise attracts those who can get away for 112 days, thus an older crowd. We saw only one guest child on board! The ship was not quite full, and thus there was only minor waiting anywhere... elevators were quick, only a couple of people ahead of you at most in any lineup for food at the Lido, and choice of places to sit anywhere. The staff were generally very happy and helpful. Activities There were lots of activites on board, and the problem was to choose. Some entertainers were a bit amateurish, and the clientèle were very vocal in the hallways about this. Others were first class, and there was a good variety. The Mardi Gras evening was an all out effort, with special entertainers from New Orleans, awesome decorations, food, and drinks. Service Service was generally great in the Lido, but was slow in the La Fontaine Restaurant. We eventually moved tables to another area, due to the very high noise level at the back of the restaurant due to the low ceiling, and some very boisterous tables near us... and the service improved also. Port & Shore Excursions We chose to organize our own port excursions, and they all worked out. Most frustrating thing was that the independent travellers get the back of the line on the tender ports, waiting nearly 2 hours till the HAL tour guests, and the 4 and 5 star mariners (who comprise a considerable portion of the travellers on the world cruise, many who have made several world cruises on HAL) have got off. We feel that HAL should allow a small percentage... like 20 percent... of each tender to have independent travellers on a first come first serve basis, rather than holding them all. Both Falkland Islands and Easter Island were the highlight ports of call on this trip... and of course the awesome scenery in Antarctica. Stateroom We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck, just a short walk to be on the deck without the cost of a balcony. Facilities were good. We had a problem with the plumbing due to the rough weather, and it was repaired quickly. Note you need to bring a multi plug adapter if you have more than one thing to plug in. Dining We enjoyed having breakfast brought every morning to the cabin. For some reason, which we never found out, we only had 5 formal evenings rather than the 9 originally planned. I would have been annoyed if I had rented a Tux... There were probably 2/3 of the men with Tuxes, and the rest in business suits...we met some who didn't bring any formal wear and just ate in the Lido on formal nights. Food was quick and hot in the Lido. Lots of choice. Food was good in the La Fontaine, but we could see the repeats on the menu as the trip continued. There were many complaints we heard about the temperature of the food, and it seemed there was some effort to improve this. The general quality and appearance and choice was awesome, considering we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean many days away from "land". Disembarkation Since there were less than 300 leaving in Sydney, and the disembarkation was spread over two days, we just walked right off the ship, picked up the bags and walked through Customs... no hassles at all. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We sailed on the Amsterdam for Christmas and felt very fortunate that HAL was offering a 7-night Caribbean Cruise for the Holidays on one of their flagships. For anyone who adores cruising as much as we do, please make every effort to ... Read More
We sailed on the Amsterdam for Christmas and felt very fortunate that HAL was offering a 7-night Caribbean Cruise for the Holidays on one of their flagships. For anyone who adores cruising as much as we do, please make every effort to sail on either The Amsterdam or The Rotterdam. These are the finest ships that HAL has to offer. On this particular sailing, the crew was referred to as "the Dream Team" as they seemed to be handed picked for their outstanding customer service. The ship just has a special glow and very personal touch. Captain Frank and Hotel Manager Fred were both very mature men, and the ship ran like a Swiss clock. The staff and the service really epitomized the Holland America Tradition of Excellence. I can't say enough about how very special we were treated. The Caribbean stops were pleasant, with Half Moon Cay being truly exceptional. The water was a little chilly in December, but I remember the sun being hot and enjoying the natural beauty of looking at the ocean and our ship in the foreground. Everything about The Amsterdam was 5-star. I think HAL invests more money and personnel in their flag ships because these ocean liners make the World Cruises and longer, exotic voyages -- and these passengers pay a premium for these cruises. Again, we were thrilled that The Amsterdam was sailing for 7 nights at Christmas. Normally, we could not afford the time off from work (nor the 30 or 60-day fares) to take longer cruises, so this was a very special opportunity for us. I'd like to compliment HAL on a very clean and well maintained ship. Housekeeping was outstanding, and the public areas were beautiful as well. We had great dance music every night, and the guests on board seemed to be experienced cruisers who were enjoying the elegance of this ship. Our service for dinner was a little slow, so some nights we ate at The Pinnacle Grill which was extraordinary and well worth the extra fee. This review brings back such warm memories of our Christmas cruise. Normally, the holidays are not my favorite time of year, but being on the Amsterdam at Christmas made my husband and me feel very good. We were surrounded by wonderful, caring fellow guests and a crew who were the very best at sea. There was a sense of good Holiday cheer, and the ship was beautifully decorated. I recommend a Holiday cruise to anyone who needs a lift at that time of year. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We chose the Amsterdam 15 day Panama Cruise from, Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, for two reasons -- we love the Amsterdam and always enjoy the Panama Canal -- this trip being our second full transit. We flew into LAX the day before ... Read More
We chose the Amsterdam 15 day Panama Cruise from, Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, for two reasons -- we love the Amsterdam and always enjoy the Panama Canal -- this trip being our second full transit. We flew into LAX the day before and settled in to the Long Beach Hilton. We met friends for dinner on the Queen Mary Hotel where the next day, the Amsterdam would be docked next door to her.. Embarkation at the Long Beach Terminal was far smoother than a previous time on a Carnival ship. We arrived shortly after 11AM and were in our cabin within half an hour, the only bottleneck being the photographer's area which we slunk around. At Long Beach there is quite a long walk to the ship. We had a Deluxe Suite on the port side. Our cabin stewards were the same two we had had on our Alaskan voyage the previous June, Our stateroom was perfect at all times. Our stewards knew us and our peculiarities. Our luggage arrived the earliest it has ever arrived so we were totally unpacked prior to the Safety drill. Unfortunately, there was no Mariner's Welcome Lunch due to a crew change of close to 50%; perfectly understandable as the voyage before was the Asia Pacific Grand Voyage. We had a very nice lunch in the Lido with a very lovely lady from England. The Amsterdam is the flagship of HAL and was immaculate throughout. The crew was constantly maintaining all areas in their usual outstanding fashion. We had early dining at 5:45PM and had the same table we had the previous June. Our dining stewards were excellent. It was a pleasant surprise that the Dining Managers opened the Dining Room earlier than the stated time which made the flow of incoming diners easier. The food was presented nicely and seemed to have some different tastes since our previous cruise. This is a good thing. The only negatives are the deceasing number of shrimp in the shrimp cocktails and the new recipe for escargots which is not the traditional butter and garlic with toast points. Daytime activities were more than plentiful. The Cruise Director Patti, who admits she is a substitute Cruise Director, was very pleasant and friendly. The travel guide was experienced and presented a number of very interesting talks, which were very well attended , about the ports of call and their history. Party planner April led a number of culinary and other presentations. I particularly enjoying hearing from the onboard florist about how he goes about procuring the materials and making such gorgeous arrangements throughout the ship. We were fortunately to have the florist who does the Grand Voyages. We seldom go to the evening shows so cannot comment on that. We always enjoy the Adagio Strings and wish they would play longer than the one half hour at dinner. We did a number of shore excursions and all were very good. Regarding the ports, the only negative for us, and we knew this ahead of time, is that the ship docks a at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and not Puntarenas where we have docked in the past. Puerto Caldera is an industrial port with nothing near by so if you are unable to get an excursion or are willing to try local transportation, there is nothing to do there except for a few crafts shops on the pier. At Puntarenas, there is a little town to visit. The Panama Canal was awesome as it has been before. All and all, a very nice relaxing trip, aboard a beautiful ship with excellent crew and service. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was ... Read More
As a couple of first-time cruisers, we have no points of reference to compare our trip with other lines or destinations. Here are just some of our observations, mainly for anyone thinking about their first cruise. One of us was particularly concerned about sea sickness, so following advice we read, we got a cabin at mid-ship. Definitely a good thing, our cabin being calm when the Crow's Nest was swinging so much that you couldn't dance. We bought ginger chewing gum before the trip, and it did the trick in all but really bad water, where meclizine worked fine but caused drowsiness. We like coffee while we're getting dressed for the day, so we bought a couple of the HAL travel mugs at Explorations Cafe, and made a run to Lido each morning. Saved waiting for room service. We dined in the dining room whenever possible in preference to Lido. We found the food much better, and the service outstanding. The Canelleto was nice but make reservations early, it fills quickly. The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding. We work out at home, and were happy with the equipment in the gym. We took advantage of HAL's policy that allows you to take wine on board. The party started early each evening with a room service order of cheese plates and our wine. Alaska in September could have been the middle of winter elsewhere. The wind was 35 mph most of the time, and it rained a lot. We had to pass up Sitka because the ocean was too rough. Dress for winter and hope for better. Luggage Direct was great. We handed our bags off at our cabin, and picked them up at our home airport. Had the day free in Seattle. This was great fun, and I have no complaints about HAL. The Amsterdam staff was courteous and attentive. Will be cruising again on HAL. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Alaska was so beautiful, and we lucked out and had good weather on all but one day. Our choice of hotel the night before in Seattle was the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. It was just a few blocks from ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Alaska was so beautiful, and we lucked out and had good weather on all but one day. Our choice of hotel the night before in Seattle was the Red Lion on 5th Avenue. It was just a few blocks from the Pike Market, so we were able to walk over there after we arrived. They don't offer a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, so we took a cab which cost around $30. The next morning, we also took a cab to the ship. Embarking was very easy. HAL has a number of staff who direct you to the various stops along the way. Having sailed on the Carnival Conquest and Ecstasy before, we were initially very surprised at the smallness of the ship and the lack of entertainment. The stage and showroom were very small and the entertainment was definitely a notch below Carnival. The visiting entertainers literally brought their "bag of tricks" with them and performed on a bare stage. They were all entertaining, but were not provided with much back up. We found a home in the Crow's Nest and enjoyed their daily happy hour. The bartenders there were wonderful and a lot of fun. We really got tired of the Trivia contest going on during happy hour when we really just wanted to relax after a day of sightseeing and watch the ship depart. We heard the same Trivia questions over and over again during various activities on the cruise. The casino was also small, but we enjoyed playing blackjack there. The slots seemed to be very tight and we didn't hear of anyone hitting any kind of jackpot. The good thing about being on a smaller ship was that we could get closer to view the glaciers than the huge ships, which is of course a primary reason for taking the cruise. Everyone was cordial and did their jobs well except for in the dining room. We opted for open seating, which may have been the problem. The first day we ate in the dining room for breakfast and the service was just plain awful. The food came late, the juice server didn't come around until someone asked, and we could not get refills of coffee. So after that we relegated ourselves to the Lido Buffet for breakfast, which was very good. The only complaint about it is that they don't provide trays, so for instance, you have to get your hot food, take it to a table, then go back for fruit or toast or whatever else, and then make another trip for your juice, coffee, and/or water. Also there is no definite line, so everyone sort of runs around in circles. My companion was not as upset by all this as I was, until we walked into the dining room one night at 6:00 and were told it was a "special night" and we could not be seated until 8:00 because there was no open seating for that night. We had purchased a bottle of wine the night before and had not finished it, so they had kept it for us for the next night, but we did not want to wait 2 hours! So, back to the Lido. We ate at the Pinnacle one night and had incredibly great service and steaks, plus a wonderful chocolate souffle. Another word to the wise: If you are taking an excursion in a port that is tendered, give yourself at least an hour to get to shore. Our excursion tickets said allow 30 minutes for the tender and we would have been late had we not gone down early. Besides the dining room experiences, everything was great and the staff were very nice and helpful. Our robes were also worn and stained, but we don't use those anyway. I had asked for fruit and it was provided promptly as was ice. Debarking was very organized and easy. We had planned on taking a taxi to the airport, but the taxi line was really long so we took the shuttle for $28. I am using this extra space to review Homer and Kodiak. Homer was a really interesting place - sort of arty with lots of interesting people. They have a lot of coffee shops and galleries. I had been looking for some quality souvenirs that were moderately priced and found those there at the Art Shop Gallery. They feature local artists and you can buy things starting at around $12. One of the artists was there when we were and it was fun talking to her. It was incredible just to sit in the Crow's Nest and watch all the fishing boats come and go. There must be hundreds of boats and trailers there and we heard the fishing was great. Several of our fellow passengers went halibut fishing and althey all caught their limits and were really happy with the excursion. Kodiak did not have much to see, but to me was still very interesting. A shuttle dropped us off downtown, but we walked the 3/4 miles back to the ship. The walk is not very scenic since this is a big commercial fishing location and the walk takes you through a sort of industrial looking area. We found an arts and crafts show and a photographer who had some great shots of bears and other Kodiak area animals. Other than that, there was not much to see but a few souvenir shops and a church, which was having services when we were there so we could not enter. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We just returned from our 21st Holland America Cruise. It is our fourth time in Alaska and we picked the Amsterdam's 14 day itineray in order to visit the Aleutians and have a slightly different view of Alaska. We also had very ... Read More
We just returned from our 21st Holland America Cruise. It is our fourth time in Alaska and we picked the Amsterdam's 14 day itineray in order to visit the Aleutians and have a slightly different view of Alaska. We also had very minimal expectations because our main reason for cruising in August was to get away from Florida's heat and humidity. The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed each cool, dry day. Packing tip: layers. Don't bother with heavy coats, just a couple of layers and a down vest - which packs in little space - plus a hooded rain poncho will see you though most any summer day on this trip. If you need anything else the fleece items and parkas are bargains in many shops. The ports were predictable. The excursions offered by HAL are overpriced and overcrowded. Do some research and go off on your own. Whale watching can be as easy as watching out the window or off the deck with your own binoculars. I recommend the Anchorage zoo for close up encounters with moose, bears and dall sheep. It is a free shuttle ride from the Log Cabin Visitors Center and very inexpensive to visit. There is a wonderful micro brewery/restaurant in downtown Anchorage named Glacier Brewery. Try their flight of beers - fun. Don't expect much in Homer or Kodiak. Homer has a free shuttle to the Spit which is full of campers, tents, RVs and tourists. Kodiak is a long walk from the pier with little to see. In fact I question HAL even saying Kodiak was a port since they didn't offer transportation to town unless you could count a very small school bus for the mobility impaired. Taxis on Sunday morning are very limited and expensive. The locals told us that Holland America could have rented large school buses but opted not to. Ketchikan had free shuttles to WalMart for any of you who forget essentials. Great fun to ride with the crew and do your Sunday shopping. Meals on the Amsterdam were fine. Nothing spectacular but nothing really bad. Service was outstanding all over the ship but especially in the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle has raised their evening charge to $25 but the food and service are extra special so go for it at least once during your cruise. The lunch fee remains $10 and is the biggest bargain on board. Best small filet I have ever eaten. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido ususally but tried the Main Dining room a couple of times. We never eat the MDR on first night to avoid the Open Seating debacle. The Caneletto on Deck 8 is a good option. We were greeted on arrival with an overly warm cabin, an overflowing commode, no bathrobes, flowers or fruit. After being given the third degree by the front desk staff the commode(which we hadn't used) was repaired. We were told the A/C would be working after we left Seattle - of course - it was getting colder outside. We received two very worn and stained robes on Day Three. Never got flowers but bruised fruit arrived on Day Two. Our cabin was just as spacious as the Verandas on the higher decks with all the storage space needed for two weeks. We didn't use all the drawers. The TV is too small to be seen from the beds and if a larger wall mount was used they could add a mini bar setup. Our major complaint with this cruise was with the entertainment. We enjoy the evening shows, especially the production numbers. The lead male singer was so bad that it was hard to overlook and enjoy the rest of the show. The Piano Bar talent - yes, both of them - was terrible. The variety acts were fair to good. Take a good book or two with you. We wish the Crow's Nest could still be the place to have a quiet cocktail hour with dance music but it is now the center of Trivia and Name That Tune contests. The Happy Hour, misnamed because it is only an hour at random times in random places, has buy 1 get 1 more for a dollar IF you order what they tell you. Not too user friendly! We don't expect special treatment even though we are frequent HAL cruisers and that is a good thing. We have almost never been invited to dine with staff or officers. We found the ship's officers to be aloof and disengaged with the passengers on the Amsterdam. It would be so nice to have one of them say thanks for coming back and sailing with us. Will we sail with Holland America again? Of course, it is the best value in cruising today for a certain demographic. I am talking the older crowd with low expectations for excitement. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
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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